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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! This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Randall 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!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
Hello, my name is Randall! I’ve been involved in the miles and points hobby for a little over 2 years now.
What was the goal of your trip?
My wife and I have always wanted to go to Hawaii. We only had a few days, so we focused on getting the most out of Oahu as possible!
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
It took us about 1 year to earn the miles and points necessary for this trip.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
For this trip to Hawaii, we ended using a mix of both Hyatt points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Which cards would you recommend opening for a trip like yours?
If anyone is looking to take a trip like the one we went on, we’d recommend a few of the cards from Chase, especially the ones that earn Ultimate Rewards points!
For starters, you could look at The World of Hyatt Credit Card, especially since it is currently offering an intro bonus of up to 60,000 Hyatt points! You’ll earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. And you’ll earn an additional 20,000 bonus points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.
And for the cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you could consider the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card, and then either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® cards.
How did you search and find the award flights?
We live in California, so we had a solid amount of choices for any number of airlines if we were to fly in coach. My wife however, really wanted to see what it was like to fly Business Class or First Class. This left us with pretty much 2 options, Delta and Korean Air.
Korean Air had recently updated their site to make online awards bookings easier, but it still was a bit of work to find flights. I searched Delta’s website and discovered that they have a daily 767 flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, which would allow us to experience Delta One Business Class for a few hours!
After finalizing our schedule, I called in to book the award flight over the phone. We did have to send over some additional documentation like our marriage certificate because of a name discrepancy, but we were finally able to book the flight! We booked the flight pretty early in October for a trip in May.
Unfortunately, Korean Air is no longer a Chase airline transfer partner.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
Finding a hotel was a a bit of an easier process than it was booking the flight. I’d had my Chase Hyatt credit card (no longer available) for a year and had plans to keep the card and continue paying the annual fee. Because of this, I had a free night stay at a category 1-4 Hyatt hotel. As it just so happens, the Hyatt Place Waikiki is a category 3 hotel. It may not have been one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, but we enjoyed it because the location was great, they provided free breakfast, and we were upgraded to a better room with a great view!
Since Hyatt is a direct transfer partner of Chase, I simply transferred 48,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to pay for the entire stay.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Booking the flight to Hawaii was the most difficult! I feel like Korean Air really makes you jump through a few hoops to get everything organized and booked for a flight. So if you want to go this route, I’d recommend connecting your spouse’s and family’s accounts as soon as possible. It also helps to be flexible with your travel dates.
One of the biggest issues I ran into was the fact that the website would not let me book the flight even though I could see the seats were available. As it turned out, the seats were actually already taken, but because there were identical seats available the next day, we just shifted our vacation dates by a day.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
You have to experience all the food the islands have to offer! We had so much great food at the following places:
- Giovani’s, Kono’s
- Leonard’s, Ted’s
- Marukame Udon
- Dole Whip
- Green Mountain Coffee
- And more!
We’d also recommend renting a car if you can, especially if you are only going to be on Oahu! We booked a rental through the Chase Travel Portal, and paid 23,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a 5-day rental of a convertible Ford Mustang!
Also, there’s so much more than just Waikiki Beach. We experienced Kualoa Ranch and did ATV Tours, went to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling, and climbed Diamond Head for breathtaking views of the island.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
I learned that I really need to take more vacations. I know that sounds crazy, but this trip really helped me put things in perspective. After all, we work so hard throughout the year that we rarely take the time to enjoy ourselves. Now, I’m determined to travel more and experience as much as possible. Because we realized that at the end of the day, you will never hear someone on their death bed saying they wished they had worked more and taken less vacation.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
For folks looking to take a similar trip, I would say just go ahead and do it! That’s because with miles and points you can end up taking great trips for almost nothing out-of-pocket! For instance, we paid a grand total of ~$97 out-of-pocket for our trip. And that includes hotels, our Business Class flight, and rental car.
Keeping our hard-earned cash in our pocket and paying for the trip with miles and points really freed us up to experience so much more of the island. It’s important to plan ahead and stay on top of your finances though! And award seat availability can disappear pretty quickly, so the sooner you start planning, the better!
Finally, the miles and points hobby is a lot of fun when you are winning! In other words, make sure you meet your minimum spend requirements for any intro bonuses, and pay your balances in full EVERY MONTH! Other than that, the sky is the limit!
Want to Share Your Story?
If you’d like to be considered for our reader success story series, please send us a note! We would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points! And if you want to get more stories like this one delivered straight to your inbox, please sign up for our email list!