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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.
I want to share these success stories with all of you more often, to help inspire you the way you inspire me! So every other week or so I select a story that catches my eye and post it here for everyone to enjoy. Two weeks ago I posted a story from TPG reader Christopher, who booked an 8-day European vacation with his wife for under $300 by taking advantage of multiple loyalty programs.
Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Adam, who recently put together his dream vacation to Hawaii using a mix of points, miles and credit card perks. Here’s what he had to say:
I’ve always wanted to travel and treat myself to great vacations, but didn’t think it was possible without a boatload of money. I’m in my mid-20s and have very good credit, and I was always content earning cash back rewards from my credit cards. The overall return was decent, but never enough to send me on a nice vacation.
My girlfriend and I want to go to Hawaii (who doesn’t?), but flights are routinely over $1,000 round-trip from where we live in Maine. Add on lodging and other expenses, and it just wasn’t in our budget. However, I recently started reading your blog, and following your advice I altered my rewards strategy to earn points and miles instead of cash back, putting the trip we’ve daydreamed about within reach.
In the past four months, I’ve signed up for five new credit cards and hit all the spending bonuses. Before Barclays stopped issuing the US Airways Premier card, I applied for that along with the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. After some additional spending on each card, I had 110,000 AAdvantage miles at my disposal right off the bat. I knew that would be enough to cover our flights.
As for our hotel stays, I signed up for the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard to earn 70,000 points, as well as a free night certificate (upon the card anniversary). I then signed up for the Hyatt Credit Card to take advantage of the free night certificates. Last but not least, I got the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and focused my everyday spending there, which came in handy since Ultimate Rewards points transfer to both IHG and Marriott, as well as several airline partners.
After careful planning, I’m happy to report that I just booked our trip to Hawaii for February of 2016! We’ll be flying first class from Bangor to Honolulu for 37,500 AAdvantage miles each, and returning from Maui in economy on MileSAAver Off-Peak Awards for 17,500 miles each (for a total of 55,000 miles each). All we paid was a little over $22 for flights that would have cost almost $5,000 if we bought them outright.
I’m using my free IHG award night and my points for three total nights in Honolulu at the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber. The next two nights we’re staying at the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach using the free night certificates. I redeemed some Ultimate Rewards points to get us to Maui, and then transferred the rest to Hyatt to cover three nights at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.
Thanks to your advice we’re getting the vacation of a lifetime pretty much for free, and we can’t wait for it to start!
I appreciate Adam’s story because it emphasizes the importance of setting an award travel goal. It’s best to have a plan when you earn points and miles, because they might decline in value if you hoard them for too long. Adam and his girlfriend knew exactly how they wanted to redeem their rewards, and they wasted no time doing so. If Hawaii sounds like paradise to you too (believe me, it is), check out Jason Steele’s post on Credit Card Combinations for a Hawaiian Vacation for more ideas.
Some of you savvy award travelers out there might have noticed that Adam redeemed his Hyatt free night certificates at the Category 3 Hyatt Place in Waikiki and used points for the Category 5 Hyatt Regency in Maui. The power of those free night certificates is that they can be used at any Hyatt property worldwide, so the best way to maximize them is by redeeming at higher-tier properties.
I recommend using points for the less expensive Waikiki stay (where award nights are just 12,000 points), and redeeming the free night certificates at the more expensive property in Maui (where award nights are 20,000 points). Even better, you could use those free nights at the impressive Category 6 Andaz Maui at Wailea. Fortunately, those award nights are subject to Hyatt’s regular cancellation policy, and since Adam booked so far in advance, he should be able to swap the rewards he used to book each reservation.
I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Adam for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.
If the tips and strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me (and the whole TPG team) with your own award travel success stories by emailing email@example.com and putting “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, and a gift card to jump-start your next adventure (purchased from Office Depot with my Ink Plus Business Card, of course).
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
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