Introducing The Honeymoon Guy
We are celebrating Valentine’s Day this week, and to bring some gold old-fashioned romance into your life, this week’s Travel Hack Thursday (#TravelHackThursday) features none other than The Honeymoon Guy. Who better to share his travel hacking tips with anyone planning a honeymoon, destination wedding, anniversary trip or just a sexy getaway?!
You can read about Michael’s own incredible honeymoon where he planned a $40,500 dollar honeymoon (yes that is meant to say $40,500, not $4,050) for just $3,400. Not one to do things on a small-scale, Michael planned a round the world trip to celebrate his betrothal. He and Patty flew from the States to Hawaii, on to Tokyo, then on to the Philippines, and then back to the States via South Africa. Pretty awesome hey?!
They took 8 flights and stayed in incredible hotels during their trip proving that ‘The Honeymoon Girl’ really is a very lucky lady indeed! Here she is below with Mr Romance (aw Michael I really hope this isn’t embarrassing you!).
So let’s hear from The Honeymoon Guy himself.
Are you rich?
I wish! I make a comfortable salary but I’m frugal (some might say cheap) so I like to save much of my income and use travel hacking techniques to cover my vacations.
How did you discover travel hacking?
You’re testing my memory, Anne! Just kidding…
If I remember correctly the event that really registered and got me into travel hacking was experiencing Southwest Airline’s old Rapid Rewards credit-based system back in about 2007. Southwest had a very generous system at that time – you earned credits for your flights irrespective of the flight cost or distance. They often ran “2X” promos and also offered double credit for booking online.
With that combo of promos running I could get a free roundtrip for every couple of paid roundtrip flights. I would search out cheap, short paid flights that supplanted drives and then redeem the free flight awards for expensive cross-country flights.
Where did you go on your first long haul trip using rewards?
My first long-haul trip with rewards was an unforgettable vacation with Patty to South America. We headed there to visit two world-renowned cities – Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro – and two natural wonders – Iguazu Falls and the Galapagos Islands. It was spectacular! The perfect mix of metropolitan sites and natural wonders.
The trip kicked off on a great note with a direct flight from JFK to Guayaquil, Ecuador on LAN in business-class! The service and hard product were excellent. Our flight was overnight and the lay-flat beds made all the difference in terms of arriving rested and refreshed. We used British Airways miles to cover the flight.
Once there, we stayed one night in the Hampton Inn Guayaquil downtown, using Hilton HHonors points I had acquired from previous Hilton stays, then headed to the Galapagos Islands for a 5-day cruise. The most common approach to seeing the islands is via small cruise ship because the islands are somewhat close together and there are limited airports.
I’ve travelled to five continents and dozens of countries and to this day I consider the Galapagos Islands to be one of the most special places I’ve ever visited. The wildlife, both marine and land-based, is incredible.
The natural scenery is also breathtaking and because of the remote location of the islands and the requirement to be led by a nature guide, you really feel like you’re getting to experience a unique destination (you are!).
After our cruise through the Galapagos, we flew from Guayaquil to Buenos Aires again in business class on LAN. Like our first LAN flight, it didn’t disappoint.
During our 3-day visit to Buenos Aires we paddle-boated on the lake of Palermo Woods, drank mate (the local tea), watched tango dancing in the streets and more!
The highlight of our visit was an outstanding bike tour of the city we had with Biking Buenos Aires. The tour took us to major architectural, historical and cultural sites throughout the city. We saw grand buildings such as the mansion that Evita famously appeared at prior to her death, an Ombú tree that seemed to be as large as a city block, Puente de la Mujer (a striking bridge) and lots of colourful houses. To this day, that is still one of our top five tours of all time.
From Buenos Aires we headed north to see Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The falls are awe-inspiring. They’re actually one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World. We visited the falls on both sides of the border on separate days, taking in the humbling, roaring sounds and mesmerizing sights from viewing platforms and then from a boat that actually took us into one of the falls!
Our final stop on the trip was Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. We visited a few of the iconic tourist attractions in the city including the Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf, Copacabana beach and Ipanema.
We ended our trip with a flight from Rio back to New York City. That flight was in coach – first world problems! (Anne: What a bummer! Turning right is hard once you start living the high life!)
How long did it take you to accumulate the points, and using what methods?
Believe it or not it didn’t take us long at all to accumulate the points we used on the trip. Fittingly for this Valentine’s Day issue of #TravelHackThursday, we accumulated points together. We each obtained a British Airways credit card which yielded us 100,000 miles (now of course they’re called Avios). That was a limited time offer which was simply too good to pass up!
Anne: I want to cry right now! The best offer in the UK with British Airways is 25,000 currently, but you can bag yourself an extra 1,000 using this link.
Michael: With those miles we covered our business class flight from the US to Ecuador, a business class flight from Ecuador to Argentina and then our coach class flight back to the States. Though we had earned British Airways miles, we didn’t actually fly on British Airways. We executed partner redemptions for flights on LAN and American Airlines. I wasn’t quite as savvy back then so we paid for a couple of shorter, positioning flights with cash.
We used Hilton points for our stay at the Hampton Inn in Guayaquil And the redemption rate was great as the cost of living in Ecuador is relatively low.
Your top tips for others wishing to do the same?
My top tip is for the couples reading this Valentine’s Day issue to remember that you’re in this together. Just like couples team up to get all the Christmas gifts or groceries, they should develop and execute their travel hacking plans together. That will get you max payoff!
For example, remember that both parties in a relationship, even spouses, can get the same travel credit card. This can work great for airlines and hotels. For our honeymoon we used the two nights we each earned from the Chase Hyatt credit card sign-up bonus for back to back reservations. So we ended up with a four-night stay in the chic and luxurious Andaz Maui in Hawaii for free!
Anne: Now you are talking. That place looks lush!
Michael: If your partner is reluctant to get into travel hacking, focus on the end goal. Ask your partner if they’d be interested in visiting, say, Paris for a long weekend with free hotel rooms and free roundtrip airfare. Mention that the cost savings could be thousands of dollars, meaning you can even spring for a fancy dinner on the trip without fretting about the bill too much. Once a partner understands how big a payoff they can expect, their willingness to put a few hours into the pursuit rises
Another tip – If you’re short of points/miles for a single redemption but your partner has some points/miles in that program, check into combining accounts. Some airlines and hotel brands will even let you combine points and miles into a family account. Patty and I have combined points for British Airways and Hyatt, enabling us to make a redemption for which we otherwise would have come up just short. (Anne: British Airways have a household account to allow just this and Jason and I both combine points to get our flights).
One final note (I swear I’ll stop typing tips after this!): Every once in a while a tremendous deal pops up…a deal that you think is so good it probably won’t last long. Well, you’re right – it probably won’t. You’ll take your travel hacking up a notch if you’re flexible and have an ability to react quickly when an intriguing deal arises. Hemming and hawing for an extended period may mean missing out on a major promotion.
What’s the best thing about travel hacking in the U.S?
The best aspect of travel hacking in the US is probably the variety and number of ways you can rack up money-saving points and miles.
We have a plethora of travel credit cards available, with major sign-up bonuses, and there are often other points-accruing promotions offered as well.
There are also opportunities to earn miles for actions such as changing your electricity provider. I recently earned 10,000 United MileagePlus miles for doing just that.
There are many major airports with service to spots all over the world which offers multiple flight redemption options.
Though there may not be quite as many ways for non-Americans to rack up points and miles I’ve seen from your blog that there are still plenty of options for Brits. It looks like you’re doing an excellent job seeking them out and sharing!
Anne: aw thanks Michael I am trying. What great tips. I have to say I love your travel style. You can’t beat redeeming points for business class flights knowing that you have paid much less than some of the other passengers!!
I loved Iguazu too and definitely think it is worth visiting both sides of the falls. We stayed in Brazil but it was worth going over to Argentina not only for the amazing board walks Michael refers to, but for the best meal I ate in my South American trip. Argentinian steak really does rock! Galapagos is also on my list…
A huge thanks to Michael for being featured. It’s great being able to learn from other people and of course, if you would like to be featured feel free to drop me a line on the email above.
What tips do you have?
Maybe you too have some great tips you would be happy to share with us. If so feel free in the comments below.
Otherwise have a happy Valentines Day wherever you may be in the world!! If you want to show me some Valentine love, I would love it if you could share this with your pals. Don’t be shy now….they might fancy getting in on the game too!
Photos: All provided courtesy of The Honeymoon Guy