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Where Are We Going? The UP Team’s Summer 2023 Plans

Carissa Rawson's image
Carissa Rawson

Carissa Rawson

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 51U.S. States Visited: 36

Carissa served in the U.S. Air Force where she developed her love for travel and new cultures. She started her own blog and eventually joined The Points Guy. Since then, she’s contributed to Business ...
Edited by: Nick Ellis

Nick Ellis

Editor & Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 35U.S. States Visited: 25

Nick’s passion for points began as a hobby and became a career. He worked for over 5 years at The Points Guy and has contributed to Business Insider and CNN. He has 14 credit cards and continues to le...

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Winter is (finally) behind us and spring is in full swing, which means we’re all already looking ahead to summer and all the travel that comes with our favorite season.

So, where is our team jetting off to this summer? We surveyed the team and you can read on to find out what some of us have cooked up. And spoiler alert — there are some pretty cool places on this list!

Carissa Rawson, Senior Content Contributor

Image Credit: MSC Cruises

I had to scour my Google Calendar to remind myself of what I had going on this summer. I had vowed to travel less this year, but you can imagine how well that’s going.

June is looking good with a 7-day Caribbean cruise booked with MSC Cruises. Anyone who follows our private Level UP Facebook group will know I managed to finagle this via a huge swathe of status matches. Long story short, it went like this:

Hot Tip:

Yes, I did have to fly to these different locations, but in the end, I came out ahead with a couple of hundred dollars in food credits, 2 nights at the Wynn Las Vegas, and a 7-night cruise in an oceanview cabin — port taxes and fees included. Not bad!

I also matched my Hyatt status to MSC Voyagers Club Diamond, which means I’ll get priority embarkation on the cruise, as well as a complimentary gift and a specialty dinner. I’m eager to see how MSC compares to the recent Virgin Voyages cruise I took.

My Virgin Voyages cruise was top-tier. Image Credit: Carissa Rawson

I haven’t booked the flights yet, but that’s a problem for future me. After all, the trip is nearly a month away.

Meanwhile, July is the month of our Level UP group’s second meetup, where we’re all heading to Orlando for the weekend for points and miles chats, drinks, and general merriment.

Since I’m flying in from California, I’ve made the trip a little longer and will be staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. I booked the property via Citi’s travel portal and used my Citi Prestige® Card (no longer open to new applicants) to get the fourth night free. All in all, I’m paying $393 per night for the room, which is expensive, but much cheaper than what the hotel usually charges.

I have nothing on the books for August — which is a miracle — and I’m planning to keep it that way. I want to spend some time with my dogs!

Hot Tip:

Looking for some vacation inspiration? Check out these awesome European destinations for summer of 2023.

Christine Krzyszton, Senior Finance Contributor

Summer travel will be light this year due to the fact that my 3-year-old passport is nearly full. However, I’ll start the summer off with a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, to complete a couple of Hilton hotel reviews there. I used around 65,000 Ultimate Rewards points earned from my Chase Sapphire Reserve® for 1.5 cents each.

I can think of worse places to spend time. Image Credit: dennisvdwater via Adobe Stock

Once I return from Iceland in early June, my passport will be expedited for renewal. Any summer plans will need to remain domestic but will certainly include a weekend getaway for our Level UP Orlando get-together in July. 

I also have a flight booked to Tokyo in late August using a previous trip credit. I upgraded to business class using my American Airlines systemwide upgrades. Cash price: Less than $1,300.

James Larounis, Senior Content Contributor

My adventures this summer mainly consist of 3 trips.

First, I’m going to Australia in May and June for a Rotary International Conference. I’ve been before but this repeat experience is because I’ll be president of my Rotary Club next year. 

Somewhat surprisingly, I managed to score business class redemptions in both directions using my American Airlines AAdvantage miles. I redeemed 160,000 AAdvantage miles for the round-trip journey, but it’ll be worth it with flights on both Fiji Airways and American Airlines.

Fiji Airways’ long-haul business class seat. Image Credit: Stephen Au

I’m still not positive I’ll make it to the meetup in Orlando, but I’ll try to make it work!

Otherwise, in August, I’m going to Santa Barbara, California, for fun (I found a relatively cheap first class fare and used a flight credit I had to purchase it), and then to Orlando — Walt Disney World specifically — for a friend’s wedding. To stay there, I’ll use my Disney Vacation Club points.

Keri Stooksbury, Editor-in-Chief

After an amazing month-long summer 2022 vacation of working remotely with my 3 kids in Thailand and Singapore, I looked excitedly to planning 2023. My parameters were fairly simple — a destination that was close to a beach, had a pool, and was walkable to restaurants and groceries as I didn’t want to rent a car.

The lodging also needed to be within a reasonable budget since I didn’t have any hotel points to work with. After striking out in Europe (looking at options in Albania, Greece, Malta, Portugal, and Spain), I looked once again to Southeast Asia to deliver an amazing beach vacation at an incredible value.

This year’s trip is booked from my home base in Doha (DOH) to Phuket (HKT), returning from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) on Qatar Airways using 50,000 British Airways Executive Club Avios and $125 in taxes and fees per ticket.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Image Credit: Keri Stooksbury

We value British Airways Avios at 1.25 cents apiece. I received a redemption value of about 3.1 cents per Avios given the $1,651 cash cost, which made this redemption well worth it. I landed on booking through BA after reviewing the same itinerary through Iberia Plus (fewer Avios but higher taxes and fees) and Qatar Airways Privilege Club (double the Avios cost).

My husband and I earned the Avios for this trip by transferring Capital One miles primarily earned via the welcome offers on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, which were 75,000 and 40,000 Capital One miles, respectively, at the time.

I paid cash to fly on Thai AirAsia from Phuket (HKT) to Da Nang (DAD) and on VietJet from Da Nang (DAD) to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) on my return home. Unfortunately, there were no Oneworld partners that operated these routes, but the out-of-pocket spend ($151 per person for both flights) was incredibly reasonable.

I booked both tickets via Capital One Travel, earning 5x miles per dollar spent on my Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, and I was able to get the lowest available price using the price match guarantee

Due to my family size and the length of my stays, all of my accommodations are booked via Airbnb. I’ll earn 3x Avios per $1 spent by booking through British Airways’ partnership with Airbnb in addition to 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned by booking via my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. This is one of my favorite cards for travel purchases because of the amazing travel insurance it offers.

Hot Tip:

Many travel credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance, which can reimburse you for expenses incurred during travel delays, from lost luggage, and more.

I feel like I got great value out of my Avios for this trip, reducing my overall costs immensely. However, the beauty of using points and miles is that when my husband mentioned he could sneak away and join us for 2 weeks of the trip, I was able to effortlessly book his trip with my remaining Avios and Capital One miles. We’re counting down the days!

Stella Shon, Editor and Content Contributor

Cannes in the summer is the place to be! Image Credit: Marriott

I’m going to Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, and Cannes this summer with my friend and colleague, Chris Dong. Last year, the 2 of us went to Menorca, Spain, so now we’re continuing the tradition of visiting Europe together every summer. While I’ve been to Spain and France before, I’ve never been to these spots specifically.

Even though I’m going during peak summer dates, I managed to book a Virgin Atlantic flight between New York (JFK) and London (LHR) for 7,500 Virgin Points and $150 in taxes and fees with an award sale that the carrier had at the time. I haven’t booked my intra-Europe flights yet, but I don’t mind booking a discounted carrier like Ryanair to get me to where I need to be).

On the way back home from Europe, I’ll be flying out of Madrid (MAD) to New York (JFK) on Iberia’s business class for 50,000 Iberia Avios and $150 in taxes and fees. I’m excited to try out a new product with this sweet-spot redemption.

Final Thoughts

This summer looks to be a busy one for the Upgraded Points team, with journeys to the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and even Australia. Of course, none of this would be possible without points and miles, which is why we spend all our time teaching you all how to do it as well!

The information regarding the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information for the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get a free MSC cruise?

MSC cruises can cost thousands of dollars, but there are a few different ways to score some free ones. One is by matching status to Ocean Prime in Atlantic City, which will give you a free 7-night Caribbean cruise. 

How do I upgrade on American Airlines?

There are a few different methods to upgrade on American Airlines. As an elite member, you’re entitled to complimentary upgrades on many flights. You’ll also receive systemwide upgrades that can be used for long-haul routes. Finally, you can also redeem AAdvantage miles for an upgrade or a business class award ticket.

How many air miles do you need to get a free flight?

The number of miles you’ll need to redeem for a free flight varies based on a number of factors, including where you’re going, the cabin you’re flying in, and the airline that you’re on.

About Carissa Rawson

Carissa served in the U.S. Air Force where she developed her love for travel and new cultures. She started her own blog and eventually joined The Points Guy. Since then, she’s contributed to Business Insider, Forbes, and more.


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