Hotel and airline loyalty programs offer beautiful destinations for little to nothing out of pocket. They also offer some destinations for very few points, but rarely do the two converge. In the case of Bali, however, they do. Here’s how to spend a year in Bali on points.
All the hotel loyalty programs offer a wide range of point categories for their hotel. Some are overpriced and others are underpriced but those are, of course, rare. Airlines do the same, offering a hook for their customers to encourage them to join their program. Taking a sabbatical in Asia was one of the most transformative things my wife and I have ever done, but it feels out of reach for most. I want to show just how inexpensive it can be to spend a year in paradise, Bali, Indonesia using miles and points.
Getting to Bali
Flights to Denpasar (DPS), Bali’s airport, have been inexpensive as of late relative to historical prices. While better deals frequently pop us, for just $454 roundtrip from Los Angeles you can get to Bali right now. We traded in a points redemption to southeast Asia when we saw business class fares from $1400. If you were to pay with Chase Ultimate Rewards points the cost in coach would be about 30,000 points roundtrip and about 94,000 in paid business. With either redemption, no additional taxes or costs would be required and you would actually earn airline miles from the trip.
If you don’t have any Chase Ultimate Rewards points or the myriad of other programs that offer cash equivalents for travel expenditures (Citi Thank You, American Express Membership Rewards, US Bank FlexPerks, Capital One Venture points, etc.) other programs offer good value to get you to paradise.
I used Award Hacker to find the cost of this trip from Los Angeles to Bali using points in coach:
Business Class rewards are relatively cheap using points as well, especially with Alaska Mileage Plan:
We don’t sell credit cards here at Live And Let’s Fly, but many of our blogging friends do. At the time of writing, you can fly to Bali after adding just one credit card to your wallet and some routine spending. You can earn enough through regular spending even using a debit card if you start first at shopping portals like this one (though it will take longer to accumulate).
How Many Points Does It Take To Stay A Year In Bali?
For the purpose of this post, I am only using one specific property in Bali, the Hilton Garden Inn Bali Ngurah Rai Airport. The cost of this property is 5,000 points per night which on the surface would seem to cost 1.8MM Hilton Honors points. However, you’ll soon earn status with Hilton (assuming you don’t already have some or complete a status match from another chain) and before long you’ll be able to get that price down to 20,000 points for every five-night stay (all of them consecutive) or as few as 1.46MM Hilton Honors points.
However, Hilton is going to start to issue bonuses for every ten nights you stay with the brand. At 40 nights (when a new member would achieve Gold status and begin earning free breakfast) Hilton will give you a 10,000 point bonus for every 10 nights. Then at 60 nights, you’ll receive another 30,000 instead of the regular 10,000. In total, before any additional promotional bonuses come in to play you’ll earn back 350,000 points reducing your total expense to no more than 1.11MM Honors points but probably less.
That’s still a lot, but that doesn’t have to be out of reach. Several credit cards can get you close to halfway there, and if you’re traveling with another person, they can apply for the same cards and achieve the bonuses.
Note: If you have some cash but very few points or don’t want to spend time (or credit card signups) to earn them, monthly stays in Airbnbs can run $400-900/month.
And The Hotel Is Amazing!
I’d rather let the pictures of this property do the talking:
Sorry about the quality of the images, I borrowed them from the hotel’s website.
How Much Cash Should You Bring?
You’ll want to have some savings built up, but like everything else on this trip, it doesn’t have to be an astronomical amount. Assuming breakfast is part of your booking every day (at least once you achieve Gold status), you’re looking to cover the cost of one restaurant meal daily and one smaller meal in the hotel room after shopping at nearby markets. A reasonable grocery expense for lunch could be $3-5/person/day and dinner, no more than $10. Certainly, some days will be more expensive and others less, but on balance, this is a fair amount. Food expenses come to just short of $6,000 for the year assuming you eat three times daily for a year.
Activities and transportation are also inexpensive, expect to spend another $2000 in these categories, though if you’re traveling with someone else, transportation can be cut in half and the amount could drop slightly. If you have a job that allows you to work remotely, you can easily offset your minimal costs with earnings. Consider other opportunities to earn while abroad including teaching English as a second-language. Some services pay $15-20/hour to teach students online. If you work five days weekly you’d need to generate just over $30/day to offset your costs or a single eight-hour day per week (before taxes).
Should You Do It?
Yes, or something like it. I have commented recently that taking a year sabbatical was perhaps the best thing I ever did for my career. It reset our frame of mind and employers haven’t penalized us for it.
Maybe 365 days in Bali is too long, there are other options, other chains, and other destinations where this is still possible. You could go for half as long for nearly free just with the available credit card signup bonuses on the market today. The question you should be asking is why shouldn’t you go?
Have you considered spending an extended time abroad? If so, where? If not, why not?