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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!
Jonathan 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 Jonathan 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 Jonathan Parent and I have been involved with seriously collecting miles and points since 2013. I’ve accumulated over 2.5 million points, mostly from credit card sign-up bonuses.
What was the goal of your trip?
To take my family of four to Disney World.
I explored using points and miles to pay for the trip to get past the “we have no money for travel” excuse that comes with any big trip idea. Since our first “free” trip, we’ve gone several times since 2014 for little to no cost, as well as huge (and very cheap) family trips to Europe, California, Washington, DC, Canada, and Alaska.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
It took surprisingly little time to collect enough points for our trip. Once I had developed a plan for accumulating the points I needed, I had all the travel plans set within 4 to 5 months from inception to booking. It is important to not forget about your spouse! 😉
Which points did you save to take your trip?
- Hilton points to stay at the airport due to an early flight
- JetBlue points for the flight down
- American Airlines miles for the flight home
- Starwood points for the hotel
- A combination of Barclaycard Arrival miles and Capital One Venture points for park hopper tickets
Saving $1,200+ on park tickets was huge and really helped put a dent in the overall trip cost!
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
- Barclaycard JetBlue Plus for flights (or another airline loyalty credit card if JetBlue is not the most convenient option)
- Citi or Barclaycard American Airlines cards for American Airlines miles
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express for hotel points
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard for park hopper tickets from Undercover Tourist (they code as travel)
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for park hopper tickets
How did you search for and find the award flights?
To search for award flights, I used a combination of the JetBlue, American Airlines, and Google Flights websites.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
Neither Disney World or Orlando have a shortage of hotel rooms. But the key to having an enjoyable Disney experience is to stay as close to the magic as possible. However, there are not a ton of hotels you can book with points within the park gates.
A popular point redemption is the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, which is a massive hotel complex, “on property,” bookable with Starwood points. Both hotels are within walking distance to 2 out of the 4 Disney parks!
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The most challenging part of booking this trip was to make sure the award flights were booked in a way that each child had an adult on the award ticket and all of our seats were together on the plane.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
From this trip, I learned I enjoy taking vacations much more than the average family who is trying to maximize every minute of the trip due to the high cost.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
My advice to a novice in this hobby is to start small. Once you see how little work it takes to earn a $400 statement credit toward a trip, you’ll understand the benefits are real and it’s worth the time and effort.
In terms of Walt Disney World trip-planning, try to go during the off-peak months. We love going in January during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday long weekend. It’s not too hot and the crowds are much smaller than in the summer or school vacation weeks.
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!