One of the greatest benefits of earning miles and points is being able to take luxurious vacations that you would never pay cash for. Once you've redeemed miles for a flight in Business or First Class, it’s hard to return to Economy seats. The same goes for being pampered at five-star hotels at resort locations around the world.
But vacations like this can literally cost thousands of dollars if you were spending money instead of rewards. Yet, travel like this is attainable for the average family by using the power of airline miles and the best hotel credit cards.
If you're looking for inspiration on where to go and what's possible with your rewards, here are seven ways you can use your points, miles, and some of the best travel credit cards to travel beyond your dreams.
- Singapore Suites using Amex Membership Rewards
- Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Water Suite using Hilton Honors points
- Cathay Pacific First Class using Alaska Airlines miles
- JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa using Marriott Bonvoy points
- Showering in-flight in Emirates First Class using Japan Airlines miles
- United Polaris using Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Delta One Suite using Virgin Atlantic miles
- Which ultra-luxury trip are you booking?
Singapore Suites using Amex Membership Rewards
The Singapore Suites offer complete privacy with individual cabins for First Class passengers. The suites include a sliding door, window blinds, a chaise lounge, and a large table. While flying Singapore Suites on Singapore Airlines, you'll also enjoy a separate bed, not one converted from your seat. And when traveling with a partner, adjacent suites can be converted into a double room. You can also "book the cook" and reserve your main course up to 24 hours before your flight so you can dine in a restaurant setting with full table service.
To book the Singapore Suites, you'll need miles in your Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account. Lucky for us, KrisFlyer is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points, and all three programs’ rewards transfer on a 1:1 basis.
The cost in points for the Singapore Suites varies based on the flight distance and whether you are booking a Saver or Advantage ticket. You can search for award space and book your flight on the Singapore Airlines website. The flight I chose can be booked for only 40,500 miles one-way or $3,050.
To earn enough miles for this trip, you could get a Citi Premier® Card. With this card, you can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. It earns 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases, and has an annual fee of $95.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Water Suite using Hilton Honors points
The Maldives is on the bucket list of many travelers because of its remote location and the abundance of overwater bungalows. The Conrad Maldives does not disappoint with its unique experience of eating five meters below the surface in the Ithaa undersea restaurant. It offers a total of 12 world-class restaurants and the country's first undersea wine bar.
Rooms can be booked at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island starting at 95,000 points per night. For those with a huge balance of points, the Sunset Water Villa is available for 1,639,000 points (or $4,835) per night.
However, that may not be necessary because the regular Water Villas also offer sunset or sunrise views with a plunge pool in 925 square feet of living space. These rooms can be booked for 95,000 Hilton Honors points (or $1,083) per night.
To get enough points to book a Water Villa, you could apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which has a $450 (See rates and fees) annual fee. Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This card will also earn you 14X points on eligible purchases within the Hilton portfolio, 7X points on qualifying travel purchases made directly with airlines/select car rental companies or Amextravel.com, 7X points at U.S. restaurants, and 3X points on all other purchases.
Cathay Pacific First Class using Alaska Airlines miles
The First Class suites of Cathay Pacific feature an in-chair massage, Bamford bedding with 600-thread-count linens, and the ability to convert into a large, private working area. You can even enjoy an a la carte dining option, so you can eat on your schedule, not the airlines. Cathay Pacific partners with Michelin-starred chefs to craft First Class menus that will delight the most sophisticated of palates.
To book this flight, you'll first need to find award space availability on the British Airways or Qantas websites, then call Alaska's customer service to finalize your reservation. It may seem like a hassle, but the value of this redemption makes the effort completely worthwhile.
Don't let the big price tag of British Airways award flights scare you. Once you find award space available, you'll be able to book the flight for only 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles each way.
You can earn Alaska miles by applying for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card. You’ll buy one ticket, get one for just the taxes and fees (plus 40,000 bonus miles) after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days (limited time offer). This credit card also comes with a companion fare each year when you renew the card.
JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa Grand Ocean Front Suite using Marriott Bonvoy points
Cancun is a popular destination to live the luxe lifestyle within a few hours of the U.S., and the Grand Ocean Front Suite offers affordable luxury at the JW Marriott Cancun. You'll have 1,345 square feet of comfort to spread out and relax. Plus, you can enjoy the gorgeous ocean views for your large private balcony.
Standard rooms at the JW Marriott Cancun start at 50,000 points (or 25,000 points and $190 in cash) per night. But you can upgrade to the Grand Ocean Front Suite to get about three times the size of a room for only 75,000 points (or 50,000 points and $125) per night. The price for Grand Ocean Front Suite varies by season, but I found nights starting at $390 (including taxes) for May of 2020.
If this trip sounds good to you, you might want to check out the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. It is one of the best credit cards for the wealthy or those who want to travel like they are. Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening this card. Spending with this card also earns 6X points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3X points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card also comes with a $100 annual Marriott statement credit and a free night award that can be redeemed at properties for up to 50,000 points per night. Complimentary Marriott Gold status is also included with the annual fee of $450 (See rates and fees).
Showering in-flight in Emirates First Class using Japan Airlines miles
Few things in life define luxury as well as being able to take a shower at 40,000 feet. Of course, the shower water is limited to five minutes, but you can always extend the experience by turning the water on and off. Your First Class amenities when flying Emirates also include a lie-flat seat, gourmet meals, and an onboard lounge with a private bartender. You can even close the door to your seat to create a private suite.
Although Emirates is a transfer partner of Chase, you could also choose to book this experience using Japan Airlines (JAL) miles. For 65,000 miles, you’ll get pampered for a full nine hours from Hong Kong to Dubai.
If you were to pay cash for this luxury flight, it would cost you almost $7,000! Instead of spending that much cash, book your flight on the Japan Airlines website with miles received by converting Marriott Bonvoy points. Marriott points transfer on a 3:1 ratio to JAL and there is a 5,000 bonus when you transfer in 60,000-point increments. This means you'll need to transfer 180,000 Marriott points to have the 65,000 JAL miles to book this flight.
You can work toward this trip by opening up the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card. This card earns 17X points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program; 3X points at grocery stores, gas stations, and dining on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year; and 2X points on all other eligible purchases. Plus, cardholders receive one free night (up to 35,000 points) each year when they pay the $95 annual fee to renew the card. New cardholders can earn 3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 bonus points) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
United Polaris using Chase Ultimate Rewards
Polaris is the latest iteration of the premium-class experience from United Airlines. Your Polaris experience includes Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, restaurant-quality dining, and Sunday Riley premium skincare products. Exclusive United Polaris lounges are also located in Chicago O’Hare, Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, and San Francisco, with more on the way.
I found non-stop United Polaris flights from Newark, New Jersey, to Frankfurt, Germany, for only 60,000 miles each way (120,000 miles round-trip). This Saver Award space was actually cheaper than the 80,000 miles required for a Premium Economy seat, and the cash price for this round-trip ticket would have been $2,990.
United Airlines is one of the many transfer partners in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, so that means you can transfer your Chase points on a 1:1 basis to United. You can earn the points for this trip with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With this card, you'll earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
The card also earns 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases, and it charges an annual fee of $95.
Delta One Suite using Virgin Atlantic miles
Delta One Suites have a dedicated in-flight cabin attendant, lie-flat seats, and Westin Heavenly bedding. Select flights also feature full-height doors and dividers between center suites for additional privacy. Guests will enjoy TUMI amenity kits with luxurious travel essentials.
Booking flights in the Delta One Suites with Virgin Atlantic miles can often require fewer points than booking directly with your Delta SkyMiles. For example, a flight from Detroit to Amsterdam in a Delta One was 122,500 Virgin Atlantic miles versus 160,000 Delta SkyMiles when I checked recently (with a cash price of $4,000).
Thankfully, Virgin Atlantic is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, and points transfer on a 1:1 ratio from American Express to Virgin. So, you can make major headway toward this trip by opening up an American Express® Gold Card. That's because you can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after making $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of opening the card.
The Amex Gold Card also earns 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases. And cardholders can receive up to $120 in dining credits each year. The card does have a $250 (See rates and fees) annual fee.
Which ultra-luxury trip are you booking?
Airlines and hotels continue to one-up each other with even more luxurious options in the hopes of offering the most desirable destinations. But you don’t have to be rich to travel luxuriously. Using the power of airline miles and hotel points, you can book vacations like these for a fraction of the normal cost.
These seven examples are just a small slice of what’s possible in the world of miles and points. With consistent earning of points and miles with our travels, credit card spending, and online shopping, it is easy to earn enough rewards to book dream vacations.