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 and Amy are 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 and Amy for sharing their story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
Rod and Amy.
We never traveled until our 10-year wedding anniversary back in 2001. That is when we discovered the joys of travel.
I started to do some research into this strange new world. In 2011, curiosity turned into a full-blown obsession. My official start date as a credit card fanatic would be around 2013.
My first trip with miles and points was to Tahiti, but I still forked over some cash. Then, I did a trip last year to the Maldives where I was able to score a $15,000 trip for $4,400. March 2016 was the trip of all trips where our 12-day vacation took us to Bora Bora. I’m now at the top of my game in this fun hobby!
What was the goal of your trip?
To get the total retail price as high as possible while keeping my out-of-pocket cost as close to zero as I could.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I would say this trip is a year and a half worth of collecting.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
I used my American Airlines miles (from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card) to book round-trip First and Business Class tickets for 2 on American Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Papeete, Tahiti.
I booked prior to the devaluation so it cost me 125,000 American Airlines miles and ~$78 in taxes. There are no options from Papeete to Bora Bora other than paying for a ticket on Air Tahiti Nui as they do not have a mileage program. Those 2 tickets cost me ~$826.
In Bora Bora, we stayed at two separate IHG properties. These points were earned on our Chase IHG credit card and from the various bonus promotions IHG has throughout the year.
Our total was 410,000 IHG points. We did have to fork over almost $1,000 as we did pay for one night on the BOGO free night.
On the return trip home, we had an overnight stay at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I used my free night certificate earned from my Chase Hyatt credit card. Now that is a price I can live with!
How did you search for and find the award flights?
American Airlines made it very easy to search for the flights. They show Air Tahiti Nui on their site which is a major plus when searching!
A key point on attempting 2 Business Class award tickets on Air Tahiti Nui is to book as close as possible to 331 days out. It was nerve-racking to put this trip together – and you have to be flexible on dates.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
IHG has a very easy website to navigate and finding the hotels was a no-brainer.
Booking award nights at a popular destination is where things get tricky. The key is to check their site over a long period of time and you can see patterns on how they offer award nights and how fast they disappear.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora was super easy for award nights.
Most any day is available when booking a year out. The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa is where things get difficult because, for the most part, it only has available award nights at 2 times during the year.
What I mean by that is you have to literally be on your computer after midnight when the next day’s inventory comes out (from what I can tell they offer 2 rooms) almost a year in advance. The only other time I saw award nights become available is about a week prior to the actual day of the stay.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Everyone needs to have at least one meal at Bloody Mary’s. It is a great place to get a feel of island life. Come early and stay late. This is island time so do not expect the service to be fast. Relax and enjoy!
Another great restaurant is a little place called Lucky House. Great food, cold drinks, friendly staff, and a fair price is what you will get here. It is another place to kick back and just chill.
The sting ray feeding at the Thalasso was our favorite thing to do every day at 2:00 pm. They give you food so you actually feed them yourself.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
Amy and I have been thinking about retiring and moving to the beach in about 6 years.
This extended vacation confirmed we are more than ready to lounge around and do nothing but enjoy everything that beach life has to offer!
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Book your trips as far out as possible if you are trying to book an extremely popular place like Bora Bora with miles or points. Award flights and award nights are limited so the early bird gets the worm when it comes to rewards.
If you are new to miles and points my advice is to take all of this in baby steps. There is a learning curve to collecting and booking miles and points.
The Chicago Seminar is a great place to meet up and gain knowledge on this hobby. I am glad I went last October and I might go again this year.
Travel blogs like Million Mile Secrets keep you up-to-date on all of the latest changes to the game. Miles and points reduced this trip from its retail price of ~$35,389 down to ~$2,045 – so it is possible to travel like you have never traveled before!
Safe travels everyone!
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!