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With its Giza pyramids, Sahara Desert and the Nile River, Egypt is known for many things and therefore is a popular travel destination. I must admit that this African country had been on my bucket list for an embarrassingly long amount of time, and I’m happy to share that I finally checked it off the list.

Egypt opened borders in July to travelers who can provide a negative PCR test for COVID-19. A visa is also required for U.S. citizens. I obtained an eVisa for $25 and made sure to take a coronavirus test 72 hours before departure.

Points and Miles Breakdown

Trip Points and Miles Summary

Finding Award Space

Because I seriously considered a trip to Egypt for a couple of months before I committed and booked a flight, I had been keeping an eye on award rates as well as cash rates.

Had I booked this trip using an airline partner, such as Air France-KLM Flying Blue or United MileagePlus, I would’ve had to redeem 46,000 to 47,000 miles per direction flying economy. Not ideal, but if cash prices were high enough, it wouldn’t have been too bad of a deal.

Finding Award Space

As luck would have it, airfare from Salt Lake City to Cairo on either Star Alliance or SkyTeam carriers hovered in the $700-$750 range and remained there for weeks. At some point, the price dropped below $700, and that’s when I pulled the trigger.

Booking the Flight

Because cash flights were relatively inexpensive for the destination, I decided to redeem Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Travel Portal.

The final cost came out to $692.58 or 46,172 Chase points in combination with the Chase Sapphire Reserve whose points are worth 1.5 cents when redeemed via the portal.

Booking the Flight using Chase Sapphire Reserve

Compared with airlines’ redemption rates, booking this flight through Chase saved me about half the points, and I didnt have to pay additional taxes or surcharges on top of the miles.

Booking the Tour

Egypt had been on my to-go list for quite some time, but it just hadn’t happened yet. You know how it is—too many places to see, not enough time.

So, when a friend told me about a sale on TourRadar, an online marketplace for multi-day tours, I was pleasantly surprised to find some great deals—some were discounted by as much as 50% off an itinerary. I picked a fairly priced tour that included most of Egypt’s highlights, messaged a different friend to see if she’d join me, and the response I got read, “Umm yes please!”

The Great Sphinx of Giza
The Great Sphinx of Giza protects the tombs of the pharaohs in Cairo. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

The land-based tour cost $350 for six nights with stops in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. It included all accommodations (two of which were on night buses or trains), guides and drivers in each city, all transfers and some meals. We paid extra for a day excursion from Aswan to Abu Simbel, which made our trip total $474.50. No one else booked during our dates, so we basically had a private tour for just us two.

I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card to pay for the tour and received a $300 travel credit back, which covered most of the cost. 

Travel Credit

I also made sure to go through TopCashback and earned another $23.72 cash back on my purchase.

Booking Internal Flights

During the land portion of the trip, we took a mix of buses and trains to get from city to city and had private drivers for sightseeing in each place.

The tour included overnight travel by train from Aswan back to Cairo, but my friend and I decided to skip the long ride back to Cairo and fly to Sharm El Sheikh to finish our trip on the beach. After spending the day in Abu Simbel, we headed to Aswan International Airport to fly to Sharm El Sheikh via Cairo with EgyptAir.

Rock-cut temples of Abu Simbel
Rock-cut temples of Abu Simbel were carved in the 13th century B.C. during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

The original plan was to spend four nights in the resort town to scuba dive and relax after a whirlwind tour of Egyptian historic spots. Unfortunately, before we even left on our trip, EgyptAir had canceled our evening connection from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh. The new plan was to fly to Cairo, spend the night there and head to the beach in the morning for three nights, then fly back to Cairo to connect with our flight home.

I booked my open-jaw EgyptAir itinerary using Air Canada Aeroplan miles. Otherwise, these internal flights would’ve cost $433.28.

Price

The new Aeroplan program uses a combination of region-based and distance-based award charts. Because of the short distances between the cities, each one-way flight cost 7,500 Aeroplan miles.

Economy Class

The whole itinerary cost me 15,000 Air Canada miles + $57.87, which includes a CA$39 ($31) booking fee applied to partner bookings. I made sure to book my flights all at once to avoid paying this fee twice on separate bookings.

Flight Booking detail

I transferred the points from American Express Membership Rewards, which posted instantly, and booked all the domestic flights.

Where We Stayed

Because the tour included accommodations, we didn’t have much of a choice for lodging, but the hotels were nice. We stayed at a Hilton property in Cairo and then a couple of non-chain hotels in Luxor and in Aswan.

For our overnight layover in Cairo, my friend and I decided to stay at Le Méridien Cairo Airport because we got in late from Aswan and flew in the morning to Sharm El Sheikh. One night there cost us $96.72 and included a breakfast buffet.

As for Sharm El Sheikh, we booked three nights at Renaissance Sharm El Sheikh Golden View Beach Resort and paid $232.13. As a Platinum Elite member, I got upgraded to a sea-view room.

Renaissance Sharm El Sheikh Golden View Beach Resort
Renaissance Sharm El Sheikh Golden View Beach Resort | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Earlier this year, many Marriott Bonvoy members received targeted promotions for bonus points. My promo was for 4,500 bonus points after one stay and an additional 7,500 points after the second stay—for a total of 12,000 Bonvoy points for completing two stays through March 31. A qualifying stay consisted of at least one paid night, so I maximized the promo with these back-to-back bookings.

Additionally, my three-night reservation at Renaissance Sharm El Sheikh Golden View Beach Resort qualified for the Better Two-gether promotion that awards double nights and double elite night credits (on stays through April 27, 2021). Instead of three, I earned six elite night credits for status requalification as well as double the redeemable Marriott points.

Only stays of two or more nights qualify for the Better Two-gether promo, so unfortunately my one night in Cairo didn’t earn bonus points or elite night credits.

After it was all said and done, I earned 21,473 Marriott Bonvoy points, including base points, elite status bonuses and the two promotions.

Final Thoughts

Exploring the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor
Exploring the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

All things considered, I’m pleased to get such a deal on a trip to Egypt. All my flights were paid for with points, and the $300 travel credit came in handy toward booking a guided tour.

Although it was a fast-paced trip that left me 100% exhausted, it also left me 100% satisfied. There’s not a whole lot of traveling going on these days, and I’m happy to take what I can get (as long as it can be done safely, of course).

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