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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!
Reni & Patrick 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 both of them for sharing their story!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
We are Patrick and Reni. We first started saving miles using an American Express card around 1997. At that time, we didn’t know much about miles & points. I think we begin getting serious around 2002. Up until that time, we were simply collecting miles and points casually.
What was the goal of your trip?
Our travel goal has always been to wake up in the morning in a foreign country and get out on the street. We have always had wanderlust for international travel. We want see new things, new places, and how the people live. We just couldn’t afford to it when we were younger.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
How long it takes us to save up the miles depends on the credit card offers. We look for any and every opportunity to get bonus miles. And we usually manage to get enough each year for a couple trips overseas.
But if we see a flight for someplace that sounds interesting offered at a really great price, we don’t mind paying.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We like to collect American Airlines miles which we use to fly Cathay Pacific Business Class to Southeast Asia. And we like to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways, which we used to redeem for Air Berlin partner awards before they went bankrupt.
Which cards (max 5) would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card
How did you search and find the award flights?
We educate ourselves by following miles & points blogs. They have a ton of useful info readily available. But I book award flights directly with the airlines.
I like to start my search on the phone. I can ask the airlines questions without making a booking. Sometimes they will tell me about promotions coming up or give me advice on booking awards.
Being retired, I invest a lot of time finding deals. But it’s worth it for what I can save. My daughter, who can easily afford to pay for tickets, finds the investigation process too time consuming, and often says she would rather just pay the cash price.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
We almost always pay for our hotel rather than use miles or points. We do a lot of checking online for hotels where we want to stay that offer good prices.
We live on TripAdvisor. If we want to go someplacen we’ll read many of the comments for advice and often ask questions. We’ll search Google to see the hotels and the street view of where we want to go.
On occasion, we realize you would need a taxi if you want to leave your hotel. We like to be able to walk around and just step out of our hotel for an hour. We prefer to not bother with taxis.
Often we contact the hotel directly. Sometimes if they know you are interested, they will make an offer. This method has been useful for us in Berlin.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The biggest problem is finding award flights on the dates we want to travel. But because we are retired, we can be very flexible with our travel dates.
Also, we understand things don’t always work out, so we roll with the punches. We compromise, and not having to be at work on Monday morning makes life a lot easier for us.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
We put a lot of energy into looking up the place where we are going, so we have a pretty good idea what we will be doing when we arrive. As we have gotten older, we stay at hotels that are very close to the places we want to visit when possible. One thing we always try to do is have at least 1 day for a city bus tour.
If you’re going to Berlin, it is a big city with whatever you may like to do when traveling.
Bangkok and Cambodia are a little different. We like to get out on the crowded street to eat with the people and sit down for cold beer on a sunny afternoon.
Don’t be afraid to speak to a stranger. We love Bangkok during the crazy water throwing holidays in April.
We do tip. We find tipping is a very small percentage of the trip cost and probably will make your vacation more enjoyable.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
We know we’ll make mistakes. So we try to take problems with a grain of salt. But we’ve always been able to handle the issues.
Patrick was 79 when he fell and broke his right femur in a small town in Cambodia. We opted to take a truck ride to Bangkok, hoping and trusting their hospital would be the wise choice (and it was).
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Why do we travel? It’s because of the people we meet.
We like riding on a crowded bus and mingling in the busy streets all over the world. Have you ever walked on the sidewalk in Bangkok with the street vendors?
I’m 83, and it wasn’t unusual for a lady in Bangkok to take my hand help me cross the street. I don’t need help, but it is the people who make travel fun, not the churches, the museums, or palaces. When I had to climb out of a boat in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 4 young Cambodians took my hand to help me. The people we meet traveling make our trips so much nicer.
Without question, the biggest problem about travel is the airport. It’s a hassle to get there and get through the security lines. Once you get past that, the travel is fun.
As for problems traveling, well, we have problems at home too.
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!