We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
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!
Mona 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 Mona 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 Mona. I have been in this hobby since October 2013.
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the miles and points blogs. But I am so thankful I did. It changed our spending habits and our travel goals!
What was the goal of your trip?
To be able to bring my whole family to a relaxing place without using up our savings or getting in debt. We are not yet looking into luxurious travel like First Class flights.
We just want to be able to stay in nice resorts without spending our life savings. 🙂
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
For 1 year.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
- American Airlines miles
- Barclaycard Arrival miles
- Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Delta miles
- United Airlines miles
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Bank of America Travel Rewards card
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard for me and husband (~$420 travel credit for me, ~$525 travel credit for husband)
- Chase Hyatt Visa for me and husband (4 free nights)
- Chase United MileagePlus® Explorer Card (50,000 United Airlines miles)
How did you search for and find the award flights?
Because I wanted to save my Chase Ultimate Rewards points and spend as little out-of-pocket as possible, I decided to book a one-way trip from San Francisco to Maui. And another one-way from Maui home to San Francisco with different miles:
- San Francisco to Maui – 67,500 United Airlines miles + $16.80 (tax and fees)
- Maui to San Francisco – 67,500 Delta miles + $16.80 (tax and fees)
- Then a round-trip flight in the middle from Maui to Kauai:
- Maui to Kauai round-trip – 45,000 American Airlines miles + $33.60 (tax and fees)
For the flights, we would have spent $2,254. Instead, we only spent $67.20.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
Initially, our booking was for 5 nights at The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui (240,000 Marriott points).
But one day before our trip, a room opened up at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort for Points + Cash (12,500 Hyatt points + $150). So we booked right away and modified our Ritz-Carlton reservation to only 1 night to avoid the $500 cancellation fee.
Our final charges looked like this. (I removed the food charges so these are only for the hotel charges only.)
- 1 night at The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui (would have cost $622, we used 60,000 Marriott points)
- Final charge was $37, charged to Neil’s Barclaycard Arrival Plus ($37 redeemed). Net cost FREE
- 4 nights at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort (would have cost $2,362, we used 37,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and one free night)
- Final charge was $707, charged $407 to my Barclaycard Arrival Plus ($407 redeemed), $300 to husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve ($300 travel credit). Net cost FREE
And last but not least:
- 3 nights Grand Hyatt Kauai (would have cost $1,200, we used 3 free nights)
- Final charge was $20.12, charged to my Bank of America Travel Rewards card (travel credit redeemed). Net cost FREE
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Finding a standard room at the Andaz Maui! But we were glad something opened up at the last minute. Must have been because of cancellations.
Also, another challenge was having 2 kids in tow. Be aware that if your kid is age 2 and up, they will be using the same miles as an adult! Ugh! But thanks to credit card sign-up bonuses, we were able to afford it!
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
We loved Andaz Maui! It was really worth the points and money spent!
Their beach is lovely, the sands were fine and they had beach boys that will set up lounge chairs and provide towels for you.
Also, when you are at the infinity pools, you have to try their sesame rolls and pork belly tacos! So good, so worth it!
To tell you the truth, you can stay at the Andaz Maui and just spend your whole stay there. The resort fee is $40 a night, but they have so many activities you can enjoy: ukelele classes, paddleboarding class, free GoPro rental, and many more!
We also recommend a group of food trucks across Costco parking lot near the airport. There’s a Thai food truck: Thai Mee Up.
Their Pad Thai and fried rice chicken were sooo delicious! And they were only $10 to $13 each. The portions were more enough for 2 people! So worth it.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
I learned to be more positive always!!! I was hoping to get room upgrades during our trip. So weeks before, I emailed the managers to request it. I wasn’t upgraded at the Andaz Maui. But was upgraded at the Ritz-Carlton. Grand Hyatt Kauai was upgraded, too.
On our first night, when we checked-in to the Andaz Maui, we were not upgraded. I admit, I was a bit disheartened.
But when my 4-year-old entered the room, she jumped on the bed and yelled, “This is the best room ever!!!! I love our room!” Right then, I realized even though your expectations don’t go as planned, what’s important is you are with your family. And to decide that no matter what, you will have fun!
After that, I appreciated every little thing on our trip, like free sunblock and water everywhere, and the nice weather. I overlooked the negative things (like dropping my phone in the water, but I had insurance on it) and focused on the positives!
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Every time there’s an awesome offer, just apply! Double it by applying for your spouse as well!
It helps to be organized – I had spreadsheets.
Don’t make new expenses, pay for the bills you are already paying.
For example, to meet $3,000 in spending requirements, I overpaid our power bill ($500, which is enough for ~6 months), water bill ($500, good for ~10 months), and mortgage through Plastiq. And other bills as well!
Just with those payments, I already met the minimum spending. Plus I don’t have to worry about those bills for the next few months!
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!