Last week I posted a request for input related to my new AYP Destination Series and received so many great destinations around the world! Thank you all for your input and by popular demand I present to you the first destination in the series… Southeast Asia!
Though I have not been to Southeast Asia (the region in Asia encompasses the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam), I have some experience in using points and miles to book reward travel there – and will be traveling there with my wife in just a few short months. So rather than just tell you what you should do, I will be telling you what I have done and how you can too!
Now, as you saw from the list of countries above, there are many different nations and cultures that comprise SE Asia and one post could never cover all that the region has to offer… so I will limit my focus to two countries – Singapore and Thailand – and how points and miles can help you achieve the following:
- Getting to/from Singapore and Thailand (from the US)
- Staying within Singapore and Thailand
There are other factors to consider that add to the cost of big trips like this (i.e. travel within the region, the time of year, dining, excursions, etc.) but for now I will focus on the above 2 items, since they are the most costly for most travelers, yet the easiest for which to redeem points and miles!
STOP! AND CHECK YOURSELF! The last thing I want to do is overwhelm you with too many details – to keep this post “reader-friendly” I excluded some of the finer details. And as always, keep in mind that AYP can take all the planning effort out of this for you – check out AYP Travel Consulting tab for more details!
Getting to Singapore (from the US):
There are a number of ways to get to Southeast Asia, and there are other bloggers who have mapped out the best redeemable routes to the region using the 3 major airline alliances: Star Alliance, Skyteam, and Oneworld – but rather than repeat what others have done, I will provide you with a firsthand account of my process!
For our flights from the US, we decided to take the long way (flying east from Florida) in order to travel on one of the best airlines in the world – Singapore Airlines! What makes Singapore Airlines so great is that they are transfer partners of all the major rewards programs (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi Thank you Rewards and Starwood Points). That means that you can transfer all the points from multiple credit cards in order to accumulate a large Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Miles balance for your flight. Make sure to sign-up for a Singapore Airlines’ Frequent Flyer Account (for free!) and then you can search for available flights directly on the Singapore Airlines website! As an added bonus, Singapore Airlines give you a 15% discount on the point redemptions booked online through their site! The one downside is that Singapore Airlines only flies into a few US cities, so you will have to get to New York or San Francisco to start your trip – but don’t let that deter you from this awesome redemption value!
Here is a breakdown of the flights that we chose:
Cost in Miles –
Credit cards I opened in order to achieve this specific flight –
For my flight we decided to splurge for First Class, so I needed to earn 187,000 miles (93,500 x 2 travelers) – which means I needed a number of sign-up bonuses in order to have enough points to transfer to Singapore Krisflyer miles to redeem for two first class tickets. Here are the cards and point bonuses earned on the sign-up (these may not all be current offers): American Express Premier Rewards Gold (50k – currently 25k), Citi ThankYou Premier (50k – currently 40k), Citi Prestige (50k) – for a total of 150k points transferred to Singapore Air, then used an additional 37k in Chase Ultimate Rewards to complete the redemption!
Coming home (to the US) from Bangkok, Thailand:
We planned on ending our trip in Bangkok, Thailand and to get home we decided to keep flying east (to complete a full path around the world) using American Airlines miles. It can be tricky to book AA Awards on airlines like Japan Air and other Asia carriers since you cannot search for availability on the American Airlines website. The trick is to search using British Airways website (sign up for a British Airways Frequent Flyer Account first) and then you will have to call American Airlines at 1-800-433-7300 and tell them the flight numbers. I realize that this is a bit complex, but luckily you have AYP Travel Consulting on your side – where I will search for availability and book these flights for you using your points! Additionally, the AA Award Chart is set to change in March (here is the old and new award charts), so be aware!
Here is a breakdown of the flights that we chose:
Credit cards I opened in order to achieve this specific flight:
For these flights I utilized American Airlines AAdvantage miles earned through the sign-up bonus on my wife’s Citi Platinum American Airlines card, as well as some miles earned through regular spending, dining bonuses and shopping portals! If two people are traveling then each of you can sign up for the American Airlines card and earn 50k miles each on the sign-up alone, enough (or almost enough in Business class) for you and your companion’s one way trip back to the USA.
Total Flight Path (Around the World!):
Now that you have found your way to and from SE Asia, it’s time to figure out where you will stay ! My strategy when it comes to hotels is to start with the major hotel chains (Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, IHG and Club Carlson) and then determine what hotel chain has hotels in the cities that I want to visit. From there I determine what hotel points I need and what credit cards I need to earn those points required. There are other options like Airbnb, and other non-chain hotels, but my goal is to stay in hotels for free with points and the easiest way to do that is to stick to the larger hotel groups that have accompanying credit cards. For our trip I focused on the following cities: Singapore, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Phuket, and Bangkok.
And identified the following hotels affiliated with the major brands:
Credit Cards opened in order to achieve these free nights:
- Starwood American Express card (my referral link) (currently 35k SPG points) – used for nights at the St. Regis in Singapore and the Le Meridien in Chiang Mai.
- Citi Hilton Reserve (2 free weekend nights) – used for 2 nights at the Conrad Koh Samui, Thailand.
- American Express Hilton Surpass Card (earned Hilton points through spending, but the current bonus is 85k Hilton points) – used for 2 nights at the Hilton Conrad Sentinel.
And there you have it. Time to start planning your trip to Southeast Asia on points and miles!
Now, in an effort to keep the post to a manageable length, I left out some on the nitty gritty details, but as always, feel free to email me with any specific questions that you might have. If you are overwhelmed just know that AYP is here for you – check out the AYP Travel Consulting section or send an email to AcCountingyourpoints@yahoo.com and I can work directly with you in order to plan your ideal trip to SE Asia on points and miles.
Your free travel is waiting…