Welcome to the next installment of our Reader Success Series where Million Mile Secrets Readers share how they booked a trip with miles & points to get Big Travel with Small Money! This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Kristi is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money. If you would like to be inspired by more stories like this one, take a second to subscribe to our newsletter!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
My name is Kristi. I’ve been collecting miles and points for a little over 3 years. And you can follow my adventures on my Instagram.
What was the goal of your trip?
The goal of this trip was to meet up with my parents at a fun location. And to let my kids experience their first cruise.
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
It took me ~1 year to collect the miles and points needed for this trip. But in that time I was also accumulating additional miles and points to use in the future.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
I used Southwest points with the Southwest Companion Pass to fly to California. And I used the Chase Ultimate Rewards points I earned with my Chase Sapphire Preferred® card for our cruise and a 2-night hotel stay in Anaheim.
Which cards (max 5) would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
(unfortunately it is no longer possible to hold both of those at the same time and earn an easy companion pass, sigh.)
How did you search and find the award flights?
I used the Southwest website.
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
I did a lot of research on TripAdvisor & Yelp to find a perfect hotel for our 2-night stay. As the only adult taking 3 kids to Disney and not having access to a car, I was nervous. Once I decided on the Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort Convention Center, I was about to book with Hyatt points before I realized I would get a better value by booking the hotel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
The Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort Convention Center was perfect for a family traveling to Disneyland. The rooms have 2 beds and a sofa bed (important for my bigger family), amazing breakfast, and the ART shuttle stop was right next to the hotel. It’s going to be my go-to Disney hotel forevermore!
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Crazily enough there were 2 cruise ships with identical itineraries that left 1 day apart from each other. Due to a miscommunication, I booked the wrong cruise! I was mortified and thought I would not be able to change. One quick call to the Chase Ultimate Rewards team and we were able to fix my mistake and get me on the right cruise!
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
After debarkation from our cruise, we had an entire day to fill with just me, 3 kids, and a lot of luggage! The Long Beach Aquarium is really close to the port. It was only a 3 minute Uber ride away! We found a coupon online, and the staff were more than willing to store our luggage for free. We LOVED the aquarium and are so glad we spent the day there.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
This was a groundbreaking trip for me! My husband was swamped with work and my oldest daughter couldn’t miss school. So if I wanted to go, I needed to be willing to take my 9, 8, and 3 year olds by myself. I am a pretty confident person, but navigating airports, a cruise ship and Disneyland with 3 kids to keep track of seemed a little daunting.
What I learned about myself is I can manage a trip like this and not lose a kid!
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
Traveling with miles and points is so exhilarating! I am a bargain hunter at heart. So being able to provide these kinds of experiences for my family for next to nothing is tremendously satisfying to me. Since starting this hobby, we haven’t paid for hotel stays or airfare, not even once.
It’s been a huge benefit to our family, and we have made lots of memories we would not have had the opportunity to make without miles and points.
I know when you are starting out it all seems so intimidating. And you’ll make little (or big) mistakes along the way (I cringe when I think how inefficiently I booked my first few trips). But at the end of the day you are getting an amazing return for the very little time this hobby requires.
Want to Share Your Story?
If you’d like to be considered for our reader success story series, please send us a note! We would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points! And if you want to get more stories like this one delivered straight to your inbox, please sign up for our email list!