9 trips TPG staffers have booked for 2022 using points, miles and cash

Dec 19, 2021

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2021 was the year that travel bounced back. For the first time since March 2020, many countries reopened their borders to travelers. Airports are busier than ever, and it’s clear that people want to get out of their homes and travel far and wide.

But with less than two weeks from the new year, what will 2022 hold?

When it comes to international travel, there’s a lot that’s unknown. Australia, New Zealand and many countries in Asia remain closed — with no firm reopening date on the books just yet.

Still, three TPG staffers — Senior News Editor Clint Henderson, Senior Writer Katie Genter and Writer Stella Shon — have several trips locked and loaded for the new year, and even to destinations that remain closed at the time of writing. Using a mix of points, miles and cash, they’re optimistic that borders will reopen (or stay open).

Here are the trips on the dockets of these TPG staffers ahead of 2022.

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In This Post

A winter week in Chile

Stella Shon, writer

Tourist admiring the lake Pehoe and Torres del Paine range at sunset, Chile
(Photo by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images)

The holiday season presents the perfect opportunity to travel, as the long stretch of PTO days bleeding into the new year allows plenty of time to visit a far-flung destination like Chile.

I wanted to go out with a bang for my first-ever trip to South America. I’m flying LATAM business class to Santiago (SCL) and premium economy on the way back for under $2,000 — a decent deal for a 10.5-hour flight.

Chile reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers and dropped its quarantine requirement on Nov. 1. It’s the perfect time to go since fares are considerably lower and Chile’s summer season runs from December through February.

  • LATAM round-trip flight: $2,000.
  • Hyatt Centric Las Condes Santiago: Four nights for 60,000 Hyatt points.
  • The Singular Patagonia: Two nights for 200,000 IHG Rewards points.

I’m excited for a mix of wine tasting, hiking through Patagonia and sampling Chilean cuisine during my visit.

Related: A beginners guide to Chilean Patagonia

AA miles to fly business/PE to Santiago, Chile

Clint Henderson, senior news editor

santiago chile
Photo of Santiago, Chile (Photo by Jose Luis Stephens / Getty Images)

Chile is also top of mind for me, as I’ve been trying to get to Santiago for two years now. I had a roundtrip ticket booked during the pandemic in business class for just 83,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles, but had to cancel it when borders were closed.

I wasn’t quite able to duplicate it for spring, but I did pretty well, I think.

Chile was at one time requiring a seven-day self-quarantine on arrival. That’s no longer the case, but if that requirement comes back in the next few months, I’ll need to reschedule this trip again.

  • American Airlines business class and premium economy: New York-JFK to Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) for 118,500 AAdvantage miles business class on outbound and premium economy on the return (plus $53.27).
  • Ritz Carlton Santiago: 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or $233 per night.
  • W Santiago: 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or $255 per night.

An extended trip to South Africa via Mexico City

Katie Genter, senior writer

Larger king room at Protea Hotel Kruger Gate
A larger king room at the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate in South Africa. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

My husband and I hope to start 2022 with a trip built around a $304 per person business class fare from Mexico City to Cape Town, South Africa. The dates, routing and even operating carriers have changed many times for these tickets. We haven’t wanted to give up these tickets at this fare, though.

But currently, LATAM and the operating carrier (Delta) disagree on whether our flights are operating as shown in our current reservation. LATAM doesn’t see any issues with our tickets, while Delta says it would deny us boarding since the South African government didn’t approve its triangle route. Plus, the new omicron coronavirus variant may force us to cancel our trip. Even so, for now, we’re holding onto the following fully-refundable hotels and other flights for this trip:

  • Delta economy flights: Atlanta to Mexico City for 15,000 Delta miles plus $35 per person
  • Holiday Inn Express Mexico Reforma: Five nights in Mexico City, Mexico, for 44,000 IHG Rewards points after a fourth-night reward
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cape Town – Upper Eastside: Five nights for 48,000 Hilton points after a fifth night free
  • Protea Hotel Kruger Gate: 10 nights just outside South Africa’s Kruger National Park for 105,000 Marriott points after two fifth night free bookings
  • Protea Hotel Kimberley: Five nights for 30,000 Marriott points after a fifth night free
  • Holiday Inn Johannesburg – Rosebank: Four nights for 36,000 IHG Rewards points after a fourth-night reward
  • Qatar Qsuite flights: Johannesburg to Los Angeles via Doha for 75,000 American Airlines miles plus $60 per person

Whether this trip happens as planned in early 2022 or needs to be rescheduled yet again, I’m excited to return to Kruger National Park in South Africa. After all, we were at the Protea Kruger Gate when global travel halted in early 2020. Although I’m not entirely recreating the trip that got interrupted, I’m looking forward to seeing more of South Africa.

Related: Cleared for Takeoff: A honeymoon trip to South Africa and Seychelles

Escaping the cold weather in the Dominican Republic

Stella Shon, writer

Punta Cana coastline
(Photo by Preto Perola / Shutterstock)

As a New York City resident, I preemptively know that January and February will be brutal. That’s why I’m planning ahead and have booked a tropical getaway to the Dominican Republic to escape the frigid New York winter and soak up as much sun as possible.

Thankfully, I can always find a great deal to the Dominican Republic using points and miles. There are plenty of non-stop options from any of New York’s three airports.

  • JetBlue economy flights: New York-JFK to Punta Cana (PUJ) for 11,200 TrueBlue points and $115.27 in taxes and fees.
  • Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana: Four nights for 25,000 points per night.

I’ve never stayed at a Hyatt all-inclusive resort before, but I have high hopes as a Hyatt loyalist and elite status holder.

Two weeks in Japan

Katie Genter, senior writer

Tokyo, Japan
Overlooking Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

In Feb. 2022, my husband and I plan to fly to Japan for a two-week stay. Frankly, I’m not sure whether Japan will be open to U.S. tourists without quarantine by then. But, my husband snagged us two ANA first-class awards from New York-JFK to Tokyo Hanada for 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $49 per person for the outbound. And, he also found us Japan Airlines business class awards for 60,000 American miles plus $55 per person from Tokyo Hanada to Dallas.

So, it will be a fantastic set of flights if Japan reopens in time. To go with these flights, I’ve also booked the following fully-refundable hotel nights:

  • Comfort Hotel Tokyo Kanda: Six nights for 48,000 Choice points
  • ANA Holiday Inn Sapporo Susukino: Four nights for 21,000 IHG points after a fourth-night reward
  • Comfort Hotel Naha Prefectural Office: Four nights for 48,000 Choice points

You’ll notice that I’ve redeemed mostly Choice Hotels points for these stays. After all, we’ve found that Japan and Europe are two of the destinations where we can get the most value from our Choice points.

But, the ANA Holiday Inn Sapporo Susukino redemption in Sapporo is also noteworthy. Not only is the hotel 7,000 points per night before the fourth-night reward on my dates, but we’d get 1.23 cents per point on this redemption after the fourth-night reward.

Related: How (and why) to plan a ski trip to Niseko, Japan, with points and miles

Using Alaska miles for business class on JAL to Seoul

Clint Henderson, senior news editor

Mireuk Daebul, seoul, korea
Mireuk Daebul statue (The Great Statue of Maitreya Buddha) at the Bongeunsa Temple and view of Gangnam in Seoul, South Korea at dusk. (Image courtesy of Tuomas Lehtinen/Getty Images)

One of the best uses of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles is on partner awards. I was able to snag tickets on Japan Airlines in business class for just 60,000 miles each way. I’ll also use my top-tier status with Hyatt and Hilton to book some of the best hotels in Seoul.

  • Japan Airlines business class flights: New York-JFK to Seoul Gimpo International Airport (GMP) for 120,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles plus $94 in taxes and fees.
  • Grand Hyatt Seoul: 1 free night certificate from World of Hyatt, two nights standard award for 33,000 World of Hyatt points.
  • Park Hyatt Seoul: 2 nights for $275 or 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
  • Conrad Seoul: 2 nights for $234 or 63,000 – 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

20 nights in India

Katie Genter, senior writer

A beach in Goa, India
A beach in Goa, India. (Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

My husband and I have wanted to go to India for many years now. So, we decided to book when he found a $949 premium economy fare from Los Angeles to Bangalore on British Airways. After all, this was before American Airlines announced it was changing how loyalists earn elite status. So, we expected this fare would significantly help us toward requalifying for Executive Platinum elite status. Of course, it will still help under the new Loyalty Points scheme, but not as much.

Plus, I’ve had my eye on several low-category hotels in India. And, I’ve made fully-refundable reservations at several of these hotels in southern India for this trip:

  • Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore: Four nights for $335
  • Le Méridien Kochi: Five nights for 30,000 Marriott points after a fifth night free
  • Park Hyatt Chennai: Four nights for $334
  • Hyatt Centric Candolim Goa: Four nights for 20,000 Hyatt points
  • Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore: Three nights for $251

The Park Hyatt Chennai has been on my list for several years now, as it is the only Category 1 Park Hyatt in the world. I’d assumed I’d eventually redeem Hyatt points to stay at this Park Hyatt, but the paid rates make it more lucrative to pay cash. Meanwhile, I’d discovered the Hyatt Centric in Goa and the Le Meridien Kochi while researching low-category Hyatt and Marriott properties.

Related: 9 tips for taking a luxury vacation on a budget

Burning American miles on flights to Europe and Nepal

Katie Genter, senior writer

Boudhanath in Kathmandu, Nepal
Prayer flags at Boudhanath, a stupa, in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo by Pakin Songmor/Getty Images)

There were a lot of rumors earlier this year about an American AAdvantage devaluation. I’d expected the devaluation would consist of slashing award charts, but perhaps the devaluation just came in the form of the new Loyalty Points elite scheme. In either case, my husband and I decided we were sitting on too many American Airlines miles. So, among other redemptions, we redeemed miles for a trip to Europe and Nepal in mid-2022:

  • American Airlines Flagship First flights: New York-JFK to London via Los Angeles for 72,000 American Airlines miles plus $5.60 per person
  • Qatar Qsuite flights: Amsterdam to Kathmandu via Doha for 42,500 American Airlines miles plus $54 per person
  • Qatar Qsuite flights: Kathmandu to Los Angeles via Doha for 70,000 American Airlines miles plus $59 per person

To accompany this trip, I also booked award stays in London, Amsterdam and Nepal as follows:

I expect we’ll do some light trekking while in Nepal. So, I booked two nights at the Hyatt Regency, left three nights for a short trek near Kathmandu and then booked six more nights to catch up on work after trekking. But, I may change my bookings if I want to do a longer trek. Or, if Six Senses Bhutan becomes integrated into IHG Rewards, I may change my plans to hop over for a short stay.

Related: Cleared for Takeoff: Business class for two to Kathmandu

A couple of hops back home to North Carolina

Stella Shon, writer

Blue hour in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Not all trips can be glamorous. In the first few months of 2022, I have two round-trip flights booked to my hometown airport of Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) since I’ll be attending two weddings.

Using a mix of miles and cash, I was able to score some great flight deals:

  • Delta economy flights: New York (LGA) to Raleigh-Durham (RDU) for 10,000 SkyMiles and $11.20 in taxes and fees.
  • JetBlue basic economy flights: New York (EWR) to Raleigh-Durham (RDU) for $77 roundtrip.

Thankfully, I won’t have to pay for accommodations since the weddings are close to my family’s home.

Bottom line

Will 2022 be the year that we make those long-waited, aspirational trips come true? These three TPG staffers are hopeful — and with everything already booked or at least planned, they have to keep their fingers crossed that all goes well.

But if we learned anything from 2020 (and 2021), it’s that you can’t be 100% certain of what the future holds. Fortunately, most award bookings are flexible, and you should be able to get your points and miles with most loyalty programs if you need to cancel your trip. Or, if booking with cash, most airlines have relaxed their change and cancellation policies, allowing flyers to get a refund or a voucher if they’re unable to embark on their trip.

Additional reporting by Clint Henderson and Katie Genter.

Featured image by mihtiander for Getty Images.

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