I planned this trip about a year in advance and it took an unbelievable amount of work to set up and coordinate. Thankfully, this is my bread and butter so I thoroughly enjoyed the process. All the hard work paid off, too, as the trip went off without a hitch. Below I have outlined the entire trip and reviewed all the hotels we stayed at and gyms we frequented along the way as well as day-by-day narratives of the cities we visited in the On The Run articles.
At the end, I’ll outline how we leveraged airline miles and hotel points to pay a fraction of the “retail” price for these experiences.
Here are the major stops we made during our trip. Click on the links to see my reviews and ramblings.
- Hong Kong
As the title notes, this trip would have cost $35,000 had we paid out-of-pocket for everything. Did we actually pay that much? HELL NO! That would be insane. Instead, we leveraged our airline miles and hotel points to pay a fraction of the “retail” price for our trip, which included international business and first class flights as well as swanky hotels stays at some of Asia’s most luxurious properties. I dutifully kept track of all expenditures before and during our trip and have tallied the results below. These are just the flights and hotels with nothing else included (that comes later):
MY GOLLY MISS MOLLY! Although I knew we had some incredible redemptions, I had no idea just how good they were until I ran the numbers. For our flights and hotels alone, we paid a mere $2,146 (for two). Without miles and points, we’d have needed to take out a bank loan. This represents a savings of 97%. Unbelievable.
The reality of all this, however, is that we would have never actually paid the retail price for these flights and stays. If we were doing it without points and miles, we would have flown economy all the way and stayed at mid-range hotels. Likewise, I massaged this itinerary so that the timing would work not only with our schedule, but also to align with credit card reward offers. For example, we used 6 “free night” certificates for three hotel stays (Ritz Chicago, Intercon HK, and Fairmont Singapore). These certificates were bonuses awarded for meeting a certain spending threshold on three separate credit cards. Because of the way these credit cards and bonuses work, I will not be able to get these rewards again for at least two years, so it’s not like I’m guaranteed all of these free nights on every trip–I simply signed up for the cards with this trip in mind and used them accordingly.
Another caveat is that the points and miles we used were not “free” to obtain. We had to earn those miles via credit card signups, meeting spending requirements, bonuses, shopping portals, and many other methods of accumulation. It’s difficult to estimate how much was actually spent in acquiring these points, but it was probably several hundred dollars overall.
As for the rest of our expenses, we spent about $1,700 between the two of us. That includes eating out at restaurants, entertainment (including over $600 for the Gibbon Experience), transportation, and everything in between. That brings our grand total to ~$3,850 for two. That being said, a ~$4,000 trip is by no means cheap. We probably could have easily spend half that amount (or less) simply because the cost of food and accommodation is so low in Asia that you can live like a king for nothing.
This was an unbelievable trip which would absolutely never be attainable for us without miles and points. By strategically leveraging these rewards programs, we were able to focus our out-of-pocket expenses on experiences and truly enjoy ourselves without pinching pennies every step of the way.
As I mentioned, this trip was a year in the making (and several months in the writing) and drew on all of my skills as a traveler. I learned a lot about my favorite rewards programs and, most importantly, how powerful they can be. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to plan another trip of this magnitude again, so I was happy to have the opportunity.
Until next time!
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Brandon Chase is a writer, endurance athlete, and guide based in Maine. He is a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and spent nearly a decade overseas serving at embassies in Egypt, Cyprus, and Pakistan.
Along with a 98-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the West Highland Way, fastpacked in the Himalayas, and trekked around New Zealand and South Africa. He also regularly competes in ultramarathons at the 50k, 50-mile, and 100-mile distances. He is a Lead Guide for Andrew Skurka Adventures and the New England Outdoor Center.