14,997 Coupons and 908 Handpicked Deals for 3,991 Stores

How I Got a $40,000 Trip to Australia & New Zealand Almost for Free!

This is the story of how my wife and I "stayed" 40 times at a Hyatt last October, spending $1,690 in cash but getting a free trip of a lifetime by earning 270,000 United miles and 20 free nights at any Hyatt in the world.

The 2-week trip to Australia and New Zealand this year would have cost over $40,000 if I had paid cash for it but I spent less than $2,000!  Here's how:

The Deal: it all starts with an incredible Hyatt deal last October that I took full advantage of! Similar to this Hyatt Big Welcome Back Promotion from Spring 2010 that I've mentioned previously, the main idea was that two stays at any Hyatt earned you one free night at any Hyatt.  Since there are 7 different Hyatt brands, the two stays can be as little as $50 each at Hyatt Place, their most affordable brand, while the free night can be in a $1,000 Park Hyatt room!  But that is just the beginning.  Every two "stays" at Hyatt I was stacking offers and getting:

  • 1 Free Night at any Hyatt
  • 13,500 United Miles
  • 1,000 Hyatt Points (Diamond members get 500 points on every stay)

I also:

  • Earned Hyatt Diamond status after a promo lowered the threshold to 15 stays
  • Paid for "stays" with $100 Hyatt Gift Certificates I bought for $79.99 at Costco
  • Got a 2% rebate on the $79.99 for being a Costco Executive Member
  • Got a 2% rebate via my credit card

Hyatt Place Kiosk

All in all, 20 "stays" each cost about $845 and earned each of us 135,000 miles, 10 free Hyatt nights and Hyatt Diamond status.  The $845 math is an average of $55 per stay minus 20% from the gift certificates, 2% from Costco and 2% from credit cards.  Also, you're probably asking: "why does he keep putting 'stays' in quotes?"  Well, because Hyatt Place uses kiosks in the lobbies.  I would just drive over, check in via the kiosk, get my room key and get right back in my car and go home!

Our Air New Zealand 747

The Flights: We spent some time in the lounge at O'Hare then flew first class from Chicago to San Fran on United.  There we hung out in a great Air New Zealand lounge then boarded an Air New Zealand 747 for an incredible flight to Auckland and then another Air NZ flight to Sydney.  The flight to Auckland was in the "Executive Business" section of a two-class plane. We had seats 1A & 1K in the nose of the plane since the pilots are in the upper deck! It was better than any first class experience I've ever had. Row 1 is private and perfect for two people travelling together.

The Executive Business Cabin (Shot from My Seat in the Nose)

The pods we were in were a great experience, with solid in-flight entertainment and comfortable seats that convert to lie-flat beds. The flight was about 12 hours which basically equates to 3 hours of wine/dine/movie, 8 hours of sleep and 1 hour for breakfast.  The meals were first-rate and the service was as friendly as, well, everything else NZ. Of note: the Air New Zealand lounge in Auckland is incredible and has free massages!

The Sydney Opera House with Park Hyatt at Left

Flight Math: We redeemed 110,000 United miles for a multi-segment trip that would have cost about $12,500 each at the time or about $25,000 total.  It included First Class on United from Chicago to San Fran, Executive Business from San Fran to Auckland to Sydney to Auckland to LAX and United First back to Chicago.  The Air New Zealand tickets were possible because they are in the Star Alliance with United.  Of note: one of the benefits of a Star Alliance Award ticket is that they allow one (and sometimes two) "stopovers" beyond your destination. This allowed us to go to Sydney and Auckland on the same ticket.  Also of note: redeeming "business class" mileage for a ticket on a two-class (as opposed to three-class) international flight is a great deal.  Air NZ "business" is better than first on most carriers.

Posing Like Tourists Near Bondi Beach!

The Hotels: In Sydney, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Sydney which is on a pier in Sydney Harbour across from the Opera House and just underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  We had a large upgraded room with a view overlooking the Opera house that would have cost approximately $1100 USD per night! Even better, as Hyatt Diamond, we had free breakfasts, free internet, an upgraded room and were able to check-in very early (around 11am). The "free breakfasts" were huge because our bill was over $100 every day!

View of Opera House and Harbour from Botanical Gardens

After a long stay in Sydney, we left the Park Hyatt and flew back to Auckland on Air New Zealand where we checked into in a free suite at the Hyatt Regency there.

Hotel Math: We redeemed 10 of our free nights (yes, I have another trip to come!) for the $1100 per night room plus got breakfast and internet (both exorbitant) for free.  In Auckland, the suite was about $1600 total plus we had access to their club lounge where we found all we needed for breakfasts and dinners.  The total cash value was about $15,070.

My wife at a sleepy beachfront vineyard on Waiheke

My lovely wife at dusk at a beachfront vineyard on Waiheke

Also, we got off the Hyatt kick for a bit and stayed at a small resort near the far northern tip of New Zealand near Matauri Bay.  I couldn't redeem free nights here but I'm glad we mixed it up.

A Short Trip Review: Sydney was gorgeous, livable and warm.  I was amazed at how many people lived within a walk from the sprawling harbor waterfront.  It's also a top 20 global modern city but has colonial British charm.  Incredibly, their real estate market makes the US market circa 2006-07 look old-fashioned.  The Park Hyatt Sydney is one of the great hotels of the world, surprisingly intimate, modern-yet-warm and with the service PH is known for. Breakfast was an incredible buffet in a beautiful waterfront room.

Yours Truly on a beach near Matauri Bay

Yours Truly on a beach in Northern New Zealand

As for New Zealand, it is my new favorite place on the planet.  We weren't in Auckland proper much.  It was a little sleepy compared to the rest of NZ.  Waiheke Island was an incredible spot (think Hawaii + Napa - people!).  Northern New Zealand is gorgeous.  Words fail.  It's proverbial summer with Irish rolling hills, sheep, beaches, volcanos, thousand-year-old trees, topography on steroids and very few people.  It's one of the most remote places on earth - and you feel that, in the best possible way - but yet it's a friendly, modern, western, English-speaking first-world country. Incredibly, we never set foot on the South Island which people say is more scenic and is where Lord of the Rings was filmed.

View of the Matauri Bay Area in NZ

A quick highlight reel:the Matauri Bay region of northern New Zealand, lunch at Icebergs at Bondi Beach, breakfast at the Park Hyatt, early morning runs around Sydney Harbour, the Harbour taxis, walking from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach, lunch at Jonah's near Whale Beach, Manly Beach, the Royal Botanical Gardens!

Wow!  It is hard to believe that 20 days of modest effort (less than 30 minutes?) last October netted me a $40,000 vacation of a lifetime for less than $2,000. Other than at our free, gluttonous breakfasts, we ate very modestly and since my wife and I are pretty simple tourists (we just like walking around) we didn't incur any other significant costs beyond what we would have at home.

The point of all of this, though, is that I want to help all of you take trips like these !  That's why I've been posting about the 100,000 mile offer with the Chase British Airways Visa, the 50,000 point bonus on the American Express Platinum Card100,000 Mile Citi American Airlines Bonus, the American Express Starwood Card or last spring's Hyatt Big Welcome Back deal.

Take the best online coupons and deals with you on the go! Download the newly updated Brad's Deals iPhone app today.

About the Author: Brad Wilson

Brad is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Brad's Deals and Brad's Black Friday, as well as and author of Do More, Spend Less. He loves the game of hunting down the best deals and being able to spread the word to so many others. He is likely travel hacking his way around the world right now, trying to spend his millions of points and miles faster than he earns them!

70 Responses to “How I Got a $40,000 Trip to Australia & New Zealand Almost for Free!”

  1. Jennifer Meier says:

    My husband thinks I get the deals but this makes me look like an amateur. Good job on a fabulous vacation and thanks for sharing!!!

    • Brad says:

      Thanks Jennifer! There will be more to come that we can all take advantage of!

      • eileen croghan says:

        If there is someway to let us know next time so we can do what you are doing it would be wonderful. We are not all quite as good as you – yet!! :) . Anyway – congrats on an amazing trip and a truly unbelievable deal.

        My best yet was Disney World for 8 days/7 nights – staying on property with air and all meals AND Cirque de soliel tickets for 5 for $2500. I think you trump me on this one. NICE!

  2. Agnes says:

    Wow Brad, awesome trip and even better price:)

  3. Nancy says:

    Going to Australia is my husband’s dream vacation! Maybe someday!!

  4. Teresa says:

    Brad how long did it take for you to plan and figure all of this out or did this just kind of fall into place as each promotion came up?

  5. Brad says:

    The core of it was when the Hyatt and United deals came together. 13,500 United miles are worth more than that $85 or so I was spending on two stays. Once that happened, I just tried to streamline and use as little time as possible with the actual Hyatt stays. That’s obviously a very real cost here!

    The other stuff (ie: Costco) was the cherry on top but it still would have been great without those.

    • eileen croghan says:

      If there is someway to let us know next time so we can do what you are doing it would be wonderful. We are not all quite as good as you – yet!! . Anyway – congrats on an amazing trip and a truly unbelievable deal.

      My best yet was Disney World for 8 days/7 nights – staying on property with air and all meals AND Cirque de soliel tickets for 5 for $2500. I think you trump me on this one. NICE!


  6. TonyC says:

    Been to Australia 9 times..and looking forward to my 10th visit. When I travel that far,I stay for a min of a month & stay at long stay apartments. They are all over and are so cheap. the space you get for your money, is incredible & within that space is a washer/dryer, a full balcony, there’s even a pool on the roof!…fully loaded with everything you’ll need..it is an apartment with one bedroom.I leave everything there, as I pay monthly and then do side trips.I LOVE Sydney and love staying within the city cause the public pool is right by the park but hidden underneath ground..so modern & everyone swims there whether on the beach or pool..I take aerobics classes in that pool for a small fee.I believe all Australians are born with FISH fins….they are that much into the ocean & water….and changes the attitude of the people in some ways…

    I have to check out this deal Brad…


    • Brad says:

      TonyC – wow…I’m 8 behind you!

      Thanks for the tips. I agree that long stay apartments can be an incredible value and are often better located than hotels.

  7. Jonathan Liu says:

    Why didn’t you stop over in Hong Kong on your way back???

    You are officially the Deal King!

  8. Carl Todasco says:

    good luck…………

  9. manish says:

    hey brad,

    amazing story!…i don’t quite understand how you were getting 13500 united miles for each 2 night stay?

    • manish says:

      All i can seem to find is an additional 2500 united miles per stay?

      • Brad says:

        Manish, sorry if I made it sound otherwise but this is not still valid! Mainly b/c Hyatt is not currently running their free nights offer. As for United, last October only there was 2,500 plus a second United opt-in offer for an additional 2,000 per stay plus the 500 you get per stay by default when entering a FF number. The links I used then for the two offers no longer function.

  10. Andy says:

    That’s the way to do it! A new target to aspire to. That’s a hell of a lot better than my 2 First Class American tickets to Miami (75k CC Promo – Wife) and 2 Coach to Maui (75k CC Promo – Myself).

    The key was the United offer that I didn’t know about. My local Hyatt was $120/night. 20 stays would have been $1,843 ($2,400 -Costco discounts). That’s a redeem value of $183/night for a Hyatt which I wasn’t sure was worth it (although, I’d now think it was). Adding on the United miles would have made it a no brainer.

    Hopefully, they have the Welcome Back promo this spring and an airline is offering bonuses.


    • Andy says:

      Sorry, forgot a question:

      For your stays: Can they be 1 night bookings back-to-back, or do you need to put a day gap in there (if they have the promo again)? Could I simply book twenty separate 1 night stays for consecutive nights?


      • Brad says:

        Consecutive stays at the same location count as one stay. I’m lucky in Chicago b/c there are 5-6 options. Helps both with the consecutive issue and price!

    • Brad says:

      Agreed Andy – looking forward to them hopefully bringing this back!

  11. Darryl says:

    Wow that’s incredible, I thought that I was good at saving money but this seems on another level. Sounds like you had an incredible time, would love to find a similar loophole in the UK, will certainly be looking out for it!

  12. Cathy says:

    Very impressive, Brad! Thanks for sharing and explaining how you cleverly worked this out. I’ll look forward to future offers you post so that I can try to put some to my family’s advantage. (BTW, you and your wife are an adorable couple! Glad you had a good trip.)

  13. sheila says:

    wow!!! how amazing for you to do that!! i guess i need to get researching what you’ve done to help w/the trip my husband & i have talked about taking to italy & possibly other destinations. we plan on going to hawaii for our 20 yr anniversary in 2012 so maybe i’ll snag some pointers before tht trip too! keep posting & thanks!

  14. Natalia says:

    I have to say you are my hero! I thought I got over when I stayed for free w/points at the Renaissance Marriott Resort in Aruba for 9 days last year, and got free Delta flights and free hotel stays at a cute hotel in Nice and a Barcelona Marriott for my honeymoon this past May, but you beat all my trips w/your $40K vacation! No wonder I am so hooked on your deals :D
    Keep up the deals!

  15. esther says:

    My husband and I did a similar trip. We took a 1 month honeymoon to Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hawaii and only spent $5,000! We used United credit cards to get enough mileage for free international flights.

    Thanks for sharing your deals. I think it would be a great idea for you to share your hotel rooms rather than pay for unused hotel stays. I hate to see anything go to waste when others could enjoy them. Perhaps gift them to a friend or relative or better yet, give a nice, warm bed to a person who would normally sleep on the streets! You can save money and still be philanthropic.

  16. Philip's MaMa says:

    We would love to find a deal to go to JAPAN to go see our “family”. We had a foreign exchange student stay with us for a year in 1999, She was not supposed to stay with us, but my soft-hearted son, brought her home from school one day and told me that where she was staying were some OLD people with NO KIDS and they had slapped her and “Could she stay with us, Mom?” My 2 boys were ALL FOR IT, and I , of course said yes, and so did my gracious husband. The F.E. Program did not like it that we had 2 sons, but we had the loft for her to live with her own bathroom. NOW, she has her own family, and 3 children who call us Gr’ma and Gr’Pa since their REAL Grandparents will not have anything to do with them. I would love to go see them! Brad, do you have a SPECIAL DEAL to Japan?

  17. Marie says:

    I’m trying to do something like this soon because my husband will be taking a job in Australia next year and the whole family (2 adults, two children)will be moving there. The flight alone will be thousands, so I’m actively trying to find the best way to save the most money. Currently Hyatt has a 10k bonus point offer for 5 nights stay, but I don’t think you can earn hotel points and mileage points at the same time. Any advice?

  18. Mike Grabill says:

    Brad: This is spectacular. Good work.

  19. J K says:

    Brad, this is really incredible. Will you be doing something like this and posting next year if Hyatt/United end up doing this again? Also, are you going to get a Hyatt credit card?

  20. Australia says:

    Air New Zealand do not have an “Executive Business” cabin. It is branded “Business Premier”.

    • Eileen says:

      Can someone tell me if the mileage listed on the airmiles rewards – NorthAm to Europe for say 30,000 miles. Is that round trip or one way?

  21. Ten Bootcamp Sessions for $19 » Get your daily Groupon deals says:

    [...] How I Got a $40,000 Trip to Australia & New Zealand Almost for Free! [...]

  22. Dave Derkowski says:

    Brad, this was absolutely BRILLIANT! I’m in the Chicago area as well, and would’ve happily checked in and out of those Hyatt branded hotels.
    I’ve signed up for your updates, and can’t wait for you to alert us to the next great deal!

  23. [...] plan it out and make sure you’re getting all the deals you can. Although you may not take a $40,000 vacation for under $2,000, you could still end up saving enough to add a few extra days to your trip, which will be [...]

  24. susan pope says:

    Brad~ You are my IDOL. Keep up the good work and I will live vicariously through you. ps. do you have nay suggestions for NYC hotels in JUNE? Haven’t swung a deal yet.

  25. Debbie Boyd says:

    On the Amex Platinum deal that has expired, you mention that the Continental and AA gift certificates qualify for the $200 airline credit reimbursement. I could not find that written anywhere and wondered if these are the gift cards that can be ordered online. Can you please answer this question. I received the Platinum card within the promotional period and now want to register the airline and use the $200 credit that will be reimbursed for airline related expenses.

  26. Brad says:

    Hi Debbie,

    I have not seen anywhere that Amex explicitly lists it as a benefit but have been told by others that the gift cert purchases show up as a credit on your account. I think the basic idea is that any charge other than for airfare from either airline gets flagged by Amex for the credit.

    Worst case, try $50 and confirm it still works, then try the other $150.


  27. [...] to staying at lesser priced Hyatt Hotels and earning your credits, you can stay at any of the thousand properties in the 9 Starwood brands: [...]

  28. Keenun’s Top 10! I love a good deal…..these are my favorite websites for scoring a great price! « The Single Wife says:

    [...] I LOVE BradsDeals!  Brad is a genuis! He does all the searching, so YOU don’t have to!  I get his emails…..once per day…..they include all the info I need!  I EVEN WON AN iPAD, FROM THEM, LAST NOVEMBER!      CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW BRAD TOOK A $40,000 VACATION FOR LESS THAN $2000!   [...]

  29. Ivan H. says:

    Nice job, Brad!

  30. Dena says:

    WOW and I thought I was good, you trumped me. My husband and I were able to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon 4 days/ 3 nights flight included for $1000.00 total! My husband bought a Jeep and got 2 tickets and air fair round trip FREE! We booked a hotel OFF the beach for $80.00 a night (this was 1987 BTW)and we ate with coupons printed in a tourist mag that we found at the hotel, we even found one for a dinner/boat show cruise for dirt cheap! We went to many of the site seeing hot spots with discount coupons as well! We had a GREAT time for dirt cheap! It can be done!

  31. Danny says:

    Oh man – this is incredible, Brad! Freaking fabulous! I laughed out loud when you mentioned about “staying” – haha, that’s so convenient that they have the express self-check-ins. I’ll be sticking around to look for similar “loop-holes” that we can take advantage of!

  32. hc says:

    Can you please explain how you got the 270,000 united miles? It doesn’t add up for me. How did you get 6,750 per stay?? Thanks!

  33. janet says:

    i need the discounts for AAA and Cost Co for hotel discounts at $50.00 it was up there now I can’t find it. Thanks, Jan

  34. [...] Nebenprodukt abfiel. Gab derzeit sogar einen Artikel darüber, wie jemand das schön maximiert hat: My $40k Trip to Australia on Hyatt & United's Dime Warum es dahingehend keine Sonderregelung für Hyatt Places & ggf. Summerfield Suites gab/gibt [...]

  35. Mike S says:


    I’ve got to try this. I usually throw the credit card offers away without even looking at them.

    Did you consider eating breakfasts or using the pool or workout equipment at the local hotel where you accumulated your “stays”? – Just another way to sweeten the deal.

  36. Jack says:

    Brad – Would you be OK if I reposted excerpts from your blog on our site (www.eshopedia.com/blog)? We have a consumer education section and something like this would be great to post! Thanks in advance.

  37. [...] an affordable price if learn to use these points systems and coupons to your advantage, like when Brad took a $40,000 Trip to New Zealand for [...]

  38. Jo Ann Gleisner says:

    Hi Brad, I am impressed with your site and am looking forward to taking advantage of some of your great ideas.

  39. Tammy says:

    Our 10 yr anniversary is this yr and my goal is to arrange a trip to Bora Bora, which is one of my dream locations. Since Hubby is the sole provider due to a recent disability, and we have 4 kids of yours, mine and ours – it’s challenging financially to get away. So something like this he could complain about one lil bit and it’d be amazing. Other places like Australia, Italy & Greece are on the short list, but being able to stay in the Tahitian islands and travel (or stay put) would be ideal. I’m a newbie small potatoes saver compared to you, but I hope I have the chance to try because being able to have our first amazing couples getaway to places like that…even my Hubby couldn’t feel guilty for taking time from work and just leaving. I will be keeping my eyes and inbox open and cannot wait to try to earn my own vacation of a lifetime!!!

  40. [...] inexpensive travel inspiration, check out how Brad scored a $40K trip to Australia and New Zealand almost for free! Make sure to check back tomorrow for part two of our Spring Break series, “Once You’re [...]

  41. S. K. says:

    I would like to see a ‘Travel Newsletter’ from BradsDeals. Maybe once a week or every other week. Or perhaps a feed if not a newsletter. Thanks

  42. Discovering Miles & Points » kofucious says:

    [...] travel with miles accumulated from just regular flying.  It led me to this article about “How I Got a $40,000 Trip to Australia & New Zealand Almost for Free!”  As I read the article, my curiosity grew.  I wanted to know more about how I can do the [...]

  43. [...] In case you haven’t seen it, check out how our founder and Editor in Chief Brad Wilson got a $40,000 trip to Australia and New Zealand almost for [...]

  44. [...] Hyatt” includes their Park Hyatt brand, you can stay for free at properties like the Park Hyatt Sydney, Park Hyatt Paris or Park Hyatt Maldives where rooms are $1,000 or more per night! They also [...]

  45. Michelle Barry says:

    Hi Brad,
    Do you have deals on Disney vacations? Disneyland Park in California is our goal destination. We would appreciate any tips and tricks for saving to get there.
    Thank you,

  46. Jason says:

    Ok, I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up your book. The first thing that I checked out is this topic within the book of getting 1 million AA miles using this technique of buying $1 coins and giving them back to bank and then paying off CC bill.

    Well, I went to the U.S. Mint website and guess what? I don’t sell the $1 coins being sold for $1. The cost for 500 in $1 is $550; that’s a 10% mark up. That blows the idea totally out of the water.

    Can you find that exact link where to buythe $1 coins at actually $1?

  47. Stans says:

    Impressive deal Brad and great savings. Glad you shared this. You ever heard about any deals to central asia former USSR republics? One US paper called this place one the most attractive travel destinations.

  48. Hank says:

    hey Brad,
    i ran into this info by mistake but was very impressed and fascinated how you gamed the system. these companies always have extra charges and hidden costs and i travel world-wide all the time both in my private business and as an avid explorer. please tell me how i can get more info on your ideas

  49. Thanks for revealing your ideas in this article.
    The other element is that whenever a problem comes up
    with a laptop motherboard, people should not go ahead and take risk of repairing that themselves because if it is not done right it can lead to
    permanent damage to an entire laptop. It’s usually safe to approach any dealer of that laptop for your repair of motherboard.
    They’ve already technicians that have an expertise in dealing with notebook computer motherboard complications and can make right prognosis and perform repairs.

Leave a Reply


Facebook User?

Get BradsDeals emails by connecting with Facebook

Facebook Signup


The trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners. | Brad Wilson