Trips Videos

My family spent $5k on a $125k SURPRISE Trip Around the World for my Mom’s 75th!

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My family spent $5k on a $125k SURPRISE Trip Around the World for my Mom’s 75th!

My Dad and I couldn’t love my mom more, and we wanted her to have a truly ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE for such a momentous birthday. I mean she was turning 75!!! So…nearly a year and a half before the big day, starting in 2015, we brainstormed. A Party? Nah… What else do you do besides a big party? Then it hit us. A BIG TRIP. My mom has always wanted to visit the factory that makes her perfume, a perfume that she has worn for over 50 years! How cool is that? It’s called Habanita and it’s made by Molinard whose factory is in Grasse, France. She’s also wanted to go to Bali…So which place would we go to? How about both? How about more than both? WHAT IF WE MADE THE WHOLE THING A SURPRISE?! YES! So what started as an idea that became a trip turned into a great big, mega, all first-class, 5 star, SURPRISE TRIP Around The World. In total…the retail cost would have been more than $125k for the flights and hotels. We paid roughly $5k…not including the food.

How we earned the points?

It took us between 12 and 18 months to not only earn enough points, but make sure that we could find the award availability to make every destination fit together like a jigsaw. In the end we used far less than we earned, but most of the cards that we used are listed on my top credit card page. This entire website is geared towards educating you on how I continue to take dream trips that are largely offset with points and miles earned from credit cards and every day purchases. We did not spend a single dime that we wouldn’t have otherwise spent, we just optimized every single dollar to earn as many points as we could.

If you’re interested in the cards that we think are the best, and some tips to get started, I would highly recommend checking out our Top Credit Card page. This trip was mainly achieved by combining an assorted of points earned from Chase, Amex, Citi, Marriott, IHG, and Alaska Miles. Since taking trip Capital One has created a program that could effectively achieve many of the same results we had. While this trip was an absolutely dream, I can’t stress enough that you should pay your bills on time, in full, and not go into debt and pay the high financing charges associated with carrying debt. It’s been 4 years since we took this trip and most of the cards I added to my wallet are still in it – they have continued to provide immense value for my everyday purchases and ability to continue to take dream trips.

Check out our Top Credit Card page to learn more

Miles Credit Cards

Below you’ll find reviews of every flight, hotel, and lounge we visited. Within those reviews you’ll get tutorials on the points I used, how I found award availability, and tips on how you can book it yourself.

My goal with documenting the trip is that you are inspired to take your own dream trips. Points and miles has created not only a business for me, but the opportunity to share experiences with the most important people in my life that I will never forget.

A quick sizzle on the trip


Here’s a little ditty my mom wrote…

Christmas, 2016 was the first I had heard of a 3 week round the world trip for my 75th Birthday!!  My son and my husband had been working on this trip for over a year prior!!!  I was so excited, but no information was given on exact destinations – only temperatures for each destination for the time period we would be there, and 5 countries and 6 cities!!!  I only learned of each of the destinations as we were at the airport ready to depart!!!   What fun!!!!!  How exciting!!!

Here is a glimpse of our trip! We went through Beijing, Singapore, Bali, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the South of France.

Everything was a surprise for my mom. She had a feeling about different places that she might visit…but she didn’t know 100% until she got a boarding pass. SO MUCH FUN!

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Visiting the Molinard Factory was icing on the cake. A lifelong dream of my mom’s. She’s worn their perfume for 50 years!


Afternoon Tea


How much did this all cost in dollars and points?

Total value:  $125-130k+                  Paid:  $4500-$5000 +/-

Total value of Flights =  Roughly $110-115k

  • Mom and Dad
    • $42,500k each
    • Paid $1000 +/-
  • Zach + Miles
    • $27-30k
    • $1000

Total value of hotels: Roughly  $13-14k

  • Paid – roughly $2700

Full break down of the points used:

In total:

  • IHG = 670K
  • Marriott Rewards: 310K
  • Alaska = 190k
  • Singapore Air = 278k
  • Hilton = 60k
  • AA = 160k

The Flights:

The Hotels

We were gone a total of 24 days and stayed in luxury hotels all the way through. We flew the best the world has to offer, and all it took was planning and understanding exactly how to utilize points to their potential.

We have been so blessed to be able to experience something like this and create these memories of a lifetime. I’m excited to share with all of you, and teach you how to do it too!

Affiliate link via CardRatings


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. 


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