How I booked my entire honeymoon using frequent flyer points

By Chris C., December 31 2018
How I booked my entire honeymoon using frequent flyer points

When Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin got married in 2017, he booked his entire two-week European honeymoon, including business class flights and five star hotel accommodation, using airline and hotel points. Here's how he did it, so you can do it too...

A luxury overseas honeymoon can cost almost as much as a wedding itself – but if you’ve accumulated a stash of frequent flyer points and hotel loyalty points, even across a host of different programs, you may be able to take a romantic getaway for a much more affordable price.

For instance, my wife and I enjoyed a two-week honeymoon in London, Venice and Paris, travelling business class on every flight and staying only in 4- and 5-star hotels: an itinerary that could easily cost $25,000 or more.

By mixing together airline and hotel points from six different loyalty schemes and by flashing the odd elite-level membership card, the actual ‘cost’ of our trip was less than $3,000 per person: and yes, that’s including return business class flights to (and within) Europe, and all of our hotel stays.

Here’s how I planned and booked our extravagant, dream European honeymoon for little more than you’d pay for a single economy seat to London.

Planning our honeymoon trip: background

Taking every opportunity to earn points over the last few years – including on flights, hotel stays, credit card spend, online shopping and more – gave us a respectable starting tally of around 320,000 Qantas Points, 134,000 Virgin Australia Velocity points and 60,000 United MileagePlus miles to work with.

We’d also saved up 71,000 Hilton Honors points and 4,000 Le Club AccorHotels points to use towards hotel nights.

Combined, that still wasn’t enough points to get us to Europe and back again in business class, but by buying a few extra points via Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and taking advantage of a great Qantas epiQure wine promotion, we were able to piece together our trip, one part at a time!

Step 1: Fly business class from Brisbane to Hong Kong

A few quick sums showed that our 60,000 United miles were enough to get us both from Brisbane to Asia in business class, so we aimed for Hong Kong via Singapore with Singapore Airlines, paying A$66.10pp during the telephone booking process to cover various government taxes and fees.

That secured us business class seats on Singapore Airlines’ overnight Boeing 777 Brisbane-Singapore flight – complete with fully-flat beds as you’d find on SQ’s Airbus A380, below – along with business class tickets for our onward Singapore-Hong Kong leg.

As business class passengers, we also had access to the SilverKris business class lounges in Brisbane and Singapore prior to each flight, although flashing a Solitaire PPS Club frequent flyer card saw the Singapore experience upgraded to the SilverKris first class lounge: a quieter space with much nicer Champagne (2002 Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime).

While Singapore Airlines doesn’t allow United MileagePlus bookings in business class on its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, this restriction doesn’t apply to other jets like the refurbished Boeing 777-200ERs flying to Brisbane, albeit with the same seats – you just need to call United to book as this can't be done online.

Total cost: 60,000 United MileagePlus miles + A$132.20

Step 2: Fly business class from Hong Kong to London

At the time we booked, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from Hong Kong to London could be had for 82,000 Velocity points per person, one-way: 164,000 Velocity points for two. With 134,000 Velocity points in the kitty, we needed to find a further 30,000 Velocity points to get on board.

Fortunately for us, the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) hotel loyalty program was selling its own Starpoints at a 25% discount, and knowing that Starpoints can be converted into Velocity points on a 1:1 basis, I scooped up 20,000 points for US$525 (A$691: usually A$922 at full price).

Starwood also offers a year-round bonus of 5,000 Velocity points for every 20,000 Starpoints you convert across to Velocity, and at the same time, Virgin Australia was running its own temporary promotion providing a further 25% boost on the base amount of all hotel points transfers, or an all-out bonus of 50% after buying Starpoints at a discount.

Those 20,000 Starpoints quickly became 30,000 Velocity points, allowing us to book two seats in Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 Upper Class cabin to London, including fully-flat beds (below) and an inflight bar on board, and access to the Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge at Heathrow after touch-down for showers, complimentary day spa treatments and a cooked breakfast with barista-made coffee.

Total cost: 134,000 Velocity points + A$1,463 ($691 to buy points + $792 in taxes, fees and carrier surcharges)

Step 3: Book a London hotel for four nights

To maximise our 71,000 Hilton Honors points, a search for hotels on the Hilton website revealed that the Hilton London Kensington was offering rooms for 20,000 Honors points + £55.85 (A$92.40) per night when using points, or for £170/night (A$283) outright at retail price.

Rather than spending 60,000 points + A$277.20 for three nights and then a further A$283 to book the fourth – being A$560.20 spent in total – I instead purchased 9,000 Honors points for US$90 (A$119) direct from Hilton, and then burned all 80,000 Honors points plus A$369.60 for a four-night stay.

Even with the added cost of buying points (making the total outlay A$488.60), that was still less-expensive than actually ‘paying’ for the fourth night, and in recognition of my Hilton Honors Gold status, our basic room was upgraded to one on the Executive floors with Executive Lounge access.

There, we enjoyed complimentary daily breakfast plus evening drinks and canapés as our schedule allowed, with free bottled water and WiFi provided in the room and priority check-in and check-out for swift service.

Total cost: 71,000 Honors points + A$488.60 ($119 to buy points + $369.60 in booking co-payments)

Step 4: Book an overnight hotel at London Gatwick

With a fifth night in London but a morning flight planned for the next day, an airport hotel was the most relaxing choice for our last night, and with attractive room rates at just £95 (A$158) at the Sofitel London Gatwick, this was a time where paying for a room made more sense than using points.

Not only could I earn Le Club AccorHotels points with this booking, but being a Le Club Silver member also unlocks ‘VIP treatment’ on all Sofitel stays: in our case, that meant a room upgrade, gifts of chocolates and sparkling water from the hotel and heart-shaped swans awaiting our arrival…

… plus free alcoholic welcome drinks at the bar and 20% off at the hotel’s Asian restaurant.

Total cost: A$158

Step 5: Fly business class from London Gatwick to Venice

Being a short two-hour flight, booking this leg in business class wasn’t a high priority – but with ample points in our accounts and British Airways Club Europe business class reward seats available when we needed them, the decision to fly up front was an easy one.

In exchange for 52,000 Qantas Points and £77.44 (A$128) in total, two business class tickets were ours: providing priority check-in, access to the ‘Gatwick Premium’ priority security channel and also to BA’s new Gatwick lounge, not to mention inflight brekky with Champagne… lots of Champagne!

Certainly, this flight could have been booked for fewer points via other frequent flyer programs instead – as is true of several flights in our itinerary – but our goal was to use the points we already had to fly business class where we needed to go, and in that respect, we succeeded.

Total cost: 52,000 Qantas Points + A$128

Step 6: Book three nights at a Venice hotel

Having saved hundreds of dollars in London by redeeming our Hilton points, we decided that Venice was an appropriate place to splurge on a suite – but to reduce the cost, we turned in our 4,000 Le Club points in exchange for an €80 (A$112) discount on the final bill at the Papadopoli MGallery by Sofitel hotel.

After discounts, our newly-renovated canal suite averaged A$330/night, offering an extended private balcony, 180-degree views and full daily breakfast in the hotel restaurant, plus a new round of welcome drinks at the bar courtesy of my Le Club Silver status and a complimentary bottle of Prosecco in the room.

This hotel also has a private dock connected to the lobby, so naturally, a water taxi ride from the airport terminal to the front door was justified.

Total cost: 4,000 Le Club AccorHotels points + A$990

Step 7: Fly from Venice to Paris

Without enough SkyTeam miles to book us both in Air France business class from Venice to Paris, we settled on buying economy class tickets instead for €74.39 (A$105) per person – but because I’d taken advantage of an earlier ‘status match’ offer by fellow SkyTeam airline Alitalia, my shiny SkyTeam Elite Plus card would guarantee us most of the usual business class perks anyway.

Among them: priority check-in, security screening, airport lounge access, priority boarding and priority baggage delivery… yet during online check-in, the Air France website offered us business class upgrades for only €89 (A$125) each to complete the experience, so who were we to refuse?

Total cost: A$460 ($210 for economy flights + $250 for upgrades)

Step 8: Find a suitable (and affordable) Paris hotel

Having spent all of our hotel points and with no favourable ‘buying points’ deals to avail of, Paris found us booking a hotel using money alone, but served as another an opportunity to earn points for a future trip by paying the bill using a points-earning credit card.

Knowing that newly-opened hotels debut with very attractive room rates, we jumped at a deluxe room at the Le Clef Tour Eiffel, selling for €240/night (A$338) for a three night stay at a perfect honeymoon location within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe.

Breakfast wasn’t included here which was a good motivator to go and explore the options nearby, although a long-stemmed red rose and bottle of Charles Heidsieck Champagne awaited our arrival after a brief mention of our honeymoon during the booking process. Certainly no complaints!

Total cost: A$1,014

Final step: Fly business class home from Paris to Brisbane

At first, our plan was to spend 256,000 Qantas Points to fly home in Emirates business class via Dubai, but with a co-payment amount of over $1,000 for a mere one-way flight, we set our sights on Cathay Pacific business class via Hong Kong instead, costing a higher 278,000 Qantas Points but with only A$169pp in charges.

The problem? We were around 10,000 Qantas Points short of that goal.

The solution? Qantas’ wine club epiQure was selling mixed cases of 12 wines for $340 including delivery, with 10,000 bonus Qantas Points on the side.

Naturally, I bought a case which gave us the extra points needed for those Cathay Pacific flights, and the overall cost was still hundreds of dollars less than that Emirates booking: even with an entire case of wine thrown into the mix!

As an added extra, I contacted Cathay Pacific’s public reservations number and ordered a surprise ‘honeymoon cake’ for HK$300 (A$51), which was delivered during our final flight home from Hong Kong to Brisbane, along with a card signed by the pilots and cabin crew.

Total cost: 268,000 Qantas Points + A$678 (A$338 in taxes and charges + $340 in epiQure wine for 10,000 points)

Booking our honeymoon using points: the final cost

Across all our combined flight and hotel bookings, we spent a grand total of $5,511.80, or $2,755.90 each – including purchasing extra points and wine, as needed – along with all of our original 514,000 frequent flyer points and 75,000 hotel points for a two-week European honeymoon with all flights in business class and hotels no less than four-star standard.

Many couples would pay that much just to fly to Europe during the busy season: and that’s for economy, without any hotels included!

But by combining our Qantas, Virgin Australia, United, Hilton and Accor points, taking advantage of a few sharp ‘buying points’ (and ‘buying wine’) deals, booking well in advance and flashing the occasional elite loyalty card, I was able to craft us a unique and memorable honeymoon with maximum luxury at minimal cost.

For now, I’m safe with the missus – but feel that our next holiday, whenever that may be, will need to top this one somehow… wish me luck!

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Apr 2017

Total posts 1

Hi Chris, congratulations on your marriage!  I really enjoy your column, and was rivetted reading your tips to maximise luxury and minimise travel expenditure.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555

We publish a lot of articles on AusBT – and April has been a very busy month for us, with plenty of news – but this is perhaps my favourite story of the month! :)

14 Jul 2016

Total posts 7

Great article. Love reading the strategies that everyone uses to maximise their points when redeeming!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Mar 2013

Total posts 19

Congrats Chris! I'm just wondering on what credit cards you use in your wallet to maximise your points earn as I'm currently stuck deciding between QF or VA. 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Hi Flex, as a rule I don't name or endorse any specific credit cards from a personal perspective as everybody has different needs, spend patterns, repayment habits, incomes and budgets, so the right cards for me won't necessarily be the right cards for you.

That said, I have an American Express card that awards 1.5 airline frequent flyer points per dollar spent (uncapped) practically everywhere that AMEX is accepted, a couple more that award bonus points with specific airlines, and also a Visa/MasterCard that awards 1 airline frequent flyer point per dollar where I can't use AMEX. Using these cards for every single purchase really helps to pile the points up quickly!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Feb 2016

Total posts 37

Great article, enjoyed it thoroughly. You must of booked early or luck was on your side with flights and hotel redemption availability! Congrats on your marriage!

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Indeed, most bookings were made as early I could (just under a year before travel)... the moment that frequent flyer reward seats popped up on the flights I wanted, I was ready to pounce! :)

Asiana Airlines - Asiana Club

09 Feb 2017

Total posts 41

How many of those points were accrued by actual flights and stays, and how many exploited credit card sign-up points bonuses? Wondering how quickly you could stash them up and how much advance planning you'd need ...

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

None of these points came from credit card sign-on bonuses - I'd just been saving them up for a few years and always take every opportunity to earn points, including by using my frequent flyer credit cards instead of cash every time I (and my wife) spend money. :)

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555

Simiguelito47: also worth noting that neither Chris or myself earn points on most 'work trips' (such as flights to review, travelling to attend a lounge opening, even today's Virgin Australia flights to test its inflight WiFi service), as airlines book these either under the categories of staff travel or marketing/promotional/prize travel, neither of which earn points. So in Chris' case this was purely through his very savvy use of credit cards to buy stuff, pay bills etc... which means that if he can do it, anybody can do it! :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 465

Chris mentions a status match for Skyteam, so does that mean some of the bookings were made from a frequent flyer elite (in whichever scheme) level status ? I often hear that J reward flights are difficult to come by without status.

I am also accumulating points by all means, even $2 spends at Bunnings, for my next holiday flying J, with the missus!

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Hi Greg, all frequent flyer reward bookings were made using reward availability for members of all tiers, as better availability for Gold/Platinum members is something that only normally applies to flyers of an airline's own program (such as Qantas Platinum booking a Qantas flight, rather than Qantas Platinum booking a Cathay Pacific or BA flight where all members have access to the same reward seats).

That said, both the Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic bookings were made over the phone, but this was only because these couldn't be booked online due to technical limitations (United makes you call to book all awards on SQ, and Velocity makes you call to book all flights with Virgin Atlantic).

Asiana Airlines - Asiana Club

09 Feb 2017

Total posts 41

So living on plastic is the name of the game. Though even though I'm doing that already, my spending is pretty low and it'll take me years to get there. For that reason I'm going for the lifetime statuses on airlines and have spent quite a bit on flying in the booking classes that earn status credits.

Hence this may be a silly question but I've heard that some airlines do it: do the booking classes of award flights allow you to build up status credits? Until I'm lifetime I'd rather pay money to chase the status and save the points for later. In theory when you attain it, with all the perks locked up, you'd rather be guaranteed a 'honeymoon' experience whenever you fly forever, regardless of the class - even if only before you board

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Simi: No, reward flights generally earn no status credits. Occasionally airlines run promotions where status credits can be earned (Virgin Australia offered this a few years ago), but unless you use points to book something like an 'any seat award' (which usually requires way too many points in the first place), the answer is usually no.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 313

Does it matter how they were acquired? Churn a credit card every 9 months or so to boost your points bonus.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2012

Total posts 40

Well played Chris !! I plan to do a similar thing for my next big wedding anniversary and this will be a great help.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2014

Total posts 9

Amazing! Congrats on your nuptials and thanks to your website, we'll be doing our first J class to NAN in June! 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Nicely done, Etho! Is that with Virgin Australia or Fiji Airways?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2014

Total posts 9

VA. Availability was better than QF at the time of booking. 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Great! Just as a heads-up so that you're not surprised, Virgin Australia has no lounge agreements in Nadi for either business class or Gold/Platinum frequent flyers before the flight home, so don't arrive too early before the flight unless you want to explore the airport. You could also purchase access to the Fiji Airways Tabua Lounge using a credit card at the door, but there's probably better value to be had elsewhere in the terminal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

Congratulations! The only thing better than a great holiday away is a holiday involving copious 'free stuff' like redemptions.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Apr 2016

Total posts 24

Way to go Chris and Mrs Chris! All the best for a long and happy marriage. Love reading your columns and found your attention to detail with this story inspiring. It's amazing how "rewarding" chasing rewards can be!


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 192

Firstly congrats on your recent marriage Chris, and may I wish you many happy years together. Secondly, VERY impressed by all the strategies you used to fund this trip - this is a prime example of how to spend money to save money, if done wisely.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 439

Hi Chris

You were incorrectly overcharged on the taxes by Velcoity for your VS redemption. Velocity recently tried to charge me $560 PP for a one way VS flight. When I queried that Velcoity don't charge fuel surcharges on VS flights they went away and checked and came back with a new taxes amount of around $12.
I think their system automatically charges fuel surcharges but any operator who knows the rules should override it.
May be worth following up with them even if the flights were already taken.

21 Sep 2012

Total posts 49

Congratulations on your marriage and your craftiness in getting good deals with the points!

My friends think I am daft staying loyal to certain chains but on our last two holidays we've saved significant 4 figure sums by cashing in Marriott points for our accommodation.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Sep 2016

Total posts 7

Congrats Chris, that's great news. Really enjoy reading your articles, this one tops them all. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 363

Congratulations Chris, always nice to get a more personal insight into the talent behind the articles and the strategies put to use.

Qantas Platinum

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 48

Well done Chris! Cute photos too :-) Great way to write a useful article from a personal perspective. Brings everything to life. Partners of high flyers got to get something in return!

27 Sep 2013

Total posts 7

Congratulations Chris! Always interesting to hear your points strategies. I got married last year and did a similar honeymoon booking using a combination of points and offers. The only way!

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Congratulations to you too then, Flying Roo!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Dec 2015

Total posts 9

I love your style Chris, this is my kind of travelling. Yep, save the points and be ready to pounce. If only we could get airlines to stop forfeiting them after 3 years.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 175

Bravo! I laughed out loud thinking this lad has truly nailed the FF world. Loved every line of your descriptive. Thrilled for you both. Brilliant.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Jul 2012

Total posts 4

Hi Chris, Great article !

I am wondering how much toking and froing was required to achieve the redemption flights ? 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Hi Richard, each flight was a little different.

  • Singapore Airlines releases different reward seats to Star Alliance partners like United compared to its own KrisFlyer members, so I used ExpertFlyer to find a suitable Star Alliance reward option and then called United and provided specific flight numbers to have it booked (saves having the operator search).
  • Virgin Atlantic availability doesn't show at all on the Velocity site, so I used Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club website to find a suitable flight that had seats available - in fact, the one I booked had 8 (!) Upper Class reward seats up for grabs, so I called Velocity to book two of them.
  • BA: Booked this after Cathay Pacific and searched out of both Heathrow and Gatwick. Good availability from both so opted for Gatwick as the co-pay amount was much lower - go figure!
  • Cathay Pacific: I'd observed that reward flights would appear at 10am each day when the newest day for booking was loaded into the booking system (just under a year in advance). On one day the Paris-HK flight popped up, but because HK-Brisbane departed the following calendar day, I had to wait one more day to lock this in (but again, could book via the Qantas website).

All up, a few months of planning and booking, but I got there in the end! :) (We had fixed destinations in mind but were flexible as to how we got there and back - so could have used Qantas Points to fly to Europe and then a mix of the others home if needed; could have flown Thai Airways instead of SQ using United miles if SQ availability wasn't there; could have flown HK-Abu Dhabi-London on Etihad using Velocity points as Etihad was in the same redemption table at the time we booked; could have used Qantas points to book BA, Malaysia Airlines, JAL, Qantas, Emirates, China Eastern etc etc if Cathay didn't have good availability.)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 4

Congrats on pulling this one off. LOTS of planning must have gone into this. I personally use a mix of credit cards for me and wife to collect points where possible. With the latest changes though, it's getting harder and harder. ANZ is killing it's Amex card, Virgin Money is reducing the points earnt. We were able to fly to Zurich and Back in Business Class (saver) on Singapore's A380 last year for only 320K krisflyer miles inlcuding the 15% online discount. would cost 420K now. I'm now considering switching from Velocity/Singapore to Qantas based deals. The thing that keeps me with velocity is the family pooling. Makes obtaining Gold so much easier when you're not actually a frequent flyer. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 106

Congratulations, Chris & to your wife - have a long & happy life together.


Air NZ Airpoints

12 Mar 2014

Total posts 38

Congrats on your marriage Chris, and well done on the amazing trip planning, a real inspiration. May it be the first of many happy trips together :)

13 May 2016

Total posts 13

Great article Chris and sounds like a brilliant trip. Oh and congrats on the marriage!

I have to say though, i think business class intra europe is completely pointless and i think it's much better to save your money/miles for other trips (unless your employer is picking up the bill)! Even more so if you have status...

With the flights being 1-2h, and the seat simply being the same seat as economy, just with the middle blocked out, the benefits are practically nothing. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 150

Plus lounge access and baggage allowances
Middle blocked out is better than most Euro business, others just leave a blank seat - no armrest table that BA uses
Still, I did Bordeaux Gatwick return only 4 years ago with proper old school 2x2 Business class on a 737, times change fast

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 150

One of my favorite articles, well done on the marriage and the honeymoon!

In your opinion how much advantage do you think you got from flying an airport like Brisbane vs higher demand Melbourne/Sydney (or do you think that is offset by less availability)

13 May 2016

Total posts 13

If you have mid tier status you get lounge access anyway. Or there is priority pass

Extra luggage can be useful yeah, especially on a big trip like a honeymoon... but even if you just paid for the extra luggage, you'd still save money/points

13 Jun 2017

Total posts 10

Excellent article Chris. Interesting note. You used a Singapore PPS Solitare card? That sure is a lot of spending $250k to get one. Congrats on the marriage.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

Oh, I never said it was my Solitaire card: we can thank a company Vice President friend of ours for guest access to the 'better Champagne lounge'... ;) (But of course, for readers with their own Solitaire card, this is their regular lounge.)


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 157

Congratulations and a really nice article to read. Very clever of you and obviously well worth it!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 156

560k Qantas Points would've allowed you to construct a round-the-world oneworld itinerary which would save you your other currencies and its just a little more of a reach then what you've already got.

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