Travel

My Points and Miles Strategy for 2018

We’re now a quarter of way through 2018 – why am I just getting to this post? Frankly, because watching Netflix after work is sometimes more fun. But I’ve got some semi-solid travel plans coming up, so I figured now is a good time to think through my points strategy. It’s not often I can plan travel in advance, but this year most of it involves weddings. Set locations, set dates – all I have to do is decide whether to book a roundtrip flight or extend the trip. In other words, it’s even more stressful than usual for a travel commitment-phobe like me. That being said, I do have 778,000 points and miles saved up, which gives me some options…

May 2018: Location TBD

I’m wrapping up a big project at work in May and while it’s been fun and challenging (in a good way), I’m going to need a vacation at the end of it. Not a weekend in Cabo or flying 36 hours to get to a destination that’s only 8,000 miles away. I’m talking a lazy, sit around and do nothing for a week kind of vacation. I haven’t honed in on a destination yet, but I do have plenty of AAdvantage miles and Ultimate Rewards points to spare. Koh Samui is a contender and I’m also considering The Maldives. Getting to the Maldives is tedious and I’d hate to “waste” a trip out there without also stopping in the Middle East. But since it’s not going to be around forever, I might as well check it off the bucket list…

Summer 2018: Toronto

This summer, my cousin is getting married in Toronto. I’m looking forward to a non-freezing trip to the city (I was there two years ago in the dead of winter), as well as seeing what summer in Stars Hollow is like. I feel like while I’m in the area, I might as well spend a few nights in New York. This works out pretty well because there are relatively low JetBlue Mint fares between New York and San Francisco I can take advantage of. American also has decent award space on this route, which is great because otherwise a paid economy class ticket would set me back over $500.

As an FYI, Korean SkyPass requires just 45,000 miles for roundtrip business class tickets on this route. That’s only 5,000 miles cheaper than what most other airlines charge. If you’re redeeming miles for multiple companions, those savings really stack up. I do have a decent stash of Korean miles, but I’m saving those for an award ticket to Europe…

Fall 2018: Istanbul

A huge family = lots of weddings. Yet another cousin is getting married, this time in Istanbul. I get to revisit my favorite city and see family members who are flying in from all over the world. Originally, I planned on redeeming my newly renamed Radisson Rewards points for the Radisson Blu Bosphorus. That place has been on my best redemption list since I banked over 500,000 points during the Big Win promotion of 2012. It’s also conveniently located next to the wedding venue. However, the entire clan is staying at the same hotel and my parents want to be part of the herd. And since my mom is the one who brings the curling iron in her overstuffed bag, I guess I should also stay with them, wherever that may be. Yes, I’ve already offered to charge all the rooms to my own credit card.

Eminonu Mosque Istanbul
Eminonu Mosque Istanbul

I’ll likely cover this trip with 80,000 Korean SkyPass miles. I got the Korean SkyPass card last year and have been putting a moderate amount of manufactured spending on it. KLM and Air France are SkyTeam partners and have decent award availability to Istanbul in the fall. As for hotels, I’ll probably pay for everyone else’s stay with the Citi Prestige or Amex Platinum card, while using my Discover It Miles Card for my own room…unless Barclays caves and approves me for a new Barclay Arrival Plus Card by then. Time will tell!

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Istanbul is an ideal stopover on the way to pretty much anywhere. My sister spent a week on the Amalfi Coast last summer and won’t stop talking about it. But I’ve got limited vacation days and will probably sit that one out. I’ve been wanting to visit Portugal forever and all I’d need is a week to hit up Lisbon, Porto, and maybe Algarve. Another option? Morocco, which I’ve been obsessed with since reading The Caliph’s House. Marrakech, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Casablanca and Ouarzazate – I need at least three weeks to get through it all. I might save Morocco for December, when I get a week off from work. I’ll also replenish my PTO balance, so I can really maximize my time out there. We’ll see!

So none of that sounds “solid” but I’m working on it. I already have most of the miles I need, though I can always earn more via manufactured spending. The only thing I have to decide for each of these trips is how to maximize it with additional stops and when to return. Luckily, I have plenty of time to do that. 😉

Have you planned out your 2018 travel yet? Where are you headed and how are you saving up points to get there?

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16 Comments

  1. Dennis Noel

    We started off 2018 with a short trip to Cancun from the Bay Area after Christmas. 4 nights at the Westin Lagunamar on a special rate for a family of 3. Flights to CUN were on SWA via points. The trip back to NYC on United direct from CUN to EWR on points as well with so-so redemption given it was New Year’s Day.

    We’re currently in Langkawi in Malaysia at The Andaman for 5 nights using the 5th night free. We’re in an executive suite with our own pool and views of the beach. 95K points with free breakfast and other perks since I’m Platinum. We flew into SIN, 2 nights in the Hilton and 1 night at the Ritz Carlton in a massive suite with giant windows and a view of the Marina Bay Sands. Hilton was a combo of points and cash while the RC was all points. JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur for 30K points, upgraded to a suite after a nice email to the GM. Flight to KUL from SIN on Chase UR and flight to Langkawi from KUL via cash. Our flight from Langkawi to KUL to ICN is on Malaysia Airlines in J, paid for w/cash.

    Right now our hotel in Seoul is at an SPG property but debating if we splurge for the Four Seasons and a suite via Amex travel. Flights to SIN and back to NYC will be on Korean Airlines in J all points for a family of 3.

    We have a 5 night stay booked at the Westin Grand Cayman for Memorial Day Weekend on points. Delta flights home on points. Need flight to GC, will probably apply for the JetBlue CC and use points since they have a direct flight from JFK.

    Flights to Milan in July booked via VA for 75K Amex points for mom and dad while child stays with grandparents in Cali. Still looking for flights home and hotel stays.

    Finally, perhaps another trip to Europe in fall for anniversary if a great deal pops up. And of course we will have at least 2 trips from NYC to SF for summer and Christmas using either points or my companion pass on Delta.

    And yes, now starting to plan 2019 travel and Adkin the wife for destinations.

  2. What are you watching on Netflix? Waiting on Peaky Blinders and the Queen to come back. I have got most of 2018 booked, except for when I have to work. I will be interested in what you do and plan for the Maldives. The issues I have are being locked into one little island and eating all meals there and the $1000 for us to get from airport to hotel.

    • Mostly reruns of Gilmore Girls, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jessica Jones, and Mindhunter. I’m kind of a true-crime/criminal psychology junkie and Mindhunter is AMAZING! Couldn’t get into The Crown though…

      Those are the same concerns I have about the Maldives. But apparently a lot of people who feel the same end up loving the isolation.

  3. Michael Seeto

    Ariana, can you share some tips on finding low Jetblue Mint fares?
    Regarding my 2018 travel, my family of 5 going to Japan in 2 weeks, and Cancun in July (although we’re thinking about cancelling due to safety concerns), weekend getaway to Seattle in September, and still brainstorming for Xmas – New Years.

  4. Headed to Hawaii in July – sorta-family trip. My bro-in-law’s bday yet he doesn’t want to have his 80+yo Mom join us as he think she’s a deterrent for being able to party (excessively), we’re paying for the airfare using traditional methods as our stay is covered through a barely used timeshare we’ve had for 10 years. Should be interesting how she’s going to handle being told “you can’t sit with us” ala Mean Girls. Later this year we head to China! Booked flights on that 5 Star airline, Hainan Airlines. Curious how it’ll stack up to Asiana which is who we return on. Hotels are paid for via Hilton points but our WA stay in Shanghai is going to be needing some extra MS’ing before we go. I’m melting that new Aspire card as I type through TopCashBack and GiftCardMall.

    • Lol! Love the Mean Girls reference. I think Asiana’s business class product is supposed to be better than Hainan’s, but both are esteemed airlines so you’re in good hands. I need to get out to Shanghai one of these days…

  5. Went to BOM and south india in Jan on united, then Thailand (HKT,USM,BKK) and Dubai in feb on Emirate. I recommend not more than 4 days in koh samui.

    Next trip is in Europe for 30days in aug-sep. I need plan of attack from folks who have been there. City i want to visit: dublin, iceland, London and Greece. Any suggestions for other cities?

    • I’ve been to Dublin, Iceland, London and Greece, though Iceland and Greece are actually countries. Make sure you do some Greek island hopping. Other fun cities I highly recommend in Europe at that time of year: Amsterdam, Munich, Rome, Venice, Barcelona. Honestly I can go on and on.

  6. I’m heading to Morocco in May, with a side trip to Gibraltar. Morocco’s been on my bucket list for years. I’m flying to Madrid using AA miles, then to Marrakech using BA Avios. I booked a 4 day trip through the Atlas Mountains with 2 nights in the Sahara on the way to Fez, and then off to Chefchaouen before heading to Gibraltar. I booked riads in Morocco using my UR points through the Chase Travel Portal, as well as a hotel in Gibraltar(it looks like there are only 3 hotels in all Gibraltar?). Interesting that you also mentioned Portugal. I’ve been to 56 countries and still have not been to Portugal. It’s getting higher on my list.

  7. do you purchase from GiftCards.com to meet your miles requirements for all these trips? If so, I don’t know if it’s a fluke, but I think the Yazing paysback 1.25%. I know it used to be on MC but not on Visa, but it looks like in March both of my VGC purchases got 1.25%

  8. Istanbul is AWESOME! It never sleeps (people go out for dinner around 11PM)…And the food &hammam!
    We are going to SE Asia mainly for beach stuff..

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