We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn 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! This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Linda 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 hers, take a second to subscribe to our newsletter!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
I’m Linda Pierce and I started collecting miles, points, and bank bonuses around 2011. My husband and I are out of the traditional workforce. We spend much of our time volunteering and traveling.
I’m not reinventing any wheels in the process. I read several travel blogs and act on what fits my personal travel and financial styles.
What was the goal of your trip?
Several years back, a photo of Red Rock National Conservation Area (just outside Las Vegas) rolled through my Facebook feed. After a 1-week trip to the area, we were hooked! We’ve been back each year in the January to February time frame, when dismal winter holds our permanent East Coast residence hostage. This past year we spent a month in the Las Vegas area.
This is not the Las Vegas of neon and fortunes lost! Did you know that the area is a world class hiking and climbing destination? Or that Nevada’s land is 80% public owned? Did you know there are wild burros there?
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I’m always collecting miles and points.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
I earned 73,000+ AMEX Membership Rewards points with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, which I used to offset the cost of our 1-month Airbnb stay. That savings amounted to $513! I also applied a $50 Airbnb gift card which I had purchased at a discount.
Normally, I wouldn’t keep that card because the annual fee is too high. But when I called to cancel I was offered a retention bonus of 20,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points if I spend $3,000 in the next 92 days with 5,000 of those points credited immediately. Between that and the $100 per calendar year airline fee credit I decided to keep the card.
Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
- Bank of America Travel Rewards Card
How did you search for and find the award flights?
We found our flights on Southwest. I used a credit from a previous Southwest flight to offset the cost. Also, our fare dropped after I booked the flights, so we received a credit for the price difference. I love Southwest.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
For the first and last nights of our trip, we stayed at a La Quinta Inn near the convention center, primarily to use their airport shuttle. If we have early morning flight departures, we use the hotel shuttle and drop our rental car off the evening prior. If we arrive late in the evening, we use the hotel shuttle to pick up the rental car the following morning.
Plus, hotel shuttle drivers know things – what’s happening in town or what’s within walking distance.
For the bulk of our time we stayed at an Airbnb, the same one we’ve stayed at during other Las Vegas visits. The hosts are Southwest Airlines flight attendants and the husband is also from a long-time circus family. They have a trapeze in their yard – how cool is that?
What was the most challenging or expensive part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
It’s expensive to rent a car for a month. We rented with Enterprise, and used 5 days credit we had earned from previous rentals. Enterprise has excellent customer service, and doesn’t tack on additional driver fees.
It’s also expensive to park at an airport for a month. An offer for a reduced parking rate at our home airport appeared in my Facebook feed. I saved the coupon on my phone and received more than $80 off our parking charges. I had to pay cash to use the coupon so no points were earned, but I’ve learned to stop obsessing over that.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
Only a few?
Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area – Take a guided hike; scramble on rocks; see a desert tortoise, burro, or road runner
Clark County Wetlands – Great walking, excellent visitor center, migrating birds, see how Las Vegas captures and cleans its water
Springs Preserve – Rent a bike; botanical gardens; historic structures; be amazed that you’re in the heart of Las Vegas at this place
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
Chill. The world’s not going to end if something falls through. We had volunteer gigs lined up in areas that receive federal funds, and half of them fell through because the government couldn’t decide on its budget.
We spent that time hiking and seeing some places we might otherwise not have chosen. There’s always something noteworthy to see or learn. That said, I don’t plan for 1 big event or attraction on a trip because unforeseen circumstances can wipe that out in a minute.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
If you are new to the hobby, read the blogs first. Then join hotel, airline, car rental, and dining programs to accumulate points. Don’t be afraid to apply for credit cards (assuming no prior credit card abuse). And have a plan for meeting minimum spending requirements for bonuses.
Don’t waste time or money pursuing airline or hotel status, if you are like me. I just need to get there. So I’ll sit in the middle seat! And I’m only going to sleep in the hotel room. So I need a toilet that flushes, air conditioning that works, preferably free breakfast, and for it to be located in a safe neighborhood.
Go with an open mind – there’s so much more than the mass media-promoted destinations and activities.
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!