|photo by Andrew Ingersoll|
Your Sunday Success Story will serve as a living example that all of us average Americans can, indeed, see the world at prices we all can afford. We can do this by working together and sharing our stories. Send your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your first name and last initial, along with your occupation and a photo, if you wish. - R.I.
These successes are so inspirational to me. They keep me going when the naysayers pop up. Imagine what it’s like to do this trip — the sights, sounds, and smells of Africa and Mauritius that cost just a few bucks and a few points on a more-than-adequate credit score. Enjoy going along on Bryce’s trip by reading his Success Story. It could be you!
I’ve been meaning to write in for a while now but figured I should do so after completing my first big trip last weekend. Timely given your call for stories just as we wrapped up!
I always worked points programs a little. I go back far enough to remember swapping long-distance carriers frequently for Northwest airlines miles. For some reason, I never looked online for communities until we moved and I realized we were burning our small pile of frequent flier miles visiting family more quickly than I could replace them.
That was January 2010 and I found your blog just days after the British Airways 100k offer had ended. Thankfully it came back, and so began our quest for miles in earnest. Little did I know how far it would lead us. I won’t dwell on it here, but while the trip below was fantastic, it’s the many, many little trips we’ve been able to take (or give) domestically that have been most valuable (and I’m not talking CPM here). The last 2.5 years away from friends and family would have been much more difficult had I not stumbled onto your blog, FlyerTalk, and subsequently many other resources. Thanks.
Following on, my wife and I picking up two Chase British Airways (BA) cards for 100k each. We also pulled out all the stops and managed to hit the $30k spending goal last year to pick up the BA companion certificate. Somehow, with all the spending and some extra promos, we ended up with 290k+ BA miles. Booking was a nightmare(*) but I’m very, very happy with the results:
ATL-LHR-JNB (Johannesberg)-MRU (Mauritius) in BA’s first class.
LVI (Livingstone, Zambia)-JNB-LHR-ATL in BA’s first class.
(*) Getting BA to book us on JNB-MRU and LVI-JNB, which are British Airways marketed flights operated by Comair (a BA subsidiary), was a nightmare that was only compounded by the availability issues to MRU. Those were also just business class, similar to US domestic first or intra-Europe Club class, I think.
Being an open jaw, we also booked South African Airways in economy (short flights) using United miles (accumulated from a variety of means but rarely flying) as follows:
MRU-JNB-CPT / CPT-JNB-LVI.
Finally, we needed to position to a BA US gateway city (because the companion certificate requires flying on BA metal), so we booked Delta flights using vouchers from New Orleans to Atlanta and back.
As I write this, I realize just how much I’ve learned beyond just how to get the miles/points themselves: vouchers, alliances, open-jaw, etc. When I first signed us up for those two 100k BA cards, I was just happy with the idea that they’d get us eight domestic round-trips home. We did so much more with them (and used other miles/points resources to get home frequently).
So, we managed to get to Mauritius, Cape Town, and Livingstone, Zambia, but we also needed places to stay. To cover that, we did cash+points (27,200 Starwood Preferred Guest points) for six of the nights in Mauritius and Cape Town at an average cost of ~$60/night. We also used two Expedia Best Rate Guarantee coupons, one for a small vineyard in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and another for a boutique hotel in Cape Town. Finally, we also paid for the remainder using one of our Capital One Venture miles cards (~$1000+ value).
We didn’t do anything special with cars in Mauritius or Cape Town. They were just out-of-pocket. Notably, we almost used ~50k Delta Skymiles for a BMW in Cape Town, but I couldn’t make it work/figure out the insurance implications as I preferred to use our American Express Platinum card with the premium car protection for that which requires a charge, and I wasn’t willing to risk being uninsured.
Admittedly, those BA tickets incurred steep fees — fees that might even have nearly equaled an economy ticket to South Africa. I haven’t finished totaling our expenses, but I believe 14 nights in hotels, long-haul in first class, cars, and all connecting flights totaled ~$1750 per person (70% of that being the BA fees). With all I learned, next time we’ll do even better at reducing cash costs.
My wife and I still haven’t really spoken to anyone in detail about our trip. We just don’t know where to start. It’s impossible to put a value on the trip, but it exceeded our expectations and took us on a trip that our family describes as “once in a lifetime.”
Then again, right before the Avios devaluation, we also booked tickets to Buenos Aries, Santiago, and Easter Island. And we’ve got big, big piles of miles with all the legacy US airlines, now with hotels balances to match. Trip of a lifetime? Yes. Why stop at one though?!?
As I approach a two-year mark of doing this, my wife and I have earned approximately 4 million miles/points. It all began here, with your blog. Thanks again!