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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! From time to time 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 info@thepointsguy.com; 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!

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader JD, who used points to save his family from a scheduling mistake. Here’s what he had to say:

Tokyo, Japan - April 6, 2014: Sakura blossom at Kitanomaru Garden, Tokyo, Japan on April 6, 2014.
Points helped JD out of a jam during a trip to Tokyo. Image courtesy of Phattana via Getty Images.

I recently traveled with my wife and our two young children to Tokyo for the cherry blossom season. We booked business class flights from Singapore on Singapore Airlines using 68,000 KrisFlyer miles each (before the devaluation), and even though I have Gold status with Hilton and Marriott, we decided to book an Airbnb in Shinjuku so we could cook food for the kids.

Since this was to be our first extended trip with two kids, and since our return flight was scheduled to depart early in the morning, we decided to be safe and book our last night at the Royal Park Haneda, which is connected to the Haneda International Terminal. However, we later decided an extra night in Tokyo would be nice, so after working in the cost of a morning airport limo transfer (to make things easier with two small children), I cancelled the airport hotel and added one day on to my Airbnb stay … or so I thought.

Fast-forward to the second-to-last day of the trip. Everything had been going swimmingly: we’d had lots of great Japanese cuisine, dined on a picnic mat under breathtakingly beautiful sakura, and even taken a side trip to Mount Fuji. As we were washing up in our Airbnb after dinner, I received a message from our host: “Thank you for staying at my Airbnb. Please check out promptly tomorrow at 11 am as there’s another guest checking in.”

“Check out tomorrow?” I thought to myself, “But we’re checking out the day after!” I checked my Airbnb booking, and promptly fainted dead away (in my head at least). I had remembered to cancel our airport hotel for the last night, but forgot to extend our Airbnb booking! So there I was, in Tokyo, with my wife and two tiny children, no friends in the city and no accommodation for the next night. Our Airbnb host couldn’t extend our stay, and last-minute paid rates at all the hotels were astronomical — the Hilton Tokyo was over $700, for example.

Thank goodness for travel rewards! I had about 28,000 points in my Hilton Honors account — not enough for one night at the Hilton Tokyo — but I remembered TPG had mentioned an ongoing bonus for buying Hilton points. For a total price of $160, I was able to buy just enough to get my account up to the 60,000 points I needed. They posted quickly to my account, and I was immediately able to redeem for the Hilton Tokyo the following night. I was even able to confirm a crib for my youngest — daddy saves the day!

The next day, we called a cab for the short ride from our Airbnb to the Hilton, and even got an early check-in at noon. Everything worked out well, and our trip ended on a good note. While 60,000 points for the Hilton Tokyo may not normally be the best use, in this case (when paid rates were sky high due to seasonal demand) it was a great value!

Buying rewards isn’t always a winning proposition. I would almost never pay the standard rate, and even when points and miles go on sale, I recommend you don’t buy speculatively unless you’re getting an exceptional deal. That said, JD’s story shows that buying points can be a great option, especially when cash prices are high. His quick thinking saved his family several hundred dollars, or at least provided them with a comfortable room at an affordable rate.

Of all the travel mistakes sent in by readers, stories involving scheduling errors are the most common. It’s easy to overlook one mixed-up digit in a sea of dates and flight numbers; no matter how confident you are, please be humble before the travel gods and check (or double-check) your plans before you go. The mistakes you don’t anticipate are the easiest to make, so dig into our series of mistake stories and let your fellow readers help keep you out of trouble.

Hilton
Buying points during a sale is a great way to top off your account for an upcoming redemption.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank JD for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, 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). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, 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!

Featured image courtesy of Astronaut Images via Getty.

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