My husband and I checking off three bucket list destinations this summer: Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. We will spend two glorious weeks in Asia paying only $95 per person for all flights and hotel stays. Granted, once we get there we will still have to pay for food and activities, but our final bill will be drastically lower than the out of pocket dollar cost we would have paid without points. I know that the points game can be confusing, especially when you factor in credit card bonuses, so I wanted to share a few tips on how we made this trip happen so that you can do the same!
HOW TO TRAVEL TO ASIA FOR UNDER $100
I have received a few client inquiries asking for help earning points to fund trips that are only a month or two away. Unfortunately, I have to tell them that though I can help them cut some costs, they will not likely be able to earn and redeem a transatlantic/pacific flight or completely fund their hotel stays without planning much further in advance.
Case in point, my husband and I signed up for credit card bonuses and earned enough points for our trip over a year in advance. This allowed us to book the flights and hotels we wanted. If you have a specific trip in mind, it’s extremely important to plan ahead because award flight availability and hotel award availability get more limited the closer you are to departure. If you are trying to earn points with credit card bonuses, you need to give yourself time to meet the minimum spending levels required to earn those points (most cards give you three months to spend $3,000 to earn the bonus).
Diversify your points
While it is possible to use a credit card reward portal such as Chase Ultimate Rewards to book a variety of airlines and hotels, in order to redeem your points for the best value, you’ll want to diversify your points. For example, my husband and I had signed up for hotel credit cards, an airline credit card, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred in order earn the points to make this trip happen. Having a variety of points available makes it much easier to find flights and hotels in your desired destination. The graphic below illustrates the different points we used.
Sometimes the award flight you want may not be available. However, if you are flexible with your departure date, it’s more likely you’ll find a match. Likewise, being flexible about your destination can help. You may want to visit Bangkok, but there might be better flight availability if you first fly to Tokyo. My husband and I decided to add on a visit to Japan because there was great availability on a direct flight to Tokyo – plus, we get to see another country!
The same applies to hotel award availability. Sometimes all it takes is switching the order of two destinations to redeem your hotel award points at your desired hotels.
Don’t be afraid to use your points
While we all want to get the best value for our points, most experts will tell you not to hoard your points. If you have somewhere to use them, use them! For example, hotels in Southeast Asia are very cheap and we may not be getting the best value by redeeming Hilton points there. However, the hotels were available and using our points is still saving us hundreds of dollars. If you wait to redeem your points, you may never find an amazing value redemption and end up with expired points.
Overall, my husband and I are saving over $4,000 on flights and hotel stays by having earned and redeemed points for this trip. It requires patience and planning, but I’d say that’s worth it!