Becky and I have officially tied the knot and are now married! The wedding took place in Seattle where we live and despite the chaos of planning and executing a crazy event like this, it ended up being an amazing experience where we were able to celebrate with family and friends, many of whom we hadn’t seen since moving across the country a few years ago. Now that the wedding has taken place, the next big thing on our minds is the honeymoon!
I’ve previously posted more specifically about finding the various flights and hotels we booked along with different options we were considering, but this post will summarize what we ended up going with. Primarily thanks to various credit card signup bonuses that we’ve taken advantage of over the past couple years, we were able to book flights in business class to New Zealand and Fiji and cover all 16 hotel nights for less than $400 out of pocket! Becky and I have never flown anything above economy outside of the country and this we be the furthest that we’ve ever traveled together. Needless to say, we’re extremely excited to head to the airport in a few days and I’m excited to break down exactly how we did it below.
First, Let’s Talk About the Big $14,000 Number
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of waiving giant numbers around and talking about how much we “saved” on a trip booked with miles (especially because I’m convinced most people aren’t saving anything), but this does seem to be the most common question when I tell people about the upcoming honeymoon.
As I’ll break down further below, the total cost out of pocket for us was a mere $360.20, while the $14,000 number is the approximate cost if we would have booked similar flights and hotels with cash. For the flights, I compared against the cheapest option on google flights at the time we booked (~10 months ago) in the same class of service (business) which came out to $10,443.
The flight number is a little skewed because we took advantage of a stopover which isn’t really possible when booking with cash, so the cash number essentially includes paying for an extra segment. Since we did take advantage of it though, I do think this is a fair representation of what someone trying to copy our trip with cash would end up paying.
As for the hotels, we ended up booking 4 nights in New Zealand as well as 12 nights in Fiji entirely with points that didn’t require any sort of cash surcharge. To book the exact same hotels for the exact same nights at the time we booked them would have come out to $3,542.23.
Add both of those numbers together and we end up just shy of $14,000 which I rounded up slightly to get a nice round number.
If we want to be extremely conservative with how much we “saved” by booking with miles and points instead of cash, we would have to estimate exactly what we would have booked for a cash honeymoon which is quite difficult to do. It most likely would have been in economy class and probably wouldn’t have included a second country, but would still have cost us over $4,000 just for flight and hotels.
However you want to add it up, we got one hell of a deal on this trip thanks to miles and points.
International Business Class to New Zealand and Fiji
For the flights, we ended up booking two different one-way segments which includes multi-day stops in both New Zealand and Fiji thanks to a stopover. The first segment was booked with American Airlines miles and gets us all the way from Seattle to New Zealand.
The cost for this first segment was 125,000 American Airline miles and $39.60 and routes from SEA->LAX->BNE->AKL. The first segment is in Alaska Airlines first class while the other two are in Qantas business class.
The second segment is a little more complicated because we took advantage of a stopover. If you’re not familiar, a stopover allows you to essentially take a multi-day “layover” at some destination on the way to your final destination. In our case, we were able to book a flight from New Zealand back to Seattle with Alaska miles, but also included a 12-day stopover in Fiji along the way. One of the best features of booking with Alaska miles is that they allow stopovers even on one-way flights!
The total cost for this particular segment was 110,000 Alaska Airline miles and $320.60 thanks to additional taxes and fees for flying through Fiji. This one routes from AKL->NAN(12-day stopover)->LAX->SEA with the first two parts in Fiji Airways business class and the final leg in Alaska Airlines first class.
The total cost for our honeymoon flights was 235,000 airline miles and $360.20.
16 Nights in Luxury Hotels for For $0
Our trip has us spending 4 nights in New Zealand on the way to 12 additional nights in Fiji. We had originally booked the New Zealand nights with cash, but ended up changing them to a points booking thanks to a large influx of IHG points that came from a couple promotions (letters and a mattress run specifically).
For the nights in Auckland, we ended up going with the Crown Plaza hotel which we were able to book with IHG points. The hotel is right in the center of downtown and will allow us to walk to many of Auckland’s attractions as well as not have to leave the hotel when being picked up for the out of town excursions we booked (free pickup from downtown Auckland hotels for both of them).
The total cost for the 4 nights was 100,000 IHG points (25k per night) and $0. Thanks to the IHG credit card, we also have IHG Platinum status which will give us a chance at a free upgrade among other smaller perks.
After leaving Auckland, we’ll be able to settle into the nice beaches of Fiji for 12 nights of relaxation (along with some outdoors fun like snorkeling and jet skiing of course!). We had originally split our time between 3 of the different SPG properties available, but had to rebook after a natural disaster took one of the hotels out of commission for several months (more info here). After that, we ended up booking 6 nights at each of the Westin and Sheraton which both appear to be in the same complex near Denarau island that share outdoor amenities.
Both The Westin Denarau Island and Shraton Fiji Resort are category 4 properties in the SPG program which means they run for 10,000 points per night. One perk that the SPG program offers though is the fifth night free at many of their properties when booking with points. That means we essentially only had to pay for 10 of the 12 nights!
The total cost for the Fiji hotels was 100,000 SPG points (50k for 6 nights at each property) and $0.
Interestingly 4 nights in Auckland and 12 nights in Fiji each cost 100k hotel points, but that just goes to show that not all hotel points are created equal. In this case, it shows how much more valuable an SPG point is compared to an IHG point.
If you’re looking for something more private than a hotel on your honeymoon or even next vacation, you could consider staying at one of Exceptional Villas’ properties. With destinations worldwide, there is sure to be something that takes your eye. See here to learn more.
How We Earned The 435,000 Points and Miles
If you haven’t yet tried your hand at earning miles and points, then you’re probably saying:
Great, you didn’t pay very much money, but where did all these points come from?
The easiest answer to this question is credit card signup bonuses. Sure we may have topped off some of the accounts with some regular spending, shopping portals, and various promotions, but the vast majority came from responsible, organized use of new credit cards. If you’re brand new to the idea, I suggest reading through some of the basics I’ve laid out here.
For Becky and I, after discovering what was possible and testing the waters with a couple applications, we dove in all the way and started opening new credit cards on a regular basis. Since signing up for our first rewards card almost 2 years ago, we’ve successfully applied for 43 new credit cards and earned over 2 million miles and points thanks to the generous signup bonuses that often come with new accounts.
It definitely takes a little work staying organized and on top of annual fees among other timelines, but the payoff can be enormous as you can see in the awesome honeymoon trip we were able to book above (along with several other trips) for very little money out of pocket.
More specifically for the miles and points we earned for the honeymoon:
- The 125,000 AA miles mostly came from a US Airways 50k signup bonus (which merged in AA) and another 50k bonus from the Citi AA Platinum card along with a little regular spending and shopping portal usage.
- The 110,000 Alaska miles came from 3 different 25k bonuses Alaska Airlines cards in addition to 25k miles I got for opening a Bank of America account and some regular spending.
- The 100k IHG points came partially from an 80k bonus on the IHG credit card, but also from an easy mattress run and a little writing campaign promotion we took advantage of.
- The 100k SPG points came from 3 different SPG credit card bonuses (30k + 30k + 25k) and a referral bonus I got for referring Becky to the card (+5k).
Many of these points were earned with this specific trip in mind which made it very easy to determine which credit card was best for us to apply for next. We didn’t stop earning after this trip though and have built up over a million additional miles to use on our future adventures!
Overall, this will be the biggest, longest, most luxurious trip Becky and I have ever taken and are thankful to be able to do it for very little money out of pocket. The savings will definitely make eating some nice meals and going on some fun excursions far easier because the flights and hotels were taken care of with miles and points.
We’ve already booked a Lord of the Rings day tour across New Zealand and will follow that up the next day by repelling down waterfalls and exploring caves in the rainforest! One of our wedding gifts was a GoPro and I’m hoping to put it to good use on our trip and hopefully capture some awesome video to share.
Fiji should be the more relaxing part of the trip (and we need it after the chaos of putting on a wedding!), but we’ll at least get away from the beach and pools a couple of the days to snorkel, jet ski, and whatever other activities we can find in Fiji.
We’re excited for our first huge trip with miles and point and I hope you’re able to earn and burn some yourself to travel the world too!