Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
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.
Rick 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 and points hobby?
Hi, my name is Rick, and together with my wife Diane, we have traveled extensively both in the US and overseas, using miles for the majority of our trips. We have been to 46 different states in the US, traveled to Europe 16 times, the Caribbean 8 times, and have also been to New Zealand and Fiji. And last year we also went to Africa!
What was the goal of your trip?
We wanted to go on an African safari. We had heard about some great experiences through friends and acquaintances and thought it would be a real adventure!
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
We earn miles on many different airlines, so it did not take us very long to earn the miles needed to take this trip. In fact, we have used miles pretty much every year to take some sort of trip.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
Although we did not originally think we had enough miles for this trip to Africa, we were pleasantly surprised when we looked up the cost of award flights.
For ~$5 per person in fees, we used 40,000 Delta miles each to fly one-way nonstop from Atlanta to Johannesburg. And for the return flight, we used United Airlines miles on South African Airways for 40,000 miles each and $65 per person in fees. The return flight was from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and then back to New York.
Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
If you’re looking to take a similar trip to ours, we would recommend the following cards:
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- United℠ Explorer Card
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
How did you search and find the award flights?
Our strategy to finding an award flight was pretty simple. We just went on various websites for airlines to see which award flights were available.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
We worked with an agent in South Africa for recommendations in the different cities. She booked our Safari which included accommodations and our flight and hotel in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls. She recommended hotels in Cape Town and Johannesburg which we booked on our own using sites like Hotels.com to compare prices.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The most challenging part was waiting for our miles to post so we could book an award flight. We didn’t want to book the safari until we had our flight locked in, and we were also afraid the seats we wanted might not be available if we had to wait too long for the miles to post to our account.
We were also traveling with another couple so we had to coordinate with them as well, but in the end we were able to make it all work!
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination, Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
We stayed at Kirkman’s Kamp just outside Kruger National Park, which is well worth it even though you are not allowed to drive in the safari vehicles at night. We got great nighttime guides as well as morning safari rides, and got to see all of the “Big Five” animals!
You can also visit Victoria Falls, which can be seen from either the Zambia or the Zimbabwe side. Viewing it from either side is wonderful and has its own pros and cons. We went to the Zimbabwe side and got to see the Falls from many different viewing points. And if you stay at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, you’ll find that pretty much all of the rooms, including the restaurant, face a waterhole where many animals come to get a drink.
We also did a full day safari into Botswana where our guide picked us up at the hotel and took us across the border. If you’re planning on doing something like this, we definitely recommend having a guide!
Finally, we visited Cape Town and booked an all-day Cape Peninsula Tour which included the Boulder’s Penguin Colony, the Cape of Good Hope and many more incredible sights.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
We love the excitement of experiencing new and different places in this beautiful world God created, and never cease to be amazed at all of the natural beauty there is! We truly enjoyed the kindness and spirit of everyone in Africa. The food was incredible! I ended up trying a lot of food I never had before and wound up enjoying pretty much all of it!
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles and points trip yet?
If you’re planning a similar trip, just know you can do it, and in an affordable way! Earning welcome bonuses on the right credit cards for instance, can go a long way in allowing you to book a flight using miles and points, instead of your own cash! And you can do this for your spouse as well so they can also earn big bonuses.
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!