How I Scored My $60,000 Luxury Honeymoon to 5 Countries for $2,500

How I Scored My $60,000 Luxury Honeymoon to 5 Countries for $2,500
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After our amazing wedding in Mexico, my wife and I wanted to have an incredible honeymoon — but where?

Maldives-Breakfast-ConradPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

While Africa was high on the list, two weeks in 2018 allotted for the trip just wasn't enough time for everything that we wanted to do. Instead, we decided to leverage my three hotel elite statuses (Hyatt Globalist, Hilton Diamond, and SPG Platinum) and stockpile of points and miles to travel in Asia for our honeymoon. We traveled from the US to Hong Kong, two resorts in the Maldives, Phuket, and Tokyo, with long layovers filled with sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. In the end, the sticker price for the experiences that we had was $61,101.45, and we spent $2,593.86 out of pocket. Here's how we did it:

How We Got Our Miles

There were over 788,000 points and miles used on this trip, which seems like a ton to someone just starting out. But, as a couple with two great credit scores, a balance like that doesn't take that long to accumulate (especially if you're semi-frequently traveling).

A big balance was Alaska miles — we used 190,000 of them to book flights from the US to Hong Kong to the Maldives, as well as Bangkok to Tokyo, all in first and business class. You can earn lots of spending bonuses from the Bank of America Alaska cards, 30,000 miles each for the business and personal versions. That's 120,000 miles for a traveling couple approved for both versions of the credit cards. If you're traveling on Alaska often (or American and Delta before 2017, which is how we got a lot of our miles), or one of their international partners, you can make up the balance quickly.

Another big balance was Chase Ultimate Rewards points (over 53,000 used on this trip, though we could've transferred 75,000 to Hyatt to book our Grand Hyatt Hong Kong stay as well), earned from our Reserve credit card. A big balance of our points came from getting married at a resort, which was all charged to our credit card so we could earn the 3X travel and dining bonus. After meeting spending requirements to get the 50,000 point Chase Sapphire Preferred sign up bonus, you'd have enough miles to book the same flights as us.

We used 50,000 SPG points for our Sheraton Maldives stay, which can be earned from a year of frequent SPG stays pretty easily. Note that Platinum status stays get you a 500 points bonus for every stay that you have, and you earn 5 points per dollar spent if you have that status and the SPG Card by American Express. That adds up very quickly.

Our 75,000 Hyatt points, as well as our Globalist certificate, came from being loyal Hyatt guests, as well as hosting our wedding at a Hyatt hotel. If you're getting married, always keep the points in mind! We received 90,000 Hyatt points as a "Honeymoon Bonus," which is worth $1,800 in my book. Since I re-qualified for Globalist shortly before our trip, we used the Category 1-7 certificate at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Otherwise, it would've been 30,000 Hyatt points.

Finally, our Hilton points were mostly luck. Laura received a 100,000 point bonus from the Amex Surpass card (no longer available — check out the Aspire card), but it came very late, and as an apology, Amex sent her an additional 100,000 points. For additional points, you can either book a "Points + Cash" stay at Hilton, or transfer from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:2 ratio.

Leveraging Elite Status

Elite status (at least for hotels) is something I value for all of our travels we have each year, saving us money and plussing up our trips to really travel in ways past our budget, for less.

In 2017, I had several top-tier status levels from various means. I received Hilton Diamond from a status match in 2016, and for some reason they gave it to me again in 2017, expiring March 31, 2018. Benefits of Diamond status that we used this trip included free breakfast, tea time, and happy hour at the Conrad Maldives.

I received SPG Platinum status from 25 stays with the chain in 2016. Most of these were one-night stays at cheaper airport properties and staycations during the summers in Phoenix. Benefits of SPG Platinum status that we used this trip included free suite upgrades, breakfasts, and lounge access at the Sheraton Maldives and Westin Siray Bay (no lounge at this property).

We received Hyatt Globalist status once again in 2017, despite the chain raising requirements to 60 nights per year. It helps we got married at a Hyatt, and needed to travel to Mexico a few times last year to work with our venue on wedding details. We were able to use confirmed suite upgrades at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong and Park Hyatt Tokyo, as well as our 2018 Globalist free Category 1-7 night at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The Grand Hyatt Hong Kong also had a lounge, where we enjoyed daily breakfasts and happy hours.

For our flights, we leveraged miles to get us to Asia and back in first class. While status didn't matter too much (given the class of travel we were already in was the highest service we could get), my status-matched Alaska MVP Gold status allowed me to change dates and destinations for free on award tickets as better flights and classes of travel opened up. It even helped us change our flight from Bali to the Maldives when a volcano decided to erupt, which made us rethink traveling there. My American Airlines Platinum status, earned the hard way with 50,000 miles flown, allowed us to use oneworld lounges in Malaysia that we wouldn't have been able to use otherwise with our economy tickets.

The Trip: Hong Kong, Maldives, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan

Phoenix to San Francisco

Pier-39-San-FranciscoPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

Our flights to Asia actually departed from San Francisco, so we needed to position ourselves there from Phoenix. While we could have used points on SouthwestAmerican, or United to fly there, we decided paying $94 per person on American was the better deal (qualifying my wife for American Gold status with her last flight of 2017 in the process).

There wasn't much to review here, as it was another economy flight with American, not getting upgraded. It was my last flight as a Platinum member, so we at least received free Main Cabin Extra seats at booking.

Total Spent: $188.94

First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong, Business Class Hong Kong to Malé, Maldives

Cathay-Pacific-First-ClassPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

This flight was booked with all Alaska miles, for a total of 140,000 miles and $87.80 in taxes. Alaska allows one free stopover each way on their award tickets, so we spent three nights in Hong Kong to ward off jet lag and explore the city a bit. We flew first class from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and then business class from Hong Kong to the Maldives.

We received these miles from a few sources. I credited a few flights in 2016 to Alaska, including my amazing first-class flights on Emirates and our flight on LAN Chile in the middle of the South Pacific. I also signed up for two Alaska credit cards, issued by Bank of America, for 30,000 miles each.

First class on Cathay Pacific was absolutely unreal. For one, there are only six seats, so the cabin is already very private. The fully lie-flat seats were very comfortable and made into a proper bed by our excellent flight crew. One unique feature of Cathay Pacific first class is the ability to dine with your travel partner in one suite, so we dined on caviar, wagyu beef, and fine wines facing each other, while flying over the Pacific. The crew even recognized our honeymoon with some gifts as we departed.

Business class was also great, given the length of the flight is close to seven hours. While not nearly as luxurious as first class, the business-class seat (similar to many seats American flies in its business-class cabins) did the trick.

All in all, an excellent use of miles, as the cash value of our exact itinerary would have been $23,508 for the two of us!

Total Spent: 140,000 Alaska Miles and $87.80 in Taxes

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Grand-Hyatt-Hong-Kong-SuitePhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

In Hong Kong, we wanted to stay at the Grand Hyatt, which is located on Hong Kong Island. While not the most centrally located hotel in Hong Kong, we liked getting our steps in walking to the MTR station each day, as well as our views of the harbor from our Harbour View Suite (confirmed in advance for free with our Tier Suite Upgrade certificate from my Globalist status). We booked this for 25,000 Hyatt points each night, for three nights. Had we not, the suite would have cost us $2,712 for our three-night stay.

If you're looking to get Hyatt points quickly, consider the Chase Hyatt Credit Card or a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, which is transferrable to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Preferred cards.

Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card
Total Spent: 75,000 Hyatt Points and One Tier Suite Upgrade Certificate

Hotel Somerset, Malé

Male-Maldives-HarborPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

We arrived in the Maldives late from our flight from Hong Kong, and it didn't make sense burning lots of points for another night at a resort. Instead, we thought seeing the capital city of Malé, one of the most densely populated places on the planet, would be interesting, so we chose the Somerset Hotel for $155.40. It included free boat transfers to and from the Malé airport, which was helpful and made our transfers easy. While not as luxurious as the other places we stayed in the Maldives this trip, rooms were clean, the staff was incredibly helpful and nice, and it included free breakfast!

Total Spent: $155.40

Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa

Sheraton-Maldives-HarborPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

The Sheraton Maldives intrigued us, given it's the "value" resort on points in the Maldives. Close to the airport island, the resort is just a 15-minute boat ride away from your international flight, making it incredibly convenient for short stays on the way to further island resorts (or if you didn't have 90,000 SPG points a night for an overwater bungalow at the St. Regis Maldives). One annoying part is that you're stuck paying the $136-per-person round-trip transfer fee, whether or not you're spending points or cash for your stay.

We paid 25,000 points a night for the Sheraton Maldives for two nights, though in low season you can find award pricing as low as 20,000 points a night. Additionally, there was cash and points availability during our stay, but we wanted to keep as much cash in our pockets this trip. Rates would have been around $350 per night, plus 22.5% in taxes and fees added on, which adds up quickly with every purchase you make in the Maldives. We earned our points from stays at Starwood properties in 2016 and 2017, as well as some Marriott transfers.

With my SPG Platinum status, and likely our honeymoon stay, we received a free upgrade to the Ocean Pool Villa, which is 2,153 square feet, including the outdoor areas with private pool. The room would have cost us $2,725.34 for our two-night stay. From our room, we were able to watch yachts motor by and local fisherman reel in dinner. We loved how close it was to the Club Lounge, which offered free breakfast daily, beer and light snacks all day, as well as a nightly happy hour, which cut down on our alcohol budget considerably!

Total Spent: 50,000 SPG Points and $272 for Boat Transfers

Conrad Maldives

Underwater-Restaurant-MaldivesPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

The biggest reason we decided to spend a majority of our honeymoon in the Maldives was because of the Conrad Maldives. At 95,000 Hilton points a night, it's a steep cost, but we had enough points from some random Hilton stays and a 100,000-point sign-up bonus from the Amex Hilton Surpass card (now the Ascend card). The bonus was super delayed in posting, and Amex actually gave us an extra 100,000 points as an apology. With just 20,000 more points needed, I transferred ThankYou points from my Citi Prestige card at a 1:1.5 ratio.

While normally the Conrad only offered its spectacular beach villas for points reservations, shortly before our trip, they began to offer overwater villas as a points option as well. Priced at $3,584.16 for our three-night stay, we were incredibly excited to secure an overwater bungalow for the first time in our travels!

Getting to the resort using the resort's seaplane service is easy, though it isn't cheap. Flights are $500 round trip, plus a 12% tax per person, for the 30-minute ride. You could use a flexible travel currency card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card to wipe away the charge, but without that, you're stuck paying out of pocket like us.

Total Spent: 285,000 Hilton Points and $1,120 for Seaplane Transfer

Singapore Airlines Economy Class from Malé to Singapore

Singapore-AirlinesPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

We used 37,000 Singapore Airlines miles and $50 in taxes transferred from Ultimate Rewards to book our red-eye from Malé to Singapore. We booked this flight rather than a flight to Thailand because we wanted to maximize our day in the Maldives, which turned out to be a good choice. Even better, the flight was pretty empty, so I got to stretch out in the middle section and get some shut-eye! Flights would have cost us $720.

Total Spent: 37,000 Ultimate Rewards Points and $100

Malaysia Airways Economy Class from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Phuket

We flew on Malaysia Airways from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Phuket immediately after our red-eye, buying the $240 in tickets outright with 15,972 Ultimate Rewards points at a 1.5-cent-per-point redemption. Normally, I wouldn't do this, but the cash price of tickets was low enough where it made sense.

We loved spending our layover in the city of Kuala Lumpur, and even got to try out the Golden Lounge in Kuala Lumpur airport due to my oneworld Sapphire status (from being American Airlines Platinum).

Total Spent: 15,972 Ultimate Rewards Points

Westin Siray Bay, Thailand

Westin-Siray-BayPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

The Westin Siray Bay, in Phuket, Thailand, is a resort overlooking a tranquil bay in the Andaman Sea. Close to the famous Phi Phi Islands, including the instagrammable Maya Bay, it was a great home base for day trips around the island.

We originally booked a four-night stay using my Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit, bringing the per-night cost to $135. That's an incredible deal, and a better deal than using points, which would have cost 7,000 points per night.

We ended up changing our date of arrival due to our change in travel plans, and the hotel was nice enough to credit our fourth night to our account, to be used on property. With what was essentially $150 to spend on dinner, we only paid $20 in overages at checkout for two fabulous dinners at EEST.

We also were upgraded to a Sala Pool Villa due to my Platinum status, which was going for $550 a night for our dates. Finally, we used my Platinum breakfast amenity for daily breakfast, which here meant an amazing spread of Thai and international offerings, as well as bottomless sparkling wine.

Total Spent: $405

Bangkok Airways Economy Class, Phuket to Bangkok

Mandarin-Oriental-SpaPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

We elected to spend the $52 per person on flights from Phuket to Bangkok on Bangkok Airways. It was a nice airline with a free meal, even on an hour flight. At Phuket Airport, we were able to use the brand new Coral Lounge, which is a Priority Pass Lounge. I received my Priority Pass from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which gets me unlimited guests for free.

While we had planned on staying in Bangkok for the night, we found Japan Airlines first-class availability on the way home, so instead, we spent just an extended layover in the city, where we splurged on a couples massage at the Mandarin Oriental, a comparatively amazing deal at $181.50 for a three-hour five-star experience.

Total Cost: $104

Japan Airlines Business Class Bangkok to Tokyo, First Class Tokyo to Chicago to Phoenix

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-Lounge-SushiPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

Having found first-class availability for two from Tokyo to Chicago, with a business-class seat home from Chicago to Phoenix, we immediately booked using 135,000 and $90.12 for two people. That left getting from Bangkok to Tokyo, where we found availability on Japan Airlines in business class on a red-eye in their Sky Suites. We didn't have enough American miles left over to book it all on one itinerary, so we instead redeemed 50,000 Alaska Miles and $70.60 in taxes and fees.

The business-class seat for our red-eye was one of the best I've experienced. While not great for a traveling couple, they are incredibly private for the single traveler, and the cabin crew was incredibly attentive.

Japan-Airlines-CristalPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

First class on Japan Airlines was an absolute delight. The experience began in the airport, where first-class passengers have private security screening. Then, in the First Class Sakura Lounge, we gorged on freshly made sushi from their sushi bar. I'm no sushi expert, but it was the best sushi I've ever had.

On board, we had yet another amazing crew, who took care of us with such intention. The food, I found, was the best of any of our flights that trip.

All in all, a great way to burn miles—185,000 of them, for $26,194 in face-value tickets.

Total Spent: 135,000 American Airlines Miles, 50,000 Alaska Miles, and $160.72 in Fees

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park-Hyatt-Tokyo-SunsetPhoto by Mark Jackson © 2018

The Park Hyatt Tokyo has been a bucket-list hotel for me, even before I was into travel hacking, as it's the featured location in the film Lost in Translation. We redeemed a Category 1-7 night certificate here, which made our stay completely free. You receive one when you re-qualify for Hyatt's Globalist status each year. The hotel also allowed me to use a Tier Suite Upgrade, which normally isn't allowed, to stay in a one-bedroom suite overlooking Tokyo with a perfect view of Mt. Fuji. The room, had we paid cash, would have cost us $1,267.95.

We had an early departure to the airport that morning, so we used our Globalist breakfast benefit via room service (over $100 in charges, completely free). The hotel also offers "Twilight Time," which is three hours of canapés and open bar in their Peak Bar, also overlooking the city at sunset from the 41st floor.

Total Cost: One Category 1-7 Certificate and One Tier Suite Upgrade


In total, we burned tons of points and miles to have a truly memorable two-week trip. All told, the value of our redemptions was $61,101.45, including upgrades, and we only spent $2,593.86 out of pocket. We used all our savings to spend money on things like sightseeing trips, a splurge-worthy dinner in the Maldives, cocktails in an underwater restaurant, and massages for two in Bangkok. With our status, we made our free breakfasts our lunches, and often lounges substituted for dinner. This brought down the cost of the trip by so much, and we weren't stressed out about the spending when we got back!

While this was a very extreme trip in terms of redemptions, it's surprisingly easy to get started in using points and miles for aspirational travel. Check out our list of best credit card sign-up bonuses to get started, and feel free to reach out below if you have any questions at all!