We often get asked how we travel so much, use points, and score such great deals. As a precursor to our blog post about tips to maximize points redemptions, we will share all the details about our annual extended vacation last October/November 2017 to give you an idea of the amount of planning it takes for us to organize and coordinate these trips.
In close to 10 years of planning trips like these, we’ve each developed our own set of skills and areas of expertise, supplemented by experience in our careers. Jason is responsible for staying aware and informed of all things points, pricing and industry development, and Maxine is responsible for all things risk management related, such as weather, travel advisories/warnings, politics, and health.
Tuk tuk at night in Galle
Tuk tuk at night in Galle Sri Lanka
We have learned from and keep learning from past mistakes so nothing is perfect and in some ways, this little hobby of ours is a full-time job that involves lots of research and discussions. For example, we took advantage a great deal to visit Koh Samui in Thailand during rainy season thinking it wouldn’t be that bad, but we had two solid days of thunderstorms when we were pretty much marooned in our suite at the Conrad. That being said, we traveled to Sri Lanka during the end of monsoon season and fared pretty well. 
Me hanging out of the train
Me hanging out of the train between Colombo-Galle Sri Lanka
We usually plan our extended trips about 1 year in advance and build the itinerary over the course of 4-6 months and adapt as required. Last year, we decided two weeks before leaving to cancel the Bali segment due to fears about potential travel interruptions if Mount Agung erupted while we were there. We decided to go to Vietnam and Malaysia instead of Bali and Japan.
Royal Laurel Class appetizer
Royal Laurel Class appetizer on Eva Air
As for timing, we have learned that two nights is not enough and that three offers a good balance when you are trying to visit many places on the same itinerary. Sure, it would be nice to have more time but we have limited time off and try to maximize each minute at each destination. Since we research things in advance, it helps us to minimize lost of time when we arrive at the destination. Everyone has their own travel style and this is what works well for us.
The Trip:
We ended up flying 19,143 on 10 flight segments and after all the adjustments, here is what we ended up doing.
  • YVR-SEA: We redeemed Delta Sky Miles for 2 economy tickets to fly from Vancouver to Seattle.
  • SEA-TPE-SGN: We redeemed Aeroplan Miles on Eva Air in Royal Laurel Class from Seattle to Taipei and then onward to Hi Chi Minh City (2 weeks prior to our departure we canceled Bali because of the volcano and re-routed to Saigon and cancelled tickets to Tokyo on Japan Airlines that were obtained using Alaska Mileage Plan points).
  • SGN-PQC: We purchased 2 tickets on Vietnam Airlines in business class to fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc Island.
  • SGN-PEN: We purchased 2 tickets on Air Asia to fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Penang.
  • PEN-KUL-CMB: We purchased one ticket on Malaysian Airlines in business class and redeemed Avios British Airways points on Malaysian Airlines in business class to fly from Penang to Kuala Lumpur and onward to Colombo.
  • CMB-HKG-YVR: We purchased two tickets on Cathay Pacific in business class to fly from Colombo to Hong Kong and onward to Vancouver (sometimes airlines discount business class tickets on long haul routes originating from random airports and this was the case outbound of Colombo; the business class ticket cost less than a business class ticket from Hong Kong to Vancouver).


The hamburger served on the "Snacks" menu on Cathay Pacific between HKG and YVR
The hamburger served on the “Snacks” menu on Cathay Pacific between HKG and YVR
  • Ho Chi Minh City: We used cash + points to stay at the Park Hyatt Saigon and applied a Hyatt Globalist suite upgrade to stay in a Lam Son Suite.
  • Phu Quoc: We redeemed Marriott points to stay at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc to maximize our Marriott Gold Benefits and due to the exceptional value of redeeming points (it costs less points per night here than the Marriott Courtyard in Maui).
  • Penang: We paid to stay at The Edison Hotel.
  • Colombo: We used a Hotel.com credit for one night and paid cash for the other night to stay at the Galle Face Hotel.
  • Galle: We paid to stay at The Fort Bazaar where we paid for 3 nights and got the 4th free through a promotion.
Bedroom in the Lam Son Suite at the Park Hyatt Saigon
Bedroom in the Lam Son Suite at the Park Hyatt Saigon
The Edison Hotel Georgetown Penang
The Edison in George Town Penang
As you can see, a lot of planning and research goes into these trips: from earning points for future trips, to maximizing the return on investment of points redemptions and finding the best deals. As glamorous as our trips appear to be, we invest a lot of time and money into them and need to even stay on top of things during our travels.
Related Posts:


Planning/Travel Advisories/Risk Management:

Do you like planning trips? Do you use a travel agent? What was the most complicated trip you’ve ever planned?

4 thoughts

  1. Weather can always throw such a wrench in planning! We totally loved Vietnam when we went a few years ago and then a typhoon came through. Never fun being stuck inside instead of enjoying the fun destination you’re at. But you two always seem to make the best of it!
    We also were just talking about how to best use our points when traveling. Thanks as always for the great tips on where you’ve liked using yours!


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