Welcome to the Budget Series!
I want to give more practical advice and let you in on the financial details of our travels. Although travel is way more accessible now than ever before, most of us still need to set aside a piggy bank/save up for a vacation. By taking advantage of credit card reward and bonus points, N and I have been able to be more liberal with our cash spending when we travel. With a mix of spending cash and points, we’ve been able to travel more frequently, and I’d like to share the knowledge in case any of you are into this stuff! The goal for this series is to discuss budgeting/finance tips, breakdown costs of each trip, and show you how to best use your points and cash to optimize your trip financially.
We’re not luxury travelers by any means, nor are we budget-tight travelers. I’d like to think that we’re casual travelers who prioritize comfort and like to travel hack/make deals work for us to be able to enjoy the nicer things. We also aren’t afraid to spend a bit extra if we think the value generously exceeds the incremental cost. If you’re in the same boat, this is definitely for you!
Outside of the normal expenses like rent, car payments, and insurance, our biggest area of expense is travels. Even then, we don’t splurge that often on our trips. Like I said, we take advantage of deals and travel hack our way around the world with credit card reward points.
All costs below are calculated for two people, unless I indicated “per person”.
We flew from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) direct in Cathay Pacific business class. The flights cost 50K Alaska points and actual cash of $61.40 of taxes and fees per person.
How we each accumulated 50K Alaska points:
- Signed up for personal Alaska Airline card for 30K bonus points. The Alaska business card also offers a 30K sign up bonus.
- As a bonus for the Alaska-Virgin merger, anyone that had an existing Alaska Mileage account/Virgin America Elevate account or opened these accounts shortly after the merger received a free 10K points. Thanks Alaska/Virgin!
- We each had about 10K points from past flights with Alaska.
- If you have SPG points, you can also transfer these to Alaska at a 1:1 ratio.
30K + 10K + 10K gave us 50K each to book business flights with Cathay to Hong Kong.
For all other expenses, we spent about $855 total. I didn’t track categories of expense, but if I had to break it down, it’d be as follows:
- $110 for transportation, including $84.78 (roundtrip for two) for the TurboJet that took us from mainland Hong Kong to Macau
- $200 loss at the casino in Macau (boo)
- $250 on food
- $50 miscellaneous
- $145 for flights (one way for two people) on Bangkok Air from Hong Kong to Koh Samui, Thailand for the next leg of our trip
Once again, using the Citi Prestige 4th night free benefit, we booked a 4-night stay at Poppies Resort in Koh Samui. Total cost for this comfortable and clean resort was $583.44. The resort has beachfront access, so that’s a plus!
From Koh Samui, we flew back to Bangkok and stayed there for a night before flying back to Los Angeles. We booked one night at the Aloft Bangkok by buying SPG points for a total of $68.25. If you want an idea of what the Aloft hotel chain is like, read my review of when we stayed at the Aloft Abu Dhabi.
PRO TIP: Remember to check the price of buying points for the night’s stay compared to the cash price. Instead of paying $90/night for the listed cash price on Aloft’s website, we bought SPG points for $68 and saved about 20 bucks! Not a big deal, but it always feels so good to beat the system. 😉
Expenses in Thailand totaled about $300, broken down as follows:
- $20 for transportation to and from the airport and one short taxi ride
- $150 for food – We usually snacked at our resort, had drinks for lunch happy hour (seriously the life), and explored the town’s restaurants for lunch and dinner.
The flight back to Bangkok from Koh Samui was another $145 for two people.
Finally, we flew business from Bangkok (BKK) back to Los Angeles (LAX) with a stopover in Narita on Japan Airlines (my favorite airline) using 70K American Airline miles per person. Cash paid for taxes and fees were about $150 total.
How we accumulated 70K American Airline miles:
- We each signed up for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum business card with a 50K bonus miles offering (limited time at 60K bonus now!).
- We each also got the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red card that offered 40K bonus miles (limited time at 50K bonus now!).
Alrighty, that’s the sum of our trip. Hope you got some useful info out of this post, and let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to know more about!