After completing my ASEAN Explorer trip, courtesy of the AirAsia ASEAN Pass, I showed how I managed to make 11 flights for only $360 across four countries in my post on the trip’s airfare cost! A lot of people love the idea of traveling to exotic places, but never go, because they think it is too expensive – and then book their next trip to Hawaii or Disneyland, spending $250/night. I saw some amazing places and only had a net-cost of $30/night by using points and promotions on this trip – check out how I did it below!
You can find all the detail of my stays, including the hotels, rates paid or points used, as well as points earned in the table below. During my four-week trip, I used paid rates for 17 nights (average rate of $57) and points for 10 nights (average point value of $76). After taking the points earned on the cash-rates, I had a total cost of only $811 or average of $30 per night! You don’t have to be rich to travel a lot and travel well – you just have to make the most of promotions, sales and points! Let me share some lessons learned from this trip:
- Pick your reward points stays strategically
I always cringe when I read bloggers recommending US chains in South East Asia that are often overpriced and terrible value on points. So, choose your points-stay wisely to get good value from your stays. You can use the Wandering Aramean’s excellent “HotelHustle” tool to pick good values. I picked some high-end hotels throughout the trip in good-value locations to enjoy some luxury on points – a low-cost trip doesn’t have to mean budget hotels! The JW Marriott in Medan, Hyatt Kota Kinabalu, Hilton Kuching and Sheraton Senggigi were some of the best hotels in their respective destinations.
- Leverage low cost destinations to earn lots of bonus points
A lot of points promotions offer fixed amounts of points per night or per stay, like the Accor Le Club (read here) and Club Carlson (read here) promotions I used on this trip. They are perfect to use when traveling to inexpensive destinations, like many in Asia or Eastern Europe – earning 2,000 points for a $40 night is a much better return than for a $250 night! These two promotions earned me as much in points as I spent ($467 spent vs $464 earned)! So, look around what promotions are available and what chains are well represented in the places you want to go, then make the most out of them!
- Stay at independent hotels, using cashback portals and hotels.com
In some off-the-beaten-path places, you won’t find chain hotels with reward programs or they are overpriced compared to independent, local hotels. Even if the point value you calculate for cash rate at a chain hotel sounds good, it really isn’t if there is a comparable, independent hotel at half the price! Rather than wasting your points or money, go with a local hotel that is well reviewed on Tripadvisor! If you book it through a cashback portal(described here) and hotels.com (reviewed here), you will earn about 17% in rewards – more than most hotel programs! You get the added benefit of enjoying a more local feel, instead of the “globalized” experience at most hotel chains!You can apply these tips at any price level you feel comfortable with for your travel needs – from luxury to budget – and safe money in the progress! If luxury is not a must, here is a bonus tip:
- Go against the grain and book “something different”
Booking the most popular hotel, the “best hotel” or the ocean front resort often carries an oversized price tag! If you are a little flexible and willing to give up certain features, you can save a lot of money. For example, on Ko Samui I booked the Mercure Chaweng and on Bali the all seasons Legian: I opted to forego the ocean front properties and booked similar hotels on the row behind the beach. While that doesn’t allow for the envy-inducing facebook photos from the room, it only took a short walk from my hotel past the oceanfront properties to get the same view – at less than half the price! Or think about it this way: would you rather stay one week at an oceanfront property – or two weeks at the hotel behind it? Different people will have different answers to this question, so think about it.
If you want to dig into the details, you can find them in the table below! Do you have questions – just post a comment and I will respond!
Overall, this trip and the fact that I was blogging about it, helped me crystalize some of the lessons learned that I previously used occasionally. I’ll make sure to use them more frequently going forward myself and hope they save you some money – or help you extend your next trip!