With flight traffic slowly regaining momentum and approaching pre-pandemic levels, you may find that the time is finally right to start planning your next trip. And, after a couple of years without much travel, you’ll want your first (or second, or third) trip back to be impressive, won’t you?
The good news is that you don’t have to empty your bank account in order to achieve the trip of your dreams. Thanks to the world’s best rewards credit cards, there are many unique and unexpected experiences available to you. And we’re not just talking about things like airport lounge access and free bags (though those things are certainly useful). Instead, we’re taking it up a notch and recommending the following airline experiences that are truly once in a lifetime.
Shower in first-class
If you’re anything like other travelers, the first thing you want to do after a long-haul flight is hop in the shower to freshen up. OK, maybe you take a glorious albeit jet lag-induced nap first, but showering is definitely somewhere near the top of your list.
Imagine how much time you could save if you could shower mid-flight. It sounds bizarre, and the concept itself is bizarre — or just uncommon. Only one type of aircraft features showers, and it’s the Airbus A380 superjumbo. Specifically, it’s the Airbus A380 superjumbo first-class section.
Only two airlines offer rides in this aircraft, and they both fly out of the United Arab Emirates, namely, Emirates and Etihad. If you’re not keen to pay the price tag for a shower-accessible seat with these airlines, you can use your points for the purchase.
The easiest way to earn points for a flight on Air Emirates is with the Alaska Airlines credit card. Alaska Airlines maintains a partnership with Emirates. It’ll cost you 90,000 miles to fly first-class between the United States and India or the Middle East, and 100,000 miles to fly first-class between the United States and Asia.
Air Etihad, on the other hand, is a partner of American Airlines, so you can earn points toward this flight with an American Airlines credit card. A first-class ticket between the United States and Asia will cost between 80,000 and 110,000 points.
As many points as it may be, how many people at your next dinner party will be able to also say that they’ve showered midair?
Take a ride on United’s Island Hopper
The once-in-a-lifetime “Island Hopper” route on United Airlines is not to be missed. Traveling between Hawaii and Guam and following a scenic route through the South Pacific, this unique flight actually stops at islands along its way (hence the name). Its full route makes five stops at faraway, but incredibly picturesque, places on Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
It is possible to purchase this flight with airline credit card points, but low availability makes it tricky to get a spot in business class. However, there are often seats available in economy class, so you’re in luck if you don’t mind sacrificing some leg room for a parade through paradise.
You’ll want to be a member of the United Airlines MileagePlus program to earn points for this trip. For seats in economy, you’ll need at least 27,500 miles as a redemption point. Business-class tickets will set you back 110,000 points.
Sleep in an actual full-size bed
There’s nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed. But surely the next best thing would be a full-size bed on an airplane?
If you’ve woken up with a stiff neck after napping while sitting back in economy class, then this airline perk is for you. Head’s up, though (or down, since you’ll be lying in a bed): the only way to redeem this particular perk is through a KrisFlyer-branded credit card.
Singapore Airlines, a highly rated airline that travels to and from Southeast Asia, offers a “Suites” class, above first-class. The suites really do feel like large rooms in the air. Each suite comes with ample space to spread out, with a desk area for eating and working and, of course, a full-size bed complete with seat buckles.
Eat from menu made by celebrity chefs
Let’s face it — airplane food isn’t necessarily known for being high-end. Unless, of course, you’re flying first-class, where the food offered onboard is a big part of the overall experience!
If you’re a foodie chasing your next thrill, you’ll be happy to know that it’s possible to redeem your credit card points for a celebrity chef-curated menu in the air.
Take, for example, Virgin Atlantic’s partnership with star chef Lorraine Pascale, who is famous for her baking and cooking shows, as well as spots as a celebrity judge in food competitions.
Virgin Atlantic offers a user-friendly point redemption system that can be used in conjunction with their branded credit cards as well as one of their many partners. Some of the credit cards that let you earn include the American Express Gold Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Enjoy a spa experience in the sky
Who doesn’t love a day at the spa? For many of us, a trip to a spa is an integral part of any vacation. But what if you could cross this item off your traveling to-do list before you even land at your destination?
If you’re flying Air Malta, this is more than possible. In fact, it’s possible with just a simple economy ticket — at no extra cost!
Air Malta maintains its own flight loyalty program, known as KMiles, and it partners with Lufthansa and Swiss Airlines. A small number of credit cards enable you to earn KMiles: the HSBC Premier Card, the HSBC Advance Credit Card, the BNF Bank Gold Card, and the Bank of Valletta American Express card.
Fly on a “Star Wars”-themed jet
Fans of the world-famous space opera rejoice. It’s possible to fly on a “Star Wars”-themed flight! This flight, which is offered by Japan-based ANA, flies on select routes to and from Tokyo, including from Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Seattle, and Hanoi.
If you’d like the force to be with you, you’ll be pleased to know that ANA offers a number of ways to redeem points, including with their branded JCB, Visa, Mastercard, Diners, or AmEx. Just make sure that the route you’re booking features the “Star Wars” aircraft — they keep an updated list of routes so you can be sure you’re on the right plane.
Did you know that every time travel rewards go unclaimed, they devalue the program that they are a part of? Airlines miles can save you serious funds on travel. Don’t let your them go to waste. Air travel is often a means to an end, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’d like to trade your utilitarian, uneventful flights for experiences in the sky, you’re going to want to use a travel reward credit card. Check out our list of the best travel credit cards to find the right one for you.
Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
- Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
- No foreign transaction fees
- Apply Now
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
- 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
- Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
- 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 17.99% - 27.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
- If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
- Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
- This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
on Bank of America’s secure websiteRead Card Review
Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
Why we like it