Why I paid $210 for a hotel room and how I got a free plane ticket home.

A free ticket home?!

I received an email from United MileagePlus. It was about a partnership with an app called RocketMiles. Earn miles every time you book a hotel room through the app. As a budget traveler, I figured the available hotels wouldn’t be in my budget, but I downloaded it anyway.

Rocket Miles View- Mobile Version

When I got the email, I had 20,800 frequent flier miles with United. I know some are not United fans, but I’ve flown them quite a bit over the years. I’ve amassed and used my miles over and over for different award tickets. I even went round trip to Peru (for two) using those miles.

Machu Picchu, Peru. 2013

Every dollar I spend on my United credit card I get a mile. I looked at hotels via the RocketMiles app in all the cities I’ve yet to visit: Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Ho Chi Minh, and more. Of all those places, there was one hotel in Siem Reap that would give me 6,000 miles. But, it costs $210 per night. Yikes, that’s not within my budget.

I researched, did math, thought, researched some more, thought harder… Then I got yet another email. “Book by Friday and you’ll get an additional 3,000 miles.” So wait. I’ll pay $210 for the room and get 210 miles = about 21,000 miles. 6,000 for booking at this one hotel that’s offering more miles for the per night stay price than seemingly any other in SE Asia = 27,000 miles. 3,000 bonus miles = 30,000 miles.

Guess what 30,000 miles can get? An award ticket from Santiago, Chile (where I plan on finish up my travels next year) to Boston. Well, it costs 30,000 miles and $53. My “research” was checking regular ticket costs from Santiago to Boston. The cheapest ones are currently $540. So I based my decision on the following:
Hotel Room: $210
Award ticket: $53
Total: $263

Reg ticket: $540
$540-263=$277 savings AND, I get a fancy place to spend the night. Not that I need it, BUT it will help later when I need a ticket to go home. Furthermore, I spent the last ten days house and dog sitting via workaway, so I didn’t spend money on a place. I allocate myself about $30/d, but if I break up this expense over 2 months, it doesn’t reduce my daily budget by too much. Lastly, I’m still hoping to do a workaway volunteer opportunity for three weeks in Laos. If that works out, it will greatly help my budget!

My dog for 10 days.

While house sitting, I didn’t use the AC much as it turned out to be quite expensive. I was often over heated and woke up drenched in sweat most nights. I developed a heat rash, and had no relief from the high temperatures. In just a short time in AC, my heat rash miraculously improved in record time.

Not going to lie, I love breakfast buffets!

Fitness center. Breakfast buffet. Swimming pool. Lounging in bed. The epitome of laziness and I somehow managed to save nearly $300 on a plane ticket home.

Just my big bed in an air conditioned room at the Royal Empire Hotel!

I don’t think I’ve ever paid this much to stay somewhere for one night. Well, there was that one time I had surgery at Bumrungrad International Hospital. I’m sure that was the most expensive stay of my life, but my 23 hours at the Royal Empire Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was by far the most I’ve ever paid for a hotel. I took full advantage, enjoyed it, and barely even left the place while there. All in all, it was worth the stay because of the frequent flier miles I earned. Was it worth $200? For what you can get in Cambodia, definitely not. The staff was nice, but people are nice even at the cheap hostels. It was good totally have my own space, cool off, and relax, but unless I can get another free plane ticket out of the deal, I won’t be spending any more nights in fancy hotels!

Whats your biggest travel splurge?

 

The Downside of the Nomadic Lifestyle

How do you envision long term travel? Ever wonder what it’s like beyond the pretty pictures and interesting photos? Here’s a bit, just a bit, about the downside of being a traveler and what people don’t realize about this lifestyle. And I say traveler in the long term sense, because that’s what I do. This is not a vacation, it’s a lifestyle.
As you may know, I got injured in Myanmar on January 3rd and had to return to Thailand. I’d been pining to come back ever since and finally made the journey from Chaing Mai to Mandalay via Bangkok Airways. Mandalay is quite north compared to where I’ve been the last few months (since I left Bhutan, actually), and I was really surprised by the heat, dryness, and vegetation. The acacia trees are reminiscent of the mesquite found in the dry areas of Texas and I even saw a few cacti of some sort. The Irrawaddy River flows north to south, basically bisecting the country and along its shores, water is diverted for crop growth. On the bus ride to Bagan, you can see green fields of rice, coconut trees, and fruit of all sorts from bananas, to papayas and mangoes, and more. While some areas are desert like, the lush green fields provide quite a contrast, and of course, the landscape is dotted with magnificent Buddhist temples. But, back to travel…
It takes time and money to get from point A to point B. The less developed the country, the longer it takes, and the more uncomfortable it typically can be. (Unless you fly this the flight from Thailand).
Life is different. People are different. Food is different.
People do things how they see fit, not necessarily in a manner that may make sense to you or us as westerners.
You sweat, stink, and can be dirty for what feels like forever. (In Kathmandu, this was definitely a never ending feeling). You may not have access to a washer and dryer. You may have to hand wash clothing, and sometimes, when the humidity is high, shit just doesn’t dry. Turn up the stench factor. One good thing about flying solo: the only one you have to worry about smelling you is yourself! ?
If you’re like me, you’re unhappy when not participating in regular physical activity and eating proper meals.
Food can be questionable and food safety is always a concern for me.
Have a look at my intake today:
Breakfast, buffet style, at the hotel in Mandalay. They had a bit of everything, but mostly Asian foods. I chose a bit of noodles, spinach “salad”, some sort of chicken made with sweet pickled onions, Indian style pakoda (or vegetable fritters), an egg, and some coffee. I filled up. We had a long bus ride ahead of us and I wasn’t sure what we’d come across on the road.
“Snack:” Some peanut bars at a rest stop. I don’t know exactly what the ingredients were, but definitely peanuts and sugar.
Afternoon Meal: “Chicken Sandwich.” OMG- worst sandwich ever. My plate had thee squares, cut into two. Crustless white bread of different sizes with something like chicken salad inside. Oh, and a few well-salted French fries. I ate it. It was 3:30 and I was hungry.
Dinner: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Quest Bar and an Oreo cookie.
Water, water, water.
So far, the places I’ve visited in Myanmar will arrange for pick up and drop off wherever you are. The bus to Bagan is supposed to take 5-6 hours, but we got picked up first, at 8 am, and arrived to our hotel around 2:30 pm. The whole trip was about 90 miles and we were on a mini bus. The roads weren’t too bad, but it was still quite bumpy and long. Not my first time traveling in Myanmar, so my expectations were not too high.
In Myanmar, food seems to typically be served out of large pots that are placed on a stand once cooked. They are refilled when almost empty from inconspicuous place out back. It was 102 degrees today. Even the semi-adventurous food lover in me did not want any mystery meals in those pots. Same went for lunch so I found a bakery with AC. I’ll pay for that luxury. A bakery. So imagine my horror when I received a sandwich made of white bread?! I have enough quest bars to get me through Myanmar, but only one a day, so I choose when I want to eat one carefully!
Despite the photos, it’s not always pretty, or comfortable, and sometimes it isn’t even sensible, but at the end of the day, I derive a huge sense of satisfaction in exploring new places, seeing new faces, and getting to know a place a bit. Every time I go somewhere new, I’m so excited, I’ve shared that before.
So here I am in Nyaung U, a village near Bagan, I’ve been waiting to come here for a long time. Tomorrow morning we have a hike up to one of the temples to see the sunrise over the plains. Bagan is the most densely populated area in the world for Buddhist temples, over 2,000 here, and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. I hope I won’t be disappointed. The Thai islands are beautiful, now that is a vacation, but Myanmar is a whole other world! ??