A Dream Trip to Japan in Business Class and Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles & Points!

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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 Dream Trip To Japan In Business Class And Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles Points

Awesome View of Kyoto From the Arashiyama Monkey Park

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.

A Dream Trip To Japan In Business Class And Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles Points

The Peace Dome in Hiroshima Is a Very Moving Experience

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 milesChase 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.

A Dream Trip To Japan In Business Class And Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles Points

Exploring the Streets of Old Kyoto

I would recommend:

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?

For our accommodations, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo using the 2 free nights sign-up bonus from the Chase Hyatt card (paid rates were about $700 a night, so this was a $1,400 value).

A Dream Trip To Japan In Business Class And Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles Points

Amazing View From Our Room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo!

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!

We also stayed at the Intercontinental ANA Tokyo using 50,000 IHG points and the annual free night certificate (paid nights were about $300 a night, $600 total value).

A Dream Trip To Japan In Business Class And Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles Points

Amazing Free Breakfast with a View of Tokyo Bay at the Conrad Tokyo!

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.  

A Dream Trip To Japan In Business Class And Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles Points

Going up the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the #1 Thing to Do in Kyoto According to TripAdvisor!

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!

A Dream Trip To Japan In Business Class And Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles Points

Crossing the Famous Packed Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo!

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!

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5 responses to “A Dream Trip to Japan in Business Class and Luxury Hotels Made Possible With Miles & Points!

  1. It took only six months to get all the bonus points? How much spending was required to get all of the sign-up bonuses for this trip?

    Does the IHG card offer the free annual certificate in the first year or on the anniversary? I thought it was the latter

    • Hi John,

      American airline cards had a spending requirement of $3,000 each. Chase ink plus had a spending requirement of $5,000, SPG $3,000 , Hilton reserve $2,500 and Hyatt $1,000. Started saving in Oct 2015 and finished booking everything in June – July. Although most of the trip was booked somewhere in the spring. Some cards I signed up and some my wife signed up for.

      The IHG card annual free night is on the anniversary.

  2. Let’s be clear here. He neither SAVED $10,000 on the roundtrip flights nor $4,000+ on hotels in Japan because he never would have spent that much money on the flights or hotels had he paid cash. All he saved was whatever cost he would have incurred if he booked a coach flight and stayed at a less than aspirational-type hotels. What I just said doesn’t take away from his smart use of points to book his trip to japan and travel in luxury but to say he “saved” $10,000 is a bit of a stretch.

  3. I did a similar trip before, but slightly more complicated, with stops in a couple of more countries. To CJ’s point, if it is for a special occasion, ppl will spend more on hotels at least (different ppl might have different priorities). So to be fair, the saving would still be around $2000 for air fare, and 3000~4000 for the 11 night hotel (tiny hostel like room took me close to $150 a night in Tokyo FYI)

  4. @CJ Exactly right. Additionally, the hotel room rate figures are significantly less if booked in advance, even at a refundable rate. Comparing against room rates shown at the time of the stay (i.e. $700 Conrad Tokyo) is inspiring but not the whole story.
    Still a solid trip though!