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.