Anna Zaks

I’ve been on a booking spree lately, and even with the surge in travel demand I was able to find great redemptions. Here’s what I’ve been up to in the last month.

My husband and I are planning a trip to Hamburg, Germany, and Poland, and because European airports are such a mess right now, we’ve decided to minimize flying and instead travel by train. So I canceled my flight to Stockholm, where I was going to go before heading to Hamburg, and found an (almost) last-minute award space on United Airlines to Frankfurt, germany.

I booked a flight from my home airport of Cleveland, Ohio (CLE), to Frankfurt (FRA) in business class for 60,000 United miles. I really enjoy the United Polaris cabin, and the Polaris lounge at Washington-Dulles (IAD) airport where I have my connection is spectacular.

I’ve also been looking for and booking hotels for my Poland trip. One of my favorite things about traveling in Eastern and Central Europe are the low prices and reasonable redemption rates for some really nice hotels. We chose to stay at the AC Hotel Wroclaw that I booked with 32,500 Marriott Bonvoy points for two nights, and the Hotel Saski Krakow, Curio Collection by Hilton in Krakow, Poland, that I booked with 161,000 Hilton Honors points.

In Warsaw, we’ll be staying at Hotel Bristol, a Luxury Collection Hotel. It’s a historic property right in the center of Warsaw, and it looks absolutely beautiful. We are staying in Warsaw for four nights, and I made three separate reservations for Hotel Bristol. This hotel is part of American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, so I used the $200 annual hotel credit that comes with The Platinum Card® from American Express. This credit is $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your card. Both of us have this card, so I booked one night with each of our cards to maximize this benefit. The hotel costs about $200 per night, so the credit almost covered the entire cost.

Munich

Cityscape image of Marien Square in Munich, Germany during twilight blue hour.

I used 67,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the remaining two nights. Eastern Europe is a great place to try out luxury properties because the rates are so much more reasonable than in Western Europe. Stay tuned for my trip report and for the full review of Hotel Bristol.

While I was wrapping up our August trip, Delta Air Lines came out with a one-day award sale to Europe. I was already thinking about another trip in the fall and had a good stash of Delta SkyMiles from all the COVID-19-related cancellations, so I jumped on it and booked a roundtrip to Germany with 148,000 Delta SkyMiles in the Delta One business class cabin.

And finally, my husband is planning a ski trip to Europe in December, so I’ve been periodically checking for award space. A few days ago, I decided to check American Airlines, which is definitely not my go to for European travel, and found a one-way ticket in economy from Cleveland to Munich (MUC) for just 22,500 AAdvantage miles.

How to Redeem Points

Julie Neafach

I’m most excited about planning and booking some international trips that have been at the top of my list since early 2020. I prefer business class for longer international flights and often start looking for award availability around 11 months in advance, when many airlines’ schedules open. Currently, I’m planning trips to Southeast Asia and Portugal, for winter and spring 2023, respectively.

I recently booked two open-jaw business class award flights, as one-way tickets, between the United States and Asia. For outbound travel, I booked a United Airlines award to Malaysia for 60,000 miles plus tax when United temporarily offered a lot of discounted international business class availability, with flights operated by United and Thai Airways.

Petronas Towers.

Petronas Towers in Malaysia

For return travel, I booked an American Airlines award from Vietnam for 70,000 miles plus tax, with flights on American within the United States and Japan Airlines on international segments.

I’m figuring out itinerary details and will add accommodations and intra-Asia flights during the next few months. I already booked a couple of good-value Category 1 Hyatt properties, for 3,500 to 5,000 Hyatt points (transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Bilt Rewards) per night.

For Portugal, I recently booked outbound flights through the Avianca LifeMiles program, using Citi ThankYou Points transferred during the spring transfer bonus. Avianca LifeMiles also is an American Express and Capital One transfer partner.

LifeMiles awards from New York (JFK) to Lisbon (LIS) are 35,000 miles plus tax one-way in business class. The award price costs less than most business-class awards from the United States to Europe, but it’s limited to this route in this direction only.

By leveraging the Citi transfer bonus and a 10% ThankYou Point rebate available to Citi Rewards+® Card holders, my net cost was 25,200 ThankYou Points. I booked Brussels Airlines flights with a connection, but nonstop flights on TAP Air Portugal sometimes are available, as shown below.

How to Redeem Points

I haven’t booked my return flight or planned trip details yet. I may return to the U.S. from a different city in Portugal or even a different European country.

I’m considering an Iberia Plus business class award, which starts at 34,000 miles per direction from Madrid to the U.S., or a Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles award if there’s availability for their lowest priced business class awards (45,000 miles one-way from Europe to the U.S.). I like these two options for different reasons.

Iberia is more of a niche redemption, with the lowest prices available between Madrid and a few U.S. cities during off-peak dates only, which exclude mid-June to mid-September and other dates. Turkish Airlines awards are available at the same price between more city pairs, and the lowest priced Miles&Smiles “promotional” awards theoretically are available for any date, subject to saver level availability.

I’m also examining alternate approaches for booking the return flight. Since business class isn’t essential for me on a daytime flight from Europe to the eastern U.S., I would consider booking a premium economy award back to the United States. I also might buy a round-trip ticket (if there’s a good fare sale) or even book the return flight from Europe as the first leg of a round-the-world type award. The second and third options would provide segments that I could use for a future trip within a year of booking, so I would wait to book the return flight if using either approach.

I probably won’t fly this summer or travel anywhere that is farther than an eight-hour drive, but I’m considering options for more extensive travel in the fall if current travel issues decrease. I have a few credits associated with my credit cards—for Capital One Travel, Capital One vacation rentals and Hilton resorts—and hotel free night certificates that expire in the fall, so I’m focusing on using these in the next few months, before using points that don’t expire.

Jeffrey Lucas Jr.

Our 18-month old has rendered us a bit grounded lately. Although he’s been on more plane rides in his 18 months than I had in my first 18 years, he’d rather be flying the plane than sitting still. We’re hoping he’ll grow out of his travel chaos phase and we’ll be able to take longer haul flights soon.

That said, I’m planning a solo trip to Costa Rica to scout out some places for a possible language trip for our family after my youngest learns how to travel.

There’s lots of great ways to get to Costa Rica, including my favorite, Southwest Airlines. Since Southwest is easiest for family travel, I’ll likely save those points for a family trip. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to book an Aeroplan award flight.

Since Aeroplan includes Central America as part of its North American region, I’d be able to book this trip for 12,500 points each way. I have a ton of Membership Rewards burning a hole in my pocket so I’ll transfer 25,000 of those to book my trip. I’ll be staying with friends so won’t have to worry about hotels.

How to Redeem Points

As a family, we plan to check out Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer while attending a conference. Stuffing our whole family in a hotel room is a challenge so I’ve been looking into alternative ways to rent vacation properties recently. Wyndham’s partnership with Vacasa rentals seems like a great way to stretch my points while securing all the amenities my family needs.

For 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per bedroom per night, I can rent this vacation property that would normally cost more than $6,000. I can transfer Capital One Ventures or Citi ThankYou Points to complete the stay. While I don’t have that many points accrued just yet, my wife and I can each open the Citi Premier® Card, and we’ll be able to top off the stay with our current Venture Miles.

How to Redeem Points

Alternatively, I can book a three-bedroom rental home through Marriott Home and Villas starting at 58,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Marriott points are a lot less valuable than Venture Miles or ThankYou Points. If I don’t have enough Marriott Bonvoy when it’s time to make the reservation, I can use what Bonvoy points I do have to offset the cash price. Plus, I can earn 5X Bonvoy for the cash price of my stay.

Between the two options, I’ll likely end up using my Wyndham points. Since they offer fixed rate pricing and I’m traveling on peak dates to a popular destination, I’ll likely get a nicer property for the price. If I can’t build up the points balance to pay for the full Vacasa stay, then I’ll go with Marriott.

How to Redeem Points

Travis Cormier

Like most everyone else here, I’m really working on ramping up my travels. I’ve greatly enjoyed getting to a bunch of cities across the U.S. and meeting our 10xT readers at our meetups, but I’ve had some great international travel planned as well.

I just got back from a trip to Bali for my wife’s 30th birthday and have at least two international trips confirmed in the next six months.

Right now, we’re eyeing going to Mexico between Christmas and New Year’s. Being based in Houston and having a Southwest Companion Pass, Mexico has become an easy and accessible destination for us. Usually we head to Cozumel, but this time I’m eyeing the Hyatt in Mayakoba or the Hilton down in Tulum. I haven’t booked it yet, but I’ve got a good number of Hilton and Hyatt points, with Globalist status expiring soon that I want to take advantage of.

Arch of Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Arch of Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

In January, we’re headed to the Maldives to stay at the new Alila Maldives. We were pretty pleased with our experience at the Park Hyatt and hope that the Alila will live up to the hype. I’ve got Qsuites booked there already, which is one of my favorite ways to get to Maldives as Qatar flies nonstop to Houston (IAH), making Maldives a one-stop destination.

The only issue is that right now I don’t have a return flight book. I’ve been checking and just haven’t pulled the trigger on anything yet. Maybe I’ll just stay and not come back. I can think of worse places to be!

In May, I’m taking a diving trip to Scotland. I know, Scotland isn’t necessarily known for its diving, but there’s a sheltered body of water in the Orkney Islands known as Scapa Flow where a fleet of more than 50 German ships were scuttled by their admiral in World War I to avoid the British seizing the fleet. It’s cold water, but it should make for an amazing dive trip. I booked Air France business class to get there, and British Airways business class back for the return.

I’m still trying to figure out what trips to take next summer and fall. We have Japan on our radar, but that’s likely not until 2024. But I’ve been happy to be able to get as much travel booked as I have.