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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!
Ronnie 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 Ronnie for sharing his story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
I’m Ronnie Kher. I got seriously involved in the miles & points hobby 2 years ago around March 2015 when I switched jobs and stopped being a road warrior for a living. The realization hit me that unless I get into this hobby, I won’t be able to travel using miles and points.
What was the goal of your trip?
To explore the real Mexico, embrace its history and culture, as well as get a glimpse of both Mayan history and contemporary Mexican history. My wife and I like traveling off the beaten path, which is why we decided to stay away from Cancun and explore Merida and Mexico City instead.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
We collected points and miles for 6 months and booked our trip ~2 months prior to our departure.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
I would highly suggest the following cards for folks wanting to plan a trip to Mexico, especially for those staying near a United Airlines or Star Alliance hub:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
How did you search for and find the award flights?
I used the United Airlines website to search for flights and take advantage of the Excursionist perk. The website is fairly simple and intuitive, and you can play around with the calendar to get saver (low-level) award flights.
A challenge I’ve set for myself is to go to the next level of being a points and miles pro and start using resources like Award Hacker to save miles and do better.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
Once I knew Merida and Mexico City were the 2 spots I wanted to visit, finding hotels was easy.
I searched the Hyatt and Starwood websites for hotels. And booked the ones that gave most value for money and a high redemption rate.
Mexico City had many options so I asked a colleague who lived there for a few years to help us choose a property in a desirable area. Mexico City is so huge so it’s important to stay somewhere central – I stayed in Condesa/Roma.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Planning a trip to the Mayan ruins from Merida with the cenotes thrown in.
Driving was out of the question given we don’t speak Spanish and are directionally challenged! And the tours I saw online were insanely expensive with not much covered.
I almost hired a private driver via recommendations on TripAdvisor, but stumbled upon a local tour company that gave us great tours at very affordable prices. Plus we got ample time at each spot and managed to do everything we needed to. As an added bonus, the tours were covered under the Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit so I ended up not really paying for them. 🙂
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
The light and sound show at Chichen Itza is spectacular and every Tuesday so try to time your visit accordingly. Additionally, Merida has an event every night in the Centro (downtown). Friday night is the Mayan version of soccer (Puc ta puc) and watching teams dressed in traditional Mayan attire is a sight to behold.
In Mexico City, the Frida Kahlo museum is a must-see. Also, a boat ride at Xochimilco is a must do – you have floating restaurants and watching your food being cooked on a gas stove in the middle of a canal is something else!
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
My wife and I realized how similar we are in terms of travel goals – we want to go to the spots less traveled and places less explored, and spend time understanding and absorbing a country’s culture versus falling into the tourist traps.
Also, I got reinforcement on my fascination with ancient history, battles and conquests, and ancient civilizations.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Mexico is beautiful, friendly and safe. Don’t let anything anyone says make you believe otherwise.
It has a rich history and heritage, so please visit parts of the country that are still true to their culture.
To those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet – what are you waiting for? Don’t deprive yourself of the beautiful spots the world has to offer. Explore the world at a fraction of the cost!
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!