My 2015 Travel Review: How I Used One Million Points/Miles & 8 Free Night Certificates

As I alluded to in 2015 Year in Review post, I wanted to post a recap of all my travel from the past year so here is a summary of our travels from the past year & how I burned over 1 million points in 2015 broken down by the various trips we took this year.

January 2015 – Aruba: 75,000 IHG Points

For this trip, we booked a cheap airfare about 9 months out or so when fares from NYC to Aruba dropped to $300 roundtrip which is fansatic for winter (and especially MLK weekend). Of course, I used some Delta e-gift cards I got my from various Platinum cards to offset the flight cost. We stayed 3 nights at the Holiday Inn Aruba at 25,000 points a nights with no resort fees or taxes. It wasn’t the most luxurious hotel but it had a great beachfront location. I would return for a long weekend in a heartbeat, especially at only 25,000 IHG points a night. See this Award Trip Breakdown post for more details.

Holiday Inn Aruba

Holiday Inn Aruba

Hawaii – April 2015: 160,000 Hawaiian Miles + 60,000 Hyatt Points + 6,000 Virgin American Points

This was our first big trip of 2015 with 3 nights on the Big Island, followed by 6 nights in Maui. We booked first class flights on Hawaiian with the outbound routing of JFK-HNL-KOA and return of OGG-HNL-JFK for 80,000 Hawaiian miles per person (I did transfer some Amex MR points to top off my account). Our return flight had quite an interesting twist as we assisted in a medical emergency onboard.

Hawaiian A330 First Class

Hawaiian A330 First Class

On the Big Island, we stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on a paid stay which was around $130/night if I recall correctly for their new MAKAI rooms since I had booked it during a Black Friday sale in 2014. My wife and I really loved this property and the Big Island in general – we felt it had such a different vibe from what most people think of when they hear “Hawaii”.

Hilton Waikoloa Village

Hilton Waikoloa Village

To get to Maui from Kona, we used 3,000 Virgin America points each for a one way ticket on Hawaiian Airlines which is actually a pretty solid deal, considering these flights can cost $100 or more. Then in Maui we did cash + points at the Andaz Maui for 75,000 points + $150/night co-pay so I could use a Diamond Suite upgrade…which led to this post. However, Hyatt was running a promotion for Hyatt Visa cardholders and I got 20% of my points back (hence the 60,000 total in the title). Even with the all complaints on Flyertalk about the Andaz Maui (resort fee, reduced breakfast for Diamonds, lack of cash+points), it remains my favorite domestic hotel and it took a lot for me not to return to it this year on our April 2016 trip to Hawaii.  For more details, see this Award Trip Breakdown.

Andaz Maui

Andaz Maui

Seattle – May 2015: 2 Hilton Free Night Certificates + 50,000 Hilton Points + 40,000 Delta Skypesos Skymiles

We went to Seattle for a long weekend to visit one of Andrea’s friends and set up base at the Hilton Seattle using 2 free nights from the Citi Hilton Reserve (yes, I know it wasn’t the best use of the free nights but our original plans for Italy fell through) + 50,000 Hilton points for the 3rd night. For the flights, we paid for the outbound as it was only $162 per person (we used Delta e-gift cards again) but all the return flights were pricing at $275 + for a one way since we wanted a red-eye back to NY to maximize our time in Seattle. I ended up using 20,000 Delta Skypesos per person – see this Award Trip Breakdown for even more details. 

No trip to Seattle is complete without a trip to Boeing #avgeek

No trip to Seattle is complete without a trip to Boeing #avgeek

Antigua – July 2015: 40,000 British Airways Avios

We wanted to go away for the July 4th weekend and to figure out where to go, I used American’s Award Map tool which I talked about in this post. The only island that had availability was Antigua so we decided to use British Airways Avios at a rate of 20,000 Avios per person instead of the 35,000 miles American wanted. For the hotel, there are no chain hotels so I decided to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit from the Citi Prestige card and booked the Sandals Antigua. Since we went for exactly 4 nights, we only paid for 3 nights but even with this perk I don’t think I’d return to this Sandals anytime soon.


Chicago – July 2015: 50,000 Club Carlson Points

My wife was running a half marathon in Chicago so we headed off to the Windy City for 2 nights. We booked a cheapish roundtrip on American for ~$225 roundtrip and stayed at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel, which is part of the Club Carlson group of hotels. We chose this hotel since at the time, I had the Club Carlson Visa which allowed you one night free on all award stays – so for our two night stay, we paid for one night in points (50,000) and the other night was free! Unfortunately Club Carlson discontinued this perk and I cancelled my card shortly thereafter.

Radisson Blu Aqua

Radisson Blu Aqua

Costa Rica – August 2015: 78,400 JetBlue Points + 22,500 Hyatt Points + 1 Hyatt Anniversary Night

I’ve always wanted to try out the Andaz Papagayo Resort in Costa Rica so we planned a 4 night stay there with some friends for our first trip to Costa Rica. The Andaz is located on the west coast of Costa Rica and you need to fly into Liberia so flights are bit more scarce than say to San Jose, Costa Rica. Coming from NY, I really wanted to fly the only non-stop on JetBlue and we did though it cost us a boatload of points. However a large portion of that high cost in points (almost 30,000 additional on top what was already booked) is that I had to change our return flight only about a month out since we had to return a day earlier (for my wife’s new job) and cash prices were quite high. I talked about my decision in this post (and yes it still hurts I had to burn that many points for an economy flight).

For the hotel, I once again used cash & points for the first 3 nights (7,500 points a night + $100 copay) so I could use a Diamond Suite Upgrade. For the last night, I used the 2014 free anniversary night from my Hyatt Visa since this is a category 4 hotel and they were nice enough to let us stay in the suite for the night. We loved this hotel and how secluded it was – highly recommended for a relaxing getaway.

One of the pools

One of the pools

Dubai / Maldives – October 2015: 180,000 Alaska Airlines Miles + 2 Anniversary Hyatt Free Nights + 2 Hyatt Free Nights +100,000 Hyatt Points + 180,000 American Airlines Miles

Ok, this was the BIG trip in 2015 for our second anniversary – and quite possibly our favorite trip ever. It had amazing first class flights on Emirates & Etihad and two great Hyatt hotels. For the outbound we used 90,000 Alaska miles per person for a JFK-Dubai (2 night stopover) – Male routing on Emirates first class. Yes, we even got lucky and the Dubai-Male leg had an equipment change with a 777-300ER with first class suites!

Emirates First Class

Emirates A380 First Class

Shower for First Class Passengers

Shower for First Class Passengers

First Class on 777-300ER

First Class on 777-300ER

Our hotel in Dubai was the Grand Hyatt Dubai which is a category 4 hotel so we were able to use my 2015 & 2016 Hyatt free nights here as Hyatt was able to extend the expiration date of my expiring 2015 free night.  This served as a solid base for our 2 nights in Dubai as it was only 10 minutes from the airport.

Grand Hyatt Dubai

Grand Hyatt Dubai, Courtesy of

In the Maldives, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Maldives using 2 free night from Andrea signing up for the Hyatt Visa + 100,000 Hyatt points for the other 4 nights. We decided to upgrade from the base villa to a private pool villa for 3 nights and an overwater villa for 3 nights. I’m behind on trip reports but I do plan a full review of the property (and the trip in general). Spoiler alert – it was awesome!


Villa 24, with a private pool


From our overwater villa


Overwater Villa

Finally for the return flight home, we burned 90,000 American Airlines miles per person for a first class routing on Etihad home of MLE-AUH-JFK. Unfortunately this was about two months before they flew the First Class Apartments to JFK but nonetheless the flight was awesome. The first class suite on the 777 for the AUH-JFK is very comfortable and the chef for first class was a great perk. It was our longest flight at almost 14 hours and 7,000 miles.

Etihad First Class

Etihad First Class


Another angle of Etihad First Class

To sum it all up, I burned the following for travel in 2015:

  • Airline Miles – 684,400 miles
  • Hotel Points – 357,500 points
  • Free Night Certificates – 8 Free Night Certificates (I’m including the 4th Night Free in Antigua from the Citi Prestige)
  • Grand Total = 1,041,900 Points/Miles + 8 Free Night Certificates

I’m happy we were able to travel as much as we did in 2015 and even happier to do it for a small fraction of the retail cost of all this travel. Here is to making 2016 just as memorable!


One thought on “My 2015 Travel Review: How I Used One Million Points/Miles & 8 Free Night Certificates

  1. Well done, Ralph, thanks for sharing!


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