Our $32,000+ Honeymoon in Paris for only $2,000!

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Most of our trips let us have Big Travel with Small Money, but I call this our “honeymoon” because Emily Jablon and I got married over the last year and this was our first big trip by ourselves since then!

Emily Jablon has always wanted to visit Paris, so this was the perfect opportunity to revisit one of my favorite cities and take full advantage of my Chase Ultimate Rewards points and British Airways Travel Together voucher.

Miles & Points Honeymoon

Emily & I in British Airways First Class from Boston to London

I was very excited about this trip because I was visiting one of the most romantic cities in the world with the woman I love and staying in one of the finest hotels in Paris, the Park Hyatt Paris.

And, oh, the 2 British Airways First Class tickets sell for ~$12,000 each and 7 nights at the Park Hyatt in Paris have a retail value of $8,000.  That’s a total retail cost of ~$32,000!

However, I paid $1,500 in taxes and fees for the 2 British Airways tickets and $440 in airfare for flights from Kansas City to Boston.

And that’s why I collect miles and points – to have unforgettable experiences which I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford!

 Retail CostOur Cash CostMiles and Points RequiredSources of Miles & Points
2 First Class return British Airways tickets from Boston to Paris$12,000 each or $24,000 total~$2,000150,000 British Airways miles (before the introduction of Avios points)- British Airways Travel Together Voucher
- British Airways Credit Card sign-up bonus and spending
- Transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards
2 free nights in a suite at the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris~$1,400 a night or $2,800 totalNil2 free nights certificate- Chase Hyatt Credit Card
5 free nights at the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris~$1,000 a night or $5,000 totalNil110,000 Hyatt Points- Transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards
1 free night at the Hilton at Heathrow Airport - Terminal 4$225Nil50,000 Hilton Points- Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Total$32,025~$2,000310,000 Miles & Points + 2 free nights certificate

If I didn’t use the British Airways Travel Together voucher, but had used my United, US Air, or American Airlines miles I would have paid only about $300 in taxes and fees for the 2 First Class tickets.  But if I had used my other miles, I couldn’t have used my British Airways Travel Together Voucher and would have paid 125,000 more miles (250,000 miles for both) for an additional First Class ticket

Using the British Airways Travel Together pass saved me 125,000 US Air, American Airlines, or United miles (since I could add Emily as my companion), but I had to pay 150,000 British Airways miles (before the new Avios was introduced) & ~$2,000 in taxes, fees, and additional airfare.

So perhaps it was a wash in the end.

Miles and points let you have unforgettable vacations – but it takes time to accumulate the miles and points needed.  It may be frustrating when you can’t find award seats to your destination, so flexibility always helps.  I could only find British Airways award seats from Philadelphia or Boston when I booked our tickets – which was not ideal because of the short flight time from the East Coast to London (~6 hours) and also because of the expensive airfare from Kansas City to the East Coast, but it worked out in the end.

British Airways First Class

We used our British Airways Travel Together voucher to book our flights to Paris.  I earned a Travel Together voucher by “spending” $30,000 within a calendar year on my Chase British Airways card.  The Travel Together voucher can be used on either paid or award tickets, but is valid for only one use within 2 years of earning the voucher.

I searched for the  flight from the US to Paris on BA.com.  I tried to do this as soon as I knew our travel dates, which ended up being 10 months before our scheduled departure.

So I booked  two  first class seats from Boston to Paris via London and back online at BA.com, but paid the mileage requirement for only 1 of us (150,000 miles at the time).  The taxes and fees cost ~$1,500 for both of us.  I wasn’t happy paying these taxes and fees, but our First Class seats were still cheaper than paying the cash price for coach tickets.

One of the restrictions of the British Airways Travel Together ticket is that you have to fly on British Airways aircraft only.  This meant that we had to pay for our own flights from Kansas City to Boston and back.  Since we have a Southwest Companion Pass I tried to find flights on Southwest since I would only have to pay for 1 ticket using cash or points and Emily would fly for free.

But unfortunately, there were no non-stop flights on Southwest from Kansas City to Boston and the flights which were available were early in the morning, which would mean a full day away from work, which wouldn’t work out.  So I bought two 1-way tickets from Kansas City to Boston on a non-stop Delta flight for ~$220 each.  I also planned a long layover, in case something happened and we needed to take a later flight.

We flew from Boston to London where we had a 4 hour layover and then continued on to Paris.  However there weren’t any business class seats available on the London to Paris segment when I booked, so we traveled in coach for the 1 hour flight.

On the way back, I preferred staying the night at the Hilton hotel in Terminal 4 at Heathrow airport since our flight from Boston left the next day at ~11:00 am.  The regular room cost about $225, but I booked the hotel for  50,000 points on Hilton.com.  This isn’t a spectacular use of Hilton points, but it did save me from paying $225 out-of-pocket.

Park Hyatt Vendome – Paris

Emily and I had a terrific time at the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris.  The hotel attracts a lot of the rich and well-healed guests, but we weren’t made to feel uncomfortable for using points to book our room.  The hotel has a lot of well-dressed guests, and also some not-so-well-dressed guests, but I didn’t notice a different between the way folks were treated at the hotel.  The service was absolutely impeccable!

Miles & Points Honeymoon

Emily in our Suite at the Park Hyatt in Paris

And even more impressive were the little touches – like hunting me down to give me an umbrella when I mentioned that we hadn’t got one in our room, or the housekeeping staff neatly tying the cords of my iPhone and laptop charger so that they wouldn’t tangle, not once but whenever they made our room.  But the most impressive was the hotel’s response on our last day when Emily had an allergic reaction (fortunately minor).  I can’t say enough nice things about the staff at the Park Hyatt Vendome!

The Park Hyatt Vendome is located 3 minutes from the Place Vendome and is a short walk to the Louvre or about 25 minutes to the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe.

Booking the Park Hyatt in Paris

We used 2 free nights from the Chase Hyatt credit card sign-up, and spent 110,000 Hyatt points (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards points) to book another 5 nights.  The hotel is a category 6 hotel and currently costs 22,000 Hyatt points per night in a standard room.

If I hadn’t had enough Hyatt or Ultimate Rewards points, Emily would have applied for another Chase Hyatt credit card for another 2 free nights or one of the many cards which offer Ultimate Rewards points.  We would then make separate reservations, but call the hotel in advance to assign us the same room so that we didn’t move rooms when we arrived.

Since we were in Paris, this was the perfect time to stay at the Park Hyatt in Paris.  The regular room rate is ~EUR 600 or ~$1,000 a night.  We’d never be able to stay there at the regular rate, but we had lots of Ultimate Rewards points.

One of the benefits of attending Star Mega Do 3 last year was getting free Hyatt Diamond status.  Hyatt Diamond members get free breakfast at Hyatt hotels, and we got an extremely tasty and filling breakfast at the Park Hyatt in Paris for 7 days.  We also saved time by eating in the hotel, versus finding a café nearby.  The breakfast alone should have otherwise cost ~500 Euro for the 7 days!  But I doubt we’d ever pay 500 Euros for breakfast.

Miles & Points Honeymoon

Perhaps the Best Breakfast I’ve Eaten!

But don’t worry if you don’t have Hyatt Diamond status because there are a number of boulangeries and bakeries near the hotel where you can have cheap and delicious breakfasts.  And part of the Paris experience is having a buttery and flaky chocolate croissant and a café in the morning.

Or you could redeem 145,000 Hyatt points for a 5 night Hyatt Passport Escape in a category 6 hotel which includes breakfast and 3 dinners.  This is 35,000 points more than if you just booked only a room, but could be worth it for 5  breakfasts and 3 dinners at the Park Hyatt.

Since I was a Hyatt Diamond member, I also got the 2 free nights from the Chase Hyatt credit card in a suite.  So I called the Hyatt reservation desk to book the 2 free nights for the first two days of our stay, and I booked the remaining 5 nights using Chase Ultimate Rewards points which I transferred to Hyatt.  I was hoping that the hotel wouldn’t make us move from the suite to a regular room, especially since we were on our honeymoon!

7 Days in Paris

Spending 7 days in Paris may seem like a lot, and certainly isn’t Rapid Traveling, but Emily likes to spend time to fully explore a city and to be more relaxed.  We also had to log on and catch up with work each day for at least 1 to 2 hours, so we couldn’t devote the entire day to seeing the sites.  And there’s so much to do in Paris that even 7 days wasn’t enough to completely explore this wonderful city.  So 7 days in Paris worked out perfectly for us!

Miles & Points Honeymoon

By the Arc de Triomphe

We also had extra cash which we had saved on the airfare and hotel to spend on dining out, which is one of our favorite things to do!  I also booked tickets in advance to the Paris Opera and to the ballet with the money we saved.

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107 responses to “Our $32,000+ Honeymoon in Paris for only $2,000!

  1. “The Travel Together voucher can be used on either paid or award tickets” – per the T&Cs it can only be used on award tickets and NOT on paid tickets.

    http://www.britishairways.com/travel/red1trav2tcs/public/en_us

    Using the travel together ticket
    1. The Travel Together Ticket (voucher) allows the main BA/Chase account holder, when making a return flight booking using Avios, to book another seat on the exact same journey for a companion without having to pay the Avios flight price for that Companion. Taxes, airline, government, or other separately charged fees and charges must be paid by Member redeeming the voucher and is payable at time of booking.

  2. I find these kinds of posts misleading. Did you really save $29,000? Technically, yes, though you made a comparison to retail costs and we all know that hardly anyone pays full retail cost, its pretty easy to save a little money. Further, there was no way in hell you were ever going to spend $31,000 so I think to calculate your real savings you should compare what you spent to what you actually would have spent. Then you get a much better picture of what your real savings are.

    Posts like this strike me as disingenuous and geared solely towards bragging and earning yourself more referrals so you can make more money.

  3. Does the person who earns the travel together ticket have to be on the itinerary, or is it transferable to someone? My mom is on my wife’s BA family account. She will earn enough to earn the certificate, but can’t travel right now. Could my wife and I use her certificate to get the two for one deal?

  4. Hey Seth- Relax! The point of this post is that points were able to provide a trip that would otherwise not be possible (aka an aspirational award). This is what the points game is all about, making the impossible possible!

  5. Thanks for showing us how valuable points and miles are (although it appears others may be jealous.) I am enjoying reading about your special trip to one of my favorite cities – we just returned last week. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of trip.

  6. Hi darius

    So did the hotel make you guys change rooms? I agree with jeff, why the
    Negativity. By the way seth, people with money do pay retail for those first class tickets

  7. German Expat

    I find those posts also misleading how much you really saved. I calculate the savings based on how much I would have been willing to pay for it. I would slum it out in Business Class or try to get upgrades from Economy. I would also be ok with a good 4 star hotel if I need to pay for it.
    My math for e.g. a Europe trip is that for a business class ticket I would be willing to pay 3k US$ per person and those are my ‘savings’ then. For a hotel I am willing to pay 300$ per night (with London being higher) so those are then my savings as well.
    Also there are cash back cards around where you get at least 2% cash back so you do have to consider those opportunity costs as well.
    Don’t understand me wrong, I think airline miles and hotel programs are great and we there are very good deals out especially using credit cards for sign up bonuses. But realistically you would have probably been willing to spend maybe 10k for the trip (or the horror might have slummed it Economy) and you probably have forgone some cash back opportunities so your real savings are maybe 7k which is still a nice amount.
    For me travel and being at a location is part of the experience and while it is nice to fly First or Business the whole vacation experience is not this much worse if you had to do Economy.

  8. Same question as Thalha – did they make you change rooms?

    The Passport is a good deal for this hotel, with 48 Euro breakfasts and expensive dinners. Not sure, tho, that I would want to have 3 dinners at the hotel with all of Paris outside my door. I guard those points like a hawk but at the PH Paris Vendome, it’s probably worth 4 cents per point – not too shabby for an add-on for meals.

    I loved the breakfasts when I was Diamond but last month, we spent three nights at the Park Hyatt Moscow on a suite award – and got a ridiculous upgrade to the Wintergarden suite. We ordered room service breakfast each day – one continental breakfast that was more than enough for the two of us.

  9. Not jealousy, but just tired of people claiming how much they are saving when they would never spend these amounts in the first place. I partake in churning and have had some amazing experiences the past couple of years, but to go out and publish something on a website claiming how much you have saved comes off as just plain bragging. Is this website a personal place for Daraius and Emily to show off their fortune or to educate readers as to how they can partake in this hobby? All I am saying is that a little modesty goes a long way.

  10. as someone’s who’s been to paris and know how damn expensive hotels are there, i can say that it’s pretty amazing to see what you can do with the Ultimate Reward Points. I’ve still yet to sign up for one of those CCs, but this post is giving me ideas for my next application binge!

  11. To continue my previous post:

    This blog introduced me to this hobby, but my readership has trailed off as the majority of the postings on this blog have turned into either stories that come off as bragging or are an obvious grab for credit card referral sign ups. Call me crazy but I think the purpose of writing a blog should be to help others rather than making oneself feel good. There are a number of other blogs that seem to do this a lot better.

  12. I am glad you enjoyed your stay in Paris. Yes Vendome is one of the best hotels there is. We had 3 nights in Hyatt Vendome last december (on points of course) and it was magical. Two attached rooms for a family four and the service just blew us away. It was as much fun to be in our room as to enjoy Paris in December. 1st Arrondissement has lot of history and the area around Rue de Castiglione has lots top notch jewellery stores including Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef and Arpels to name a few.

  13. I like your decision to spend 7 days in Paris! A week versus 3 days in Paris is a COMPLETELY different experience as it leaves plenty of time to really take in the culture in addition to the requisite landmarks of the city. Looking forward to the rest of the report!

  14. @Seth,

    Please just shut up. We heard you the first time.

    I happen to agree with you in general about the value of the savings, but I find Daraius’ blog quite modest and better than most of the rest out there.

    I wouldn’t go to many of the places Daraius goes but that doesn’t mean I should criticize his blog. Take what you can from it and be happy.

  15. @Euan – Good catch. Thanks!

    @Seth – Thanks for reading. I completely agree that my savings are NOT $29,000 just because the retail cost is $31,000 and my cash cost was $2,000. That’s why I never make the claim anywhere in the post that my savings are $29,000! In fact, I note that I wouldn’t even pay 500 Euros for breakfast!

    The point of the post is to show folks the experiences which miles and points make possible. I wrote “And that’s why I collect miles and points – to have unforgettable experiences which I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford!” So I think I’m pretty clear that I would NEVER pay the retail price of this trip.

    Again, there is NO claim of “saving” the difference between retail cost and the price which I paid!

    @Bruce – I believe the person who earns the Travel Together ticket has to travel on the itinerary.

    @German Expat – But there’s no claim about “saving” the difference between retail cost and our cash cost! And I wouldn’t have paid $10K for the trip – more like $5K. The point of the post is not to claim a fictitious “saving,” but to show what’s possible with miles and points.

    @Thalha – Stay tuned!

    @Steve S – Stay tuned! I wish there was an option to just get the breakfast, because 3 dinners in Paris as you point out may be too much.

    @annonymous – Glad you had a great stay. It was fun walking around the hotel and soaking in all the sights.

    @Seth 2 – We were a lot more relaxed since we had 7 days to explore!

  16. @Seth
    I do not find this to be bragging at all. I find this to be inspirational. This blog is the reason that I started “churning” and it was due in part to posts like this one. My husband and I want to travel the world in luxury- we wouldn’t be able to travel the way we dreamed of otherwise. I was just looking to book 3 tickets from Newark/Amterdam on British Airways First Class. If I wasn’t going to use Avios it would cost a total of $29,000 including taxes and fees, roundtrip. The hotel we usually stay at costs $5,400 USD for the week in a King /Executive room. In total the trip would cost $39,800.00 if I was to book the flight, room (x2), etc. Not including spending money. Instead it will cost me about $3,000 in fuel surcharges (plus the 165,000 Avios which each of us has), and 230,000 Amex Membership Rewards points for the two hotel rooms (which also includes free full breakfast for two people per room and I have platinum status with the chain so I get a room upgrade). So, instead of costing $39,800.00 out-of-pocket for a weeks long European vacation (which is what it would cost if I was willing to spend that kind of money and didn’t have any miles and points) it would cost a bunch of miles and points, and a very small $3,000 for the travel and lodging. This post isn’t outlandish. It gives an accurate picture of what one would have to potentially spend in order to obtain this sort of luxury trip.

    @Daraius
    Looking forward to the next installment of the trip report!

  17. German Expat

    You didn’t claim savings in the text but your headline is ‘Our $32,000+ Honeymoon in Paris for only $2,000!’ which at least for me implies you saved 30k :-). In newspaper speak this is headline grabbing.
    Don’t understand me wrong, I like your blog and you do a good job showing opportunities. I also don’t mind if bloggers show credit cards with links and get a referral bonus as long as it is the best available link. I just used Gary’s for the new Citi Hilton card a couple days ago.
    I also think First Class and nice hotels add to your travel experience but its not the main purpose of it. Some of the blogs give me the impression the flight or the hotel itself is the end and not a means to the end (seeing interesting countries and creating unforgettable memories). I enjoyed my first (alone) trip to Paris as much as I did my last one. The first one was with my girl friend more then 25 years ago during college in a beaten up (french) car where we could not even afford to drive on the toll roads to Paris and stayed at some rat hole with a shared bathroom. The last stay was at the Hilton.

  18. Here’s some anecdotal info about the “do they make you change rooms” question:

    My mom wanted to stay 3 nights in London. She got the Hyatt credit card, and made a paid reservation for the first night on the Churchill Club floor. It was horribly expensive, but I figured worth the gamble in case they didn’t make her move. She then made a resie for the following two nights using the freebies that came with the card. The phone agent told me they could, but likely wouldn’t, move her.

    She asked the desk agent at check-in about the two resies, and he told her they wouldn’t make her move. The cost wasn’t so bad when amortized over the three nights. Especially considering it ended up being during the Jubilee. I noticed that there wasn’t even availability for paid rooms on the Club floor. So a lowly Plat was not moved, even to free up a “fer sure” revenue room.

    As an aside, I suggested to her that, if they did make her move, she should counter with continued lounge access as a “fair trade” for relocating. Fortunately, that never even needed to come up!

  19. Your trip sounds awesome! It seemed like you spent a LOT of points on this trip. I am really curious to know if you still have a LOT of points left 😉

  20. It really is ok to say how much the value of the trip was and not equate the value to the actual cost of a coach ticket and a 4 star hotel. To use actual value of cheapest means would greatly diminish the value of the points/miles being spent which would make it appear as if Daraius had not gotten a good value for what he has saved/earned. Daraius uses his blog in an excellent way to highlight what you can get with using points and only spending a little bit of money. The best way to illustrate that is to draw as much value from the points and miles as possible. He obviously did that here and was able to enjoy a very memorable experience! Well done, Daraius, and thanks for being so personal as to share with all of us the great time the two of you had!

  21. My first trip to Paris was part of our honeymoon – 1970 and the book was Frommer’s Europe on $5 a Day. Charter flight on Laker Airways, with Sir Freddie sitting in front of me and the guy across the aisle lighting up a joint the minute we were airborne. Great memories but please don’t make me do it again and don’t make me stay in those hotels.

    Last trip was First Class on Lufthansa and an Executive Suite at the Park Hyatt. Our fifth trip to Paris so we obviously love it, but the flights and hotels make me pinch myself in awe at my good fortune. As much as I love Dariaus, my education in this stuff started long before his wonderful blog. I too have never told anyone I “saved” that much money, but I do like bragging that this hobby gives me experiences that I could never afford and that would cost $XXX retail. I guess it is bragging but so what!

    Yes, it is ideally about the destination but the experiences of First/Business Class and incredible suite upgrades are also memories that stay with me for a long, long time.

  22. I love Paris…when Pamela and I went last year we spent 8 days, I didn’t feel like it was enough time, but then again I could probably travel full time and be just fine. Glad you two got to have a great trip!

  23. I second what others have said, these “I got a $23k vacation for only $300” posts are getting tiresome.

    You used to have one of the best blogs however your content has been lacking lately. It’s the same old stuff.

  24. @Ji: Give the guy a break – there are not many good deals being released now (which is what we all want) so he’s filling up with other more anecdotal/ancillary content that people who are into M&P might appreciate. If you have better ideas for how to run a similar blog you should start one.

  25. I love this posts, thanks for sharing. Too bad some people are hating on it, it seems like maybe they should just not read it if they don’t like it, right?

  26. I meant “I love this post…” I hate it when I have typos.

  27. German Expat

    I wouldn’t call the comments hating. What is wrong with feedback or disagreement ?

  28. First, congratulations!!! Staying 7 days in one place is a luxury and great way to really get to know a place.

    Second, I know you mentioned it in your post, what made you decide to go use 44,000 points (2 nights) versus Emily applying for Chase Hyatt card with 2 nights free? Were there other Chase offers better than the 2 nights free or were you saving it for other Hyatt hotels?

  29. What I’m wondering is why you put the quotes around “spending” in this line:

    I earned a Travel Together voucher by “spending” $30,000 within a calendar year on my Chase British Airways card.

    I’m assuming you mean you used some tricks to jack up your spending on the card. I have the BA Visa and I’d love to get the companion ticket but I can’t really see myself spending $30k in a year on that card.

  30. Amazing post! Very inspiring for my own Thailand trip quest. Congrats to you and Emily!

  31. I think it’s rather interesting to note that this particular itinerary — RT BOS-LHR in F and RT LHR-CDG in economy — would actually be cheaper in Avios than it was before the program was “devalued.” The BOS-LHR flight in first is 60k and the LHR-CDG leg is only 4500, so it would only be 129k total, rather than the 150k quoted here.

  32. Very cool! Someday I’d love to do something like this. Thanks for sharing.

  33. So glad you enjoyed the trip and congrats on your wedding!

  34. To Seth & German Expat & some others: People value each of these things individually, how would Daraius’ claim of saving $1.0,345.89 based on his own valuation help anybody? The easiest way of saying how much you saved is off of the retail price. It doesn’t mean that anyone would actually pay for that, but it provides a common ground. Some people like to splurge, and some people are cheap. Should Daraius come up with different saving figures to please those as well? Please stop talking nonsense and shut up. You keep saying this blog is this and that, why are you still posting here?

  35. I always calculate the “real cost” of my trips vs. what it cost me. It’s part of the thrill of this points and miles game.

  36. rich (arizona)

    Can you (or anyone else) point out some other deals/options to use points at less costly hotels in the Paris area?

    I have a 10 day trip to Paris this December which may include a few days in Belgium or Germany. I have 80K+ Chase points but would like to make them last longer than 3-4 nights if possible.

    Thanks.
    Rich

  37. @German Expat – The purpose of the headline was to show how a very costly experience can be had for much less than the asking price. But I see your point as well. Thanks for the feedback. For me, traveling is about creating wonderful experiences. Exploring a city and experiencing new cultures is one way. And paying a fraction of the asking price to occupy a First Class seat and stay in a nice hotel, which I’d otherwise only experience vicariously in a glossy magazine also creates wonderful experiences for me.

    @Colleen – Paying for the 1st night should help not getting moved.

    @blueflower – We still have lots of points left over. I earned 1 million+ points last year (just me, not Emily), and I’ve got lots of other miles left over. We just don’t have enough vacation to use them all. That said, the miles and points earning opportunities aren’t as good as they used to be.

    @Charlie – That was the point of the post – to show how to extract as much value as possible from miles and points. Glad you liked it.

    @Steve S – Actually your first trip was much before I was around! I completely agree that the great flights and hotels also create great experiences.

    @W Brian Duncan (AKA IPBrian) – I’m sure I could travel full time as well!

    @ji – Sorry you don’t like the recent posts. Do you have any suggestions for better posts? I’d be happy to consider them.

    @Dave Op – Good question. We’re toying with the idea of getting Emily Diamond status sometime so that she can apply for the Hyatt card and get her 2 free nights in a suite.

    @dbeach– See the Frequent Miler for tips on how to get spending up. But it isn’t worth concentrating spending on the BA card at the expense of other sign-up bonuses.

    Very observant! It would actually cost 133,500K – 120K + 4,500 + 9,000 under the new Avios. But the taxes and fees increased since I booked and the redeposit fees would make it a wash.

    @Colleen @Tim Harper @Lauren – Thanks!

    @PatMike – That’s why I calculate it as well. Not because I’d actually pay that, but just to see what it would cost otherwise.

    @rich (arizona) – You could use Club Carlson points or Choice hotel points. Or use 145K Hilton points with an AXON award for a 4 night stay. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are very valuable, but the hotel partners (Hyatt, Marriott, or Priority Club) don’t have many hotels at lower levels unless you want to stay far away from the city.

  38. @rich
    Check out Priority Club. You can probably get a 60 or 80 K credit card in time for your trip and get plat status. Then there is the 5000 points for $35 trick that is explained somewhere in this blog…
    Plus, The Crowne Plaza Brugges is a great deal and the only place to stay in the area on points.

  39. Who says that determing the value or savings one receives from using points for a trip has to be calculated one way or another? I think that it is different for each person and can change from trip to trip. Sometimes I pay for upgraded airline seating and luxury hotels, and sometimes I use points and miles for the same type of upgraded seating and hotels. When I have the opportunity to pay for a similar trip using points and miles, what is wrong with saying that I saved $xxx off retail or $xxx less than what I paid last time? I enjoy this blog along with several others. I am getting tired of reading these random comments that criticize the bloggers content or purpose.

    In addition, I would rather use a credit card link that comes from one of the bloggers that I read versus googling a link and hoping that I have not just given my personal information to a crime syndicate.

    One question to the folks that leave these comments…Did you ever stop to think that why some of the information seems repetitive to you is because you have become more familiar with the points/mile collecting hobby? I don’t think that the first few times that you read about how the Hyatt GoldPassport program works or how to apply for more than one charge card in a day or saw pictures of Cathay Pacific first class you thought that was not helpful or interesting information. If the topic doesn’t interest you move on. I’m going to take my own advice, and if the first few words of a comment are headed down a path of complaining/criticism, I’m going to move on!

    Keep up the great blogging! I find the information you provide very helpful!

  40. You need to include at least another $1,000 in your calculation as 110,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points could have also been redeemed for $1100 in cash.

  41. To the naysayers on the comments: Nobody forces you to read this blog. If it’s not for you, why… just move on. The whole point of the blog is to show how you can have big travel with small money. Reading FF blogs, and this one in particular, have helped me to synthesize the points and miles process to a much higher level.

    I can think about taking family and friends places where they could never go on their own. I’m taking a friend to Peru next month… a hard working mom, cancer survivor, who just couldn’t justify spending the $$$ on the trip without me saying “Hey, let’s use my miles. The r/t will be $71!”. I’m paying it forward and it feels great. I offered another relative a graduation present of round trip tickets for herself and her new fiance to come home and introduce him to the family. I’m thinking of donating miles to the military so someone in the armed forces can come home for a visit. I told another friend today “you’re next on my list, where do you want to go?” (How ’bout a blog on best miles gifting?)

    There might be a romantic out there right now having a light bulb moment after reading this blog… hey… I can propose to my sweetheart, sign up for a couple of credit cards, and take her to Paris instead of Bakersfield for a honeymoon she’ll never forget.

    Kudos to anyone who has been inspired by these posts and blogs. I think the point is that the unattainable, is, in fact, within reach if you just put a little thought, practice and financial discipline to work for you.

  42. To value the savings based on what you were able to afford is ridiculous. When you’re in a Paris
    Hyatt
    suite for free, and the guy in the next room paid $1000, you saved $1000 in my book. Not $69 since you usually stay in a Motel 6! You’re not in a Motel 6! You’re enjoying something that costs $1000, for free. If you’re in first class for free, and the guy next to you paid $12000, then you saved $12000! Not what coach costs. You’re enjoying something that costs $12000,for free! It doesn’t matter what you normally would have spent. In my case, I wouldn’t be able to take the trip at any price without the pts and miles game. The whole idea of this game is for people who otherwise would never be able to afford the first class flight and the $1000 a night room to be able to experience them at an affordable price. To be able to travel to places you would not normally be able to afford. That is what I believe Daraius is showing here. I don’t consider it bragging. He’s showing us by example what value we can get out of our pts and miles.
    Bragging , and greed for that matter, is when I read a post recently from a guy who says he runs $800,000 a year through his card in legit spend, and is asking for advice on how to get his $69 annual fee waived!

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  44. Great trip report! We spent 10 days in Paris last Spring and it was perfect! One of the few cities I did not get bored in after that long. Thanks for sharing your inspirational “honeymoon” Many Happy Years TOGETHER!

  45. Jack –

    Say you score a ticket on first class British Air for $1000. The person you’re flying next to is an employee of British Air who is flying free. Does that mean you overpaid $1000 for your ticket since someone else got to fly for free?

    Of course not. Saying you “saved” $12000 is nonsense. The only money you saved is the money you were willing to pay for the ticket.

  46. @Ji – totally disagree. If you won this trip on a game show, you would be paying taxes on the full retail value. If you win a $60,000 car, thats the “value” of your winnings. It doesn’t matter if some auto company exec can get the car for free…

    Wow – some of these comments are blowing me away ! Most of us here enjoy following you and Emily and your trips and well, this being your honeymoon … these people need to show some respect.
    D – Your responses are always amazingly cordial.
    I always calculate the “actual cost” of the flights, usually as soon as I book the award trip. I also calculate the “cost” of the hotels and sometimes adjust the costs upward after I receive some awesome upgrades. I figure that I “make” around $80,000 a year, just based on my redemptions. It gives me a basis for defining how much I am rewarded for my efforts, however, I’m a CPA and I can’t help calculating things.
    This is definitely part of the thrill in this “hobby”. Recently someone asked me if I enjoy the trips as much as I enjoy acquiring the miles and points and booking the trips. I said it’s about 50/50.

  47. @Ji
    The amount you are willing to pay means nothing. If you didn’t have miles to get your filght for free you couldn’t call up British Airways and barter with them. When was the last time you called an airline and said, “Gee, your ticket price is $12,000, but I’m only willing to pay $600.”? The answer is never. The published price is the price…period. The only time this changes, for better or for worse, is when the airline wants to make a monetary change in their system. Also, as Pat Mike pointed out-if you win a $60,000 Mercedes on a game show you would be responsible for paying the taxes on the full retail cost…not on what you would be willing to pay for the car. What one is willing to pay and what the actual cost is are two different things. If a box of cereal at the supermarket is $4.99 and I have a coupon to get the item for free my savings is $4.99…not what I would be willing to pay out of pocket for the cereal on sale.

    @Pat Mike
    Agree 100%. I am not an accountant, but I do like calculating the price of the hotel and flight at time of booking. It’s part of the excitement for me. In May, my husband and I booked 7 days in Bermuda totally on miles. At the time I booked it would have cost $3,600 for two first class, roundtrip tickets and $5,100 for the hotel with taxes and fees (Fairmont Southampton Gold Level w/ lounge access and concierge). Of course I couldn’t afford to pay the cost they wanted for the trip at that time which came out to almost $9,000 for the flight and hotel alone. We used United miles for the flight and AA miles (from the 75,000 two-browser trick sign up bonus last year) for the hotel. Regardless, the amount it would have cost was $9,000 and I was blown away by the fact that we could have that experience for free with award miles.

  48. German Expat

    I think people like me (who think that the savings were not 30000 US$) look at how much they really did save. I can see the other argument though as well comparing how much the retail costs are. For me I calculate my ‘real’ cash net savings (actual money in my bank account) but obviously then I might get a lower experience. E.g. flying business or economy rather then first.

    All my recent award trips I would have gone there regardless of being able to use miles or hotel points. The travel itself would have been less comfortable (albeit business most of the time since I am now able and willing to afford it) and the hotels would have been a 5 star on priceline or maybe a 4 star.

    2 examples how I calculate it:

    a) Paris stayed at a Sofitel that had a very good paid rate rather then using hotel points

    b) Had a HKG -> PEK -> HKG booked in award C and then a special offer showed up on ctrip for 360$ in Y. The flight is not long enough for me to be bothered in Y so my savings would have been 360$ rather then the 1200+$ the C ticket would have cost.

    Personally I think it is just different ways to look at things and both are valid. If either one works for you then we should all be able to agreed to disagree. My opinion is that I would have saved around 7-10k (that are now in my bank account) on the trip described in the post which is still an excellent return for some credit card applications and some additional work. I used to travel a lot though before moving to the US and in Europe (changing now as well) there are barely any opportunities getting as many miles and points. There are a lot more opportunities though to buy heavily discounted business class especially during summer travel season.

  49. @ German Expat
    I understand the way you are looking at it…you set aside $6000 for your trip. You used miles and points instead so you equate the savings at the $6000 budget that’s still in your bank account. However, Daraius and I look at things the same way. The money I have available to spend and the actual retail cost are two different things. If I plan to fly first class and stay at a luxury hotel, but I decide to use miles and points instead, my savings is the actual retail cost. If I opt to do an award in economy and stay at a 3 star hotel then my savings would be whatever retail the lower level would be. I couldn’t say, “I booked a first class award ticket to Paris listed at almost $12,000 roundtrip, but I am going to value it at the coach fare of $700”, because I’m not sitting in a coach seat. The value of the seat I’m sitting in is $12,000.

    If I went by what is in my bank account I would be paying in cash instead of using award miles…what would be the point otherwise? The reason I do the miles and points game is to have the travel I’ve always dreamed of, but do not have the funds to pay for out of pocket. Hence why I love D’s blog. It truly is Big Travel with Small Money!

    Regardless, it’s just my opinion. It’s going to cost something different for everyone depending on the number of connections, departure hub, time of year, etc. etc.

    Anyway, D’s just pointing out how much it would potentially cost to travel this way (first class, luxury hotel) if we were all millionaires and paid the listed retail cost. Hopefully one day none of us here will have to do the miles and points game anymore and just flat out pay for our luxury travel! :)

    Nice seeing your point in detail German Expat. I highly enjoy when we can give our different opinions here in a civil manner and understand another’s point of view.

  50. “Our $32,000+ (BIG TRAVEL) Honeymoon in Paris for only $2,000 (SMALL MONEY)!”
    He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk !
    And… Congratulations !!!

  51. German Expat

    Corinne, thanks for your feedback and as I said I understand your metric even with me using a different one. We are now at a stage in our lives where we could (and sometimes do, I still prefer to use miles though :-)) afford the trips D describes right out of pocket. We still would not do it since I rather retire earlier and time is now at a premium as well.

    I is nice being able to agree to have a different opinion and perspective. Seems to get sometimes lost on forums and blogs. I can see that Daraius can take some (constructive) difference in opinion pretty well. On the Internet people already tend to gravitate towards forums or blogs that just strengthen their own opinion which I see as a shame not to learn from others.

    I get very good value from all the travel bloggers even if I don’ t use them to the extreme they do and I save a decent junk of money (in either terms) by all the tips and tricks published.

  52. Hi daraius and emily, keep doing what you guys do. i do not find it to be bragging but you are one of the most informative and modest blogs out there! a lot of them tell you they saved money but not depict how to do it. at least you give us the low down on how many points and where you got them from! keep it going!!!

  53. Since you transferred 110k points from Chase Ultimate Rewards over to Hyatt, shouldn’t those 110k points be considered as part of the cash cost since they could be cashed out?

    UR points should be looked at as cash in the bank and the ability to buy points at one cent each.

  54. I have to admit…i’m a little confused by some of the negative commentary about savings. It seems that people arent comparing apples to apples, and darius had mentioned already…he never mentions “saving”. He says I got a experience that would cost xxx amount retail for a much smaller amount. (the taxes & fees) thats what his trip, experience, once in a lifetime moment..etc cost him; the taxes and fees. Doesnt matter that u or i wouldnt pay 32k. doesnt even matter that a budget version of the trip would cost signifiantly less. If u add up the retail cost or even discounted cost of a budget experience and then apply the airmiles & hotel mile to reduce the out of pocket expense…you will still have gotten a trip that would cost xxx amount for way cheaper (basically the taxes). thats the point… hope this kinda makes sense…seems like some people are reading more into it than others

  55. @ chris
    I agree.
    He’s basically saying
    “Big Travel. Small Money.”
    Maybe the naysayers haven’t seen the subtitle of the blog …

  56. Daraius my man! Your blog rocks! And congrats on a wonderful honeymoon! Thanks for the info and for turning me on to using points and miles! Because of your blog, I grabbed the 100,000 British Airways card before the deal expired. So thank you! I am rapidly accumulating Chase cards. Do you know, generally, how long I must wait to apply for another Chase product? I’ve read anywhere from 90 days to 6 months. All the best.

  57. I think Corrine’s coupon post really hit it spot on. If I did use a coupon to get a box of cereal that cost $4.99 for $1.00, you’re trying to tell me I didn’t just save $3.99? Even if the cereal exec got his box for free, it doesn’t mean I still didn’t save $3.99, I did, but he just saved more than me @ $4.99.
    I think the semantics of the word “savings” is what the problem is here. I see “savings” as what I didn’t have to spend, to get what I couldn’t afford or didn’t want to pay for. Others seem to see it this way.
    They were going to spend $2.99 for the no-frills cereal they usually eat. Instead,they use the coupon for the name brand $4.99 box bringing the cost down to $1.00. They are saying they are only saving $1.99 not $3.99 because they were going to buy cereal anyway. I don’t agree with that. They are still enjoying a product that costs $4.99 for only $1.00.

    I would not be taking the trips I’m taking at all, if not for the pts and miles. So how would they calculate that?

    BTW, I would have to add the UR pts as part of the cost though. That is equal to $1100 that could have been cashed out.

    Peace fellow pts and miles people. :)
    I’m out.

  58. I disagree on the UR points as part of the cost. Just my opinion.

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  60. @ Jack
    Thanks! Sometimes my logic pans out. :)

    @Pat Mike
    Agreed on the UR points not being a part of the cost. If I physically had Chase send me a check for the $1,100 and then used that towards my trip, then yes, I would obviously count that as an out of pocket expense.

    @D
    Love your trip report and thanks for all of the pictures. I will make sure to steer clear of BA’s business lounge…talk about apples and oranges! :)

  61. Mary Gradowitz

    New subject: do you know anyone who has booked a cruise with points?

  62. The Deal Mommy

    I find this not only inspirational. Bragging? No way. It’s only bragging when you don’t share the wealth. Darius lays it all out on his blog so we can do it too!

  63. @PatMike @newton @Jack @ji @corinne @German Expat @chris @Jack @The Deal Mommy – It is not surprising that this topic is so contentious on the blog, because it is contentious everywhere it is discussed. But I can see both sides of the argument. I tend to agree that the word “saving” trips folks up because we associate different meanings to it.

    Perhaps a longer, but more precise way to describe it would be “I paid $2,000 in cash for airline seats and hotel rooms which would otherwise cost $32,000. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to afford $32,000 for a 1 week vacation, but I’d have otherwise spent ~$4,000 in cash on the trip if I didn’t know a thing about miles and points.”

    @Steve @ji @Jack – If I was calculating my opportunity cost, I would consider including the value of the Ultimate Rewards points. But since I was calculating only my cash cost, I didn’t include the value.

    @Jill P – Very well put – “I think the point is that the unattainable, is, in fact, within reach if you just put a little thought, practice and financial discipline to work for you.”

    @Southern travel girl – Thanks for the wishes!

    @Chad – Thanks! It depends. Some folks can get 2 on 1 day after calling the reconsideration line and more after a month. But I don’t know how it will turn out for you.

    @Mary Gradowitz – Unfortunately I don’t but MJ on Travel is a cruise aficionado and may be able to help.

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  65. Love this blog and this series about your trip to Paris. Can’t wait to read the rest.
    Thanks,
    Jason

  66. This argument over savings is dumb. The vacation, would darious have had to pay for it, would have cost about 32k he only paid 2k. Who cares whether its “real” savings or not.

    If I was planning on going to McDonald’s to get $5 meal and instead decided to use a gift certificate for free apps dinner desert and drinks at a nice steak restaurant, I don’t think to myself this is awesome i am saving $5, I think that’s awesome I just saved $100.

    Darius, I guess they would like you to say I saved myself $1,000 and got upgraded from coach to first class and from cheap hotel X to a suite at the Park Hyatt Paris. You should add footnotes to all your titles now…

  67. Just thinking about it… what’s the point of using points at all if it’s not to “save” money? You could buy a full fare ticket and have a bang-up vacation to the location of your dreams- good. Or you could buy a ticket after shopping on fly.com and “save” money. Or you could “buy” a ticket using points and “save” even more money. Or you could “buy” a first class ticket using points and “save” even more. The readers of FF blogs are looking to use points to “save” money. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what this whole thing is about? Using points instead of money?

  68. gregorygrady

    @Corinne: I’m curious how many AA miles it cost you for the 6 nights at Fairmont Southampton in a Gold Level room. I just did a quick search and it costs over 300k AA miles for this room for 6 nights. Just curious if you paid that many miles or not. Seems you can get a regular room at this hotel via Travelzoo currently (note, only currently leading up to Hurricane season, possibly not when you went) for $150 per night. Granted it’s not Gold Level, but I’d personally always pay $1k rather than burn 300k+ AA miles. But again, I’m curious to see how much you got this for as if it’s a deal I’d definitely be interested in this…………………

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  78. hi daraius, i am not a diamond member with hyatt. my question is regarding the hyatt passport escapes package w/breakfast option–do you know if that is similar to the free breakfast they offer diamond members? or do you think it is a dollar allowance of some sort for room service? please do tell! thanks!!

  79. @sash – I don’t know, but I suspect it is fairly similar to the Diamond allowance of 49 euros a day. You can email the hotel to ask them what is included for breakfast and dinner.

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  90. Hi Darius, is the Hyatt passport escape that includes some breakfast and dinners worth the points at the Hyatt Paris Vendome? I have 130,000 hyatt points and plan to spend 5 days or more in Paris next fall….just wondering if i can save some big bucks or not.

  91. Hello Darius,
    I’m trying to book this hotel but the rep is saying no regular rooms are available. Online I’m seeing all rooms are available. Can you tell me the room type you were in that wasn’t the suite? I want to book using the Hyatt 2 night certificates but they aren’t accepting this for my dates.

  92. @karen cagle – You will save money over the retail cost of breakfast, but there are cheaper options outside the hotel.

    @Krys – Try to book a standard award reservation. If you can book an award night, you can likely use your free nights. I believe the base room at the Park Hyatt is the Park Twin or Park Queen.

    @Bill – Sounds like a great trip!

  93. We just spend a month in 5 European cities flying LAX-IST-FCO return flight
    LHR-LAX on award tickets in Business Class. This also was a special occasion, our 40th Anniversary. We also used Hilton points to stay in the Rome Cavalieri and the London Park Lane. Paid cash for Hilton’s in IST, Paris and Athens. I didn’t calculate the full retail price for the trip, but I might just for kicks, but as far as I’m concerned we saved a lot of money using points and miles to pay for a lot of expensive components of the trip.

  94. I currently have 130,000 avios and will receive my travel together voucher for spending $30,000 in 1 calendar year. Can you suggest the best way to stretch these avios points for flying from Los Angeles to any destinations in the world for 2 people in first class? My husband and I are open to any trip ideas. Thank you.

  95. @Jean – Up to the 19th BA is having a 25% discount on the number of Avios points needed for travel. It costs 75K in 1st class from LA to London normally, but should be only 56,250 miles each way with the discount. You could easily go to Europe with the Avios points & travel together voucher. The Wandering Aramean calculator is a great way to see how many Avios it costs to different destinations.

  96. Great post. How long did it take for your Travel Together ticket to post after your statement date for the month you earned it?

  97. @Mo N – I can’t remember, but I think it took ~2 weeks.

  98. Thank you for letting me know! My statment ended one week ago so I’m hoping it’s there by next week then. I’m just crossing my fingers that the flights I want to book (last week of August) don’t disappear by then.

  99. Some folks can get 2 on 1 day after calling the reconsideration line and more after a month. But I don’t know how it will turn out for you.

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  107. I like it. It is so impressive that you guys are able to saving so much money. I’m a college student on a tight budget, hopefully, I will be able to apply these strategies for myself so I can travel even more. I actually just went to Paris by myself 3 weeks ago.

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