My 6 Favorite Off-the-Beaten-Path Award Redemptions

Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Updated
Edited by Mary M. Flory

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

MORE LIKE THISTravel

One of the best features of miles and points is being able to explore destinations around the world without spending a lot of cash. Using miles and points when booking trips is a little like spending fake money for real vacations. With that in mind, I love planning trips to uncommon destinations to experience new food, cultures and attractions. These are my six favorite off-the-beaten-path award redemptions that you should reserve before they become too mainstream.

1. Winter escape to the Caribbean islands

The Caribbean is a perfect destination to get away from the winter blues and thaw out from the snow. Although many of these islands are separate countries, travelers can book trips to the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands without needing a passport.

American Airlines makes these getaways affordable and easy to book with its award chart. Flights are as low as 12,500 miles each way when booking off-peak MileSAAver awards (though MileSAAver awards are being discontinued in 2023). My family saved over $850 per person on our round-trip flights to St. Kitts last summer by paying 30,000 AAdvantage miles each. (Note that American Airlines now uses a fully dynamic award pricing model. The rates noted here may no longer be available.)

2. Flying Blue business class to Europe

Last fall, I flew business class from Chicago to Brussels with my 4-year-old daughter for only 39,750 Flying Blue miles each way. We explored Gothic cathedrals, the Grand-Place and the home of the European Union while indulging in delicious Belgian waffles and chocolate all week.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Venture miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards® and Citi ThankYou points. So no matter which flexible points program is your favorite, you can convert your points into miles. Flying Blue has regular promotions offering 25% to 50% off award tickets to reduce the cost of your flights even further.

3. Hunt gnomes in Wrocław, Poland

This former Soviet bloc country is a hidden gem for travelers, especially if you're interested in history. Poland has many affordable options in Warsaw, Gdansk, Krakow and Wrocław. Plus, Americans do not need a visa if they're visiting for less than 90 days. You can try pierogies (a local delicacy) and go on a hunt to find the famous gnome statues in Wrocław. These gnomes represent an anti-Soviet resistance movement that helped topple the communist regime in the 1980s.

Despite United Airlines removing its award chart, you can find flights from New York to Wrocław for a predictable 30,000 miles each way in economy or 70,000 miles in business. United has its own co-branded credit cards and is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards®, so there are plenty of opportunities to earn these miles.

4. Annual red crab migration on Christmas Island

Miles and points can take you to far-off locations to witness nature like you cannot see anywhere else in the world. Christmas Island is an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia. The island is famous for its annual red crab migration, when millions of red crabs emerge from the forest and crawl to the ocean to breed. This phenomenon begins with the first rainfall of the wet season and is truly remarkable to witness firsthand.

Virgin Australia flights from Perth, Australia, can be booked using 22,500 Delta SkyMiles each way. Delta Air Lines has several personal and small business credit cards and is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.

5. Free stopover in Fiji using Alaska miles

Alaska Airlines miles have a lot of value when redeeming for award flights, since the airline has numerous partners and allows for a free stopover on each ticket booked. Travelers can maximize this benefit to enjoy two free stopovers by booking two one-way tickets. From the U.S., you can book a stopover in Fiji on the way to Australia, then book a stopover in Hawaii on the way home to receive three vacations for the price of one.

6. Visit the relaxed beaches of Búzios, Brazil

Brazil is widely known for Carnival and Rio de Janeiro. However, drive east for a few hours to find the upscale vacation destination of Armação dos Búzios (or just Búzios). This collection of three beach towns is set on an ocean peninsula with 17 beaches to choose from. The resort offers a laid-back luxury vibe, with no car traffic allowed in certain areas — so prepare to explore the locale on foot.

American Airlines MileSAAver flights to Rio de Janeiro from the U.S. can normally be had for 30,000 AAdvantage miles each way on many dates, but cheaper round-trip tickets can also be found if you put in the effort in your search. (Note that, since the time of this writing, American has done away with MilSAAver fares in its switch to dynamic award pricing.)

The bottom line

You don't have to settle for the same vacation destinations time and time again. Using the power of your miles and points, you can explore off-the-radar destinations that will be the envy of all your friends.

When redeeming miles and points to book your vacation, flexibility is key to finding award ticket availability. Mixing rewards from different programs provides more options to find ideal flight times and lower-priced deals on the dates you want to travel. And you can always use flexible rewards like Chase Ultimate Rewards® points or Capital One Venture miles in lieu of cash to book flights and accommodations. These redemptions are a great option when the airlines and hotels want too many miles and points to book an award reservation.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.