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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.
Dena is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money. If you’re planning a vacation, take a look our list of top rewards credit cards to see how you can book your trip for a fraction of the retail cost!
1. What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
Hi! My name is Dena, and I’ve been involved in the miles and points hobby for about 2 years. I had been following travel-related posts for awhile, until it dawned on me one day that I really had no strategy for how to redeem miles!
Once I came across Million Mile Secrets, I realized I was missing out on a ton of opportunities, and finding the site made a tremendous difference! For example, I was always a Southwest frequent flyer, but never could quite earn enough to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass. Once I read more tips on how to qualify with credit card bonuses, I decided to apply for one of the Chase Southwest cards, which earned me enough intro bonus points to finally qualify for the Companion Pass.
Qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass has given me the freedom to travel with my spouse on various trips within the US without having to worry about the cost of a 2nd ticket!
2. What was the goal of your trip?
The biggest goal I had was to finally earn the Southwest Companion Pass because I travel quite extensively within the US. And it also ended up helping us unexpectedly when a family member became ill.
From that, we found that many airlines seem to have done away with special fare pricing for cases of bereavement or family death, and also had no separate pricing for cases of family illness. So earning the Southwest Companion Pass really came in handy because it allowed us to make 3 separate trips from San Jose to Boston to tend to a family member’s illness before they ended up passing away.
Without the Companion Pass, making all of those trips on short notice would have been much more stressful with the added cost of flying.
Outside of that, we’ve also utilized the Companion Pass to visit and help other family members, like when we visited our daughter on Connecticut to help her move, as well as spend time sightseeing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire!
3. How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I would say it took me about 2 years. I’ve qualified for the Companion Pass for the prior 2 calendar years, and have already qualified for 2019 as well!
4. Which points did you save to take your trip?
The only points I used were Southwest and Marriott points, which I had earned from a few credit card welcome bonus offers.
5. Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
I’d recommend any of the Chase Southwest cards because the points you earn as part of the intro bonuses currently still count towards earning the Southwest Companion Pass. And I’m a huge fan of the pass because it basically lets 1 other person fly with me for free!
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Keep in mind, Chase no longer allows you to have 2 personal Southwest credit cards at the same time. The easiest way is to get yourself the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.
6. How did you search and find the award flights?
I didn’t do anything complex here as I just searched for award flights on the Southwest website.
7. How did you find your hotel accommodations?
Again, nothing too complicated here as I just used the Marriott website to search for availability.
I was a fan of the Marriott program and even earned the intro bonus on one of their old credit cards, but with the recent changes to the program, I’ll be switching over to Hilton hotels for my future travels.
8. What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The biggest challenge for me was figuring out which hotels to stay in. For instance, I had earned a lot of points with Marriott, but there were a few times when they didn’t have hotels in the areas we wanted, so we had to make the decision to either choose a hotel further away, or stay at another hotel we didn’t have points with.
9. Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
If you’re ever in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with any of the food and restaurants! It’s a great city to just walk around and explore, especially since the beaches are very close!
10. What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
I learned that it’s really important to put family first. And again, having the option to travel on short notice without having to worry too much about the costs can come in handy in emergency situations.
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!
Make the most of shopping portals that your specific credit card company might offer. For instance, American Airlines has a shopping portal where you can earn additional rewards if you make purchases through their shopping portal, and you can even install a plugin on your browser to automatically notify you when you can earn more points through a particular company.
Basically, if you’re going to buy something online through a certain company, it’s better to do it through a shopping portal because that way you can earn additional points.
I’ve used this same strategy with Southwest and it has earned me over 20,000 additional points over the years just by following this strategy!
Bottom line is that it’s a great way to make sure you maximize your points-earning ability for your everyday purchases.
Want to Share Your Story?
If you’d like to be considered for our Reader Success Series, please send us a note! We would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points!
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