This is part 1 of this post, I’ll have part 2 up later this week.
It all started with a google search.
Me: Where to go on honeymoon in November?
Looking at the list on the knot, I was drawn to French Polynesia, Bali, and Australia, mostly because they were the furthest destination from us, and when else is it acceptable to take 2+ weeks off work? So I sent Katie a quick e-mail:
Me: According to theknot.com (yes I actually went to that site) here are the best destinations to honeymoon in. I’m thinking we can combine Australia and the South Pacific or Southeast Asia here. Maybe French Polynesia or Bali and Sydney for sightseeing and relaxing. Or do Spain and the Seychelles?
Katie: Australia and French Polynesia. Done. (this is why I love her)
And that was it, we were going to (at least) French Polynesia and Australia, and so it set off the planning of what we lovingly refer to as “the most ridiculous honeymoon ever.”
WARNING: I’m going to geek out for a bit here on points and miles, so I’m going to split this up into two posts, get your popcorn ready!
After I proposed to Katie, it set off a lot of life-changing events for the both of us. Most notably, I quit my job in New York and moved down to Ft. Lauderdale, which meant Katie and I were finally going to live in the same city, woohoo! The downside of this was taking a HUGE career risk, but the upside was beginning our lives together, and most importantly, never stepping foot on a Spirit Airlines flight again. After we got back from Ireland, I immediately started to get to work on the honeymoon. When it came to wedding planning, I knew that’s where my value would be because I still can’t wrap my head around what the hell a charger is, and why does it need to go beneath my plate without providing any battery life to my iPhone?
This honeymoon really was the trip of a lifetime, and I couldn’t think of a better way to start our lives together.
This was our route:
- Bora Bora, French Polynesia: 4 nights
- Papeet, Tahiti, French Polynesia: 1 night
- Auckland, New Zealand: 1 night
- Sydney, Australia: 3 nights
- Hamilton Island, Australia: 4 nights
- Beijing, China: 10 hours
As I did before on my post about the proposal, I’ll give the breakdown on what we used for this redemption, and then I’ll go into the more nitty gritty on the booking process.
Breakdown of the points used and cash paid:
So our total cost for this trip, out of pocket, was $7,332. Most of that is made up of our hotel costs, which were $5,477, and that’s only because we had some bad luck with our hotel booking in Bora Bora (which I’ll explain later), so that could have been significantly less. If we had done this exact same trip, without points, we would have paid almost $30,000!! That’s insane, our flights alone would have been $21,377. Now, $7,332 is certainly not an insignificant amount of money, in fact, it’s a fortune, but seeing as how the average couple spent $5,111 on their honeymoon (according to Conde Nast), spending this much for our trip was a hell of a deal.
Here are the points Katie and I had to work with:
With over 1.7 million points, we had a lot of options to work with. We had been able to accumulate these points over the course of the past year with the following cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- SPG Amex card
- AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card
- USBank Club Carlson Visa
- Citi Prestige Card
- Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Card
- Chase Marriott Rewards
Almost none of these points came from actual flying or hotels stays. In fact, almost all of them were earned from signup bonuses along with our everyday spending. We used our cards for EVERYTHING, making sure to maximize bonus categories every chance we had. We also put almost all of our wedding expenses on our cards as well to maximize spending minimums for the bonuses (stay tuned for a separate post on how to pay for a wedding and get a free honeymoon). All told, we had to redeem 655,000 points to make this trip work, and here’s how we used them:
75% discount, not bad!! We were able to have a 3-week honeymoon, fly business class, stay at 4-star hotels while paying only a quarter of what it would have cost us without points and miles. You’ll notice I’ve also included the +/- TPG valuations. In a former life, I worked in Finance, so I love being able to put a value on things. In this case, I wanted to measure my performance against what the points guy values each points program. My goal was to stay at least above his values, but I really wanted to crush them and maximize my redemption value. Overall, I did a pretty good job. Some redemptions were better than others, like my use of Ultimate Rewards points for our flight from Melbourne to Newark (via Beijing), getting me 8.8 cents per point vs TPG’s 2.1 valuation (a 319% return!). On the other end, my redemption value for my IHG points weren’t that great @ .64 cents per mile vs TPG’s value of .7 (-9.25% return). But our primary goal is spending the least amount of money possible, and the reason I collect these points is to spend them! Overall, I got a return of 4.8 cents per mile on my flights, and 1.2 cents per mile on my hotels. I’m certainly not upset with that at all.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll detail how we booked everything and the considerations we had to make.