Skip to content

TPG Reader Hall of Fame: The ultimate luxury vacation

Oct. 25, 2019
7 min read
TPG Reader Hall of Fame: The ultimate luxury vacation
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Today's TPG Reader Hall of Fame story comes to you courtesy of Tom, who took the ultimate bucket-list vacation with his wife — an ultra-luxury 11 days spent on board some of the finest cabins and in the fanciest hotels around the world. Let's see how they did it.

Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth)

Tom and his wife splashed out for a high-end vacation at one of our favorite properties — the Conrad Maldives — combined with some truly incredible nights at the Conrad Singapore and the JW Marriott Dubai.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth)

To swing this they applied for a number of credit cards, including:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card — Earn 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare; from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) when you make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve — Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • Chase Freedom — (No longer open to new applicants) Earn a $150 bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — Earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card — Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months. Terms apply.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases made on your new card at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

They also spent five years accumulating a truly impressive 200k+ United miles via actual butt-in-seat flying, in addition to frequent use of the United MileagePlusX app and bonuses from rental cars. This enabled them to fly EVA Air's phenomenal business-class product for the long journey from San Francisco to Singapore.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth.)

As if that weren't amazing enough, they also snagged United saver-award space on Singapore Airlines for the flight from Singapore to Male, and even better, cashed in their Alaska Airlines miles (earned via welcome bonuses, flying and shopping portal bonuses) for flights from Male to San Francisco (with a free stopover in Dubai) in Emirates first class:

All told, they spent just under 800,000 points for flights and hotels. If that seems suspiciously low to you, that's because it is. Tom and his wife are no newbies, and they managed to squeeze incredible value from travel rewards credit card perks to extend their stay. Using the annual free weekend night offered by the Hilton Honors Aspire Card they both applied for, and a third free weekend night earned by spending $15,000 on the Hilton Honors Surpass Card, they managed to stay five whole nights while spending only 190,000 points. That's an incredible redemption, especially at a hotel that regularly goes for more than $1,000 per night.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth)

They also used the annual statement credits offered by the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card to pay for the JW Marriott in Dubai, turning their cash stay (which earned them bonus points and elite credits) into a completely free affair.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth.)

Here's the breakdown of the points they spent:

ProgramPoints usedCurrent TPG valuation in cents per point
United Airlines237,0001.30
Alaska Airlines300,0001.80
Hilton Honors190,0000.60
Chase Ultimate Rewards43,0002.00

Here's how they redeemed them:

FlightsCityAirlineClass of servicePoints usedComments
FlightSan Francisco to SingaporeEVA AirBusiness180,000United Airlines miles
FlightSingapore to Male'Singapore AirlinesBusiness100,000United Airlines miles
FlightMale' to Dubai to San FranciscoEmiratesFirst300,000Alaska Airlines miles
HotelsLocationNamePoints usedComments
Paid hotelSingaporeConrad Centennial SingaporeN/AOut of pocket $1,455 (four nights)
Hotel rewardMaldivesConrad Maldives Rangali190,00095,000/night (two nights)
Credit card rewardsMaldivesConrad Maldives RangaliN/ACovered with Aspire and Surpass free weekend nights (three nights)
Credit card rewardsDubaiJW Marriott Marquis Hotel DubaiN/ACovered with the Bonvoy Brilliant annual statement credits (two nights)

Tom and his wife put together a truly memorable vacation, from their awe-inspiring Emirates redemption to the five nights in their overwater bungalow. And clever use of hotel credit cards, dedicated mileage earning and credit card welcome bonuses meant that this high-end vacation was nearly free. Inspirational!

Updated on 11/3/21.

Featured image by Photo courtesy of Tom Ainsworth.
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.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
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
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
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

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
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

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees