Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. 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!
Jeff 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 Jeff for sharing his story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
My name is Jeff. I ventured into the miles and points game 4 years ago and have been hooked ever since! I convinced my wife Judi to join in the fun 3 years ago.
What was the goal of your trip?
The goal of our trip to Italy was to expose my son to his first foreign country on what we hope will be a lifelong journey of travel and adventure.
My wife and I were also going through withdrawal since our last Europe trip 2 years ago and couldn’t wait any longer to get back. We visited Venice, Cinque Terre, Pisa, and Rome on our 2-week trek across the pond.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I am a “collector” when it comes to points and miles. And don’t mind accumulating a large stash of miles without a specific trip in mind as I know they will be put to good use at some point. For this particular trip, it took ~6 months to collect the points and miles needed to travel for nearly free. Thank you Citi for the American Airlines Executive card 100,000-mile offer a few years ago (no longer available)!
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We used American Airlines miles to fly in Business Class from Denver to Philadelphia to Venice outbound and Rome to Philadelphia to Denver on the return. Two newly acquired Barclaycard Arrival Plus cards paid for our B&B stays in Venice and Rome plus trains between all cities.
I was looking forward to using my Platinum Card® from American Express to access the Centurion Lounge in Philadelphia, but unfortunately the opening of the lounge was delayed and we had to settle for an American Airlines Admirals Club.
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Chase Freedom, and The Hyatt Credit Card are all great cards. And don’t forget small business cards – the Ink Business Preferred Card Credit Card is on my list once I get back under 5/24.
How did you search for and find the award flights?
I wanted to burn some of my American Airlines miles for this trip since I had a large balance. And because low-level American Airlines saver award seats are heading towards extinction. I searched for my flights on aa.com and Oneworld partners. We ended up flying on American Airlines.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
I have always had good luck finding hotels and B&Bs from recommendations on TripAdvisor and this trip was no exception. We made it a point to return to a special B&B my wife and I had stayed at previously in Monterosso, and that stay was even more wonderful the second time around!
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The biggest challenge this trip presented was putting it all together on short notice. We had been wanting to return to Europe for over a year but could not find the right time due to work, school, and sports schedules.
In March of this year, we finally found a 3-week period over the summer that was available. And decided we could not pass up the opportunity to head to Italy. Having a large balance of airline miles saved definitely helped.
Most hotels were already booked at reasonable point redemption levels, so we quickly opened new Barclaycard Arrival Plus cards and put a ton of spending on them to cover the majority of our lodging and transportation costs.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Our arrival in Venice happened to coincide with the Feast of the Redeemer celebration in mid-July. Watching an incredible fireworks display over the Grand Canal is something I will never forget.
Make the time for a quick side trip to Pisa on your way to or from Rome – the Leaning Tower is so impressive in person. My son wouldn’t let us leave without climbing all the way to the top.
Finally, take the Underground Tour at the Roman Colosseum for access to both the ground floor and third ring that most visitors never get to see.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
This trip taught me Italy is a great introduction to Europe for children. The cities we visited were all safe, train travel from town to town was easy, and kids love Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato!
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
For anyone just starting to collect points and miles or thinking about planning their first trip, the logistics can seem overwhelming. There are a ton of great resources online to help you along the way (like Million Mile Secrets). Don’t be afraid of making a mistake or getting the wrong card. Dive in, accumulate your points, and make that first reservation. Once you travel for free there is no turning back!
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!