Reader Request – Where to go with lots of miles and points?

 

A few days ago, Joe wrote in asking where to go for a luxurious 10 to 12 day holiday.

Thanks to everyone who commented with their excellent suggestions and tips!  Everyone contributed unique insights and after reading the comments Joe is now considering Hawaii and South America as well.

Iguazu Falls

Emily & Daraius at the Iguazu Falls in Brazil

Joe and his wife have the following in their miles and points stash:

  • British Airways (BA) 100,000 miles X 2 (200,000 total)
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred 50,000 points x 2 (100,000 total)
  • American Airlines (AA) 150,000 miles x 2 (300,000 total)
  • Southwest 50,000 x 2 (100,000 total)
  • SPG 30,000 points x 2 (60,000 total)

Where to go?

I’ve organized suggestions by region.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a starting point for Joe to plan his trip.  I’ve generally chosen locations which have SPG or Hyatt hotels (Sapphire Preferred points can be transferred to Hyatt), so Joe can save money by using his points.

South America

Flights: For 40,000 British Airways miles each, Joe and his wife could travel to South America on  LAN airlines in business class on a 1 way ticket.  BA allows unlimited stopovers (technically in the direction of travel, but you can call back until you get a more willing agent).

Joe could potentially visit Easter Island, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, or Peru.  He’s going to have to prioritize, because I wouldn’t recommend more than 3 (or 4), destinations on a 10 to 12 day trip because it gets too rushed for me otherwise.

On the way back, Joe and his wife could redeem 62,500 American Airlines miles each for a First Class trip back to the US.

Locations/Hotels: 

Rio De Janerio, Brazil -   Check out the Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf mountain, drink exotic juices in juice bars, lie on the beach, and enjoy life like the Cariocas (residents of Rio) do.

Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina – Visit the Iguazu falls, on both the Brazilian and Argentinian side.  The Sheraton Iguazu is located in the Iguazu National Park grounds, and you can experience the Iguazu falls all by yourself (think how awesome this can be!), if you’re willing to ignore the signs which remind you that the falls are accessible only after 8:00 am.

Santiago, Chile -  Ride the wine train to the vineyards or walk around central Santiago.  Stay at the W Santiago or the San Cristobal Tower and enjoy the views of the Andes.

Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, Chile -  Enjoy the beaches in Vina del Mar and the quaint vistas and restaurants in Valparaiso.  Stay at the Sheraton Miramar.

Easter Island, Chile – A special territory of Chile known for the 800+ large statues. Because this is one of the most isolated islands in the world, there are no Hyatt or SPG hotels (yet).

Buenos Aires, Argentina -  Enjoy an evening at the Teatro Colon, stroll through the squares, visit the Necropolis, and tango the night away.  Transfer Chase Sapphire Points to Hyatt and stay at the gorgeous Palacio Duhau (18,000 Hyatt points a night).  SPG options include the  Sheraton Liberador.

Mendoza, Argentina – Visit Argentina’s wine country and transfer Sapphire Preferred points to stay in the Park Hyatt Mendoza.  Here’s a trip report on the Park Hyatt Mendoza from One Mile at a Time.

Macchu Pucchu & Cusco, Peru – Visit Macchu Picchu, explore the sacred valley (Maras salt pans, ruins of Pisac and more).  Stay at the SPG Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa.

Asia

Flights: For 50,000 BA miles each one way, Joe and his wife can fly on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, etc.

An even better option would be to fly in Cathay Pacific First Class to Asia using 67,500 AA miles one way.  Here’s a trip report on Cathay Pacific First Class from View From the Wing.

Depending on the routing, Joe and his wife could stop over in Hong Kong, then visit, say, Thailand, or Indonesia, stop over in Japan, and then travel back to the US.

Hong Kong/Macao – Hong Kong is a fascinating city to explore.  Rapid Travel Chai has several tips for spending 24 hours (or more) in Hong Kong.  Joe and his wife could ride the Star Ferry, take the funicular to Victoria Peak, and people watch for days.   Stay at the Sheraton or Le Meridian in Hong Kong and then take the ferry to to Macao where you can walk around the old city and stay at the Westin Macau.

Bali, Indonesia – Million Mile Secret reader Brian (J), who will be visiting Bali for the fourth time next year had some terrific tips on Bali in the comments.  He recommends a bike tour down a Volcano, attending a traditional Bali wedding, and helping the elders of a village with the rice harvest.

Hotel prices in Bali are fairly low, but if Joe wants to use his SPG points he can stay at the Laguna Resort and Spa, Bali or Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali.  Joe could also transfer Chase Sapphire Preferred points to Hyatt and stay at the Grand Hyatt.

Bangkok, Thailand -  Milepoint’s Thailand expert Kalboz has great suggestions for what to do in Bangkok.  There are also SPG and Hyatt hotels for Joe and his wife to stay in.

Chiang Rai, Thailand – Explore the rolling hills and visit the Wat Doi Tong and Emerald Buddha.   Stay at the Le Meridien Chang Rai Resort.

Chiang Mai, Thailand – Explore the old city, the museums, the Wat Chedi Luang and go on a night safari.  Lots of eco and adventure tourism.

Cambodia – Visit the Angkor Wat and stay at the SPG Le Meredian Angkor.

Tokyo -  Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market, Meiji Shrine, and some of the best people watching at the Shibuya Crossing and in the Ginza district.  Stay at the Park Hyatt or at the SPG hotels.  Here’s The Points Guy’s trip review of the Park Hyatt in Tokyo.

Hawaii

Joe can redeem 37,500 miles for a business class award on AA to Hawaii one way.  There are lots of SPG, Hyatt, and Marriott hotels for Joe to choose from.

BA Companion Pass redemption:

If Joe spends $30,000 on his Chase BA credit card this year, he will get a companion pass which will allow him to redeem 2 award seats for the price of 1.  He still has to pay taxes and fees on both of the redemptions, though.

If Joe qualifies for the companion pass this year, he has to use it by the end of 2012.  Joe also has to use the companion pass solely on BA flights.

The best use for the companion pass would be to travel to Europe or Africa since it is easy to get BA flights to those destinations.

It would cost 180,000 BA miles to go to Central and South Africa and 130,000 BA miles to go anywhere in Europe  (less to closer European destinations) and North Africa in business class.

Joe and his wife could visit London, Paris, Greece, Croatia, Budapest, Prague, Morocco or Turkey.

And in Africa, Joe could visit Cape Town in South Africa and drive the Garden Road stopping at game lodges, wineries, and enjoying the magnificent views.

Or he could visit Mauritius or take a Safari in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania,  and many other countries.

Bottom Line:

By strategically applying for 6 credit cards, Joe and his wife have enough miles and points to literally have Big Travel with Small Money anywhere they want.

And they’ll still have miles and points left over for more trips!

So many choices.  So little time.

Thanks to everyone who commented to help Joe!

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10 Responses to Reader Request – Where to go with lots of miles and points?

  1. Phenomenal post Darius!!!

  2. Darius,

    This is Joe. I am absolutely blown away by how helpful you have been in answering my question. Your readers provided lots of great suggestions – but your summary will become my handbook for planning this trip. In fact, your excellent details of how many miles we will need for each option will allow us to get at least two great trips from this haul of miles. Many, many, many thanks!

  3. Amazing amount of information! I want to add that in most large cities, it is possible to get a luxurious apartment for not a lot of money (unfortunately, cannot use points for that). As an example, we got an apartment for a week in Plaza San Martin, Buenos Aires (in a building next to Sofitel), for $450/week! It had a fully stocked kitchen, and we shopped at awesome butcher shops for the famous lomo steak and enjoyed most authentic dinners. Not the kind of luxury that the 5 star hotel provides but definitely amazing experience! You can kind apartments for rent at vrbo.com and other sites.

  4. This is an incredible post! It is so comprehensive. I will be referring back to it again and again in the future. Thanks Daraius!

  5. For luxurious 10-12 day holiday in Thailand, I’d suggest staying in a suite at the new St. Regis Bangkok for at least 4 days to get the city vibes. Then do a 7-day beach destination: The Phuket Westin Siray Bay was on sale at hotelclub.com for U$81 per room per night (unheard of 66% off) which was valid for stays through 29 February 2012.

  6. @ Julianne @ Joe & @jJenny – I’m glad you like the summary! I just want to repeat that this is NOT an exhaustive list. I’ve skipped a lot of other options in Asia such as Phuket (which I will edit the post to add), China, Vietnam, Singapore, etc.

    @KateFromCA – Good tip on renting a flat! We’ve done that before, and we’ve always felt much more relaxed in the flat than in any of the hotel’s we’ve stayed in.

    @Kalboz – Thanks for the tips. I forgot to mention Phuket, and will edit the post to add that.

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  9. does the spg works the same way as priorityclub? where u can use points and cash to book.. then cancell to get a good price on points? thanks in advance.

  10. No!

    But sometimes SPG offers 20% discount on purchasing their points.

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