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A few months ago, I brought my mom and dad from Europe to visit us here in the U.S. I won’t focus too much on the visit itself. Needless to say, my family is very intense. Shocker! The living space in my house is only 1,400 square feet, so it felt really cramped at times.
One time my husband was managing a very important project on his laptop, and my mom kept asking him what gift would be a good fit for his boss. You like, you like? Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and went to his car for the rest of the evening. Oh, and my mom wanted me to ask my daughter’s kindergarden teacher if she could buy one of the flags in the classroom. No, mom, it’s county property!
My dad is really into politics and loves to watch the opposition channel in Belarus. It focuses on criticizing Lukashenko (the beloved and fairly-elected president of 20+ years). I don’t get involved in politics, so my dad’s rants got tiresome really quickly. At one point, I told him: What are you getting so worked up about? There are much more serious problems in the world, like various conflicts of interest in the miles and points industry. Wait, that’s actually pretty minor as well. Moving along.
In spite of all these things, I am very grateful that this trip happened and that my kids could spend time with my parents.
So, I thought it would be useful to show how miles and points paid for the majority of the expenses.
Of course, there were other costs, such as visas etc, so this trip was in no way free (read super expensive!) However, without points, we could not have done even half the stuff mentioned here. I did not include any sightseeing or dining expenses and only focused on stuff like flights, hotels and car rentals. Without further ado:
1) Tickets from Europe to USA.
Mom’s ticket was completely paid for with Flex Perks points received from increased US bank FlexPerks Visa Olympic sign-up offer in 2012. Dad’s ticket was partially paid for with Barclaycard Arrival bonus. You can read my post on the whole process and the reasons on why I didn’t redeem the miles HERE
Total out-of-pocket cost: $272
2) Hotel stay in Warsaw pre-flight.
15,000 IHG points received from sign-up bonus, and actually 13,500 after my rebate from Chase IHG Visa.
Out-of-pocket cost: $0
3) Flights from Orlando-Buffalo on Southwest.
We used 45,096 points for 4 roundtrip tickets for my family. Also, 13,000 for 2 one-way tickets for my parents. Total of 58,096 points, received from 1 sign-up bonus and through transfer from Ultimate Rewards. The bags flew free!
Out-of pocket cost: $0
4) Quality Inn in Niagara Falls.
Total cost for 4 nights (2 one-bedroom suites) was 64,000 points, which were bought in 2013 through Daily Getaways.
Out-of-pocket cost: $272 (the retail rate per room/per night was $165 dollars)
A side note: if you read this post, you probably remember that through a series of unusual and quite fortunate events, I have received a windfall of 200,000 IHG points (which I value at $1,000) as a result of this booking. So, technically, I made money on this deal, but we’ll ignore that fact and move on.
5) Two one-way flights from Buffalo-New York on Jet Blue.
I used Citi Thank You points, since you get a 25% bonus for redemptions on airfare. The total was 17,044 points, received from the Citi Premier Thank You card sign-up bonus. It made no sense to use miles on this route, since the flights were quite cheap.
Out-of-pocket cost: $0
6) Minivan rental for 4 nights picked up from Buffalo airport.
I booked it through Citi Thank You center. I actually could have used points to pay for it, but decided to go ahead and save them for possible future airfare purchase. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I get a 25 percent bonus for flight redemptions with my CITI Premier Thank You card. The quoted price was $100 less than other websites.
I used one of my new cards so I could get closer to meeting my minimum spend. First, I made sure that the card offers car rental insurance. I chose an option to use 1 Thank You point and pay the rest with the card.
The downside of going that route is that if you cancel within 2 days of your reserved date, you lose an amount equal to a 1 day rental fee. Daraius at Million Mile Secrets has a really good post with screenshots on how to compare car rental prices via different portals, including Thank You center HERE
Out-of-pocket cost: $297
7) One night stay at the Holiday Inn Sanibel, located on the beach
We used 2 IHG certificates that come with the renewal of mine and my husband’s Chase IHG cards. The annual fee is $49 per card and totally worth it. The rate for this hotel was $169 plus tax per night. We used the certs to get two rooms.
Out-of-pocket cost: $98
So, as you can see, my crazy hobby/addiction came in handy in saving some serious bucks. Even though we still spent a huge amount, I have zero regrets. Travel is worth it, especially when sharing it with your loved ones.
I will spread this trip report over four weeks. If there is any big news in the industry, I will add a post on Thursday. Stay tuned.
Leana is the 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.