Our Honeymoon Story – Maui, Tokyo, the Philippines and South Africa

Hello there!  I’m Michael (aka The Honeymoon Guy) and Patty is my wife.

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We’re your average newlywed couple.  We aren’t from wealthy families but sometimes like to travel as if we are.  When Patty and I got engaged we decided to take a common approach: she would take the lead on wedding planning and I would take the lead on honeymoon planning.

For our honeymoon, I wanted to go big.  I had planned other major vacations for us in the past by travel hacking – using frequent flyer miles, points and free nights to travel in luxury without spending a fortune.  This approach has allowed us to visit places we wouldn’t haven’t dreamed of if we had to pay for it all with cash out of pocket, so I knew it could be done.  With that in mind, for our honeymoon we decided to aim for an around the world trip!

To pull it off, we first of course had to determine desirable destinations that generally allowed for an around-the-world flight path and then we had to figure out how to make it affordable.  With a bit of research, and some strategic planning, we were able to do both.  We ended up saving $37,100 (see the table at the end of this page for details). And the approach we used can be used by just about anyone else.  So we’re sharing our story here!

Note: To read more details on our trip, scroll down past the video.  

We took a lot of photos and videos on our trip!  Here is a montage video I compiled as a permanent keepsake from our trip!  If you’d like a montage video from your pictures and videos, just contact me to discuss video generation for a small fee.

Maui

We started our honeymoon on the beautiful island of Maui.  For the first four days we stayed in the Wailea region at the Andaz Maui, using four free night awards from signing up for the Chase Hyatt credit card.  We watched the sun rise at Haleakala, drove the Road to Hana, snorkeled at Molokini and hung out at the really impressive infinity pools at the hotel.

Then we moved to the Kaanapali area farther north on the island where we stayed at the Sheraton Maui for two nights, using points we had acquired from signing up for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card.  While we were in the Kaanapali region, we checked out Lahaina and snorkeled Black Rock, which was right outside our hotel.  Through the first five days on Maui we had not seen a sea turtle while snorkeling, despite repeatedly hearing other people commenting on their sightings.  Patty was getting a bit disappointed.  Then on our last snorkeling venture on our last day in Maui we encountered a beautiful sea turtle that hung around for a good two minutes.  It was the perfect way to wrap up the Maui portion of our honeymoon.

Select Photos from Maui on our Honeymoon

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Tokyo

During the planning of our trip, we realized our flight from Maui to the Philippines would be going through Tokyo, and that meant we could easily spend a couple of days in Tokyo.  We thought it would be a nice change of pace, sandwiched between the two “beachy” venues of Maui and the Philippines.

For the first two nights in Tokyo, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo in the Shinjuku district.  We got those two nights for free by transferring Ultimate Rewards from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card into the Hyatt program.  The hotel was nice, though of course it had more of a business feel than a resort feel, but it was the service that was extraordinary – there must have been six or seven employees greeting us at arrival and helping in any way they possibly could.  An added bonus was the ability to see from our room window the top of Mt. Fuji in the distance.

We were only in Tokyo for three nights (two full days) so we experienced just a small portion of the city’s offerings.  With such limited time to check out a city that is larger than New York City (and slated to host the 2020 Olympics), we got right to it and headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for incredible 360 degree views of the city.  Then we made our way to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to take in the sights of flowers, water features and ancient Japanese buildings.

Next, we visited the Shibuya ward, where we saw the Hachi statue.  There was an American movie made, with that name, featuring the moving story of the loyal dog who would run every day from his home to the train station to meet his owner.  The Shibuya ward was hopping.  It’s a bit like Times Square.  We ate some genuine sushi in one of the hundreds of little stores in the area and we screamed out song lyrics in the karaoke bar featured in the film Lost in Translation.  We also visited the “New York Bar” atop the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel that is the setting for much of that movie.  That bar/restaurant offered incredible views but a pricey menu, with a Wagyu burger coming in at approximately $40!

Our last major stop in Tokyo was the Asakusa district.  It is an incredible connection to the past.  The Sensō-ji temple is the headline attraction here as it is the oldest temple in Tokyo.  Many other temples exist in the district as well and they are accompanied by a tight-quarters shopping district that was great for us tourists!  We switched to the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport Hotel, redeeming Hilton HHonors points, for the last night to minimize travel the following morning as we had an early flight out of Narita airport to the Philippines.

Select Photos from Tokyo on our Honeymoon

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The Philippines

We departed Tokyo for the Palawan region of the Philippines.  Our flight from Tokyo landed in Manila and then we switched to a local flight aboard Cebu Pacific Airlines to Busuanga Airport on the island of Coron.

Once we touched down we entered the airport where we waited for luggage attendants to wheel us our bags by hand – there were no conveyor belts in the tiny airport.  We hopped in a shuttle bus (i.e. a minivan) with 4 or 5 others, for the journey to Coron town.

For our time in the Philippines we stayed at the Corto del Mar, a hotel that stood out in size and beauty among its surroundings.  The service at the hotel was fantastic, and surprisingly, so was the pizza!  We paid for the hotel with our Barclay Arrival+ card, and then used the points from the signup bonus for the card to cover the the room cost.

The draw to the Philippines was the natural beauty and the region exceeded our high expectations.  Each morning we boarded a bangka (small boat) for a day tour.  There were limestone cliffs, crystal clear waters and fresh fish cooked on our day boat. We found Nemo (multiple times), snorkeled over a WWII ship and lounged in hammocks on some of the best beaches we’ve ever experienced.

The beauty of the region was matched only by the happiness of the Filipinos.  They are some of the happiest folks in the world.

Select Photos from the Philippines on our Honeymoon

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South Africa – Safari, Cape Town and More

From the Philippines we hopped aboard a Cathay Pacific flight and flew in business class to Johannesburg, South Africa.  We then hopped a short flight to an airport closer to Kruger National Park.

Our homebase for our safari was Savanna Lodge.  Savanna might literally be perfect.  The lodging was luxurious, the food was delectable and the game rides were everything we had hoped for and more.  We saw leopards (a lot of them actually!), lions, giraffes, rhinos, bison, elephants and more. At dusk our guide pulled over and served us wine and hors d’oeuvres as we watched the sun set. It was truly incredible.

We wrapped up our trip with several days in Cape Town, on the western edge of South Africa. The bustling city offered great eats and the surrounding areas offered more incredible scenery and wildlife. We wandered atop Table Mountain, visited Cape Point, toured charming wineries and watched African penguins frolic at Boulder Beach.

Select Photos from South Africa on our Honeymoon

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We have been asked many times, “What was your favorite part of your honeymoon?”  The answer comes easy to Patty: the safari!  For me it was either the safari or the Philippines.  I loved the beautiful scenery of the islands and the excellent snorkeling.  The wild animals of South Africa were an awesome sight though too!  I’ll have to call it a tie between those two segments.

Our honeymoon was a trip we’ll always cherish.  As you can imagine, if we had paid for all of it, we would have been set back many tens of thousands of dollars.  But we didn’t pay for most of it, so we were able to take the trip without fretting about the cost!  Through the use of frequent flyer miles, points and free night certificates we saved about $37,100!  Check out the table below for the details.

Travel and Lodging Savings Table
How Miles, Points and Free Night Certificates Saved Us $37,100

Air Travel Lodging Going Rate for Two People How We Paid for It
Airfare to Maui in First Class on United $2,400 80,000 United MileagePlus miles
  Andaz Maui $1,400 for 4 nights 4 Free night certificates from Chase Hyatt credit cards
  Sheraton Maui $750 for 2 nights 32,000 SPG points from SPG AMEX Business cards
Maui to Honolulu in Economy on Hawaiian $180 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles from Citi AAdvantage credit cards
Honolulu to Tokyo (HND) in Economy on Hawaiian $2,000 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles from Citi AAdvantage credit cards
  Hyatt Regency Tokyo (Club Room) $680 for 2 nights 30,000 Hyatt points from Chase Hyatt credit card spend and transfer in from Ultimate Rewards
  Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport $140 for 1 night 20,000 Hilton HHonors points
Tokyo (NRT) to Manila in Business Class on Japan Airlines $3,600 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles from Citi AAdvantage credit cards
Manila to Coron in Economy on Cebu Pacific $160 Paid with Barclay Arrival miles from signup bonus
  Corto del Mar $540 for 4 nights Paid $440 with Barclay Arrival miles from signup bonus
Coron to Manila in Economy on Cebu Pacific $150 Paid with Barclay Arrival miles from signup bonus
Manila to Johannesburg in Business Class on Cathay Pacific $12,000 100,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles from Citi AAdvantage credit cards
  Radisson Blu Waterfront Cape Town $1,400 for 4 nights 100,000 Club Carlson points from Club Carlson Visa signup bonus
Cape Town to Dulles in Business Class on South African Airways $11,800 120,000 United MileagePlus miles from Chase United credit card signup bonus and transfer of Ultimate Rewards points into United
Total amount saved: $37,100  

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