|Hawaiian Waterfalls, photo by Andrew|
Before kids, my husband and I traveled the world. We always flew coach and paid for our tickets, but we were young and didn’t really care. We accumulated quite a stash of frequent flier miles on Northwest between our leisure trips and my work travel.
Then kids came. Thirteen years and many Orlando trips later, we are ready for some serious travel again.
In June 2011, we used nearly all miles earned on Northwest back in the ’90s to get five coach round-trip Delta tickets to Hawaii. It was our first trip to Hawaii and I was hooked. I came back and immediately began investigating ways to get free / cheap flights to Hawaii in the future.
My first jet-lagged attempt at free travel was a major misfire. I got my husband a Citi Expedia card that offered a low-cost companion fare with each purchased ticket without doing any research first. A few days later, after adjusting to my own time zone again, I did some searches and found out that the companion fare was essentially worthless. However, in researching this card, I found a FlyerTalk post about the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I quickly applied for a Chase Sapphire for my husband and myself.
Enlightenment had begun!
I began to read extensively on FlyerTalk and other travel blogs. We got the Citi American Airlines cards (75K x 4), the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold (75k x 2), and the Starwood Preferred Guest (25k x 2), and the Priority Club Visa (80k x 2).
Now for the payoff: Our 20th anniversary is next fall. I used 200K American miles to book business class tickets for three days into London and home from Paris. We paid $470 in fees and taxes for these business class tickets, which are currently costing $4372 each before taxes and fees ($8744 for 2 tickets). We’d never have paid that, so the coach fares of $1093 ($2186 for 2 before fees) is the better savings comparison.
I participated in the Club Carlson Big Night giveaway. My husband, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I all had a night’s stay at a Radisson, yielding 50K points each and costing $282 total. With the 200K Club Carlson points, I booked two Premium award nights at the May Fair in London at 75K each and one standard award night at the May Fair at 50K. There are no taxes and fees. Paying for the room would have cost $1687.
After three nights in London, we’re heading to Paris where we will stay at the Intercontinental Le Grand for three nights at 40K points each (120K Priority Club points). Comparable paid booking would cost $1669 plus tax if I pick the Advance (restricted) rate.
Our final night in Paris will be at the Westin at CDG airport because our flight leaves very early the next morning. The night costs 16K Starwood points instead of approximately $450 cash. Considering the value of Starwood points, this is not a great redemption, but I’ve got the points.
All in, I’m using 200K AA miles, 200K Club Carlson points, 120K Priority Club points, and 16K Starwood points, plus $752 ($282 Radisson, $470 AA fees) for this trip in business class and luxury hotels. Paying for this trip as booked would cost $12,550 before taxes and fees.
How’s that for a Sunday Success Story? (Not to mention the success of 20 years of marriage!)
Terrific story, Anita, and congratulations on the 20 years of marriage! A good marriage provides not only companionship and support but a card application partner as well. And that doubles the number of hotel nights. Thanks for sharing your story. – Rick