The big miles post: comparing what we paid for what we would have paid

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I truly love finding a great miles/points deal. So when my wife and I started planning our honeymoon I realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime to use our points to maximize our enjoyment of flights and hotels wherever possible. While we couldn’t use them all over the places we visited (specifically, in Indonesia) we received such benefit that our honeymoon was that much better and that much cheaper.

This all started about 2 years ago when I got involved in the miles/points game. We started signing up for credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Ink Cash. Each had a lucrative bonus of Ultimate Rewards points that we stored away for safekeeping. I also signed up for the Citibank American Airlines cards (both personal and business) in order to get 100,000 AA miles to supplement some I had from before the US Airways merger. I added the CitiBank ThankYou Premier card as well as Citi Prestige to get 100,000 ThankYou points as well. Finally, we signed up for a few hotel-based cards: We got the Starwood Personal and Business cards when the bonuses were 30,000 and 35,000 instead of the base level of 25,000 and we also both got the Chase Marriott cards. Sufficed to say, we had a lot of points to spend.

So, in this post I want to analyze the difference between what we paid and what we should have paid if we hadn’t used any points.

The first use of our points was our flights from New York-JFK to Denpasar, Bali. We decided to use Korean Airlines because they are a transfer partner of Chase as long as you have either the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus. We took two flights to get there: one from New York to Seoul and another from Seoul to Bali. We decided to take a one day layover in Seoul so the flights below are not entirely accurate.

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The total cost using miles was 190,000 points + $166 in taxes. 

If we bought the tickets outright, the cost would have been significantly higher.

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As you can see, the tickets from New York to Seoul alone would have been $20,063.60 in total. For some reason I can’t seem to price out the Seoul->Bali ticket right now, but it likely would have been at least $2,000 each.

For our next major journey on miles we flew from Singapore to London on British Airways. We used American Airlines miles to purchase these tickets before the big devaluation it actually cost us less than quoted below: only 70,000 American Airlines miles each.

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With taxes and fees, the total cost was 140,000 miles + $588.40 in taxes and fees.

Running total: 330,000 miles + $754.40.

The actual cost would have been much more (although less than Korean Air):

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Total cost for this flight with two people: $13,057.60.

Running total: $33,121.20

The last major flight was our return home from Frankfurt to New York-JFK with Singapore Airlines. Our two tickets used quite a few miles because the saver award was not available. I had two transfer over 100,000 Citi ThankYou points and Chase points to get it, but it was well worth it.

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With conversion from the date of purchase, the total cost was 221,000 miles + $621.62.

Final total for flights: 551,000 miles + $1,376.03.

From the example below our flight cost would have been $10,183.12.

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Final total for flights: $43,304.32.

One major aspect of this travel I am not including in cost was all the lounges we visited. As a first class passenger we had access to a number of lounges at each airport and with the Citi Prestige we had access to even more through the Priority Pass network. Even in Lombok Airport – a tiny blip on the screen in Indonesia – there was a Sheraton Lounge that took it. We must have saved a few hundred dollars on food and time due to this benefit.

Now we can start discussing the hotels we stayed in because they were also heavily discounted. The first use of points was at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Singapore. As it is a newly rebranded hotel there was a discount in the price although we used our points anyway. We booked to stay for 3 nights on points instead of paying the full price.

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Total hotel points used: 30,000

If we had paid for it outright, the cost would have been around $120/night, totalling $360.

Next, we stayed at a wonderful Sheraton property in London called the Park Lane Hotel. It is a beautiful old world hotel that has been converted to a Sheraton but retains much of its charm. Since we decided to stay in London for five nights we benefited from Starwood’s 4 nights + 1 free promotion when redeeming points. Normally the hotel is 20,000 points/night but it averaged to 16,000/night due to this deal.

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Total hotel points used here: 80,000. Running total of hotel points: 110,000.

Had we booked our room and paid fully, each night would have been a whopping GBP £218. Based on when we booked the hotel (i.e. before the Brexit), that would have been $316/night. Total cost would have been: $1,580. Running total: $1,940.

In Paris we switched gears a bit and stayed at a Marriott Hotel instead since we had all those points to use. I found a great location with the Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel. It was conveniently located to many restaurants, museums, and right on public transit lines. We stayed four nights there at a cost of 40,000 points/night.

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Total was 160,000. Running total is: 270,000 points. At this point it is important to mentioned that not all points are created equal, especially when it comes to hotels. Obviously Marriott properties require more points than Starwood ones. Just keep that in mind for the future.

Had we stayed there paying outright, the room would have been 243 Euro/night, translating to $275/night. Total cost: $1,100. Running total: $3,040.

For our last night we stayed at the Hilton City Centre Frankfurt. I had accumulated many Hilton points and even had Gold Status due to the Surpass Card I had signed up for two months prior. While the standard room rate is 50,000 points I actually found a discounted Deluxe Park View room for even less!

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So the total amount of points spent overall for 13 free hotel nights was 311,157 points.

Had we paid out-of-pocket for that room it would have cost 139 Euro, or $157/night. Total cost of hotels would have been: $3,197.

This was a truly amazing trip. The sites we saw were fantastic (and more blog posts to come in that regard). The transportation we took was lovely and speedy. And the places we stayed were welcoming and enticing. I can’t wait to do this again in the future!

Review: Sheraton Grand Park Lane Hotel and London

As you can probably tell I’ve started the school year again in earnest. If you are interested at all in education-related issues, check out my other blog called Making the Grade. I’ll make sure to post here but not as frequently as the past two weeks.

Upon arrival in London we quickly got a cab to our hotel, the Sheraton Grand Park Lane Hotel. It is right near Hyde Park and has direct access to a number of Tube lines that can get you anywhere in the city quite quickly. The hotel is a beautiful old building that is still undergoing some renovation but has amazing charm. The oddest thing to me was that the check-in counters were actually around the back of the hotel for some reason. We had booked this hotel using points and since we booked four nights we actually go the fifth night free. So, instead of 20,000 points/night (as shown below) it averaged to 16,000/night.


The room itself was small but had some nice amenities. The bed was super-duper comfortable! An interesting perk they added: a cell phone for use while in London. We didn’t need to because we had purchased SIM cards for ourselves at the airport, but it is a very interesting idea.

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We had a small issue when we checked in because they said we did not have access to the Sheraton Club Lounge even though I knew it was a benefit of the Starwood Preferred Guest Business card that I had. After a brief twitter exchange with @spgassist our room was called and keys fixed to give us access.




It had a wonderful breakfast spread every day that we used to supplement lunch fixings as well.

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We did a variety of activities while in London: from visiting the London Transport Museum, to watching buskers in Covent Garden, to exploring the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace, viewing the sky from the London Eye, seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, to having afternoon tea at the Dorchester Hotel. London is a beautiful place to go visit and we will definitely return!

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Review: Four Points by Sheraton and our time in a Singapore hospital

Once we arrived in Singapore we debated whether or not to go directly to the hospital or try to rest a little at the hotel. I insisted on the latter since I felt somewhat better and wanted desperately to sleep. So, we took a taxi from the airport to the Four Points by Sheraton (formerly the Riverview Hotel). We had booked on points but had to pay for two extra nights because we arrived early. Not a big deal: we just checked in and saw that the room was the first standard hotel room we had stayed in quite some time. It was unfortunate that we would no longer get beach resorts but it was nice to have elevators, restaurants nearby, and a concierge to helps us out.

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We eventually decided to stay in on our arrival date and visit the hospital the next day. We had asked for advice from several people and my Mom and sister connected with people we knew in Singapore just in case of any needs we had. We decided on visiting Mount Elizabeth Hospital, which turned out to be an amazing provider of healthcare.

After a brief ER visit of only about 2 hours (yes, I know this is almost unheard of in the US) with highly capable doctors and nurses I was referred to an infection disease specialist. He looked at my test results from the ER, ask me a number of questions, and then we decided that I would be admitted to the hospital for at least one night, probably two. This was my first hospitalization so I was probably internally freaking out (I know my wife was, but she was so calm and supportive to me – I really appreciate all she did).

I received some of the best care I’ve ever had while staying there. The infection disease specialist didn’t just refer me to an attending physician – he actually visited me every day. The nurses were kind and helpful; the food was not that bad; I even received an amenity kit of sorts (and slippers!). As you can see from the photos, I also ordered my food on an iPad. Granted, I didn’t want to be there (despite the smile), but they did everything they could to make my stay as comfortable as possible. I was even allowed out for 4 hours with my wife to go see Star Trek: Beyond – with my IV still in!

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In the end I spent two full days at the hospital. My wife stayed over with me for one of them and I slept solo the other (I asked her to go to the hotel to get some rest). The travel health insurance we purchased from GeoBlue was imperative for saving us literally thousands of dollars. As I write this I am awaiting claims that I filed to be processed and reimbursed for other doctor/hospital visits during the trip as well. I was very happy when the doctor finally discharged me. I didn’t have anything longterm of super severe – just some bug that knocked me out for three days.