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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!
Derek 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 Derek for sharing his story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
My name is Derek, and I have been following Million Mile Secrets for ~3 years. My girlfriend at the time (now wife, Alexis) and I were flying a few times within a matter of weeks for work and leisure, which is much more than we normally travel in the air (typically 2 or 3 times per year). After extensive reading, I realized I could save money when traveling by using reward credit cards for my day-to-day spending.
I have been accumulating Chase Ultimate Rewards points through my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. I was able to convince my then-fiancé to sign-up for the card last year via my “refer a friend link” for an extra 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
We knew we would be able to meet the minimum spending requirements on her card due to the wedding expenses. Extra bonus – our wedding venue accepted credit cards for quarterly installments for payment of our big day without any additional transaction fees (double Chase Ultimate Rewards points)!
What was the goal of your trip?
I wanted to plan a trip to Hawaii for our honeymoon and save as much money as possible.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
We collected points for ~3 years on one Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and 1 year on the other by using both for day-to-day spending and wedding expenses.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We used Chase Ultimate Reward points and award nights from reaching the spending bonus on The Hyatt Credit Card.
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
After having the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for a few years, I researched hotel card bonuses and then the resort availability options for those hotel brands in Hawaii.
I felt The Hyatt Credit Card had the best bonus at the time (2 free award nights after $2,000 in spending in the first 3 months – offer no longer available). Additionally, after reviewing many of the big resort chains, we also felt Hyatt had the best options on multiple Hawaiian islands.
If you want to supplement your primary credit card which is not for a specific hotel chain, do research about which hotel chains have the best-rated accommodations wherever you want to go. We specifically signed-up for The Hyatt Credit Card because of open award rooms and the multiple gorgeous resorts on the Hawaiian islands.
How did you search for and find the award flights?
As this was our honeymoon, we originally wanted to fly First Class in both directions (wishful thinking).
However, there are very limited first-class award seats to Hawaii in general and even fewer when not flexible on your dates. After reviewing articles on sometimes diminished/outdated levels of First Class service on these routes, we decided to do a coach ticket for our flight out.
We attempted to use Korean Air to get a Delta award flight out of our local airport and connect in Atlanta for a non-stop flight to Honolulu. But we were unable to find coach award seats on Delta. I understand this process has now become more streamlined. But at the time, it was not that easy.
We then checked the United Airlines website, which was easy to maneuver and find their Saver award flights to Hawaii and also the island-hopping flights. We booked 2 one-way coach tickets on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Honolulu through Singapore Airlines for 35,000 Singapore Airlines miles by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my newly created Singapore Airlines account.
If we’d booked directly through United Airlines, those same 2 tickets would have cost 45,000 United Airlines miles! Booking through Singapore Airlines was extremely easy to do over the telephone AND saved us some points!
These flights were ~$761 each and we cashed in only 17,500 Singapore Airlines miles for each ticket. We paid for the upgrade to Economy Plus seating for this flight. It gave us extra legroom, which was clutch for the ~11-hour flight. In-flight entertainment (wide array of TV shows, movies, and even games) in each headrest helped immensely with passing time on the flight.
We transferred 12,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines for 2 island-hopping flights from Honolulu to Kauai to make it to our first destination. And 12,000 more for flights from Kauai to Maui to make it to our second Hawaiian island destination.
We used The Hyatt Credit Card to purchase our one-way, lie-flat, First Class tickets on American Airlines for the trip home from Maui to meet the minimum spending requirements. Lie-flat seats are limited across the board. But American Airlines refreshed many of the First Class cabins for these flights.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
After settling on Hyatt, we transferred 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt account to book 4 nights in an Standard View room at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. We added 2 award nights to our stay here that we received for reaching the spending limit on The Hyatt Credit Card (offer no longer available).
Bonus – we did NOT have to pay the $35 daily resort fee on our award stay. This property was amazing and will probably remain one of the nicest places we will ever stay. Beautiful pools and landscapes, wonderful service, wonderful sunsets…I can go on and on!
I felt another moment of points success after completing this booking because this hotel averages over $500 per night for a room after including the daily resort fee – saving us ~$3,000!
For our second island, we decided to do something a little special. We could have transferred more Chase Ultimate Rewards points for another stay at a Hyatt resort in Maui. But we decided to stay at a unique and beautiful property instead.
We paid for 3 nights in a Pacific Ocean view bed and breakfast to finish our stay (charged to our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, of course). This beautiful property – Ho’olio House in Lahaina – is a gorgeous 6-room venue with killer ocean and mountain views, outdoor showers, relaxing pool, tasty breakfasts, and excellent hosts – a perfect recipe for relaxation.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Not all time periods for point transfers are created equal! Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to my Hyatt account instantly. Point transfers to United Airlines were instant as well. Point transfers to Singapore Airlines – a couple of days!
I didn’t even think to look into how long it took. I was on the phone with Singapore Airlines, and was in for an unpleasant surprise when the agent kept refreshing his screen and didn’t see my Singapore Airlines miles in my account. I sweated this one out for 2 days and kept hitting the refresh button until the miles appeared, but Singapore Airlines staff were wonderful about holding the reservation for a short time until the miles transferred in.
Also, the bonus 2 free Hyatt nights did not immediately post to my Hyatt account. I was still an amateur at this, so originally thought they instantly appeared when I met the bonus spending amount. It took a few days, but they eventually showed up in my account.
It took almost a week to book our honeymoon. When transferring and redeeming points, the process could take some time but it is well worth the effort.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
We spent 7 days on Kauai and we could have stayed much longer. The food scene in Kauai was great. Porky’s Food Truck in Waimea – best hot dog ever (yes, a very bold statement), multiple days of Makai Sushi poke bowls, Little Fish Coffee acai bowls and breakfast bagels, Aneunue breakfasts, JO2 for dinner, Hukilau Lanai wine pairing tasting menu, Jo Jo’s Shave Ice – the list can go on and on for wonderful places to experience some great food.
The Kalalau Trail was an intense hike (felt like it was uphill both ways). But we brought a ton of water, snacks, and appropriate hiking shoes and had a great day on an 8-mile round trip.
Side notes to Kalalau hiking plans: Check the Hawaii State Parks website the night before/morning of your planned hike – the park had actually been closed for a few days due to a wild fire and it honestly was the last thing I thought to check prior to going.
We adapted and realigned our days to do this hike, but not before we arrived at the park at 7:45 am only to be turned away by park rangers. We also hiked the Kalepa Ridge Trail, which was an intense out-and-back hike which ends on the edge of the cathedrals of the Kalalau Valley. It was cloudy and raining when we started. But thanks to rapidly changing weather conditions, the clouds opened up to reveal some of the most thrilling views we have ever experienced.
We spent 4 days on Maui and still rave about our intimate and relaxing accommodations at Ho’olio House. We experienced a tremendous dining experience at the Lahaina Grill (they took our picture after learning it was our honeymoon and emailed to us, gave us a Congratulations card signed by all restaurant staff, and a complimentary delicious dessert!).
The Old Lahaina Luau was a great experience with solid buffet-style traditional Hawaiian staples, a killer sunset location along the water and awesome performances. We also had an amazing poke bowl at local favorite – Eskimo Candy in Kihei, great fish meals at the Paia Fish Market in Lahaina and a great experience at the Maui Brewing Company tasting room. We went on a Wednesday and were amazed at how many people were wearing their Maui Brewing Company swag. We only realized when leaving that all beers were discounted when you came in wearing your Maui Brewing Company t-shirt. We bought shirts for our next visit! 🙂
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
This was a great start to begin the next chapter of our lives together. Only a few little things did not go as originally planned, but everything worked out for the best and we had a tremendous experience.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Everything totaled up, we were able to save ~$6,500 on our awesome honeymoon by using Chase Ultimate Rewards points and making a last-minute strategic sign up for The Hyatt Credit Card due to the bonus available earlier in the year.
Following Million Mile Secrets and reading other trip reports helped us maximize our points, which allowed us to save a considerable amount of money on airfare, car rentals, and most of our lodging.
This gave us extra spending money to splurge on some wonderful dining experiences, a private doors-off helicopter tour over Kauai, and a few other awesome experiences. Our honeymoon was amazing and we continue to plan for our next adventure with points. Thanks Million Mile Secrets!
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!