Real Redemptions Part 5: Scoring Sydney on Points, Family of 5 Does LA/Disney, & Beautiful Bali

Real Redemptions Part 5 - Upgraded Points

Scoring Sydney on Points

Like the majority of our readers, Deric is a real guy who has a standard 9-5 job: he’s a business banking services specialist. So the fact that Deric also runs Passenger Poldberg (a blog about balancing his professional life with global travel based on points) makes him a shoo-in for our Real Redemptions Series!

The icing on the cake? Today, Deric shares a trip that is a major score for most points junkies: the elusive Australia redemption!

Sydney can be one of the toughest places to get to on points, especially during their peak travel season in December… remember, it’s Australian summer at that time of year!

Sydney Opera House

Deric and his girlfriend Elizabeth were able to achieve this points feat by using a number of co-branded credit cards. He secured increased sign-up bonuses on the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express for a combined result of 100,000 Skymiles.

Next, he was approved for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite™ Mastercard® and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® for a grand total of 80,000 AAdvantage miles. To top it off, he grabbed the Chase Hyatt Credit Card for its sign-up bonus of a free 2-night stay at any Hyatt in the world.  

Deric says he actually signed up to these cards without any specific destinations in mind. He simply wanted to take advantage of the elevated sign-up bonuses and would figure out a destination based on available award space later.  

Once he had all the necessary points, Deric started plugging in dates on Delta/AA.com to check what was available. Since he’s pretty flexible with his vacation schedule, he was able to scan a big window from October to December. After settling on Australia, he had 2 main objectives with this search: fly a premium cabin to Sydney and stay 2 nights at the Park Hyatt Sydney.  

With some dedicated searching, he was able to find Delta One award space on Dec 3 from LAX to SYD for 110,000 Skymiles + $28 in taxes and fees (he did pay out of pocket to get from OMA->LAX).  He also found award space on Qantas in economy 4 days later from SYD -> SFO -> OMA, so he secured that for 40,000 AA miles + $87 in taxes and fees. Deric was holding out hope that award space in Qantas business class would open up last minute, but unfortunately, it didn’t.

Delta One at LAX Lounge Deric with His Girlfriend on Delta One

With some leftover IHG Reward points from a previous card, Deric was able to book a room at the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour for his first 2 nights in Sydney. And finally, he succeeded in booking his final 2 nights at the mecca of points redemptions: The Park Hyatt Sydney.

Deric considers this his most epic points redemption for a number of reasons. First, he got to visit Australia for the first time! Second, the fact that Deric got to take his girlfriend Elizabeth along while spending almost nothing out of pocket for either of them was a huge success. Lastly, he had the fantastic experience of flying Delta One on their flagship route from LAX to Sydney, and staying at arguably one of the nicest hotels in the entire world using points: The Park Hyatt Sydney.  

The Park Hyatt Sydney

There has to be another epic redemption in the works, right? Right. Deric is currently working on a trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for later this fall/winter. He plans to use a combination of Delta One and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to Dubai, and then fly Etihad’s first class on the A380 for the return. Additionally, he’s got some Marriott and Hyatt points he plans to use for accommodations.

Deric wants our readers to know that even if they spend the majority of their weeks at the office and at home, traveling on points IS possible!  

THANK YOU, DERIC! This redemption was definitely epic, and it’s exactly the reason we started this series at Upgraded Points – to hear from people like you hoping to inspire others!


Family of 5 Does LA/Disney

Eli is sharing a great redemption story that involves his family of 5 traveling on points to LA and of course visiting Disneyland while they were there!

As one of the 4 partners of PEYD, a credit card reward and travel concierge service, Eli knows his way around some points. It’s a good thing too because securing a redemption trip for 5 people can take some serious work!  

Since tickets to Disneyland can get quite pricey without many discounts offered, Eli tells us it was even more imperative to find flights and hotels that could be purchased on points.  

Eli & Family at Disney

In order to accomplish this, he utilized a number of tactics to accrue points: spending on his Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, transferring points, and opening new airline and hotel credit cards for everyday spending.

Eli says the greatest way to maximize rewards potential using SPG points is to take advantage of points transfers. Certain SPG transfers of 20,000+ points yield an extra 5,000 points when converted to airline miles.  

After looking at numerous airlines with direct flights from JFK to LAX, Eli decided Virgin America would be the best bet based on price and their partnership with SPG. This locked in the extra 5,000-point bonus.

Next, Eli opened 2 new Virgin America Visa Signature Cards for himself and his wife to earn 2 sign-up bonuses of 15,000 points after reaching the minimum spend limits.

Let’s recap:

  • 20,000 SPG points
  • 5,000-point transfer bonus
  • 2 x 15,000-point minimum spend bonus

Eli’s grand total was 55,000 Virgin America miles to be used for the family’s flights. Combined with some additional miles he had in his account, Eli was able to book 5 seats in economy for 64,660 round-trip.  

One perk of flying Virgin America is that they allow customers to cancel flights free of charge. So when Eli saw airfare rates drop nearer to the trip date, he was able to cancel his initial flights and rebook the tickets for significantly fewer points! His new tickets came in at 53,030 points plus $58 in taxes and fees. That’s a savings of over 10,000 points!

Eli & Family Redemption

When it came to booking accommodations, it was important that Eli find a hotel near a water park for his kiddos. After some research, he was able to find a Howard Johnson in Anaheim, California that not only has a water park on the premise, but is also just minutes from Disneyland!  

It’s important to note here that the Howard Johnson chain is connected to the Wyndham Hotel group. This hotel group offers a Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card with a 30,000-point minimum spend bonus. You can probably guess where Eli was going with this one…

Two new credit card sign-ups later, Eli and his wife had earned 60,000 bonus points from hitting the minimum spend limits. This earned their family a free 4-night stay at this convenient Howard Johnson, with enough points left over to stay at another local hotel over the weekend.  

Eli & Family Redemption

All in all, this redemption story proves family travel on points IS possible, though you might have to do a little extra work to get there!

Eli, we’re so glad you chose to share this family redemption with our readers!


Beautiful Bali

Tom comes to the Real Redemptions series with a great background story and tales of a points trip to Bali!  

He was born in the Netherlands and grew up in the south of Holland near a couple different neighboring countries. In this respect, Tom has been around different cultures from a young age!

During a 6-month stay on the island of Aruba in 2006, Tom says the people there helped him learn that being successful in life was about more than just accomplishing the standard societal expectations (go to school, get a job, buy a house, etc.).   

TravelTomTom in Bali

Tom realized then that he wanted a different kind of life. If exploring the world, learning about new cultures and making new friends was what made him happy, why should he have to sit miserably behind a desk?

After returning home from Aruba, Tom rode out his office job until he had enough money to take off on a couple adventures. Although it was a start, this new lifestyle wasn’t going to happen overnight. In order to finally reach his goal, Tom held down a couple other full-time gigs over the years before he was able to truly move things over to life as a travel blogger in 2012.

Of course, as Tom is well aware, this transition is easier said than done, and it certainly isn’t a life for everyone. He also understands many people who hold down corporate jobs actually love their lifestyle, but it just wasn’t the one for him.   

Tom is also quick to note that traveling for a living isn’t always as glamorous as some may imagine – it takes a lot of hard work and some serious financial, organizational, and interpersonal skills!  

Tom now runs the blog TravelTomTom and comes to the Real Redemptions series to share an incredible trip to Bali.

TravelTomTom in Bali

Tom gained the points for this trip through Flying Blue points earned on previous travels. To secure the route from Amsterdam to Bali, he waited for a 50% off promotion and booked easily online through KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

While he can’t recall the exact amount of points spent, he does know the business class redemption completely wiped his Flying Blue account back to empty.  However, he tells us the trip was SO worth it!

TravelTomTom in Bali  TravelTomTom in Bali

This captivating island definitely hits a number of traveler’s “must-see” lists, and for good reason! Tom tells us that driving around on a scooter on this green island makes him feel alive. The freedom, inspiring vibe, amazing places to stay, and great connections with other travelers all make Bali one of his favorite destinations.

Thanks for sharing Tom! We know traveling for a living can have it’s ups and downs, and we’re so happy you’re finding joy in the process!

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