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READER SUCCESS STORY: A YOUNG FAMILY GOES TO MAUI HAWAII USING POINTS AND MILES
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Reader Success Story: Maui, Hawaii Using Points and Miles for $670

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support. You can read our advertising disclosure here.

By: 10xT Reader Damien Boulat

The Strategy

My wife and I have found that early to mid-November, before the madness of the Thanksgiving crowds takes hold, is a wonderful time to travel. This time around, Maui was on the wish-list, so I started exploring a strategy to get us and our 2-year old son there for a relaxing 10-day vacation.

Being based in Los Angeles, there are plenty of non-stop flight options to the Hawaiian islands. As I am well above 5/24 myself, I applied and was approved for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa, which at the time offered a welcome bonus of 30,000 miles, a Companion Pass fare for just taxes, and a $100 statement credit, after $2,000 in spend in the first 3 months.

Maui Hawaii using Points and Miles

All in all we made a dream vacation happen for $670 out of pocket. Had we not used points and miles strategies our cost would have been over $3300. That’s more than $2630 in savings, with minimal effort on our part (2 new credit card sign-ups and an easy booking process).

As my son is over the age of two, we needed three flights. The Companion Pass fare covered my wife and son amounting to $422 total for both, or $322 if you consider the $100 statement credit.  My own flight would need to be booked using Alaska Miles; Saver Awards are 17,500 miles each way for mainland flights to Hawaii and were easy to find for our low-season dates. That’s 35,000 miles + $11 in taxes for the round-trip, so I just needed a little bit of extra spend on the Alaska Visa to earn the miles needed. The card also gave us one-free checked bag, which for our little family was plenty, saving us another $50 roundtrip.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card Earn 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days

As we began to look at accommodation options, we quickly realized 9-nights in Maui, can be quite expensive. Not for us 10xT Insiders us though! We had about ~40,000 leftover Ultimate Rewards points in my wife’s Chase Sapphire Reserve account, opened the previous year, but that wouldn’t be nearly enough. My wife being at 3/24 we applied for the Chase Business Ink Preferred card, offering us another 80,000 points, and closer to 90,000 after our spend to reach the bonus. All in all, that put is around 130,000 UR points, which we combined into the CSR account to get the maximum 1.5 CPP valuation on the UR portal for travel bookings.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months(Learn more)
Ink Business Preferred 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after $5,000 spend in 3 monthsLearn More

Although we considered some of the hotel options (there are beautiful resorts from Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton), given the length of our stay and the fact we were traveling with a toddler, a condo-style property made the most sense for us to have room to spread out and take things easy.

The Luana Kai’s living room at the ground floor so our son could run out directly on the big open grass area to play.

Turns out, there are quite a few condo-style options available directly through the UR portal. Our priority being a nice view at a location convenient to the beach, we settled on Luana Kai in Kihei, booking a direct-oceanfront 1-bedroom unit. We chose to be on the ground floor so our son could run out directly on the big open grass area to play.

Maui Hawaii using Points and Miles

The Luana Kai’s Bedroom

All in all, the unit would have costs us ~$1,850 for the 9-nights, but we paid nothing out of pocket by using ~123,500 UR points. The rate we booked was inclusive of a cleaning fee so that was covered as well.

The only thing left was a car rental. I did have a few UR points left, but after comparing with rates on AutoSlash, I determined the portal rates were not competitive and chose to save my points for future travel. We paid $337 total out of pocket for the duration of the trip and the Chase Sapphire Reserve we used for the booking provided us with our insurance needs.

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Reader Success Story: A Family Adventure to Italy Using Points and Miles

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support. You can read our advertising disclosure here.

By: 10xT Reader Megan Parsons

We just came back home from a $16,000+ family adventure through Italy for less than $1,500!

I started earning points and miles in late 2015 and although we have used them for smaller trips, this was our first big international redemption.

Early this summer, my family and I took a wonderful 15 day trip to Italy using points and miles. This was planned as a trip for 4 but later changed to 3 as my son had enlisted in the National Guard and was away for training.

Deciding where to go was difficult, as my husband and I prefer to do a bit more wandering off the beaten track.  For this trip, our itinerary included Rome, Naples (incl Pompeii and Amalfi), Florence, Tuscany and Venice.

Trip to Italy Using Points and Miles | Reader Success Story: A $16,000+ Family Adventure Through Italy For Less Than $1,500

Booking Flights to Italy

We live in Milwaukee, which generally stinks as far as flight options, particularly when trying to use miles. We often fly out of Chicago and that’s just what we did this time. Our outbound flights for this trip were on Turkish Airlines with a connection in Istanbul (IST).

This was originally booked with my husband and me in business class and the two kids in economy — yes, I am a mean mom — but I couldn’t find both business and economy seats with the same program, so I booked the business class seats through Aeroplan and the economy seats through United.

The approximate cost of two business class seats would have been $6,840 but we used 55,000 Aeroplan miles plus 14.70 CAD (about $11) per ticket. Fortunately, when booking Turkish Airlines with Aeroplan, you won’t have to pay surcharges — though you will on a number of partners.

To get enough Aeroplan miles, I transferred a combination of SPG Starpoints (now part of Marriott Rewards) and American Express Membership Rewards points. I made sure to transfer chunks of 20,000 Starpoints so we could receive the 5,000-mile transfer bonus.

Editor’s note: When the SPG program was transitioned to Marriott Rewards, SPG points were converted to Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio. This means 20,000 SPG points became 60,000 Marriott Rewards points. You can now receive the 5,000-mile transfer bonus when transferring 60,000 Marriott points.

Italy Using Points and Miles | Reader Success Story: A $16,000+ Family Adventure Through Italy For Less Than $1,500

10xT Reader Megan in Turkish Airlines Business Class

Trip to Italy Using Points and Miles | Reader Success Story: A $16,000+ Family Adventure Through Italy For Less Than $1,500

For the kids’ economy tickets, I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my United MileagePlus account. These award tickets cost 30,000 United miles each plus $22.60 in taxes/fees. The Approximate cash price of the tickets was $1,873.00

Editors Note: You could earn these same 30,000 bonus points (50,000 actually) with one Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred 50,000 bonus points after $4,000 spend in 3 monthsLearn More

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Reader Success Story: A $17,000 Adventure to the South Africa Using Points and Miles

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support. You can read our advertising disclosure here.

By: 10xT Reader Alycia Moore

A $17,000 Adventure to the South Africa (with a stop in the Netherlands) using points and miles.

Every May, my boyfriend and I take a trip abroad to celebrate our anniversary. We’ve traveled to Vancouver, taken a road trip across Europe and explored Denmark. This year, we took it to a new level and visited South Africa.

The one thing that differed this year from past years is we did it for insanely cheap. We paid only $1,700 for a trip that could have cost over $17,000!

How? Points and miles, of course!

I’ve spent the last year learning about points and how to best utilize credit cards to travel. We had gotten spoiled when my boyfriend worked for an airline and had flown First Class many times together. Once he quit his job – we were back to paying for flights in an economy (boo!!) and then I found travel hacking.

Here’s a recap of our amazing trip

South Africa using points and miles | Itinerary, Expenses and Miles and Points Used

“The one thing that differed this year from past years is we did it for insanely cheap. We paid only $1,700 for a trip that could have cost over $17,000! How? Points and miles, of course!” – Alycia Moore

We had very specific dates we could travel as I’m a wedding photographer and I needed to return to the states to shoot a wedding.

For the first leg, we booked economy tickets on United from San Francisco (SFO) to Amsterdam (AMS) for about $400 each.

From there, we used 220,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to fly round-trip from Amsterdam to Cape Town (CPT) — about a 12-hour flight. We transferred our Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air SkyPass to book KLM business class.

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Reader Success Story: A First-Class Trip to the Maldives Using Points/Miles

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

This is a guest post by 10xT Reader Jeff Koss. For more examples of readers using points/miles to take amazing trips to check out our 10xT Insiders Facebook Group.

I just finished my first class trip to the Maldives including a long flight in Etihad’s Apartments from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK) — only 4 of the 9 Apartments were occupied.

I selected seat 1H directly across from the Residence. Someone with a ton of cash to burn had booked it but canceled so the butler gave me a tour — you’re not allowed to take pictures so all I have are the memories.

10xTravel Reader Success Story

10xT Reader Jeff used miles to fly the Apartments en route to the Maldives

10xT Success Story

Seat 1H on the Etihad Apartments

It took me roughly 3 years to finally find a seat on dates I could travel and book this trip of a lifetime. Needless to say, I had high expectations and Etihad delivered! The Bordeaux wine and the food were ridiculously good.

10xTravel Reader Success Story

Needless to say, I had high expectations and Etihad delivered! The Bordeaux wine and the food were ridiculously good.

Etihad Apartments

The total cost of these flights would have been $22,831. I paid $117.41 and 221,500 AA miles.

Here’s how I did it!

Maldives using points and miles

All in, I spent a little over $2,200 on flights and hotels for a round-trip first-class trip across the world. Compared to the $25,000+ that it would have cost without points, I couldn’t be happier.

Earning American AAdvantage Miles

I earned 180,000 American miles thanks to welcome bonuses from 3 cards: Barclays Red Aviator, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select. After putting some spend on each of them I ended up with 190K American miles.

Searching tips: Forget trying to search an outbound flight on Etihad from the U.S. I spent WAAAAY too much time. Thanks to Spencer & Travis, I was told to search from AUH or MLE – JFK.

(Check out some of the other best ways to fly to the Maldives using points and miles here)

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Reader Success Story: Roundtrip to South Korea and Taiwan

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

This is a guest post by 10xT Reader Nilesh. For more examples of readers using points/miles to take amazing trips to check out our 10xT Insiders Facebook Group.

By: Bryce Conway, Founder of 10xTravel

Gwangandaegyo Bridge in Busan, South Korea (the bridge from Black Panther)

Gwangandaegyo Bridge in Busan, South Korea (the bridge from Black Panther)

When I first started researching the credit card points and miles world, I was definitely a skeptic. I still remember my mom, an accountant, having me sign up for my first credit card before college and to only use for emergencies.

She also stressed the importance of paying off the statement balance in full every month. I figured having one card is what responsible people did. After 7 years with that card (a non-rewards card), I decided to be bold and get a second card, the Capital One Quicksilver Card.

I wanted to kick myself for waiting so long to get a card that had the benefits of 1.5% cash back (I was still naïve to the points and miles world). As I started to travel more in my mid-20s (for fun), I began to wonder how much I’d actually have to travel to get upgrades on flights and hotels. I do not travel for work so I quickly realized that it would be nearly impossible to achieve any airline or hotel status.

In 2016, as I was dreaming of my next trip, I began reading about points and miles and I haven’t stopped collecting points since then.

Today, I want to share my biggest points redemption.

My girlfriend and I had our sights set on visiting South Korea in April 2018 for cherry blossom season and the amazing food. Since this was going to be a graduation gift, I wanted to make it extra special.

Using Miles To Fly To Asia

Bryce (10xTravel’s Founder) recommended starting with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Sapphire Preferred 50,000 bonus points after $4,000 spend in 3 monthsLearn More

I started slowly and, after hitting the minimum spend, I moved onto the Chase Sapphire Reserve (at the time you could have both). At this point, I was hooked!

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Reader Success Story: A $38,000 Southeast Asia Trip for $1,827.38

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

By: 10xT Reader Sarah Swank

I started out dabbling in the points world with the Chase Southwest credit cards years ago, but I didn’t realize at the time how much bigger this hobby could be. In 2015 I was introduced to 10xTravel by my friend Nicole and I quickly became obsessed and started learning as much as I could.

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10xT Reader Sarah flying in Asiana Business Class

When my husband and I began discussing our home remodel plans, I knew it would be a great time to earn some BIG points. Many 10x team members helped me along the way, but Bryce and Spencer definitely got majority of my questions and held my hand as I figured out the game.

Thanks to them, I was able to plan a 19 day trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam for my husband’s very first trip outside of North America!

I didn’t have a full game plan for our trip before I signed up for cards, so I basically got the recommended cards from the 10xTravel monthly list in order as I went along. Once it was time to book flights, I took Bryce’s advice and found business class award space from Tampa (TPA) to Hanoi (HAN) in Vietnam on Asiana Airlines via United MileagePlus miles.

We used 160,000 Ultimate Rewards points accrued from the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and paid $28.80 out of pocket total.  Here is a screenshot of what our flights would have cost (each) without points.

Editor’s note: You can no longer get both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred.

$14,990.80 worth of business class flights for $28.80. That was the most exciting purchase I had made in a long time…maybe ever! The service and food on Asiana Airlines was amazing, I would be happy to fly with them again.

 

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At first, I booked our return flight the same exact way using United miles, then a couple months later I caught wind of the Etihad Apartments, and waited patiently for a change to our return flight so we could cancel. Luckily, that happened—I’ll touch on our experience with the Etihad Apartments later.

So, we flew into Hanoi and stayed at the Hilton. The going rate was $70/night or 10,000 points. Three nights there, 30,000 points.  We earned 75,000 Hilton points from the Citi Hilton Honors card that had $0 annual fee.

Editor’s note: Citi no longer offers Hilton cards. All Hilton cards are now issued by American Express.

Hanoi is a really cool city to experience. The traffic is intense, almost as if you’re living within a game of Frogger as you try to cross the street. We quickly learned that the best thing to do is to cross the street at a steady pace and don’t even look at the vehicles coming at you or you might hesitate out of the natural desire to live, and it’s the hesitation that would cause you to get hit! It was so entertaining to watch that we spent a few hours drinking and eating on the balcony of a 3rd floor restaurant just watching the traffic.

We decided to take a two-night cruise in Ha Long Bay from Hanoi, and we are so happy we did. This was going to be an out of pocket expense, but luckily we had built up a good spending cushion by getting a few particular cards. Continue Reading

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Reader Success Story: Dream Trip to Hawaii on Points/Miles

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

By: 10xT Reader – Chris Sheehy

My fiancé and I took our second trip to Hawaii earlier this year. We choose the island of Kauai this time and had an incredible 9 days trading out the cold Virginia winter for 80-degree beach days.

Hawaii is one of those places that most people think is unobtainable due to the cost of flights and hotels but, fortunately, they’re wrong! Overall, this trip would have cost close to $6,500 but we only paid 99 bucks!

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There is no way we could have come close to affording this without points and miles.

Our Trip to Kauai

  • Richmond, VA to Kauai, HI
  • Kauai Shores Hotel – 1 night
  • Aston Islander on the Beach – 1 night
  • Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa – 4 nights
  • Courtyard Marriott at Coconut Beach – 2 nights
  • Kauai, HI to Richmond, VA

Credit Cards We Used For Points

One of the major ways it was easy for us to do this is that every time I would decide to get a credit card that had a good offer, my fiancé would do the same. This allowed us to double down on points which made saving points for this trip so much easier.

These are the cards we used for our trip, however not all of these cards currently have the same sign-up bonuses as when we got them:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 100,000-point sign-up bonus each
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 50,000-point sign-up bonus each
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred: 80,000-point sign-up bonus
  • Chase United Mileageplus Explorer: 70,000-mile sign-up bonus
  • Chase Hyatt Card: 2 free nights at any Hyatt property
  • Barclay Arrival Plus: 50,000-mile sign-up bonus

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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. Continue Reading

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Reader Success Story: A $20,466 Trip To Australia For Just $343.80

Guest Post By: Matt Brown

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

We just got back from an insane almost 3 week trip to Australia to celebrate my wife and my 5th Anniversary along with my father in law’s 65th birthday. We flew business class and stayed in some insane hotels that we never would have had experienced without miles and points!

My wife and I first started collecting miles and points in early 2016. In just over the 2 years, we’ve been able to collect over 2 million points to put toward a variety of travels. Thanks to award travel, we haven’t paid directly out of pocket for flights and most hotels in almost 2 years, and we don’t plan on changing that anytime soon!

One trip I’d always wanted to do was an extended trip to Australia. So, in March 2018, my wife and I—as well as her parents—headed Down Under for a few weeks of fun!

The most famous landmark in Sydney from the Park Hyatt Sydney.

(Note: These all only cover my wife and my travel logistics/costs/etc)

Our Australia Adventure: An Overview

·      Greensboro to New York City (positioning flight)

·      JW Marriott Essex House (1 night) – New York City

·      New York City to Seoul, South Korea to Sydney Australia

·      Park Hyatt (2 nights) – Sydney

·      Sheraton on the Park (2 nights) – Sydney

·      Sydney to Cairns

·      AirBNB (3 nights) – Port Douglas

·      Cairns to Brisbane

·      Brisbane Marriott (2 nights)

·      Brisbane to Melbourne

·      Park Hyatt (3 nights) – Melbourne

·      Melbourne to Sydney

·      Marriott Circular Quay (1 night) – Sydney

·      Sydney to Seoul to Chicago

·      Marriott Suites O’Hare (1 night) – Chicago

·      Chicago to Greensboro

I had a few goals in mind for the Australia trip. I wanted to fly on an Airbus A380 (still haven’t as of yet!) in business or first class and I wanted to stay in some of the nicest hotels possible on points—most notably the Park Hyatt in both Sydney and Melbourne. Fortunately, we were able to do just that.

How We Earned The Points For A Luxury Trip To Australia

To save up for this trip (and other trips), we use a strategic credit card plan that involved opening the following cards to help build up our balances of mostly SPG and Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The number following the card will indicate if one or both of us opened it.

Editor’s note: Some of these bonuses have changed or are no longer available

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (2) – 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2) – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred (1) –  80,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Chase Ink Business Plus (1) – 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points (no longer available)
  • Chase Ink Business Cash (1) – 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (2) – 35,000 SPG Starpoints
  • Starwood Preferred Business Guest Credit Card from American Express (2) – 35,000 SPG Starpoints
  • Chase Hyatt Credit Card (1) – 2 free nights

Total Points:

  •  550,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • 140,000 SPG Starpoints
  • 2 Free Nights at any Hyatt property worldwide

Along with the above cards, we eventually product-changed duplicate cards to the Chase Freedom to take advantage the 5x quarterly bonus categories when applicable. Further, once you start taking super nice trips, your friends start asking questions and want to get in on the secrets of free travel, and this opens up lots of referral opportunities that we’ve been able to use very well and earn points from!

On top of sign-up bonuses, we organized our everyday spending to maximize bonus categories. Since we eat out and travel a lot, we get great returns on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card thanks to the travel and dining bonus categories which earn 3X points.

We also charge almost everything on our various credit cards (mortgage, utilities, etc.) to maximize points earnings. However, it’s worth noting that we never carry a balance as the interest costs easily far outweigh the value of the points earned.

Where we were able to make the most ground up however is the fact that we’re both self-employed with online businesses (I do web development and my wife runs an Etsy store), and a number of the online services that we use allow us to earn 3X with our Chase Ink Business Preferred cards.

When you combine bonus category spending, our businesses’ spending and other personal spending, we were really able to build up large points balances very quickly.

Here We Go!

With our points in hand, we set out to put together an itinerary that would allow us to have a trip throughout eastern Australia. We wanted to be sure we were able to cover a lot of ground and see all of the various sites we wanted to see at a relaxing pace.

We knew that we couldn’t see all of Australia in one trip, so we’ve left plenty to come back for on future trips. We also wanted to take advantage of some super nice accommodations on this trip.

Highlights Of Our Australia Adventure

We live in North Carolina, which isn’t great for accessing long-haul international flights to anywhere but Europe. Because of this, and by taking advantage of British Airways’ distance based award chart, we used a quick 15,000 British Airways Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards to position ourselves in New York City.

We mainly chose to position in New York City because we were flying on a separate ticket the day before we left for Sydney. If for whatever reason this flight was cancelled, delayed, moved, etc, it’s only about an 8 hour drive. If we were hit with a big storm, we would still be able to make our flight by driving to New York. We also chose New York (JFK) because it has flights to almost anywhere in the world on every carrier you can imagine.

Saver award space to Australia is notoriously difficult to find, very expensive or requires routing through Asia. Because of this, we took Asiana Airlines from JFK to Seoul (ICN) then ICN to Sydney (SYD) for a total travel time of just under 27 hours. This seems like a major detour, but it was only about 2 hours longer than my in-laws route of Charlotte (CLT)-Los Angeles (LAX)-SYD which took about 24 hours. In lie-flat beds in business class, we hardly even noticed the difference in time!

Once in Australia, British Airways Avios really shine thanks to their distance-based award chart. We were able to make use of some super cheap redemptions on Qantas at 4,500 Avios per person in economy class from Melbourne (MEL) to SYD and 10,000 Avios per person from SYD up to Cairns (CNS).

By being able to book far in advance, we were able to snag some cheap flights on Virgin Australia through the Chase travel portal using Ultimate Rewards at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. We flew from CNS to Brisbane (BNE) for 8,520 Ultimate Rewards points (~$127) each and then BNE to MEL for 6,200 Ultimate Rewards points (~$93) each.

Business Class Flights To Australia

Long-haul international flights are much more tolerable in business class in lay-flat beds and eating delicious food!

The famed Bibimbap meal in business class on Asiana Airlines. It was delicious!

  • Greensboro (GSO) to New York (LGA) on American Airlines (positioning flight) – 15,000 British Airways Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $11.20 instead of ~$410.
  • JFK to ICN to SYD on Asiana and SYD to ICN to Chicago (ORD) on United  – 320,000 United MileagePlus miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $251.32 instead of ~$12,870
    • We ended up rebooking our return flight while on our trip when Saver space opened up to SYD-SFO-ORD, but for the same mileage cost
  • SYD to CNS on Qantas – 20,000 Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $42.32 instead of ~$300
  • CNS to BNE on Virgin Australia – 17,040 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (via Chase travel ortal) instead of ~$255
  • BNE to MEL on Virgin – 12,506 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (via Chase travel portal) instead of ~$185
  • MEL to SYD on Qantas – 9,000 BA Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $27.76 instead of ~$220
  • ORD to GSO on United – 20,000 miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $11.20 instead of ~$465

Flight Totals

  • 44,000 British Airways Avios
  • 340,000 United MileagePlus miles
  • 29,546 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (portal)

·      Total – 413,546 points + $343.80 (taxes/fees) instead of $14,712.28

Roundtrip Business Class flights for 2 for 320,000 United Miles + $251.32 in taxes/fees.

If we were going to pay cash, this is what the same flights for the 2 of us would’ve cost.

25,763 miles is a lot of flying for just $343.80 out of pocket!

Luxury Hotels Across Australia

The location and views from the Park Hyatt Sydney are hard to beat!

Our upgraded room at the Park Hyatt Melbourne. Rooms are always better with an office and sitting area. Not pictured – the huge walk-in closet and enormous bathroom.

  • JW Marriott Essex House New York – 1 Night for 45,000 Marriott Rewards points (transferred 15,000 SPG Starpoints) instead of $429.23
  • Park Hyatt Sydney – 2 Nights for 2 free night certificates instead of $1,845.83/room
  • Sheraton on the Park – 2 Nights for 27,000 SPG Points instead of $1,061.19/room
  • AirBNB Port Douglas – 3 Nights for ~$475 = ~47,500 Capital One Venture Rewards miles
  • Brisbane Marriott – 2 Nights for 25,060 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $356.25
  • Park Hyatt Melbourne – 3 Nights for 65,996 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $989.94
  • Marriott Circular Quay Sydney – 1 Night – 27,798 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $416.97
  • Marriott Chicago Suites O’Hare – 1 Night – 11,962 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $179.44

Hotel Totals

  • 42,000 SPG Starpoints
  • 129,506 Ultimate Rewards points
  • 47,500 Venture Rewards miles

Total – 219,006 points instead of $5,753.85

How Many Points We Used

All said and done, we pulled together a trip that would have cost $20,466.13 for 632,552 points and miles + $343.80.

With all of the money we saved on hotels, we could easily splurge on this awesome, but very reasonably priced, AirBNB for our 3 nights in Port Douglas.

Hotel And Airport Lounge Experiences (Plus Priority Pass Select)

Not only did we save thousands of dollars on our flights and hotels, but we saved additional money on food and drink in a country where food and drink is generally more expensive than our hometown.

Thanks to my Gold status with Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott, we had access to the lounge at each Marriott. We also had Club Level access thanks to concierge upgrades at the Park Hyatts.

These lounges provided delicious breakfast buffets, access to food and drinks throughout the day, and heavy hor d’oeuvres and cocktails each evening. So each day, we had at least one meal (breakfast) as well as snacks and drinks covered also literally for free. Additionally, our bookings at both Park Hyatt properties included a $100 food and beverage voucher each, so we enjoyed two delicious meals at the hotel along with club food.

When not eating in the lounges we got to enjoy delicious food such as KANGAROO STEAKS!

We certainly didn’t sit around and eat hotel food all day everyday, but having some of the more basic meals covered  allowed us to be more adventurous for lunches and dinners, especially in Melbourne and Sydney. When not eating in the lounges, we got to enjoy delicious food like Kangaroo Filet Steaks.

We also spent a lot of time in airports transiting from city to city. Thankfully, our Priority Pass Select membership through the Chase Sapphire Reserve provided access to many airport restaurants. Each time we went to the airport with a participating restaurant, we each had $36AUD to spend on food.

This breakfast was not only delicious, but all $127.90AUD (food, coffees, pastries and bottled water) of it was covered by the Priority Pass thanks to our $144AUD allowance each time.

We ate 3 meals totaling over $100AUD each at airports when traveling. They were all 100% FREE thanks to the Priority Pass that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.


This breakfast was not only delicious, but all $127.90AUD (food, coffees, pastries and bottled water) of it was covered by the Priority Pass thanks to our $144AUD allowance each time.

Reaching Out To Hotels For Special Occasions

If you’re a member of the 10xTravel Facebook Group, you know that contacting the hotel concierge or guest relations manager when celebrating a special occasion can do wonders.

Well, I contacted 6 of the 7 hotels for our trip and each hotel went out of their way to acknowledge our 5th anniversary, usually with a bottle of champagne and some dessert pastries. They also recognized my father-in-law’s birthday with the same treatment.

Welcome Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and flowers at the Park Hyatt Sydney.

We even scored some sweet room upgrades thanks to my email to the hotel concierge which took things to another level.

We got upgraded to this sick Terrace Suite at the JW Marriott Essex House. It included not only a 1200sq ft room but also a 300sq ft terrace.

Activities In Australia

Snorkeled with Sea Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef!

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef

Hung out with Tigers at the Australia Zoo…

…and koalas too!


Swimming on the famed Bondi Beach.

Driving 100+ miles along the beautiful and scenic Great Ocean Road outside Melbourne.

The famed 12 Apostles rock formation along the Great Ocean Road

Feeding Kangaroos

Final Thoughts

Without points and miles, this once-in-a-lifetime luxury adventure wouldn’t have been possible. As you can see, our flights and hotels could have cost over $20,000. I don’t know about you, but at 29 years-old, I’m in no shape to be dropping $20,000 on a vacation.

By taking care of our travel costs with points, we were able to enjoy some great meals and activities without worrying about the cost We even paid a little extra to rent Mercedes and BMW SUVs instead of the cheapest option because we could!

The beauty of all this is that points and miles allowed us to take a trip that we could only imagine for a fraction of the cash cost.

Now, we just need to figure out our next adventure. I’m ready for more champagne!

Success Stories

Reader Success Story: European Honeymoon

By: Chris Centeno

After my trip to Thailand and an upcoming proposal and wedding, I was already planning to use miles and points to plan our honeymoon.

Knowing that money was going to be spent regardless, all I really had to do was plan ahead.

We both opened a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard. I also opened a Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard  and a Capital One Venture. We then spread the ring and wedding expenses across the four cards and immediately paid down the balance.

From there, we were off to the races. We knew we wanted to visit Paris, Barcelona, Santorini, and London. We also knew that Santorini was not the easiest place to visit with miles and points. But, it was our honeymoon and we wanted to make it work so we needed to cover the other three cities with points.

When earning the points for our Thailand trip, we actually overshot the amount of points we needed which left us with enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points for one business class flight on United Airlines for 57,500 United miles. Between travel for work and other spend on my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, we earned another 57,500 Ultimate Rewards points that we transferred to United. With that we had two business class tickets from Chicago (ORD) to Paris (CDG).

Off to Paris! A literal cherry on top the sundae to start us off right.

For the Paris hotel stay, we both opened the Chase Hyatt Card that was offering 2 free nights at any of their properties. We used those 4 nights to book a stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, which was a truly amazing hotel and would have cost us $2,428 for the 4 nights.

We needed one more night in Paris and chose to do it on the first night. We booked a room at the Wilson Opera hotel with a view of the Eiffel Tower and erased that charge with my Barclaycard Arrival Plus card. We had a great balcony view of the Eiffel tower and champagne to welcome us to the room.

Next up was Barcelona. I used my Capital One points to book a flight through their portal for 120 dollars’ worth of points.

We got a little lucky (or unlucky) as I had a very unfortunate stay at the W in New York (a Starwood property) for work. Due to that stay, they deposited 80,000 SPG Starpoints into my account as a courtesy. With 60,000 Starpoints, we booked the W Barcelona for 3 nights and woke up with an amazing view every morning!

Click image to play video.

Santorini was next on the list. I again used Capital One points to book a low-cost carrier, Vueling, through their portal for only $120 more points.

We weren’t happy with our points booking options in Santorini, so this was the part of the trip we knew was going to require some cash. We stayed at Astra Suites and it is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen.

This is why I use miles and points. We saved money everywhere else so that we were able to splurge on our honeymoon! We woke up to a hotel employee knocking on our door each morning with breakfast. How awesome is that?! And the view was amazing.

Astra Suites Santorini

I used my Barclaycard Arrival Plus to book the flight from Santorini to London, where we spent our last 2 days in Europe. The tickets were $360 I erased the purchase with the points I’d earned with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus.

We stayed two nights at Le Meridien Piccadilly, another Starwood property, in the heart of London and again used Arrival Plus points to erase one night. To take care of the other night, we use the remaining points from my Capital One card.

For the return flights, we used the American AAdvantage miles to book business class tickets. Unfortunately, flying British Airways meant a hefty carrier-imposed surcharge of about $260.

To be clear, if we had decided not to visit Santorini, this trip would’ve cost us only $271 for 10 nights in hotels and round-trip business class flights for two.

Using points allowed us to splurge on things like Michelin Star restaurants, Santorini sunset boat tours, and more wine and food than you could imagine.

From seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, checking out some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in Paris, Barcelona, and London, and waking up to the most beautiful view we’ve ever seen in Santorini… it was the trip of a lifetime and there’s no way we could have done it without using miles and points.

Santorini Honeymoon

All in all, here’s what the trip looked like:

  • Chicago (ORD) to Paris (CDG in business class on United Airlines
  • Paris for 5 nights
  • Barcelona for 3 nights
  • Santorini for 7 Nights
  • London for 2 Nights
  • London (LHR) to Chicago (ORD) in business class on British Airways

After all was said and done, we booked a $41,829, 17-day trip through Europe for $4,448 — and most of that was for Santorini. Needless to say, we’ll never forget our honeymoon.