If you’re anything like me, you’ve racked up points for years and done… nothing with them. It’s not that I never wanted to make use of my Aeroplan points, but I found that using them for flights was wasteful. Do the research – you’ll end up having to pay the airfare taxes, travel at crappy times of day and be relegated to the crappy part of the plan. Bad. Bad. Bad.
I also didn’t want to use it to buy something I really didn’t need. A thing. A piece of luggage that might break. A TV that would take who knows how long to arrive in the mail (this has happened to my friend!).
Then, I found the solution. Hotels.
I was going to travel hack my way through Southeast Asia.
What Is Travel Hacking?
If you’re not a regular traveler, the concept may be foreign to you. Travel hacking is the term for getting free or discounted travel.
As I searched the Aeroplan website’s redemption area, I found that I could get the biggest bang for my air miles by using them on hotels in Southeast Asia. Where a single night at a hotel in Japan or London might require 60,000 points, one night at the Sheraton Nha Trang in Vietnam was 12,500 points. I would have no pay no taxes, no hidden fees. Nothing. A hotel stay would be absolutely free. Um… winning!
At the time of redemption, I had 90,000 miles to use up and they were going to expire. I cashed almost all of them in for four nights at Le Meridien in Bangkok, two nights at the Sheraton in Hanoi and three nights at the Sheraton in Nha Trang.
Was It Worth It?
I struggle not to laugh as I ask myself this question. Was it worth it for us to upgrade for nine nights of our trip to four and five star accommodation? Was it worth it for us to have nine days to relax, be pampered, relax by the pool and have perfectly air conditioned rooms? Was it worth it for us to have gorgeous rooms with no bugs in sight?
Hell yes, it was worth it.
I checked out what it would have cost us to stay at each of these hotels if we were paying out of pocket. Including taxes, it would have cost $2,351 CAD. Eesh. It cost us less than that to spend 18 DAYS in Cambodia.
If I had tried to buy one flight valued at $1,400, I would have paid something like $500 in taxes. Net value of $900. And don’t forget – crappy flight times, crappy part of the plane.
If you’re traveling on a budget, you can’t discount the hidden perks that come with staying at a Sheraton or Le Meridien. Fitness facilities are free and luxurious, they have great lounge spaces, will always give you maps and directions and are often centrally located.
My favourite of the three hotels we stay in (though they were all phenomenal) was Le Meridien in Bangkok. I didn’t realize it was right next to the Patpong district, but that added a little hilarity to the visit. We soaked up the sun on the rooftop pool and even splurged on dinner in the restaurant our last night. Even then, the buffet which was to die for was only $20 CAD equivalent, so well worth the expense. Whenever we grabbed a taxi, they’d give the driver directions in Thai so that there was no language barrier. Even though we arrived in grubby backpacker clothes, they treated us as if we were VIP guests, and that went a long way in my book.
Next time you look at using your air miles, why not think about hotel stays instead of flights? There’s real value there.
Have you ever travel hacked? What was the best use of your air miles or travel points?