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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.
WkndMom 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!
A big thanks to her for sharing her story!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
Hi! I go by WkndMom. I’ve been collecting miles and points since January of 2016. I got into this hobby after a trip to Hungary with my friend because I realized that if I wanted to keep traveling, I needed a way to make it more affordable!
Although I’m limited by vacation days, I’ve been on at least 5 trips that were booked with miles and points, and have started a travel and personal finance blog called Go FIRE Mama! Go!
What was the goal of your trip?
The goal of my trips is usually to get the most out of my money and vacation days as much as possible. For this specific trip, I was trying to give my boyfriend (who is now my fiancé) one of the greatest trips of his life. He’d never traveled without his family and had a dream of seeing everything he could in Bavaria, Germany.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I collected points for ~8 months for this specific trip, and continued opening up cards up until the week before we left to earn even more points while we traveled. I only needed this one trip booked on points to get hooked to this hobby!
Which points did you save to take your trip?
I started with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. With the points I earned on the card, I was able to cover the expenses for my flights and Airbnb stays. I was also able to cover some of my car rental expenses as well! Redeeming the points was also quite simple because all I had to do was request a statement credit to “erase” my travel purchases!
Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
We didn’t do this for our trip, but I’d recommend the Chase cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because they earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points which are are easy to earn and redeem. And are also very flexible thanks to their travel partners. And even if your travel preferences change and you can no longer justify paying the annual fee on the card(s), you can easily downgrade to another card like the Chase Freedom®.
For our trip, we ended up using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Miles earned on the card can be used for travel statement credits, we found that it worked for all of our travel purchases, including our Airbnb stays!
How did you search and find the award flights?
At the time we booked our flight, we ended up using cash instead of points because we had not yet earned enough airline miles to book an award flight. We used Google Flights to find the best dates and prices, then we purchased them through United Airlines using our frequent flyer accounts to earn more points. After the purchases posted to my account, I used the miles earned on my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to “erase” the purchase by redeeming my miles for a travel statement credit.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
We booked our stays with Airbnb and found some really interesting places, including one with a fancy jacuzzi tub! Searching through Airbnb is easy because all you have to do is search for a location and input the dates you’ll be traveling. There are also plenty of other filters to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
We always look for an entire place to ourselves because we like the privacy, and prefer using the Instant Book feature because you don’t have to wait for the host’s approval for your booking.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Since it was our first trip together, the biggest challenge was getting to know each other’s travel styles. We worried we wouldn’t get along or wouldn’t agree on what to do. But we meshed well together and have similar travel styles. We both like being out and about actively exploring the city, as opposed to relaxing the whole time.
This was also the first time we had tried Airbnb, so it was a learning experience to figure out how to contact our hosts. We didn’t have an international phone plan, so we had to be extra careful we were able to get places with WiFi in order to be able to communicate with our hosts. We had to use the same strategy with finding WiFi when it came to finding our way around when GPS wasn’t an option.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
If you ever visit Bavaria, I’d recommend trying as much beer as you can! I was never a fan of beer, but I came back with a newfound appreciation for many different types! I’d also recommend trying out beer with breakfast. We tried this at a local cafe called Haderner Augustiner, which was near our Airbnb in Munich, and thought it was a great combination of food and drinks!
There were also plenty of castles to check out in this area of Germany. Neuschwanstein castle has the classic “Disney castle” look, but there are many others close by you can find with a quick Google search. I’d also recommend visiting the statue of Hercules in Kassel. Making the climb of 250 meters to the top is worth it because you’ll get an amazing view of the city.
One of our favorite ways to see a city is by taking walking tours, and this worked out well for us in Frankfurt. We found a great walking tour guide who led us to a local restaurant, called Gaststätte Atschel. If you ever visit, you have to try the special Frankfut meal of apfelwein and pork knuckle! The meal there was so good, we decided to stay and finish our meal, even though we would miss a river cruise we had already paid for later that day.
Handkasse Mit Musik is another great place that’s recommended by locals. Order a drink called Calvados Mit Mispelchen, and be sure to ask them the proper way to break the toothpick or the next round will be on you!
And another thing you’ll notice is dining in Germany is done family-style, so if you find an open seat, feel free to grab it and make friends with the people around you!
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
The best part of this trip was learning I could get along so well with my fiancé! We had to overcome a few obstacles, like figuring out how to get around in places that had limited GPS functionality. We also had a few tough times getting in touch with our Airbnb hosts when WiFi wasn’t available. And we completely missed a river cruise boat after running almost a mile to catch it! But my fiancé and I made some memories together we will cherish for the rest of our lives!
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Get out there! If you’re looking to travel, there will never be a perfect time. So just book a trip and go! You aren’t gaining anything by having miles and points just sit in your account, so you might as well use them to book your next trip!
Once you have a trip in mind, figure out how you’ll get there and start collecting points. Then plan it out and make it happen!
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!