1 week left on my mom’s Around the World Surprise Birthday Trip.

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1 week left on my mom’s Around the World Surprise Birthday Trip.

This is by far the biggest, most planned, and epic trip I’ve ever executed. By the end of it I will have escorted my parents around the world and secured them 5 different First Class products all booked with points over 24 days. The only reason they won’t be in first on certain routes is because it isn’t available and they’ll be in business. We’ll also use points for all but 3 nights – all in 4 and 5 star hotels. It’s been absolutely amazing seeing their reaction, impression, shock, surprise and most of all…creating the lifelong memories. This trip is EXACTLY why I’m so obsessed with making sure I squeeze value out of my spend, credit cards, and point redemptions. It’s hard to believe we’re on the trip as it’s been planned for so long, but more surreal we have only 1 week left. My mom has had more surprise birthday cakes on this trip than I think maybe ever in her life.  WOOT WOOT! Here’s a quick look at a few things we’ve done thus far on points and a couple highlights we’ve been able to splurge on because of all the savings 🙂

Cathay First Class from Boston to Beijing via Hong Kong. Alaska 70k plus ~$50

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JW Marriott Beijing 1 Bedroom Executive Suite with Club Access…12k points per night + $70.

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Great Wall of China.

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Singapore Suites Beijing to Singapore and First Class from Singapore to Dubai. 97,500 Krisflyer + $119 ( including $100 stopover fee)


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First Class

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A splurge on Mandapa, A Ritz Carlton Reserve property in Ubud, Bali

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Conrad Bali – 60k plus $150 for an Ocean Front King Suite

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Intercontinental Singapore – 6ok points per night.

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JW Marriott Dubai – One Bedroom Suite 35k Marriott Rewards + $75 per night with club access

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Afternoon Tea at The Burj Khalifa

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There is a lot more to come and I will go through a thorough explanation of how I booked and planned this epic trip, but thought a little update might be fun 😉

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great starter card that earns Premium Ultimate Rewards that can be transferred into over a dozen partners many of which are US based. 

Welcome Offer

60k Points after $4k spend in 3 months

80k offer in branch currently – I think this should be online soon

Annual Fee


Points Earned

Transferrable Chase Ultimate Rewards

Super solid welcome offer.

If you carry this card alongside Chase’s cashback cards like the Chase Freedom Flex℠and Chase Freedom Unlimited® or the business versions: Ink Business Cash , Ink Business Unlimited you can combine the points into Preferred account and transfer into hotel and airline partners

Annual fee is quite low at $95 a year + you get a 10% anniversary bonus on points + $50 hotel credit in Chase travel.

  • 3x on dining
    •  including eligible delivery services for takeout
  • 3x on select streaming services
  • 3x on online grocery purchases
    • (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • 5x on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards – Chase Travel Portal
  • $50 Annual Credit on hotel stays purchased via Ultimate Rewards/Chase Travel
    • The begins immediately for new cardmembers and after your account anniversary for existing cardmembers
  • 10% Anniversary Bonus
    • Every year you keep the card, your total spend will yield a 10% points bonus. If you spend $10k in a year, you’ll get 1k bonus points
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® continues to redeem at 1.25c in the Chase Travel Portal and the slew of other benefits remain in tact including primary rental car insurance, purchase protections, etc.
  • Points are transferrable to 13 Ultimate Rewards partners
  • Redeem in the Chase Travel center for 1.25 cents per point
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Suite of Travel and Purchase Coverage
    • Primary rental car coverage is my favorite

There is currently an 80k offer after $4k spend in 3 months available in branch, and up to 90k after $6k spend in 6 months. I suspect some version of this will be online soon if you don’t want the hassle of going into a branch.

We keep an up to date spreadsheet that lists the best ever offers: You can find that spreadsheet here.

Historically 60k is a very, very good offer. In 2021, we saw the offer hit an all time high of 100k. Who knows if that will ever come back. .

Main Cast: 

Cards that earn flexible points and should be used on the bulk of your purchases.

Supporting Cast:

Cards that earn fixed points in the currency of the airline/hotel and can not be transferred at attractive rates. These cards yield benefits that make it worth keeping, but not necessarily worth putting a lot of your everyday spend on. 


  • Anne May 1, 2017

    aw Zach, is this another one of your surprises as this is a story I would definitely like to hear. This kind of makes my mum’s surprise pale into insignifcance though! What an awesome trip

    • Miles May 1, 2017

      Hey Anne! Just got back and it was absolutely incredible. Going to do a detailed account of it, but she had no idea where we were going until she got a boarding pass. My dad and I conspired on dates and locations and ultimately I was able to find space to get them around the world in first. Was pretty special to plan and partake.

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