Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.
Welcome to the next installment of our Reader Success Series where Million Mile Secrets Readers share how they booked a trip with miles & points to get Big Travel with Small Money!
Rod is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.
A big thank you to Rod for sharing his story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
My name is Rod Gonzalez and we have been collecting miles & points for 4.5 years.
What was the goal of your trip?
My original intent when we started collecting miles was to take the family to Paris, France, for a week with free flights and hotels. I didn’t believe it was possible, but was shocked to learn how easy it was with a specific plan.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
It took us a little over a year to have the right miles & points to accomplish our goal. Because my initial exuberance caused us to have miles in several programs, instead of with the partners necessary to achieve our family dream vacation.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We opened these credit cards:
This enabled us to have a stockpile of American Airline miles and IHG hotel points. We also used some Hyatt points that we already had for another hotel.
How did you search for and find the award flights?
Booking everything was very straightforward. We simply used the American Airlines search engine for award travel and found 5 coach seats our first time looking! Placing them on hold allowed us time to re-confirm this was a good idea. 🙂
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
Same with IHG and Hyatt hotel stays. A straightforward search netted us everything we needed for our vacation.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
As a family of 5, the biggest challenge is always getting a big enough room, or two rooms that connect.
The reservation agents weren’t willing to guarantee us a specific room. Emails to the General Manager helped somewhat, but again, nothing was guaranteed. Imagine part of my family in one wing and the other on the opposite side – first world problems!
When we arrived to the InterContinental Paris Le Grand, we presented the check-in clerk with candy we had brought from the US. She was surprised and very thankful.
Next thing we knew, we have two connecting rooms that were incredible! The ceilings were 20 feet tall. We overlooked the main street – great for people watching, and everything about it felt very royal. Every night they brought the kids chocolate chip cookies.
Did my small gift help? I think so. Ever since then, whenever we visit an international hotel we present a small gift upon check-in and we seem to get surprised with a nice upgrade or access to the club lounge.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
My first time with the kids we WALKED all the steps up the Eiffel Tower. It was 40 degrees out and we still talk about how great that was. Taking the elevator is too easy!
My advice is let your kids pick the places they want to visit. Our kids would pick a restaurant by the funniest looking name on the window. They shopped only at stores that also had unique, unpronounceable names. We found some great things at places we probably wouldn’t have normally entered.
Also don’t be afraid to walk everywhere. We shared candid moments just stumbling upon things…random statues, unique architecture, people watching, etc.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
What I really learned was my family is happiest being together.
I thought we needed to be in a crazy or exotic location to have fun. But at the end of the day, if we were all sitting on a dirt field we would still be having fun. As a parent you want to give your kids things you didn’t have, but sometimes all they want is you to be present and attentive.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
What would I say to folks…WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!!
My family has been blessed with travel to Australia, Aruba, Grand Cayman, Rome, Venice, China, Bora Bora, Thailand, South Africa, London, Pamplona, and India – not to mention the countless domestic trips on miles and points!
Life is short, LIVE IT. I know people who hoard miles and don’t use them – what’s the point? Stop waiting for tomorrow when your kids or friends or wife are ready for an adventure NOW!
I understand the hesitation to open a slew of cards, but if one card will get you somewhere, then take a chance and open it.
Think of the CRAZIEST place you want to visit and plan towards it slowly – we thought Bora Bora was a dream and with some patience it materialized.
For those on the fence, take the time to read a few blogs so you start to understand the power of credit card sign-up bonuses. Make a plan and slowly execute it.
Our first course of action is book the flight and hotel first…what we do at the destination can wait until we arrive. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
If you’d like to be considered for our reader success story series, please send me a note! Emily and I would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points!
* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 20,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another interview!