When I was looking for a cover image for my book, I had gone through so many! From Machu Picchu to Rio to Fiji to Moorea to Phuket to Paris to India. But when I stumbled upon the photo of Halong Bay in Vietnam. I knew that my search was over. Now this image is haunting me, and I absolutely have to see this magical place in person.
A good thing, I can or rather could see it in person, and it wouldn’t cost me a penny. My problem is finding the time to do the trip. These frequent flier miles and hotel loyalty points I have, allow me to fly to Vietnam in absolute luxury and stay in the best hotels while there. I’m not saying it to brag (well, maybe just a little) but the funny thing is that the same can be true for ANYBODY with a good credit who lives in the US. Anyone can do this, and yet so few ever bother! It always amazes me how casually people dismiss some fantastic opportunities for free travel when all they have to do is just make a few very simple steps in order to travel for free to their dream destination.
Anyone who says you can’t have something for nothing is absolutely right. You can’t. You can, however, have something for very little. How little? I already told you. Very! Just a little effort on your part and you’re done. It’s that easy.
Take my new dream destination: Vietnam. Not too many places in the world are as diverse, historic, and exotic as this one. You know you want to go there and see that mysterious land. So what’s holding you?
This! This is what’s holding you. Three Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty Six reasons plus change!
The stepping stones between you and you nearly free 15-day dream vacation to Vietnam are only three credit cards. That’s it. Two credit cards will give you enough bonus points for a roundtrip ticket from the US to Hanoi and for a free stay for in Halong Bay. One other card will give you enough points (with very few bucks out of pocket) to stay in Hanoi and their famous ocean-side resort of Nha Trang. Your total expenses will be less than $200 plus local transportation, and that is very cheap to begin with.
By the way, did I mention that you’re not staying in a dump? All hotels I’m suggesting are 4-star properties. Want to know more? Allow me to elaborate.
Proposed flight: USA – Hanoi – USA (I’m using Los Angeles in my example, because some folks are complaining that I always “fly” out of New York).
Proposed stay: Hanoi – 3 days, Halong – 5 days, Nha Trang – 7 days.
This is what you will need to do to turn this dream into a reality.
1. Go to my Free Flights section and sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. 1.5-2 months later (to decrease the chances for denial) sign up for Chase Ink Plus card. Chase Ink is a business card, but you can still apply for a business card even if you don’t run an official business. If you sell stuff on Ebay or garage sale or have a hobby that you hope will turn into a side business one day, that’s all it takes. Put your SSN number in the EIN field and re-type your own name as a business name. That’s usually all it takes.
2. Meet their spend requirement. For the Sapphire it’s $3,000 in 3 months, and for the Ink it’s $5,000 in 3 months, but they are currently running a 6-month no interest offer, so it’s really 6 months, not 3. Please make sure you’re spending money on goods and services you buy anyway. Never spend more money than you can afford or buy stuff you don’t need only to meet the spend requirement. If you difficult to charge this kind of money buying stuff you need anyway, my book has a dedicated chapter on meeting the spend.
3. In the same section find and apply for Amex SPG credit card. Meet their $5,000 spend requirement in 6 months.
In return, you’re getting the following bonuses (at the minimum, after meeting the spend requirement).
- 98,000 Ultimate Rewards points from Chase cards (40K from the Sapphire, 50K from the Ink and at least 8K for meeting the spend).
- 30,000 SPG points (25K bonus plus at least 5K for the spend).
- Go to the United website and plan your trip (note that you need to be somewhat flexible). My screenshots show the itinerary from LAX, so substitute that for your own city. You can also use other carriers from Star alliances if you wish. Find the flights that suit you. Always look for the lowest redemption rate. This flight should run you 65,000 miles in Economy.
4. That was easy, now let’s talk hotels.
First go to the SPG website and book the following hotels:
Hanoi: SHERATON HANOI, 3 nights for 10,000 points (note, that with Cat 2 hotels, weekends are 3K each, and weekdays are 4K, so plan your stay accordingly).
Nha Trang: SHERATON NHA TRANG HOTEL & SPA. Now do the following. Book four days including weekend on points—14,000 points. Book remaining 3 days on points + cash—5,400 points and $90 cash. Better do it over the phone to avoid confusions.
Halong: go to the Ultimate Rewards website, click “book a trip”, then “hotel” then put “Ha Long” in the search field. This is your screen:
Based on my research, I recommend Halong Plaza hotel. This hotel is supposed to be very nice, it includes a great breakfast, and it’s within your budget of 33,000 UR points. Now, my recommendations for the hotels I’ve never been to, are usually based on three factors: price, quality, and Tripadvisor reviews. You’re well advised to do your own research, and you probably should.
That’s it. Enjoy your trip. All in all, at this point you have saved about $5,000 on the flights and lodging, and you’re not sleeping under the bridge:-). That would be quite a decent return on filling up three credit card applications, but there is more. United rules allow you a free stopover along the way, so in our example you can stop in Singapore or Seoul, and enjoy two vacations at a price of one. Or you can route your trip through other cities you’re interested in like Bangkok or Tokyo. You can read more about it here: Double Dip on One Award. The sky, as they say is the limit. Good luck!
If you think you could use some FREE, quality travel time in your near or even not so near future, check my books. More free flights and free luxury hotel stays are just moments away! Check them out. You’ll be glad you did!
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