Welcome back to another trip report post! In this post, I will recap my recent honeymoon trip to Bali, Indonesia, as well as Singapore! A 2 for one special.
Posting my trip reports are one of my favorite parts of having my blog as I get to recap how anyone can travel for cheap if they want to, even if they are in debt. I see all too often that people make excuses why they can’t travel. I hear: “I wish I could, but I have no free time” or “I can’t afford it right now, but maybe in the future.”
For me, I want to prioritize travel now because I am not guaranteed anything, so I want to explore the world as much as possible now.
To travel cheaply, I utilize Travel Hacking to get flights, hotels, and rental cars for free or reduced costs. I put my everyday spending on travel credit cards and strategically open up new travel cards when I know I have high future expenses that will meet the minimum spend (sign up bonus) requirements. I always pay off my credit cards in full every month and never accrue any debt (# 1 rule before starting this hobby).
Related posts: Introduction to Travel Hacking & How Much I Saved This Year by Travel Hacking
If you’re interested in getting a customized Travel hacking plan check out my Travel Hacking Consult page for more details
Check out some of my previous trip reports below:
My Honeymoon trip is a little different than most of my other trips. I had started planning for it about a year in advance mainly because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to earn a ton of points for free travel (via Travel Hacking). I probably will never have a chance again where I know I will be spending five figures in addition to my regular everyday spending and have the ability to put ~90% of that spend on Travel credit cards.
I didn’t waste this opportunity. I put every possible wedding expense on travel cards, and I opened new cards when I knew I had upcoming significant expenses. That meant putting bigger ticket items like paying for the Venue, Catering, Photographer, Floral, etc. all on travel cards.
Travel Cards for Wedding Spend
My now wife and I opened nine travel cards in 2019 and earned almost 600k travel points (mainly from sign up bonuses, referring each other, and spend requirements), in addition to points we already had.
Signing up for nine travel cards in a year sounds like a lot, but it was only 5 for me and 4 for her, which accounts for about one card every 2-3 months per person. Typically, we wouldn’t have enough expenses to meet all the spending requirements, but because of the wedding expenses, it was reasonably easy.
I won’t go in too much detail in this post around my strategy on which cards to get. Still, I will say having the ability to get business cards (we both have side hustles that qualify us) is a huge perk, and a big reason we were able to accumulate so many points.
As a bonus, because of our points, we were able to go to Hawaii 2 months before our wedding. In addition to that, we also were able to book both of our parent’s trips to Hawaii and Italy as wedding gifts. Not bad for just directing our wedding spend to travel cards.
Below is how I accomplished our honeymoon trip to Bali and Singapore with my
Our flights were probably my biggest savings ever due to travel hacking. For our Honeymoon flight to Bali, it took over 24hrs on a plane because Bali Indonesia is literally on the other side of the world from us. Due to the long flights, we made it a goal to fly business class and have lay-flat seats for all of our long haul flights.
Our flight itinerary was a little complicated because I made sure we flew in business class on the main flights. Sometimes there is limited availability to book business class seats with points, so I had to be a little creative on the way back. Example; There wasn’t any availability to fly from Singapore to Houston in business, so I ended up having to book Singapore to Vancouver, we stayed one night in Vancouver, then flew back to Houston the next day.
Breakdown on Flight Cost
As you can see, we saved over $17k on these flights if we had paid for them out of pocket. Obviously, I would never pay that $ amount for flights, but I would never have been able to experience business class for six separate flights either.
The chart above is another apparent reason why I value using credit card rewards for Travel vs. Cashback. If you redeem your points for cashback, the value of your points is equal to 1 cent per point. This means if you earn 50k bonus points, it’s worth $500.
If you look at the chart above, I received between 3.6 to 5.1 cents per point for my flights. That means I received 3.6-5.1x more value than cashback. For example, I spent 25k miles (cost for two people) for my last flight from Vancouver-Houston, and the retail price of the flight was $1,286.50 ($643.25 per person). If 25k miles = $250 @ 1 cent per point, then I used $250 worth of points to book a flight for $1,286 (~5.1 cents per point). Pretty awesome value. That is why redeeming credit card rewards for travel vs. cashback is better most of the time.
Flying Business Class – Is it worth it?
Domestic business or first class, I would say that it isn’t worth it due to the high cost (even with points). Generally, the seats on the domestic business class do not fully lay flat, and the flight is usually < 5hrs. I’d instead save my money/points and fly economy for those flights.
However, long haul international flights (anything over 5 hours) I think getting business class seats is totally worth it. I personally would never pay fully out of pocket, but redeeming these flights via travel reward points is worth the cost, in my opinion. Having the ability to completely lay flat and get comfortable sleep for 5-10 hrs while flying was a great experience. Having that ability to sleep meant I was fully rested and ready to enjoy my first day at my destination vs. needing a full day to recover from jet lag. The drink and food service wasn’t bad, either. Most flights, we were provided a good quality meal for breakfast/lunch or dinner/breakfast and whatever we wanted to drink.
Another perk of business class is you get access to great airport lounges with your ticket. Free food/drinks and a comfortable place to sleep or take a shower is a nice perk. Our favorite lounge was the United Polaris lounge in Houston. We also got a free massage at the Thai Airways lounge in Thailand, which was surprisingly really good.
Total Cost – 418k Points + $340.26 (taxes)
After I booked my flights, my next task was to book the hotels in each area we wanted to stay in Bali and Singapore. We ended up staying in Bali for eight nights and Singapore for two nights.
Alila Seminyak – 10k Hyatt Points (5k per night) – $0 out of pocket
We arrived in Bali and headed to Seminyak, located on the east coast of Bali. I ended up finding a deal on Hyatt and was able to put our two night stay in Seminyak with Hyatt points at one of their partner hotels – Alila. The Alila Seminyak hotel was right on the beach and had a beautiful infinity pool looking into the ocean.
The Alila was probably one of the best value stays we had for the trip. It only cost 5k Hyatt points per night (10k total), which is our hot spot for redeeming for hotels. The regular price for two nights was $330 (3.3 cents per point).
Royal Pita Maha – 70k Chase UR points + $304 out of pocket
Our next hotel was in the jungle of central Bali, north of Ubud. We stayed in a private villa at the Royal Pita Maha, and it was the most luxurious stay of the honeymoon. We had our own private villa with a private infinity pool looking into the jungle of Bali. They also had a pretty excellent free breakfast every morning, that was great too.
We stayed at Royal Pita for three nights. The retail price for three nights on Expedia was $1179.63 if we paid with cash. I ended up using some of my Chase UR points and paid the remainder in cash.
Grand Hyatt Bali 36k Hyatt Points (12k per night) – $0 out of pocket
We went south to Grand Hyatt Bali for our last three nights in Bali. It was a beautiful resort and had multiple pools, restaurants, beach access, etc. Free breakfast and free happy hour for food and drinks daily. We like the hotel, but it caters to young families.
Retail Price for three nights – $416.55 if we paid with cash.
Capri by Fraser China Square – 11k Chase UR points + $68 out of pocket
We booked this hotel for our first night in Singapore. Mainly because of its close location to all the delicious street food options in Singapore. We also opted to stay here one night since staying at Marina Bay Sands was so pricey.
Retail Price for one night – $205.75 if we paid with cash.
Marina Bay Sands – $690 on Agoda – Erased $570 via Capital One Venture Travel Eraser – out of pocket cost $120
It was a bucket list item to stay at the Marina Bay Sands, one of the most iconic hotels in the world. We got to swim at the infinity pool at the very top, and our room was on the 25th floor in the 2nd tower, so we got a pretty good city view. The hotel also has a mall and casino attached. It was indeed a sight to see. One bad part was everything there was ridiculously expensive, so we limited food purchases there and ate outside of the hotel mostly.
Marina Bay Sands is an exclusive hotel and doesn’t have any ties to other major hotel chains, so I couldn’t transfer points to stay here (they don’t show up on Amex or Chase travel portals either). I had to get a little creative and book with cash, but then use my Capital One Venture card points to erase part of the charges. With Capital One Venture, I’m able to erase any transaction tagged as “Travel.” I had 57k Capital One points, so I was able to erase $570 off my bill.
Vancouver – Hyatt Regency (12k per night) – $0 out of pocket
Due to our flights routing us through Vancouver, we stayed one night at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Vancouver. It was nice to walk around and check out a local All You Can Eat (AYCE) Sushi Restaurant while we were there. The retail price was $176.26 if we paid with cash.
Total Hotel/Lodging Cost – $492
Transportation, Activities, and Food
To get around Bali, we used a few different forms of transportation. First, I coordinated with a local travel company in Bali and arranged to pick up and drop off to each of our hotels and back to the airport. This turned out to be a good idea because I didn’t have to worry about finding a ride when we first arrived or between hotels (longer trips). We agreed on a price for each transport, so I already had Indonesian money (IDR) ready to go beforehand. The arranged drivers were also helpful in recommending places to go and took us to currency exchange a few times (outside of the airport for a better rate), as well as the pharmacy on a few of our drives.
For when I was going out to eat or to a destination further than walking distance, we used Grab, which is the Southeast Asia rideshare app, similar to Uber or Lyft. Grab was cheaper than cabs, and I didn’t have to negotiate prices, I knew the cost before I booked the ride. It turned out pretty useful for us since we weren’t comfortable renting a scooter or car in Bali- we weren’t familiar with the different driving conditions than we were used to in the US.
We used Lyft to get to and from our Hotel in Vancouver on our last night.
Total Transportation Costs – $135.71
The local travel company also was able to set up a few tours for us – we went white water rafting and ATV through the jungle in Ubud. They also set up a tour of the nearby island of Nusa Penida, which required a 45min speed boat ride to get to the island. We went snorkeling and toured the main spots around the island. Tours in Bali are awesome because each tour we took, lunch was provided, and anywhere we went: hotel, massage, or activity; we were welcomed with a cold/hot towel and welcome drink.
From watching youtube videos on Bali in preparation for my trip, it was highly recommended I check out a specific tour guide. His name was Panca, with Bali Customized Tours. Panca took us to the north of Bali, where not many other tourists go. He has relationships with the locals and was able to provide us an incredible local Balinese experience. We went to some hidden Rice Terraces, went down a “natural” water slide, cliff jumped, and checked out some fantastic waterfalls. Check out the tour here if you’re interested.
On our last full day in Bali, I had to opportunity to try something I had always wanted to do – Surfing! I signed up for a 2-hour surf lesson, and I loved it. I purchased it through Airbnb Activities. I started catching waves after my 2nd attempt. It was so fun, and I hope to do it again soon. I would highly recommend it if you ever visit Bali.
Total Cost of Outdoor Activities – $547.13 (includes tips)
Massages / Spa
We made it a point before the honeymoon that we wanted to have a lot of time to relax after the stresses of planning for a wedding. I ended up booking three different couples massages at different locations during the trip. All were good and lasted between 2-4hrs each.
The Price varied depending on location but ranged between $60 – $260 per session (including tip). Not bad since its $60-$120 per hour for massages in the US.
Our favorite was the “4 Hand” massage Zahra massage in Nusa Dua, Bali – 2 masseuses at the same time! It was great, and they even provided us dinner afterward.
Total Cost of Massages/Spa – $444.05 (includes tips)
My wife and I are pretty big, “foodies.” A big highlight of our trips is trying new foods. We especially love Asain food, so we were excited to eat in Indonesia and Singapore.
We found a great breakfast spot for Acai bowls in Seminyak and ate there twice. We ate local Indonesian food most of the time in Bali – Nasi Goreng was my favorite!
We tried fine dining for a few nights. One night we ate a 12-course meal, but I didn’t enjoy it. The food was super fancy, but I hated that I had to wait 10-15mins for each meal and the overall experience took over 3 hours. I got sick the next morning from that meal, too. The other fine dining restaurant was excellent – However, I still wasn’t a fan of the format of waiting between each meal and the small sizes of each plate. Not to mention, the prices were high, but I didn’t mind because I wanted to try something new. Now I know I’d instead stick to regular formats when eating out.
We also stayed in and order room service for a few nights and went out to local restaurants.
One of the main reasons we wanted to go to Singapore at the end of our honeymoon was because of the fantastic street food. On our first day, we went to a “Hawker Center” – which is an outdoor food court with a bunch of individual food stalls, serving a variety of street food. The prices are pretty cheap – $2-$5 per meal. I ate so much, and it was so good!
We also ate dinner at a restaurant inside the Marina Bay Sands on our last night.
Total Food Cost – $1,076.92
We purchased an external Travel Insurance policy for our honeymoon that came in handy when my wife got sick from an ear infection before we arrived, so we had to go to a local clinic in Bali. Also, United airlines lost our bags when we arrived home in Houston, so I was able to submit a claim for that too (they found the bags and brought them to us in Austin 2 days later).
We also picked up some souvenirs for friends and family.
Total Miscellaneous Cost – $186.85
Total Cost Activities, Transportation, Food, and Miscellaneous – $2,390.66
Total All-in Cost of our Honeymoon – $3,222.92
We loved our honeymoon. What we loved more was not having to stress about saving lots of money to go on one. We had the opportunity to take a much needed relaxing vacation and one that was also filled with excitement. We did a lot of relaxing by the pool, a lot of massages, had many adventures throughout Bali, enjoyed our few days in Singapore, and tried some of the best foods we have ever eaten. It was indeed a once in a lifetime experience.
Due to the power of travel hacking, we were able to fly on six different business class flights (3 short-haul economy) and stay at six different hotels (2 that I couldn’t normally afford). It was the main reason we were able to pull off our honeymoon trip. We saved over 96% on flights and hotels – which are typically the most expensive parts of traveling.
Because of our savings in Flights and Hotels, we could spend freely on activities and food. We didn’t have to keep a strict budget because I knew we already reduced our largest travel expenses first.
I realize that $3k isn’t a small chunk of change, but completely reasonable for the amount of value we received (over $20k). We would do it again in a heartbeat.
I paid for all the flights (taxes) and remaining hotel costs over 6 months in advance before our honeymoon trip. So during the trip, I just paid for transportation, activities, food, and miscellaneous costs, which I had saved for already in my Capital One performance savings account* automatically 2x each month. We also received some cash from wedding gifts that helped as well.
Question for You!
What’s holding you back from traveling more?
How do you get the most value when you travel?
What are your favorite things to do in Southeast Asia?
- Debtfreeclimb 2020 Update - October 23, 2020
- DebtFreeClimb v2- Our Debt Freedom Progress Report - June 17, 2020
- Trip Report: Our Honeymoon (not on a budget) - February 7, 2020
Kim @ The Frugal Engineers says
Amazing! What’s your next trip?
Thanks Kim! Probably domestic stuff for this year. Going to Financial Freedom submit in May and maybe Las Vegas in June.
My wife is working on getting the companion pass so we can utilize that for the next 2 years.
Alila was one of those experiences where I walked away feeling like I just spent a few days living my best luxurious life. Yes, it has a luxury price tag, but not one where you walk away feeling like “eh, it was alright”. I felt it was worth every penny. The thoughtful attention to detail, the professional staff, the stunning location, it was all perfect. Already dreaming of my return.
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Whats your next trip?
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