Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
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!
Stuart is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money. If you would like to be inspired by more stories like this one, take a second to subscribe to our newsletter! Or check out our guides to learn how YOU can start booking vacations with miles & points!
1. What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles and points hobby?
Hi, my name is Stuart, and my wife and I have been involved in the hobby for 5 years now!
2. What was the goal of your trip?
We travel every now and then, but every 5 years we take a bigger trip to celebrate our anniversary. This was one of those bigger trips, and we wanted to see a lesser-known part of Europe.
3. How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
It took us about 2.5 years to earn enough points for this trip. We live in a small town in Arkansas, so getting to Edinburgh, and then back home from Ljubljana, was no easy task!
4. Which points did you save to take this trip?
My wife and I each have the United Club Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard , so we redeemed mostly United Airlines and American Airlines miles for this trip.
I’m also always looking for ways to earn more bonus miles & points, and happened to be quite fortunate in the past. For instance, just as we needed a new cell phone, we found out that Apple was offering a bonus of 5x miles per $1 spent. We had also won miles by entering various contests offered on various blogs, so that helped as well.
We earned enough points to fly Business Class, paying just $225. Without our big stash of points, we would have had to pay several thousand dollars!
5. Which cards would you recommend for a trip like yours?
We would highly recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The $550 annual fee was a bit intimidating for us to begin with, but after seeing the value of the card’s benefits, we’re really happy we decided to invest in the card.
For instance, the card’s $300 annual travel credit would have covered one night at a hotel in New York when we ended up missing a flight. We ended up not using the credit here, but it was nice having the peace of mind!
The card also comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which made our layovers much more relaxing!
6. How did you search and find award flights?
We redeemed miles for our entire trip, so we basically just went to the individual airline websites to search for award seat availability.
If you’re going to do something similar, make sure you create an account with each airline. We seemed to find a LOT more award availability when we were logged in to our United account, compared to when we were browsing the website as a guest.
Creating an account for each airline’s website just takes a matter of minutes, so it’s well worth it!
7. How did you find your hotel accommodations?
We spent a week in Edinburgh, and then another week in Ljubljana, renting apartments through Airbnb. Since we didn’t have any points to use with Airbnb, we just relied on the $300 travel credit through our Chase Sapphire Reserve® card to cover some of these costs.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Airbnb’s, and we made use of the kitchens to save on food expenses.
8. What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
We missed a connecting flight in New York, and if that wasn’t bad enough, somehow our bags went somewhere else. We landed in Edinburgh with our bags nowhere to be found, which is not exactly the start you want to your trip! Fortunately, we took advantage of Chase Sapphire Reserve baggage delay insurance, and we were eventually reimbursed for the out-of-pocket expenses we incurred while we waited the 3 days for our luggage to finally arrive.
Here’s the automatic baggage delay coverage you get with the Sapphire Reserve:
- If your baggage is delayed for more than 6 hours, you could be reimbursed for purchases of essential items (i.e. clothing, toiletries, cell phone charging cables, and more)
- Up to $100 per day for a maximum of 5 days
9. Give us a few recommendations for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Forage & Chatter is an amazing restaurant in Edinburgh! We were really lucky to get a table on short notice, because it’s apparently VERY popular with tourists and locals alike! Also, when the restaurant found out we were celebrating our anniversary, they gave us a quick Whisky 101 lesson. Overall, the entire experience was top notch. The meal was fantastic, we had a great time with whisky tasting, and we even got to meet the owner of the restaurant!
If you happen to visit Ljubljana, you should know it’s a great town for just walking around. It has a very low-key under-the-radar feel to it. And be sure to take a day trip to Lake Bled! Tours are very inexpensive, and the views are out of this world!
10. What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
We learned that taking one of these big trips every 5 years just isn’t enough! Hopefully, with patience and more research, we’ll find more ways to more quickly earn miles and points for our next one.
11. What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who have not taken a miles & points trip yet!
Plan, plan, plan! You don’t necessarily have to plan EVERY single step, but make sure you do enough research! Register for each individual airline website, try to look for deals for as few miles as possible, and try to travel to places you’ve never been before!
This was our first time to these places on this trip, and it was too good of a deal to pass up given how few miles we redeemed!
Want to Share Your Story?
If you’d like to be considered for our Reader Success Series, please send us a note! We would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points!
If you enjoyed this article, please take a second to subscribe to our email newsletter!