Have Cards, Will Travel

Celebrating milestone birthdays with reward miles

Looking for some of the best places to go for your birthday? These vacation ideas will have you packing your bags before you can say "adieu"


A milestone birthday is nothing to sneeze at! Check out these amazing birthday vacation ideas you can experience with friends or on your own for a little R&R – and how to use points and miles to get there.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Happy Birthday to you! If you’ve got a big milestone birthday coming up – the ones that usually end in zeros – there is no better way to celebrate than marking that milestone with an appropriately sized adventure.

No cupcakes and family gatherings here – I’m talking about a dream trip. Sure, you can use your rewards points to take any kind of trip, but big trips are the ones where you’ll get the most value.

Here are four ideas for adventures you can plan for your milestone birthday – and how you can take them using reward points:

Note: I’ve quoted all of the points costs for business class flights since it’s a big birthday and you deserve to be served champagne. You can always fly for fewer points in the back of the plane.

See related: 4 tips for scoring an international weekend getaway using points

Greece with the gang

If soaking in the Mediterranean sun with a glass of wine and a group of your besties is your thing, hit the magical island of Santorini. White-washed villages set on hillsides above the deepest blue sea are the perfect milestone birthday backdrop. Watch the sun go down, turn up the “Mamma Mia!” soundtrack and blow out your candles.

The beauty of Santorini is that it’s easy to reach yet feels like an exotic destination.

  • Fly directly into Santorini (JTR) via Europe on Lufthansa, a Star Alliance partner, using United Mileage Plus points. You’ll need 70,000 miles (plus $65 in taxes) each way for a business Saver Award ticket.
  • Alternatively, fly into Athens and spend an extra day or two poking around the Parthenon. Then catch the high-speed ferry or jump on a quick flight from ATH on Aegean Air, another Star Alliance partner.
  • Island accommodation is plentiful, but if you’ve got the points, look no further than the Mystique, a Luxury Collection hotel by Marriott in picturesque Oia.
  • The all-suite category-8 property costs 85,000 Bonvoy points per night, but the fifth night is free when redeeming award nights.

If you’re planning ahead, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, so you can take advantage of the complimentary Gold status and a $300 credit on your stay.

Formula One racing & Ferrari driving in UAE

If your mid-life dreams are of fast cars, there’s no better place to celebrate your milestone birthday than in Abu Dhabi.

Rather than blowing your savings on a red convertible, head to Ferrari World where you can take a Ferrari for a spin on the streets of the Emirates as part of the Ferrari Driving Experience.

Plan your birthday trip in December, and you’ll also be able to catch the Formula One.

  • Flights on Etihad from U.S. gateway cities including New York JFK, Chicago ORD, and LAX will take you directly into Abu Dhabi (AUH).
  • Etihad flights are bookable with reward points from American Airlines, earned with any of the American Airlines cards. You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest.
  • You’ll need 140,000 points for a business class return trip. Pro-tip: You’ll have to call the American Airlines reservation desk to make this booking as Etihad flights are not listed in AA’s online search.

If you want to be close to all the racing action in Abu Dhabi, you’ll want to stay near Yas Island. Neighboring Sadiyaat Island is home to both the St. Regis and Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. A night at the Park Hyatt will run you 30,000 World of Hyatt points, redeemable with points from your World of Hyatt Credit Card, or Chase Ultimate Rewards Points transferred to Hyatt.

Meditative milestone

Big birthdays can also be about taking time away to reflect and retreat – perhaps with a little pampering. If you’re thinking massages, facials and delicious food in beautiful surroundings, look no further than Southeast Asia. Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand gets my vote for a particularly peaceful R&R.

  • Fly directly into Koh Samui (USM) on Singapore Airlines via Singapore using KrisFlyer miles for 95,000 miles each way in business class.
  • Transfer Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou points to KrisFlyer. If you want to pack a little party into the celebration, take advantage of Singapore’s stopover program, or route yourself via Bangkok.
  • Hit the spa or hide away in your hillside pool villa at the Conrad Koh Samui for 95,000 points per night. Since it’s a big birthday, stay long enough to take advantage of Hilton’s fifth-night free benefit on award nights.
  • Consider the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which grants you top-level Hilton Diamond status, a $100 Hilton property credit, and a $250 Hilton Resort credit that you can use to pay for your birthday treats.
  • You’ll also receive a 150,000-point welcome bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first three months) and a free weekend night that you can use toward your stay.

Celebrate at the summit

If you ever said that you were going to climb a mountain or run a marathon before you turned a certain age, a milestone birthday is a great time to mark that occasion on the top of a mountain.

If you don’t already have a specific mountain in mind, Kilimanjaro is worth a climb. Plus, you can pair your birthday summit with a Serengeti safari or recovery trip to the spice island of Zanzibar.

Fly directly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) from Amsterdam on KLM, a SkyTeam partner, with your Delta SkyMiles or your KLM/Air France Flying Blue Points – transferable from Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Membership Rewards.

There are no luxury accommodations on a Kili trek, but there’s no better way to rest your legs after a week of hardcore hiking than popping over to Zanzibar and checking into the Park Hyatt Stone Town at a bargain of just 15,000 points per night.

See related: How to travel better using your credit card rewards in 2019

One more pro tip: Don’t forget to let your hotel know in advance that you’re coming for a very special occasion! It isn’t uncommon for nice hotels (and even airlines if you’re sitting in business or first class) to deliver an extra special birthday treat or bottle of bubbles.

No matter which destination you choose, or whatever destination you dream up on your own, this big trip is certain to mark a memorable milestone year. Make it a good one!

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Have Cards, Will Travel

Flat cash back bonus or higher percentage rewards rate: Which is better?

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card recently updated its introductory offer to include a higher percentage of cash back in the first year. Is it enough to beat the standard cash bonus?

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more