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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.
Tania 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!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
I am Tania. I was born and raised in Brazil, but I moved to the US in 2001. I live in New York City with my 5-year-old son.
I have been involved in the miles and points hobby since 2012. It all started after my now ex-husband and I attended Frequent Traveler University in New Jersey. We met so many great bloggers including Daraius and Emily, Summer from Mommy Points, and the legends Gary Leff and Randy Petersen.
Since then, I have collected several hundreds of thousands of miles and points. And I have been able to take wonderful trips.
What was the goal of your trip?
This specific trip was to bring my grandmother in Business Class from Brazil to meet her first great-grandson.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
Back in 2012, it took me 3 months to earn the bonuses on 2 Citi American Airlines cards. I was able to collect 100,000 American Airlines miles very easily.
Originally, I wanted the miles to travel to Japan in Business Class. But I got pregnant and we had to change plans. So when my son was born, it was nice to have miles to gift to my family.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
I only used American Airlines miles.
Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
I feel nowadays American Airlines miles are overrated. American Airlines changed their award chart a couple of years ago. And it’s becoming hard to find available award seats. I just applied for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express last month, and now I focus more on collecting Delta miles.
My everyday card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred because I love flexible points for hotels and rental cars. I fly to Brazil once a year to visit my family. Delta surprisingly sometimes has decent fares and good redemptions.
I also use Delta miles for shorter flights. I got a good deals to the Bahamas and to San Francisco during a flash sale.
How did you search and find the award flights?
I used the American Airlines website.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
Because this trip was for my grandmother to visit me in New York, I rented an Airbnb near my apartment.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The only challenge was not having enough miles for 2 Business Class tickets. My aunt wanted to come with my grandmother. So she flew in coach and my grandmother was in Business Class. But the crew was very nice. Even the passenger sitting next to her helped to recline her seat.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
To have my grandmother in New York was priceless. She was coming anyway, but my family couldn’t pay for a Business Class seat. It was such a treat for her to eat ice cream on the plane.
It was her last flight before she passed away in 2014. So for me it was meaningful and special. She came during spring and we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden to see the cherry blossom trees.
My grandmother was born in Japan and immigrated to Brazil as little girl. So cherry blossoms have a very special meaning for her. As an adult she visited Japan twice, but she never experienced cherry blossom season to the fullest.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
This hobby requires a lot of discipline, self-control, and a love for Excel spreadsheets. But the results are worth it!
I am a working divorced mom without a 6-figure income and no fat alimony from my ex-husband. But I have traveled to Brazil several times and had wonderful vacations with my son around the world because of this hobby. We visited the Bahamas, Miami, Mexico, and Canada! We took a Disney Cruise and visited places within the New York tri-state area.
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