With only a few hours left in 2018, it’s time to take a look back at the year in review for our travels in 2018.
This year, I was able to take four trips where redeeming points or significantly reducing our travel costs using benefits from credit cards. Three of the trips were international, and two included long-haul flights in business class.
This year, we redeemed:
- 320,000 Marriott Rewards Points for a five night stay at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman
- 15,000 Marriott points for one night at the Moxy Frankfurt Airport
- 98,000 Delta SkyMiles redeemed for roundtrip business class from Raleigh to Amsterdam this coming February – part of a Delta Flash Sale
- 70,000 United MileagePlus miles redeemed for business class from Raleigh to Frankfurt on United and Lufthansa; 110,000 miles redeemed for first class from Frankfurt to Raleigh on Lufthansa and United; 60,000 miles redeemed for my friend airfare to Amsterdam; and 140,000 miles redeemed for Amanda and I to fly from Raleigh to London in Swiss business class next July.
Totaling up the cash price equivalent of these redemptions, we were able to save $36,000 on travel costs in 2018!
In 2018, we were able to get the following upgrades during our travels:
- Upgrade to Oceanfront Room at Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman courtesy of (pre-merger) Marriott Gold status
- Upgrade to first class on three of four regional flights during my Canada trip, courtesy of United MileagePlus Silver status
- Upgrade to Ocean View room at Four Seasons Maui, $60 daily breakfast credit, and $100 spa credit by booking through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
It’s difficult to put a specific value on these upgrades, but I’ll value them conservatively at $2500.
In 2018, we earned:
- 146,000 Marriott Rewards Points from American Express SPG spend, Ritz Carlton Card spend, paid stays, and MegaBonus offers
- 122,000 United MileagePlus miles from MileagePlus Club spend and paid flights
- 151,000 Membership Rewards points from American Express Platinum Spend (most at 5x)
- 208,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points from Ink Business Preferred and Chase Sapphire spend
The vast majority of these points came from spending we would have done anyways (business advertising, payroll taxes, gas, college tuition, etc.). Over half a million points in 2018, and I expect to earn a bit more in 2019 thanks to planned home improvements and increased spending from our growing business. Earn and burn, baby!
With the continued devaluation of airline and hotel status, we’ve opted to become free agents and rely on credit card benefits where applicable to upgrade our travel experience. We’re no longer United Silver after the end of next month (though we get Gold-level benefits from our MileagePlus Club card), this will be the first (and last) year of Marriott Platinum status for Amanda thanks to the Ritz Carlton Rewards Card, and I am Marriott Gold (which is just about useless after the merger) thanks to my AMEX Business Platinum.
2018 illustrates why I’m hooked on the idea of travel hacking – specifically with points and miles. To be perfectly honest – I wouldn’t dream of dropping $40K on personal travel in a year – so these programs literally open the world to my wife and I. How did you do in 2018?