By: 10xTravel Reader Robert Wells

My wife and I have been using miles and points to travel for quite awhile and usually take several extended weekend trips during the year.

Once a year though, around our anniversary, we try to take an extended international trip by saving and using the bulk of our big points redemptions from the year’s efforts.

This trip was, without a doubt, one of our best trips yet.

Flying from Dallas to Los Angeles

Often, we use Los Angeles (LAX) or Chicago (ORD) as our starting point when we plan international trips because they’re usually much cheaper than our home airport of Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW). This trip was no exception.

We used a positioning flight to get to LAX with a few Southwest Rapid Rewards points that we have banked just for these occasions!

Breakdown of points used:

  • 6,100 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
  • Out of pocket: $11.20 taxes and fees
  • Price of two tickets using cash: ~$98

Flying from Los Angeles to Hong Kong

We purchased a cheap one-way cash fare for two on American Airlines via the Chase travel portal and redeemed Ultimate Rewards points to make it a little bit cheaper. Since I have Executive Platinum status with American, I was able to apply a Systemwide Upgrade (SWU) to each of our tickets.

Fortunately, there was upgrade space so we were able to turn cheap economy tickets into business class seats! At just around 16 hours of flight time, the business class seat made the flight so much better — and the amazing flight crew didn’t hurt either!

Breakdown of points used:

  • 23,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • 2 Systemwide Upgrades via American Airlines
  • Out of pocket: $443.00
  • Price of two tickets using cash: $6,693 (for business class)

4 Nights in Hong Kong with a Visit from “Super Typhoon Mangkhut”

3 Nights – Renaissance Harbour View & Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong

We stayed at the Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View hotel and were upgraded to the Presidential Suite for our anniversary. I receive concierge lounge access for being a Marriott Platinum Premier, and quite honestly, the food within the lounge was just as good as anything we ate in the city. We were able to secure 3 nights for 35,000 apiece, pre-Marriott / SPG Merger, so a great bargain!

Our room views from the Renaissance

1 Night – Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

Our next stop got very interesting. I planned on surprising my wife with a down day of relaxing and spa treatments before we headed to Vietnam. All the while, we knew that “Super” Typhoon Mangkhut was barreling towards the city as the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane.

Before we left the US, the storm did not appear as if it would impact the city. We were just hoping to take cover in the hotel to wait out the storm and pray our flights were not canceled the next day, due to the very budget airline we chose to fly to Vietnam, “HK Express”, basically the “Spirit” of Asia.

We checked in hours before the eye of the storm rolled through. We made it onto the last train before the system shut down because of the storm. I’m not sure what would have happened if we had not made it onto the train but, we did.

The staff was incredibly nice, and even though many of my plans fell through, including a rooftop brunch in the highest restaurant/bar in the world at 120+ floors up, we had a wonderful time. Given the storm and my status, the hotel comped me Club Lounge access which made the day and a half we spent in this hotel like a dream! The Champagne never stopped flowing.

The Ritz also refunded half of the 60,000 points we used to book this night. So, for 30,000 points and almost a day and a half of use of the club lounge, this was an insane value.

Our terrible time spent during the typhoon, in the Club Lounge, Ritz Hong Kong

Our terrible time spent during the typhoon, in the Club Lounge, Ritz Hong Kong

Breakdown of points used:

  • 100,000 + 30,000 Marriott Points
  • Cost out of pocket: $0.00
  • Cash cost without Points: $1657.46 + $875.00

Flying to Vietnam

As mentioned above, we used budget airline “HK Express” to book our round trip from Vietnam to Da Nang. It was very inexpensive for two people, coming in at only around $175 RT, and we used my Ritz Carlton Travel Credit to “erase” this purchase.

Breakdown of points used:

  • Points used: Ritz Carlton Card Annual Travel Credit
  • Cost out of pocket: $0.00
  • Cash cost without Points: $175.00

5 Nights in Vietnam

The highlight of our trip was Vietnam, where we did road motorbikes on a coastline tour, took Vietnamese cooking classes, and attended festivals and ate lots of delicious food! We did not use any points on this portion of the trip because very nice little boutique hotels could be booked through The beer was a highlight of every meal, and at an average of $0.25 – $0.50 a beer, we drank our weight in it. On average, 2 meals + 3 beers a piece at most local restaurants ran about $10 USD.

Motorbike Tour

One of our rooms

Breakdown of points used:

  • Points used: N/A
  • Cash cost out of pocket: $214.00
  • Cost without Points: N/A

1 More Night in Hong Kong

After returning to Hong Kong, we spent one more night in the city and attended the mid-autumn festival and got to march down the street and chant songs with a “fire” dragon which spanned several city blocks.

Because we didn’t need anything fancy, we just used a Marriott certificate for a free night that I had in my account to book the Hong Kong Airport Marriott. You can receive these certificates as “Annual Choice” benefits for staying 50+ Nights in a Marriott in a year.

Breakdown of points used:

  • 1 Free Night Certificate from Marriott
  • Cost out of pocket: $0.00
  • Cash cost without Points: $175.00

Flying from Hong Kong to Chicago

Originally, we booked business class seats back to the US on Cathay Pacific, but for months I had the intention of flying Cathay First class. These seats are some of the toughest to secure, especially 2 in the same cabin, as there only 6 per flight. These never opened up even the day before the flight, as sometimes Cathay releases inventory at the last minute.

We arrived at the airport early and visited some of the great Cathay Pacific Lounges within HKG. As a Oneworld Emerald member, you are entitled to visit any first class lounge, if you are flying on a Oneworld carrier.

To my great delight, less than 3 hours before our flight, I checked and saw that two first class seats had opened up. I immediately called American Airlines, and then Alaska to see if I could rebook these seats, and after some serious work (almost two hours) the lounge issued us our first class seats!

We were able to secure these with 70,000 Alaska Miles + 110,000 American Airlines. If I had booked these in advance, I would have certainly used all Alaska Miles, as it’s a far better deal, but we wanted to splurge, and the experience was more than we could have asked for.

At Over 16 hours in the sky, we enjoyed a meal at a table together, high tea (literally, high) free flowing champagne, and more personal service than we were even comfortable with.

Breakdown of points used:

  • 70,000 Alaska + 110,000 American Miles
  • Cost out of pocket: $112.00
  • Cash cost without Points: $36,944

Summary & Recap of Trip

This was one of our favorite trips we have ever taken together, and for the value we received, I think we used our points and miles very wisely. We cannot wait to start planning our next big trip!

Cards/Types of Points Used
Chase Sapphire Reserve® (23,000 UR to deduct the cost of cash flight to HKG)
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business credit card (75,000 Points used for hotels)
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select (110,000 miles for flights to Asia)
Bank of America Alaska Card (70,000 Points for one of two flights home on Cathay Pacific)

Southwest: DFW to LAX – 6000 SW Points + $11.20 Taxes CASH PRICE ($98)
American Airlines: LAX to DFW to HKG $443.00 + 23,560 Chase UR + 2 AA SWU. CASH PRICE ($6,693)
Cathay Pacific: HKG to ORG $112.00 + 110,000 AA + 70,000 Alaska CASH PRICE ($36,944)
Hong Kong to Danang – $0 – Ritz Carlton Travel Credit CASH PRICE ($175.00)

Editors Note: Cash prices will always look higher when booking one-way flights. 

Hong Kong
Marriott Renaissance Hong Kong 3 Nights – 100,000 Points CASH PRICE ($1657.46)
Ritz Carlton Hong Kong 1 Night 30,000 Points CASH PRICE ($875.00) + Club Lounge
Marriott Airport HKG 1 Night Free Cert CASH PRICE ($175.00)

Danang – 2 Nights – $88.00
Hue – 1 Night – $16.00
Hoi An – 3 Nights – $120.00

Food and Drinks and Activities
Food and drinks and activities $500.00
Visas $60.00
Taxes – $125.00