Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. You tell me. I’ve mentioned in my previous post that I was planning on transferring UR points to Hyatt and redeeming them on Hyatt Regency Bonita Springs resort. Well, a lot can change in one day if you are me! So, it was supposed to be a getaway for my mom when she comes back to US in November. The problem is, I really wanted to take her to Florida Keys.
I think everyone should drive the overseas highway at least once. But we can’t really afford to pay cash for rental and hotels in Key Largo cost an exorbitant amount in points. Not to mention, we would need two rooms. It just makes zero sense IMO to burn 40,000 points X 2 each night for 5 nights, unless you have points coming out of your ears. You would be better off paying cash for condo, cash we don’t really have. There are exceptions, of course, since I used Club Carlson and Wyndham points for two rooms/per night during my parents’ March visit. But in both of those cases, the math was favorable due to BOGO discount and flat-pricing via Wyndham program.
So, I kind of settled my heart on Hyatt in Bonita Springs which I’m sure my mom would love. But… I kept looking for a way to go to Key Largo, located within 4 hours’ driving distance from our house. Awhile back, I wrote a post on using AAdvantage miles on hotels but to be honest, it’s not something I ever planned on doing. After all, you can usually get much better value on flights.
But then, AAdvantage program took a turn for the worse: vanishing award availability and devaluation of award chart in March of 2016. So, I’ve decided to check my options, not really expecting a whole lot. When you do a basic search, the prices are ridiculous. However, if you happen to have an AAdvantage co-branded card like I do, value proposition improves considerably (hat tip to Kenny from Miles4More). Sorry, Kenny, I keep linking to your post, but it’s really good info for family!
There was one option that caught my attention:
Hmm, an oceanview 2br/2bath condo, just what we need for five people. The quoted price was 30,000 AAdvantage miles before I logged in as cardholder. Of course, as you can see from TripAdvisor rating, this place is not universally loved, to put it mildly. When I checked individual reviews, they were all over the place. The thing is, every condo is individually owned, so it’s a “hit or miss” kind of thing. From what I’ve seen, most people were moved to a different unit when they complained, and some condos look truly horrendous, judging from photos. A lot of complaints were about the closure of the pool which was recently undergoing a major renovation. We don’t have to worry about that.
Since we plan on going in November, a slow season, I feel we would have a decent chance at getting assigned to an upgraded unit. I’ll make sure of it. But what is the retail price? Here is the best deal I found for the same exact dates,on a 5-night booking:
So, 103,500 miles can be redeemed for value of $1,150. That comes out to 1.1 CPM (cents per mile). While not spectacular, it allows one to cash out miles on lodging otherwise unattainable via hotel points. So, I went ahead and booked us a 5-night stay at this place. I am taking a bit of a risk, but my mom is a “no frills” person and just wants a hotel by the water. We mostly just need a place to crash in the Keys, and this should suffice. I hope. The rate is good and I would pay it if we had extra cash. But since I’ve got unused miles, we don’t have to. But what about cancellation policy? Here is what it said in my confirmation email:
My stay does not fall between December 17th and January 3rd, and nowhere did it say that the rate is non-refundable. So, it appears, that cancellation or modification are possible in this particular case. Another decent option is to use only 1,000 miles because you get a hefty discount of rack rate:
As you can see, you can save the bulk of your miles and get almost $130 off in exchange for burning only 1,000 miles. Not too shabby! But I went ahead and just used the entire amount. I still have enough miles for 4 one-way tickets to Europe, and beyond that, I just don’t have any plans for AAdvantage program. It’s ironic that at the time everyone in the hobby is scrambling to burn AA miles on business and first class, here I am, redeeming them at a penny each on hotels. Well, I have always been an oddball.
Of course, this type of redemption isn’t for everyone. I strongly recommend you think about your future plans and determine whether you can afford to burn your AA stash and get only 1.1 CPM or less. Are you positive you won’t need them for flights in a near future? In my case, I think I did the right thing. We are going to a place where I wanted to take my mom to begin with, and saving $1,150 in the process. And we’ll have an apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, washer and dryer. Oh, and an ocean view, albeit from a distance.
Here is who I think is a good candidate for this type of redemption:
1) You have a large family and prefer more space that only a vacation rental can provide. While status can sometimes get you a suite, it will usually have just one bedroom/one bathroom.
2) You have a co-branded AAdvantage card and a huge stash of AA miles that you don’t know what to do with. Currently, the bonus on this offer is 50,000 miles and you can read about it on this page. The offer pays me commission, but be aware that you might be able to get an extra $100 credit when you make a dummy booking on AA.com. Of course, YMMV (hat tip to Will at Doctorofcredit)
3) You are short on cash/hotel points. While getting 1-1.1 CPM per mile isn’t spectacular, if you acquired them for much less or via sign-up bonuses, it’s certainly worth considering.
4) Your plans are firm. Some hotel reservations can be modified, but it does involve some hassle. In our case, my mom’s ticket to US in November is already bought. Even if one of our kids gets sick, I’ll probably still drag the clan to Key Largo anyway. My mom doesn’t come here that often and they can just be sick at the resort, right? We are not leaving American soil and will find a local pediatrician if the need arises. We’ve actually done that before when my daughter got an eye infection in Marathon (the middle Keys). Miami hospitals are 1 hour away.
5) You prefer non-chain hotels. There are some very good options, especially if you are going during off-season. Check out this Bradenton (do a search for Sarasota) mom-and-pop beach hotel:
Looks nice, doesn’t it? And at a cost of 19,620 AA miles (includes taxes and cleaning fees) on certain dates, it’s not a bad deal. I’m thinking about going there for 1 night with kids since we live only 1 hour away. And what about that Hyatt in Bonita Springs? I still plan to take my family there for two nights, and will have a post on it later on. But I’ll be booking it with UR points, not AA miles. Stay tuned.
Reader, who used AA miles on hotels before? How did your experience go?
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.