6 places with the bluest water and how to get there with miles

Sometimes all it takes to re-center and refresh your mind and body is a good day (or week — who are we to limit you) staring off into a tranquil blue sea.

To help you find your inner peace, and catch a few waves and rays while you’re at it, I put together a list of some of the bluest waters in the world. These lakes, seas, beaches, and bays have vistas that range from brilliant navy blues to the lightest, clearest turquoises imaginable. Needless to say, they are the perfect places to re-connect with nature, family, and yourself.

Egremnoi, Greece

Egremnoi, GreeceDimitris Panas/Shutterstock

It’s hard to find a spot on Lefkada Island that doesn’t have spectacular views of the crystal clear Ionian Sea, but Egremnoi (or Egremni) beach on the west coast is particularly stunning. The beach requires a steep hike down some ersatz stairs, which thins the crowds, but once you’ve made the descent, the white sand stands in stark contrast to the turquoise water making it ideal for spending the day relaxing in the sun.

How to Get There

There is no airport on Lefkada island. The closest airport to Lefkada island is Aktion/ Preveza (PVK), about 25 km from Lefkada Town. This airport operates only in summer and receives charter flights from abroad and few charters from other Greek islands.

Miles Needed

Both Austrian and Finnair airlines have flights servicing Aktion.
Austrian is a Star Alliance member therefore you can book award flights with United or Lufthansa miles.
Finnair award flights can be booked with American Airlines miles.

From To Operated By Miles (R/T)
New York, JFK Aktion, Greece Austrian 50,000 United miles
New York, JFK Aktion, Greece Finnair 50,000 American Airlines miles

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake, OregonPaige Poorman/Shutterstock

The deep blue waters that fill the caldera of the sunken volcano Mount Mazama help make Crater Lake one of America’s most beautiful lakes. The deep blue waters are almost crystal clear thanks to the fact that there are no incoming streams or rivers to make the water turbid. All of this makes it ideal for scuba divers willing to brave the chilly water. Crater Lake, located in Southern Oregon, is also the deepest lake in the United States, plunging to depths of 1,943 feet, with sunlight extending 400 feet down.

How to Get There

Medford, Oregon is the nearest major city/airport and is approximately 90 minutes/75 miles away from the park. Portland, Oregon is the next closest major city/airport and is approximately 5 hour/250 miles away. Please view our Directions page for more information.

Miles Needed

Domestic award flights within the US are pretty cheap and easy to book. Most major US carriers offer flights to Medford, OR. Alaska and Delta being the two with the most frequent flights.

From To Operated By Miles (R/T)
New York, JFK Medford, OR Alaska 20,000 Korean Air miles
New York, JFK Medford, OR Delta 23,000 Delta miles
New York, JFK Medford, OR American 25,000 American Airlines miles

Con Son, Vietnam

Con Son, Vietnam Tonkinphotography/Shutterstock

Granite cliffs outline the crystalline water on Con Son, the only inhabited island in the barely populated 16-island archipelago of Con Dao, one of the best secret islands on Earth. Located 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast, the unspoiled island’s beaches are lined with golden sand and gorgeous blue water. For the most breathtaking views of the turquoise sea, head to the remote Dam Tre Bay lagoon.

How to Get There

You will need to fly into Ho Cho Minh City first (SGN). Ho Chi Minh City is the nearest international airport and direct scheduled 45-minute flights from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) are operated by VASCO, a fully owned subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines

Miles Needed

There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Vietnam (or vice-versa). You will connect either in Hong Kong or Tokyo.

From To Operated By Miles (R/T)
Los Angeles Ho Chi Minh ANA 65,000 ANA miles (or 65,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards)
New York, JFK Ho Chi Minh Cathay Pacific 60,000 Alaska miles
New York, JFK Ho Chi Minh Japan Airlines 70,000 Japan airline miles (or 56,000 SPG)

 

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize Jennifer Wan/Shutterstock

A short boat ride from the largest barrier reef outside of Australia, Belize’s Ambergris Caye is a scuba diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise. Head to Shark Ray Alley to snorkel among nurse sharks and stingrays; visit Hol Chan Marine Reserve to get up close with eels, turtles, and colorful fish; or explore the underwater caves of Blue Hole. When you’re not in the water, admire its warm glow from a hammock on the beach.

How to Get There

Belize is located approximately two hours from four major cities in the US; Miami, New Orleans, Houston or North Carolina. Flights out of Los Angeles connect through Guatemala and El Salvador. The major airlines servicing Belize include Delta, United, Taca and recently Southwest airlines.

Miles Needed

Award flights to Belize are pretty cheap, it’s almost like a domestic flight.

From To Operated By Miles (R/T)
New York, JFK Belize American 21,000 American airlines miles
New York, JFK Belize Delta 35,000 Delta Skymiles
New York, LaGuardia Belize Southwest ~20,000 Southwest points

The Maldives

The Maldives jannoon028/Shutterstock

As one of the world’s best islands, it’s no surprise that the Maldives are a favorite destination for celebrities. You can find this low-lying island nation in between the Indian and Arabian seas has luxuriously appointed bungalows set over dazzling blue waters and surrounded by talcum-soft white sand beaches — basically everything that bucket lists are made of. When not simply admiring the view, visitors can spend days exploring the coral reef, visiting an underwater playground, or relaxing in one of the world’s best spas.

How to Get There

Malé’s airport has become an international hub in recent years. There are several major airlines with daily service there.

Miles Needed

You will need to connect in the middle east or europe. If you want to make it a trip of a lifetime, collect miles and fly Etihad’s first class apartment on your way to the Maldives.

From To Operated By Miles (R/T)
New York, JFK Malé Etihad 80,000 ANA miles
New York, JFK Malé Qatar Airways 60,000 Japan airlines miles
Chicago, ORD Malé Emirates 60,000 Japan airlines miles

Palawan, The Philippines

Palawan, The Philippines PhotoRoman/Shutterstock

I saved the best for last. I’m biased because I spent a week in El Nido and I cannot wait to go back.
Although it’s just a quick flight from Manila, Palawan feels like it’s a world away. The sparsely-populated archipelago is made up of jungle-filled islands surrounded by stunning teal waters teeming with fish and coral reefs and an incredible array of lagoons, coves, and secret beaches. Explore the waters of El Nido, where tropical fish swarm around the coral reefs, go diving in the azure ocean off of Linapacan Island, or bravely swim through the world’s longest underground navigable river.

How to Get There

Fly into Manilla through Tokyo or Hong Kong then catch a short flight on AirSwift

Miles Needed

Flying to Southeast asia requires a connection in Tokyo or Hong Kong.

From To Operated By Miles (R/T)
New York, JFK Manila ANA 55,000 ANA miles
New York, JFK Manila Japan Airlines 55,000 Japan airlines miles
Chicago, ORD Manila ANA 55,000 ANA miles

The Most LUXURIOUS FIRST Class Experience For JUST $5.60

Etihad First Class Apartment has been a dream of mine since literally the day I applied for my very first travel credit card. Words cannot describe how much I obsessed (and still do) over flying in my own suite! I watched YouTube reviews, read blogs, scoured the net for photos of the apartment…(yeah it got a bit unhealthy) Continue reading “The Most LUXURIOUS FIRST Class Experience For JUST $5.60”

Intro to Free Travel

CORRECTION Mideast Emirates Abu Dhabi Etihad

I take a vacation couple of times a year. Lately I have been on a quest to see as much of Asia as possible. I caught the travel bug especially when it comes to SE Asia; the food, people and secluded beaches got me hooked. I was browsing YouTube one day and came across Etihad Suite and thought to myself “Wouldn’t be awesome to start an amazing vacation being treated like royalty flying in your own suite?” Then I looked up how much it costs to fly….OH $$$$ boy! umm yea, no! I thought this is a nice dream but it will never happen unless I went out of my mind, sold the house and used the profits to treat myself. Then I found out about Churning. The dream no longer seemed like an unattainable mirage.

So how do I get on that sweet Suite?

The Beginning

I am going to share with you my personal experience, the good and the bad and the pitfalls I made along the way.

Before I even knew what churning was, I did have a couple of reward earning credit cards but I used them very casually as daily spending cards and didn’t really pay much attention to means to earn miles or rewards. I thought it was a thing reserved for those with businesses or enormous spending habits and can afford to charge so many thousands of dollars in order to earn points. As you will learn, this is NOT TRUE at all.

This is my Chase Freedom Ultimate Rewards balance of 2/2016. I got those 19,836 points by using my Chase Freedom card as an everyday card

rewards

Firstly, I must mention (and thank) Reddit, Flyertalk and Loophole Travel who have been a tremendous help. As a noob, I felt extremely overwhelmed as there is an enormous amount of information regarding churning. I hope this blog eases you in into the world of churning and explains things in an easy to understand format.

Let’s get familiar with a few things.

What is churning?

Churning is the practice of signing up for credit cards that offer large signup bonuses in the form of miles, points, or straight cash back for the purpose of obtaining the bonus before cancelling the card. In a broader sense, churning can refer to simply maximizing credit card and travel rewards.

Before you get all giddy and start applying to cards, this is the US of A. Nothing is free or RISK free. You must know the pros and cons of churning. THIS IS EXTREMELY important.

Reddit has a nice wiki explaining the ins and outs of churning. I would sum it up here but I thought you should take the time and read it end to end because it contains information that might sway your opinion on churning if certain situations apply to you (ie: you’re planning to use your credit for a mortgage, student loans or car purchase, you have a hard time managing your finances, you can’t meet the minimum spending…etc)

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with churning. let’s move along.

This is what you need to do next:

  1. See a list of current Credit Card bonus offers. This is a good source.
  2. Figure out if you’re looking for miles, points, cash or gift cards. In my case, all I care about is airline miles that will get me on Etihad Suite.
  3. Take a look at your spending habits and make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements (more on that later). I have been using the same card for all my expenses for about a year. I literally charge everything I can on one card; bills, groceries, parking, dining out etc. Look at your last 6 statements, see much how much you spend in a typical month, and figure out if that amount is enough to meet the MSR for the card you’re targeting.
  4. Apply! Hopefully you’ll end up with a message like this:Capture.PNG
  5. Meet the minimum spending requirements (MSR). Whoa what is MSR?
    1. The Minimum Spend is the amount you must charge to your new credit card in a defined time period in order to qualify for the sign-on bonus. For example, Citi AA Platinum card currently requires you to spend $3,000 in 3 months, in order to receive the 50,000 AA Miles. Some cards have more complicated Minimum Spend goals, such as the Chase BA Avios card, with minimum spend defined for the first 3 and 12 month period. Some cards do not have a Minimum Spend, such as the BoA Alaska card.
  6. How do I spend to meet the MSR:
    1. Here are some common Fee Free ways to meet minimum spend. To take maximum advantage of these, plan your credit card apps around the spend timing, or prepay certain amounts when possible to move the spend into the minimum spend timeframe.
      • Buy useful stuff that you actually need (Groceries, Gas, Christmas Presents, etc)
      • Buy Store/Gas Gift Cards that you will use in the next few months anyways.
      • When going out with friends, offer to pickup the tab, and have everyone pay you back using cash or paypal or QuickPay.
      • Pay/Pre-Pay Bills that Accepts CCs, paying multiple months at once (Mobile, Cable, Utilities, some have Process Fees, but many do not).
      • When paying legitimate medical expenses, use a CC rather than your FSA card, then file paperwork to claim the cash back.
      • Pay for Day Care or any other professional service to see if they take a CC, or even allow pre-payment. You should also ask if there is a Cash Discount, which can offer a pretty good percentage off.
      • Pay Insurance Bills (Auto, Home, Renters, and Health).
      • Fund Checking/Savings account that accepts CC funding See DoctorOFCredit Blog.
      • Student Loan payment (Dept of Education may accept CC payment without Fees)

See here for a detailed plan on currently available MS’ing options.

The Plan to Get on Etihad Sweet Suite!

How would you like to fly like this? for a few dollars!

140505093847-1-ethiad-the-residence-horizontal-gallery1

Now you have your first AAdvantage miles earning card, let’s explore how to turn those miles into an actual flight.

AA and Etihad are partners meaning you can use AA miles to book flights on Etihad. You have to follow a few easy steps and this article spells it out pretty nicely.

Etihad
Find flights on Etihad’s website then call AA to book

But 50,000 miles aren’t nearly enough to secure an Etihad suite. How do you get more AA miles?

Remember that I applied and got approved for a Citi AAdvantage Select Mastercard on 2/3/2016. I earned 50,000 miles after spending $3000 in 3 months. Now I need more of those miles.

Get Even More AA Miles

  1. Apply for Citi AAdvantage cards.
  2. SPG points can be transferred to AA.

1. CitiGold Checking Bonus:

Citi has a promotion (as of the writing of this article) giving you 50,000 for opening a Citigold checking account and meeting a few requirements. Redditors  and Doctor of Credit explain how this works.

2. The Citi AA Loophole:

Citi rules states that you can’t get a bonus of the same product (card) if you’ve opened or closed a card in 18 months. You can break this rule by taking advantage of the loop hole. This is how it works:

a. Apply for Citi AAdvantage (which you should already have by now).

Citi will upgrade you to a World Elite in a month or two.

Citi no longer sees the original Citi AA.

Apply for a new Citi AA with 60 days.

This timeline from Loophole Travel is a nice visual on how to take advantage of the loophole.

Date Action
February 13, 2015 Apply for Citi AA Platinum World MC (50k bonus)
April 2015 Receive upgraded Citi AA Platinum Elite World MC
August 17, 2015 Re-apply for Citi AA Platinum World MC (50k bonus)
**October 2015 Receive upgraded Citi AA Platinum Elite World MC
**Late October 2015 Re-apply for Citi AA Platinum World MC (50k bonus)
**Hopefully… etc etc

 

The Confusing Part!!!!

I have to admit that the process of applying for cards and meeting the minimum spending requirement was the easy part. What was confusing to me is redeeming miles with airlines that don’t offer their own brand credit card. Etihad for example does not have a great credit card with generous sign up bonus like the Citi AA (there is this thing which is laughable compared to other offers). So how do I use miles from loyalty program X to book flight with airline Y.

Loyalty programstransfer_partner_infographic_airlines_update1

 

This is awesome!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1M8qx5Y2OTr44R8T0smSEgy3Zsy6E7MMQdtg0hxTzoWU/edit?pref=2&pli=1#gid=0