Top 5 places I should’ve gone on my honeymoon, but saved for a random Monday morning instead

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When Drew and I fist got married, we were still working on our miles-bank, though miles and points were all Drew thought or talked about.  We were frugal as ever so we planned our honeymoon at a cabin some friends were letting us borrow for free in Pennsylvania.

But we are both wanderlusters.  So when our nights in PA were through and we still had some time before we needed to return to work, I looked at my brand new husband and told him to prove he wasn’t all talk with this points stuff.  Just kidding.  I didn’t say that but I begged him to find internet somewhere in the tiny PA town so we could see what exotic place his miles could take us.

The internet in the tiny public library was sufficient for us to see that our short-notice option was basically Boston, and at that rate…why not drive?

So we did, but we didn’t stop in Boston.  We road-tripped from PA to the St. Lawrence Seaway and back, sleeping in the trunk of my car with the seats folded down for half the nights and in cheap hotels the other half.

Now you know how this grand travel duo began.

But now that we have a better stash of not only miles but hotel points too, I’ve had the chance to see some incredible places that would have made a wonderful honeymoon location, but make a stellar Saturday afternoon too.

So, since these are the sorts of things I think about as I sip cocktails at the InterContinental in Bali, here’s a list of my top 5 recommendations for a miles-and points nerd’s honeymoon (based on hotels I’ve experienced.)

You’ll notice that the top three on this list are all InterContinentals.  This year has been a very InterContinental-focused year because we find they are the most giving in terms of points.

1.) InerContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa

This resort will not necessarily show you the best of Fiji, (since it’s not near the Yesawas) but it is situated on Fiji’s highest rated beach- Natadola beach and is without a doubt in paradise.  All 3 million staff members (i’m exaggerating though it does seem a smidge over-staffed) are super friendly.  And there is plenty of free entertainment including dances and fire-shows.  This resort caters well to families but in my opinion this does not detract from the romantic atmosphere.

Really what makes this hotel a great honeymoon choice is the incredible beach and the romantic set-up of the rooms.  We had a bath-tub on our patio.  I don’t know how to make that sound more romantic.  I’ll include a picture because I feel like I’m making it sound awkward when it totally isn’t.

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Staying there: This hotel costs 30,000 IHG Rewards points a night.  That’s not bad at all for a place like this, though we happened to nab it on PointBreaks two years ago.

You can earn points with the IHG credit card or by making sure you sign up for plenty of promotions each time you make a paid stay.  Read Drew’s post about earning IHG Rewards points on steroids.

Getting there: Award availability sucks.  With Star Alliance, you’d probably be booking a flight on Air NewZealand.  Searching from Hong Kong (which should theoretically open up availability) we only found two dates with availability between now (March 14th) and the end of July.  Would be even worse trying that search from the U.S.

As for One World, availability can also be rough.  Though you can use your American Airline Miles with Air Pacific (based out of Fiji) and avoid needing to stopover in New Zealand (which is already a hard place to get to on points).

Delta will more likely have availability, though it won’t be cheap.

Moral of the story is that anyone wanting to do a romantic getaway to New Zealand will likely have to search far in advance.

 

2.) InterContinental Bali

The InterContinental Bali is an incredible resort with a beautiful beach and charming Balinese culture woven into every aspect of design and service.  The food is full of local flavor and the property is paradise.  The only reason it isn’t number one is because Fiji’s Natadola beach is just slightly more epic than the beachfront at the InterContinental Bali, which is very good for the area but not as nice as Natadola.

Trip Advisor suggests that the InterContinental Bali is showing its age but I disagree.  Perhaps it’s not the most modern in terms of design but to me that isn’t a flaw- it’s a stylistic decision to choose culture and art over novelty.  Supposedly it will be seeing  renovation in the next few years but I hope it keeps its Balinese feel.

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Staying there: This hotel is 35,000 IHG Rewards points.  Again, these can be earned with the credit card or by earning big on your paid stays.

Getting there: If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, your options are pretty much AA or United.  Availability shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  Using American Airline miles would cost you around 70K roundtrip and it would be 80K roundtrip with United.

Earn AA miles by getting the 100,000 point bonus Citi AAdvantage card, or by transferring 20,000-25,000 from SPG points.  Earn Unied miles with the United credit card or by transferring 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards.

3.) InterContinental Berchtesgaden

This is one of my favorite hotels of all time.  It’s set-up as a mountain spa, so it already has a relaxed feel as opposed to a touristy or businessy feel.  Somehow this hotel masters “cozy lodge” and “modern” at the same time.  Our room had a fireplace and a spectacular view of the Alps.  Not that this adds to the romance…but you can also see the famed “Eagle’s Nest”, Hitler’s vacation spot, from the hotel.

There are lots of hiking trails in the area, many of which are in walking distance from the hotel.  Since the hotel is located above the town of Berchtesgaden, it feels secluded and private and yet a short shuttle ride takes you down to the quaint town in the valley.

But, the BEST part about this hotel is a pool with sliding glass doors that opens up to a heated outdoor pool overlooking the mountains.  Not only is this romantic, it’s a little surreal to look out over the snow-tipped trees of the mountainside while bobbing along at a comfortable temperature.

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Staying there: InterContinental Berchtesgaden is also 35,000 IHG Rewards points.  Again, you can earn these points with the IHG credit card or by earning big with your paid stays.

Getting there:  AA off-peak prices (basically Winter time) are 40K roundtrip.  May I just say that Berchtesgaden is totally equipped to help you enjoy winter weather.  Fireplace?  Spa? Heated outdoor pool?  But if you do want to go during the summer, AA award prices will be around 60K roundtrip.  Again, the reason I’m mentioning AA is because it is for the most part fuel-surcharge free (except when redeeming with British Airways and Iberia.)

British Airways is distance based so you can use Wandering Aramean’s tool to figure out how many miles (Avios) it would cost. But as for British Airways, I would recommend redeeming your Avios on an Air Berlin flight (which has no fuel surcharges) to Munich or Salzburg.  Both of these cities would be a short train ride or discount airline flight away from Berchtesgaden.

United is 60K roundtrip and using United miles will again help you avoid fuel surcharges.

Drew has a great post comparing the commonly collected miles for flights to Europe. If you really are serious about this option, I recommend reading that post.

4.) Raddisson Blu Vienna Styles

Radisson Blu Vienna Styles is on this list because a.) Vienna is an incredibly beautiful and romantic city and b.) the Radisson Blu has a great location for enjoying the oldest part of town which, in my opinion, is where the best architecture and character is.  Of course, the hotel itself is very nice too.  Five star quality even though it’s not a resort like the others on this list so far.  It is subtly modern and quite comfortable.

Again though, it’s all about location with this pick.

Vienna

 

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Staying there: This hotel is 50,000 Club Carlson points but if you have the Club Carlson credit card you get a free night added to the end of any award stay.  In fact, the credit card is also one of the best ways to get Club Carlson points.  The bonus is now at 50,000 gold points when you first sign up and an additional 35,000 points when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days.

Getting there:  All the advice for getting to Vienna will be very similar to the above advice for Berchtesgaden.

5.) Reneissance Aruba Resort & Casino

The Renaissance Aruba makes the list because the hotel has its own little private island AND a dock in the lobby where a boat shuttles you straight from the lobby to the private island.  The island is small but has two nice beaches and a little “nature preserve” area.

The hotel itself is very trendy-feeling as far as the common areas, and seems to draw a bit of nightlife in the hotel bars.  The rooms are clean and nice enough but definitely not the same as you’ll see with the above properties, nor are they as trendy as the rest of the hotel.  Definitely the draw for this hotel is not the room itself, though really it’s sufficient enough.  Comfortable and clean.

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Staying there: This is category 6 Marriott, available for 30,000 Marriott points.  Marriott also has a credit card offering a 50,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. There’s also an annual free night- the first year you get a cert for category 1-4 and every following year, a free cert for a category 1-5.  Unfortunately this hotel has just been “upgraded” to a category 6 so you can’t use your free cert there anymore.  

Getting there: Getting to Aruba should be easy. You could use pretty much any miles because pretty much none of those flights will have fuel surcharges.  With United it’s only 35K roundtrip but really, it’s worth checking out the prices for any mileage program you have.

Honorable Mentions

Westin Venice: 

One honorable mention would be the Westin in Venice, though I booted it off the list because the service there was disappointing.  But you know how that kind of thing goes.  Maybe everyone was having a bad day or something.  Aside form a somewhat off experience, the rooms are small but lovely and the location is spectacular, primarily because Venice is spectacular but also becuase it situates you right near St. Mark’s square.

Staying there: This hotel is 20,000 SPG points…which is painful because that could be transferred into 25,000 American Airline miles…

Another reason this is on the honorable mentions list is because there are plenty of lovely and even affordable hotels in Venice that are NOT points hotels.

Getting there: Again, the advice for this will be similar for that of Berchtesgaden.

 

Grand Hyatt Sydney:

The ONLY reason this one isn’t higher on the list is because i’ve never stayed there- only dreamed of staying there.  The Grand Hyatt is pretty much directly opposite of the Sydney Opera House.  And it looks epic.  You really can’t beat that location for a romantic time in Sydney.

Staying there: The Hyatt credit card gives you two free night certs for signing up and the awesome part is that these certs can be used pretty much anywhere!  Each year after you get a category 1-4 cert instead.  Otherwise it’s 30,000 points for a standard room.

Getting there: Getting to Australia costs 75K American Airline miles roundtrip for economy and 80K United miles roundtrip in economy.  AA miles can be earned with the AA card or by transferring SPG points at a 20,000 to 25,000 miles ratio and United miles can be earned with their card or by transferring from Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.

 

So those are my recommendations now that I’ve seen a place or two, but honestly, I wouldn’t change our honeymoon for the world.  We ate lobsters in Maine, picked up hitch-hikers in Quebec, and saw a bald eagle sitting right in front of us in Prince Edward Islands.  And we stumbled upon the most serendipitously beautiful national park I’ve ever seen.  To me, rustic adventures are just as fun as luxurious ones.

Wherever you go, have a blast.  🙂

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And we got stuck in the woods….

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6 Comments on “Top 5 places I should’ve gone on my honeymoon, but saved for a random Monday morning instead

  1. Well-written post, Carrie! And I enjoyed seeing Drew in his dreadlocks.

    • Thanks! If you look really closely you can see I’ve got dreads too. We were just a Lil pair of hippies.
      I think drew should get dreads again

  2. how is it that IC are the most “giving” in terms of points? are you referring to resumptions or pts earned for a paid stay?

  3. I’ve read it a few times actually 🙂 Great post but I don’t see how the marginal cost (paid) of staying at a an IC is outweighed by the additional points earned…

    Currently there are no sales or gc promos (that i know of) and the BRG’s are getting increasingly difficult to obtain. In addition – many of the promo codes are once off codes…so while you may get a nice windfall after one stay – subsequent stays may not have a big points bonus.

    I’m by no means an IHG expert (esp when compared to you and Drew) but I am def curious to learn more!

    • Usually if we’re paying for an InterContinental, not just an IHG property of some lower brand, it’s because we’re trying to fulfill our “IHG Big Win” requirements. Drew wrote a post about the points we earned from that promo: http://travelisfree.com/2014/03/11/rocking-the-new-ihg-big-win-promo/

      Our earnings were pretty high with the last Big Win and esp if we can save those points for a good PointBreaks list, then we’re earning enough free nights that it’s easy to justify paying for an IC that fulfills a Big Win requirement. At least in terms of most free nights, IHG has provided the best strategy for us with combining Big Win and PointBreaks.

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