1. Carnaval – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Carnaval is an annual festival held in Brazil usually in the month of February that is known for being one of the most famous holidays and parties of the year. Millions of people attend the event annually, including up to half a million foreigners. Dying to become a part of the celebrations next time around? I don’t blame you. If you start collecting United miles with your Chase Sapphire or Ink cards, or by signing up for the United MileagePlus Explorer card, then you are well on your way to Brazil for 60,000 points round trip from the U.S.
Another great option is flying to Rio with American Airlines. Often, they have off-peak saver award tickets around this time for just 40,000 points round trip. Otherwise, it is normally also 60,000 points to fly while Britsh Airways charges 50,000 points plus $52. American Airlines points can be earned with the Citi AAdvantage cards or the Starwood Preferred Guest Card, while British Airways points can be earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold & Plus, and Chase British Airways card.
If you are planning to fly to Rio from Miami, then you should be using the ANA search tool to fly with their Sky Alliance partner TAM, the official Brazil airline carrier which charges only 43,000 points for a round trip ticket in economy, 68,000 in business, and 100,000 in first class! To earn valuable ANA points, join Amex’s Membership Rewards program (Starwood, Gold, Platinum) ASAP.
2. Machu Picchu
I don’t know about you guys, but Machu Picchu has always been at the top of my bucket list. There’s something about trekking all the way up to the peak of the mountain range along the Andes mountain range to reach this ethereal Incan city that dates back to hundreds of years ago. The beautiful picturesque sunrise amongst the clouds that blanket this ancient city make it an enchanting place to visit and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How does one get to Peru with points? In a similar fashion outlined above to reach Brazil. United flies to Lima for 40,000 points round trip from the U.S. Points you can transfer to United using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points accrued with your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink cards.
American Airlines currently flies to Lima with off-peak saver awards for only 30,000 points! Normally they fly for 35,000 points so this is a great time to jump on a plane and visit Peru and the amazing Machu Picchu if you have the time. AA points can be accrued with your Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Card or your Citi AAdvantage cards. There is currently a limited time hot offer for a Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard offering 100,000 point sign up offer!
If you are flying from Miami, use British Airways points to get there round trip for only 25,000 points and $96! Flights from New York go for 40,000 points while flight from Los Angeles go for 50,000 points. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to British Airways, or you can sign up for the Chase British Airways card.
I recently made a trip out Thailand with my family and I have to say, it is the top Asian travel destination in my opinion. When you assess all the factors in what makes a country the most appealing to visit, I would include: cost, beauty and awesome sites to see, food, people, culture, and family friendly or party friendly depending on who you go with. Thailand is cheap, the beaches are gorgeous, the food is fantastic, the people are friendly, the sites are amazing (try riding elephants and hanging out with tigers), and there are so many great places for families and for singles that want to have a great time.
Bangkok is a great place to start and check out all the great sites this big city has to offer. Soon enough you’ll be craving the beautiful beaches and white sands of both Koh Phi Phi (off the coast of Phuket) and Koh Samui. Both places offer great options for families and single/group travelers looking to have a great time. After that, Chiang Mai, considered one of the cheapest cities to live in the world, has amazing sites including the chance to ride an elephant (which I did and I highly recommend it), as well as petting the tigers, and checking out the Golden Triangle.
So, that being said, what are my best options to get to Thailand using points? I’m glad you asked. United flies to Bangkok with great award availability for 80,000 points round trip in economy. There is also really good availability in both business and first class which would run you 140,000 and 160,000 points round trip respectively, thanks to United’s recent devaluation.
ANA offers a much better deal, flying from Los Angeles or New York to Bangkok for only 43,000 points for an economy ticket round trip! Or if you have the points and are feeling luxurious, fly there in business for 68,000 points or in first class for 100,000 points. Just another reason why it’s great to have the Amex Starwood Preferred Card, Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card, and/or the Amex Platinum Card and the option to transfer points to ANA and other great airline reward programs. Also, if you’re looking to travel within Asia, ANA offers some good options for flight redemption, otherwise I would just recommend budget carrier Air Asia and pay for a couple of cheap flights. Your points are probably better served saving them for longer international tickets.
Italy is a magical country that I just cannot get enough of. From Venice to Rome, Sicily to Florence, Capri, Sorrento, Positano, the list goes on of amazing places to see. The best way to see a country, in my opinion, is to rent a car and drive through the countryside to see how the locals live. Maybe stay in a B&B off the beaten path or stay flexible and spend a night wherever you find yourself wandering off to.
Fly United to Rome, Venice, or Milan for 60,000 points round trip. American Airlines offers off-peak saver fares at the moment for 40,000 points, normally 60,000 points. 38,000 points on ANA from the U.S. to Rome, all readily available options with your Chase Ultimate Reward points, Chase United card, Citi AAdvantage, and Membership Rewards program.
There are plenty of beautiful hotels to stay at throughout the country, including Priority Club, Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton. Each of those hotel chains have their own credit cards, but the Chase Ultimate Reward points transfer to almost all of those chains. Amex Starwood Preferred Guest card also has great value for hotel redemptions in Italy. So go to Italy when you have a chance, no one ever needs an excuse to go there!
5. The Maldives
The Maldives is that coveted landscape we only see in pictures and screen savers. You sit at work and stare at that screensaver with the perfectly turquoise clear water with islands and palm trees, wishing you were there on a hammock drinking a cocktail instead of at your desk and in reality.
The Maldives is coveted even for those with tons of reward points and miles among travel bloggers and frequent flyers alike. Now, to get to that beautiful picturesque island you see in the pictures, it is quite difficult reach. Not only is the Maldives far away, you have to take a small plane from Male to whichever island your hotel occupies. However, if you are up to the challenge and badly want to experience this fantastical paradise then here is how you’ll want to do it.
United will take you to Male for 85,000 points in economy round trip, 140,000 in business, and 180,000 in first class if you don’t want to travel so far in coach. American Airlines charges 90,000 to fly to Male economy round trip, 135,000 in business class, and 180,000 in first.
Once you make it to the Maldives, the Park Hyatt Maldives and the W Retreat and Spa are your best options and best use of points. The Park Hyatt Maldives is a category 6, which goes for 25,000 points; a truly remarkable savings when you consider the hotel regularly goes for $1,250 a night and sometimes more. The W Retreat and Spa goes for 30-35,000 points per night and you may have to call them to reserve. That hotel goes for $1,360 a night and sometimes more depending on time of year. There is also the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa at only 20,000 points per night, with rooms going for $600+ per night.
There are many great money-saving options if you’re looking to travel to paradise but can’t afford an arm and a leg. Start collecting points on your Chase Ultimate Rewards, Hyatt, and American Express Membership Rewards to enjoy a vacation away from your desk.
6. Banff, Canada
Banff is one of the most beautiful places to visit and just be out in the nature. Pictures don’t do this place justice as it really looks so pristine and just perfect with the mountains surrounding the Banff Springs and the lakes that run through these ranges.
The closest major airport to Banff is Calgary, which is just a little over an hour drive away. Flights to Calgary on United run to 25,000 points round trip. AA also charges 25,000 points round trip to Calgary. If you have the time, I also recommend driving to Glacier National Park. A place that is as stunning as Banff and definitely worth a visit.
7. Northern lights
There are multiple places where you can go to see the Northern Lights in Scandinavia around the wintertime. The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, is another item at the top of my bucket list and I can’t wait to have an excuse to go out to Sweden, Finland, Iceland, or Norway to see it.
With a bunch of great options and places to fly to, Sweden, Finland, and Norway are all easily reachable through most networks using frequent flyer miles. Iceland I recommend booking with money because they tend to have cheaper flights, especially from the east coast.
Flights on United to Stockholm, Oslo, and Helsinki will run you 60,000 points for a round trip ticket in economy. American Airlines has some great off-peak saver reward flights to these destinations for 40,000 points round trip as opposed the normal 60,000 points. It looks like American Airlines points are a great weapon to have when looking to fly long distances during off-peak times. They also have some business saver availability for 100,000 points and 135,000 points round trip, while United costs you 140,000 and 160,000 points respectively. ANA has some great deals as always with round trip tickets in economy for just 38,000 points. Business class tickets are 63,000 points and first class just 90,000. Get on those Chase Ultimate Rewards cards and American Express Membership Rewards cards ASAP.
8. Oktoberfest – Germany
Who doesn’t like a good beer? Oktoberfest is one of those great traditions that take place every year in Germany from the end of September and into the month of October. Not only is it worth it to fly out to Germany just to experience Oktoberfest at least once, Germany is full of some really great sites to see and castles to visit. A fan favorite is the Neuschwanstein castle, better known as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Bavaria has many great small towns with lots of great sights and a lot of good beer.
Oktoberfest takes place in Munich, which has a ton of availability on United’s search engine with their partner Lufthansa. You can fly from anywhere in the U.S. to Munich for 60,000 points in round trip economy, AA for 60,000, and ANA for 38,000.
9. Lantern Festival Taiwan
My brother was lucky enough to attend the lantern festival in Taiwan last year while he was studying abroad in Hong Kong and said it was one of the coolest things he had ever seen. So I’m passing it along to my readers. The lantern festival only happens once a year falling on the Chinese New Year, whenever that may be. The festival is complete with many activities including firework displays, ceremonies, and other events all culminating in the releasing of thousands of lit lanterns into the sky for an exquisite site to see.
Flights to Taipei are your best bet and United offers flights round trip in economy for 70,000 points. United’s recent devaluation makes flying to Taipei on their partner airlines in business or first class a whopping 160,000 and 240,000 point round trip respectively. American Airlines flights in economy are also 70,000 points round trip, but 110,000 in business, and 135,000 in first. ANA is still the best option if you have the points, which aren’t always easy to get but 38,000 round trip from the west coast and 43,000 round trip in economy from the east coast.
10. Český Krumlov
This gem of a town was first discovered by my parents followed by my brother and I last year, on our trip to Czech Republic. We arrived in Prague and rented a car driving through the beautiful countryside for 2-3 hours (depending how fast you drive, everyone seemed to speed there) before arriving in this fairy tale-like town of Český Krumlov. We visited the town in May and it was virtually empty. The town was so beautiful with a river running through it and a castle in the middle of the town. We met people that came there with the mindset of visiting for a few days and ended up not wanting to leave for months. Definitely a place I recommend visiting if you are in the area, but Czech Republic is such a nice country to visit that should be an excuse in itself. The town also lies close to the borders of Germany and Austria if you’re interested in visiting those countries as well.
Flights to Prague are 60,000 points in economy round trip from the U.S. American Airlines flies there for 40,000 miles in off-peak economy. ANA flights will run you 38,000 points. Considering AA points are easier to come by than ANA, this seems like a great deal if you can secure those off-peak saver award tickets.
If you have a place that you feel should be on this list, comment below and I’ll help you get there with the least amount of points!