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On Our 2016 Miles and Points Vacation Plans, Eeyore and “Pajama” Brides

I apologize in advance, this is a long post, so get a  snack ready. Since it’s the beginning of the year, I think it’s only appropriate to share my tentative travel plans  and how this hobby  helped us turn them into reality. The point of this post is not to brag but rather show what an average Joe can accomplish with  just a little bit of planning (OK, maybe more than a little).

If you just found this blog, let me state my mission, so to speak. My target audience is a regular family for whom Not going to Maldives is Not a deal-breaker, but who believe that with considerable effort it’s something they can pull off. Of course, I hope that singles  and childless couples can  benefit from my posts as well. But at its core, this blog is about my family’s (at times) dysfunctional journey through the maze of miles and points. I hope you join me on this glorious ride! Without further ado:

1) January (few weeks from now)

Going to Holiday Inn Express Lantana for two nights. This hotel was on PointBreaks list (costs 5,000 points per night) and as I predicted, was gone within two days. Is it correlation and not causation? We’ll never know. I burned a bunch of points for some relatives who will be joining us there. They have six in the family, so I redeemed points for two rooms. One of the Trip Advisor reviews said this hotel is “relaxful.” Is it a new word the cool kids are using these days?

How you can get IHG points: participate in various promos like “Accelerate” and “Priceless surprises.” I’m thinking about doing some mattress runs because my husband’s offer is quite lucrative. The goal is to acquire IHG points for 0.25-0.35 cents each. I know for a fact that I’ll  get at least that much value out of them at redemption time. If you have planned hotel stays, it could be worth it to swap them in order to hit a promotion (read my post on how I decide when to pay cash and when to use points).

You may also  consider getting Chase IHG MasterCard. Right now, the bonus is down to 60,000 points but many, including my relatives, were able to get it matched to 80,000 points. Read about this card and other hotel sign-up bonuses here

2) March

My parents’ visit to US. I wrote about my award airfare booking woes not too long ago. Funny thing is, I ended up getting that $157 refund from United after all, so I lost nothing in the end.

We will be staying in Radisson Melbourne Oceanfront for five days. The cost is 44,000 points per night, but I got it while BOGO was still alive. Some nights were booked via free e-certificates given out by US Bank as a gesture of goodwill once Club Carlson unceremoniously shafted  them by gutting the program. After selling them a bunch of points, of course.

Ways you can get Club Carlson points: Don’t! I’m kidding. While I don’t consider these points particularly valuable, there are sweet spots, like Category 1 and 2. Burning 44,000 points on Radisson Melbourne in high season and during holidays could also be a good deal.  This is a nice place for a big family. You can redeem points for their regular suite (fits four) and pay around $35 per day extra to upgrade to one with bunk beds that fits six. Watch for various promos and consider getting US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature.

We will also be spending 3 nights in Clearwater Beach, Fl. in Wyndham Garden Clearwater Originally, we were supposed to stay at a beachfront property in Fort Myers. However, due to change in  schedule, my parents are now flying out from Tampa airport, which is located 30 minutes away from Clearwater. The cost is 15,000 points per night, and there is a resort fee of $25 per room.

Ways you can get Wyndham points: Wyndham Signature Visa. You might want to hold off applying for now since the bonus is reduced to 30,000 points. It has been as high as 45,000 points in the past, and I actually got 60,000 points deposited, for whatever reason. There is a working zombie link for 45,000 points according to  Lazytravelers.net, though it may be dead by the time you read this post.

3) May

Cruise to Alaska!!! This is a big one in terms of cost. I wrote about it in detail, so won’t repeat myself.

4) July 

We’ll be spending 2 nights at Hyatt Regency Clearwater. It’s a beachfront resort with lots of amenities for kids. The rates at this hotel hover around $400 per night, less during hurricane season. I’m using 2 free nights I got via signing up for Chase Hyatt Signature Visa. Hopefully, we will get upgraded to a  suite due to my husband’s Diamond status (which he received via match).

5) September

Spending two nights in Holiday Inn Resort Cape Canaveral. The cost is 35,000 points per night. My cousin-in-law and her family are coming as well. I wrote about my struggles to get two rooms at this place. Well, we were able to do it after checking it on a regular basis. It looks like for some unknown reason, they released two award rooms during that particular weekend. Jen, don’t cancel! This could be our only chance to stay here together.

6) October

???

My in-laws plan to take the kids on a 3-night Bahamas cruise. I don’t know the dates yet, but this will be an anniversary trip with my husband. Since we’ll have three nights, I told him I really wanted us to fly somewhere (Montreal maybe?)  He wasn’t so keen on the idea and we got in a huge fight. I said all kinds of mean things and even called him an eeyore at one point. Look, I don’t hide the fact that I can be a jerk at times. If I come across as high-maintenance drama queen in my posts, that’s because I am one IRL.

Ironically, my husband was the one who felt bad afterwards and said I could plan anything I wanted and he would come along (and be happy). Well, that made me feel like dirt. I asked him how he puts up with me. His response: “I like feisty women. You are sassy, and that makes life interesting.”  That’s a “glass half full” way of looking at it which  is… the opposite of eeyore.

A note to single male hobbyists: If you like “feisty,” go East. As in Eastern Europe. You can even save time and order your bride online, plus use your credit card to collect points. Winning! Sure, the upfront cost will be substantial, but think  how much you’ll save by not spending money on dates, flowers etc. Think of it as “pajama” bride. “Pajama” points is the latest cool hobby term referring to easy rewards you can earn  from the comfort of your own home. You like, you like?

7) November

I plan to make a 4-night “cash+points” redemption at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs. Why? Because it’s eligible for a guaranteed suite upgrade we got due to my husband’s Diamond status. I’ll have a separate post on it later.

Originally, I planned to take my mom to Puerto Rico, but she said she would rather relax in Florida after a long flight. Fair enough. This resort has several pools, a slide and a boat that can take you to a private island with a  nice beach. My cousin-in-law went there with her family and loved it.

The cost: 30,000 Hyatt points+$400 total, or 7,500+$100 per night. The points will be transferred from Ultimate Rewards program 1:1, received from sign-up bonus on Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Ways to get UR points: sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred  or Chase Ink Plus. Terrific bonuses if you can actually get approved.

 

8) December

Something, anything over winter school break. My kids started going nuts from boredom over the last two weeks.  I tried to take them to the park etc, but next year, I’m hoping to have staycation somewhere in Florida. I’m thinking this Fort Pierce West Holiday Inn Express will   fit the bill:

fort pierce

See how huge this suite looks on the photo? It’s a Holiday Inn Express, which means  mediocre breakfast is included. A nice beach is only 10 minutes away, and 15,000 points seems like a bargain, to be honest.

And it’s a wrap! Of course, none of it is written in stone but last year, I pretty much stuck to my original outline. As you can see, most of my plans involve local getaways at the beach. And when you live in Florida, why would you need to fly elsewhere? My kids sure don’t have a problem with local beaches and neither do my parents. Read my post on some family-friendly Florida beachfront hotels that can be a good deal on points.

Alaska cruise will cost us a considerable amount of money, so I have to keep the expenses down when it comes to other trips. I plan to do some 1-night local getaways with my husband as well, covered with points. I wrote about it a few times and highly recommend you leave your kids behind now and again. It’s totally worth it even if you have to pay someone to watch them. Trust me.

Also, you can see that we have a hodgepodge of various hotel currencies represented: Hyatt, IHG, Club Carlson and Wyndham. I am a cheater when it comes to brand loyalty and proud of it. I will admit that Hyatt status did sway me towards a stay in their Bonita Springs resort, but I was already thinking about it anyway. I made no other changes and don’t plan to. While complimentary  breakfast and suite upgrades are nice, I would rather burn the points I already have rather than dip into valuable UR stash. Plus, as you can see with that HIE property in Fort Pierce, you can have your (mediocre) cake and eat it too.

The other day, my daughter said this to me: “Mom, I know we are not rich. But it sure feels like it sometimes. Here I got my bunkbed and we have all these amazing trips coming up!” Bingo.

Readers, please, share your plans! I would love to know where you are going.

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Author: Leana

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.

9 thoughts on “On Our 2016 Miles and Points Vacation Plans, Eeyore and “Pajama” Brides

  1. Your plans sound wonderful! I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again…I wished I lived in Florida! All those great beaches….the beaches in Texas are not comparable at all.
    We almost stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort Cape Canaveral (formerly Ron Jon resort, right?) I had booked a 2-night reservation for next week before our cruise, but our friends who work at Disney offered us a cast member discount at the Polynesian Village Resort so we canceled our Cape Canaveral reservation for that. I’d love to stay there someday, though…looks great for kids!
    I’m also still drooling over the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point resort. It looks like the perfect place for my family–pools, beach, and kids club! I’d love to use a Hyatt DSU to stay there in 2017, but I’ve read about a rumor that sometime soon Hyatt will restrict those DSUs to stays in the actual year (as opposed to right now where you can use them for stays booked a year in advance). I’ll be so bummed if that rumor is true!
    Our 2016 plans are still up in the air, as much as that pains me to say. We have a cruise this month and have tentative plans for Puerto Vallarta in October, and I had hoped to have 2 shorts trips within Texas in between those trips. However, we may have a few curve balls coming our way this year so I’m trying to remain flexible and content with changing and canceling some of our plans.

    • Nancy, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, living in Florida definitely has some advantages. I’ve always wanted to move to a big city like New York, but my husband is a small town guy. But having kids has changed my perspective. It’s nice to be near family and like you said, Florida is a wonderful place for kids. We can drive to all of these resorts and be unpacking our luggage within hours. That’s why I don’t have the pressure to collect Southwest points. Of course, there are negatives to living in Florida as well: lower salaries and so stinking hot!
      We actually just visited Polynesian while doing a camping trip in Disney. I love that resort! They recently completed a major pool renovation, and it looked spectacular. Your kids will love it. I’m sure you can visit Cape Canaveral resort some other time. So many choices!
      As far as Bonita Springs Hyatt resort goes, I hope you can make it there as well. It’s quite a good deal on points, especially in high season. And using an upgrade is an extra perk. I recommend you give it a shot if your budget can handle it. Otherwise, don’t sweat it. And yeah, I’ve read about this new development on upgrades expiration. It looks like you might have to actually stay before February In order to take advantage of Diamond perks. If you can’t swing it, don’t feel bad. You win some, you lose some in this hobby. Your kids are definitely not deprived when it comes to nice trips!

  2. I love your blog!

    I’m going to Reno, NV next weekend on IHG PointBreaks promotion. At the end of January, I’m going to Palm Springs for one weekend to take advantage of the IHG Accelerate bonus point promotion.

    In February, I’m going to San Francisco. I will be staying with a friend. I used my Amex Premier Rewards Gold card to buy a (reimbursed) Southwest gift card, of which I used to buy my flight into and out of Oakland airport.

    I’m hoping to go to Hawaii in April, but I have not looked at flights yet. If I do, I will probably use British Airway Avios for flights, transferred from Amex Membership Reward program.

    At the end of the year, probably around November, I will be flying to Hong Kong to visit family, and return to U.S. from Tokyo. The trans-Pacific flight tickets will probably be a rev ticket. My itinerary in Asia will look something like Hong Kong-Shanghai-Osaka-Tokyo. Flights into and out of Shanghai will be redeemed from my existing stash of British Airways Avios. While in Hong Kong, I will stay with family; in Shanghai, probably a combo of paid stay at Holiday Inn Express and the new Shanghai Disney Resort; in Osaka, maybe a local ryokan; in Tokyo, my IHG free night certificates. Whew! That was a long sentence.

    Of course, there will be more trips brought on by PointBreak promotion. Let’s see where else IHG will take me this year!

    • @Winni3 Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s still hard for me to comprehend that people other than my cousin-in-law are actually reading these rants. I guess I better watch what I say…
      Thanks for sharing your plans. I’m genuinely curious as to how my readers are using their miles and points. Sounds like you have a busy and fun year coming up. I absolutely love San Francisco and hope to make it back one of these days. If you are thinking about Hawaii, I wouldn’t wait much longer to book your tickets. Plus, if you are using Avios, you will only lose award taxes (around $10 or so roundtrip) if you decide to cancel for whatever reason. Hawaii is a popular destination, as I’m sure you know. Of course, do what works for you. If you only need one or two tickets, it should be fine to wait a bit longer.
      I love IHG PointBreaks program. LOVE!! Unfortunately, we can’t always take advantage of all the amazing deals, but for those with flexible schedule, it’s an incredible bargain.
      You Asian itinerary sounds amazing. I have dreamed of visiting China and Japan for as long as I can remember. I kept planning that perfect trip and almost booked it one time, but things kept getting in the way. My husband got a new job, and then we had kids. I really want to take my son and daughter to Asia. There is an old town in China where a movie “The painted veil” was filmed. I think it’s near Guilin? But it looks incredible, and I dream of seeing it one day.

  3. I envy your plannedness. Know what are plans are for this year? January-December: Nothing. My wife is studying for and taking the CPA this year so our vacation schedule is exceedingly limited between two full time jobs, school, tax accountant busy season for the first quarter of the year, and CPA insanity. I also have only about 200k miles across our various accounts, so it looks like we will be churning and earning with very little burning this year. But given we took 3 trips last year, with one of them being 2 weeks in 3 different places, I can’t complain.

    I am playing around with the idea of using points we earn for cash, similar to what you are doing. We will be buying quite a bit of furniture for the new house, so may be a wise investment.

    My thoughts are to focus on the usual suspects if we do a trip:
    1. Orlando. I love the resorts in Orlando, as they are top notch and a lot of fun for families. Lots of options on points, RCI, or rental. I’d like to get over to the Kennedy Space Center, and a beach possibly as well. I also want to try out Discovery Cove and SeaWorld. Also, I heard something about a giant costumed rat I should take my kids to see? Seems strange, but, when in Rome. Southwest flights out of Milwaukee are ridiculously cheap to MCO right now too.
    2. Caribbean. I’d like to try out a good swimmer’s beach, and this seems like the best bet. I love the idea of beautiful blue water and white sand beaches. But I can’t help but wonder: If a beach has no waves, might as well be in the pool. right? Also, not sure if I can find a resort via my usual means that gives me the ridiculous pool complexes that Mexico has spoiled me with.
    3. Mexico. I like working on my Spanish, giving the kids a chance to experience another culture that is also a bit relevant for living in the states. And I love the resorts, and the beaches on the Pacific side, while not as pretty as the East Coast, seemed to be a but more accessible for our kids. Also, my RCI points go a long way here.
    4. Hawaii. I hear they have good ice cream.
    5. Brazil Olympics: Probably not gonna happen, but I’ve always wanted to do the Olympics.

    We could very easily just stay put this year and settle into the new homes, spend extra cash on things around the house, and get my wife’s career underway by not taking her away from studying an test taking. We’ll see. Options.

    • @Cheapblackdad Thanks for stopping by! I enjoy your company immensely. Yeah, we do have a lot of plans, but most of them involve Florida beaches and weekend getaways. The longest we have to drive is 2.5 hours, which isn’t that bad. My kids absolutely love being by the water, and are constantly begging us to take them to the beach. And using points definitely makes it palatable for our budget. We went over holidays a few times when rates were over $300 per night.
      On to your plans. Caribbean has very nice beaches, no question. St. John is one of the most beautiful places in the world, no doubt. That said, Florida has some nice beaches as well. I highly recommend Sarasota or Englewood area. If you are looking for a nice beach, it’s hard to go wrong with either one.
      Have you thought about taking a Caribbean cruise? It can give you a taste of different islands so you can pick one for your future trip.
      You know how I feel about Hawaii. Hands down, my favorite place. Unfortunately, for us flying there is similar to going to Europe distance-wise. My husband refuses to go along with the idea. Maybe when the kids are older… From Wisconsin, it’s probably a wash whether you choose Caribbean or Hawaii. So, my vote is Hawaii 100%.
      But there is nothing wrong with taking a year off since you just bought a house. Maybe focus on local getaways where you can just drive. I guarantee that your kids won’t mind it one bit. Sometimes too many plans can give you headache. I’m getting a migraine just reading my own post!

  4. I just came back from a week in Florida – drove from NJ – NOT doing that again – but plan on a beach Holiday winter – not sure if it will be end of December or January.
    Stayed at two IHG properties (Candlewood Suites which I loved and a Holiday Inn which was ehhh) on the way up and down to get in on their new accounts promotion – you totally turned me on to IHG. 🙂
    Also stayed at 3 Hiltons – an Embassy Suites and a Double Tree – award stays – double tree upgraded me to a Suite – it was really nice!!! Loved them both.
    I want to check out Milwaukee I think during Spring Break and will go to Tucson to visit family in June/July.
    Hoping on some PointBreak hotel stays for some mini vacations but don’t have any major plans this year.

    • @HML Thanks for stopping by! I hear you on driving from New Jersey to Florida. My sister-in-law used to live in Doylestown, PA, and we would drive there almost every year. What a pain! But it was usually 5 of us, so financially it made sense, I guess. I much prefer flying.
      IHG is awesome/horrible. It’s an enigma of hotel programs. Some of their properties are super nice, others are junky. But the footprint is great, they have solid promos and PointBreaks program is second to none. We stayed at a beachfront Crowne Plaza for 5,000 points per night once, 4,500 with 10% rebate. How can you beat that? I like Hilton too, but in terms of lucrative promos, it just doesn’t compare to IHG. I hope you find some gems on future PointBreaks lists!

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