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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Kevin, who used points to book business-class tickets to Thailand. Here’s what he had to say:
My wife and I began planning our Southeast Asia adventure seven years ago — about two months before we found out she was pregnant with our first child. We could have still gone, but first pregnancies can be nerve-racking and we felt comfortable putting our trip on hold. Eventually, our lives began to settle down, and as our son approached his second birthday, we got ready to hoist up our backpacks and start soaking in the southern Thai sun.
Then, one morning as I was researching airfare, my wife told me she felt a little sick to her stomach … you can guess where that led. Yes, baby number two was just clearing security and on her way to the gate. Just like that, the demands and rewards of parenting two young children consumed us both, until gradually the technicolor dream I once had of Asia slowly faded to black and white, and then into nothing at all.
Fast forward to the present and we have two insane children, ages 8 and 6. They’re awesome, they’re fun, and they’re super exhausting, and for some unknown reason grandma and grandpa are willing to watch them for a few weeks to make sure they don’t paint the dog with olive oil or dump an entire container of Gold Bond powder in my underwear drawer…again. Asia, we’re back, baby!
The upside to six years of vanilla travel (mostly domestic flights with a few trips to Mexico) is that I was never really tempted to dip into the points we were earning on our Chase Sapphire Preferred Cards, choosing instead to shop carefully and pay the fare. My wife and I had each opened our own account, thus doubling the fairly generous bonus offer, and we added authorized users to earn another nice bonus (authorized bonus no longer available). We used our cards for pretty much everything — we rarely carry cash, so I’ve gotten into the groove of using my Sapphire card since the day I slipped it into my wallet.
We accumulated approximately 450,000 Ultimate Rewards points between us, which I was able to pool into one account using the Chase website. I then transferred points to Korean Air and booked two business class awards from Tampa to Bangkok, with a face value a bit over $12,000. Altogether the two tickets cost us 310,000 miles, which equates to a little under 4 cents per point. Not only do I finally get to see Southeast Asia with my lovely wife, I also get to sit on the top deck of the A380, which has long been a bucket list wish for me.
The only real hiccup was with Korean Air, as there was very little I could accomplish online. It took me four phone calls over a period of a couple days to reserve our tickets, verify that award space was available, and then apply for the SkyPass Family Plan. I had to submit copies of our passports and marriage license, and even then I had to call to purchase our tickets. The representatives were courteous and well-informed, and wait times were within reason, but in 2018 I’d expect better from an airline based in arguably the most technologically advanced country on the planet.
Nonetheless, we’re bound for Asia and I’m already thinking about our next award flights. We’re looking forward to traveling abroad with our two nutjob kids, and we have our sights set on Tanzania. Look out, hyenas.
Some people think being a parent means giving up on your travel aspirations, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Kevin and his wife are fortunate to have trusted and willing caretakers available, which is crucial if you opt to leave your kids behind. However, traveling with children (even babies and toddlers) is more feasible than you might expect, and while the experience of a family vacation might differ from that of an adults-only trip, it can be just as rewarding. For ideas about how to travel with your tribe, check out these tips for booking family award travel.
Kevin’s story is a good example of how you can earn rewards through everyday spending. He and his wife had years to save up points for their trip, but you can get a substantial return on even one year of purchases by using your cards consistently and taking advantage of bonus categories, shopping portals and other increased earning opportunities. Naturally, you should consider the quality of your points and not just the quantity, since travel rewards are not all created equal.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Kevin for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories 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. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Feature image by SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images.
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel