A $20,000 Vacation

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$20,000. On a 2 week vacation. Can you imagine? Me neither! Thankfully by using credit card points deliberately (“travel hacking“), we were able to take a dream vacation to Sri Lanka (post coming soon) and the Maldives with FREE flights and accommodations for all four of us. Wanting to go to the Maldives with points? Here’s the details on how we made our $20,000 vacation happen at a fraction of the cost.

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We began by signing up for the Marriott Premier Plus card (now called Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card), which gave us a 100K Marriott point sign up bonus with minimum spend. Next we each signed up for an American Express SPG Card in turn, giving us 180K in sign up bonuses with minimum spends (90K each card). Remember, it’s better to sign up each partner for their own card rather than adding an authorized user to a card- double bonuses. We then redeemed 270K in Marriott points for a travel package covering 1 7 night stay at a category 1-5 Marriott property (for which we chose the Marriott Resort in Weligama, Sri Lanka) and 120K in American Airlines miles. With the addition of 20K existing American Airlines miles from previous travel, we were able to redeem for 4 Sri Lankan Airlines, an AA One World alliance partner, flights to/from Colombo and Male. I highly recommend looking for such airline partnership redemption possibilities, as it can often give you more bang for your buck. With the Marriott/SPG rebranding and merger, cards and redemptions may now vary. 

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For the Maldives portion of the trip, we each signed up for a Hilton Aspire Credit Card in turn, giving us 300K points in sign up bonuses with minimum spend (150K each). Remember, for active duty military and spouses, the annual fee is waived under SCRA, making it even more of a savings! We then signed up for an American Express Hilton Honors Business Card, giving us a 130K sign up bonus with minimum spend. Using 380K of those points we booked four nights at the Conrad Rangali. The 5th night is free at Hilton properties when using an award redemption. Additionally, we redeemed 40K points for our night at Hilton Colombo.

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Under these cards, as is the case with many hotel based cards, you also receive automatic premium status in the hotel chain’s reward program, which other chains may then match. This status often provides benefits such as upgrades, happy hours, and free breakfast as well as a stronger point value earned per dollar spent during the stay.

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Here’s a breakdown of the value vs. what we paid out of pocket:

Flights to/from Colombo, Male, and Muscat- $2763/$308

7 nights accommodation at Marriott Resort Weligama (upgraded)- $2279/$0

Additional Benefits (Free breakfast, manager’s reception, discounted food, discounted       spa, discounted laundry)- $534/$0

1 night accommodation Hilton Residences Colombo- $150/$0

Additional Benefits (bottle of wine, fruit, breakfast, drinks)- $50/$0

5 nights accommodation Conrad Rangali Island (upgraded w/breakfast)- $8500/$0

Additional Benefits (daily tea time, daily happy hour)- $1000/$0

Additional expenses not covered by points- Sea Plane Male-Rangali ($1768), Lunches and Dinners, Tips, Doctor Visit and Excursion at Conrad ($1182), Private Driver/Guide in Sri Lanka ($634), Entrance Fees, Souvenirs and Tips ($350), Airport Transfers ($42), Lunches and Dinners, Spa, Laundry at Marriott ($548)

-$100 Amex Travel Credit, Amex Platinum Offer for Conrad Hilton Properties

Total Value- $19,800

Total Out of Pocket Cost- $4,732

Yes, we saved 76% on our trip. 76%!!!! (To note, we didn’t even do this the cheapest way possible, we ate, drank, and went to the spa as we wanted. If you’d like, you could certainly do it for less out of pocket.)

Additionally, we earned 122,500 Hilton and 5,477 Marriott points on our spending, giving us $784 in value. In AmEx membership rewards, we earned 3,806 points, a value of $68.

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