Travel Tricks

Sabbatical Travel: Miles & Money

miles

What would you do if you had six months where you could work from anywhere in the world?

This is Part Three of a three-part introductory series about the process of planning a six-month trip.

Part One: The Planning Process
Part Two: Decision Making
Part Three: Miles & Money


In Part Two of this series, I laid out the itinerary I created for my six month adventure. Here’s a summary of the plan:

29 nights in Costa Rica
32 nights in Cape Town
5 nights in Vienna
27 nights in Budapest
11 nights in Prague
5 nights in Paris
7 nights in Amsterdam
6 nights in Singapore
42 nights in Bali

This is 164 nights and at least 6 fairly long haul flights. Even at $100/night and $500 per flight (somewhat conservative estimates), that total cost would be $19,400! Bump it up to $150/night and $750/flight and the cost goes to $29,100!! This is simply unaffordable for me but thankfully, I started studying credit card rewards points and hotel and airline loyalty programs back in 2015 so I had some currency beyond dollars and cents. Here’s how I booked the entire trip for about $5,000!!

  • Roundtrip from Philadelphia to San Jose, Costa Rica – JetBlue (Economy class)
    Paid for with 19,600 JetBlue miles + $80 (transferred from my Citi credit cards)
    Actual price at booking: $587
  • 29 nights in Costa Rica at an Airbnb
    Paid for with cash. I had a terrific conversation with a host who was having problems with his account. I called Airbnb on his behalf and the issue was quickly resolved. The host gave me a generous discount for helping him out and I had a 10% off Airbnb introductory offer.
    Total price: $1,200
  • One-way flight from Philadelphia to Cape Town – Qatar Airways (Business class)
    Paid for with 68,000 American Airlines miles + $20:  The actual redemption was for 75,000 miles but included a 10% rebate from having the AAdvantage Aviator Red credit card… up to 10,000 miles per year. I’d already received 3,000 miles in 2017.
    Actual price at booking: $5,430
  • One night at a Holiday Inn in Cape Town
    Paid for with cash. However, this one night will earn me 34,000 IHG points thanks to the IHG Accelerate promotion so even though I’m paying cash, I see this as a big savings.
    Total price: $120
  • Ten nights at a Marriott in Cape Town
    Paid for with 160,000 Marriott points
    Actual price at booking: $2,837
  • Ten nights at a Hilton in Cape Town
    Paid for with 160,000 Hilton points
    Actual price at booking: $1,540
  • Eleven nights at a Marriott in Stellenbosch
    Paid for with 90,000 Marriott points
    Actual price at booking: $1,471
  • One-way flight from Cape Town to Vienna – Ethiopian Airlines (Business class)
    Paid for with 55,000 Avianca LifeMiles + $58
    Actual price at booking: $1,951
  • Five nights at a Hilton in Vienna
    Paid for with 40,000 Hilton points
    Actual price at booking: $695
  • 27 nights in Budapest at an Airbnb
    Paid for with cash
    Total price: $1,400
  • 11 nights in Prague at an Airbnb
    Paid for with cash
    Total price: $650
  • Five nights in Paris at an Airbnb
    Total price: $0 – my parents are paying for this one!! Lucky me!!
  • Seven nights in Amsterdam at an IHG hotel
    Paid for with 180,000 IHG points plus my credit card anniversary certificate
    Actual price at booking: $2,011
  • Round-trip flight from Amsterdam to Singapore – British Airways (Economy class)
    Paid for with 25,000 Bank of America/Merril-Lynch points. I’ll probably only use this flight to get to Singapore as I’ve found a better way back. Even as a one-way ticket, this is still a good deal.
    Actual price at booking: $496
  • Six nights in Singapore at a hotel booked on Orbitz
    Paid for with cash. I bought a $1,000 Orbitz gift certificate last year for $650 from the US Travel Association’s Daily Getaways
    Actual price at booking: $1,000
  • One-way flight from Singapore to Denpasar, Bali – Singapore Airways (Economy class)
    Paid for with 7,500 Krisflyer miles (transferred from my Citi credit card)
    Actual price at booking: $119
  • Six weeks in Bali at an Airbnb
    Paid for with cash
    Total price: $800 (estimated)
  • One-way flight from Denpasar, Bali to Newark – Cathay Pacific (Business class)
    Paid for with 63,000 American Airlines miles + $77 (70,000 minus 10% rebate for having the AAdvantage Aviator credit card)
    Price today: $3,988

Total number of points/miles used: 867,100

Total amount of money spent: $5,083

Estimated total cost if paying all cash: $26,295 (NOT including hotel taxes and fees)

So now the next question: Where did I get all of those points? Stay tuned for my forthcoming post featuring my loyalty points and credit card strategy…

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