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

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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.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months(Learn more)

 

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.

South Africa using Points and Miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards | How to Fly with KLM to Capetown for a cheap price

KLM Flying Blue

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express Earn 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Terms apply.(Learn more)

 

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!

Redeemed 7,000 SPG Starpoints to stay at the Element Amsterdam | Netherlands | Trip to South Africa using Points and Miles

Also, we received an upgrade thanks to my SPG Gold status. Huzzah!

 

Redeemed 7,000 SPG Starpoints to stay at the Element Amsterdam | Netherlands | Trip to South Africa using Points and Miles

Element Amsterdam – Element beds are incredible.

 

Best buffet breakfast at a hotel Element Amsterdam | Netherlands | Trip to South Africa using Points and Miles with stop to the Netherlands

Element Amsterdam – Easily the best buffet breakfast I’ve had at a hotel.

 

Patio at a hotel Element Amsterdam | Netherlands | Marriott Rewards | Trip to South Africa using Points and Miles with stop to the Netherlands

Element Amsterdam – Nice patio next to the breakfast room and lounge area.

 

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.

KLM review | Food Service | Trip to South Africa Using Points and Miles

The service was so much better on KLM — as was the food.

 

KLM review | Trip to South Africa Using Points and Miles

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.

 

Limited Edition exclusively designed by Jantaminiau for KLM

Limited Edition exclusively designed by Jantaminiau for KLM

 

exhausted and tired feet resting in a hotel after a long trip

Once we finally arrived in Cape Town, we were exhausted and checked into our hotel (Where we spent the majority of our time in South Africa).

 

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.

Protea Hotel | Marriott Rewards | Trip to South Africa using Points and Miles

Upon check-in, 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.

 

Protea Hotel | Marriott Rewards | Trip to South Africa using Points and Miles

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!

Test Kitchen in CapeTown review

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.

 

Amazing views from Table Mountain | Trip to South Africa using Points and Miles

Amazing views from Table Mountain.

 

Drank homemade beer with some locals.

Drank homemade beer with some locals.

 

Penguins at Simons Town | Travel to South Africa using Points and Miles

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.

Enjoyed an amazing dinner at Cavalli Estate.

Enjoyed an amazing dinner at Cavalli Estate.

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.

Protea Hotel | Marriott Rewards | Wonderful free buffet breakfast thanks to SPG Gold Status

Wonderful free buffet breakfast thanks to SPG Gold Status.

 

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.

We continued onto Knysna for two nights where we saw as many animals.

We continued onto Knysna for two nights where we saw as many animals.

image13

Travel to South Africa Using Points and Miles

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.

Buffet breakfast they charged us $30 for. No, thanks.

Buffet breakfast they charged us $30 for. No, thanks.

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.

Botlierskop Game Reserve where we got to see wild lions up close.

Botlierskop Game Reserve where we got to see wild lions up close.

 

beautiful sunset

A beautiful sunset from our private glamping tent.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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1 Comment

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  • Reply Carole November 9, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    What a great trip! My only question – did he catch any regionals?? 😉

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