Travel Free With Points: Great Destinations Using Credit Card Points
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The pandemic may have forced us to reign in our desire to travel, but vaccines have freed us to once again engage in some wandering behavior. Go where? That first trip has to be somewhere wonderful, somewhere that will help make up for lost time at home, somewhere where we can forget about life and be pampered. It’s time to go on vacation like a celebrity.
We – you – can do this without spending large sums of money. While you may have canceled or delayed trips in the last 16 months, your credit card spending continues, even at a slower pace. That means your miles and points balances have grown. You may even have more points today than you ever had.
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It’s the perfect time to plan an aspirational trip. Pick a time, choose a great destination, and use that points-accumulating account to book a trip you’ll remember forever. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
The Maldives is almost always at the top of the list of desirable travel destinations. There’s a good reason for that. Located in the Indian Ocean, this small archipelago is not only one of the most remote and beautiful places on the planet, but it also boasts some amazing luxury resorts. Each offers easy access to the country’s incredible underwater world.
Even with its isolated location, the Maldives is still a popular hotspot. Celebrities — including John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen, Gwyneth Paltrow and Justin Bieber — have vacationed in this paradise.
The Maldives is a dream destination for many people and due to its wide range of accommodation options and the large number of airlines serving the capital Malé, it is a place where you can easily use your points for sightseeing.
For celebrity treatments at 40,000 feet, look no further than the Middle East’s three major airlines: Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. All three airlines fly to Velana International Airport (MLE) in Malé.
Book Emirates flights from the US with Emirates Skywards miles starting at 255,000 miles in first class, depending on your departure city. Fuel surcharges were expected when booking with SkyWards Miles, but the airline has significantly reduced those fees.
You can book Etihad flights using Miles American Airlines. Find roundtrip flights from the US for 140,000 miles for business class and 230,000 miles for first class. You can also use Etihad Guest miles to book these flights, but you’ll need to pony up 300,000 miles for business class, so it isn’t the best option. Etihad is also a transfer partner of some of the most popular rewards programs. .
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Qatar Airways Qsuites is technically a business class product, but many people who have flown Qsuites compare it to other airlines’ first class. You can book Qsuites from the US to the Maldives for just 140,000 American Airlines miles. This is one of the best deals for travel to the Maldives when you consider the number of miles you are paying and the product you are receiving in return.
From the airport in Malé, transportation to your hotel is almost always by speedboat or seaplane and is usually set up through your hotel. The only way to pay for this part of your trip with points is by using a card that allows you to refund your points, or by using points earned on a cashback card. Some of the most popular travel rewards credit card thẻ will allow you to redeem points for travel expenses on your statement.
There are many great hotel options in the Maldives. If you’re willing to spend some time searching for available award nights, many of them can be booked with points.
St. Regis is one of the most impressive spots in the Maldives that allows you to book rooms by points. Bonus nights cost between 85,000 and 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, depending on whether you’re traveling on off-peak or off-peak days. You can find a combination of rates if you’re looking for multiple nights in a row. Bonus nights at this resort set to Garden Villas with private pools.
Radisson Blu Resort Maldives is a new hotel and looks like a great place to stay. You’ll only pay 70,000 Radisson points per night, which is a real bargain as Radisson Rewards Points are often not as valuable as points from other hotel programs. In addition to the relatively low cost, the basic room for awards nights at Radisson Blu is an overwater villa with a private pool. This is one of the best values for an overwater villa anywhere in the world, and is sure to give you a vibe that’s hard to take your eyes off the paparazzi.
Thailand is a diverse country with something for everyone — and at every price point. From the bustling metropolis of Bangkok to the laid-back comfort of Chiang Mai, you’re sure to find something you love. But for that popular travel experience, you should look to the islands of Thailand.
There are many islands in this Southeast Asian country, and all of them are fairly easily accessible via the capital, Bangkok. Here’s how you can get to Thailand’s delicious food, friendly people and beautiful scenery, and how you can do it all with points.
You have several options for flights to Thailand, but they all end up in Bangkok. Once you arrive at that city, you’ll need to take a short connecting flight to the island of your choice. After that quick hop, you’ll be looked after at your hotel in no time.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of the best programs to get you to Bangkok. The airline charges just 70,000 miles each way to fly first class on Cathay Pacific. Connect through Hong Kong and you have an amazingly cheap way to get to Thailand in luxury, and you can stop over in Hong Kong without sacrificing additional miles.
For your return flights, Thai Airways stands out from the rest due to its experience on the ground in Bangkok. Your first-class lounge experience includes an hour-long and flawless massage. Once in the air, you can expect the same great service and a comfortable ride.
Thai doesn’t fly directly into the US If you’re willing to book your ticket within two weeks of your travel date, you can even connect your first-class Thai trip to Frankfurt with a Lufthansa first-class flight back to the US for an exchange. The last point. This dream trip is bookable using United Airlines miles from as low as 90,000 miles in business class or 140,000 miles in first.
With all the different islands and different loyalty programs, you have almost an infinite number of options for booking by points. Instead of looking at all the plush point attributes, consider a consistently great attribute from a program we know well, along with another option that requires some thought.
An A-list spot is Koh Samui, which has Richard Gere among its fans. Conrad Koh Samui is world-renowned as a hit-list hotel with superb rooms, best-in-class privacy and refined luxury. Costing 95,000 Hilton points per night, top Hilton Honors members get the best value for a five-night stay as the fifth night will be free. The rooms are tucked away on a hillside overlooking the water, and each has its own private infinity pool. When you want to move around the resort, you simply call a car and a staff member in a golf cart will take you to your destination.
For extreme luxury, Amanpuri Resort on Phuket Island is hard to beat. Aman resorts are known worldwide for their service and facilities, and attract a lot of celebrities. Famous guests include Angelina Jolie and her family and Lindsay Lohan.
However, Amanpuri can’t be booked with any of the hotel’s loyalty programs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your points to book there. Some credit card rewards programs allow members to redeem points for travel fees. Amanpuri’s nightly rates range from hundreds of dollars high to thousands of dollars low. This is not a cheap redemption option, but you can actually stay at an Aman property using points.
For Americans, the Caribbean is a lot closer to home and a lot easier to get to than Asia or the middle of the Indian Ocean. Time zone changes are less extreme, and the move won’t leave you behind.
Because it’s so close, you won’t find a flight option quite as great as the previous two destinations. You can choose from quite a few US-based airlines and use your point to the Caribbean in business class. What you are really looking for in the Caribbean is a great property that you can stay with score.
Here are two options that allow you to use points to stay at private islands. Both are a bit hard to believe, first because of the chance it offers and high score, and second because of the low score it takes for a luxury experience.
Necker Island is a private island owned by billionaire businessman Richard Branson, but you can stay there using points. You have to redeem a whopping 1.5 million Virgin Atlantic points for a room for a week, but you’re sure to have an incredible experience. Availability for individual rooms is limited to a few Celebration Weeks each year as the island is fully rented at other times.
You can live like real royalty with our next location: Calala Island, Nicaragua. Princess Eugenie celebrated her engagement on the island where staff outnumbered guests by 3 to 1. Almost all available activities are included in your stay. The resort even offers a shuttle service from Managua airport at no extra charge.
Calala Island is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of points costs, at just 40,000 Hyatt points per night. There are only four rooms on this Private Island SLH Resort off the coast of Nicaragua, and only three of them are bookable with points. This makes finding available prizes quite difficult, but if you can manage to string a few nights together, you’ll be rewarded.
Whether you are looking for an exclusive stay on a mostly private island or your very own apartment in the sky with the attentive staff taking care of you, you can totally make the trip. Get inspired by celebrities and earn points.
Yes, the cost in points may be higher than other options. Yes, it can be a challenge to find the right combination of flight and award winning hotel. But if you have a little patience and the points you accumulate when you haven’t traveled in the past year, you can make your first post-pandemic trip the real trip of a lifetime.
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