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Reader Success Story: A $7,700 Honeymoon For $66

Tommy V

By: Tommy N

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Without a doubt, last year was one of the best of my life. I married my best friend, Emma, and we celebrated this new chapter with an amazing honeymoon.

Financially speaking, we weren’t really in a position to plan a luxurious and expensive honeymoon. In the span of 6 months, we had planned a wedding, moved across the country, quit one of our jobs and relocated the other. Never mind the fact that we were trying to manage our student loans and a car loan. We were in debt with half the income and double the rent.

However, I really wanted Emma to have an amazing honeymoon. She’s an adventurer at heart and is truly at her happiest when she is traveling. For that reason, we were determined to deliver on the perfect vacation in spite of the obvious financial constraints.

Considering our love for both hiking and sipping cocktails on the beach, we soon set our sights on Hawaii. I then stumbled across 10xTravel and read everything I could. As I would soon learn, with some planning and discipline, there is no reason for anyone to not have the honeymoon of their dreams.

Side note: Wedding and Honeymoon planning is the perfect time to start this hobby. All the spending required will cut through minimum spending requirements on credit cards like a knife through hot butter to help you earn tons of miles and points.

Without further ado, here’s how we booked an amazing honeymoon adventure to Hawaii on miles and points.

Disclaimer: To find the cash value of each hotel and flight, I used proxy reservations, inclusive of any upgrades we received. Therefore the value is based on the same flight or hotel, on the same days of the week, during comparable times of the year for travel. These values are just a barometer; your experience may vary.

 

Flights: Boston -> Kaua’i; Honolulu -> Boston; Delta Air Lines 

  • Points Used: 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points transferred to Flying Blue for flights on partner airline, Delta
  • Source of Points: Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus (50k) + 1 referral (5k) + add authorized user (5k)
  • Cost Out of Pocket: $22.40 (taxes and fees)
  • Cost Without Points: $2,100.00
  • Redemption Value: 3.5 cents per point

Our main currency for this trip was Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Chase allows you to transfer Ultimate Rewards to any of their eleven hotel and airline partners. The cheapest option for domestic economy tickets to Hawaii would have been to transfer Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air SkyPass for flights on their SkyTeam alliance partner Delta.

These cost 25,000 points per person for a round trip flight. However, after maybe a dozen phone calls and hours of wasted time, I just could not get a SkyPass representative to find any award ticket availability even remotely close to our preferred dates (at the time, you had to call in to Korean Air to book flights on partner airlines rather than doing so online).

10xTravel Tip: Check out our top 5 ways to fly to Hawaii using miles and points.

So we moved on to plan B: Air France/KLM Flying Blue. Since they are also alliance partners with Delta, you could book the same flights for the slightly higher cost of 30,000 per ticket. The Flying Blue representative could not have been more helpful. I quickly found availability and made the booking.

Another great aspect of Flying Blue’s award redemption routing rules is that they allow open jaws. This allowed us to fly directly into the island of Kaua’i’s Lihue airport, near our first hotel, and out of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, for our return flight home to Boston ten days later at no additional charge.

Tommy V - Hawaii

All for just 60,000 miles for two people.

TommyV3

As you can see, there was a doozy of a layover in Los Angeles (LAX). Luckily, due to my Priority Pass membership from the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, we were able to utilize the Alaska Airlines lounge to help kill some time with free drinks and Wi-Fi.

Two long plane rides later and we were finally in Kaua’i!

 

Hotel: Kaua’i Palms Hotel

  • $107.75 out of pocket; reimbursed via Chase Sapphire Reserve Card’s travel credit

Since our flight was getting in late and we planned to wake up early for a hike, it was not worth burning points for a nice hotel just for a few hours of sleep. We picked Kaua’i Palms hotel for its proximity to the airport.

It was great for its purpose and I was happy to recoup the $107.75 charge and be reimbursed by the travel credit that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. After $107.75, I still had $192.25 of the $300 credit left.

 

Hotel: Grand Hyatt Kaua’i Resort & Spa

  • Points Used: 3 free night certificates
  • Source of Points: 2 Chase Hyatt Visa cards
  • Cost Out of Pocket: $0
  • Cost Without Points: $2,165.94

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If you are ever traveling to Kaua’i, consider this my formal recommendation to stay at the Grand Hyatt. This was the most gorgeous hotel we had ever visited.

This category 6 Hyatt property is near Poipu in the southeastern part of Kaua’i. It is a relatively remote hotel and the whole property is completed covered in beautiful flowers, trees, and ferns.

It was clearly designed to be a natural part of the local Hawaiian landscape and it did not disappoint.

Because Emma and I used three of our four free night certificates, we each had a separate booking under our names. I called prior to our stay to ask if we could combine the reservations so we wouldn’t have to change rooms while also “mentioning” to the front desk that it was our Honeymoon.

Combining that with our Hyatt Platinum status due to the Chase Hyatt Visa card, and we were rewarded with an upgrade to a partial ocean-view room with a king and a queen bed (we had booked a standard parking lot view room).

This room was definitely one of their larger non-suite rooms, which was greatly appreciated by us considering how much luggage we had brought for our hikes.

The hotel was also kind enough to give us a free dessert coupon, a bottle of champagne, and a list of various hotel services for which we would be given discounts because of our honeymoon.

Oddly enough, after returning to our room after a hike the next day, we were surprised to see another bottle of champagne, free dessert, and congratulatory note as if we hadn’t received one the day before. I have to assume there was an issue when the reservations were combined… but we weren’t complaining!

 

Flight: Kaua’i -> Maui on Hawaiian Airlines

  • $198.00 out of pocket; reimbursed via Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 travel credit

If you’re keeping track, you’ll notice that the out of pocket expenses are now over the $300 that is being reimbursed by my Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s travel credit.

However, one of the benefits of the card is that while the annual fee posts on your anniversary statement, the travel reimbursement is credited both when you open the card and then in each December going forward, including the first December after you open. By the time we took our trip in February, we had received two $300 travel credits.

10xTravel Update: For those who opened the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card after May 20, 2017, the travel credit resets after 12 billing cycles rather than each calendar year.

 

Hotel: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa

We used a combination of strategies to book our five nights at this category 5 property on Maui. I’ll break them down here:

1st night – Final free night certificate from Chase Hyatt Visa card

  • Cost Out of Pocket: $0
  • Cost Without Points: $542.59

Next 3 nights – Hyatt points redemption, transferred from Chase UR

  • Points Used: 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
  • Source of Points: Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus (50k) + spend (10k)
  • Cost Out of Pocket: $0
  • Cost Without Points: $1,627.76
  • Redemption Value: 2.7 cents per point

Final night – Hyatt points+cash redemption, transferred from Chase UR

  • Points Used: 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
  • Source of Points: Spend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Cost Out of Pocket: $125, reimbursed via Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 2nd $300 travel credit
  • Cost Without Points: $542.59
  • Redemption Value: 4.2 cents per point

Located in Ka’anapali, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is a great hotel to use as a base camp for your adventures on Maui, while still providing enough quality food, drink, and pool facilities for at least a couple days of relaxation within the property.

Our original booking was in a standard room with a golf-view. When we saw the room, we were not exactly thrilled. It was on the first floor and other than a screen door, there were no windows… not to mention that the screen door opened directly into a pool area.

TommyV5

The noise from the consistently packed pool area funneled right into our room. After a quick discussion with the front desk, while also mentioning our Honeymoon, Platinum status, and that I had requested a better view on the phone with the front desk just a few days prior, we were upgraded to a much larger partial ocean view king room on the fourth floor.

All in all, we really enjoyed this hotel.

 

Flight: Maui  Oahu on Hawaiian Airlines

  • $138.00 out of pocket; reimbursed via Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 travel credit

 

Hotel: Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach

We used a points+cash redemption for our final night at this category 3 property.

  • Points Used: 6,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, transferred to Hyatt
  • Source of Points: Spend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Cost Out of pocket: $75, $9 of which was reimbursed on the travel credit
  • Cost Without Points: $295.16
  • Redemption Value: 3.7 cents per point

Our flight out of Hawaii was from Honolulu, so we decided to spend our final night at the Hyatt Place in Waikiki Beach. Although this was the lowest category hotel we stayed in, I want to highlight the fact that the customer service here was by far the best we received throughout the trip.

We were upgraded upon arrival from the basic city view room to a great corner room with an excellent view. In addition to all around great customer service throughout our stay, the staff left us a very nice personal note and a bottle of Chardonnay, which was much more memorable than the pre-printed honeymoon notes and coupon packages at the other hotels.

After one night in Honolulu, we headed to the airport for our red-eye home to Boston!

All in, this vacation of a lifetime would have cost $7,718 without using points, and yet we only paid a whopping $66 out of pocket.

By putting in a little time and energy into learning about award travel, we were able to take the honeymoon of our dreams!

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