Let’s start your week off with a little travel inspiration to help fight the Monday blues.
Below are three destinations with astounding beauty I can attest to as I’ve personally traveled to all of them. All photos in this post are my own.
While you’ll need to get creative with the final leg(s) of the journey (think ferries and all terrain vehicles), it is possible to get very close to these places using common airline miles that are not hard to accrue.
Have fun award/accommodation/Google Image searching during your break–or not during your break 😉
Sossusvlei Salt and Clay Pan in the Namib Desert of Namibia
Why You Want to Go
The Sossusvlei region of the Namib desert is populated with otherworldly orange/pink/red sand dunes that are some of the tallest dunes in the world. They are striking enough to merit a visit on their own, but the main event that draws tourists far and wide is the Sossusvlei salt and clay pan which provides a stark, barren backdrop for petrified tree trunks against the bright dunes. The area is surreal to say the least.
How to Get There
The closest major airport to Sossusvlei is Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek. From Windhoek to Sossusvlei you can rent a car and drive yourself, but for the last few kilometers within the Sossusvlei protected area you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle as it will be very deep sand.
- For 75k/35k AAdvantage miles fly Qatar Business/economy Class to Windhoek one way to or from the United States. While you typically need to fly directly from your region of origin to your region of destination without transiting any other regions on AAdvantage awards, one of the exceptions to this award rule is that you can transit Europe or the Middle East when flying Qatar to Africa. Look for award space flying Qatar on British Airways’ website, and then call AAdvantage to book.
- For 104k/65k ANA miles fly a mixture of Star Alliance carriers in Business/economy class to Windhoek roundtrip from the United States. That’s an incredible price that comes with a couple caveats: Roundtrips are mandatory when redeeming ANA miles, and fuel surcharges will be collected as you cannot fly United all the way to Windhoek. To minimize fuel surcharges, you could fly United to Cologne or Munich (as of May 18, 2018) and connect to Windhoek on Eurowings. You can look for award space right on united.com.
- Check out Comprehensive Spread Sheet of 8 Star Alliance Award Charts: Cheapest Awards to Africa and Middle East for more redemption ideas.
Lofoten Archipelago of Norway
Why You Want to Go
Sheer faced, snow-topped peaks shooting straight out of the ocean and white sanded beaches with electric blue water await you in the magical Norwegian archipelago of Lofoten in the arctic circle. Quaint towns framed by fjords with charming Scandinavian houses punctuate the intense green landscapes with spots of barnyard red. You won’t ever want to close your eyes and you won’t be encouraged to as much if you go in the summer when the sun never sets.
If you’re not afraid of the cold, Lofoten is a destination for seeing the Aurora Borealis during the winter months. If you’d rather camp and hike (which is WORLD CLASS on the archipelago), go in peak summer months. When I visited Loften in early July I caught the tail end of the midnight sun season (approximately May 28 to July 14), when the sun never dipped below the horizon but instead hovered above it like the laziest, most hypnotizing sunset you’ve ever witnessed for multiple hours in the middle of the “night”.
Lofoten is the most naturally stunning place I’ve ever seen.
How to Get There
The closest major airport to Lofoten is in Bodø. From Bodø there are multiple major ferries, and to get between the islands of the Lofoten archipelago there are more ferries and buses that travel on well kept highways and roads. We got around by car since we were camping.
I recommend starting your trip in Værøy, a tiny island at the tip of Lofoten. You can take a ferry there from Bodø.
- For 57.5k/70 United miles fly a combination of Star Alliance carriers in Business Class to Bodø. If you could get the transoceanic leg on United, then you’d pay the lesser price. SAS flies direct from Oslo and Austrian flies direct from Munich seasonally. In economy you’d pay 30k United miles no matter who you flew. You can look for award space on united.com.
- Asiana and ANA have some of the cheapest Star Alliance award prices to Europe (40k and 44k respectively), but you’ll pay fuel surcharges redeeming either type of mile since you can’t fly United all the way to Bodø. Flying United for the main award flight across the Atlantic will cut down on fuel surcharges but note that United doesn’t fly to Oslo either, so you’d be looking at multiple segments. You can look for award space on united.com.
- There are tons of other ways to get to Europe with miles. Check out How to Book a RTW Trip in 2017. Use These Underpriced Awards Around the World for ideas.
- Norwegian Air now flies to 11 US cities and sometimes has incredible cash ticket sales if you don’t mind traveling light with less space.
Boipeba, a Brazilian Tropical Paradise
Why You Want to Go
The state of Bahia in Brazil, where you’ll find the island of Boipeba, is a treasure trove of culture and geography. It’s the epicenter of African culture in Brazil: think spicy, rich seafood stews (called moqueca), vibrant music and dance, and pristine beaches. Neighbor island Morro de São Paulo is also beautiful but, in my opinion, not nearly as charming as less developed, sleepy Boipeba.
How to Get There
Salvador-Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport, located in the city of Salvador, is the closest major airport to Boipeba. From Salvador you can take a ferry to Morro de São Paulo and then a combo of a 4×4 and boat to Boipeba. You also might be able to take a ferry straight to Boipeba from Salvador but I’m not 100% sure about that. When I visited Boipeba I went via Morro de São Paulo–it’s probably easier to arrange/negotiate transport from there than the mainland.
- For 50k Alaska miles fly LATAM Business Class to Salvador (note to keep that 50k price, you must fly LATAM for the entire award as Alaska awards only allow one partner on an award…. so, for example, you couldn’t combine American and LATAM award flights). It would only cost 20k Alaska miles in economy if it was during Off Peak travel times (March 1 – May 31 or August 16 – November 30). Look for award space on alaskaair.com.
- For 35k Asiana miles fly a combination of United Business Class and Avianca to Salvador without fuel surcharges! Normally Asiana would collect them flying another Star Alliance carrier aside from United but none of Asiana’s partners to South America have fuel surcharges on their flights within the Americas! You can look for award space on united.com.
- For 55k United miles fly a combination of United Business Class and Avianca to Salvador.
Getting the Miles
United miles are mentioned throughout this post as a solid option for getting to all of these destinations. If you haven’t opened a five credit cards in the last 24 months, then United miles will be easy for you to earn. Four of our Top 10 Travel Credit Cards earn Utlimate Rewards (transferrable to United) or United miles.
The Asiana Visa Signature is an easy way to earn a bunch of Asiana miles quickly. Check out New Elevated 30k Sign Up Bonus on Asiana Card to learn more.
Alaska, Asiana, and ANA are all transfer partners of Starwood Preferred Guest points. Read more about the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards in My Latest Credit Card.
If you want purely Alaska miles, read Are the Alaska Cards still Churnable? before applying for any Alaska cards from Bank of America.
Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.
It’s a big, beautiful world out there people! Thanks to miles and points, travel is more accessible than it’s ever been. I know my life wouldn’t be the same without them.
Have any exciting travel plans on the agenda? Share them with us below!