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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!
Patty 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! Or check out our guides to learn how YOU can start booking vacations with miles & points!
1. What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
Hi! My name is Patty, and I’d say I’ve been actively involved in the miles and points hobby for about 3 or 4 years now.
I was first introduced to the idea of miles and points nearly 3 decades ago, when my father was able to book a room with points, which he earned courtesy of all the business travel he did back then.
A busy work and home life sometimes make it challenging to devote time to earning and redeeming more points, and I even write about some of these things on my blog, “Little Sprinkles of Light”! But no matter how busy it gets, I still love the great experiences and family memories I’ve been able to create!
2. What was the goal of your trip?
We’d taken family trips before to Israel and Spain, and for this trip we wanted to go somewhere tropical. We had considered Hawaii, but opted for something in the Caribbean instead. This was because most of our miles were with American Airlines, and we found that award flights to the Caribbean were quite reasonable!
We then did some research on which islands in the Caribbean were best suited for a family vacation. We ended up choosing Grenada because of the tropical vegetation and beaches. Plus, we figured our son would love going on hikes and seeing the waterfalls.
3. How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
Good question! Unfortunately, I don’t recall exactly how long we saved our points. My husband travels quite a lot for business, constantly earning more miles, and so we just never really kept track.
4. Which points did you save to take your trip?
We redeemed 120,000 American Airlines miles for 4 tickets to Grenada. About half of these miles were earned from my husband’s business trips, and the rest were earned through an intro bonus and spending on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®.
For our hotels, we redeemed 70,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to stay for 7 nights at the Sea Glass Place. My husband was grandfathered into the old Chase Sapphire rules, so he has both the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred®.
After our first week at the Sea Glass Place hotel, we decided to stay at some Airbnbs. I earned Airbnb gift cards through various mystery shopping tasks and online focus groups, and redeemed them for 3 free nights at the Crayfish Bay Organic Cocoa Estate. The gift cards didn’t cover the entire cost of the hotel, but they did go quite a long way in keeping our costs down!
5. Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® also came in handy for us not only because of the intro bonus, but also because we took advantage of the 10% Miles Back benefit for award redemptions, and received a rebate of 10,000 American Airlines miles!
6. How did you search and find the award flights?
Pretty simple! We just searched for award flights on the American Airlines website.
7. How did you find your hotel accommodations?
We searched for hotel availability through the Chase Travel Portal. This came in really handy because we didn’t find many big-name chain hotels in Grenada, so it was wonderful being able to redeem flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
For our Airbnbs, we decided to search through www.deltaairbnb.com because it also allowed us to earn Delta miles.
8. What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The most challenging part of our trip was trying to figure out if we wanted to sacrifice convenience for a potentially more exciting trip.
For instance, one of the choices we had to make was whether or not to stay on a chocolate farm in the northern area of Grenada, or opt for a more conveniently located Airbnb near St. Georges. I was back and forth on this for months, but finally decided on the chocolate farm because I figured having unique experiences is the very reason for traveling!
9. Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
By all means, take the bus on the island at least once! Sure, it will be hot, loud, and a bit uncomfortable, but it’s a unique experience and one that will really make you feel like as if you’re living like a local!
Also remember to wear good walking shoes and take your bathing suit with you wherever you can. The island has a lot of beaches and beautiful waterfalls where you can go swimming!
Finally, do whatever you can to meet more locals. Go to a restaurant, stop at a roadside barbecue, visit a church, take the bus, hire a driver. There’s so many things you can do!
10. What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
Don’t be afraid to do things even if you think you might need help! I was hesitant to go snorkeling at first because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get back onto the boat. And although I did need some help, the experience was amazing! Being able to swim alongside turtles, and see the various marine life? Totally worth it.
11. What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Try not to get so obsessed with trying to cover your entire trip with miles and points. You could end up never going on vacation! I’ve learned that it’s okay to still spend a little bit of cash out-of-pocket. And as long as you stay within your budget, you can still very much enjoy your trip!
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