Svetlana has always loved to travel. She’s a very intense and active traveler. In 2009, I had to go for a month to Germany for work and she decided to take a two week vacation and come with me. We arrived on a Monday. She spent Tuesday in Bonn, Wednesday in Cologne, Thursday night we flew to Copenhagen. Our weekend in Denmark took us on side trips to Helsingor (to see Hamlet’s castle) and Malmo, Sweden and I left that Sunday. Over the next four days, she visited Bruges, Luxembourg, Paris and met me in Brussels the following Friday. That’s 6 countries in 12 days and she made it seem like a stroll through the gardens!
Svetlana’s adventures in northern Europe
Nevertheless, Svetlana never really believed in the magic of travel with miles. She collected miles throughout her numerous travels and occasionally managed to use a few, but not in very optimal ways. A few times, she even paid fees for miles transfers or close-in bookings. She had the Chase Freedom® Card for years, but would redeem the Ultimate Rewards points for cash back at one cent each and didn’t even sign up for the quarterly 5 point categories! She wanted to go everywhere, but was usually paying for plane tickets. Granted, she is internet savvy and knows how to search for good deals and get hotels through Priceline, but she was missing out on so much!
In February of 2012, she used 40k American Airlines miles to take a trip to London taking advantage of their off-peak award pricing. Tickets were $800 from LA. Still, she felt miles can never be used when you need them and that she was lucky to be able to use 40k miles to fly to London and that was her first “good” redemption ever.
In May of 2012, on a drive back from Palm Springs, we had a brief mention about the Chase Freedom card. When I told her about the 5 point bonuses, she said she vaguely remembered getting the emails, but just ignored them figuring the whole thing would be complicated and there must be a catch. It just sounds too good to be true… I mean, who would give you 5 points per dollar? I convinced her to start registering for the quarterly bonuses (I’d even send her reminder emails!), shopping through the Ultimate Rewards Mall and stop redeeming her Chase points for cash back! She was slightly annoyed I was directing her how to manage her miles, but agreed.
Later that year, she wanted to take a trip to Chile over Labor Day and tickets were $1400!!! So she called me. It turned out to be within the off-peak period to Chile on American Airlines so Svetlana was able to use 20k American Airlines miles there and 30k United Airlines miles back and buy the ticket with miles. She spent five days in Chile touring Santiago, Valparaiso, dancing, beautiful scenery, amazing culture, great wine…
Svetlana’s Trip to Chile
…after that trip, Svetlana saw the power of miles. She had already saved over $2000 in travel that year just between her trips to Chile and London and was hooked! Because she had been signing up for Chase Freedom bonus categories and shopping through the Ultimate Rewards portal, she already had earned a lot of miles. Another credit card sign-up or two and the world is her oyster. And so Svetlana slowly transformed into Samba For Miles…
We planned trips to the Cayman Islands, Rio de Janeiro and Cancun… all with miles.
We stayed at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach in the Cayman Islands for $140 a night through Hotwire, where we celebrated Svetlana’s birthday.
While we were at the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort the week before New Year’s, we met three girls from Columbia who told us they were paying $1000 a night for the hotel! Our nightly rate was 12k Starwood points… and with my Gold status with Starwood, we got an upgrade to a corner room with a view of the entire bay!
Svetlana had her first true Business class experience on our way back from Rio de Janeiro. We flew in flat-bed seats on United BusinessFirst and were well looked-after, well entertained, well fed, slept comfortably and arrived to the United Club in Houston refreshed and content after a 10 hour flight!
[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”30%”]“There is no point to Samba if it doesn’t make you smile” – Alma Guillermoprieto [/pullquote]
She loves telling people how the Ultimate Rewards portal has brought us tens of thousands of miles. One night, we spent an hour telling two American journalists in Rio de Janeiro about our miles strategies and how we never buy anything in store and go through “the portal” instead. They were very amused. They were particularly amused when I could name each airline’s alliance instantly without hesitation!
After only a year, Svetlana is astounding everyone with all the amazing trips she’s taking and how little she pays for them. She’s spreading samba culture everywhere and captivating the world with her dance moves. Samba for Miles is still Svetlana and she still loves travel, but now she does it nearly for free and with more luxury!
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