Reader Mara Made Her Niece’s Christmas Wish Come True With Her Stash of Miles & Points!

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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!

Mara is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.

Reader Maras Miles Points Passion Got Her Family Around The World To Okinawa
We Practiced Our Karate Kid “Crane Kick” Poses in Okinawa

A big thank you to her for sharing her story!

What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?

I’m Mara Rice and I adore traveling!  After dabbling with miles and points for about 10 years, I became completely immersed in the hobby in 2012.  Yes, family and friends thought I had lost my mind.

Oh well, I was convinced.  And I would prove the value of this new hobby to them.  By 2013, I was SERIOUS!!!

What was the goal of your trip?

The goal of this trip was to visit our nephew, who was a Marine stationed in Okinawa.  Our niece mentioned during a family Christmas gathering that she would love to visit him.  I told her I would love to make that happen.

Reader Maras Miles Points Passion Got Her Family Around The World To Okinawa
In Milan We Visited the Famous Duomo Cathedral Which Took Nearly 600 Years to Complete!

How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?

I had already been collecting a variety of miles and points for some time without a specific goal.  One year prior to this trip, I became very aggressive!

Which points did you save to take your trip?

I saved American Airlines miles, Hyatt points, IHG points, Marriott points, Hilton points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and Club Carlson points.

Which cards (max 5) would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?

My husband and I did a combination of applications for these cards:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • The Hyatt Credit Card
  • IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Reader Maras Miles Points Passion Got Her Family Around The World To Okinawa
The Tokyo Robotic Dinner Show Was a Crazy Psychedelic Experience!

How did you search and find the award flights?

You can book American Airlines flights 331 days in advance.  So I got up early 331 days prior to our trip to begin the search with American Airlines.  I had left Facebook open the previous night and I saw a mistake fare posting!  And I was able to get the deal!

We flew coach to 3 continents for $305 per person (including Priceline insurance just in case they didn’t honor the mistake fare)!  This changed our plans, because these tickets required stopovers in Milan, Prague, and Amsterdam before ending in Tokyo.

I used American Airlines miles to get us from Tokyo to Okinawa.  And for Business Class flights home (our original plan was to fly coach)!  The American Airlines website was easy to navigate for finding the flights.

When I shared the details with my husband, he said, “You know we’re going around the world.”  Imagine my shock!  I had unknowingly booked us an around the world trip – Yes!

How did you find your hotel accommodations?

I used the Hyatt website for our New York City and Tokyo hotels.  We stayed at the Tokyo Grand Hyatt using points, cash, and an upgrade certificate, for 2 nights.  The Grand Executive King Suite with a 180 degree view of Tokyo was amazing!

Reader Maras Miles Points Passion Got Her Family Around The World To Okinawa
This Is the View of Tokyo Tower From Our Grand Hyatt Suite!

With the IHG website I booked other New York City accommodations.  And prior to flying from New York, we spent 2 free nights each at Intercontinental New York Times Square and Grand Hyatt New York.

Hotel Hustle helped me to locate hotels in Milan and Amsterdam.  I went directly to the Hilton site for Okinawa hotels and found a new one opening there.

With lots of Club Carlson points to burn, I searched their site and we got a large 3 person family room at the Prague Park Inn.

What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?

The mistake fare left us with an open jaw between Milan and Prague.  I found a low-cost flight on for $59 each to fill in the gap.

Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.

It’s always nice to earn miles by dining at the many options in New York City.  In Milan, be sure to spin your heel on the bull for luck at the Galleria Vittorio, the oldest shopping mall in the world.  Prague has the 14th Century Charles Bridge spanning the Vltava River (theme of Smetana’s “Mouldau” – for musicians), the Astronomical Clock at Old Town Hall, and sweet treats at Cafe Mozart.

Reader Maras Miles Points Passion Got Her Family Around The World To Okinawa
This Is the 14th Century Charles Bridge Spanning the Vltava River

Take time for a romantic canal dinner cruise at night in Amsterdam!  Check out the original Miss Kitty and enjoy a crazy night out at the Tokyo Robot Show – it’s over-the-top screaming psychedelic entertainment!  Don’t miss  Shurijo Castle Park, which is full of history, and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.  Enjoy every moment of every day!

What did you learn about yourself on the trip?

It felt so good to see my husband and niece enjoy the travel I had planned!  Every trip gives me a renewed appreciation for the folks at Million Mile Secrets and other bloggers who share ways to make travel dreams come true!

What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet?

If you live in Southern Illinois, come take my “Realizing Your Travel Dreams” continuing education class at John A. Logan College.  It’s great to watch folks get excited about cheap travel.  Today’s technology makes the information accessible to all of us.

Reader Maras Miles Points Passion Got Her Family Around The World To Okinawa
Priceless Moments Like This Touched My Heart and Made My Trip Planning Worthwhile!

Search, learn, follow examples of others, and GO!  Start small.  Then, dream big and realize your travel dreams!

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!

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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