I’m getting married this year, and that’s an extremely exciting thing because it means I get to take an amazing honeymoon trip that I saved tons of miles/points for. And I also get a wife, which is cool too (or so I’ve been led to believe).
In all seriousness, a honeymoon using miles & points is something I’ve planned for over the last couple of years. I’m one of those people that enjoys using my miles for luxurious trips that I wouldn’t be able to take otherwise because the cost is prohibitively high, and I wanted to ensure that my honeymoon trip would be tons of fun not just for the destinations, but also for the flights and hotels. At the same time, I wanted to make sure it provided the best travel experience in terms of scheduling and transfers so that there was no or limited wasted time.The biggest challenge for me was booking for two people. I’ve been used to booking mostly for myself, and most of us know that finding two award seats on the same flight is a different animal than finding one seat, especially in First Class. It took a lot of planning and searching, but thankfully it ended up working out perfectly for a two week trip.
My trip is still months away, but I’ve already booked all the important parts of it as everyone should do when planning a trip of this importance. Booking as far in advance as possible is always preferable because the best alternative to that is booking as close to departure as possible. While that works for some trips, it’s simply too risky/stressful for a trip like this.
But anyway, here are the flights and hotels I’ve booked, how much I paid for them, and how much they would cost if I paid cash.
Note I blacked out some personal information in the images, and currency conversions were accurate on the date this post was written.
San Francisco to Dubai on Emirates First Class
One of the more “aspirational” uses of miles is First Class on Emirates’ A380, mostly because it has an on-board shower. It’s obviously a novelty because most people would rather shower at home or a hotel, but still a cool talking point and thing to brag about to friends. This flight is also ridiculously expensive if you were to pay outright, so this is where some of the best value can be (at least if comparing cash prices to miles used).
Cash Price: $49,080.40
My Price: 200,000 Alaska Airlines Miles + $82.60 in taxes/fees (thankfully I booked prior to Alaska’s recently announced no-notice devaluation)
Three Nights at the Conrad Dubai Hotel
I had a difficult time deciding what hotel to stay at in Dubai. All the major brands are represented there and each one has multiple luxury hotels to choose from. Based on a recommendation from a relative and given the Hilton points I had in my account, I decided to go with the Conrad Dubai Hotel for three nights.
Cash Price: $1,575.30
My Price: 186,276 Hilton Honors Points
Dubai to Paris in Emirates First Class
Because once is simply never enough, I’m flying Emirates’ A380 First Class a second time. Actually this had more to do with destinations and award routing rules than anything. Earlier you saw that I used 200,000 Alaska Airlines miles to book the first flight – well, thankfully Alaska Airlines has generous routing rules that allowed me to stop over in Dubai for free, then continue my journey onward to Europe for the price I’ve already mentioned. To clarify, two tickets would have been 180K miles from just US-Dubai, but it’s 200K miles US-Dubai and Dubai-Europe with a free stop in Dubai. That’s an extra 20K miles well spent!
Cash Price: $13,718.68
My Price: Zero – cost included in #1 above
Five Nights at the Park Hyatt Vendome Hotel
When you read points/mile blogger trip reports to Paris, you see the Park Hyatt Paris appear again and again…and for good reason. It’s a great location with great rooms and staff, and the breakfast buffet is one of the best in Europe. I considered the Hotel du Louvre because of its even better touristy location, but I didn’t want to deal with their tiny rooms on this trip.
Cash Price: $5,138.45
My Price: 150,000 Hyatt Points
Five Nights at the St. Regis Rome Hotel
(Yes, I left out transportation from Paris to Rome. I’ll book a cheap flight between the two cities that will likely cost less than $100 per person)
Rome is a tough one for hotels. There’s not a ton of options for luxury stays using hotel points, and some of the options that are available aren’t in the best locations for tourism. I decided to round out my three favorite hotel chains by booking a Starwood hotel in Rome after doing Hilton in Dubai and Hyatt in Paris. The St. Regis Rome should be an excellent choice, and thankfully I get the fifth night free using points.
Cash Price: $2,962.31
My Price: 85,000 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints
Rome to Abu Dhabi in Etihad Business Class
This is one of those flights I booked because of convenience rather than going for extreme luxury. I wanted to end up back in Abu Dhabi and Etihad would be the way to do that since the airline is based there. I could have easily routed Rome-London-Abu Dhabi in order to fly Etihad’s famous First Class Apartment on their A380, but decided for the nonstop route instead. My thinking is that convenience is paramount as a trip this long comes to an end. The appeal was not just the nonstop flight, but also that a chauffeur to the airport is included on both ends of the flight. It happens that Etihad doesn’t have a First Class cabin on this flight so Business Class will do just fine.
Cash Price: $5,168.09
My Price: 102,154 Etihad Guest Miles + $297.44 in taxes/fees
One Night at the Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel
Again, there were better and more luxurious options available, but for a quick one night stay where I want to do sightseeing, convenience wins out. This hotel is kind of located in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a relatively new hotel and closer to the sightseeing spots than many other hotels that are either on a beach or in the city.
Cash Price: $176.86
My Price: Chase Hyatt Credit Card annual free night certificate
Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles in Etihad First Class
One of my favorite flights ever was Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class. I decided to fly the reverse to get home because it’s a great flight, it’s nonstop, and provides other benefits like a chauffeur on each end of the flight. I made sure to book this flight before the recent devaluation of American Airlines miles.
Cash Price: $18,040.00
My Price: 180,000 American Airlines miles + $76.60 in taxes/fees
And that brings me and the future wifey back home to start our new lives. The total of the “Cash Price” items listed above is $95,860.09, but I left out many other benefits I’ll get on this trip that add real value:
- I get breakfast for two each morning at each hotel due to my Hilton Diamond, Hyatt Diamond, and Starwood Platinum statuses. That’s 14 mornings and 28 free breakfasts, and given that each hotel charges at least $50/person for breakfast, that will provide me with a minimum of $1,400 in added benefits.
- I get a Chauffeur courtesy of Etihad from the St. Regis Rome to the Rome airport and from the Abu Dhabi airport to Hyatt Capital Gate hotel, then again the next day from the Hyatt Capital Gate to the Abu Dhabi airport, and from LAX to home. I’ll value this at $300 since I’d need to otherwise pay for these transfers.
- I will probably (definitely not guaranteed) get upgraded rooms at some of the hotels I booked. I plan to reach out to each hotel to actually request an upgrade given that it’s a special occasion for me, but it’s something I’m obviously not entitled to. What helps my case is that I also happen to hold top-tier status with each hotel chain I’ll be staying with. Still, providing an upgrade is up to each hotel’s discretion. I’ve been upgraded to premium rooms and suites plenty of times even on regular non-special occasion trips, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that I’d get upgraded at least a couple of times to rooms that would have cost an additional ~$500 total.
- Other small benefits that I’ll get for this type of trip: Airline lounge access with free meals/drinks at nearly every airport (the good kind of meals since they’re mostly First Class lounges), free spa treatment in Dubai’s Emirates First Class Lounge, hotel late check-out (4pm), and hotel club lounge access (free snacks/drinks). It’s hard to put a value on these things, but I’ll call it another ~$500
My out of pocket cost for this trip was 903,430 points/miles + $458.64 taxes/fees. These points/miles were earned in a variety of ways including credit card sign ups, manufactured spending, and regular spending on credit cards. It’s important to remember that not all points/miles are created equally – those Hilton points are certainly worth far less than Alaska Airlines miles – but I lumped them all together to show how much I’m spending. I’ll of course spend plenty more on other things like airport/hotel transfers, food, tourism, and more, but thankfully I saved quite a bit by using my miles/points wisely.
It’s important to point out that valuing this trip at $100K may not be the way you personally choose to value this trip. It’s true that one way to replicate this trip without miles/points is by paying the cash amounts mentioned – there’s no way around that. But many people argue that the true value of a trip is how much you would be willing to pay for that same service/product by using cash. Also consider that airlines and hotels often sell their miles/points at steep discounts, which would allow you to essentially buy these same flights/hotels at a deeply discounted cost. That discounted cost would be my personal starting point to value a trip like this, but to each his own.
Aside from all that math and theoretical concept of value, I think it’s worth noting that this type of trip can be difficult to replicate for “regular” people. I’ve devoted a significant part of my life to learning about loyalty programs and earning miles/points at discounted rates through manufactured spending and smart credit card sign ups. I was planning for a honeymoon trip for years, and I saved my miles/points accordingly. That’s not an easy thing to do when you see programs devalue all the time, but thankfully I booked mine just before some big ones. In fact, this same trip booked today would cost substantially more miles (Emirates First Class flights would go from 200K Alaska Airlines miles to 360K miles if booked today, and Etihad First Class goes from 180K AA miles to 230K today).
Note that airline and hotel pricing is dynamic and can change daily. The prices I screen-shotted above could be significantly higher or lower tomorrow or next month. If I checked the prices a month before the trip, it may well cost either $60K or $110K+ depending on demand at that time. No one knows.
My trip isn’t until the end of the year, but when it’s completed I’ll be sure to do a trip report of each flight and hotel with additional details of how exactly I booked it (no doubt many are confused at the points price of the Conrad or St. Regis). But if you’ll excuse me, I have some wedding planning to take care of before all this relaxation!