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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!
Marciana 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 Marciana for sharing her family’s story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
My name is Marciana Gillispie and I have been involved with the miles and points obsession about a decade now.
It started with my trans-Pacific journey to China with a student archeology program. There was a Delta promotion at the time, and I racked up quite a number of miles with that trip. Since then, I’ve been hooked!
What was the goal of your trip?
For a family of 5 was to move to Papua New Guinea for cheap.
We moved there to aid indigenous people in the rainforest of that country. We stayed for about 9 months and my health didn’t hold up like I hoped it would. So, we used miles and points to come back home.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
We collected miles and points for about a year to travel there with our family.
We also lived on the road that year and had many travels to help up rack up more points.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We used Southwest points to travel from Florida to Los Angeles.
We used a layover in Las Vegas to have another destination to see, and give our kids a good night sleep before our long trans-Pacific flight.
We collected American Airlines and US Airways miles before the merger. It happened to work out that we were leaving when they combined the frequent flyer programs.
We had a stopover in Honolulu and stayed there for a week before we got back on the plane.
We also took advantage of a flight schedule with an overnight stop in Sydney. Then, we flew to Brisbane the next morning. And used Qantas to fly to Papua New Guinea.
We collected points from Starwood, Marriott, and IHG for hotels on our trip.
How did you search for and find the award flights?
We used several travel blogs, including Million Mile Secrets, for advice.
And we used our favorite site, ITA Matrix, to figure out which route around the world would be best for us.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
We used blogs to guides us on the best ways to search. And IHG PointBreaks to see if we could spend fewer points.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Traveling with 2 adults, 2 toddlers, and an infant was the most difficult. We made sure to take plenty of stops.
Also, when possible, take an Australian carrier if you have an infant. They have diapers and baby food on board. They are very parent-oriented.
Make sure the trans-Pacific airplane you fly has a bassinet option, so you don’t have to hold the baby the whole 10-hour trip. This is very important if you have more than one child.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Papua New Guinea is a developing nation so it is very natural.
When in the capital, stay at Missionary Home Mapang. It is full of friendly expats and very inexpensive.
Hotels are very expensive, so I would avoid them if possible. The Holiday Inn Port Moresby is nice if you have IHG points or want to stay in a recognized chain.
It is necessary to always be aware of your belongings and stay in regular populated areas if you are a tourist. Also, the educated know English. But you may want to learn some phrases in Tok Pisin, the trade language.
Papua New Guinea has a few notable attractions. It’s been mentioned in “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” The Kokoda Trail is a nice hiking trail with World War II history.
Aloutau is a beautiful place to dive. The Highlands singing is fantastic!
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
I learned I do have limitations. I learned I have an insatiable wanderlust. And I learned I love showing my kids the world, no matter how small they are.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Don’t fall into the “I’d like to take a vacation” trap.
You can take a vacation. Just be smart about how to collect points (or start collecting points) using the expenses you already have.
Stay current with blogs so you don’t miss out on limited-time deals.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, don’t put traveling off! Seize the moment.
Papua New Guinea is one of the few countries left that hasn’t really experienced Westernization yet. It is a real gem. Go and see it!
Want to Share Your Story?
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!