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One of the best ways to use miles & points is to make unforgettable memories with loved ones. And even better if you include once-in-a-lifetime experiences most folks normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
Million Mile Secrets team member Keith recently returned from a 25,000 mile around-the-world honeymoon to Amsterdam, Cape Town, Dubai, Bali, and Singapore. I’ll let him tell you about it!
Keith: Thanks Daraius! My wife Liz and I built up hundreds of thousands of miles from credit card sign-up bonuses and bank promotions that we used to visit 5 countries on an around-the-world honeymoon.
Due to work commitments, we only had 17 days to circle the globe. This might not seem like enough time for such a trip. But, I’ll explain how we made the most of our time and enjoyed a romantic dinner at one of Amsterdam’s top restaurants, rest and relaxation in Bali, a beautiful hike and Afternoon Tea in Cape Town, cultural experiences in Dubai, and much more!
I’m happy to share how I paid ~$6,700 for a trip with a retail cost of ~$53,000!
Around-the-World Honeymoon Trip Series:
- Part 1 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Introduction & Planning
- Part 2 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Booking Flights
- Part 3 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Booking Hotels
- Part 4 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Making Airports More Enjoyable
- Part 5 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Highlights of Amsterdam, Cape Town, Dubai, Bali, and Singapore
- Part 6 – Around-the-World Honeymoon – Tips to Book YOUR Trip!
Using Hotel Elite Status to Our Advantage
Prior to our honeymoon planning, I used sites like Orbitz, Expedia, and Priceline to book the cheapest hotel stay. But, after earning Starwood Gold status with the The Platinum Card from American Express, my wife and I became loyal to Starwood hotels.
And, having the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express cards earned us nights and stays that made it easier to earn Starwood Platinum status before our honeymoon trip.
When we stayed at Starwood hotels during our honeymoon, Platinum status got us great perks like:
- 2 free drinks
- Discounts on dining
- Extra bonus points
- Late check-out at 4:00 pm
- Lounge access
- Room upgrades
The added benefits of elite status can really make a long trip much more enjoyable. And, it can mean savings of hundreds of dollars!
Paid Hotel Stays vs. Free Award Nights
Just like using miles for free or cheap airfare, redeeming points for free hotel stays saved us a lot of money out-of-pocket.
But, similar to our flight bookings, sometimes the value for booking hotels with points is too low. So, we paid cash for certain hotel stays.
With the exception of our 5-night stay in Cape Town and two 1-night stays in Amsterdam and Singapore, we stayed at Starwood hotels during our honeymoon.
I’ll tell you how we booked the 7 hotels for our honeymoon!
1 Night at Andaz Amsterdam Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Our original plan for staying in Amsterdam was to use the free anniversary night from Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card to stay at the magnificent InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam. Unfortunately, there were no rooms available.
Instead, we transferred 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book a 1-night stay at the Andaz Amsterdam. Rooms that night cost ~$398. So, using points for an award night was a nice way to save.
Our flight to Amsterdam arrived early in the morning. The hotel staff was very friendly and let us check-in at 8:00 am. It was great to put our bags down and start exploring the city right away.
Later in the series, I’ll tell you about our romantic dinner in Amsterdam.
5 Nights at Belmond Mount Nelson, Cape Town Using Cash
We chose this hotel instead of one that accepted points because of its history, great location, and romantic setting.
The hotel cost us ~$382 per night, which included transportation from the airport and an amazing breakfast everyday. I paid for the stay with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which earned me 2X Chase Ultimate Reward points for travel.
The hotel was great in acknowledging our honeymoon.
1 Night at Grosvenor House, Dubai Using Starwood Points
Flying Emirates between Cape Town and Bali allowed us to stay 1 night in Dubai, where there are many Starwood hotels. We chose the Grosvenor House, which is located in the Dubai Marina and is connected to the popular Buddha Bar.
We used 20,000 Starwood points for a free night, which saved us ~$402.
Later in the series, I’ll tell you about our very memorable 24 hours in Dubai.
5 Nights at St. Regis Bali
After a quick trip to Dubai and a long flight to Bali, we chose the St. Regis Bali to rest and relax in the Nusa Dua region of Bali.
The hotel has a beautiful beach, 4 excellent restaurants, and several pools. The amenities at this hotel are endless with things like St. Regis butler service, live music, a nightly fire show, and a spa. It was definitely a 5-star experience!
To book our stay, we took advantage of Starwood’s 5th night free perk. We paid 30,000 Starwood points per night for 4 nights or 120,000 Starwood points total and got the 5th night free. You can’t book with points online, so we had to call to make our reservation.
With Platinum status, we were upgraded to an Orchid Suite at check-in. This suite normally costs ~$150 per night more than the basic suite at the hotel. And, because we couldn’t check-in to the next hotel until 3:00 pm, we took advantage of late check-out and spent some extra time on the beach.
The cash cost of a stay in the same room would have been ~$4,205. So, using points was an enormous savings!
1 Night at W Retreat & Spa, Seminyak
To experience a different and more lively part of Bali, we stayed 1 night at the W Retreat & Spa, Seminyak. This hotel is category 7, so a free night costs 30,000 Starwood points. The cash cost of the room was ~$388, which we decided to pay and save our points for a more expensive room night sometime in the future.
Because we registered for the Starwood Triple Up promotion, we earned 6X Starwood points for our paid stay. And, I paid for the stay with the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card to earn an additional 2X Starwood points!
Our experience at the hotel was very positive, but completely different than our time at the St. Regis Bali. The W Retreat & Spa was very modern. And, there are many restaurants and shopping areas within walking distance of the hotel.
1 Night at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
All of our friends who have visited Singapore recommended we stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The hotel has an infinity pool on the 57th floor, which offers spectacular views of the city. And, it’s a great way to cool off from the Singapore heat.
This hotel is not a Starwood hotel and doesn’t accept points. So, we paid ~$437 for a 1-night stay. We tried to stay 2 nights, but the 2,500 room hotel was sold out for a week after we checked-out.
1 Night at The Westin Singapore
For our last night in Singapore, we used 20,000 Starwood points for a free night at The Westin Singapore. Using points saved us ~$278.
Platinum status at this hotel got us a room upgrade to the top floor (48th floor). And, we had access to the Executive Club Lounge for an evening reception with complimentary food and drinks.
This hotel was well located in Singapore’s financial district, which was close to many of the tourist attractions we visited. I’ll tell you more about what we did in Singapore later in the series!
My wife and I used perks from the AMEX Platinum card and AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest cards (personal and small business) to help us earn Platinum status, which was very valuable for our honeymoon. We received many perks like late check-out, room upgrades, and discounted dining.
Combining hotel points and promotions can be a great way to save money. We used Starwood’s 5th night free program at the St. Regis Bali, which saved us ~$4,205!
In the next part of the series, I’ll explain how we made our time at airports more enjoyable!