The Land of Smiles. Thailand is the most popular traveler destination in Asia, and for good reason. Most visitors fly into Bangkok (BKK or DMK), served my hundreds of airlines, so it's a great city to look for award flights. Bangkok is city packed with fun. From taking a boat along the Chao Praya river to see the numerous Wats and the famous floating flower market, to sampling the incredible variety of street food, to diving in to shopping in the cities' mega malls or tiny corner antique stores, it's easy to spend several days in the capital. Many visitors head south to the beaches, perhaps flying into Phuket island (HKT) or traveling to Koh Samui (USM) or perhaps the full moon party at Koh Phangan. Or perhaps they head north to Chiang Mai (CNX) or Chiang Rai (CEI) and explore the mysterious mountainous north and head deeper into the Golden Triangle where Thailand meets Laos and Burma. Thailand is an excellent place to begin your South East Asian adventures.
Bangkok is the best destination to start looking for flights. Note there are two airports that
serve Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang International Airport (DMK).
DMK generally serves low cost international or regional carriers, so BKK is the best
airport to search for free award flights.
Some interesting routes into BKK for award travel include: Thai Airways or Eva Air are pretty easy to find off-peak economy or business class seats using United Airlines miles. Also a great option is flying Cathay Pacific (with a stopover in Hong Kong) using American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, but these can not be found on AA's website, so you'll have to use BA's website or our own Award Travel Search. Using Delta SkyMiles, it's pretty easy to find an award seat routing on Delta's partners China Eastern, China Southern or China Airlines.
Finally, one of the best (and most luxurious) options can be to travel with Singapore Airlines via their partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi Thank You Points. Check out our details on using Credit Card Points for free award travel.
You might be surprised, but really the art of optimizing miles and points involves knowing
when NOT to use them, and instead use cash. (Domestic US flights are often an example). While
AwardSecrets are huge fans of award travel, domestic Thai flights are great
occasion to actually use cash. Bangkok Airways operates
a ton of domestic (and regional) routes out of Bangkok BKK. They have great service, frequent
flights to most of the key destinations in Thailand, and they're very economical.
A couple example one ways we found recently: Bangkok BKK to Chiang Rai CEI for USD $42, BKK to Koh Samui USM for USD $115 (compare to bus and ferry for 16+ hours), and BKK to Phuket HKT for USD $48. Save your points, we'll help you find a better use for them.
Thailand is FULL of 5-star hotels for as little as USD $100 per night (and up). For many frequent travelers, it coud be cheaper to live full-time at a 5-star oceanfront resort in Thailand than it costs to live at home (and there's no snow!). However, some great uses of hotels points and transfers from their Credit Card Point partners can include a huge selection of Marriott Bonvoy hotels in all the key city, mountain and beach locations. Other good ideas to explore include IHG hotels, Hiltons and one of our favorite chains the Shangri-la. Check out the Conrad Phuket for some inspiration!. That's a Hilton property, a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.
We have 3 tips for Thailand.
Tip #1: Get a Thai massage. It's life changing, and a totally unique Thai experience. And unless you want to pay a fortune, don't get a massage at the fancy 5-star hotel where you're staying. You'll easily pay USD $100, whereas generally if you walk out your hotel driveway and walk 10 minutes, you'll find an equally good massage (without the Enya music) for under USD $20.
Tip #2: The food. We can't say enough. Many people will list Thai cuisine (which varies regionally) as THE best in the world. And ok go ahead and splurge at your hotel restaurant one night, but exploring the night food markets while munching on different delicacies can be a fabulous night out. For under $10 in many towns.
Tip #3: learn to say a few words in Thai. The most useful: "Kapunkhap" (said by men) or "Kapunka" (said by women). This has no direct translation to English, but is a term of respect which shows manners that you will often hear Thais use at the end of sentences. Another easy one you'll hear within an hour of landing in Thailand is "Sawatdeekhap" (or "Sawatdeeka" said by women), which is a rollup of Aloha / Ciao / Hello / Goodbye. A couple words and Thais around you will be smiling from ear to ear..