I was fortunate enough to discover travel hacking during my 7-month deployment to Kyrgyzstan. I have always signed up for Airline and Hotel programs before but did not know the many different promotions and bonuses that I can earn to basically “travel for free”.
After numerous credit card applications and several promotions, I had over 1 million miles and points! We started planning on how best to use our newfound knowledge to travel the world once I got back from the deployment. After much research, we settled on a mini Asian tour. I would be flying from Alaska to Philippines to meet with Rac to start our awesome adventure.
Our itinerary would take us to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Hongkong and Macau. Add my stopovers to Korea, China, Philippines and the USA to make it 10 countries in less than 1 month! This trip would take a lot of planning but we had all the time in the world to research and plan our trip. Everyday, we searched for cheap hotels as well as the best routes to take to lower our transportations costs. I took care of the flights while Rac researched the best places to stay and the sites we were going to visit in our limited time in each country. Being in the US military, I only had about three weeks of leave so that meant that we would only be in each country for 2-4 days.
The first task on the list was booking my flight to Manila from Fairbanks Alaska. I have flown First/Business class on international flights before so I know what a big difference it is to flying Coach. Since this was my first ever use of our stockpile of miles, I figured that I should go for a big redemption. I had a ton of Delta miles so this was a good start. After days of researching for flights, I found availability on a Korean Air flight with the biggest commercial plane out there, the A380! I booked it with a return on China Southern airlines. All legs were booked in Business or First for 145k Delta Skymiles plus taxes. With this redemption, I can try out 2 new airlines and their Business class products. All the remaining domestic segments were in First Class.
After securing the longest flights, we focused our attention to getting the Intra-Asia flights. This is where we got really familiar with Cebu Pacific and AirAsia. While we have flown Cebu Pacific before it was our first experience with AirAsia. We booked our Manila-Singapore leg with Cebu Pac and since the travel was about a year out, we got the tickets really cheap. We booked tickets for the two of us as well as my mom who would be with us in our Singapore/Indonesia legs. We then booked tickets for our Singapore-Kuala Lumpur-Phuket-Hong Kong with Air Asia. Like with Cebu Pac, booking early saved us a lot of money! Combined, all our Intra-Asia flights cost less than $500 for the three of us! We then booked the last leg, which is Macau-Manila with Cebu Pacific. For our Singapore-Indonesia and Hong Kong-Macau transfers, taking a short ferry ride for both routes were the best way to go. Now that we’ve figured out our transportation, it was time to search for hotels!
During our research, we realized that were really no cheap hotel options for Singapore. Everything was priced at $100-$150 a night. This was a perfect time to use my stash of Hilton points that I have gotten from different promotions. Fortunately, a 4-night stay at the Conrad Centennial Singapore was available for our dates. I booked the 4-night stay for 120k Hilton Honor Points and we were set! Since I was a Gold Elite member, we would be upgraded to the Executive Floor, receive free internet and also get free buffet breakfast! This was a great redemption as the hotel normally charges around $200-$300 a night! For our other hotel bookings, we used Hotelscombined.com which searches for the cheapest prices across many booking sites. In the end, the hotel reviews on the site were spot on and all our bookings proved to be excellent choices. Since we were going to be spending Valentine’s Day in Kuala Lumpur, I wanted our hotel stay to be extra special. A friend of mine in FlyerTalk.com referred me to a luxury hotel and resort agent who can book rooms for us at a fraction of the price. We settled for the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur as it is right in the middle of the city. I was amazed when the agent quoted me $60 per night! The price was incredible as the hotel normally charges $200-$300 a night. We ended up booking 2 nights there and had an excellent stay at the property. Later on, I found out that Amercan Express Platinum also had a concierge program where they get special rates and amenities when booking for Platinum Card Holders.
In the end, we visited 10 countries for a fraction of the price with the help of Travel Hacking! It also helped that we had a lot of time planning and organizing the trip. We made mistakes along the way but those valuable lessons helped us in our future travel.