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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!
David 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 David 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 David Guedes and I been into this hobby for ~2 years.
My brother was the one to first tell me about miles and points. In fact, the blog he referred me to was Million Mile Secrets! So this was actually the blog that kicked off my hobby into collecting miles and points.
What was the goal of your trip?
My goal for this particular trip was to enjoy the wonderful culture that Japan has to offer. As well as take advantage of the opportunities to stay at some aspirational hotels and fly in Business Class to Asia.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I collected miles and points for ~6 months for this trip.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
American Airlines miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, 2 Hyatt free night certificates from the Chase Hyatt card, 2 Hilton free weekend night certificates from the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, IHG points, and Starwood points.
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
Even though American Airlines has since devalued their award chart, they still have good value for traveling in Business Class to Asia.
I would recommend:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Hyatt card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®
- Citi Hilton Reserve card
How did you search for and find the award flights?
I searched for my outbound flight using the British Airways search tool, as well as the JAL search tool.
Once I found space, I called American Airlines and booked a one-way for myself and my wife, which cost me 50,000 American Airlines miles each plus about $6 in fees.
We were able to get a 60,000 mile offer for the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select card in the mail.
For our return flight we used Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Plus (no longer available) sign-up bonuses. We then transferred our points to Korean Airlines.
The cost was 62,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points each for a total of 125,000 points plus ~$200 in taxes and fees. I imagine a round-trip ticket for myself and my wife would have been about $10,000 (or more!).
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
We stayed a total of 5 nights at the Westin Miyako Kyoto using Starwood points from the 35,000 point signup bonus offer on the AMEX Starwood card. Each night cost us 10,000 Starwood points. But because the 5th night was free, we only needed 40,000 Starwood points.
Once we were done meeting the minimum spending requirements, we were at 38,000 points. Then we purchased 2,000 more points to get enough points for this award stay. Paid nights were about $400 a night, so we saved over $2,000!
Finally, we stayed at the Conrad Tokyo using the 2 free weekend nights signup bonus from the Citi Hilton Reserve (paid nights were about $700 a night. We also got upgraded to a King Executive room thanks to our Diamond elite status!).
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Thankfully the planning process went smoothly! But finding award seats on JAL was a bit tricker and took patience.
At the time, there were plenty of seats available in American Airlines Business Class. But we were determined to fly JAL due to their superior Business Class.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Where do I start? Haha. Japan is a magical place!
The people, the culture, the food, and the architecture were just amazing. I definitely recommend renting a pocket Wi-Fi, which is a necessity due to the language barrier.
On this trip, we had the privilege to spend a good amount of time exploring Tokyo and Kyoto. Both are amazing places and very different from each other. They offer a unique contrast – Tokyo represents modern Japan and Kyoto is a glimpse into traditional Japan.
Definitely get lost exploring exciting and vibrant Tokyo. You will have so much fun at every turn seeing all kinds of unique and fun things going on. And do not miss the wonderful shrines and temples in Kyoto!
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
On this trip, I learned it definitely is possible to experience a country I never thought I could visit without spending a fortune! Nevermind flying in Business Class and staying at some of the nicest properties Tokyo has to offer!
I also learned traveling is definitely one of the greatest things in life. And I’m very excited for what the future has in store for traveling the world and helping others travel for less as well.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
I would say go for it!
I understand many might be skeptical at first. But I can assure you that you can in fact travel just about anywhere in the world at a price many can afford!
As long as you are responsible with your credit cards and don’t accumulate debt, you can enjoy traveling for cheap or even free. The free trips you can get far outweigh the temporary credit score hit you might get from signing-up for multiple credit cards.
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!