I’m a planner. Most of us miles and points freaks are. There is just something about having your ducks, err… trips in a row that excites me in a weird way. Of course, things don’t always go according to the plan. Kids may get sick, we may miss the flight (please, not again!) and occasionally, I may find a deal that I just can’t pass up. Cough, PointBreaks, cough.
But I like to have an outline, so here it is. While many frequent travelers will laugh at how few trips I have planned, to me it seems almost overwhelming. We are a middle-class family on a budget, and travel will suck out a huge chunk of our savings in 2017, just like it does every year.
This is a good place to put a disclaimer that if you are just starting out in the miles and points hobby, you won’t be able to replicate our plans without significant out-of-pocket investment. It took me few years to save up the miles and points for these trips, and now it’s time to burn them! If you know my husband, please don’t share this page with him. I will break the news one trip at a time.
The point of this post is not to brag but hopefully, show you few options that are achievable for normal folks who don’t make six figures per year. Keep in mind, we live in central Florida, and all of the highlighted local resorts are less than two hours away by car.
Without further ado:
The least exciting redemption, but one of the most important IMO. I’m burning 10,000 points on one night at a nearby Residence Inn by Marriott. I’m taking my kid on a mother/daughter getaway. I told her that we will do this occasionally, so it’s time to keep my promise.
She is a very sensitive child and has a hard time dealing with life. She writes poetry and pretty much lives in her own world. Basically, she is a much younger, blonder mini-me. Most kids at school don’t understand her, which makes her withdraw into her shell even more. As a mother, it’s a difficult thing to watch because I want everyone in the world to appreciate her like I do. Of course, I know that life doesn’t work that way. The other day she told me that she is feeling stressed and wants to go to a hotel. Done! That I can do.
How you can get Marriott points: Transfer SPG points to Marriott program via 1:3 ratio or apply for Marriott co-branded credit card. Note that business version is reportedly NOT subject to 5/24 rule. Marriott has a lot of Category 1 and 2 hotels, located in small towns. While not fancy, they can provide a nice place to do a cheap getaway with your spouse or kids.
Yesterday I wrote about rolling the dice and booking an all-inclusive Holiday Inn resort in Jamaica. The biggest reason was the fact that my daughter was begging us to go, which goes along with what I said above. Stay tuned.
We are planning to stay two nights at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach resort This place is supposed to open at the end of January, so it will be almost new when we go there. I debated on this redemption because truth be told, Clearwater beach is not our favorite area. But the fact that the resort is supposed to be upscale, with nice pool, a hot tub and beach located across the street, kind of sold me on it.
Another big plus? The room we reserved has a king bed and a set of bunk beds. That’s wonderful when you have two kids who fight non-stop when sharing a bed. Wyndham program charges a flat 15,000 points per night, and this property is no exception. Not bad considering the fact that rates here hover around $350 per night, not that I would ever pay that much. But using 15,000 Wyndham points is definitely a good deal at this particular property. There is a parking fee of $25 per day, plus a possible resort fee, but I’m still excited to try it out. So might as well go when it’s brand new, right?
How you can get Wyndham points: apply for Wyndham Signature Visa card (non-affiliate link) and get 45,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months. The annual fee of $75 is NOT waived. The bonus will take care of 3 nights at this particular Clearwater property, so it’s a very good deal if you plan on spending time in the area anyway. You may also want to check my post for suggestions on activities you can do with your family.
We are going to Europe for 11 days. Part of the trip will involve a detour to Spain, and the other part will be in Belarus visiting my family. I wrote a post on using AAdvantage miles to book a flight to Madrid and later swapping it for Barcelona. I’ll devote a separate post to our lodging options, but suffice to say, I plan to use my existing points to cover the cost.
I’m hoping to take the kids to Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress for two nights. I actually booked this place not too long ago with the idea of having a short getaway over winter holidays. But I ended up canceling it (without penalty). Why? The weather forecast was pretty bad for the time we planned to be there.
Since I was going to drop a boatload of cash and points on this place, I just couldn’t justify going unless we could spend a lot of time enjoying outside amenities. I also learned that the large pool is not heated in winter months, and that’s the star attraction of the resort. So, I told the kids we will go there in the summer instead. I won’t be able to get a guaranteed suite upgrade, but hope to utilize a Club Lounge access certificate under the new Hyatt program.
But there is a silver lining. Cash+Points availability at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa (see my review) opened up for our dates, so I ended up taking my family there for the third time in the last six months. As I’ve mentioned few days ago, we stayed in a presidential suite that goes for $1300 per night (review coming up). Wow, wow, wow. How will my husband go back to Holiday Inn after that? What have I done?
My husband and I are not doing a big wedding anniversary getaway in 2017, but plan to spend only one night in Holiday Inn Sarasota Lido Beach I wrote about staying in this place after missing our flight to Aruba and mentioned that we had a great time. I’m hoping that lightning will strike twice, though not literally. It’s an easy-going, no-frills hotel, but it sort of feels like home now. Well, if our home had an amazing beach across the street.
I booked it with anniversary certificate from Chase IHG Visa (see my review of the card). This is my favorite credit card ever, no joke! Get it, you won’t regret it. It rhymes.
This one is still up in the air. I would like to fly from Orlando to Newark for three nights and utilize off-peak Spirit redemption (5,000 miles roundtrip). This particular route has just opened up, so I’m looking forward to booking it with Spirit miles. The schedule for that time of the year hasn’t been loaded yet, but you better believe that I’m checking it every day. Read my posts on Spirit program here and here
We will have to take the kids out of school for two days, but it shouldn’t be an issue. For lodging, I’m hoping to utilize IHG points, but I’m not yet certain where we will stay. My in-laws will be coming with us, so we will need two rooms for three nights. Stay tuned for a separate post.
Another one-night getaway with my husband. Hopefully, we can stay in Hotel Indigo in St. Petersburg (see my review) It’s a quirky/funky/historic place, but we liked the vibe of the property and the location can’t be beat. It’s a relative bargain at 20,000 IHG points per night, since the asking rate is $150.
Ahh, the cherry on top! We are circling back to Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa I have to wait till 4 club lounge certificates are deposited in my husband’s Hyatt account, which should happen in early March. I’m hoping to take the kids there for two nights when they are out of school.
This view never gets old
Even though most of our planned getaways are fairly short, when you add them all up, we are still talking about some serious expense. Obviously, Europe trip will be the biggest hit to our budget, so I’m hoping to reduce out-of-pocket costs as much as possible. But I have to be honest, I’m kind of excited heading into 2017. Turning miles and points into memories is what it’s all about, right?
Friends, please, share some of your plans!
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.