Most of us use miles and points for a free flight or a couple nights at a hotel – assuming we can manage to avoid the seemingly ever-growing blackout dates. But the bloggers from our recent USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice Award for the best miles-and-points blog have taken points redemption to a whole new level.
Using almost strictly miles and points, these gurus have had experiences that most of us can only dream about, including trips to private islands, free $30,000 vacations and stays at overwater villas that normally cost a small fortune. Here are the most unattainable experiences bloggers have gotten through points and miles.
Gary Leff, View from the Wing
A trip to the Maldives is one of the most aspirational vacations for travelers around the world, but its remoteness and high price tag can make it out of reach for many. Yet, savvy travel hackers have figured out to how to pay for one of the world's most exclusive destinations using miles.
Greg Davis-Kean, Frequent Miler
Ever wonder what it would be like to have your own private island? Well, Greg Davis-Kean (aka the Frequent Miler) and his wife got a small glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and famous when they got to visit Richard Branson’s slice of paradise, Necker Island, for a week – and hang out with Sir Richard himself.
Instead of the typical $30,000+ it costs for a week on this little piece of heaven in the British Virgin Islands, Davis-Kean decided it would be better to get the whole thing for free.
He spent 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles, all of which he acquired in seven months, mostly through credit card bonuses. “Was it worth it? Definitely!” Davis-Kean said. “It was the most luxurious, fun and amazing vacation I've ever experienced.” Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, indeed.
Daneil Eleff, Dan's Deals
Daniel Eleff is no stranger to the good life. Dan of Dan's Deals has earned more than 30 million miles, and he's exchanged miles for experiences like taking an island hopper to five remote islands before going snorkeling in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake (100,000 miles) or a trip to Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost city (where you are required to carry a gun by law due to threat of polar bear attacks), which cost him 120,000 miles. But anyone can take those trips.
The points-and-miles guru, and baseball fanatic, has really mastered exchanging miles for experiences that are normally unattainable. His most impressive redemptions include using 25,000 points to steal second base in the middle of an Indians game and 180,000 points to get personalized jerseys for himself and 11 Dan's Deals readers and play a softball game at Wrigley Field.
If that doesn't impress you, consider this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience: Eleff recently traded in 1.06 million Starpoints to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Four tickets behind the dugout were included.
Scott Grimmer, MileValue
For Scott Grimmer of Mile Value, like many miles enthusiasts, it really is more about the journey than the destination. The miles blogger said his most luxurious experience was a trip in a First Class Apartment on an Etihad A380. But the luxury began well before Grimmer stepped foot on a plane. The lounge experience included a free shave, massage and buffet.
“The waiter noticed that nothing on the buffet was really calling my name though, so he offered to have something else made for me. I asked to see a menu, and he said to just tell him what I wanted, and he'd make it happen – for free of course,” Grimmer said. Talk about a good time to get stuck at the airport.
Once on the plane, Grimmer’s "apartment" had its own couch that converted into a bed, a separate seat and room to walk around. He “ate and drank like a king,” took a shower at 35,000 feet and avoided any passive-aggressive fights over leg room or armrests. Not bad for only 90,000 miles and $25.
Emily Jablon, Million Mile Secrets
Emily Jablon of Million Mile Secrets managed to pay for her entire honeymoon in Paris using miles. It wasn’t exactly free – it wound up costing $2,000 – but that included British Airways first-class seats for two, champagne in the Concorde Lounge at Heathrow Airport and seven nights at 5-star hotels including the Park Hyatt Vendôme. That’s a steal, especially when you consider the actual price tag: $32,000.
“As a little girl growing up, my family didn’t have the money for flights, so all of our vacations were driving distance from my hometown,” Emily says. “For me, the most rewarding travels are to see my 85-year-old grandmother, my parents and my friends and family across the US. Without miles and points, it would be much more difficult to see them, and that is what I am most grateful for!”