Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day One (Part 1): $11 per person to Maui? Yes, please!


Previously on DaddyTravels


The last time we visited Maui was in the summer of August 2014. From a family travel perspective, we have since had our fair share of worldly travels with lots of visits to New York City, to Italy (Milan, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Lake Como), Paris, Kauai, London, Budapest, and Prague. Nancy also spent over two weeks in Manila and Bangkok. I had a very busy travel season with my old job which required me to travel multiple times to the East Coast. 

That all ceased since I started a new job early in 2016. In many ways, the slowdown in travel all worked out. Many of you know that I lost my Dad back in April. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. The cancer was discovered very late, and we lost him in mid-April. His passing happened so suddenly and it truly made many of us realize the need to live life to the fullest and share many of those best moments with your loved ones.

Saving up points

We love to travel, but we all know that traveling ain't cheap especially when I have to factor in a total of 6 travelers in my family (2 adults and 4 kids). For years, whenever we planned a vacation, we would choose the latter part of August (that's when the airfare prices typically start to go down). There were a couple of times when we also drove to the Bay Area, and flew from San Francisco since it was cheaper to fly from there to go to Hawaii.

But that all changed in 2014. I started to learn about racking up points, not just from my own travels, but from earning them via credit card sign up bonuses. We've since had amazing trips to Europe (twice) - Milan, Venice, Florence, Lake Como, Pisa, Paris, London, Budapest, Prague. We've also managed to take advantage of points to Kauai and New York City.
New York City - Central Park, June 2014
The Eiffel Tower - Paris, Spring 2015
Big Ben - London, Fall 2015


The Tower Bridge - London, Fall 2015

Budapest - the Hungarian Parliament Building. Fall 2015

Overlooking Prague, Czech Republic, Fall 2015

My points earning strategies were featured last year in the The Points Guy's Reader Success Story section of his blog.

When Nancy and I went to Europe back in the fall, our flights from LA to London, London to Budapest, and Prague back to LA only set us back by only $349 - that's the total amount for both of us that we paid on airfare. What about our hotel stays? For 2 weeks, we stayed in 4-star and 5-star hotels, for how much? All for FREE. How? All due to the points and miles we earned by strategically using the right credit card that gave us biggest bonus bang for our buck. Had we paid for our flights and hotel, easily it would've been over $7,000, yet we only paid $349. You can read the details by clicking the link above when I was featured by The Points Guy.

Three months before our Europe trip, we also took the entire family to Kauai and we partly used points. For our party of six, I got 4 FREE tickets from LA to Kauai (roundtrip), and only paid $44 total.


Airfare in the summer to Hawaii (high-season) easily goes from $600-$900 per person. We did not pay anything close to that. I vowed to myself, the next time we go to Hawaii, my goal was to have all six of us get FREE tickets. 

Princeville, Kauai - Summer 2015
2016 Summer Plan A: Europe for Six

Since coming back from Europe last fall, our plans changed, no Hawaii trip this summer. We wanted to kick our travels up a notch. The ambitious goal was to bring ALL six of us to Europe in August 2016. While Ethan and Madison have been to Europe, Evan and Caitlin have yet to cross the Atlantic. Back in December, I looked at my points balance, and analyzed how many points I needed to accomplish this goal, and realized that if I stick to my plans, by May of 2016, I'd have earned 360,000 pts (we needed 60K pts/person to travel to Europe).
Sure enough, I stuck to my plans, I chose the right credit cards, used them in places where I got the biggest bang for my buck. I was right on schedule. By May 13, 2016, I had 360,000 points deposited in my Chase Ultimate Rewards account. We earned these points mainly by using our Chase Sapphire and Chase Ink Cards. For program details and how to apply for the cards, click the link. So the planning began....well, kinda. 

Daddy, we can't go to Europe



Cheering Ethan during his Freshman Football Season 2015
In mid-May, after a week of searching and creating European itineraries, Ethan said he wanted to go to Europe badly but he'd also be missing three weeks of football practices, which meant very little to no playing time during the first few games. Fine! A few days later, Madison also said she couldn't go to Europe in August, she recently signed up to be a cheerleader for the Camarillo Roadrunners (a youth football team), and their practices will be in conflict with our planned August trip to Europe. Fine! I was actually upset for I've been planning for ALL of us to go to Europe, yet at the same time, I understand that they were passionate with their activities. So I let it go. I had to...until...

We Need a Plan B



After I realized that Europe for six of us may not happen this summer, you better believe we came up with a back-up plan and fast. Scheduling our vacations was an administrative nightmare. Nancy and I had scheduled three weeks of vacation in August, but none in June or July. My schedule was more flexible, and all I had to do was to notify our admin assistant of the changes and that was that. Nancy, on the other hand, needed to be creative. So we looked at end of June to early July. That's our target. It was a shot in the dark because that was around the 4th of July holiday (an extremely high season, award tickets are hard to come by).

Kids, where do you want to go? 

We could probably do New York again and drive to Washington DC. Ethan and Madison have been to NY three times, but they've never been to DC. Caitlin and Evan have yet to visit the East Coast. Or, for our last choice, we could go always go back to Hawaii. It was unanimous. They all wanted to go to the East Coast. 

So the search began to get award seats for New York and beyond. It was not easy. Why? Since I was not going to pay for the trip, finding an award trip, a last-minute trip is not always that easy. These were my roadblocks:
  1. Travelers in my party - 6 (2 adults, 4 kids)
  2. Timeframe - travel before and after the 4th of July holiday  (high season)
  3. Destination choices from LA - NYC, DC, Philly, Boston, Costa Rica, Cancun (as you can see, we were open to go just about anywhere)
  4. Points budget - no more than 25K/person roundtrip or a total of 150K points. Why? I made sure I have enough points remaining for other trips planned later in the summer or fall.

Every destination I chose did not work out, they were either unavailable or the points were going to cost so much more per person. I checked United Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Air, Korean Air, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest - made multiple calls inquiring about award tickets but to no avail.

The only thing that worked out, ironically since the available dates were for around the 4th of July holiday, was an award with British Airways (via American Airlines) from LAX to Maui. It was the only destination and airline award that allowed us to travel at 25,000 points per person. 

To be honest, I didn't grab the Maui trip right away. We kinda sat on it. We were really hoping to go somewhere else other than Hawaii. It was our last resort. We've been going to Hawaii yearly, and wanted to change it up. But none of our other destination choices were available. After 3 days of putting Maui aside, we made a decision that our last-minute summer vacation would be Maui. For the six of us, I used 150,000 Ultimate Rewards points and did a quick transfer from my Chase account to British Airways and got our six American Airline tickets for $67.20 total, yes $67.20 for six of us, roundtrip tickets from LA to Maui. 

If we paid for the flights in cash, it would've been $4,464!!! 

A buddy of mine joked around, "you had to 'settle' for a vacation in Maui!" That's exactly what happened. We wanted to take the kids to somewhere new for a change, but it just didn't work out. The odds were against us. A trip back East will just have to wait. Maybe in the Spring. But in retrospect, c'mon now!!! It's Maui!!! Maui!!! Maui!!! Aloha!!!

We had to make it work where all of us could go on vacation together. We grabbed the opportunity, we were flexible enough, and now, we're on the verge of returning back to Maui. It was evident that as our kids grow older, and they find themselves involved with more extra curricular activities, that planning a trip could take an act of Congress. So for now, we can say that we've at least gone to Hawaii in the summer of 2016 with all 4 kids. 

Thanks for following our journey. 







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