Luke Sims – 10xTravel Contributor
I was twenty-two, fresh out of college, and about to marry my high school sweetheart – paying for a honeymoon was the last thing I wanted to do.
Oh yeah, did I mention I just bought an engagement ring, paid a NYC apartment deposit (ouch), and hadn’t started my job yet?
Enough of my pity party, the bitter truth is that we all want to take incredible trips and it’s never the right time to blow thousands of dollars.
But, this was my honeymoon… I wanted to take my wife on the trip of a lifetime.
That’s when I stumbled across 10xTravel. I read the free e-book, sent Bryce my sob story, and discovered that the honeymoon of our dreams wasn’t out of reach.
So, piece-by-piece I put together a honeymoon that was almost as great as the sex was (too personal?) and it was an adventure that we’ll never forget.
Where are we going?
We had no idea where we wanted to go.
We didn’t want to do the typical Cancun sit-on-the-beach honeymoon (not bashing it), so we typed in “unique honeymoon destinations” and this picture popped up:
You’ve probably seen this picture before, because it’s the second most photographed place on earth. Needless to say, we were hooked on going to Banff, Canada!
We knew nothing about Canada and quite frankly, we didn’t think there was anything cool up there. After a bit of research, it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. (I know, I was shocked too)
Check it out.
First Stop: Wedding Night Hotel
“You may now kiss the bride.” Okay, fast forward through the swoon-inducing smooch and bangin’ party, and there we were in a limo (thanks mom and dad) headed to our first – completely free – hotel.
With an early flight out in the morning, I decided our best option was The Westin at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. With a direct personal entrance to the airport, our early flight was MUCH more enjoyable (especially after a long night).
The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport
The Westin is a Starwood property, so I was able to book a nice room with only a small portion of my high-valued Starpoints, which were earned thanks to my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express.
I casually mentioned I would be on my honeymoon, and after the long drawn out “aww that’s adorable” we were instantly upgraded: hospitality suite, champagne, and free club lounge breakfast.
(Note: playing the “honeymoon card” was a huge success throughout our trip. I may even continue playing this card for a while…)
The view from our room – Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Detroit to Calgary: Delta SkyMiles
Delta had the exact flights we wanted, fast and not too early in the morning, with the added bonus of flying with a well-respected airline.
I was able to book our round-trip tickets from Detroit to Calgary with the 50,000 (100,000 total) SkyMiles we had each earned with the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card by American Express. The taxes and fees for our itinerary were just $122.50.
Without miles, the total cost for flights would have been about $1,600.
The Delta terminal was a five-minute walk from our hotel room and we each received our first checked bag free (added benefit from our Delta credit cards) We had seamless flights with spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies.
Flying over the Canadian Rockies
Next Stop: Lake Louise
Once off the plane we headed straight to pick up our rental car. I was able to book the rental using Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to rent a car
I booked the option that used the least amount of points, but again after casually mentioning we were on our honeymoon… out came a 2016 Dodge Charger.
Needless to say, driving through the mountains was a great experience filled with elk, grizzly bears, and breathtaking views.
We stayed three nights at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and it was incredible.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Our first two nights at this beautiful hotel were free thanks to the two free night certificates offered by the Fairmont credit card. We also cashed in our two free room upgrade certificates (also earned with the Fairmont card) to upgrade to a suite.
I booked the third night using my Capital One Venture Card, which earns points that can be used to go back and erase previous travel purchases. The bonus points earned for opening the card were more than enough to cover the charge.
Although I had originally booked the cheapest possible room for the third night, my “honeymoon card” kept us in the same suite we were in for the first two nights (at the price of the cheaper room I had originally booked).
During our three-night stay, we ate all sorts of delicious food and went on a few escapades. By eating at the hotel restaurants (they had 5 great options) and booking our activities through the hotel, I was able to wipe those costs away with my Venture Capital card.
We also had free breakfast every day (other Fairmont card perks).
Last Stop: Fairmont Banff Springs
Neither of us can stay in one spot for very long, and a castle in the Rockies was too good to pass up.
So we decided to head to the The Fairmont Banff Springs for the final three days of our trip.
I was able to book two nights for free with the bonus earned from my wife’s Fairmont card. This time I placed the third night on my Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which allowed me to wipe away the cost with my points bonus.
Like the Capital One Venture Card, the Barclays Arrival Plus allows you to use your points to erase any travel related charge made with the card in the previous 90 days.
Located in the heart of Banff National Park, our stay was full of incredible views and unique experiences like: world-renowned hot springs (free certificates from Fairmont cards), gondola rides, and not-so-shy wildlife.
View from our bathroom window
Bottom Line: You Should Travel More
Not only was I able to take my wife on a $10,000+ honeymoon for next to nothing, but I was also able to take the looming financial burden completely out of the equation.
If money is the only thing holding you back from taking that once in a lifetime trip, 10xT can help!
Photo Credit: Fairmont.com, Starwoodhotels.com