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!
Juan 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 Juan for sharing his story!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
My name is Juan Sierra. It’s been ~4.5 years since I opened my first rewards credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Living in Atlanta, I thought I would use the sign-up bonus to fly on Delta. But I obviously didn’t do my homework, because Delta is NOT a
Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. Quite the rookie mistake, but I quickly learned tricks to fly Delta using Chase Ultimate Reward points, like booking Delta partner awards with Korean Air miles.
What was the goal of your trip?
My wife and I wanted to visit Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve, to see our Georgia Bulldogs play in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 75 years! It was a long shot, especially with a newborn baby. Because we were worried it would be too difficult for our parents to babysit her for 2 full days.
After heated negotiations, my wife ultimately decided to stay in Atlanta.
She agreed I could go with my friend Gus instead. But only if I shortened the trip to 1 night and promised to buy her a piece of jewelry (gulp!).
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
Not long at all. By earning the sign-up bonus from 2 Chase Southwest cards in early 2017, I had the 110,000 Southwest points needed to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass through the end of 2018!
Even after using some of our Southwest points earlier in the year, we still had a good stash left over from those credit card bonuses. And although we were hoping to save our points for the upcoming Southwest Hawaii routes, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for this trip!
Which points did you save to take your trip?
I only used Southwest points. My ticket was ~75,000 Southwest points, and Gus came along for free with my Southwest Companion Pass! Given the extremely high demand during that weekend, tickets would have cost ~$2,000 to ~$2,500 for each of us!
As for our hotel, I considered using 20,000 Hyatt points for 1 night at the Andaz West Hollywood. But the cash price for a double-queen room was only ~$225. And Gus agreed to pay for the hotel since his ticket was free.
Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
I’d recommend getting both the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card. That is the fastest way to get the Southwest Companion Pass.
Also, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Hyatt card is a good combo. You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt. And the Chase Hyatt card comes with Discoverist status, plus a free Category 1 to 4 award night each account anniversary.
How did you search and find the award flights?
I used Southwest’s site. I knew there wouldn’t be a better deal than using my Southwest Companion Pass for this particular situation.
I found Southwest’s mobile app easier than their desktop site. But I did need to call Southwest to change my companion from my wife to Gus.
The agent had to work fast to process the change and make sure our flights didn’t sell out in the process. I wish I remembered her name, because she was great!
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
I looked for Hyatt and Starwood hotels near the Burbank airport. The Andaz West Hollywood was a good price, so we stayed there. Plus, I recently completed the Globalist status challenge offered to Chase Hyatt cardmembers. And the possibility of getting a suite upgrade upon check-in was enticing.
What was the most challenging part of planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Our shortened itinerary meant we would have to go straight from the airport to the stadium for tailgating. And we wouldn’t be able to check-in until the game was over…much later in the evening.
I called the Andaz West Hollywood during halftime to see if there were any suites left, but they had all been taken. Luckily, they called me back later to let me know a double-queen suite had opened up and would be waiting for us after the game!
If you’re going to check in late, it’s always wise to call the hotel ahead of time to try to work something out.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
The setting around the stadium was breathtaking, with rolling hills and the iconic front facade.
We didn’t get to see much in Los Angeles. But if you’re a classic rock fan, definitely check out the Andaz West Hollywood! Our friend T.J. told us about Keith Richards throwing a TV out of a window in the hotel. And John Bonham once rode a motorcycle in the hallway!
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
My wife and I have made it a point to travel light and never check bags. For this trip, Gus and I had to take that principle to a new extreme, because we were going straight to the stadium from the airport.
We looked up the Rose Bowl bag policy (no backpacks, shoulder bags, or anything bigger than a woman’s clutch, really), and decided to travel with only the essentials. Including an extra shirt, a pair of underwear, socks, deodorant, toothbrushes, sunglasses, and a phone charger all stuffed into gallon-sized Ziploc bags! My wife even used a hole punch and string so I could hang the bag from my neck!
I also learned that sleep is overrated during an adrenaline-filled short stay!
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Do NOT hoard your rewards, because things are always changing in the miles & points world. If you find an opportunity that feels right, pounce on it.
Also, utilize your credit card perks. For example, during layovers in Denver, I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve’s Priority Pass membership to save ~$65 on meals during 2 visits to Timberline Steaks & Grille.
Additionally, I took advantage of an AMEX offer for StubHub and saved $15 on our Rose Bowl tickets. I also plan to use an AMEX offer for Fanatics.com, to buy UGA Rose Bowl gear. And another offer for a local jeweler, to honor my end of the deal with my wife. 😉
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!