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.
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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