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Update 2 (Oct. 2018): With recent changes to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, much of this post is no longer valid.
Update: We've now been to Aulani and have a review and planning guide for Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa! We'll update this post soon, too!
Are you a Disney World or Disneyland regular who looks longingly at the Aulani website (like we do) thinking that one day you'll find a way to make that trip? Getting to Hawaii can be an intimidating process. It's a long flight, often an expensive flight, and there are no value hotel options at Aulani (there's just Aulani). This is your lucky day, though, because Aulani is actually quite hackable. We'll start with booking your hotel and where to get those points before covering your options for flights.
Booking Your Aulani Stay With Points
The best way to book an Aulani stay with points is to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points. We cover the process, pros, and cons of using this method more thoroughly in our post on booking your Disney stay through the Chase Travel Portal. Here, we're most concerned about the cost. Trying a few different searches, the lowest rate we could find for Aulani was in early May, when we found this opportunity:
Aulani publishes a seasonal rates calendar, but keep in mind that Chase will not always have access to the best rates. You can access the seasonal rates calendar by visiting the Aulani offers page and clicking "Compare Seasonal Rates" in the "Plan Your Vacation" box on the right.
The above search was found on an account with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. We highly suggest using a Chase Sapphire Reserve for this trip hack. If you were to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred instead, this booking would cost 135,427 points instead of 112,856 points.
|Mouse Hacking Tip: If you don't want to use Chase points, Aulani can be booked using Citi 4th Night Free|
Getting Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
The easiest way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points is by signing up for the following Chase cards and earning the indicated bonuses (updated February 15, 2018):
Note that as of October 2017, you can only get one Chase Sapphire bonus every 24 months. So, the only way to get multiple bonuses from Sapphire cards is to have multiple household members apply. This will get you up to 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. If either or both of you can get approved for the Chase Ink Business Preferred, you're looking at up to 260,000 points.
Flying to Hawaii On Points
Here we cover using points and miles to fly to Hawaii. You may want to compare these options to the cost of flights to Hawaii.
|Suggested Reading: Check out our post on when to use points for domestic flights|
There are a number of ways to book flights to Hawaii with points, and they're actually continuing to expand. For example, Southwest Airlines recently announced its intention to start flying to Hawaii (which will bring added value to the Southwest Companion Pass).
Here we're going to give an overview of the options along with the pros and cons of each.
Option 1: Fly First Class Roundtrip for 45,000 Skypass Miles Per Person
This redemption option is so good and so widely known it's a little surprising it still exists. Via Korean Air Skypass's program, you can book roundtrip first class flights on Delta to Hawaii from anywhere in the United States for 45,000 miles per person. If you were starting from scratch, this would obviously be the best way to plan your trip to Hawaii.
We're not starting from scratch, however. Korean Air Skypass partners with only two of the major credit card transfer partners: Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Starpoints. Getting Chase Ultimate Rewards points is relatively easy, but in this hack we just used over 100,000 of those points to book the hotel. If you decided to pay cash for your Aulani stay, booking this flight with Ultimate Rewards points would be a great idea. Starpoints are just a little too tough to generate in massive quantities.
If you have or can generate enough Starpoints or Ultimate Rewards points, booking economy tickets through Skypass will only cost you 25,000 points per ticket.
You can generate Starpoints with signup bonuses from American Express SPG Cards:
The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, which as of this writing has a signup bonus of 25,000 points for $5000 spent in 3 months, $95 annual fee waived first year.
You can also use Chase's Marriott cards and convert Marriott points to Starpoints at a 3:1 ratio.
Option 2: Fly Economy Roundtrip for 30,000 Flying Blue Miles Per Person
Through Air France and KLM's Flying Blue loyalty program, you can book roundtrip economy tickets on Delta for 30,000 points per person. The nice thing about Flying Blue is that it is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, SPG Starpoints, and American Express Membership Rewards.
Signup bonuses on the Citi ThankYou cards have been highly volatile as of late, so we're going to direct you over to Doctor of Credit's top signup bonuses page. American Express bonuses have been consistently robust, but also can vary by person or method. Our best American Express offers in the past few years came via mail. Here are some of the offers we're seeing online now:
Option 3: (From the West Coast) Fly Economy Roundtrip for 25,000 Avios Per Person
British Airways prices award flights on a distance basis, meaning it's cheaper to get from the West Coast to Hawaii than from the rest of the United States to Hawaii. Roundtrip from western cities will cost 25,000 Avios per person flying Alaska Airlines booked through British Airways.
British Airways Executive Club is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood, and American Express Membership Rewards. Additionally, Chase has a co-branded British Airways credit card that currently (12/31/17) offers a signup bonus of up to 75,000 Avios.
Option 4: Fly Economy Roundtrip for 35,000 Krisflyer Miles Per Person
Singapore Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, meaning you can book flights on United using their Krisflyer program. Continental U.S. to Hawaii will set you back 35,000 miles per person. But the best thing about Krisflyer is they are a transfer of all big four flexible points programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Starwood.
How We Would Hack An Aulani Vacation
How we would hack an Aulani vacation should not necessarily impact what you do. Personally, we don't find hotel redemptions through the Chase travel portal to be a good use of points. As international travelers, we frequently can get 5 cents to 7 cents of value out of our points, while a hotel redemption through Chase only gets 1.5 cents of value. What's more, since we travel with any regularity at all, that 1.5 cents of value is always going to be there (at least as long as Chase offers it). If we don't save $1000 today using 150,000 points, we can save $1000 later in the year or next year.
The Mouse Hacking tip above mentions using Citi 4th Night Free. This is one way we might book our hotel, as long as Citi had rates that let us save compared to other sites. A better option might be renting Disney Vacation Club points through David's Vacation Club rentals.
As for flights, we would probably go with Option 4, booking economy with Krisflyer miles. United flies nonstop from Chicago (our home) to Hawaii, with that flight pricing between $800 and $1,100. With Krisflyer being a transfer partner of all four currencies, this would be a good way to mix and match a few points from each program.