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Reader Success Story: Our Amazing Trip to Vietnam on Points and Miles

By Anna Zaks

Strangely enough, Vietnam was not on my radar until a couple of years ago. Southeast Asia looks so far away and getting to Vietnam from the US.. is not an easy feat. But, as I recently discovered, all the planning and hours spent on planes and in airports are so worth it.

Vietnam is a great country and you should definitely put it on your must-see list. So, drop everything right now and start planning your trip. Here’s how my husband and I did it.

image310xT Reader Anna in Vietnam

Vietnam is a big country and unless you can spend 3-4 weeks there I would suggest you don’t try to see everything on one trip. Because we were traveling in February, we decided that we wanted to see central and south Vietnam. This time of year, the weather is still a bit chilly in the North and I really wanted to get as much sunshine and warm weather as possible.

There are quite a few flight options and redemption opportunities if you travel from the U.S. to Vietnam’s major airports – Hanoi (HAN) and Ho Chi Minh City (SGN). My plan, however, was to fly to Da Nang (DAD) and fly back from SGN. Because Vietnam is so far away, we wanted to enjoy the comfort of business class!

Our Flights and Hotels

Cleveland (CLE) to Boston (BOS)—positioning flight

BOS to DAD

Da Nang (1 night)

La Siesta Resort and Spa Hoi An (3 nights)

Hoi An to SGN

Park Hyatt Saigon Ho Chi Minh City (3 nights)

SGN to Phu Quoc (PQC)

JW Marriott Phu Quoc (5 nights)

PQC to SGN

Park Hyatt Saigon (1 night)

SGN to CLE

It was not easy finding award flights to DAD from the US but I was able to snag a business class seat on Cathay Pacific from BOS with a stopover in Hong Kong (HKG) for 70K American AAdvantage miles.

I earned the miles with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Cardand I topped off my AAdvantage account by transferring SPG Starpoints I earned with the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express.

To get from my hometown of CLE to BOS, I used 10,000 United MileagePlus miles for my positioning flight.

The flight from BOS to HKG was in business class and the flight from HKG to DAD was in economy—it’s a 2-hour flight and I got bulkhead seats, so it wasn’t a problem at all. I was able to use the business class lounge at HKG to shower and to have some breakfast, as Cathay Pacific allows you to use lounges on arrival when you are connecting. My husband was already in Asia for work, so we didn’t have to worry about getting him to Vietnam on points and miles.

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Hoi An, Vietnam

After spending one night in Da Nang we took a cab to Hoi An where we spent 3 nights at La Siesta Resort and Spa. At the time, there were no hotels in Hoi An that could be booked on points, not even with Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal.

Vietnam is very inexpensive and this wonderful resort only cost us about $110 per night. I highly recommend Hoi An as a destination, definitely a must see in central Vietnam. The Chase travel portal even has a few hotels in Hoi An that can be booked with Ultimate Rewards points now—including La Siesta.

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Hoi An, Vietnam

Pro-tip: There are a couple of chain hotels that have Da Nang in their names, Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and a new Sheraton Danang. Neither of these hotels is in the city center of Da Nang. Rather, they are a pretty long cab ride from both Hoi An and Da Nang. Both are located in the area with huge resorts in between Da Nang and Hoi An.

Air travel in Vietnam is easy and inexpensive. From the airports we’ve seen (SGN, DAD, PQC), they are modern and have plenty of shops and restaurants to occupy your time before the flight. There are a few low-cost carriers so we never paid more than $40-80 per person for our flights within the country.

The next stop on our itinerary was Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon. There are a few options in Saigon for a great hotel stays using points. Initially I booked Le Meridien Saigon, an SPG category 3 hotel, for 7,000 Starpoints per night.

After doing some more research, we decided to switch to Park Hyatt Saigon which is a great deal at 15,000 Hyatt points per night. We transferred 45,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my husband’s Hyatt account (instant transfer) and booked a 3-night stay.

I earned these Ultimate Rewards points by opening the Chase Ink Plus (not available anymore) and Chase Ink Preferred. Both had 80,000 point sign-up bonuses at the time.

Editor’s note: The Chase Ink Business Cash Card is very similar to the Chase Ink Plus Card and have a very similar earning structure including 5X and 2X bonus categories. The Chase Ink Cash does not have an annual fee.

image13Park Hyatt Saigon

We emailed the hotel a couple of weeks before arrival to tell the hotel about our upcoming wedding anniversary and to ask about an upgrade—we weren’t disappointed! (My husband’s Explorist status with World of Hyatt might have helped a bit too)

We were upgraded to a better room on the quiet side of the hotel overlooking the pool, received free buffet breakfast at the Opera restaurant and the hotel even put a bouquet of red roses and a box of the most amazing chocolates in our room!

image7Park Hyatt, Saigon

The Park Hyatt Saigon is beautiful, has great rooms with spacious marble bathrooms and definitely has the best location among other chain properties in the city. I either walked or drove by other hotels including the Intercontinental and Le Meridien (that I had initially booked), and I was so glad we switched to Park Hyatt! It’s right by the Opera House and, as one of the staffers told us, has the best pool in Saigon. In short, you can never go wrong with a Park Hyatt!

image1Park Hyatt, Saigon

The next stop on our itinerary was Phu Quoc Island. To get to Phu Quoc we took a short 40-minute flight from SGN at about $40 per person.

When we booked JW Marriott, it was a category 5 hotel at 25,000 per night. As of March 1, 2018, it is a category 6 at 30,000 per night. If you book your stay at Marriott with points and stay 4 nights, you get the 5th night free which means our entire 5-night stay cost us 100,000 Marriott points. I transferred 34,000 SPG Starpoints to Marriott that were earned by opening an Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express. This is an amazing hotel and still worth it at the Category 6 redemption rate.

image2JW Marriott Phu Quoc

A couple of months before the trip, my husband opened a version of The Platinum Card from American Express card which comes with SPG Gold status. Because of the SPG-Marriott merger, SPG Gold equals Marriott Gold which, at the time, gave us free buffet breakfast and a 15% discount on food and beverage.

This unfortunately is not the case anymore at JW Marriott Phu Quoc. Starting March 1st, Marriott Gold and Platinum elites only get a 50% discount on breakfast.

Editor’s note: Marriott recently announced its plans to unify the Marriott Rewards and SPG programs which means changes to benefits to each status level.

Food in Vietnam is very inexpensive, but that’s not the case at the resort. Because the resort is isolated, there are no other options around for food unless you take a 20-minute cab ride to the main town. I was glad we got the Gold status and were able to enjoy our complimentary breakfast (regular price about $35) and a 15% discount on other meals.

As with our stay at the Park Hyatt Saigon, I reached out to the hotel about our special occasion and we received an upgrade to a room with a lovely ocean view. The resort pastry chef even prepared us a gluten-free chocolate cake for our anniversary.

We had an absolutely amazing stay in Phu Quoc. The resort is magical, the service is fantastic, the beach is perfect and the water is calm, warm and emerald green.

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JW Marriott Phu Quoc

image11JW Marriott Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc was our last stop in Vietnam and I had an early morning flight back to the U.S. We returned to Ho Chi Minh City and I spent my last night in Vietnam at Park Hyatt Saigon that I booked with 15,000 Hyatt points transferred from my Ultimate Rewards account. It was really sad to leave such an amazing hotel and Vietnam in general. The trip exceeded all our expectations.

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JW Marriott Phu Quoc

image5JW Marriott Phu Quoc

My flight back to the U.S. was booked with United miles on flights operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA). I flew business class from SGN to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) to Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to CLE for 75,000 United miles.

I booked that redemption before United’s devaluation—the same award now will cost you 85,000 miles. I earned United miles by opening a Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer Card and by topping off my MileagePlus account with Ultimate Rewards points (instant transfer).

My husband had to stay a few more days for work. His return flight was on Cathay Pacific in first class! Business class wasn’t available, first was, so we didn’t hesitate to snag a first class seat. What a fitting finale for such an amazing trip!

We transferred SPG Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan and, since Alaska MileaePlan allows one stopover one-way awards, it was the perfect solution as he had to go to Hong Kong for work before returning home.

He flew in Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, spent a few days there and flew first class to JFK. I looked for award space on Qantas’ website then called Alaska Airlines to ensure they could see the award space, then transferred the points. The transfer took about 24 hours, but thankfully the availability was still there. The flight cost 70,000 Alaska miles.

The last award to book was an easy one. I had some Delta SkyMiles that had sitting in my account for a way too long. Thankfully, Delta SkyMiles don’t expire and there was award space from JFK to CLE for 12,500 Delta miles. The layover wasn’t so bad either thanks to lounge access from my Priority Pass Select membership—a perk that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

So, there you have it! An amazing adventure to Vietnam made possible by miles and points!

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