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Island Hopping With United Miles — Reader Success Story

July 22, 2019
5 min read
Rock Islands Palau
Island Hopping With United Miles — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Sietse, who crossed an item off his award travel bucket list:

My girlfriend and I love traveling and visiting new places, especially on points and miles. Earlier this year, we decided to book a summer trip to somewhere new and warm using some of the miles we had accumulated over four years of long-distance dating.

I'm based in Beijing this year, and while brainstorming where to go, we searched United's award chart and found some incredible sweet spots. For example, United charges just 17,500 miles each way to fly in economy from anywhere in North Asia to anywhere in Oceania — including places as far-flung as Fiji, Tonga, the Marshall Islands and Tahiti (over 7,000 miles away from Beijing). What made these redemptions especially appealing was United's Excursionist Perk, which lets you visit two places for the price of one!

We ended up booking our award trip to Palau and Micronesia. We spent five days in Palau touring the stunning Rock Islands and marveling at the marine wildlife. We then continued on to Chuuk, Micronesia, where we dove to some astonishing World War II shipwrecks. Both countries were new for us, and both wowed us with their rich traditional history and island hospitality. To top it all off, on our way to Palau, we were even able to build in a free daylong layover in Seoul to visit my girlfriend's grandmother.

This trip was extra exciting because it meant flying on the United Island Hopper — an AvGeek's dream! This fascinating flight has been at the top of my travel bucket list, and we followed TPG's advice and scored window seats for the journey. Cash prices would been over $2,500 each — far too expensive for our student budgets. Thankfully, I was able to use some miles from an elevated bonus for the United Explorer Card, while my girlfriend transferred points from her Chase Sapphire Reserve account. It was the trip of a lifetime, and we're grateful we could use points to make it happen!

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Most award charts feature sweet spots that offer outsized value; this story is a great reminder that many of them have nothing to do with getting to or from North America. Many sweet spots (including the one Sietse used) take advantage of geography and how airlines delineate different global regions. For example, American Airlines includes both Russia and the Canary Islands in its Europe region, so you could cross the continent from Moscow (SVO) to Gran Canaria (LPA) for 12,500 miles each way in economy. Similarly, ANA lumps Africa and the Middle East into a single region, so you could fly round-trip from Tel Aviv (TLV) to Johannesburg (JNB) for 30,000 miles in economy or 55,000 miles in business class — on Ethiopian Airlines, for example.

Other sweet spots stem from distance-based pricing between city pairs that are close together but might otherwise prove expensive, such as British Airways flights within the Caribbean. Those short hops may cost hundreds of dollars despite covering only a few hundred miles; instead, you can book them for as little as 4,000 Avios each way. The takeaway is that you may be ignoring award travel opportunities that aren't strictly germane to your plans. I encourage you to pay attention to what's available when booking your next trip — consider where you'll be, and ask yourself where else you could go from there using points and miles. You may find a gem you hadn't noticed.

Related: Two Months Across the South Pacific Using Award Chart Sweet Spots

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Sietse a 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 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. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023