Have you ever daydreamed about sipping champagne in a first-class cabin or unwinding in a lavish spa, only to be jolted back to reality when you remember how much is in your bank account?
You've come to the right place! We're here to help you turn those dreams into reality. Thanks to the magic of points and miles, you can wake up in plush hotel suites, dine like royalty at gourmet restaurants, and jet off to your dream destination in the lap of luxury, all while keeping your budget in check.
Special thanks to one of my good friends and budget travel blogger, Genni Franklin of Traveling Franklins, for contributing this post. Genni is giving us the tools to hack the system to book luxury travel experiences on a budget using points and miles. So, let's get to it!
Booking Luxury Experiences on a Budget with Points and Miles
We are huge fans of affordable luxury travel. We love to save money, but we also love to indulge in luxury vacations every so often. The good news is there are many ways to enjoy a luxury vacation at an affordable price.
You could compare prices across all the travel deal websites, travel off-season, or spend hours looking for discounted packages to more affordable destinations, but what if you want to go to the French Riviera in July.
Using travel rewards programs, hotel points, and airline miles, you can score some amazing deals on that luxury holiday, even with a tight budget, regardless of the destination and time of year.
Who doesn't love walking into a beautifully elegant and luxurious resort, knowing that's your new home for a few days. But have you seen how much some of these hotels cost?
The good news is there are ways to book those luxury hotel stays without breaking the bank.
One of our favorite ways to book luxury hotels on a budget is by signing up for loyalty programs.
When booking luxury hotel stays on a budget with points and miles, the key is knowing which loyalty programs offer the simplest and most valuable redemptions.
In my experience, World of Hyatt falls into this category. With their Small Luxury Hotels partnership, you can experience luxury hotel stays at boutique hotels for as little as 30,000 points per night.
Some examples of great luxury hotel stays that can be booked with World of Hyatt points include:
- Alila Ventana Big Sur
- Park Hyatt New York
- Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch
- Carmel Valley Ranch
World of Hyatt is an excellent program if you're looking for luxury, as they still have a semi-fixed award chart. They will charge a set range of points per category based on off-peak, standard, or peak nights.
The downside is that the Hyatt chain does not have as large a footprint as Hilton or Marriott, but if you can find a Hyatt at your destination, it's definitely worth considering. If you're flexible, I would suggest checking out the map and going where you find a luxury Hyatt.
If you don't have a stash of Hyatt points or don't stay at Hyatts often, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt. Chase Travel Rewards credit cards that transfer to Hyatt would be the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Ink Business Preferred.
BONUS: You can score some amazing deals when booking newly opened hotels. Most hotel chains tend to offer some of the best deals to loyalty members for new hotels to get more people to visit.
Luxury All-Inclusive Resorts
The next best thing to a luxury resort is an all-inclusive luxury resort. All-inclusive resorts generally include food and nonalcoholic beverages, with some offering more included. Again, I recommend World of Hyatt for the great redemption value if you use points and miles.
My husband and I booked 3 nights at the luxurious Rawah Ranch for 35,000 points per night when the cash price was $1,700 per night. The rate per night was all-inclusive of lodging, food, drinks (including adult beverages), and activities. That's a fantastic redemption value!
Other great options for luxury all-inclusive resorts include Alila, Miraval, and Hyatt, which can all be booked with World of Hyatt points. Marriott and Hilton also have some fantastic luxury all-inclusive resorts.
Not only are all-inclusive packages great for saving on food and drinks, but they also allow you to easily budget for your entire trip. This is especially helpful if you're traveling with a family or group.
Business and First Class Flights on an Economy Budget
If you've seen creators on Instagram posting about their luxurious experience on business and first-class flights and thought, “I wish I could do that,” I'm here to say – you can!
Points and miles can easily get you on a business or first-class flight that will cost you hundreds (or less) instead of thousands. If you're not a frequent traveler and loyal to a specific airline, it can take a while to accumulate enough points to cover a flight.
Grab my free travel hacking cheat sheet if you're new to points, miles, and travel hacking. It will give you the jumpstart to begin your travel hacking journey!
The quickest way would be to snag a welcome bonus for a travel rewards credit card. However, if you're thinking of an airline-branded card (like Delta SkyMiles), think again.
Your best bet is to go for a credit card that will earn you flexible points, which can be transferred to airlines notorious for getting you in a luxury cabin at a decent redemption rate, like Air France, British Airways, or Iberia.
Airport Lounge Access
If you've never experienced an airport lounge, you're definitely missing out. Most airport lounges provide complimentary food, drinks, adult beverages, and a comfy place to sit and relax while you wait for your flight.
In many cases, you'll even find showers and a quiet place to nap. Airport lounges can be luxurious, and when you have a long delay, they can be a lifesaver.
To access an airport lounge, you usually need to travel in business, first class, or have elite status with an airline.
But with travel hacking, you can access lounges just by holding the right credit card. Some travel rewards credit cards include complimentary Priority Pass membership, which will get you into partner lounges in many airports worldwide.
Fine Dining and Culinary Experiences
Travel reward programs are not just for booking a hotel room or getting a free flight.
You can even redeem points and miles for fine dining and culinary experiences. Let's say you have a special birthday or anniversary, and you want to treat yourself to a fancy dinner, but the thought of paying for it gives you a headache.
With programs like Chase Dining you can redeem your points to pay for experiences like a Chef's Tasting or Omakase at a fantastic restaurant.
If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can access Chase Dining via Ultimate Rewards when you log in at Chase.
Spa Retreats and Wellness Getaways
Did you ever think that you could afford a lavish wellness spa retreat? Well, you totally can with points and miles. Many great brands offer amazing wellness getaways that can cost you very little out of pocket. Again, World Hyatt is my pick with brands like Miraval and Alila.
Exclusive Tours and Activities
Points and miles can be used for so much more than booking flights or staying at hotels (although that's awesome).
Regardless of the redemption value, booking experiences that you otherwise could not afford is a win in my book! You can book exclusive tours and activities like a private sailing boat experience or an exclusive tasting.
Luxury Car Rentals
If you don't want to take public transportation or settle for an economy rental, then points and miles have got you covered! Travel portals with banks like Chase, Capital One, or American Express allow you to pay for car rentals with points.
It's also an excellent option for airport transfers. When my husband and I flew to London, we used points to book a luxury airport transfer from Heathrow to our hotel because why not!
If you don't have credit card points, airlines like American or United have portals where you can use points and miles for car rentals.
Of course, most car rental companies also have their own loyalty programs, but if you don't do a lot of car rentals, it can take a while to accumulate enough points.
That said, I always recommend joining all the loyalty programs, even if you don't think you'll use their services often. Many times, you can get perks just for being a member!
Private Vacation Rentals
When you think of vacation rentals, Airbnb and VRBO probably come to mind. But there are many other sites you can use to book vacation rentals, and many with points and miles!
- Vacasa – Book with Wyndham Rewards points or transfer Capital One miles to Wyndham.
- Home & Villas by Marriott – Book with Marriott Bonvoy points or transfer from AMEX Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Bluegreen Vacations – Book with Choice Privileges Rewards points or transfer from AMEX Membership Rewards.
Cruises are probably one of the most overlooked ways to use your points and miles. Some experts may say it's not the best use of points, but honestly, anytime you can save money on travel or do something that you otherwise couldn't afford is an excellent use of points and miles.
- Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection – Book with Marriott Bonvoy points or transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Capital One Miles – You can pay for any cruise that will code as travel and apply the miles as a statement credit. If you want to use Capital One Miles, you'll need a Capital One Venture Rewards credit card or a Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – You can book travel with points or cash for cruises through the Chase Travel portal with many different cruise lines like Celebrity or Norwegian.
Power of Points and Miles to Save Money
We talked a lot about points and miles, how to use them to score a fantastic deal and all these luxurious experiences. But how does it all work?
Let's go over some of the basics.
What are points and miles?
Points and miles are the currency of the travel world, earned through loyalty programs (think Delta SkyMiles or Hilton Honors) offered by airlines, hotels, and credit card companies.
Think of them as your ticket to free flights, luxury hotel suites, and exclusive perks that enhance your trip experiences without spending your hard-earned cash.
What is Travel Hacking?
Travel hacking is not about breaking codes or hacking computer systems. It's the technique or strategy savvy travelers use to maximize their points and miles. It's all about creatively turning everyday spending into extraordinary adventures.
How do you earn points and miles?
When people think of travel hacking, they likely associate it with applying for travel rewards credit cards, but there are other ways to earn, many of which don't require credit cards at all.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of using points and miles for travel include saving money on airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel expenses.
You can often access discounted fares, upgrades, free flight tickets, exclusive discounts at hotels or resorts, lounge access at airports, priority boarding on flights, and more.
Additionally, you can use your points and miles for experiences like spa treatments or special events that would otherwise be too expensive. Points and miles also give travelers flexible options to tailor their trips to their desires without worrying about budget constrictions.
Affordable Luxury Travel: FAQs
Can I use points and miles for luxury hotel stays?
Absolutely! Many hotel loyalty programs offer options for redeeming points for luxurious accommodations. You can book high-end suites, villas, or rooms with stunning views, turning your points into unforgettable hotel experiences.
Are luxury experiences using points and miles limited to specific destinations?
Not at all! Points and miles can be used for travel to a wide range of destinations, including popular luxury hotspots and off-the-beaten-path locations.
What strategies can I use to maximize the value of my points and miles?
To maximize the value of points, you'll want to learn about each loyalty program's accumulation and redemption options, sweet spots, and partnerships.
It also helps to be flexible with your travel dates to take advantage of promotions and availability.
You should also consider earning flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards or AMEX Membership Rewards that can be transferred to loyalty program partners, as this can yield very favorable redemption value.
Can I combine points and miles with other discounts or promotions?
In many cases, yes. Some hotel chains and airlines allow you to combine points and miles with other discounts, promotions, or perks, giving you even more value for your money.
For example, Flying Blue, the loyalty program of Air France and KLM, frequently offers discounted award travel, which can be combined with a credit card transfer bonus when available.
It depends on the type of booking redemption. You'll usually have to pay the taxes on award flights, but in some cases, you can redeem points for hotels, which will waive resort fees that would otherwise be there if you paid cash.
In most cases, even if you have to pay those fees, it will still be significantly cheaper to book with points rather than paying the cash price for a luxury experience.
Can I use points and miles for other luxury travel components besides hotel stays?
Yes! In addition to hotel stays, you can use points and miles for flights, cruises, car rentals, and even unique travel experiences, such as guided tours or spa treatments.
How can I stay informed about the latest deals and promotions for luxury travel using points and miles?
Stay connected to travel forums, blogs, and social media communities focused on points and miles.
These platforms often share insider tips, deal alerts, and success stories that can help you make the most of your rewards. My Facebook group and free travel hacking cheat sheet are great places to start!
Final Thoughts: Booking Luxury Travel Experiences on a Budget
Regardless of our budget, we all deserve to travel the world. The best part about using points and miles for luxury travel is that you can do it on an economy budget and still have the experience of a lifetime. You should never have to settle for anything less than what you want and how you want it.
Just because you travel on a budget doesn't mean you can't enjoy luxury travel. With careful planning, you can easily go on that luxury trip while saving money.
If you're ready to learn more about booking luxury travel or any travel using points and miles, join my free Facebook group.
Although this post is about booking luxury experiences with points and miles, I believe everyone deserves to learn how to travel hack regardless of your travel style and budget. So whether you're looking to book business class or economy, let's make it happen!