The Deal Mommy

Camp Mom Reality Check: What a 30 Day Luxury Trip to Asia for 4 Really Cost

Camp Mom Reality Check

I want to inject some reality into the conversation about “The Hobby” and “Free Travel”. Instead of writing an editorial I’m going to let the numbers talk. Here’s a cost breakdown- both in cash outlays and in points- of what we spent for transportation and hotel for our 30 day trip to Japan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. I’ll use a penny a point for comparison: I know the valuation is not exact but it’s what you would get redeeming points for to pay your bill.

I’ll begin with the end in mind- I spent more cash than you have to, by choice. By choosing to fly long haul first class and spend our nights in suites our family of 4 had a MUCH more comfortable experience. I’m more than satisfied with the money we spent.

Airfare: 531,000 miles and $1,219

I discussed the long haul flights in this post. Short haul flights between Tokyo and Hanoi, Hanoi and Da Nang, and Da Nang and Hong Kong were a combo of cash and points flights.
Here’s a quick summary:
Long-Haul: 487,500 miles and $469
Short Haul: 43,500 and $750

Hotel: 49,897 points and $1238

Hyatt: (Earned) 43,814 (Spent) 94,500 net 50,686 points and $950
For the Hyatt stays (21 nights) I used points and cash + diamond suite upgrades for all 4 hotels. 2 nights were free thanks to Rite Aid. All Hyatt stays included a generous breakfast and club access which at least 7 nights covered us for dinner as well.
Takeaway: Hyatt Diamond still worth every penny.

Starwood: $288 (Earned 789 Starpoints)
2 nights- paid for the 2nd to bottom level room and was upgraded into a mini-suite with only Gold Status.
Takeaway: Take a good look at the room levels when booking. By not booking the cheapest room in the hotel for only $15/night we got into a much larger room category. At the base level we likely would have only been upgraded to a smaller room with a view.

Orbitz: FREE
Takeaway: By using a combo of generous promotions and Orbucks I was able to redeem 6 nights in Vietnam at 2 lovely independent hotels, in suites, entirely free. You get $25 10 Orbucks with invite here (the site says $25, but I’ve heard reports people are only getting $10). They’re having a promotion right now where you can earn an extra $110 in Orbucks just by sending in photos.

Total: 580,897 points and $2,457, or $8,388 

Now of course $2,500 isn’t EVERY expense.  Over transportation and hotel we spent another $2,500.  Over 1/2 of that was for Japan Rail Passes and 4 days at 3 Disney parks.


$5,000 cash for what we got?  Not FREE, but pretty darn good value.  To be honest, $10,900 would have been bottom barrel for a month in Asia for 4.  Do-able?  Yes, but in coach, in MUCH smaller hotel rooms ( in Japan and Hong Kong) and with a LOT more stress.

How do you think I did?  (Expert hackers- feel free to call me a rube.) What would you have done differently?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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25 thoughts on “Camp Mom Reality Check: What a 30 Day Luxury Trip to Asia for 4 Really Cost

  1. Ben

    I’d also like to see a breakdown of the cost to accumulate those points. If, on average, you bought those points (580,000) at 0.25cpp, then that is another ~$1500. Hopefully it’s much lower due to CC sign-ups, and Rite-Aid-esque promotions. However, that would bring your total up to $6500 and amount to a ~45% discount off economy prices (and as a HUGE plus, you got to be WAY more comfortable). Overall, still pretty awesome. But the inclusion of the price you pay for points is very relevant.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Ben,

      I don’t MS as a habit, only occasionally. I addressed earning in the post about the tickets but it’s a fair question so I’ll expound.
      To summarize we earned the points through CC signups (AA 100, Amex Plat 100 2xUSair 40) butt in seat (50 between the 4 of us), Hyatt stays and promos (70000), bonuses (40k to BA from AMEX) and customer service fails (30BA). The rest was everyday spend. That’s why I only count points at a penny: I don’t spend extra to earn.

      1. Ben

        Thanks for expanding. I’m a bit of a dork and really like to dig down into these numbers for my own trips. But to expand even more, did you not have to MS to meet the sign-up bonus’? AA 100 was 10k in spend (personally I’d never meet that in 3 months of normal spend). Also, the butt in seat miles and Hyatt stays…were any mileage/hotel runs? That would also have to be added. Even with these, there were probably only minor increases in cost. And 30k from BA for service fails…nicely done!

        This isn’t meant to be overly critique-y, just to point out that sometimes people lose track of how they accumulated pts and then don’t factor that into the cost of a trip. And I’m on a personal crusade to disprove TravelIsFree that travel really is free! 🙂

        1. thedealmommy Post author

          Not a bit, Ben. I like being challenged! Keeps me honest. I didn’t MS to make the min- just front loaded some expenses. Runs? Mileage, definitely not. Hotel? Well…my last 3 Hyatt stays were local and the last one was Dec 30, but we did actually stay there and enjoy the rooms so I’m not counting it as such. If you prefer to do so, add $250 (subtracting 6000 Hyatt points earned).

          (and don’t tell Drew, but me too:)

  2. JohnnieD

    When I had Hyatt Diamond, my wife and I were able use lounge in Aruba with breakfast and light dinners/wine. We also brought back to our room some breakfast foods that we saved for our lunch. So on a five night stay we only went out to dinner once. Just something to consider next time…………

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Johnnie,
      I agree, and we did a few nights on the lounge. However, we were in such food centric destinations that I didn’t want to miss out.

  3. rick b

    I spent about $1200 for 16 days in Vietnam mostly on food attractions and non points transportation.

    Asia is a bad example because imho doing luxury chain hotels out there is a big waste of points. The non chain properties are much cheaper and most are very nice. I spent $22 a night in Hue for example on a very nice small hotel where I got the best service of any hotel ever.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Rick,
      I agree about Vietnam, Thailand, and the like. However, Japan and Hong Kong as close to if not more than major US cities.

      1. rick b

        Actually Japan is a toss up, depends on what you need. They don’t have crappy properties at any price point, but few mom-n-pop hotels with a lot of space and at a low price. I stayed at some business hotels for $50-70/night that had a w/d in the room even, but those wouldn’t be practical for families.

        HK is same, although airbnb has good selection of apartments, and HK hotels aren’t that expensive. Certainly not New York prices. At $100-200 a night you can get in to most major chains, which makes many points redemptions a low value.

  4. pfdigest

    Great post! It’s easy to forget some of the costs of “free” travel. Still, heavily discounted travel is pretty nice too.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks, Susan. Definitely worth it. I think it’s helpful when we get wrapped up in the earn cycle to look up and see what we get for it!

  5. HaleyB

    Well done!

    I might have gone with AirBnB for at least part of the trip, but my kids are older teens. When they were younger we always opted for hotels. It sounds like you did a good job of striking a balance between using points to offset your costs and/or upgrade things and using cash to fill out the overall experience. That is exactly how we travel as well. I have not added up my most recent trip but most of the time my costs come in at around 25-50% cash (depends mostly on if I’m on an award ticket or a great cash airfare and how I value the award flights).

    I think the goal of traveling for free is often misguided. Points and miles can greatly enrich a trip by freeing up the budget for other things. I have had a few quick weekend trips where I paid with points and miles for almost everything, but for longer trips I find I would be giving up too much of what I love about travel if I tried to do that.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks, Hayley. Air BnB/VRBO is definitely on my list to try next time. It was nice having breakfast taken care of, but might have been nicer to have been able to cook once in a while.

  6. Mariana

    I am glad you put how much it cost you to take this trip. I have been tracking our costs for our trips to see how much we spend. We are a family of four and for our Egypt trip we spent close to $5k for 2 weeks. The most expensive was the tour guide for almost every day. For our Mexico, Yucatan trip for 10 days we spent aprox. $3k. For Vancouver/Alaska, close to $5k for 10 days. For our Vietnam trip of 3 weeks, $2k. Our upcoming trip to Chile and Easter Island will hover around $4k but it will be two weeks and Easter Island is expensive. I also keep track of the cost of each of the items we are getting with points. Each vacation would cost, minimum, $10K, and that would be for flights and lodging, which I am paying with miles/points.
    So yes, it is not free but definitely affordable for us. Without miles and hotel points, we would probably not be able to afford travelling to these fantastic places .

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Love it, Mariana! I’d love to swap stories sometime. And I agree- miles/points make it all possible. That’s why stuff like all-inclusive gets under my skin: Beaches was min $800/day BEFORE airfare! We spent less than that cash outlay for a month.

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