Chasing the Dragon in the Pearl River Delta – A guide to $2,900+ In Free Lodging

“I love when a plan comes together” was proclaimed with satisfaction numerous times from during that ‘80’s classic, The A-Team.  For my family of four, the plan came together in January 2018.  I set my sights on returning to Asia, putting a 10-year China Visa to use and making it happen for less than $1,000 out-of- pocket.


Thankfully, a Delta airfare sale from Anchorage to Hong Kong rolled around again.  The price of the four economy tickets was $2800.  This amount was greatly offset by $2,000 in Delta vouchers received for being bumped twice.  Along with the $200 annual airline credit from the AmEx Platinum used to purchase Delta gift certificates, the overall cost was $600 for airfare.

Airport Lounges

A refreshing start before a 12 hour flight.

Thank you, AmEx Platinum and Centurion lounges!  The experience at Seattle, once again did not disappoint and the Hong Kong lounge lived up to expectations.  And for the record, I pass no judgement on anyone for having a refreshing Gin Basil Collins at 9:45 on a Saturday morning at the Hong Kong International Airport Centurion Lounge.  Stay tuned for the reviews on the lounges.


I truly believe in debt free travel and have done hostels in my younger years.  Thankfully, the leverage of credit cards for membership levels of Diamond Hilton and Marriott Gold allow for higher end and more comfortable options.  The focus of selecting hotels was on the availability of an executive or club lounge, maximized point value and location.  In my opinion, the value of a club lounge is a huge financial and enjoyment multiplier for a family.  It decreases food costs, eliminates the frustrating discussions of where and what to eat, and offers extremely helpful concierge service in a relaxing atmosphere.  A possible bonus is striking up conversations with fellow point hackers.  This happened to my wife and I with Bill and Becky from Utah at the Conrad Hong Kong.  They are working on their second trip around the world by using points.  Visiting with them at the lounge overlooking Victoria Harbor was absolutely one of the highlights of the trip.

Hotel Total Cost of the assigned room per night # of Nights Redemption Total Cost Avoided Point Valuation
Shenzhen Marriot Hotel Nanshan $330 3 15,000 points and 2 free night certificates $990 2.2 cents
Zhuhai Marriot Hotel $265 1 10,000 points $265 2.6 cents
Conrad Macau 392 2 100,000 points $785  0.8cents
Hyatt Tsim Tsui $251 1 Free night certificate $251 1.6 cents
Conrad Hong Kong $830 2 80,000 point and free night certificate $1660 1.0 cents

The grand total of lodging expense avoided was $2,961.  Success!


Our upgrade at the Conrad Hong Kong with a view of Victoria Peak

Diamond status with Hilton truly elevated the experience for this adventure.  The Conrad Macau and Conrad Hong Kong both provided significant upgrades to suites that exceeded our expectations and greatly increased the point redemption value.  As a note, the Conrad Macau is undergoing a soft opening of its executive lounge and that option is not currently advertised on the Conrad website.  The staff stated it is only available to gold and diamond members at this time.

Gold status with Marriot provided for a room upgrade and club lounge access.  It has been our experience that the access to an English-speaking concierge allows for more efficient travel in China.

Our Hyatt status is minimal.  The free night certificate simply provided a good room in a terrific location.  The street food options just outside the hotel were a very nice surprise.  The hotel was also a short walk to the Kowloon Park with the walk to the Star Ferry winding past the Bruce Lee statue and the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade.

Breakdown of Credit Cards and Benefits Used

American Express Platinum – Centurion airport lounges in Seattle and Hong Kong

Chase Marriot Rewards – Gold status, an annual free night certificate for category 1-5, and a free night certificate category 1-5 earned from a December 2017 promotion.

Pork buns at Tim Ho Wan was a must have.

Citi Hilton Reserve – Diamond status from spend and a free weekend night certificate; this card is no longer available

and was replaced by the AmEx Hilton Ascend.

Chase Hyatt Car – a free night certificate for a category 1-4

Final Thoughts

I loved it when the plan came together.  My family and I returned to Alaska full on baked pork buns, egg tarts and sunshine.  We are thankful for the opportunity to travel for less – it has been done and can be done.   Best of luck to everyone chasing the travel dragon.

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