Guam: How I booked a trip to where America’s day begins with points and miles
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When you think of where the United States’ day kicks off, the East Coast is often the first place that comes to mind.
However, America’s day starts much farther west — literally on the other side of the international date line — in Guam.
This 212-square-mile island is a United States territory in Micronesia, located in the Western Pacific. It is located east of the Philippines and north of Papua New Guinea.
I decided to check out this island that straddles days like no other place in America.
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Booking award tickets to Guam
United Airlines will be your go-to option if you arrive from the continental United States.
It is the only U.S.-based airline that still services Guam directly, as all other U.S. airlines pulled out of Guam in recent years.
When you depart from the continental U.S., you’ll be transiting either in Hawaii or Japan if flying with United.
Brace yourself as you look at ticket prices. Round-trip tickets from the continental U.S. can start at $2,000, though you might find better rates if you start your trip in Hawaii.
To save some coin, I used the miles earned from my United Explorer Card to book my trip to Guam. Last fall, I earned 60,000 bonus miles with the card's welcome offer, almost enough for my trip to the island.
Current offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
Related: Premium perks without a premium fee: United Explorer Card review
Unfortunately, United has dynamic pricing for all award tickets, meaning award prices can change by day and route. For this trip in late February and early March, I needed at least 92,500 United miles for a round-trip economy award ticket from Honolulu to Guam.
So I transferred 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to combine with my existing United MileagePlus and welcome bonus miles to book my round-trip ticket from Honolulu to Guam. To close the gap, I purchased an additional 2,000 MileagePlus miles for $79.55.
I live in Los Angeles, so I first had to get to Hawaii. I booked a one-way economy ticket from Los Angeles to Honolulu for $129.50 on Delta, which is a solid deal.
Including taxes on my award ticket, I paid just $224.21 for a flight that would have cost me more than $1,500 if paying outright.
You can defray the costs of checking a second bag by using a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express. I chose United as my airline of choice for the up to $200 airline incidental fee credit, which reimburses the cost of things like checked bags and seat selection. Enrollment is required.
Since I was in Guam for a week, I needed to check a second bag which cost me $70, which was credited back to me on my Amex Platinum.
Once on board, be prepared for a long flight. It was another seven hours before landing at A.B. Won Pat International Airport (GUM) from Honolulu.
Related: How to use the Amex Platinum $200 airline fee credit in 2022
As of March 23, Guam still maintained strict arrival protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on this island of more than 160,000.
Guam’s public health department has an online form that needs to be filled out before you can leave the airport when you arrive. You must fill out a questionnaire that includes your vaccination information, destination information and a place to upload your negative PCR test.
When I checked in for my United flight, the system sent me two links: a public health declaration form and a customs form.
Don’t make the mistake of not checking if all the requirements for arrival actually apply to you. I forgot to check if I needed a negative PCR test in addition to my vaccine card, so I brought a test with me. I later found out that you could click "no" and still move forward in the form as I arrived from a U.S. destination. In this case, I was arriving in Guam from Hawaii.
Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery
But still, I’m an anxious traveler when it comes to things like this.
The last thing I would want is to be stuck in quarantine when I land because I didn’t have a negative PCR test in addition to proof of full vaccination.
Since I arrived in Honolulu a day before my flight, I scrambled to find a clinic that would do a PCR test and get the results back the same day.
I was able to find one near my hotel, but it cost a hefty $300 for expedited results.
I received the results in 45 minutes so I took that PDF and uploaded it to the system. This PDF came in handy when I arrived in Guam as I went through customs and border patrol.
Because I had already filled out the necessary paperwork, I had a QR code that allowed me to stand in line with those who already had QR codes.
When I reached the desk with the airport staffer, he scanned both QR codes from my health declaration and customs forms.
This is where having a physical copy of my test results would have come in handy as a backup: My cell phone carrier is AT&T, and even though Guam is a U.S. territory, AT&T’s service does not work there.
Luckily, I could access the airport’s free Wi-Fi and access the PDF on my phone because the staffer did ask to see my negative PCR test before I was given the all-clear to enter the country.
After that, I was able to pick up my checked luggage and give customs my cleared ticket and leave the airport. In the end, I didn't need the PCR test if I was already vaccinated. It is only required if you arrive from a non-U.S. destination, regardless of vaccination status.
If you don’t already have someone picking you up, your options are taking a taxi or renting a car. If you plan to take a taxi, ensure you have enough cash in case your driver does not take credit cards. Guam is a U.S. territory, so there’s no need to exchange currency. Lyft and Uber do not operate in Guam, but Stroll is a great ride-hailing alternative that works similarly.
Where to stay in Guam
Guam is not a large island, but you have several options for points hotels.
During my week in Guam, I stayed at two hotels: the Westin Resort Guam and Hyatt Regency Guam. Both are located in Tumon Bay, an area that offers lots of shopping and gorgeous beachfront views.
I stayed at the Westin Resort Guam in Tumon Bay for the first half of my visit. You can expect to pay around 85,000 points or $202 a night most of the year. This is just 0.24 cents per point in value, far less than TPG's valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents apiece. I recommend paying cash for your stay at the Westin Resort Guam and saving your points for a more expensive stay elsewhere.
Its location is close to many shopping areas and restaurants. Practically every room at this property has its own balcony and offers breathtaking views of the ocean.
For the second half of the week, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Guam, a Category 4 property also in Tumon Bay. Depending on when you travel, award nights will range between 12,000 and 18,000 World of Hyatt points per night. On the other hand, cash rates usually hover around $230 per night, giving you as much as 1.91 cents in value per point on off-peak dates, which is an excellent deal.
Like the Westin, the Hyatt Regency also offers a sweeping serene view of the bay and easy beach access.
Besides the Westin and Hyatt, other points hotel options include the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa in Tumon Bay and the Wyndham Garden Guam and Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort in Tamuning.
Mind the time zone
Before you book anything for your Guam trip, one major consideration is the time zone. Because Guam is on the other side of the international dateline, it is nearly half a day ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
For example, noon in New York City on a Monday is already 2 a.m. Tuesday in Guam. So when booking flights and hotels, make sure you're booking the right date.
And don't worry — you get that time back when you travel back home.
If you are looking for a quiet place to relax, enjoy the beach and unplug, Guam is worth the extra flight hours to experience and check out. For more about Guam, read my story about why it should be your destination, not your layover stop.
It’s a small island but has a big heart for welcoming the world to its sandy shores while kicking off America's day.