My honeymoon was a total dream – a safari in South Africa, time in Cape Town and a week on a beach on the island of Mauritius. And, what made it even more incredible is that I was able to save $19,000 on this amazing trip by using my travel points and miles.
I know, it seems too good to be true. But, I promise it is not. Here’s how I (points) hacked my honeymoon – and how you can (so easily) get in on the free vacation game, too!
The Flight – Savings of $11,000
It absolutely pays off to pick 1 airline and stick with it for all of your travels. Why? Because you can sign up for their frequent flyer program and earn miles for every flight you take. And trust me, it still adds up even if you don’t travel as much as I do.
My airline of choice is American Airlines, which is part of the One World alliance. This means that I can also earn and redeem miles on any airline that is also a part of this alliance and opens up a world of possibilities (pun intended).
One of the airline partners is Qatar Airways which sounds like an odd thing for me to mention when I said my honeymoon was in Africa, but they were top on my radar for 2 reasons. One, they have a connecting flight to Johannesburg via Doha (another place I hadn’t been and could visit during a layover) and Two, they have the very best business class product out there – the Qsuite.
This has been on my travel bucket list for a long time – mostly because of the fact that the seats lay flat and together to create a double bed in the air, complete with pillows, blankets and pajamas. I mean, YES! Without further ado, the Qsuite:
Pro Tip: My strategy related to my airline miles is to let them build up and accumulate until I have enough to use for a free business class ticket to somewhere far away. It is such a treat to be able to fly business class for long flights and this is the only way that I am able to afford to make that happen. It takes more miles to do this, but is SO worth it for me, especially because of the value I am getting for each mile. You could also use fewer miles for economy tickets, which is a great option for anyone who doesn’t have as many miles or anyone who wants to stretch them further. For example, you can usually get a round trip economy ticket for the same amount of miles as a one way business class ticket!
Availability on the American website is very limited for Qatar Airways, so I searched and searched until I was able to find our flights – in Qsuite and complete with a layover in Doha as I had hoped! We did have to pay $35 in taxes each way on top of our miles, but not too shabby for a ticket that has a $5,500 value per person!
Pro tip: There are also peak and off-peak flights available – I always redeem for off-peak options because why not save miles!? You may have to make another stop or fly a less-than-ideal route, but for me it makes sense. Talk to me if I had a kid in tow and I would probably be telling a verryyyy different story and want the most direct flight possible! If that’s you, there are always peak flights options available – it just will require more miles (since they’re the more in- demand flights).
Oh, and flying any business class ticket gives you free access to One World airport lounges, which is great for treating yourself to a glass of Champagne to start your trip off right!
The Hotel(s) – Savings of $8,000
Now I am sure you’ve heard about my love for Marriott and all of its properties in past blogs. After all, many times I pick my travel destinations based on where I find incredible hotels. It’s a bit strange to think about, but I have seen some incredible places because of it. Here’s some proof:
Thankfully, Marriott has hotels all over the world which is super convenient for planning. Their program works in the same way as the airlines – you earn points for every hotel stay you have with them. These definitely add up as well. But, I have this personal peeve of spending money on hotels. I am not really sure why, but it really bothers me to spend money on a bed to sleep in. So, I chose to accelerate my points earn with Marriott by getting their credit card, which allows me to earn Marriott points for all of my regular daily credit card spending. It comes with a ton of other travel benefits that I love as well which are worth more than the annual fee costs, but I will get into that at another time. This spend supercharges my earn rate which makes me super happy!
Pro tip: If you decide you want this credit card too (so we can be Marriott junkies together), be sure to use this link so we can both get bonus points!
These points can be redeemed for any hotel within Marriott’s network of 30 brands worldwide. And what’s even more amazing is their program where you can redeem for 4 nights and get 1 bonus night totally free. We took advantage of this big time during our time in Mauritius – redeeming points for 5 free nights at the St. Regis Mauritius. Plus, due to my status, we got upgraded to the Beachfront Grand Suite – a $7500 value. I’d say it was sure worth it, wouldn’t you?!
Pro tip: Marriott also has a feature called “Points Advance” which allows you to hold your stay using points before you’ve technically earned enough points for the whole stay. This is an awesome option if you really want to book a trip, but just don’t have enough points yet, but know you will by the time you travel. You just need to have the points in your account 2 weeks before you travel otherwise the reservation gets cancelled. It’s an amazing feature though for us planners!
We also used Marriott points during our stay in Cape Town at the 15 on Orange hotel for 2 free nights as well – a $500 value.
Pro tip: When you’re traveling for special occasions (ie: honeymoon) always check with the hotel to see if they have any special packages or promotions available. In our case, our safari offered 50% off the bride’s accommodations which ended up being a huge savings! Even if they don’t discount accommodations, there oftentimes are special packages which provide huge value (ie: anniversary package offering discounted amenities) for that special occasion.
I have been in this points hacking game hardcore since 2007 and there’s a lot that I am still learning. I LOVE helping people get their feet wet and sharing what I have learned over the years, so please reach out if I can help you hack any upcoming vacations – or even help you make sense of how to get started. As the saying goes, “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”, and I say, “it’s even better when you don’t even have to buy the travel” 😉
– The Honeymooners!