Updated: Jan 27
Spontaneous trips are something my wife and I have become accustomed to, but it’s not exactly our fault! As professional basketball players overseas, we don’t get a heads up of when we’ll have a longer break than usual. Usually, we’re told within a week, which doesn’t make it easy to plan a trip. Safe to say, we’ve become pros at making trips happen overnight.
Before planning this trip, we previously talked about only wanting to spend two days in Giza and then three or four days exploring other known cities in Egypt like Luxor and Sharm El-Sheikh.
Honestly, until a month or two ago, it wasn’t on my radar to visit the Pyramids of Giza. Tash asked me what is on my bucket list, which I’ve never thought of, and visiting Egypt to see the pyramids was in my top three!
After another game was cancelled due to covid, the first thing Tash did was use google flights to compare the best routes to places on each of our bucket lists. Egypt had good enough routes and the airlines were part of alliances I could use miles with. This fit our plan to book a full trip to Egypt strictly with points.
For our flights, I transferred Amex MR points to multiple airline companies. We have a few travel cards that have credits to cover the taxes and fees that will be added. For this trip we used the following credits:
Amex Platinum - $200
Ritz Rewards - $300
For the hotel stay, we used Marriott Bonvoy points to cover two nights at different properties.
Travel cards and points allowed us to take a bucket list trip, stay in two five-star hotels, and use airport lounges paying less than 4% of the published price.
AIRLINE MILES USED
50k miles + $285
$695 was the published price for this ticket
We missed out on a great opportunity because my Virgin Atlantic plan didn’t work for some reason. The original miles for our flight were 30k but jumped 20k miles overnight
If this wasn’t a last-second plan, we could have saved some points but for now, it’s okay because we want to travel before the world shuts down again due to covid.
35k miles + $278
$695 was the published price with the lowest available option at $434 for economy light.
I finally used all of the KLM FlyingBlue miles I’ve had on my account after opening the BofA KLM AF credit card SUB (50k miles).
We wanted to book economy either way because; 1) we don’t want to use up all of our points on a two-day trip, 2) short-haul business/first for 4 hours is not worth it to us. 6 hours and up we’ll always try to at least get premium economy.
After our experience with Lapland (hotel nights charged and two flights charged because we got covid and the tickets were non-refundable), we wanted to get flexible tickets this time around. This made using points more worth it because they were flexible tickets.
The taxes and fees we had to pay for the flights may seem like they’re expensive but when compared to the lowest available flight option, they’re close to half the price. Because they’re flexible tickets, we had free cancellations before and after the flight, checked bags, and free seat selection. Paying $583 instead of $1,300 was well worth it in this situation.
***The Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub plan***
I have 25k VA miles that were supposed to be used on this trip. I ran into a few issues trying to book with them, unfortunately. After going through the process of booking one of the flights through VA, I was prompted to call and confirm my booking.
The VA representative tried to do it over the phone but said the redemptions were blocked by KLM. She also mentioned that this happens pretty often. Luckily I knew we were going to Egypt regardless and had the points available from a few different companies available. ***Now I know to try and use VA first to book and then book with the direct airline after.***
So here’s where my experience with booking redemption flights came into play.
When you want to transfer points from your account to transfer partners, it’s important to know the time it takes for the points to arrive in your account. ***this took a mistake before understanding how important it is to know***
There are many sites to choose from to check the times. My go-to website is a new feature with Upgraded Points! ***my favorite website for anything points and miles by the way*** Here’s the link to see the points transfer time and the amount you’ll receive when transferring: https://upgradedpoints.com/travel/transfer-partner-tool-calculator/
Now to the good stuff. Here’s how the experience was getting to and from Egypt. You’ll see how we were able to travel to Egypt for less than $100!
LIN to CAI Experience
KLM Check In
The check-in lady was very nice and informative. She let us know exactly what’s needed to return, how to get it done, and even checked us in for our flight back so we don’t have to check-in while in CAI (Cairo airport). ***This came in handy because we skipped the long line and went straight to the desk to get the required documents to travel***
Fast Track was not needed because the security line was empty. It did show us how well they’ve separated the two lines, so in the future, we know it will be worth it when we travel at more busy times. We get Fast Track through our elite status with airlines usually, but when we fly with airlines that we don’t hold status with, we still buy Fast Track. Here’s how:
MiAirports https://www.milanairports.com/en has some great added perks for purchase when booking flights at any of the three Milan airports Malpensa, Linate, or Bergamo. The benefits available are:
Fast Track (expatiated security pass)
VIP Services that include:
Welcome on arrival at the airport, for both individuals and groups
Multilingual VIP Hostess
Dedicated staff for baggage transport
Assistance during check-in
Access to VIP Lounges
Assistance during security check via Fast Track
Assistance during passport control
Accompanied transfer to aircraft by private vehicle
Personalized assistance, guaranteed daily from 6.00 am to 9.30 pm
Club S.E.A. - Sala Leonardo (PriorityPass)
The Sala Leonardo lounge through PriorityPass shows why it’s worth it to have PriorityPass!
We went into the lounge for less than 5 minutes just to grab a couple of waters, coffee, and some goodies from the lounge instead of paying $20-30 at an airport shop or cafe.
I was very happy with the economy KLM offered. Our seats were comfortable and had great leg space. I’m 6’3 and my knees weren’t touching the seat in front of me.
The flight attendant asked me if I was also a flight attendant or someone who works with the airline too! I guess we do this often enough that we look like travel professionals.
Our trip experience was amazing because the service was great throughout our full trip from LIN to AMS. The KLM staff was outstanding.
Aspire Lounge (No.41)
The Aspire Lounge was perfect for what we needed. It wasn’t packed at all and had good food and drink options.
The seating was comfortable and private enough. We stayed for 45 minutes and as pretty much always, it’s well worth having PriorityPass! Especially when you’re not paying $400 and up for it.
KLM 777-200 Experience
As we approached the economy area, Tash said, “oh that’s the premium economy.” Well no, it was economy! So yes, we gladly kept our economy seats with no middle occupant. ***when it’s a 3 seater, we always book aisle and window hoping no one wants to sit middle***
I have to say, the KLM 777-200 economy seats are the best we’ve flown in.
The seats were comfortable, amazing legroom, and spacious enough if someone is sitting next to you.
The service was great. Food and drinks are included and the flight attendants were nice and willing to help.
Flying economy within the new KLM Boeing 777-200 was great and you won’t feel like you’re in basic/light economy!
Marriott La Meridian
12.5k Bonvoy points instead of $140 (1.12 CPP)
We booked at the La Meridian because it’s the airport and it was only 12.5k points instead of the typical 20-25k points.
It will serve as an extended lounge aka a bed to sleep on! We stayed for 9 hours until it was time for our tour of Giza to begin.
I must say, for a lower-priced airport hotel, this property may be the best you’ll find! It’s a five-star hotel at a three-star price. They have a top-of-the-line breakfast buffet, a nice outdoor pool, a fitness center, strong air-conditioning, soundproof rooms, and great wifi!
From deplaning the aircraft to entering the hotel takes around 15 minutes walking.
Check-in was great. The line had a few people waiting so I walked over to the empty Bonvoy Elite desk. The manager sitting across from the desk chose to help me instead of letting me sit there waiting. He was very welcoming, acknowledged my titanium status multiple times, informed us of everything the property had to offer, and let me know the room was upgraded. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience.
The room was spacious and comfortable.
The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were good also.
The TV itself was ok but it was mounted very poorly. Our TV had a nice lean going.
The bathroom was great. It had a ton of space with a big sink and mirror and a huge shower with two showerheads.
The view of the airport and walking bridges was pretty cool
The wifi was premium for sure. I was watching live NFL games while also streaming Netflix and there were no glitches.
I didn’t know until after that they said that the rooms are soundproof but it was true. We could hear nothing from the hall or other rooms.
Overall it was a very good room and it was not expected
Marriott Mena House
35k Bonvoy points instead of $377 (1.1 CPP and w/ upgrade 1.34 CPP)
We chose the Mena House because it’s one of the most known and historical hotels, with amazing views of the pyramids depending on the room you book.
I chose to book the second-lowest room available hoping to be upgraded to a pyramid view. Yes, it’s risky to not get the room we wanted but when staying at Marriott properties internationally, we’ve gotten top room upgrades 50% of the time. We’ve been upgraded 1005 of the time as platinum and titanium Bonvoy elite members.
We were upgraded immediately in-app but not to the room we wanted. I messaged them and asked for the room we wanted. They made it happen within 15 minutes!
This is one of the main reasons Marriott Bonvoy has been a great loyalty program for us. The customer service has been amazing and the app features make things a lot more convenient with communicating with the hotels after booking with them.
The Executive Lounge was top of the line. When looking at room rates, I noticed it was $76 more daily when trying to add access. After experiencing the M lounge at the Mena House, I understand why they charge that price. A few benefits the lounge offered were:
Open 24 hours
Free water, soda, juice, and coffee
Private area with dining table and TV
Happy Hour from 5.30 - 7.30 pm (cold and hot food buffet, desserts, and alcoholic beverages)
Ability to have breakfast and room service in the lounge
The check-in staff was amazing. My status was acknowledged and the general manager came out to greet and thank me for being a loyal member. They let us know we were upgraded to the premium pyramid view which we knew already but acted surprised.
The staff member that walked us to our room with our bags told us it was the best room to see two of the three pyramids!
Marriott Bonvoy internationally has been amazing and I don’t know how it can be better ***post coming soon of my journey to titanium elite and why I’m sticking with Marriott Bonvoy***
The room was unbelievably amazing. It had a great layout with a small dining table, couch, and coffee table. The balcony with the pyramid view was mind-blowing. We were in awe that the pyramids were directly in our view from our room.
They had the best bed I can remember. It was soft but firm, but wow, it was amazing. The pillows were also perfect.
The bathroom was very spacious with a great setup for the sink and storage. The tub and shower weren’t up to par with the rest of the room. How great everything else was, I didn’t think of it while we were there.
The WiFi was super fast. We had 3 separate live stream videos going and there wasn’t a glitch.
The balcony offered an amazing view but it was also spacious with furniture and was a perfect spot to hang out on.
We checked in around 2 pm and had to leave at 11 pm for a 2 am flight. In that short time, they asked to clean the room and called to check on us to see if there was anything they could do to make our stay better. The commitment to customer service at this property was outstanding and we would recommend everyone to stay there if they ever visit the Pyramids in Giza.
The high value we got from our Bonvoy points was a very rare find. Usually, at Marriott Bonvoy properties, the average value is .08 CPP. On this trip, we were able to get above 1 CPP on each stay. This made the redemption more than worth it.
Air France Check In
Check-in with Air France was a breeze because the check-in lady from Linate did all the work already. We walked to first-class check-in, showed our documents, and two minutes later we had our boarding passes.
The Pearl Assist Lounge
Even though our whole trip was economy and we flew with an airline that we don’t hold status with, we still had access to airline lounges.
PriorityPass is an added benefit with most annual fee travel credit cards ***PriorityPass post coming soon***
At CAI, with PriorityPass, we had three options to choose from. We chose the most convenient lounge that was located closer to our gate.
The Pearl Assist lounge had good food, great service, and great wifi. The pictures on the PriorityPass app show exactly what the lounge looked like and there were a few families so we decided not to take pictures or videos. We flew on Air France for the flights home.
We upgraded our seats to exit row seats but just to grab a little more legroom. It helped some but the seats were still extremely uncomfortable.
Our second leg flight was empty so we both had our row. It was only an hour flight so we weren’t going to upgrade but if it was full, we would have been in trouble.
We paid less than 5% on a bucket list trip that took us less than three days to plan. That also came with the added flexibility to cancel if anything goes wrong.
The cash price out of pocket was $563. Because I booked the trips separately, we were able to utilize the "airline incidentals" credits on two of our travel credit cards by paying the taxes and fees for both flights. The $200 airline credit on the Amex Platinum was used for the Delta booking. The $300 Ritz Rewards card airline credit was used for the KLM flight. This made our total $63 out of pocket instead of paying $563. ***Ritz Rewards card airline credit vs Amex airline credit post coming soon***
Listed Price = $1,900
Our Total = $63
This trip shows you how much value points and miles have when it comes to travel. Things like added flexibility to an airline ticket go unnoticed but when needed, it can save you thousands!
We lost $250 on our flights to Lapland because one flight that we couldn’t book with miles ended up not being refunded like the other flights were. On that same trip, we lost over $1,500 for hotel rooms because the rates were also non-refundable. The one-room booked through Marriott, which was also non-refundable, was refunded because I hold titanium status with them. The Marriott Bonvoy customer service did me a solid, which they didn’t have to but when canceling tickets and rooms, if you’re loyal to them, there’s a better chance they’ll go out of their way to help you when needed.
Of course, Tash did all the research on what we needed to get there, how we’d get around, and what was needed to come back. She figured out that we needed a visa on arrival (which we needed cash for) and a Covid-19 test when returning to Italy. She booked a tour guide via Tripadvisor who also came with a driver for the day. She didn't want to deal with the hassle of negotiating taxi fares etc.). She considered so many things and planned every detail of our itinerary, things that I would have never thought of. She’s the real MVP!!!
How do points and miles make this possible…
Travel Credit Cards
$200 Airline Incidentals
$300 Airline Incidentals
Purchases in Egypt (the only card that didn’t reject)
Booked flight through the portal with KLM miles
Booked flight through the portal with Delta SkyMiles
Amex Multiple Rewards
Transferred points to Delta
Until next time, before you pack your bags, don’t forget to PACK YOUR POINTS!
I am not a financial advisor and highly recommend doing your homework about the credit card you want to apply for! All of the content on my website, page, and channel are for entertainment purposes only.
If you’d like my opinion or help in forming an idea of what works, I’m here to help.
Here are REFERRAL LINKS to the credit cards mentioned in today’s post. By using them to apply, you’ll be supporting the website and channel because when approved, I’ll receive bonus points and miles as well!
*Be sure to check the public offer on the credit cards website to compare which is best for you!*
Schwab Platinum Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHImXb?xl=cp105f
Platinum Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/NATASHkCtJ?XLINK=MYCP
Amex Green Card
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHga7A?xl=cp105f
Bonvoy Bold & Boundless Card by Chase
Earn 3 Free Night Awards with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card or 1 Free Night Award with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for a card. Learn More.
Bonvoy Business Card by American Express
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved!