Hello, I’m Anya, and I’m a travel junkie who can’t kick the habit!

OK, let’s be real. It’s not so much that I can’t break the wanderlust addiction, but that I won’t. The world is so big and beautiful, how can one not try to explore its every little corner? Luckily, I collect points and miles to keep my expensive hobby afloat. Having a flexible schedule and the ability to work while on the road helps as well.

Because I go to the airport almost as frequently as Taylor Swift changes love interests, it’s impossible to redeem hotel points and airline miles for every trip. For this reason, I use a mix of points and cash to satisfy my insatiable hunger for travel.

I’m excited to share where I’ve been so far this year and hopefully provide 10xTravel readers with some travel inspiration!


Ecuador was my first trip of 2019, and it also happened to be my honeymoon. My husband and I had a beautiful wedding in Spain in September of last year, which was supposed to double as a destination wedding/honeymoon all in one.

Well, my clumsy a$$ fell and broke my wrist in two places at our wedding reception, and suddenly our newlywed bliss turned into a disaster.

We decided to have a second go at a honeymoon and chose to travel to the Galápagos Islands and spend some time on the mainland Ecuador four months after getting married. I redeemed 40,000 United MileagePlus miles + $155 per person to fly to Ecuador and back (with a free stopover on the islands).

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As much as we loved our time in the Galapagos Islands, it's time to move on to mainland and check out the real Ecuador. After spending nine nights on the islands, we learned that: 1. Penguins can live on the equator. 2. Sea lions are lazier than sloths. 3. The word "boobies" doesn't mean what you think it means. 4. Sea sickness isn't an option with enough Dramamine. 5. Even the crappiest beer makes you feel like a million bucks after an hour in the excruciating heat. 🇪🇨 • Как бы нам ни нравилось на Галапагосских островах, пришло время отправиться на материк и познакомиться с настоящим Эквадором. После девяти ночей на островах, мы узнали, что: 1. Пингвины могут жить на экваторе. 2. Морские львы ленивее ленивцев. 3. Слово «boobies» (Американский слэнг) означает совсем не то, что вы думаете. 4. Морская болезнь не вариант с достаточным количеством Драмамина. 5. Даже самое паршивое пиво заставляет вас чувствовать себя на миллион долларов после часа в адской жаре.

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During our 18-day trip, my husband and I went on a live-aboard cruise around a few islands, snorkeled with playful sea lions, went whitewater rafting and soaked in the scorching hot springs in Baños, a small mainland town south of Quito.


My next trip was fueled by a heartbreak. No, not mine. My maid of honor needed some R and R after an unexpected divorce, so I offered to take her to Aruba, a Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela.

I redeemed 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per person for our round-trip flights to the Caribbean and 140,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to book five nights at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, a Category 5 Marriott property. Our flight taxes came out to about $90 per person, plus we paid about $140 to upgrade from a standard room to an island-view room—it was all that was available at the time of booking just a couple of months before departure.

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Aruba was such a fun girls’ trip! We enjoyed our beach time alongside the sassy flamingos on the Renaissance Private Island, took an ATV tour to a crystal-clear natural pool and ate some of the best food at Yemanja Woodfire Grill, one of Aruba’s most popular restaurants.


I had longed to visit the Land of the Rising Sun, and a fare sale helped me made it happen. I paid just $536 for a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo and back from Osaka on Delta Air Lines.

However, as you may or may not know, I don’t live in Los Angeles. Here’s where positioning flights come in. A round-trip from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles set me back another $167 on a mix of Delta and Southwest Airlines, making my total flight cost about $700 per person. Not bad for a round-trip fare to Japan. I invited my mom, and we had a great time riding bullet trains and eating the best food ever. We even caught the last of the cherry blossom season in April!


Positioning flights are a great tool to use when piecing together an inexpensive trip. They can help you take advantage of flight deals from other cities and still save money.

I didn’t use any points or miles for any portion of this trip, but my goal is to travel as much as possible by using rewards on other trips and stretching the budget further.

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Central America

A friend of mine wanted to go on a short trip over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, and we chose Mexico City. We hadn’t seen any particularly great flight sales to Mexico from Salt Lake City, but I then found a pretty good deal from Las Vegas on a budget carrier VivaAerobús.

Again, I booked a one-way positioning flight to Las Vegas for just $76 on Delta and then a one-way flight to Mexico City for an additional $99 (including checked baggage) on VivaAerobús. When you know what to expect in terms of additional fees, budget airlines can make for a cheap trip to your destination of choice.


If you’re wondering why I booked a bunch of one-way flights, you’ll be even more surprised to learn that my journey didn’t stop in Mexico City. After spending six days in Cholula/Puebla and Mexico City itself, my friend flew home, and I flew solo to Guatemala City. My one-way ticket on a low-cost Interjet flight was just $122.

The plan was to spend a few days at the Lake Atitlan and then take Spanish classes for two weeks in Antigua. I’d found a reputable school with five-star reviews via Google, signed up for classes and waited in anticipation for a great cultural experience.

For my return back to Salt Lake City in mid-June, I didn’t want to repeat an itinerary built of entirely one-way flights, so I redeemed 17,500 United MileagePlus miles + $55 for a one-stop flight home.

Unfortunately, before I’d even finished the first week of school, I learned of my grandmother’s passing. I had to go home.

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Except for my mom, my whole (albeit small) family lives in Kazakhstan. Mind you, it’s not a cheap country to travel to on a one-day notice. Luckily, I had accumulated a ton of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and wound up redeeming 85,000 miles + $156 per person via MileagePlus to travel halfway around the world on Star Alliance partners.

It goes without saying that the trip wasn’t a fun one. In truth, it was the hardest 10 days I had spent anywhere, and the fact that we didn’t need to worry about adding a financial strain of buying two last-minute flights to a country many people haven’t heard of helped immensely.

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Final Thoughts

For some, collecting points and miles is the only way to travel. For me, it’s something that helps cut back on costs and allows me to see the world more often with the budget that I do have. I’m not necessarily “saving” cash by using rewards—I simply travel more than I did before. Hopefully, 10xTravel can help you do the same!

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Anya Kartashova

About the Author

Anya Kartashova is a travel junkie who wants to visit everywhere in the world. As she crosses destinations off her list, that list grows even larger with new places being added. There’s no way to determine whether her wanderlust will ever subside. Probably never.

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2 Responses to “Where I’ve Been So Far in 2019 Thanks to Points and Miles”


Thank you so much for sharing your travels with us. I love the Instagram shots and really enjoyed reading this post.

I’m very sorry for the loss of your grandmother. Miles + points are exceptionally useful for short notice flights and those are often the consequence of emergencies or deaths.

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