Free Vacation: How We Stayed at a 4-Star Resort for FIVE Dollars

Chillin’ at the pool. Totally natural and not posing for the gram.

We spent a weekend at a resort hotel with water slides and jacuzzi – and it only costed us 5 dollars or ~70K rupiah. Basically a free vacation. Here’s how.

Vacations doesn’t have to be expensive if you take advantage of the free perks of various membership programs, miles, and credit cards. In our case, we stayed for two nights for a “staycation” at one of the best resort hotel and country club in Jakarta – The Aryaduta Lippo Village. Only spending 5 bucks (~70K rupiah), thanks to those free perks.

So, no, you don’t have to be an influencer to get a free vacation.  And no, you don’t have to sign up to 10 credit cards either.

Before I told you how, here are some pictures and a short review of our staycation to get you pumped.

Aryaduta Lippo Village Tangerang – Mini Review

Aryaduta Lippo’s attraction is its “village in the city” concept. The entire property is filled with palm trees and greeneries with a good distance from the streets, making you feel actually on vacation even though it’s only an hour away from Jakarta.

The resort situation. Mind you, this is in the middle of Jabodetabek.

The country club is humongous, with large ethnic-style pools, a 20-feet tall water slide, wall climbing facility, tennis court, sauna, massage, spa, and jacuzzi. You can take a stroll or a jog around the tracks, enjoying the lush gardens in the morning or afternoon. It is also right next to a golf course, the Imperial Golf Club, that is under the same management as Aryaduta.

The standard room is comfy, but you can tell that it has seen better days. Patches on the carpet, not-so-modern TV, the outdated AC panel. The bathroom is spacious with bathtub (although we didn’t use it since the jacuzzi is only a few minutes away). The room is clean and tidy, though, so we don’t really mind with the wear and tear. It still looked and felt like a 4-star hotel, albeit an older one.

Always ask for a honeymoon package.

The Wifi, however, SUCKED. I could barely read and send emails! The connection often went down randomly, and the speed was turtle slow. At one point, we had to call the front office to have the IT department fix our room wifi connection. It came out better but not enough. By the next morning, I gave up sending emails or uploading documents.

Turns out the wifi also sucked at the entire property, including the lobby cafe. Maybe that’s intentional, so you’re truly disconnected and enjoying your vacation?

But if you expect to get some work done, forget it – finish whatever you need to finish before going to the hotel.

Okay, now, let’s go straight into how you can maximize your free perks and get basically free vacations.

Get a good cashback credit card – and redeem into vouchers

Our free vacation was “sponsored” by the Discover Credit Card. They have a Cashback Match program that matches the total amount of cashback you got in the first year. So, you’d get the double amount of your free money.

I applied to Discover the first time I arrived in the US. Due to my lack of credit score and history, I signed up to their Secured Card which asked a USD 800 deposit. Since then, I used the card for almost all of my daily purchases, except in rare cases when Discover wasn’t accepted. With the cashback match, I raked over 350 USD (~5 Mill Rupiah) of free money!

I made the mistake earlier of using the cashback at the Amazon site, thinking“Sweet, free Amazon stuff!”

But boy, I was so wrong.

Instead, you should’ve redeemed the cashback into the voucher portal, because 45 dollars could get you USD 50 worth of voucher, and 90 dollars worth 100 dollars of vouchers. A better bang for your (free) bucks.

So the way we got 95% discount on our room rate is by redeeming 90 dollars of our cashback into Hotel.com free USD 100 voucher. Basically free Benjamins.

And then, when we’re booking the rooms, we made sure that we logged in as a Hotels.com member and unlocked a special member price which is much lower than the published rate. You can register as member for free at their website.

Next, we applied a discount code (Honey plugin can help you with that) to further lower the rate. At that time, we found WEDDING10 discount for 5-10% off. The total comes to 5 dollars! Yay!

But, if you don’t have access to a Discover card or similar cashback credit cards, don’t worry – there’s another way.

Redeem your miles into free hotel stays

When you fly, whenever possible, pool your miles into ONE mileage program. I don’t recommend spreading your miles thin into each airlines own program. Usually you won’t collect enough miles to redeem into anything worthwhile.

I choose to concentrate my miles into ANA Mileage Club. I enjoy flying to/from the US using ANA, and I love Japan as a destination. So I figured even their lowest tier awards – the domestic flight rewards – would be useful for me. Hence, whenever I fly with Star Alliance airlines – EVA air, United, Singapore Airlines – I always put my ANA membership number as the frequent flyer program of choice, with the hope of getting free tickets to/in Japan.

EVA air frequent flyer program SUCKED by the way – I collected almost 20,000 miles there and cannot redeem them for anything useful. Worse, the miles are expiring soon. But that is for another day, when we compare frequent flyers programs for different airlines.

Around the time I figured about Discover hotel vouchers, I also found out that you can actually use your miles to book hotels via anaglobalhotels.com, virtually anywhere. The same Aryaduta Lippo would cost me 8500 miles.

Aryaduta rate using miles at anaglobalhotels.com

The rate is actually a good deal – they don’t ask for absurd number of miles. However, you need to read the fine print of the hotel’s policy. In most cases, it doesn’t come with the breakfast or free parking. Still, free vacation! Yay!

Actually, you can also redeem the miles into the same hotels.com vouchers – 15,000 miles for USD 100 voucher. But I don’t think it’s a good deal compared to redeeming directly at Ana Global Hotels site.

But this comes with a caveat :

Book your stays early and preferably during Japan working hours.

Most likely, you would face a website glitch that won’t let you book the room, and the customer service is only available Mon-Fri, 9-5 Japan Standard Time.

Bottom line: you often don’t have to pay full price for hotels

Tourism and hospitality business has their low and high seasons – and they have their markups on the published price that you can find discounts on.

At minimum, you could use “Best Price Guarantee” found in many booking sites, or asks the hotel for discount codes for booking directly in their website. Also, research carefully the frequent flyer program you latch into.

Happy hunting!

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