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!
Carla 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 Carla for sharing her story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
My name is Carla Theriot.
I got involved in miles and points seriously after seeing Randy Petersen on Good Morning America. I was already set up on the idea of using credit cards to pay off debt with 0% interest credit cards. But seeing Randy was my big catalyst for using miles and points to travel.
What was the goal of your trip?
This was my KIDS ARE OUT OF THE HOUSE trip! For my girlfriend and me.
We wanted to go to Thailand, get massages, eat Thai food, and see the country. We traveled in October of 2014.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
We collected miles for 6 months for the flights.
For our hotels, my husband already had a ton of points because he travels so much and had elite status with Hilton and IHG. But I knew we wanted to stay at Hyatt so I did a status match to get Diamond elite status for the trip (which I learned about from Million Miles Secrets!).
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We used 120,000 United Airlines miles for each round-trip flight.
We flew to New York and then to Taiwan in Business Class on EVA Air. Three days later, we flew Business Class in Thai Airways to Bangkok.
We then flew First Class in Thai Airways to Paris on the way home. Then United Airlines Business Class to Newark. Finally, United Airlines First Class back to Houston (IAH).
For hotels, we used Hyatt points in Taiwan.
We stayed at the St. Regis in Bangkok for 2 days. I paid 12,000 Starwood points for one night. And Starwood ran a promotion right before that trip that if you paid for a room they gave you a room.
So I booked a $75 room in New Orleans for a friend and got a free room. I wish I would have done a bunch more.
Then we stayed 2 nights at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok with Hyatt points. We then flew to Phuket where we stayed at Andara Resort. I found these $1,500 per night 2,000 square foot villas with a private pool on top for $49 a night on Sky Auction. Three nights cost us less than $300 with taxes and fees!
We then changed to the Le Meridian Chiang Mai and stayed 3 nights, which we just paid for. It was only $75 a night with free breakfast because I was a Starwood Gold elite member. We stayed 2 nights at the Elephant Place that we paid a nominal fee for also.
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
- Chase Ink Preferred
- Chase United Explorer Card
- Chase Hyatt
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
How did you search for and find the award flights?
We used Mero at PointsPros because it was so complicated and we were doing a stopover and changing airlines.
This was my first big international First Class flight. It was $75 a person to have PointsPros secure the award flights back then. Let him have the headache of booking that!
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
I did all the hotels. I love researching on TripAdvisor and reading reviews. 🙂
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
We booked our flights right before United Airlines changed their valuation in February 2014, so we were booked 10 months early.
The hardest part was for me to figure out our itinerary and where we would stay. I probably changed hotels a dozen times. We wanted luxury for the least expensive price.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Taiwan was fabulous. The food was phenomenal, and the foot massages were to die for. But it’s expensive. Figure out the trains. They are clean and so easy to ride.
In Chiang Mai, the women’s prison was our favorite place to get massages and we ate at Lemongrass restaurant at least 10 times the food was so good. We just kept going back.
Take a cooking class. It’s amazing how fast they cook their food. So good. Phuket is a tourist trap. We had originally scheduled longer there but there were too many tourists, so we left early.
Don’t buy your domestic flights within Thailand until you need them. My girlfriend didn’t want to go without tickets, we ended up throwing away flights and booking new because it was cheaper ($50) to just book new flights.
The Tuk Tuk drivers in Bangkok are going to take you to the tailor no matter how many times you tell them not to. Just accept it.
We hired a driver for a day and had him bring us to where he eats. One of the best meals we had on the trip for a fraction of the price.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
I learned that I’m pretty good at booking trips! I pay attention to a lot of details.
Now, I only will fly out of one of the international airports near me. Because after flying into Newark, I had to connect twice to get back home. I was so tired after 19 days of travel.
That was my biggest lesson. Now I only book out the 3 international airports near my city of Lafayette, Louisiana.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
It’s so easy. Having a bunch of credit cards doesn’t ruin your credit. And you can literally go on the trip of your dreams in less than a year.
We all spend money – you might as well get something for the money you spend.
Our trip ended up costing us 120,000 United Airlines miles each (at the time) to fly Business and First Class. Thai First Class is amazing on the big double decker plane.
We spent less than 100,000 hotel points. And we were out of pocket $2,500 each for 19 days (~$132 a day).
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!