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!
Leanne 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 Leanne for sharing her story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
I’m Leanne Passafonti.
I’ve been collecting miles for a while now but only seriously for about the last 3 years.
What was the goal of your trip?
A first wedding anniversary trip to Maui from Los Angeles for 9 days with flights and hotel completely covered by points. We wanted to stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Ka`anapali.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
The hotel points were collected solely from stays and spend at Hyatt hotels (largely from my husband’s business trips) since we didn’t have a credit card to collect Hyatt points with.
It took around 18 months to collect the 160,000 Hyatt points needed.
The 50,000 British Airways Avios points we needed for the flights didn’t take long to collect with a combination of credit card spend and trans-Atlantic flights for business and our honeymoon. We already had plenty of miles in our British Airways household account which allows us to jointly collect miles.
So the 50,000 points for this trip didn’t make too much of a dent, which was good because we wanted to save more points for another trip to Japan later this year. We’ll be flying out in First Class and back in Business Class!
Which points did you save to take your trip?
- Hyatt points for the hotel – Hyatt Regency Maui (160,000 points)
- British Airways Avios points for the flight (50,000 British Airways Avios points for 2 people to fly round-trip in coach)
How did you search for and find the award flights?
I used the British Airways website to search for award flights from Los Angeles to Maui. I did this ~9 months in advance of our trip because we wanted to fly on our anniversary and luckily, we were able to fly on that date!
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
I used the Hyatt website to secure our accommodation with points.
Because we didn’t have enough points to book the whole stay to begin with, I booked 6 nights first so those were secured. And then added the other 2 nights when we collected enough points.
That way, worst case scenario, we’d only have to pay for a couple of nights if there wasn’t availability for the other 2 award nights when the time got near.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Getting the return flight – there were plenty of available award seats for the Los Angeles – Maui part. But not for the return!
We had to be flexible and fly back a couple of days later to get the award flight. But this just meant a longer vacation so we can’t complain!
The British Airways website is good for searching award flights, but I do wish they’d have a month view. Searching day-by-day can get tedious if you aren’t fortunate enough to find a seat on the dates you’d like.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Definitely do the Road to Hana. It’s not nearly as treacherous as the guide books say. And it really allows you to see the “real Maui” outside the big resorts and tourist spots.
The waterfalls are beautiful – definitely go for a swim near one!
I’d also recommend going to see the Lava Tubes, which is a fascinating experience. And there are some great spots to get fruit, banana bread, or crepes along the road to Hana like the Huelo Point Lookout and Hana Farm Foods.
I’d highly recommend renting a car for the Road to Hana. And also to do some driving around the island to see some quieter spots. We drove all around the island.
For a quieter and even better spot, check out Makena Bay in South Maui where there are so many green turtles – one even came right onto a little beach for us!
The Secret Cove (also in South Maui) is a fun spot (although not that secret now). It’s a pretty postcard-sized strip of sand.
The Lahaina Grill in Lahaina is a lovely restaurant and worth checking out for a treat. For lunches on the go try the LahainaLuna Cafe in Lahaina or The Waterfront Deli inside the Whalers General Store at the back of the Shops at Wailea in South Maui, which has tasty sandwiches and poke bowls.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
That we love a great deal! The taxes on our flights were just $20 for the 2 of us. And with no resort fees or parking to pay, our flight and hotel cost us just $20 for 9 days and we saved over $6,500!
We’re also not the type of people to sit still and relax for a week. We love to get out and see and do things. Even on our honeymoon.
However, sometimes the rest is just what you need to recuperate. And 9 days in Maui was the perfect way to do it. Plenty of time to see some of the island and also spend some time relaxing by the pool or over a couples massage.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Definitely check Maui out!
It’s a beautiful place with a lot to offer. We loved our time there.
I’d highly recommend looking at what hotels there are, and whether you already have any points with any of those chains. Or if there are any credit cards with great sign up bonuses for any of them.
The great thing about the Hyatt Regency Maui, however, is that if you’re staying on points, they waive the resort fees which can really add up. And if you’re a Hyatt Diamond elite status member, you get access to the Regency Club Lounge where you’ll receive free continental breakfast each morning (the breakfast buffet in Swan Court would set you back over $30 per person per day!) and snacks and dessert in the evening.
However, the light bites were actually enough for us to have dinner so we got many of our meals for free!
Hyatt Diamond elite status members also get to use the valet parking for the same price as the self-park. And if you choose to use the self-park, they’ll comp your parking for you which will save another $18 a day!
Another great perk for Diamond Members is the all-day happy hour menu at Umalu – the pool bar. This got us $8 cocktails, $6 wine, and $4 beer, plus ‘snacks’ like the buffalo chicken tenders and fries my husband had for just $4, which was easily big enough for lunch and a great deal!
One other tip, if you choose the Hyatt Regency Maui: take up the offer of doing a tour of their Hyatt Residence Club property next door. It’s a 90-minute tour but it’s not a hard sell timeshare presentation.
What’s more, once you complete the tour, there are a range of gifts on offer including for the nightly Luau and the Spa (which we chose and received $225 in vouchers towards treatments of our choice).
While Ka’anapali and Lahaina are lovely, it does get crowded (even when we went in May). So I’d suggest if you have plenty of Hyatt points to spare, the Andaz Maui in Wailea would be a quieter, more high-end option for 25,000 Hyatt points per night (though it’s harder to find award nights). But if your dates are flexible, it would be worth it!
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!