Over the two years preceding our trip I generated over 850,000 miles and points using credit card bonuses and manufactured spending techniques. The ability to experience luxury airfare or hotels after a few weeks of working on a low budget is a real treat that we look forward to continuing to enjoy as we head into the last half of our trip.
Here's our top 5 redemptions of the first six months of our trip.
5. Four Points Medellin
Redemption Cost: 3,000 SPG Points per night
Cash Value: $76 per night
Our night at the Four Points Medellin turned out to come at exactly the right time. As we were leaving our stay in Cartagena, Colombia, we realized that we had been sleeping in bed bug infested rooms and shortly after we arrived all the bites that had built up over the previous week manifested at once.
The beds had been in a four bed dorm room. The hostel had poor water pressure and no hot water. Which wasn’t a big deal since there wasn’t any A/C either. So itchy, dirty and sweaty, arriving to the Four Points Medellin was a huge relief. Like many hotels in developing areas, what would typically be a lower end hotel in the states is several categories nicer.
The Four Points Sheraton in Medellin had a welcome drink, pool, gym, happy hour drink voucher and an extensive breakfast spread. In the end, my bed bugs bites came on so fully that I was basically unable to sleep, but at least Jess got to condition her hair. At just 3,000 SPG points, the room was a steal. We earned over 120,000 Star Points combined this year by each getting the personal and business version of the SPG Amex.
4. Cape Town Holiday Inn City Center
Redemption Cost: 15,000 IHG Points per night
Cash Value: $87 per night
Jess earned 70K IHG points with a credit card bonus last year. I spent $35 to buy another few thousand to get us to 75K points. This was good for 5 nights at the Cape Town Holiday Inn City Center. Our stay included a view of Table Mountain, complimentary wi-fi and an extensive breakfast spread. This is an amazing redemption primarily for its location, within walking distance of the VA Waterfront, Tamberskloof and a ton of restaurants and shops. The hotel is located on the Green Street mall, a pedestrian avenue with a ton of craft and souvenir shops during the day. Though a bit sketchy at night, it was always easy to catch an Uber and the location made exploring the city our first few days in Cape Town easy and fun.
3. Business Class Cape Town to Rome on Ethiopian Airlines
Redemption Cost: 55,000 United Miles and $114 per person
Cash Value: $2917 per person
We were unfortunately limited on our ability to choose dates for our flights from Cape Town to Rome. Our friends from the states were leaving the 27th and we had to be in Rome by the 30th to begin our work-away in Tuscany.
As a result I booked Ethiopian Airlines Business Class for $114 and 55K United Miles per person. (Depending on your dates you can often find award space on Swiss, South African, Turkish and Egyptair among others if you are headed to Rome.) The itinerary was broken into two legs separated by a 16 hour layover in Addis Ababa. On layovers of longer than six hours, Ethiopian provides a hotel room and meals for the day to make passengers more comfortable. The ability to get some sleep and take a shower was huge. We spent $120 to book a private day tour of Addis which was cool. It reminded me much more of my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya than anything we saw in South Africa.
Though our first leg was on an older A330 and the layover was challenging, the chance to see Addis Ababa, even for just a day, was great.
2. Hilton Windhoek
Redemption Cost: 12,000 HHonors Points and $30/per night
Cash Value: $115/per night
After two straight days driving across the Kalahari in Botswana we were in dire need of a comfortable bed and some hot water. The Windhoek Hilton delivered that and so much more. Like a lot of Windhoek, the property was clean, orderly and full of friendly people. We had a lovely view of the city, a luxurious king sized bed and a great rain-fall shower. Lonely Planet, among others, recommends the rooftop bar for sun downers. There’s also an amazing pool up there that we spent most of our three days there lying next to. A great property and a steal at 12,000 points and $30 a night.
1. Business Class La Paz to Cape Town on Avianca and South African Airlines
Redemption Cost: 45,000 United Miles and $81.50 per person
Cash Value: $4228 per person
I wrote a long digest of this journey here, but it was a great trip with four business class flights and access to four lounges over three days. Highlights included the amazing Star Alliance lounge in Sao Paolo, the great service from Avianca on the Lima to Sao Paolo leg and the custom coffee bar at the South African Airlines Premium Lounge. It was an amazing redemption at 45K United Miles and $81.50 per person. We saved 25K miles per ticket by flying from La Paz instead of Lima, but the extra leg added almost 12 hours to our journey since we arrived to Lima for a 10:30p flight at 9a.