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Real Redemptions Part 6: Rio to London, a Reporter Starts Anew, & Unforgettable Europe

Real Redemptions Part 6

Rio to London

Chris from FlyFamilyFly is a consultant by day with a serious knack for points earning!

Though Chris and his family currently live in Brazil, they’re constantly traveling to see friends family in the U.S. and abroad. That’s why they started FlyFamilyFly: to share how their family travels the world on points and teach other families it’s possible to do the same!

Chris joins the Real Redemptions series to tell us about a fantastic trip to London. He and his wife Caline were able to travel with their daughter Emily for 2 weeks, fly business class, stay in 5-star hotels, and enjoy the British Summer…all thanks to points and miles.  

Fly Family Fly in London  Fly Family Fly, Big Ben

Earning for this trip was no small feat, and Chris claims it was one of the more creative points trips they’ve taken. Since they had over a year to plan their trip (they were headed over for a friend’s wedding), they had plenty of options when it came to hotels. However, they were certainly looking for best bang for their buck!

Chris and Caline decided early on that using their Chase annual free night at the $500+ per night InterContinental Park Lane was an obvious great value. Since swapping hotels with a toddler in tow is not their idea of fun, they started focusing on beefing up their IHG point balance so they could extend their stay there.  

They used some “mattress runs” (the hotel equivalent of a mileage run where a traveler is flying just to earn points/miles) to earn 2 free nights anywhere after staying 4 nights at any IHG property. Naturally, they found 4 of the cheapest properties around, then cashed in their free nights at one of the most expensive properties in the IHG portfolio—the InterContinental Park Lane.

Chris says that the lucky timing of IHG’s Priceless Surprises sweepstakes promotion was also a big help. It involved writing nearly 100 postcards by hand (that left them with hand cramps night after night!), but was ultimately very worthwhile. He and Caline won enough points for an additional 2 nights for just the cost of stamps and stationery.

Without much extra spending, they ended up with a total of 3 free nights and over 200,000 points. Chris does point out that since they earned these nights/points sporadically over quite some time, they booked the room rates as they came available. At check-in time they had about 5 separate reservations for 7 nights; he says the front desk staff had quite the chuckle!

The InterContinental Park Lane, London

For their second week in London, they paid for the remaining nights at the Waldorf Hilton with Hilton points they’d been hoarding from various credit card sign-up bonuses.

Now for the flights. Chris, Caline, and Emily flew American Airlines’ new 777 from Rio to JFK and then on to London. Chris says that there is a direct flight from Rio to London, but it was much more expensive and on British Airways.  

They were fortunate enough to apply American’s System Wide Upgrades to their flights. This allowed the family of 3 to buy economy seats but get upgraded to business class on all connections, round-trip! At 16 hours each way, it was really nice to have lie-flat beds for everyone.

Hint: Learn how to also book American Airlines business class by using this guide!

Fly Family Fly in Business Class

This redemption was pretty incredible for a number of reasons, including the 5-star hotel and the business class flights. But topping everything off was the chance to explore a new city with his family!

Chris also says this was one of those rare trips where nothing went wrong. Their toddler was amazing for all the flights, hotels, and wedding activities. They had great weather, stayed under budget, and really got to know London as a city.

Of course, Chris is always planning another trip on points. It looks like the next one will be a trip home to Boston to see family. Chris is trying to book with Alaska Miles this time since they’re still using American’s old award chart.

This means the family can fly from Rio to Boston in economy for only 20,000 miles per person each way. If possible, they’d love to spend a couple days in New York City and redeem their Hyatt free nights at the Park Hyatt, which is one of their favorite hotels in the world.

Chris – THANK YOU for the detail you put into this contribution to Real Redemptions! We love letting our readers catch a detailed glimpse of what life is like traveling on points with a family!


A Reporter Starts Anew

Sabrina has dubbed herself an “entry level gypsy” who’s trying her luck at world travel. She used to work as an on-air reporter at a national news network, but after about 5 years Sabrina realized that wasn’t the life she wanted.

Since she had been a journalist for many years, Sabrina figured the best transition would be to try her hand at blogging. So off she went! Now, Sabrina runs her own blog at SabrinaSabbagh.com and prides herself on traveling the world for about $60 a day. This total covers transportation, accommodations, and meals — quite the accomplishment if you ask us!

A huge part of Sabrina’s thrifty traveling lifestyle includes earning and using points for everything! She’s here on the Real Redemption series to tell us about her most prized redemption, the one that started it all: from LA to Amsterdam.

Sabrina, Amsterdam

Sabrina earned the points for this redemption by opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which was offering a 50,000-point minimum spend bonus at the time. She knew this card would be extra helpful abroad since it doesn’t have any international transaction fees and comes with a lot of trip protection/insurance built into the card benefits.  

Sabrina tells us she has no brand loyalty when it comes to airlines since she’s always looking for what’s cheapest to get from point A to point B. She was able to look about a month before the trip on a Tuesday when she knew she could find the lowest fares.  

She utilized the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and says her overall booking experience was pretty seamless. Sabrina secured a one-way ticket from LAX to Stockholm and then on to Amsterdam for about 40,000 points.  

Sabrina Amsterdam

Once she got to Amsterdam, Sabrina stayed in hostels and couch surfed since her trip was just beginning and she wanted to make her budget last as long as possible. Now it’s 3 years later, she’s still traveling the world on points, and she hasn’t run out of money yet! Sabrina has even written an e-book to help explain how she travels on a budget, including using points.

Sabrina, Amsterdam  Sabrina, Amsterdam

What’s next? Sabrina is was in India at the time she submitted her story. She plans to visit Sri Lanka, then head home to LA for the summer —all on points, of course!

Thanks for sharing Sabrina! It’s exciting to know that with a little dedication to the points game, you can afford to travel, blog, and live the life you love!


Unforgettable Europe

Laura is a Registered Nurse turned stay-at-home mom with a preschooler and twin toddlers —WHEW! Laura is also a self-admitted travel addict. Another fun fact? Laura pretty much refuses to pay full price for anything, so the points and miles world is a seriously lucrative hobby for her!   

Laura runs a blog called The Miles Genie where she shares her extensive research on earning and redeeming miles. She’s been doing this since 2013, and she and her husband have earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel to some pretty incredible spots. Sometimes they have the kids in tow, and sometimes they’re adventuring out on their own (thanks to some great help!).

For Real Redemptions, Laura has chosen to share an exciting trek to Amsterdam, Croatia, and Paris.  

The Miles Genie, Croatia Couple

To earn the miles for this trip, Laura and her husband both opened a number of new credit cards to score some great sign-up bonuses. These cards included the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card, the Citi® Hilton Honors™ Reserve Card, and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.

They added these bonuses to points they earned through everyday spending on their Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and their Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Additionally, they had lots of American Airlines miles from a previous 100,000-point Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® offer.

When considering which flights to book, Laura says they decided to redeem Alaska Airlines miles on an American Airlines flight for 2 reasons. First, Alaska Airlines charges fewer miles for a business class ticket to Europe than AA. Second, they were able to add this ticket onto a return flight from Hawaii. That means Laura and her husband flew from Hawaii to Dallas for a “stopover” and were able to continue from Dallas to Europe at a later date all on the same ticket.  

This ticket cost 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles per person. They each had 25,000 miles from the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card sign-up bonus. To get the remaining 25,000 miles, they both transferred 20,000 Starpoints to Alaska Airlines, which gave them each a 5,000-mile transfer bonus. Laura says if you include the Hawaii portion of the ticket, these would have been worth at least $3,500 per person.

For hotels, Laura used Hilton certificates for the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam and then Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Hyatt for the Hotel du Louvre in Paris. At 20,000 points per night, this was a good value since rooms were going for over $500/night.

The Miles Genie in Paris

In Croatia, Laura, her husband, and some friends chartered a catamaran for 5 nights with a captain and a hostess/cook. Laura says there aren’t many ways to do this on points (unless you use a cash-back card), but since catamarans are fairly affordable Croatia it was a must-do!  

After island hopping for 5 nights, they stayed 1 night in the amazing Palace Judita Heritage Hotel in Split. She used the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® sign-up bonus to cover the night (~$400).  

For the flight home, they each redeemed 30,000 American Airlines miles for a direct flight from Paris to Dallas.

Laura says Amsterdam was a great way to start their trip and Paris was a great way to end it. But her favorite part of the trip was falling in love with Croatia.  

Having the catamaran allowed them to see several different islands, each with different things to offer. They rode mopeds around Vis and enjoyed wineries there, took a smaller boat to the blue cave in Bisevo, ate great food, enjoyed the view from the top of a fortress in Hvar, hiked to some beautiful beaches in Brač, dined at a 1700 year old palace in Split, and got to see the pristine Plitvice lakes.  

The Miles Genie, Croatia  The Miles Genie, Plitvice Lakes

She mentions the locals were incredibly welcoming, and they have never felt safer in a foreign country. Laura thinks this is one of the best-kept secrets in terms of vacation destinations. Plus, with the money saved on flights and hotels, they were able to put more toward the catamaran and activities in Croatia.

Coming up next? A couples’ trip to Italy (booked on points) and then a family trip to The Big Island of Hawaii!

Laura, we know a trip like this can take some serious effort. We’re so happy you shared this redemption story with our readers to help them realize how bringing multiple cards and programs together can make some magic happen!

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