This is a post I wanted to put together for the longest time, but was just too lazy to do it. Let’s say you plan to do a Disney vacation during spring break. Please, avoid summer, you have been warned. You want to add a two-night stay at the beach (and you should). As always, my goal is to find value. Not necessarily the cheapest redemption, but the best bang for the buck/point.
I think as a Floridian, I can provide useful insights in this area, plus I’ve personally stayed at some of the mentioned hotels. Speaking of, check out this excerpt from a Tripadvisor review I came across while researching a hotel in Orlando:
Hold your horses, girlfriend! Not all of us are as sophisticated and open-minded as Californians (the state she is from). To quote from “Lego movie” (again), what a bunch of hippy, dippy baloney! Actually, she does have a point. When some weird news item hits the web, which state do you think of first? I was a totally normal person till I moved here. Just kidding!
OK, back to business, I mean labor of love. Using hotel points or certificates for a 2-night stay in spring can make a lot of sense. Rates are very high since it’s peak season and most vacation rentals require you to stay at least 3 nights. Of course, do keep in mind that the write-up will most likely be opportunistic and dishonest.
First things first. Which coast to choose? If you want to fly in and out of Orlando, you may want to stick with East coast. Be aware, the beaches are not as nice compared to the West coast. If you have small kids and like gentle waves, East coast beaches will probably disappoint. If you just like to look at the ocean and take long walks, then you’ll be fine.
If you are willing to do an open-jaw (fly into one airport and out of the other) and don’t mind paying extra for one-way car rental, I strongly recommend you consider staying on the West coast. The water is usually calmer, beaches are nicer, and some areas are still laid-back. If you are willing to drive 1.5-3 hours back to Orlando airport after your stay at the beach, you can do that too.
So, what I’ll do is split the post in two parts: East coast and West coast. I’m looking at several things. The room needs to have two queen beds, the hotel has to be beachfront or across the street from the beach, and redemption rate has to be reasonable or accessible via hotel certificates (either renewal or those that come with a sign-up bonus). All rooms will fit 4, but you may want to call and see if a rollaway for a 5th person is allowed. To see more info on all the mentioned hotel cards, see this list. I’ve updated it, but if you know of a better offer, please comment or email me.
Without further ado:
I will say upfront that it’s not a spectacular bargain at 44,000 points per night, especially when you take into account the demise of BOGO benefit of Club Carlson co-branded card. Still, it could make sense to redeem your points here during holidays or spring. Rate hovers around $200 or more per night in peak season. Trip Advisor reviews are mostly excellent. For those with large families there is another advantage: For a nominal fee (around $20-30 extra per night), you can upgrade to a suite that includes bunk beds. So, there is a potential to fit 6 in one room for a very small surcharge.
The card to get: US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature. You will receive 85,000 points after spending $2,500 in 3 months, enough for 2 nights at this property. Annual fee of $75 is NOT waived.
The cost is 40,000 points per night, a bit steep. But all rooms are suites and face the ocean. Once again, it’s worth considering during high season.
The card to get: Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature card. Currently, it comes with 75,000 points bonus, the highest ever. Once you factor in minimum spending, you should have enough points for 2 nights at this property. The card pays me referral.
The cost is 35,000 IHG points per night. Be aware, they do have blackout dates for the second half of March, which I’m guessing is their busiest time. If the dates work for you, I recommend it highly. I absolutely loved staying here before it became a part of IHG chain. They have a waterpark, an inside playground and much more to entertain small kids.
Technically, rooms redeemable on points are not located right on the beach, but there is a free trolley that can take you there. The hotel has another wing near the ocean, and you may get an upgrade due to Platinum status that comes with IHG card. This is a good place to use your annual renewal certificates.
The card to get: Chase IHG MasterCard. However, the official bonus is now down to 60,000 points, so you may want to wait for it to get higher. The card pays me referral.
The hotels below are located in Daytona Beach area. I will say upfront that it’s not my favorite part of Florida. In spring, it gets overrun with crazy college students looking to get drunk (or worse). That said, they usually go for cheaper, seedier places. All the hotels below cost around $200 per night, so they might be out of their price range. I realize I’m doing a bit of stereotyping here as not all spring break college students are that way. Ahh, why pretend? Yes, they are!
Whether you decide to take your family to Daytona in the spring is up to you, but I wanted to mention some options, just in case. A nice perk is that all the hotels listed below will let you redeem your points for an oceanfront room.
The cost is 35,000 points per night, and the property has many amenities for kids. My brother-in-law actually stayed here and really enjoyed it.
The card to get: Chase IHG MasterCard. IHG program lets you copay with cash if you are short on points.
This could be a relative bargain during high season. The cost is 25,000 points per night. In exchange, you get an oceanfront room and free breakfast, a huge perk for family.
The card to get: Chase IHG MasterCard.
Costs 12,000 points per night and comes with free breakfast. Sure, 12,000 points isn’t exactly cheap, but it could make sense to redeem them at this place during holidays and high season. The rooms go for at least $200 per night in March.
The card to get: Chase Sapphire Preferred. You get 45,000 points after spending $4,000 in 3 months. The points transfer 1:1 to Hyatt Gold passport program. So, once you factor in minimum spend, you would have enough points to cover up to 4 nights at this property. The card pays me referral.
The cost is 15,000 points per night. It’s located directly on the beach and gets decent reviews. The rooms go for $249 or more in peak season. There is a resort fee of $25 per night, but in exchange, you get access to lounge chairs and some other perks.
The card to get: Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature card. You get 45,000 points after spending $1,000 in 3 months. The annual fee of $69 is NOT waived. Be aware, this program is a bit aggravating to deal with. Still, this card could be a good deal under certain circumstances. It does not pay me referral.
The rate is 20,000 points per night, and in the spring, this hotel consistently goes for over $400 per night. All rooms are quite spacious, starting at 600 square feet for even the most basic one. I haven’t personally stayed here, but we have visited the area and I wrote a post on it here
The card to get: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Hyatt Visa (pays me no commission). The last one has an improved offer that comes with 2 free nights, $50 statement credit and 5,000 points when you add an authorized user. Not too shabby! Who says you should only use these nights at Hyatt Vendome or Hyatt Maldives?
It runs at 10,000 SPG points per night. That’s a heck of a lot of points, you say? True, but in March this place goes for close to $300 per night. I actually reserved this hotel for the 4th of July weekend. Seems like a good use of points. A super duper hot tip for you: For an extra 1,500 SPG points per night, you may be able to reserve a Club room. It comes with free breakfast and appetizers in their lounge. When I inquired, they only had a Club room with a 3 person occupancy limit, but you should call and check, for sure. For 1,500 SPG points, you can potentially feed your entire family for the day. Yes, please!
The card to get: Amex SPG. The bonus is 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. First annual fee is waived. It pays me commission. Be aware, Amex has increased the bonus to 30K points in the past, so I would wait a month or two. Some have reported that this offer came up when they attempted to do a dummy booking on SPG website. It wouldn’t hurt to try.
First, don’t be fooled by the name “resort.” The place looks extremely basic. I wondered if I should even include it on the list, so I recommend you read TripAdvisor reviews first. Still, it’s located right on the beach, and you can redeem 15,000 points for a gulf view room that goes for well over $200 in peak season. If you are not “fancy pants” type traveler, this hotel could fit the bill. It does not charge a resort fee.
The card to get: Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature card.
It goes for 40,000 points per night. Be aware, Hilton pretty much blacked out most of March dates, so this is more of an honorable mention. The property looks nice and gets good reviews.
The card to get: Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature card
It costs 35,000 points per night, a standard rate for beachfront properties in Florida. We stayed here during Memorial day weekend, and really enjoyed it. The place is basic, but rooms are very clean and have been recently renovated. The beach is across the street, the water is clean, and the waves are gentle. The area is relatively uncrowded. I recommend it, but please, be aware, it’s no fancy resort.
The card to get: Chase IHG MasterCard
I saved the best for last! The property costs 35,000 IHG points per night. We are going there next month, and I can’t wait. We took my parents here last year, and I have been wanting to get back to this hotel ever since. It’s basic, yes. But the area has a laid-back charm, the way Florida used to be. At least that’s what I was told! I wrote about this property before, so won’t repeat myself. Here is a photo of the beach:
Looks nice, doesn’t it? The use of lounges is free to guests of the hotel, some places want extra $25 for the privilege. No way, Jose! BTW, you’ve seen me mention Jose quite a few times. That’s not just a catchy phrase. It’s a name of my husband’s co-worker who occasionally reads the blog. Hi, Jose!
Anyway, Sanibel is located close to 3 hours’ drive from Orlando. Sure, it’s pretty far, but that’s what keeps it unspoiled. You can fly into Orlando, drive to Sanibel, and then fly out of Fort Myers airport (served by Southwest). I highly recommend you come on down and explore Sanibel and Captiva islands. If you are looking for laid-back, authentic Florida, you won’t regret it.
Well, I hope I gave you some ideas for a short beach Florida getaway. Being from a landlocked country in Europe, I still pinch myself thinking that I can drive 1 hour, and watch a sunset over the gulf of Mexico. It never gets old! I say visit Disney, but allow a few days to relax by the beach. Sure, you may encounter some pushy and opportunistic Floridans while you are down here. Just ignore us!
Readers, which hotels would you add to that list?
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.