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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!
Thomas and his family are our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.
A big thank you to Thomas for sharing their story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
Thomas Webster. Since December 2010.
What was the goal of your trip?
To take our children to London, Paris, and Amsterdam for the first time and for my wife and I to revisit.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
About three years. But there was no deliberate planning involved. It was a spur of the moment decision!
We are a US Army family currently stationed in South Korea. My wife and kids typically go back to Kansas City each summer. I was being stubborn and didn’t want to pay for tickets to go someplace we frequently visited.
That is when my wife said she would like to visit New York with the kids, then see her family in North Carolina.
So I thought, why not Europe on the way home? We were sold!
Which points did you save to take your trip?
Before the American-US Airways merger I collected both, and had four US Airways cards with the 40,000 mile bonus on first spend. My wife had three.
Also, we got a total of three Citi AAdvantage Executive cards with a 100,000 miles bonus [EXPIRED] for another 300,000 American Airlines miles. I got two, and my wife one.
- Southwest points for flights to New York and Charlotte, then back to Kansas City.
- Hotel in New York was with IHG, as was Paris – Intercontinental Paris – Le Grand.
- London hotel, we used 90,000 Hilton points at the Hampton London Waterloo, near the Waterloo train station.
- Paid for Eurostar from London to Paris with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
- British Airways Avios points for my Seoul to London flight – flew Business Class in the Dreamliner! 🙂
How did you search for and find the award flights?
I used the American Airlines website and called to book partner award flights.
For the Southwest award flights, I looked on the Southwest website. And I checked the British Airways website to book an award flight with British Airways Avios points.
My wife and three children flew:
- American Airlines in First Class from Seoul, South Korea, to Kansas City (210,000 American Airlines miles and ~$185).
- Then, on Southwest from Kansas City to New York (~$26 plus $40 for Early Bird – about 12,000 Southwest points per person).
- From there, American Airlines from New York to Charlotte (7,500 American Airlines miles per person and minimal fee).
- And Southwest from Charlotte back to Kansas City (24,000 Southwest points and $5.60 per person)
- On the way back to South Korea, they flew American Airlines from Kansas City to London
I flew Business Class from Seoul to meet them in London using British Airways Avios points ($200 in taxes, but don’t remember how many I redeemed).
All five of us flew Cathay Pacific Business Class from Paris back to Seoul, with a connection in Hong Kong (55,000 American Airlines miles and $110 per person).
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
On the Hilton and IHG websites (used 2 free nights from the Chase IHG card – one from my card and one from my wife’s). We also stayed at the IBIS by the train station in London and paid with the AMEX Platinum Card.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Getting all the seats in Business Class. I solved it by making two reservations – as group of two and group of three.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
London – just go out and walk. Be sure to visit Curry Street for wonderful curry. Watford for Harry Potter – book tickets in advance. The London Eye and London Dungeons are a bunch of fun. See Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre! My kids loved it and they are 15, 13 and 11.
Amsterdam – again, just go out and walk. Spend time in Dam Square. Read Anne Frank’s diary and visit her house. Vondelpark is beautiful – get lunch from Albert Heijn and eat in the park. Rent a paddle-boat and cruise around the canals. The Van Gogh museum interested my children more than I expected.
Paris – yet again, just go out and walk. This trip was quick so we walked from the hotel to the Jardin des Tuileries to the Arc de Triomphe (which we went up again).
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
You can survive every day with each other if you plan appropriately.
I am usually one to stick with a schedule. But I used the schedule as a starting point or guide, and went from there.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Don’t be like me and have no strategy – my trip worked due in part to dumb luck. Take the leap to sign-up bonuses from credit cards. But have a list of cards and process to acquire them, especially the Chase 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!