How to Save Money on Your Honeymoon Using Free Flights and Hotels

In October of 2018, Taylor and I went on a three-week honeymoon to Southern Thailand, Bali (Indonesia), and the Philippines.

During our honeymoon, we leveraged the strategies outlined in our travel e-course, Travel Hacking Secrets, and were able to use points and miles for numerous flights and hotel nights instead of paying cash.  By using points and miles we were able to travel in luxury and save thousands which allowed us to splurge while on our honeymoon without putting a hole in our wallet.

How were we able to save thousands on our honeymoon?

First, figuring out how to fly business class for only $33 on a 22-hour journey didn’t happen overnight.  I’ve been studying the points and miles game since the second half of 2015 and continue to spend countless hours reading up on this topic scouring forums and hundreds of blog posts daily.

Needless to say, I have nearly mastered the game and in our first year, between Taylor and I, we accumulated close to 1 million points and miles and we have been traveling for pennies on the dollar for nearly four years.

Tip: If your interested in learning how to do this, I have created a course with over 30+ videos teaching others how to do it too!  For those of you interested, you can access the course using the link below.

Travel Hacking Secrets eCourse
Click here to get check out the course.

 

Once you start accumulating points and miles at a rapid rate, you will be able to redeem those points for free travel, and that’s exactly what we did for our honeymoon.

I would love to tell you how much money we saved since 2015, but unfortunately, we didn’t keep track of our redemptions in the past.  However, we booked over 20 flights using points and miles spending less than $55 on each one.  We also have redeemed several hotel nights in the past but again we don’t have a tally to keep track.

Do we still pay cash for flights and hotels?

The answer is yes.  We still pay cash for some flights and hotels when it doesn’t make sense to redeem our points and miles because we know we can get a better value.  Many people often redeem their points to get a free vacation, which is a great way to travel hack as well.

However, since we like to splurge in luxury and redeem our miles and points for business class flights or expensive hotels, we strive to get the best value out of our points, so redeeming miles for a $12,788 flight is a lot better than redeeming miles for a flight that’s only worth $200!  I explain this in more detail in our Travel Hacking Secrets Online Course.

How many points and miles did you use to save over $32,000?

For our honeymoon, we used over 312,000 points and miles across different frequent flyer accounts.  It took roughly six months to accumulate the points and miles required but it would have taken much longer if we used common methods by everyday consumers.

For example, if we used a simple 2% cash-back card or “2 miles for every dollar spent” card, we would need to spend roughly $156,000 to earn 312,000 points.

Instead, we were able to use the strategies outlined in Travel Hacking Secrets to accumulate well over 312,000 points in 6 months without ever changing our spending habits.

Time to break it down – How we saved over $32,000.

I will breakdown each redemption in its own section but here’s a quick table of our savings.  Remember we didn’t travel hack our hotels in Thailand, Bali, and the Philippines because hotels are already so cheap.  We were better off spending $50-$80 a night at hotels then wasting our points when we can redeem them for $200 hotel nights in the US, Europe or other areas around the world.

Our strategy is to get the best value out of our points, not necessarily get an entire free trip.  Everyone has different goals and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. As long as your saving money and traveling more often than you’re doing it right!

We redeemed our points and miles for the following flights/hotels:

  1. Our flight from Newark, New Jersey to Phuket, Thailand – Paid only $33 each
  2. Hotel at the Conrad Koh Samui – Paid $0
  3. Our flight from Phuket, Thailand to Bali, Indonesia – Paid $0
  4. Hotel at the Hilton Garden Inn DPS Airport – Paid $0
  5. Our flight from Manila, Philippines to New York, New York – Paid only $55.84 each

Travel Hacking Honeymoon Savings

LocationTypeCompanyCostsWhat We PaidSavingsRedemption Method
EWR - HKT AirportFlightCathay Pacific $25,576.00$66.00$25,510.00140,000 American Airlines' miles and $66 for two tickets
Koh Samui, ThailandHotelConrad Koh Samui (Hilton)$621.00$0.00$621.00$0.00, completely free using Hilton annual free night perk
Koh Samui, ThailandHotelConrad Koh Samui (Hilton)$621.00$0.00$621.00$0.00, completely free using Hilton annual free night perk
HKT to DPS AirportFlightScoot Airways$280. 00$0.00 $280.00Redeemed 22,646 Citi ThankYou Points
Ubud, BaliHotelAirbnb$48.58$28.58$20.00$20 off referral coupon
Denpasar, BaliHotelHilton Garden Inn$60.99$0.00$60.99Redeemed 5000 Hilton Honors Points
El Nido, PhilippinesHotel4 nights at Balai Adlao, El Nido (Expedia)$463$388$75.00Used weebly coupon code $75 off when booking through Expedia
Manilla, Philippines to New York CityFlightKorean Air$5,392.$111.68$5,280.32Redeemed 150,000 Korean Air Miles, and paid $111.68 in taxes and fees
Totals:$33,062.57 $594.26$32,468.31Saved over $32,468.31

We got additional discounts at the other hotels and Airbnb’s we stayed at using online coupons and online travel agencies like booking.com and Expedia.

Again, we didn’t redeem more free hotel nights due to the lack of Hilton, Marriot/SPG, and Hyatt hotels (hotel chains we have points with).  In addition, because it is relatively cheap it often doesn’t make sense to waste your points for hotels that are under $100 unless you trying to get a 100% free vacation.

Flying Business Class on Cathay Pacific for Free (almost)

This flight was our favorite experience in the sky.  We flew business class on Cathay Pacific, from Newark, New Jersey to Phuket, Thailand.  The first segment was 15 hours long from Newark to Hong Kong, China, but it’s not so bad when you have a full entertainment system and a seat that converts into a bed.

Business Class Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 JFK to HKG
Taylor reclining her seat to the lie-flat bed prior to take-off.

 

After landing in Hong Kong we had a 3-hour layover while we waited for our next flight from Hong Kong to Phuket.  However, since we were business class, we were given access to the Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge.  At the lounge, we refreshed, took a shower, ate breakfast and relaxed before boarding our next flight.

Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge
Complimentary tickets to Cathay Pacifics Business Class Lounge which offers free food and drinks, and a place to shower!

 

Our flight from Hong Kong to Phuket, Thailand was on Cathay Dragonair, one of the short haul flights of Cathay Pacific.  This flight was on an A330 in business class which doesn’t offer lie flat, however since it’s only a 3-4 hour flight, it was no big deal!

Cathay Dragonair Business Class Flight Hong Kong China to Phuket Thailand A330
Business class on short-haul Cathay Dragonair flight to Phuket, Thailand from Hong Kong.

The costs of the flight – $12,788 per person

The cost of our business class flight to Phuket from Newark on Cathay Pacific cost a pretty penny, $12,788 per person to be exact, and there’s no way we would have paid cash for this.  Instead, we redeemed 70,000 American Airline miles and paid only $33 each to save us over $12,755 (total we redeemed 140,000 miles and $66, saving $25,510).

Below are the screenshots.

American Airlines Business Flight
The cash value of our flight.

 

Our receipt for the same flight, using miles and only paying for taxes and carrier-imposed fees.

 

As you can see from the images above, flying 15 hours from Newark to Hong Kong isn’t so bad when your seat turns into a bed.  We were able to get a full 8 hours of sleep on the plane and enjoyed three meals throughout the flight.  In addition, we got to relax in a lounge while we wait for our next flight from Hong Kong to Phuket.

On the short haul flight, we still received free drinks and food since we were in business class.  This journey was absolutely amazing and Taylor and I truly hope you can experience business class, it’s a wonderful way to travel.

Our two $600+ hotel nights at the Conrad Koh Samui for FREE

Conrad Koh Samui Private 1 Bedroom - Villa
Hanging out at our infinity pool enjoying the amazing views.

 

Through Travel Hacking, I managed to become a Diamond member (I was a gold member at the time of the honeymoon) with the Hilton Hotel chain and through travel hacking strategies I was able to score two free weekend award night certificates at any of the Hilton properties worldwide, minus a select few.  Luckily, the Conrad Koh Samui is one of the most luxurious resorts eligible for the free reward certificate and we were able to take advantage of this during our honeymoon.

If you want to see what the Conrad Koh Samui 1-Bedroom Condo check out our video tour below.

Below is the confirmation email for our two nights.  If we didn’t book the free weekend night award certificates, we would have either paid cash (which is over $600 a night or redeemed 95,000 Hilton Honors points, which is a lot of points).

Conrad Koh Samui Confirmation email
Notice I had to book these as two separate itineraries due to the two-weekend reward certificates.

Flying from Phuket, Thailand to Bali, Indonesia for $0

We redeemed our flight from Phuket, Thailand to Bali, Indonesia (with a layover in Singapore) for free.  This flight would have cost roughly $280.80 but because of the points we used to redeem, we were even able to cover the carrier taxes and fees.  Below is the screenshot of our itinerary receipt.

Free Flight from Thailand to Bali
By using bank points, we didn’t have to pay any government taxes or carrier-imposed fees, this flight was absolutely free.

Zero dollars spent during our layover at the airport.

During our layover in Singapore were able to take advantage of our Priority Pass, a perk you can get from travel hacking.  The Priority Pass allows you to access over 300+ airport lounges domestic and internationally (available at most major airports).  Luckily there were two Priority Pass Lounges in our terminal so we got to visit both consuming free food and drinks at each!

Our business class flight back to the United States on Korean Air

For the long-haul flights, to and from our honeymoon, we wanted to ensure we were traveling in comfort and style, which is why we booked business class flights from the US and back from Southeast Asia.  Our business class flight back to the US was on Korean Air from Manila, Philippines to New York, New York with a layover in South Korea.

This flight would have cost us nearly $2,696 each, $5,392 total, but since we travel hack, we were able to save roughly $5,280.  We used 75,000 Korean Air miles (150,000 total) to redeem the business class flight for only $55.84 each.

Korean Air Business Class Cash
Cash value of the flight.

 

Korean Air Award Flight Business Class A380 Manila to JFK
Taylor’s award flight for only $55.

Korean Air Business Class A380 Reward Redemption
My award flight for only $55.

Korean Air’s Business Class is more of your traditional row-style seating compared to Cathay Pacific’s. Instead of an angled pointing seat, you’re facing the front of the plane.

Our leg from Manila, Phillipines to Seoul, South Korea was on a 747.  Using the mobile app, we were able to upgrade our seats to the first class cabin, which meant even more leg room and almost a fully lie-flat seat!  Business class on the outdated 747 isn’t full lie flat, it’s more like a recliner chair.

Korean Air 747 First Class Manilla to Seoul
Upgraded to the First Class Cabin on Korean Air’s 747 (a little outdated but we’ll take the upgrade!).
Lie Flat First Class Korean Air 747 Review
Me getting ready to nap on the flight from Manila to Seoul.

 

On our flight from Seoul, South Korea back to the US we flew on the A380, a double-decker airline and one of the biggest commercial planes in the sky.

BUSINESS CLASS KOREAN AIR A380 Second Floor Cabin
Forward facing side by side Business Class seats on the A380. This is from the second-floor cabin.
BUSINESS CLASS KOREAN AIR A380 Second Floor Cabin Meal
One of three meals given during the flight from Seoul (ICN) to New York (JFK).

Summary of Savings

We were able to save well over $32,000 on our honeymoon, traveling in business class for nearly free and having the opportunity to stay at one of the nicest resorts in Thailand for completely free.  During our three week honeymoon, we flew on 5 separate one-way flights and spent 19 nights in hotels.  In total, we only spent $2,785 and saved thousands from Travel Hacking.

If there’s anything to learn from this post it’s two things:

  1. Learn how to travel hack to save thousands on your vacations.
  2. Consider Southeast Asia for your next vacation!  Although expensive to get there (unless you travel hack) it’s really cheap!

Below is a break down of our honeymoon day by day with the total costs of our three week trip to Southeast Asia.

Saved 32,000 on our Honeymoon

Over the last four years, Travel Hacking has completely changed our lives and has allowed us to travel to places we never thought possible.    The good news is that anyone can start travel hacking which is why we created Travel Hacking Secrets Online Course.  We want to teach others exactly how to travel hack and start saving thousands on their future vacations just like we do.

If you have any interest in our Travel Hacking Secrets course, feel free to drop us a comment below or directly at Kevin@mathersonthemap.com.

 

About The Author

Kevin Mathers

A washed-up hockey player, surfer, and husband currently working towards financial freedom and showing you how we do it as a couple. I started this blog initially as a personal finance blog but after getting married, Taylor (my wife and best friend) and I decided to switch gears into the travel world sharing our experiences with you along the way.

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