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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 like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! Every so often I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!
Recently, I posted a success story from Jake, who used travel rewards to plan a 25-day honeymoon vacation around the world. Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Tim, who scored a great deal on a trip to Asia with his son. Here’s what he had to say:
I wanted to share my story about scoring a dream last-minute trip with my 8-year-old son.
It started with a tweet from The Flight Deal advertising round-trip flights on Delta to Hong Kong for $475. I didn’t believe it was real until I found an even cheaper fare on Delta’s website; there weren’t many dates available, but we found some that worked and booked for $466 each, including all taxes.
I knew I had 24 hours to cancel with no penalty, so if I woke up the next morning and decided it was a crazy idea, I could get a full refund. However, the next morning I was still just as excited, so I started planning. Not only did the trip sound like a lot of fun, but also the flights would help me earn enough MQMs to qualify for Delta Platinum Medallion status.
Our itinerary took us from Phoenix to Hong Kong via Seattle each way. We live in Salt Lake City, so our first step was to reposition ourselves for the longer flight. I transferred Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred account and used British Airways Avios to book one-way flights to Phoenix for just 4,500 points each. We had to stay one night in Phoenix, so I booked a Hyatt Points + Cash award to stay at the Hyatt Place Tempe, which offered a free airport shuttle and breakfast.
I got really lucky at our hotel in Hong Kong. Since I have Hyatt Diamond status for 2015, I was able to book another Points + Cash rate at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong and apply a suite upgrade award. For a Category 6 hotel, I was able to use 12,500 points and $150 per night to book a suite that was going for more than $900 per night. However, the deal got even better when I checked in, as the hotel further upgraded us to an amazing Grand Executive Harbor View Suite. We had a 270-degree view of Hong Kong Harbor, two bathrooms, a huge dining table and more than 900 square feet of space at our disposal.
I selected points as my welcome amenity at check-in, but the suite still had the most amazing fruit basket I’ve ever seen (dragon fruit, mangos, asian pears), a bottle of French wine and other free snacks. The Grand Club just reopened a couple months ago after renovations, and it offers more stunning harbor views on two floors. This hotel treats Diamond members extraordinarily well — you can have breakfast at the hotel restaurant (which was also excellent), you get three pieces of clothing laundered or pressed each day and more. It’s safe to say this property is now my favorite Hyatt.
I didn’t want to go back through Phoenix on the way home, so we threw away the last SEA-PHX leg and booked tickets directly from Seattle to Salt Lake City for the return. We took advantage of my Delta Gold Medallion status and our international itinerary to access the SkyClub at SeaTac, and the Delta agent there made it painless to alter our plans.
The only downside of the trip was seeing the hit I took from Delta’s switch to a revenue-based mileage program. Previously, I would have earned more than 33,000 SkyMiles for this trip, but under the new program I only earned 3,960 miles. On the other hand, I still earned plenty of MQMs, and reaching Platinum will make my work life easier in 2016.
While our trip was short (just three nights/four days in Hong Kong), it was memorable. I enjoyed seeing Hong Kong and experiencing travel through my son’s eyes, and we loved getting to spend that time together. I’m a little worried we spoiled him for life, since he might wind up expecting a suite every time we stay in a hotel from now on!
Thanks so much for all of your travel advice; I would have never been able to take this trip without it!
I’ve shared a number of reader stories about lengthy vacations paid for almost entirely with points and miles. However, Tim’s experience serves as a great reminder that award travel is also a great way to plug the gaps in your itinerary and make a spontaneous trip more affordable.
By taking advantage of British Airways’ distance-based award chart, Tim and his son were able to reach Phoenix inexpensively and set up the deal they scored on flights to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, those low-level Avios awards are going away next year, but there’s still time to book before the change takes place in February.
Booking the Hyatt Points + Cash rate was a good way for Tim to stretch his rewards and keep costs down. Rooms at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong start at about $350 per night, but can easily top $500. By redeeming 12,500 points and $150, Tim got good value for his points and his cash, and the suite upgrade award made their stay even more momentous.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Tim 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 (purchased from Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus, of course), and I’d like to do the same for you.
Again, if the 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 by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). You’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!