How I Travel Hacked my Honeymoon!

Buy a Wedding, Get a Honeymoon Free?!

Is it possible to travel hack your honeymoon, using the wedding spending to generate enough reward points and cashback to pay for a luxury break? Well, in our case, the answer was ‘almost’!

For many people, their wedding represents significant expenditure. The average wedding spend is now a whopping £27,000, which means that in theory, if someone followed our 6 steps to cashback advice and generated 6-12% on that spend, they could have anything from £1,600 – £3,200 to spend on the honeymoon. So, to test this, I tried this approach out on my own honeymoon and this article explains how it panned out!

Dolphins Travel Hack Reward Points

As a reminder, the basic principle here is that you expect to earn cashback on everything you spend, choose the best reward cards/accounts to do this and then organise your spending to take advantage of bonuses. I should start by saying, in relative terms we had a fairly low budget wedding. We hired a local farm and organised almost a mini-festival, it was a fantastic day. In total we spent less than a third of the average figure quoted above. We’d been engaged for a ridiculously long 17 years (we may have ‘accidentally’ spent our previous wedding budget on a 3 month trip to Canada!) so this was more about celebrating this than starting a ‘new’ life together. As parents of four children under 12, we were also restricted to a relatively short honeymoon without them! However, in theory, as long as the honeymoon spend and wedding spend are proportional to each other, this approach could work in different scenarios – i.e. a more expensive wedding equals more potential for cashback and reward points for a more expensive honeymoon.

We decided we could manage to honeymoon without our children for 4 days, and our basic criteria was a) we wanted somewhere sunny and b) we wanted a hotel with a bit of luxury. We love the Algarve, having visited as a family a few times, so we decided to spend our honeymoon in Portugal, and this is how I ‘travel hacked’ it:

Earning Reward Points:

During the course of our wedding expenditure we used 4 reward cards, 3 were mine and 1 was my wife’s. We immediately paid off the balance in full each month, to ensure we weren’t charged any interest on them (if you do decide to borrow money for wedding expenditure, one way to still achieve rewards is by getting a 0% money transfer card, which you can use to borrow money at 0% straight into your current account, and then pay the reward credit card bills with this – it is never my intention to recommend borrowing on this blog though!). For each American Express card, we spent up to the bonus target and then moved on to the next. I’ll add an admission in here to say that for us it wasn’t exclusively wedding expenditure on each card, but the wedding expenditure was the bulk of this and made sure we easily met the spend targets. As I’ve said before, you’ll almost always get the best return on spending on American Express cards, but as these aren’t accepted everywhere then it’s also useful to have a rewards Visa or Mastercard. The cards, and point earnings were as follows:

Amex Gold Travel Hack Loyalty Points

1) American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card

Points: 20,000 Bonus points for £2,000 spending, 2,000 points on the spending itself, 9,000 Referral Bonus (yes you can refer your partner!)

Total: 31,000 Amex Reward points

2) American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card (my wife’s)

Points: 22,000 Referred Bonus for £2,000 spending, 2,000 Normal Spending

Total: 24,000 Amex Reward points

3) Hilton Honors Platinum Visa Barclaycard (note this card is no longer accepting new applications)

Points: 1 x Free Night Voucher for £750 spend + 20,000 Hilton Honors points for spending and other hotel bookings

Total: 20,000 Hilton Honors Points + Free Night

4) Upgrade to American Express Platinum Charge Card (see below for cost)

Points: 20,000 Bonus for £2,000 spending, 2,000 for spending, 1,000 for targeted offers

Total: 23,000 Amex Reward Points

Grand Total: 78,000 Amex Reward Points, 20,000 Hilton Honors points, 1 x Free Night

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This is how we used this:

  1. Hotels:

We decided to spend one night in Vilamoura and two nights in Almancil. This allowed us to fit in a dolphin and caves boat trip (highly recommended!) from Vilamoura Marina, and then to move to the more luxurious Conrad hotel! We stayed at Hilton As Cascatas Resort, Vilamoura and then Conrad Algarve, and I have to say that both hotels were fantastic for a honeymoon stay. The service we received at both properties was brilliant, and the rooms were very good. Travelling as a family we wouldn’t normally book £300+ a night rooms, so these were a real treat. In Vilamoura we were upgraded, to what I would describe as a small suite (see below re: perks), with a nice view across the golf courses. At Conrad Algarve we had a standard room, but it was amongst the nicest rooms I have stayed in at a hotel. Both rooms had nice balcony areas, and loads of space. The hotels both had large, attractive pool areas, fantastic spa facilities, beach shuttle transport and multiple restaurant/bar spaces.

Hilton As Cascatas, Vilamoura – King Plus:

Hilton Vilamoura Travel Hack Reward Points

Conrad Algarve Double Room:

Conrad Algarve Travel Hack Reward Points

Conrad Algarve

We booked one free night (using our Hilton Voucher), cash price £335

We then booked one night for 80,000 Hilton Honors Points by transferring 40,000 Amex Points @ 1:2 – cash price £335

Hilton Vilamoura

We booked one night for 60,000 Hilton Honors Points by transferring 20,000 Amex Points @ 1:2 and using 20,000 Hilton Honors Points – cash price £230

Total for hotels = Free Night Voucher + 60,000 Amex Points & 20,000 Hilton points for £900 cash price (excluding the free night, this worked out at equivalent to 0.86p/ Amex point)

2) Perks & Extras:

The American Express Platinum Rewards Card comes with a hefty £450 annual fee, however before you gasp at this(!) – it can be cancelled at any point, with a pro rata refund, and comes with some amazing travel rewards. These include automatic hotel statuses, travel insurance and ‘Priority Pass’ membership for airport lounge access. So for a honeymoon, 3 months card use was ideal. This cost £112.50, and for that we got the extra 20,000 Amex points bonus on the 3 months spending, plus the following ‘perks’ (and this is just for this trip):

  • Access to the Airport Lounges in Bristol & Faro (2 visits for 2 people @ £20 = £80)

Hilton Gold Status, which gave us:

  • Free breakfast every day (6 breakfasts @ £25 = £150)
  • Availability upgrade to a small suite at Hilton Vilamoura (cash value £40)
  • Spa Access at both hotels, on all 3 days (3 visits for two people @ £20 = £120)
  • A cocktail making class, plus welcome treats at Conrad Algarve (cash value approx. £60)
  • Inclusive Travel Insurance (cash value £10)

Total Perks: £460 (+20,000 points!)

Note: I’ll write posts about Platinum and hotel statuses soon – so make sure you put your email in the ‘follow’ box if you’re interested in hearing more!

CIP Lounge, Faro Airport:

3) Flights:

This is where the travel hacking got a bit more tricky! As I’ve explained before (here), getting decent points value on convenient flights from regional airports can be difficult. We’re based in Bristol and I explored an Avios option for FlyBe from Cardiff, but the flight times weren’t great and it just wasn’t worth the effort for the point value. We also didn’t want to travel via London for a relatively short trip. So instead, we flew from Bristol with EasyJet, and whilst I could’ve taken a poor value Amex points statement credit at 0.4p against this, I decided to just accept psychologically that the 18,000 remaining points I was retaining were worth almost the £200 I spent on flights! This was definitely cheating though, and with hindsight, I should have used my new tip and booked flights via Expedia with Nectar points we had – however I didn’t identify this option until after I’d booked. So, whilst we almost got the entire honeymoon value out of the spending (and probably could have got even closer), we in fact spent £312.50 (flights, plus Platinum card fee) for a very enjoyable £1,510 trip. This also mean that I actually managed to get an impressive return of over 15% in rewards on the wedding spend total.

It was a memorable few days, and although the flights were basic, everything else was pretty luxurious for a £300 honeymoon!

If you’re interested in the American Express Gold card, you can read our post (here) and don’t forget to use this referral link for an increased bonus on any American Express card application (Platinum, Gold, BA/Nectar, etc.) – the link will display Platinum, but scroll down to see all cards.

There’s also a post (with promo codes) about how I get the best deal on travel money (here)

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N.B.. Disclaimer: This is an amateur, personal blog. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances.

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