As I outlined last week, summer is upon us, which means you’ve got a location or two in mind for some long-awaited travel. And while I already outlined some pretty amazing summer travel destinations within the United States, this week’s entry focuses on those locations even further from home: international.
I will reiterate what I mentioned last week, in that while I mention specific places a traveler may be leaving from (e.g. New York), the mileage amounts will usually be the same if you are departing a different city in mainland U.S. The only difference would be the amount of time you spend on the flight – a big difference for some, but not relevant for our purposes. Here’s the international list.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
I have already written about this in some detail, but this type of trip is worth repeating. Machu Picchu was recently rated by TripAdvisor as the #1 destination in the world, which is all-the-more fascinating considering just how easy it is to get there using frequent flyer miles.
In my previous post, I recommended using 70,000 United Airlines miles to book one roundtrip flight in business class from New York to Cusco (with a stopover of a few nights in Lima), Cusco being the destination for Machu Picchu bound travelers. You could realistically get a saver economy for less – as low as 35,000 miles – but since summer is peak season for visiting the Inca ruins, you are likely to pay the full 70,000. The Chase United Explorer card, combined with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink will get you there.
For hotels, Tambo del Inka will more than do. The SPG luxury hotelgets some of the top reviews I've ever seen on TripAdvisor, registering over 95% of five-star reviews. Plus there is a private train station at the hotel, meaning you can make it to Machu Picchu quicker than virtually anybody else (non-hikers, that is). 12,000 SPG points are required per night, which the American Express SPG card will safely get you two nights. Grab the American Express SPG Business to net even more nights. Get it? Got it? Done.
2. Athens, Greece
Ah, Greece – the islands of this country are known to be among the most magical in the world. And while Athens is not always the most desired part of the country, getting around among the islands is quick and painless.
This itinerary will be done using little-used Delta Airlines miles: 130,000 to be exact (although I should note that if you book well in advance – next summer, perhaps? – flights can be had for under 100,000 miles). Delta Airlines miles are among the trickiest to accumulate quickly, so make sure you save enough time to apply for the American Express Delta Gold, American Express Delta Gold Business and American Express Gold will get you there if booked in advance.
Add the Chase Hyatt card to book two nights at the Hyatt Thessaloniki – and add any other Chase cards that offer Ultimate Rewards points to extend your stay – and luxury in the Mediterranean awaits you.
3. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is one of the most scenic cities in the world and, while it can get quite cold in the winter, summer temperatures rival nearly everywhere down the western coast of North America (yes, even you California).
I recommend using American Airlines miles to get you to your destination (as we’re already quite United Airlines heavy) for the same 25,000 miles, this time from the scorching hot desert of Phoenix, Arizona. 25,000 American Airlines miles is quite easy to achieve these days, as you can net two round-trip flights with the Citibank World MasterCard or four (!) round-trip flights with the Citibank Executive card. Not bad for flights that can retail at over $500 at times in the summer time. The Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver will be more than adequate for your luxury weekend, and the Chase Fairmont card will net you two nights of your stay. Good deal, eh?
4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia is one of my favorite places on earth and is still considered a hidden gem for frequent Europe-bound travelers. While not likely to attract the crowds of Greece or southern Italy, the islands of Croatia will blow you away and at quite a cheaper price than similar areas in Europe – when I was there, we found an apartment in Hvar for under $40 a night…the night we got there (this was pre-Mr. Free Miles, for those wondering).
Also, Dubrovnik is one of the most unique places on earth and is a regular set for Game of Thrones, but if you make it this far then I’d urge you to make your way to all of the islands: Vis, Hvar, Korcula (my personal favorite and where Marco Polo was allegedly born, for the serious travelers out there) and mainland (Split/Dubrovnik) are all worth seeing.
To get there, 60,000 United Airlines miles will book you a roundtrip economy ticket (or 130,000 miles for business/first class) saver award. The Chase United Explorer card, combined with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink will net you more than enough points for a flight or two.
And, once there, the choice will be yours to pay for relatively cheap accommodations or use points. If it is the latter, my hotel recommendation will vary by location (obviously). Le Méridien Lav in Split offers an incredible property, for example, for 10,000 SPG points per night – one card, the American Express SPG card, could net you three nights alone.
5. Beijing, China
Now lets move further east. The Great Wall of China is another destination that makes it to the tops of most travel lists and works as a great late summer travel destination. San Francisco residents should think seriously about this itinerary, especially those drawn to the thousands-of-years-old history that China offers.
In terms of logistics, I have already outlined one way to earn 450,000 frequent flyer miles in the next 10 months – and then book an Asia adventure, including Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Considering the stopover in that itinerary only added an additional 10,000 United Airlines miles, we will assume the same route for a total of 80,000 United Airlines miles for one roundtrip economy ticket – not a bad amount considering you get two amazing cities for the price of (nearly) one.
The Chase United Explorer card, combined with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink will again work. Keeping with the Chase theme, sign up for the Chase Marriott card and transfer any leftover Ultimate Rewards points to book five nights (remember, with Marriott you receive the fifth night free if booking four nights on points) at the Beijing Marriott for only 80,000 Marriott Rewards points.
And just like that, we are done with our two-part series of the best summer travel destinations using frequent flyer miles. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post (and last week’s as well), the departing cities are meant to be examples and you will very likely be able to find a flight from your individual city at the same mileage amounts.
If you are still having trouble finding these destinations, or others, always feel free to contact me by commenting below. Perhaps the only thing that gives me greater joy than traveling is helping others do the same. Onward and upward my friends – enjoy your summer, wherever it may take you.
Disclaimer: Photos credit to respective airlines mentioned as well as Trip Advisor.