Why Points? Cheap Flights!

It was always our plan to organize our life to be able to travel the world. Credit card points have allowed us to get around the globe for a fraction of the cost. This is a comprehensive list of the flights we’ve taken and the amount of money that it has saved us so far.

August 2, 2017 – Bogota to Aruba 

We flew from Bogota, Colombia to Aruba to spend a few days lounging on the beach (and 4-wheeling for 8 straight hours) and then connect to our last flight booked on our round-trip below. We used 9,000 (4,500pp) British Avios and $150 ($75pp) in taxes and fees utilizing BA’s distance based award chart, which makes short haul flights a great value. A cash ticket usually goes for about $200pp so we saved around $250 ($125pp)!

Summer 2017 – Round Trip from Lansing to Baltra, Baltra to Quito, Aruba to Home

We traveled from Lansing to the Baltra Airport in the Galapagos for a week stay and then continued on to Quito, Ecuador. We spent 4+ weeks in Ecuador and Colombia, and finished our itinerary with a flight home from Aruba for 75,000 (37,500pp) United miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and $228 ($114pp) in taxes and fees. A similar cash flight would be about $1,000pp so we saved around $1,780 ($890pp)

We also had a long layover in Guayaquil, so I ventured out and experienced a bit of the city that I wouldn’t have been able to on a cash flight.

Our original flight was delayed out of Detroit, so I got online quickly and found a flight to Chicago from Lansing that would allow us to connect to our next flight to Latin America. United was happy to accommodate the change and gave us $300 in e-vouchers for the inconvenience as well. I have found booking agents to be more helpful if you do the legwork ahead of time and provide them with flight numbers to make their job easier.

April 10, 2017 – Lima, Peru to Toronto, Canada

We flew back to Toronto from Lima for 40,000 (20,000pp) United miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and $64 ($32pp) in taxes and fees. A cash flight from Lima to Toronto is about $375pp so we saved around $680 ($340pp)!

April 7, 2017 – Cusco to Lima, Peru

Our flights back to Lima from Cusco were 9,000 (4,500pp) British Avios and $8.50 ($4.25pp) in fees. A cash flight from Cusco to Lima is about $90pp so we saved around $170 ($85pp)!

March 31, 2017 – Toronto to Cusco, Peru

Our flights to Cusco from Toronto cost 40,000 (20,000pp) United miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and $64 ($32pp) in taxes and fees. The cash price of these tickets is around $4-500, which means we saved around $750 ($375pp)!

August 1, 2016 – Last minute Tokyo to Detroit

This was our luckiest award booking. We didn’t book a return flight from Bangkok for our trip through India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand in hopes of finding award space on the way. That award space never opened up, but we knew we had a Delta buddy pass in reserve if that happened. We boarded a flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, Japan on a buddy pass, meaning we were flying standby, expecting to continue on to the States. However, everyone else in the world had the same idea and there weren’t any seats available for a few days or possibly longer. If we didn’t have anything to get back to, then we’d just spend a few days in Tokyo, but we were heading home for my sister’s wedding.

I spent hours on my laptop overnight trying to piece together an award ticket, but just couldn’t get it done. I also researched cash flights and couldn’t find anything less than $2,500 for next-day flights back to the Midwest. Flights would have been closer to $1,000 if we had planned ahead. Luckily, my persistence finally paid off and I found a flight to JFK with Saver Award space. We just needed to book a cash flight home from there, which would be much cheaper! Then, lightning struck twice. I also found a flight home to Detroit from Newark’s Liberty Airport. We just needed to make our way from JFK to Liberty with public transportation and it worked out!

In the end, we spent 70,000 United miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards (35,000pp), $93.92 ($46.96pp) in taxes & fees , and $150($75/person) close-in booking fees. I was also able to leave the airport, grab some sushi, and explore a famous temple and pagoda. This saved us over $4,500 because of our unfortunate/poor planning. By booking this award flight, we saved about $1,700 ($850pp) versus buying cash flights home in advance.

July 6, 2016 – Maldives to Colombo, Sri Lanka

This flight took advantage of the British Airways distance based award chart. We used 13,500 (4,500pp) British Avios and $90 ($30pp) to go from the Maldives back to Sri Lanka to begin our week in Sri Lanka. These flights go for around $150 so we saved about $240 ($120pp).

July 1, 2016 – New Delhi, India to Maldives

These flights also used the British Airways distance based award chart. We used 43,500 (14,500pp) British Avios and $98.04 ($32.68pp) to go from Delhi to the Maldives via Colombo, Sri Lanka. These flights typically go for around $180 so we saved about $300 ($150pp). We also had the privilege of sleeping in the Colombo airport. 🙂

June 10, 2016 – Chicago to Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and India 

I was extremely happy with this booking and was able to use a number of different tips I’ve picked up from different travel bloggers to manipulate the itinerary to exactly what I wanted. I wanted to fly from Chicago to Delhi, India and stop in a country or two in the Middle East. I originally booked itinerary 1 to guarantee our flights knowing that American lets you change your itinerary with no extra costs (except for the difference in taxes/fees) as long as your origin and destination stay the same. In addition, all US airlines let you cancel any booking within 24 hours of making the reservation. I found a better flight the next day so I canceled our first booking and booked itinerary 2. Neither of these had layovers that were beneficial to us, but itinerary 2 was shorter. 24 hours elapsed so we were locked in to the bookings origin and destination. Finally, I found MileSAAver Award space that I loved. It got us directly to Doha, Qatar without any connections in the US and I found an onward flight to Abu Dhabi and to Delhi with 23 hours in Doha. However, the connection only left us with 4 hours in Abu Dhabi, which wouldn’t be enough time to leave the airport. Alas, I found an onward flight from Abu Dhabi to Delhi that would give us 20 hours in Abu Dhabi as well. Perfection!

One way flights from Chicago to Delhi regularly run around $5-600 and a flight that followed the same route with stops in Doha and Abu Dhabi would be closer to $1,500. We saved about $1,000 ($500pp) to get to Delhi and added stops in Doha and Abu Dhabi for no extra transportation cost. This cost 81,000 (40,050pp) AAdvantage Miles (90,000 – 10% back because of the co-branded credit card) and around $64 ($32) in taxes and fees.

Itinerary 1- Chicago > Charlotte > New York > Abu Dhabi > Delhi

Itinerary 2- Chicago > Boston > New York > Abu Dhabi > Delhi + $26.69×2

Itinerary 3- Chicago > Doha > Abu Dhabi > Delhi + $4.10×2 (23 hours in Doha & 4 hours in Abu Dhabi)

Itinerary 4- Chicago > Doha > Abu Dhabi > Delhi + $1.40×2 (23 hrs in Doha & 20 hrs in Abu Dhabi)

December 18 – 30, 2015- FDominican, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica

This was definitely our worst redemption. It was also my first time booking a flight with award points and trying to do it 2 months before Christmas break was not easy. We used 95,000 (47,500pp) United miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and $393.80 ($196.90pp) in taxes and fees. We saved about $400 ($200pp) on a flight to just one of these locations and added three other countries. If we wanted to visit all 4 countries, tickets would’ve been around $1,200/person with a savings of $1000/person. We also flew first class for a number of the flights on this itinerary and our cash flights would have been in economy.

June 12, 2015 – Train ride from Chicago to Everett, Washington

We used 20,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points transferred to Amtrak for a private roomette. These rooms were going for $1,000 when we bought our tickets so 20,000 UR points is an absolute steal. All of your meals come free on the 2-day journey as well. However, I consider it saving about $450 because we would have bought two coach tickets at around $200pp plus an additional $50 for food on the train if we were paying cash. We have done the same journey in coach and the roomette is a much better experience. Update: Amtrak is no longer a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. However, you can still earn Amtrak points through rail travel and the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard that typically comes with a 20,000 point signup bonus.


Ireland Trip

This is my trip planner for our time in Ireland in summer 2018. We booked a one-way flight from the east coast to Dublin for $109/person on Norwegian that gets us to Dublin at 8am on June 18th. We will be renting a car to drive around the entire island. This is a fluid document that will change as our trip plans evolve. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them.

Helpful Links
Heritage Sites Map Brochure
The Wild Atlantic Way Brochure
The Wild Atlantic Way
The Coastal Causeway Route: Northern Ireland
The Ring of Kerry
Wild Camping
Game of Thrones

Daily Itinerary

Day 1- June 18th
Arrive Dublin airport at 7:55am
Pickup rental car at 9am
Drive to Belfast (~100 miles/1.75 hrs)
Drive by Bru na Boinne
Stop at Cooley Peninsula/Mourne Mountain for a hike
Tollymore Forest Park
Night at Hen Mountain for wild camping or in Belfast/Newcastle

Day 2- June 19th
Explore Belfast
Titanic Museum, Divis Ridge Trail (4 miles), City Hall (free tour), Botanic Gardens (Palm House), River Lagan at night
Night in Belfast

Day 3- June 20th
Drive to Londonderry (~112 miles/3.5 hrs)
Giant’s Causway, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Ballintoy Harbor, Dunlunce Castle, Torr Head, Cushendun Caves, The Dark Hedges
Hike Binevenagh (3 miles), Londonderry
Night in Londonderry

Day 4- June 21st
Drive to Carrick/Teelin/Killybegs from LondonDerry
(65 miles/1.75 hrs direct or 87 miles/2.5 hrs via Glenvalough)
Grainan of Aileach
Slieve League, Bunglass Point
Night in Carrick/Teelin/Killgbegs/Donegal

Day 5- June 22nd
Explore Slieve League
Drive to Sligo (70 miles/2 hrs)
Gleniff Horseshoe Drive (6 miles / 1 hour)
Explore Sligo, Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
Night in Sligo

Day 6- June 23rd
Drive to Letterfrack (90 miles/2.25 hrs)
Killala Bay & Downpatrick Head (~135 miles/4 hrs)
Night in Letterfrack

Day 7- June 24th
Explore Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, and Tullycross
Night in Letterfrack

Day 8 June 25th
Drive to Carran (80 miles/2.5 hours)
Explore Galway on way
Night in Carran/Doolin

Day 9- June 26th
Explore Burren and Cliffs of Moher all day!
Night in Carran/Doolin

Day 10- June 27th
Drive to Killarnery (115 miles/ 2.5 hrs)
Explore Burren/Cliffs longer?
Explore Limerick
Night in Killarney

Day 11- June 28th
Drive the Ring of Kerry and Skellig Ring (back to Killarney on to Cork?)

Day 12- June 29th
Explore Cork
Lusitania Memorial and Blarney Castle
Night in Cork

Day 13- June 30th
Drive to Dublin (165 miles/ 2.75 hours)
Stops at Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny, and Glendalough/Wicklow
Night near Glendalough

Day 14- July 1st

Day 15- July 2nd

Day 16- July 3rd
Fly Out


Yellow– Lonely Planet’s Top 21
Red– Places worth a longer stop
Green– Places for a brief stop
Black– Places that aren’t on the itinerary unless there’s extra time

Male Airport to Maafushi

We arrived at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport around 9am after an overnight at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka the night before. We got off the plane onto the runway and walked to the airport. For some reason, I always like getting to a new country like this instead of walking right into the airport.

We were issued a free tourist visa-on-arrival and customs was a breeze. We exchanged a small sum of money to make it to Maafushi and were planning on using a mix of USD and Maldivian rufiyaa in the Maldives. The exchange rate is 15 rufiyaa to 1 USD for all bills over $5. A $5 will get you 14 rufiyaa and a $1 is valued at 10 rufiyaa.

The airport is located on its own island, Hulhule, right next to Male so you have to take a ferry to get to the “mainland.” The ferry costs 10 rufiyaa. The ferry will drop you off at the upper right hand corner of the map below at the Hulhumale Ferry Terminal. We read online that the Maafushi ferry left from Jetty #1 near the Fish Market so we decided to hoof it there since it wasn’t too far. However, when we got there, we were informed that the Maafushi ferry left from the other side of the island. It’s located at the Villingili Ferry Terminal in the lower left hand corner of the map. It’s over a mile so we tried to hail a taxi with no luck. A small truck saw us and told us to hop in and we made the journey for 40 rufiyaa. We read online that any taxi ride on the island should cost 25 rufiyaa + 5 rufiyaa for each bag so we didn’t try to haggle on the price.

We got to the ferry terminal and there was a big yellow boat with Maafushi Tours Ferry written on it so we hopped aboard and asked a guy working how to buy a ticket. He told us the ferry was sold out already and we had to get a shared speedboat for $20 per person. I didn’t believe him so I told him no thank you and got off the boat. I went looking around the area until I located the ticket counter. I hesitantly asked if there was a ferry to Maafushi. She nodded her head yes. I asked if there were any seats left. She responded positively. I asked how many and she said, “ohhh, sooo many” and flipped through a ticket booklet. I bought our tickets for 55 rufiyaa/person or $3.67. We just saved ourselves $50 between the three of us by avoiding the scam/liar at Maafushi Tours Ferry. We did have about 4 hours to kill now though.

We found a nice little beach area to sit at just down the road and stayed somewhat dry under a palm leaf structure as it had started to rain quite hard. We were later told that the ferry to the nearby island of Villingili, which the ferry terminal is named after, runs every 10 minutes. Had we known this, we probably would’ve tried to explore the small island during our four hours. Oh well though, next time.

The ferry took 1.5 hours with a stop at Gulhi before continuing to Maafushi. The seas were very choppy this afternoon. There were a number of locals puking into plastic bags, which made for some decent entertainment. I thought it was odd that the locals were struggling, but most of the tourists seemed fine.

Moral of the story. Don’t believe the guy at Maafushi Tours Ferry.


Myanmar Visa in New Delhi, India

We planned on getting our Myanmar visa in India because out of our three options; India, Bangkok, and e-visa, it was the cheapest. The e-visa costs around $70 and same day and next day visas in Bangkok cost $36 (1,260 Baht) and $28 (1,000 baht), respectively. Our visas in New Delhi cost $21 (1,420 Indian rupees.)

The Myanmar Embassy in Delhi’s website is at http://myanmedelhi.com/visa/ and states the requirements as a “duly filled” entry visa application, two 1.5″ x 2″ recent color photos with white background, passports valid for at least 6 months, and an interview if necessary. There is also a 1,400 Indian rupee charge or approximately $21. Things that you need that they don’t ask for: a letter stating your purpose and how you’re traveling to, from, and in Myanmar, copies of your passport, and a demand draft for the fee.

The Myanmar Embassy is conveniently located right next to the USA Embassy so it is very easy to tell a tuktuk/taxi driver where to go. The USA Embassy is crazy busy, whereas the Myanmar Embassy is pretty relaxed.

It’s important to note that the visa application time is only from 10-11am on Monday-Friday and the visa collection (pick-up) hours are from 4-5pm on Monday-Friday. It states two working days, but we got ours the next day. There are numerous holidays, both Indian and Burmese, that the Embassy will be closed on so check ahead.

We went to the Myanmar Embassy with, what we thought, everything in hand. However, we peered through the tiny holy in the glass to speak to the “Visa Application Guy” and he started grilling us with questions about our flight and hotel bookings in broken English. Well, we hadn’t made any prior bookings because the website said we didn’t need to. He also informed us that we need to pay with a demand draft and not with just rupees. AND that we needed copies of our passport. Our experiences in the past taught us that the Embassy would simply make copies of our passports, but this was not the case here. We thought we were prepared…

To make matters worse, there is only an hour window they take visa applications so we now had 45 minutes to try and get all of these things around or come back the next day, which we really didn’t want to do.

I started talking to a Travel Agent who was dropping off an application for a client and the girls kept talking to the Visa Application Guy. They figured out that they could write a letter detailing our plans of booking a flight from Bangkok to Mandalay and getting hotel stays when we were there. Also, the Travel Agent Guy offered to drive me to a bank to help me get a demand draft. The girls stayed behind to fill out our applications and write the letter.

I hopped in the car with the Travel Agent Guy/Stranger and he drove me a ways away. I tried to keep track of all the turns, but there were too many and I was firmly lost. He took me right to a bank, came in with me, and helped get me started with the teller before leaving.  Thanks guy. I ordered a demand draft for 5,200 rupees (1,400 x 3) and there was a 60 rupee charge. The bank was located in the front entrance of a giant youth hostel type thing. I asked the front desk where I could get copies made and they offered to make them for us for free.

When I stepped outside, I was expecting to have to catch a tuktuk back, but the Travel Agent Guy was waiting outside for me and drove me back. Thanks again! You’re a lifesaver!

I got back to the Embassy and the girls had filled out our applications and written the letters that simply stated we were booking our flight from Bangkok to Mandalay in the future and that we would be booking our hotels once we got to the country. They had very little information on it, but the Visa Application Guy said they look good. These letters are required by the way.

We organized our paperwork and stapled our 2″x 2″photos to the front and submitted them. They ask for 1.5″x 2″, but our 2x2s were fine.

I was convinced we weren’t going to be approved because we didn’t have anything booked ahead of time and the Visa Application Guy grilled us about this at the beginning.

We spent the next day visiting an ashram near Faridabad and arrived back at the Embassy around 4:15. Sure enough, our visas were approved! See you soon, Myanmar!

22 Hours in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

We arrived in Abu Dhabi from Doha at 6:00 pm. Immigration was a breeze and we were out of the airport in no time. The United Arab Emirates has a Visa-on-Arrival free of charge for citizens of the United States. We exchanged $20 at the airport money exchange so we could buy our bus tickets. We usually try to exchange just enough at the airport to get us to our destination and then exchange more once we’re there. Typically, the airport offers the worst exchange rates and charge a commission because people have to get some out there.

As easy as the Doha bus system was, the Abu Dhabi one was equally as difficult. We had a tough time figuring out exactly what we were supposed to do after the first bus declined our entry with cash. We talked to a guy that told us to get a ticket inside. Then we talked to the information inside to see where to get a bus ticket and she sent us back outside and around and around we went. Finally, thanks to great wifi at the airport, we figured out that we needed to get a prepaid bus ticket with a fixed amount of United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) on it.

We bought the tickets for 20 AED each and then had to wait for the next bus. It said they come every 20 minutes, but that was not to be the case. We were looking for the A1 bus that takes us into town. One drove by and we tried to wave it down, but it just kept on going. A random guy told us it would be back. So we waited. And waited. Luckily, there were AC bus stands there. Finally, we hopped on the bus and we were on our way.

We didn’t know exactly what bus stop to get off at (which would be a problem the next day), but we did know the bus would take us close to the Holiday Inn that we were staying at.

We overhead a young guy speaking English we could understand so I struck up a conversation with him and showed him my map on my phone. He explained where to get off and we were fairly confident we were going to be good to go at this point. The bus stop ended up being only about 100 yards from our hotel and we quickly checked in, received an upgrade into a massive room with a decent view thanks to our IHG status, and got ready to explore.

We headed out of our hotel into the direction of the Corniche along the bay in search of food. We were really hoping to find some kind of local food, but were unable to track any down. Our choices ended up being KFC, McDonalds, and a pizza place. We decided on Donalds. We got a few things off the value menu and each got an ice cream cone for $9.92.

After dinner, we continued walking towards the Corniche. Once we got there, a divided four lane stood in our way. We looked both ways and couldn’t find anywhere to cross. We ended up finding a break  in the fence that separated the road and, once again, participated in a friendly game of Frogger to cross the road.

The Corniche provided us with a view of the skyline and a decent breeze to help cool us off. It was late at this point, but still 1,000 degrees.

The skyline wasn’t nearly as impressive as we had hoped and the same could be said about the city in general. We didn’t make it down to the Emirates though, which is probably the most intriguing set of skyscrapers that make up the skyline.

We found an underground crosswalk on our walk and headed back for the hotel. Since breakfast was not included, a huge bummer after our amazing breakfast in Doha, we decided to stop at a fruit shop to pick up a few things for breakfast. We got bananas and apples for $2.14 and then headed back for the night.

The next day was interesting. We didn’t have that much time because our flight left at 2:00 pm and the airport was a decent ways away and we were planning to take the bus again.

Our one sight for the day was to be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I looked up the buses that would take us in that direction and we headed out. We walked to the nearest cross street to have a better selection of buses to take. We waited for a few minutes and one of the buses showed up, but it was full. Or so we thought. People began piling in and we followed suit. There was a pretty obvious division of women in the front and men in the back. We stood right at the cutoff point so Skye was with the women, I was with the men, but we were still right next to eachother. We weren’t sure if it would have been rude otherwise.

The bus was a far cry from Doha. We never had more than a few people on the bus with us there, but this was packed and continued to get even tighter with every stop. As we started to get further from the city center and closer to the Grand Mosque, it started to thin out a bit.

This is when things went terribly wrong. I read online that we should get off a decent walk before the mosque, but I wasn’t sure of the name of the bus stop. There was a screen at the front of the bus with the names of the stops and eventually Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque appeared. It said it was the next one and we could see the mosque so we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then, the bus drove straight by the mosque and kept going and going and going right on to the highway. Now we were nervous. The next bus stop was literally on the highway and we had to hop off there.

After a quick argument brought on by not knowing what to do while stranded on the highway a solid mile and a half from our destination in 110 degree weather with our flight leaving relatively soon, a cab drove by and we flagged him down. The fare ended up being about 20 AED and the fare from our hotel would have been about 30 AED. We probably should have just taken a cab to begin with, but this sure was an eventful experience.

We toured the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque free of charge and it was absolutely stunning. It made the hassle of getting there completely worth it. Skye had to put on a traditional black burka to make sure she was covered from head to toe, as is their culture, and she brought a scarf to put over her head.

After touring the mosque, we decided to not play around with the bus as we were short on time and hopped in a cab back to the hotel for 30 AED. We had a woman driver and apparently I wouldn’t have been allowed to take the cab by myself, but since Skye was with me, it was allowed.

I exchanged a little more money at the hotel so I could pay the fare and Skye went upstairs to pack. I called an Uber on my phone and was lucky to find a promotional code from Google Maps that covered the entire fare to the airport.

We got to the airport in plenty of time, got through security quickly, and waited at our gate while texting Emily to prepare for our meetup in Delhi. Little did we know, the next 24 hours would be one of our craziest travel experiences to date.

23 Hours in Doha, Qatar

We were able to spend 23 hours in gorgeous Doha, Qatar at the Marriott Marquis City Center Hotel thanks to credit card points.

We booked our flight from Chicago O’Hare to New Delhi, India with intentional layovers in Doha, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. You are allowed a maximum of 23 hours and 59 minutes on a layover and you can really maximize that when booking with credit card points. I was able to find award space on flights arriving in Doha at 5pm and departing the next day at 4pm to Abu Dhabi.

Our last day of school was a half day on Friday, June 10 and our flight was leaving that same day. As soon as school got out, I grabbed a quick bite to eat with the teachers to say my good-byes and then grabbed a ride from a fellow teacher to my in-laws in Dansville (where we crashed for two days because we just sold our house.) We had most everything together so it was just putting the finishing touches on our bags for the upcoming 7 week trip. Then, we were very thankful to have my mom and sister drive us the four hours to Chicago O’Hare from Lansing.

We hopped on the plane at 7:45 cst bound for the Middle East. Our flight was full of food, movies, and not as much sleep as we would have hoped. When we arrived at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, we were delighted to find great A/C as well as fast and free wifi throughout the airport. We paid our 100 QAR ($27.47) each for a visa on arrival and immigration/customs was a breeze. We exchanged money at the airport at a rate of 3.225. This was well below the 3.64 rate thanks in large part to only exchanging $40 and a commission fee.

The bus system is phenomenal in Doha… or at least our experience with it. The buses never seemed to be overcrowded, were equipped with A/C, and ran frequent enough. It is bus 777 or “Triple 7” as our bus driver called it that takes you to and from the airport. We were the only ones on our bus from the airport and our driver gave us a little tour on our way pointing out the Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, and the Corniche, all of which we would visit during our time in Doha. We each bought a Karwa Smartcard 24 Unlimited that allows for unlimited trips for 24 hours. The cost was 30 Qatari Rials each, but I think our lovely bus driver overcharged us by 10 QAR each for a little tip for his guide services. After departing, there were signs at the bus stop that these are supposed to cost 20 QAR. It wasn’t the first time we gave a tip unknowingly and it definitely won’t be the last. This converts to $9.30 for the card and we still came out ahead compared to the taxis. The starting taxi fare from Hamad International Airport is 25 QAR.

The bus dropped us off at the City Center, which is a huge mall with two sets of towers at each end. The Marriott Marquis City Center is at one end and is where we would lay our heads for the night. We tried to make our way through the mall, but were turned away at several points after trying to go through a fire escape that had no signs and the most dank elevator I’ve ever ridden on. Eventually, we exited out through the car park below the mall and found our hotel.

The Marriott Marquis was phenomenal and an absolute steal for only 10,000 Marriott Rewards points. It’s normally 15,000 points, but it was discounted with their PointSavers promotion. We accumulated 89,500 points through a signup bonus with their co-branded card with Chase. It was 80,000 points to spend $2,000 (1 point/dollar too) in the first three months and a 7,500 bonus to add an authorized user. We also received an upgrade, had a great view on the 37th floor, and the most amazing breakfast buffet imaginable complete with a fresh juice bar and chocolate fountain.

We arrived during the holy month of Ramadan, a most interesting “holiday” celebrated by Muslims around the world. The hotel informed us that most everything is closed during the day so we would be better off exploring that night. We took our stuff upstairs, showered, and walked to the bus stop.

We hopped on the same 777 bus with the same driver, swiped our card, and took off for the Museum of Islamic Art. We had a short walk from the bus stop, got lost trying to find an underground walkway to cross the street, and finally played frogger to get across the street. The traffic had picked up from earlier in the day when people were avoiding the heat and, from what we heard, mostly staying at home for Ramadan.

We toured the MIA at a leisurely pace and tried to take in the different artifacts and as much information about the history of the pieces as possible. One of the most interesting pieces of art was the building itself, which looked like a pyramid made from huge blocks that sat right on the water overlooking the bay with the city skyline in the background. However, the amount of dust in the air disrupts the view across the bay. It was definitely worth the trip and is free to enter.

We played another game of frogger to get across the busy street and found our way to Souq Waqif. I was expecting an outdoor market, but it was more of a modern outdoor mall. We walked around to take in the sights of the many shopkeepers and Muslim women in burqas, sounds of languages we do not understand, and smell of houka from the outdoor bars. It is definitely worth a stroll if you find yourself in Doha.

We stopped to eat at a nice Lebanese place called Zaatar w Zeit. We would later find out that this is a chain restaurant across the Middle East. We ordered a falafel wrap and another traditional Lebanese dish called Manakeesh. We split both of them to maximize our taste buds. It was 37 QAR (approximately $11.50) for the meal.

We walked all the way through Souq Waqif and then navigated our way back to the road that followed the bay and the Corniche to pick up the bus. We found a bus stop sign on the ground next to a pole and hoped it was still in use. The bus came shortly after and we returned to our hotel. We went up to the pool that sat on the seventh floor of the main building with both towers reaching for the sky on either side.

We weren’t entirely certain that our stay came with breakfast because the normal breakfast place was closed in recognition of Ramadan so breakfast was moved to another restaurant and we never exactly understood what the hotel staff told us. Anyways, I woke up and went straight to the restaurant to determine if it was free. The staff said yes and I got a glimpse of the most beautiful breakfast buffet my eyes and nose have ever experienced.

I went back up to tell Skye the good news and we proceeded to gorge ourselves on as many tastes as our stomaches could handle. I got a glimpse of the price and it would have been a $75 breakfast for the two of us. Good thing it was included. And quite honestly, it might be worth that much. It was amazing.

I wanted to get a view of the skyline from the Corniche, but Skye wasn’t feeling the heat and wanted to blog so she stayed behind. I had planned on hopping on the bus to the Corniche, but en route to the bus stop, I decided to just walk and take in the sights and sounds. It was definitely hot, but the stroll was worth it. There are a number of very unique skyscrapers throughout the city and it was nice to get to see them up close. I took a different path home and discovered our hotel was much closer to the water than we thought.

We packed up, checked out, and grabbed the 76 bus back to the MIA and Souq Waqif bus stop. We wanted to grab a few pictures here in the daytime. After taking a break in the shade under a tree on the Corniche, we made it to the MIA. I spent as much time there as Skye’s heat tolerance would allow and then we grabbed the 777 bus back to the airport.

Good bye, Doha. Next stop, Abu Dhabi.

Points Recap:

  • 45,000 points/person for Chicago to New Delhi flight
  • 0 extra points to stop in Doha
  • 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points for hotel and amazing breakfast

Price Recap:

  • $27.47 VOA
  • $27.47 VOA
  • $9.30 Karwa Smartcard 24 Unlimited
  • $9.30 Karwa Smartcard 24 Unlimited
  • $11.47 Dinner at Zaatar w Zeit


  • $85.01 for 23 hours in Doha
  • 10,000 points for hotel
  • 0 extra points for flight


Top Credit Card Bonuses

There are some phenomenal credit card signup bonuses right now. If you’re waiting to get in on the credit card game, now just might be the time. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, keep reading and ask some questions. I’d love to help you experience the joy of frugal travel just like us.

Top Current Bonuses

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) bonus offer is at 50,000 (normally 40,000) Chase Ultimate Rewards for signing up and spending $4,000 in the first 3 months and an additional 5,000 CUR when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase. That’s at least 59,000 CUR points after you meet the minimum spend. CSP offers 2x points on travel and dining, zero foreign transaction fees, and transfers to a number of airlines such as United, Southwest, and British Airways and hotels such as Hyatt and Marriott.

We transferred CUR to United MileagePlus and spent 47,500 points per round trip ticket that included a free stopover in the Dominican and free layovers in Panama City and San Salvador on our way to Costa Rica over winter break.

There’s also a great refer-a-friend bonus right now so I can receive 10,000 bonus CUR if you allow me to refer you. You win! I win! Contact me about this deal now!

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

The Marriott Rewards bonus offer is at 80,000 points (normally 50,000) for signing up and spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and an additional 7,500 bonus points after you add an authorized user and make a purchase. That’s 90,500 points after you meet the minimum spend. They also offer one free night stay every year on your account anniversary.

This is the bonus we are working on right now. We will be using 10,000 (only 1/9 of our bonus) on a stay at the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel in Qatar on our way to India this summer. That’s a $220 room for free and only using a fraction of the points we’ll earn from this.

The refer-a-friend bonus is teeny tiny at this point, but every little bit counts. If you’re interested, let’s talk.

Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel

British Airways Visa Signature Card

The British Airways (BA) bonus is at 50,000, 75,000, or 100,000 Avios. The standard bonus is 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. That’s the current 50,000 bonus right now. However, there are two additional bonuses at this time. If you spend another $8,000 in the first year ($10,000 total), you’ll earn 25,000 more bonus Avios. If you are able to put $20,000 total on the card in the first year, you’ll earn another 25,000 bonus Avios. That’s a total of 52,000 Avios for $2,000 in spend, 85,000 Avios for $10,000 in spend, and 120,000 Avios for $20,000 in spend. Even if you only reach the $2,000 in spend, it’s completely worth it right now.

My sister is planning on opening this card for our trip this summer. We’ll be using 9,500 British Avios (BA)/per person to get from India to the Maldives and another 4,500 BA to get from the Maldives to Sri Lanka. We’ll be paying her back with some nice hotel stays using our Marriott Rewards from above.

BA is well known for incredible short-haul flights in the United States for only 7,500 Avios. You can also get across the pond, from Boston to London for example, for as little as 13,000 Avios.

I can’t find any refer-a-friend for the BA Visa Signature Card, but would still love to chat about the benefits if you’re interested.

CITI / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard

The current offer is 50,000 AAdvantage points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. AAdvantage points are good for flights on American Airlines and their OneWorld partners such as British Airways, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Cathay Pacific as well as other partners such as Etihad Airways, Alaska Airlines, and Jet Airways.

I opened this card last year and Skye recently opened it as well. We will be traveling to India with free 23 hour layovers in Doha and Abu Dhabi with AAdvantage points on Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Cards To Keep An Eye On

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

The current signup bonus is 60,000 points. That’s enough for 12 free nights with their amazing PointBreaks promotion. However, it’ll probably be more like 3-6 free nights at one of their standard rates depending on location and property. There’s a $0 intro annual fee and $49 a year after that. The annual fee is offset with an annual free night every year. For the $49 annual fee, you could stay at some amazing InterContinental or Crowne Plaza locations such as Washington DC, Times Square NYC, Paris, and Hong Kong.

The 60,000 bonus points is well worth it, but the offer can get up to 80,000 points. As soon as the offer climbs to 80,000 points, we’ll be opening up at least one of these.

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom has a ton of value. It’s the little brother to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The current bonus is 15,000 CUR + 2,500 CUR for adding an authorized user for only $500 in spend in the first three months. The top bonus I’ve seen, and the one we took advantage of last year, is 20,000 CUR + 5,000 CUR. When this offer shows up again, hop on it right away.

The Chase Freedom has no annual fee (ever), which makes it a great card to keep for years to build up your “Average Age of Credit” to improve your credit score. It’s important to pair this with the CSP because you can’t transfer CUR to their partners with only the Freedom. You will need a CSP to do that.

Please feel free to ask any questions. Which card interests you the most? Chase Freedom or Sapphire Preferred? British Airways? AAdvantage? IHG? Marriott?