Booking luxury flights and strange accommodations with points

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✈️ Every year, the FOLO by Travel Weekly, records a review with the biggest travel stories from the year. 2023 included big topics like cruises, airline mergers, Oceangate, and more. You can listen and read here.

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✈️ Every year, the FOLO by Travel Weekly, records a review with the biggest travel stories from the year. 2023 included big topics like cruises, airline mergers, Oceangate, and more. You can listen and read here.

Good morning and HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🥳

It’s been a bit slow in the travel hacking world during the holiday season...

So, rather than share deals with you, I thought I’d take today to share some of my travel plans for the year.

But don’t worry - I’ve got plenty of actionable hacks for you to take away… and I think you’ll like them 😉

2023 was nuts for me. I flew 105 times to 50 countries, visited more than 70 airport lounges, and spent hundreds of nights in hotels. 

I had stressful experiences like an attempted robbery in Tunisia, a hospital visit in Guatemala, and visiting an active war zone in Ukraine.

So, in 2024, I thought I’d take it easy and have a more relaxed year at home.

And by a relaxed year, I mean I left home on New Year’s Eve to kick off a 30,000-mile, adventurous trip around the world with MANY exciting twists and turns.

And I decided to create a theme for this trip, which is something I don’t normally do.

Specifically, the theme is LUXURY. Here’s what I mean:

  • ✈️ 86% of my flight time is in business class

  • 🏨 All of my hotels (with the exception of one) are 5-star hotels

  • 🧳 I brought a suitcase with me (crazy, I know) and packed every little thing I wanted to bring, including pajamas for extra comfort

Over the coming weeks, I’ll give you specifics on which airlines I’m flying, which hacks I’m using, and how I leveraged points and miles to book this trip.

I added everything up, and the total cash cost for everything I’m doing is $21,461, including some crazy expensive hotels and bucket-list luxury flights.

In the end, however, I paid less than $300 for the whole trip.

But let’s start with what I’ll be doing this week.

As I write this newsletter around midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’m halfway over the Atlantic (the only true way to celebrate the new year).

But when you read this, I’ll be at my first destination of the trip: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Why did I travel to the coldest place in the world in early January? Well, I don’t know. But it’s going to be epic, assuming I don’t freeze to death. 🥶

But how did I get to Mongolia, you ask?

Well, I have my stash of Aeroplan points to thank for that. I flew from Toronto to New York to Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar (a 32-hour itinerary), all in business class. 😎

According to the Aeroplan award chart, this ticket should cost 115,000 Aeroplan points.

But since my first leg was on Air Canada, dynamic pricing kicked in, and I was able to book the itinerary for just 87,500 points.

95% of the itinerary was in Turkish Airlines, which made the whole experience even better.

Considering I spent around 24 hours in business class and got access to multiple lounges, I’d consider this to be a fantastic deal, especially because you can transfer points directly to Aeroplan from programs like these:

Turkish Airlines has some of the best service in the sky, including lie-flat beds, world-class food, and an amazing lounge during my transit in Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines Business Lounge

Here’s a bonus tip:

In the Turkish business lounge in Istanbul, there are hotel-like suites complete with a bed, desk, and even showers.

If you fly business class and have a layover of at least four hours, you can access these suites for FREE for the duration of your layover (with a few restrictions).

I got to take a shower and nap during my layover in Istanbul

In my mind, the value of this itinerary is just insane between the flights and all of the extra perks.

But surely there’s no way to use miles and points to book accommodation in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia… right? 🤔


In fact, there’s a lovely Holiday Inn right in the center of the city that costs less than 10,000 IHG points per night. 

Since I have this credit card, I also get every fourth night free.

This was the exception to the 5-star hotel trend I mentioned earlier… but one 4-star hotel is fine, I think.

But it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Mongolia if I just stayed in the city. After all, Mongolia is known for its vast, open landscape and nomadic heritage.

That’s why I decided to go stay in a yurt in Terelj National Park, a couple hours from the city.

I was warned that temperatures could reach as low as -18 degrees Fahrenheit. But I’m a Canadian boi, so I felt like I could handle it. Time will tell. 🤷🏼‍♂️

And if you think I paid cash for this bad boy, you’d be wrong. I also used miles and points. To book a YURT. In freaking MONGOLIA.

Here’s how:

If you have Capital One miles (like the ones you earn from our all-time favorite credit card, the Venture X), you can offset ANY travel purchase with your miles at a rate of one cent per point.

So, I booked this yurt on Airbnb for around $57 per night (after taxes and fees).

Then, I used 11,400 Capital One miles to offset the purchase for my 2-night stay. In other words, I was able to book a SUPER unique stay in rural Mongolia for 5,700 points per night.

While here, I can ride horses, go hiking, visit landmarks around the national park, and enjoy some peace and quiet in an incredible, unique, remote, and peaceful part of the world.

This is a great example of how you can get creative with your miles and points to unlock some surprising experiences anywhere in the world.

But where to from Mongolia? Unfortunately, there aren’t many places you can fly to from Ulaanbaatar…

So, I decided to go to Beijing, just a short 2-hour flight from Ulaanbaatar, to check out the Great Wall of China - a place that’s been on my bucket list for ages.

You might be surprised to learn that there are lots of Chinese airlines you can fly using points and miles from popular programs.

Personally, I booked a nonstop flight on Air China using 8,000 United miles and about $30 in taxes and fees. 👇

The catch is that I don’t have a visa for China. Instead, I’m going to roll into the country and simply demand to be let in.

And the crazy part?

They’ll let me, thanks to a super-cool travel hack. But you’ll have to wait until next week to hear that one. 😉

For now, I’ll let you all recover from what I can only assume is a multi-day hangover from your New Year’s Eve festivities.

Thanks for tuning in today, and we’ll be back to the normal Daily Drop format tomorrow.

I look forward to an exciting year of travel hacks with you all.

Love you ❤️

Mike Dodge
Head Writer, Daily Drop

47.9221° N, 106.9155° E

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