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By: 10xT Reader Alycia Moore
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
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.
First, though – we were excited to get back to The Netherlands as its one of our favorite countries.
We redeemed 7,000 SPG Starpoints to stay at the Element Amsterdam for the night, rest after the long flight and prepare for our even longer flight a few days later.
The breakfast alone made it worth it and the room was extremely comfortable. It’s not in a poppin’ part of town – but it was nice being in the suburban part of Amsterdam and hanging out with locals.
Also, we received an upgrade thanks to my SPG Gold status. Huzzah!
For our second night in the Netherlands, we stayed in Rotterdam at an Airbnb and checked out the sights before we headed back to Amsterdam to catch our flight to Cape Town.
We were so happy to be in business class it’s hard to gauge how great of a flight it was in comparison to other airlines. We had only flown United First before and the service was so much better on KLM — as was the food.
Speaking of the food, the “lacto-ovo vegetarian meal was actually quite good. Honestly, we usually expect our “special” meal to be just edible on a good day so this was a nice surprise.
Upon check-in at the Protea Hotel Cape Town , we were upgraded to the best room they had which was as big as an apartment and looked a bit like a barn loft — we could even hear birds chirp each morning.
It was a great place for the price at only 4,800 Marriott Rewards points per night.
During our first few days in South Africa, we did a lot of exploring and getting to know Cape Town. Some highlights included having dinner at the highly-rated Test Kitchen. It wasn’t quite as amazing as I expected but that might have been because of the drought conditions in Cape Town.
We also took in the amazing views from Table Mountain and drank homemade beer with some locals. And, of course, we had to see the penguins at Simons Town!
We also took a trip east to Stellenbosch — South Africa’s wine country — and enjoyed an amazing dinner at Cavalli Estate. At $70 per person for the tasting menu paired with wine, this was by far my favorite meal of the trip.
After our time in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, we pushed further east to Mossel Bay where we spent the first night at the Protea Hotel Mossel Bay for 7,500 Marriott Rewards points. We even got an upgrade to an amazing corner room overlooking the city.
From there we continued onto Knysna for two nights where we saw as many animals as one possible could — definitely a highlight of the trip.
One note to point out is that Protea Hotel Knysna Quays did NOT honor my Gold status as the other Protea properties had. I found out after they charged us $30 for a lackluster breakfast. I can’t say I’d recommend staying here nor would I recommend eating their breakfast even at 7,500 Marriott Rewards points per night.
Before heading back to Cape Town, we spent a night at the Botlierskop Game Reserve where we got to see wild lions up close and watch a beautiful sunset from our private glamping tent. This was by far our favorite night in South Africa.
After a few more relaxing days in Cape Town, it was time to begin the long journey home — about 50 hours between flights and layovers.
For anyone considering South Africa as a travel destination, just do it! It’s a place unlike any other I’ve ever visited. The people were amazingly friendly and accommodating across the board.
Genuine conversations, beautiful landscapes, and culture. You’d be more than lucky to spend a few weeks here.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.