First class from the United States to the Thailand. Five nights in Paris, France at a five star hotel. An around-the-world plane ticket in business class.
For the average honeymooner, traveling this way would cost tens of thousands of dollars. But, for a few people who are in the miles and points game, these once-in-a-lifetime experiences cost less than $1,500. Here's how they did it.
1. Begin planning immediately after popping the question or saying yes.
Three years ago Scott Mackenzie of Travel Codex booked a two week, deluxe honeymoon in Southeast Asia for a mere $1,500 for all of his hotels and flights.
With stops in Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong, the travel hacker wanted to create an unforgettable trip which, for him, meant traveling in first or business class and staying in luxury hotels.
His number one piece of advice is to plan as much in advance as possible. "Start thinking as soon as you get engaged," says MacKenzie.
An added bonus of advance planning? Wedding costs can work towards free hotel stays or flights.
Snag a new rewards credit card and use it for nuptial expenses. Mackenzie did this and scored free rooms and flights for his honeymoon. However, make sure to pay off reward credit cards immediately, as they can have higher than average interest rates.
Frequent traveler Steven Paletz took 11 months to plan his around-the-world honeymoon using miles. The five-week trip took Paletz and his wife to ten countries, including Singapore, South Africa, France, Switzerland and Italy. In total, the round-the-world business class tickets cost 440,00 miles on Continental, plus $300 in taxes. In retail value, each ticket could cost anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000, depending on how many segments, stopovers and which carrier is used.
2. Mix and match.
It is essential to have a wide spread of miles, points and loyalty cards across different programs. Since a honeymoon is meant to be a trip-of-a-lifetime, travelers don't want to be boxed into regions based on where their points are redeemable.
For his European and Middle Eastern honeymoon, Omar Zaman used a variety of airline carriers, including Emirates and Etihad; and hotel programs, including Hilton Honors Points, Hyatt Points and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. With a diversity of programs, Zaman was able to book top-tier properties and flights in three countries.
Consider one-way, transatlantic legs to take advantage of different carriers and their perks. Rewards airline tickets are typically redeemable in one-way bookings, so one-way tickets are not overpriced, as international flights purchased with cash can be.
3. Think about which top-tier properties are available in your ideal destinations.
A chain that might be ubiquitous in Europe could be nonexistent in Asia. Think about which cities are must-sees and then determine which program is most prevalent in that region or boasts the best properties.
Before he proposed, Zaman, who chronicles his adventures at Travel Summary, began accruing points with specific programs he knew he would want to utilize, specifically with Hyatt for their Paris property. Since hotels have fewer blackout dates, a couple could pick a loyalty program or credit card based on where they want to honeymoon and still have enough time to rack up points and book before the big day.
4. Consider purchasing points online.
Miles and points can be purchased for money. While it might seem counterintuitive, if there is a small deficient, it might be cheaper to purchase them rather than pay full price for the reservation.
Mackenzie booked five nights in Bali, Indonesia using a combination of free points and purchased points. He didn't have quite enough for a free stay and after doing the math, realized it was cheaper to purchase discounted Starpoints rather than pay for one of the nights in cash.
A variety of factors made this the best choice, including a steep hotel tax in Indonesia on paid rooms, so the math might not always favor buying points. But it is always worthwhile to run the numbers before deciding.