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One of the best ways to use miles & points is to make unforgettable memories with loved ones. And even better if you include once-in-a-lifetime experiences most folks normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
Million Mile Secrets team member Keith recently returned from a 25,000 mile around-the-world honeymoon to Amsterdam, Cape Town, Dubai, Bali, and Singapore. I’ll let him tell you about it!
Keith: Thanks Daraius! My wife Liz and I built up hundreds of thousands of miles from credit card sign-up bonuses and bank promotions that we used to visit 5 countries on an around-the-world honeymoon.
Due to work commitments, we only had 17 days to circle the globe. This might not seem like enough time for such a trip. But, I’ll explain how we made the most of our time and enjoyed a romantic dinner at one of Amsterdam’s top restaurants, rest and relaxation in Bali, a beautiful hike and Afternoon Tea in Cape Town, cultural experiences in Dubai, and much more!
I’m happy to share how I paid ~$6,700 for a trip with a retail cost of ~$53,000!
Around-the-World Honeymoon Trip Series:
- Part 1 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Introduction & Planning
- Part 2 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Booking Flights
- Part 3 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Booking Hotels
- Part 4 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Making Airports More Enjoyable
- Part 5 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Highlights of Amsterdam, Cape Town, Dubai, Bali, and Singapore
- Part 6 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Tips to Book YOUR Trip!
Which Airline Flies to Which Country?
Before transferring miles and points to a specific airline, I had to research the best flight options. Then, determine if any of the miles and points we saved up could be used to book award flights.
Because we planned on visiting 5 countries in 17 days, we wanted to book non-stop flights. Or, if a flight required a layover, figure out if we could use airline routing rules to visit that country without paying more miles or cash.
My personal favorite way to search for flights is using the very easy Google Flights.
For example, we knew after Amsterdam our next stop would be Cape Town. I searched Google Flights for non-stop Business Class flights from Amsterdam to Cape Town.
Similarly, we used the same method to search flights from Cape Town to Denpasar, Bali. Because non-stop options are not available between the 2 countries, we had to find the best option with 1 stop.
Google Flights shows the shortest travel time between the 2 countries is 21+ hours on Emirates with a 3 hour layover in Dubai. Instead of waiting at the airport, we stayed a full day and night in Dubai and continued our flight the next day with no added charges to our airfare!
Airline Award Bookings vs. Paid Airfare
After picking our flight routes, the next step was to decide whether to book award tickets or paid airfare.
Using miles is great way to reduce or eliminate the out-of-pocket cost of airfare. But, sometimes the value you get for booking flights with miles is too low (i.e. our Emirates Business Class flight).
So, for us it made sense to pay cash for certain airfare and save miles for a different flight. Everyone has their own personal preference.
Here’s how we booked the flights for our journey.
JetBlue Mint Business Class Using Citi ThankYou Points
Liz and I live in California, but our wedding was in New Jersey. So, the first part of our journey was a transcontinental flight from Los Angeles to New York (JFK).
Last year, we opened Citigold checking accounts and each earned 50,000 ThankYou points. Unlike ThankYou points earned from the Citi ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige, you can NOT transfer these points directly to an airline.
But, you can use them to book travel through the Citi ThankYou portal. And, because we have the Citi ThankYou Premier, we got a 25% bonus for booking travel with our Citi ThankYou points.
Here’s a great post on What You Can (and Can’t!) Do With Citi ThankYou Points From a Checking Account.
We were so impressed with the JetBlue Mint Business Class experience that we applied for the JetBlue Plus Card after getting back from our honeymoon!
Delta Business Class Using American Express Membership Rewards Points
Delta no longer publishes an award chart, which made it difficult when planning our flight to Amsterdam. The screenshot below shows how extremely challenging it can be to find the cheapest available one-way Business Class award seats for 62,500 Delta miles.
Luckily, we were able to book 2 Business Class award seats for 62,500 Delta miles each or 125,000 Delta miles total.
To book our flight, we transferred American Express Membership Rewards points to our Delta accounts.
Note: American Express charges a fee of 0.06 cents per point up to a maximum of $99 when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to a US airline.
The transfers occurred instantly and we booked our flights on Delta’s website right away.
At the time of our booking, the cash cost of the same flight was ~$7,025 each. So using our AMEX Membership Rewards points resulted in a huge savings!
KLM Business Class Using American Express Membership Rewards Points
KLM is the only airline with non-stop flights between Amsterdam and Cape Town.
Because KLM is part of the SkyTeam alliance, you can use Delta miles to book a KLM award flights. So, that’s just what we did!
Similar to our Delta flight, we each transferred 62,500 American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta to book the KLM Business Class award flight.
We could have saved ~30,000 Delta miles and ~$190 each by booking one ticket from Newark to Cape Town with a short layover in Amsterdam. But, we wouldn’t have been able to stay the night in Amsterdam, which was a lot of fun. And, award seats were not available for the dates we wanted. So, it would have delayed the start of our honeymoon.
Or, we could have transferred AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue, which is the Air France and KLM award program. But, award seats for our specific flight cost more miles through Flying Blue, so we decided to book through Delta.
Emirates Business Class Using Cash
Instead of using miles or points, we decided to pay cash for our Emirates Business Class flight from Cape Town to Bali with a layover in Dubai.
The flight cost ~$1,400 each, which seemed cheap considering we were flying more than 9,300 miles in Business Class.
And, unlike major US airlines, some international airlines do not charge high cancellation fees. For ~$25, we were able to cancel and rebook our flight when the price dropped. This saved us ~$800 total!
We could have transferred Starwood points or AMEX Membership Rewards points to Emirates to book the same flight and save money. But, it would have required using ~100,000 points each. Nearly the same amount of points transferred to Singapore Airlines got us a flight worth ~$7,500!
We flew on two separate Emirates flights including:
- Cape Town to Dubai
- Dubai to Bali
Only the first flight was a 3 class cabin with coach, Business Class, and First Class. When we checked in at the Cape Town airport, we had the chance to upgrade from Business Class to First Class for 35,000 Emirates miles each. Or, we could pay ~$2,000 to upgrade once we boarded.
Liz and I decided not to upgrade. We were flying on the Boeing 777 and not the Airbus A380 with the bar and showers. And, we wanted to save our points for more trips in the future!
In the end, it was a great choice because the experience in Business Class was outstanding!
Singapore Airlines Business Class Suites Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
We flew Singapore Airlines from Bali to Singapore. This was the shortest flight of our honeymoon trip (~2+ hours).
Despite the short duration of the flight, we were amazed by the menu and service onboard. We enjoyed a full lunch, great wine, and excellent service.
And, the flight only cost ~15,000 Singapore Airlines miles per person. To book, we transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore Airlines.
Singapore Airlines First Class Suites Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Booking 2 Singapore Airlines First Class Suites tickets was more of an art than a science.
We were looking forward to flying Singapore Airlines First Class Suites for the last flight of our honeymoon from Singapore to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, there were no saver award seats available for our desired departure date, so the award flights required a lot of miles.
So, we transferred enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore Airlines to book a standard award ticket. But, before we booked the standard award, we signed-up for the waitlist saver award tickets on the same flight.
Singapore Airlines doesn’t take any miles from your account to be on the waitlist. But, you must have enough miles in your account should the waitlist seat become available.
Sure enough, 7 days before our flight, I received 2 e-mails confirming waitlist seats were available.
I was able to cancel our existing booking for the standard award seats and book the saver award seats at the lower cost. The result was ~175,000 Singapore Airlines miles deposited back into my account! We’re looking forward to using these miles for our next trip!
The food, service, and comfort of Singapore Airlines First Class Suites were all amazing!
Booking multiple award flights on different airlines can take patience. But the flying experience is well worth it!
You’ll have flexibility booking award flights by earning American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood points. Because you can transfer them to many different airlines!
You can book a waitlist saver ticket for Singapore Airlines First Class Suites. Then, book a standard award to confirm your seat on the the flight. Wait and see if a waitlist seat opens up to save thousands of Singapore Airlines miles!
In the next part of the series, I’ll explain exactly how I booked the hotels for our trip!