This Couple Took an Epic Trip to New Zealand in First Class for Next to Nothing!
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.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! John 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 John 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 John. I have been collecting miles since my first free flight to Hawaii in 2012 after learning about points from my sister, Kasia. While I never traveled for business, I was able to learn a lot through websites like Million Mile Secrets to make my dreams of travel a reality.
What was the goal of your trip?To return to New Zealand with my wife as it is our favorite place to travel.
A few years ago, we decided to put life on hold and travel all over the world to places we never thought we’d have a chance to see. This turned out to be the beginning of our love for travel and New Zealand would be the first place we would return to.
Because of some flexibility with the Alaska award program, we were also able to layover in Fiji to do some diving as well.
After being approved for the AMEX Business Platinum 100,000 point bonus, we also decided to travel a little out of the way since we found seats on Singapore Airlines in Suites Class that would take us to Japan.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
On this trip, we collected miles and points for ~12 months. It really doesn’t take that long to accumulate enough miles for these trips when you have a strategy and plan ahead.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We used Alaska Airlines miles for our flight to New Zealand, AMEX Membership Rewards points for Japan and American Airlines miles for our flight home.
What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?
- AMEX Membership Rewards points from The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
- American Airlines miles from the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
- Alaska Airlines miles from the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card.
As well as converting some Starwood points we had from previous offers.
How did you search for and find the award flights?
Alaska Airlines customer service is usually rather patient and they had no problem finding our flights to New Zealand. For our way home from Japan, we used the British Airways search engine to find seats on Japan Airlines to use our American Airlines miles.
The tricky part was finding availability on Singapore’s A380 First Class. I actually found their app to be quite a bit easier to search for flights rather than their website or customer service. At the time, I was unable to find ANY flights coming or going from the west coast of the US in First Class for the entire YEAR!
Fortunately, I was able to find seats out of Sydney, so with a cheap flight from Queenstown to Sydney, we were able to board our Suite headed to Singapore!
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
While we did use IHG points for the ANA InterContinental Tokyo, our favorite accommodation was our camper van in New Zealand.
Sometimes, staying in hotels with points can limit your experiences because the hotels are often in the center of big tourist areas. This time, it made sense for us to pony up some cold hard cash and pay for our little hotel room on wheels. 🙂What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Easily the most challenging part was finding availability on Singapore Airlines’ A380. There’s just not enough award space for the demand so I spent quite a bit of time researching different routes the “Big Bird” flies.
One of the best routes with consistent availability is the Sydney to Singapore route. Unfortunately for most people, that is a bit out of the way.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
One of the ways we’ve learned to travel is using Google Images to find places that interest us. That might seem peculiar to some, but by scrolling through a search, it is much easier to sift through a huge amount of information when it comes to learning about a destination.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
I learned that no matter how much planning I do, I am still probably going to screw something up. The trick to that is remain calm and figure out how to move on rather than dwell on how the mistake happened.
While in Japan, we took a high-speed train from Tokyo to Kyoto and I left my ticket stub in the train seat. While it may be customary in some parts of the world for these tickets to be collected on the train, in Japan, you need these tickets to exit the station. Unfortunately, the only way out for me was to pay another $125 for a new ticket.
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 folks who already have the points, get to planning as soon as possible because award space can dry up FAST. For those who haven’t dipped their toes into miles and points just yet, come on in, the water is warm! 🙂
At the very least, everyone should sign-up for a particular airline’s reward program before they fly. Often times, just flying 2 or 3 times a year can earn you enough points for a free flight relatively quickly.
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!
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)