5 Dream Travel Rewards to Save For Right Now - Forbes

5 Dream Travel Rewards to Save For Right Now - Forbes


5 Dream Travel Rewards to Save For Right Now - Forbes

Posted: 02 Sep 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Having more miles and points than you can spend sounds like a dream come true, but this year it just might be a reality. With international travel at a standstill and credit cards offering bonus rewards on everyday spending, it's easily possible to earn more than you can redeem. Tempting as it is to cash out those rewards for, well, cash, there's another alternative: start saving for a dream trip you can take in a year or two.

Dream trips don't come cheap, which is precisely why it's a good idea to hold onto your balance if you can afford to. A trip including two international business class tickets and a week in the world's best hotels can easily cost over a million points. Still, it can be a better value than paying outright, especially for premium hotels and flights. It might even be an experience you'd otherwise never be able to afford. Without the possibility of immediate travel, delayed gratification finally feels realistic.

Of course, even with a million points and a lot of inspiration, there's no such thing as a trip that's one size fits all. The best redemption is the one that makes you happiest, regardless of where it falls on the dollar-value spectrum. Because of that, the ideas below offer aspirational travel with enough wiggle room to personalize your next vacation. You've waited a long time to rack up your points: now make it worth your while.

Have Dinner in the Skies

With eat-in service at restaurants closed or heavily restricted, there's a good chance you've missed out on a lot of date nights this year. Here's your chance to have dinner out with your partner—while cruising at 38,000 feet.

Several airlines offer "companion dining" in their first class cabins, essentially setting up a table for two during meal service. Just like on solid ground, you'll sit across from your travel companion while enjoying conversation and a four-course meal. Unlike your typical restaurant meal, you'll be traveling at 500 miles per hour.

You'll find this option on several airlines in first class, including the upgraded 777-300ER operated by ANA from New York to and from Tokyo. The best value comes from redeeming 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for round-trip first class travel. Virgin Atlantic partners with all major credit card currencies (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points). You can also transfer flexible points to Aeroplan (an Amex partner), United (a Chase partner) and Avianca Lifemiles (partners with Amex, Capital One, and Citi) for booking ANA flights.

For families or larger groups, you'll find a similar option on Qatar Airways' Qsuites. This business class product allows you to remove the seat dividers and dine in a group of four. Redemptions are available through Oneworld airlines. You can expect to pay 70,000 American Airlines miles one-way for a flight to Doha or elsewhere in the Middle East and India. Connections onward are often modest upcharges. The welcome bonus alone on the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®* will get you most of the way to enough miles for one ticket.

Attend a Bucket List Event

Carnival. Oktoberfest. The Olympics. What do all these events have in common? Sky-high hotel rates. Thankfully, hotel points can take the sting out of the price tag and allow you to schedule a trip to the festival or event you've always wanted to attend.

The trick to scoring a hotel room with points during periods of high demand is booking early. Most hotels only have a finite number of rooms available for points redemption and they're often snatched up by early bookers. Research when your hotel begins accepting reservations (often a year ahead) and mark your calendar to be ready. If it's sold out, check back regularly. If someone else cancels their reservation, you might get another chance.

With the advent of dynamic pricing, hotels often raise their rewards rates to the upper end of the range during special events. As you're saving your points, it's best to budget for the highest price you see on the award chart for that hotel category. Additionally, many properties institute minimum stay requirements, so you may need to budget for an extra night or two. If you're traveling with family, especially outside of the U.S., fire code restrictions might require you to get two rooms so you'll need to budget for that as well. Rewards with cash copays can help you stretch your points farther if you need to.

If you'd like to attend next summer's Olympics, which were postponed to July 23 to August 8, 2021, this is prime time to make hotel reservations in Japan. For easy access to both Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Village, choose a hotel near Tokyo station. The Courtyard Tokyo Station still has rooms available for 50,000 points per night. As a category 6 hotel, it also qualifies for the annual free night certificate offered through the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card*.

Fly Around the World

Round-the-world (RTW) award tickets are few and far between these days, but a few frequent flyer programs still offer them. If you can abide by all of the ticketing restrictions (most notably finding award space on every segment you need), they can be excellent value.

The most generous award is Aeromexico's SkyTeam RTW Pass. You'll need 224,000 Aeromexico Premier Points for an economy ticket or 352,000 for business class, although that equates to 140,000 or 220,000 Amex Membership Rewards points respectively. For that price, you can book up to 15 stopovers on any combination of SkyTeam airlines with no distance limits as long as you start and end in the same country and don't backtrack along the way.

Other programs, including ANA, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer also offer RTW awards, though with stricter limits on the number of stopovers and total distance flown. All of them, including Aeromexico, tack on fuel surcharges which will vary based on your routes and the operating airlines.

For maximum flexibility, you can assemble your own trip around the world instead. Book one-way flights as needed and choose airlines from multiple alliances depending on who has available seats when you need them. It might cost more, but it opens up far more options.

Live a Posh Life for a Few Days

We've all seen the Instagram photos: it starts with an over-the-top hotel suite bigger than your first apartment. There's a decadent room service tray served with fresh cut flowers while a guest lounges in a plush white robe. All of that can be yours with the right hotel points.

Whether your dream hotel is an overwater villa in Bora Bora or a penthouse suite in Singapore, you can book it with points if you start saving now. Hilton Honors allows you to reserve suites with points at all their properties, with the cost in points commensurate with the cash price. You'll find fabulous Hilton hotels on every continent, making it convenient to use points no matter where you go.

Similarly, Hyatt allows booking suites with points. Book standard suites for a small upcharge or choose a premium suite for double the points of a regular room. At the Park Hyatt Zanzibar, you can get three bedrooms and a 12-seat dining room for 30,000 points per night (instead of $1,000+). Or, for the same price, book the one-bedroom presidential suite and have access to 4,800 square feet when you include the private ocean-facing terrace.

For benefits beyond a lavish room, it might be worth getting a hotel-branded credit card. Cards automatically extend elite status which comes with perks like late checkout and premium WiFi. The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express* upgrades you to top-tier Diamond status which can save you a bundle through free breakfast and other perks. Other cards, like the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card*, don't extend significant benefits but do provide a free night annually upon renewal and discounts on point redemptions.

Pay for Someone Special

When you look back on your favorite travel memories, there's a good chance that your travel companion played a part in making it special. If you have time to save up airline miles for your next vacation anyway, this is the time to collect extra to bring along a friend or family member.

To get a better deal, look for transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards, ThankYou points or Capital One miles. Offers come around sporadically and tack on 20 to 40% more miles when you convert flexible currencies to participating airline partners.

You can also score a better deal by closely examining airline award charts and comparing different redemption options. The same award seats are often available through multiple partner airlines which means you get the exact same experience for differing prices. A good example of that is a Swiss Air business class flight from the U.S. to Europe. If you book through United, that'll cost you 70,000 miles per person each way, but through Avianca, it costs 63,000 miles. Or do one better and use Aeroplan miles for only 55,000 miles each way.

If funding an entire extra ticket is out of reach, don't fear. Programs like Avianca LifeMiles and Delta SkyMiles allow you to combine miles and cash copays at reasonable rates. Transfer in however many miles you can afford from cards like the Platinum Card® from American Express and buy the remainder when finalizing your reservation.

Where Will You Go Next?

If you've canceled trips this year and have nothing new on the calendar, waiting to book your next trip might feel frustrating. By working toward a goal and saving for aspirational travel—however you define it—you can put that waiting period to work. A short hiatus now means the next trip has even more potential. Your future self will thank you.

To view rates and fees of Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this page.

170 days and counting: Cruisers cry foul as Crystal Cruises refunds fail to arrive - The Points Guy

Posted: 23 Sep 2020 09:04 AM PDT

170 days and counting: Cruisers cry foul as Crystal Cruises refunds fail to arrive

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