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Redeeming Spirit Miles and IHG Points on a Short Getaway to New York

Well, technically, we are flying to Newark, but close enough. So, at the beginning of the year I’ve mentioned that I was hoping to do a short fall getaway to New York. My immediate family and in-laws would be coming with me. I’m happy to say that it looks like the trip is a go at this point, but not quite the way I envisioned it.

I couldn’t book the flights till now because  Spirit hasn’t yet released its fall schedule. I wanted to take advantage of off-peak redemption which costs 2,500 miles one-way. Few months ago I was excited to learn that Spirit has added Orlando-Newark route, perfect for my plans.

So I’ve been checking the website every day and bingo, the flights were loaded on March 7th. You can read my posts on Spirit program and its co-branded credit card here and here.

No weekend getaway for you!

In case you are not familiar with Spirit program, you can look at this page to see off-peak dates for 2017. It’s an extremely convoluted system designed for folks who have a very flexible schedule, aka NOT most normal families. One of the things that was non-negotiable in my scheme was a getaway that incorporated Saturday and Sunday.

Basically, that way my husband would only have to take two days off work and I wouldn’t irritate my kids’ teachers. Unfortunately, it appears that Spirit read my mind:

The only flights available for 2,500 miles one-way were in the middle of the week. There was one off-peak Thursday flight out of Orlando, but Sunday flight from Newark would cost 25,000 miles one-way. Say what? Honestly, I don’t begrudge Spirit for designing a system intended to make it as difficult as possible for customers to get what they really want. It’s based on supply/demand principle. Obviously, I’m not the only Floridian who wants to maximize weekend days for a short NYC getaway.

What to do? Well, I looked at all possible scenarios in September and nothing fit. So I decided to take a different approach. I booked our return flight from Newark at the end of October. Several friends mentioned on Twitter that this is the time to see fall colors in New York City. Sounds good to me!

We’ll have to pay for checked bags, and I’m OK with that. But what about flight to Newark? There are a couple of possible scenarios. At this point it’s most likely that I’ll redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards as soon as schedule opens up for October, which should happen in a month or two. Southwest also flies non-stop from Orlando to Newark, so there won’t be any inconvenience involved when it comes to returning a rental van.

Obviously, I would rather burn Spirit miles, but you can’t win them all. I love Southwest because bags fly free and you can cancel without penalty. There is a lot of competition on this route, and fares on Southwest hover between 4,500-7,000 points one-way, which is not bad.

There is another possible scenario. I can apply for Jet Blue credit card down the road. I can’t do it right now because at the moment I’m working on several sign-up offers. But once I’m done with those, I can look into it, especially if Southwest fares are relatively high. As you have probably guessed, Jet Blue also flies non-stop form Orlando to Newark. If that plan doesn’t work out, I can always burn Jet Blue points on flights from Orlando to Caribbean.

Update: I wrote this post a week ago. I just checked and Spirit off-peak Saturday  redemption is available from Orlando to Newark. Booked! Scratch my previous statement on burning precious Southwest points. But I’ll probably still end up applying for Jet Blue credit card.

Also, it looks like Southwest schedule is now open through November 3rd.

Burning IHG points on two hotel rooms in New Jersey

At first glance, it looks like a compromise. After all, who wouldn’t want to stay in NYC, preferably Manhattan? Actually, we have plans in Upstate New York where we will be spending an entire day. So, being based in New Jersey is preferable during this particular trip. Plus, it’s an easy (I hope) drive to Newark airport.

Guys, I think I found a gem for families who are OK with being just a short ride away from NYC! Introducing Holiday Inn Express and Suites Meadowlands Area. It costs only 15,000 points per night and there is an indoor pool:

This hotel costs $140 per night, so burning points is a no-brainer, especially since I’ll get 10% rebate via IHG co-branded credit card. But here is the critical part:

The bus ride takes around 20 minutes and we won’t have to worry about parking or crazy NYC driving. Winning!

How to stay in NYC on points:

Obviously, hotels in that area are not cheap via points or cash. Your best bet will be signing up for Chase Hyatt Visa Signature or Citi Hilton Reserve Visa (if going on a weekend). See my list of best hotel card bonuses here. Another interesting option is Wyndham Visa Signature card.

All Wyndham hotels cost a flat 15,000 points, including those in NYC. There are several options, but the best one for families is probably TRYP by Wyndham New York City Times Square South. Unfortunately, you can’t book it online, and most Wyndham reps are clueless. Here is a tip form my reader Kent C:

2 weeks ago booked TRYP NY located in Times Square, a Wyndham hotel. Family of 4, 2 queen beds. Used 45k points. Stay is Dec 14 to 17th, a really popular time that will get booked. Room rates are $450+/night. They even offered points and cash which was a better deal but my points will be expiring soon so needed to burn them.

Many people give up booking TRYP with points because you can’t do it online and the standard Wyndham rep cannot do it even if they think they can (and they will waste your time trying). Eventually the rep transferred me to the “TRYP dept” and I asked for their number directly. I’ve called the TRYP dept back directly to make minor changes. The competence of the people in the TRYP dept that I dealt with were outstanding. The direct phone number if anyone is curious is 866-315-0884.”

This is a spectacular use of Wyndham points.

Renting a Minivan

I’m holding off on reserving it for now, but will probably cover the cost with the bonus from my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. I did a short overview of this offer here in case you are not familiar with it. The card does pay us commission if you apply through the blog. As always, we appreciate your support!

It’s definitely an easy-to-recommend sign-up bonus for any family out there. As long as your travel purchase is $100 or more, you can cover it  with points from Arrival Plus. Easy peasy, no award availability to worry about. It looks like rental minivans in Newark airport go for around $80 per day, so the total for three days will be $240. Not dirt cheap, but that’s the only way we can transport 6 people economically.

I searched on Kayak, and that website returned the best prices, even cheaper than those you can find via UR travel portal. But I plan to do more research before I commit to anything. My reader Audrey suggested Autoslash for best rates on a car rental. I’ve heard of it, though never actually used it. I filled out a form and will report back on my experience.

Bottom line

Our total cost for six people will be: 30,000 Spirit miles (plus $60 in taxes and $70 in checked luggage fees); 81,000 IHG points after 10% rebate; plus around $240 for minivan rental, reimbursed with points from Arrival Plus. Obviously, there will be other costs, but it’s still a dirt cheap getaway, all things considered.

This is not a  NYC trip in a traditional sense of the word, but it works for me. Besides, my kids will surely love that pool in New Jersey Holiday Inn Express. Oh, and you can even see Manhattan from the hotel! As always, my goal is to put together an affordable vacation while using existing miles and points balances. If it means flying Spirit, so be it. It rhymes.

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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.

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13 thoughts on “Redeeming Spirit Miles and IHG Points on a Short Getaway to New York

  1. Leana, so glad you finally made those Spirit miles work! Plus, you’ll be right in my neck of the woods. Meadowlands area is very close to NYC (very fast as long as it isn’t rush hour).
    For car rentals I really recommend Autoslash. Saves all that research time.

    • @Audrey I’m so excited to use up the Spirit miles! I just checked and Southwest fares for my dates are 7,500 points one-way. So what if we pay for few checked bags on Spirit? I just hope everything will go smoothly.
      I’ll look into Autoslash. Right now it appears that UR portal may be the way to go. The price has dropped from what I saw last week. But I plan on canceling CSR, so not sure how refund would work if we end up scrapping the trip. Something to look into, I guess.

  2. Leana, if you cancel CSR, will you be able to redeem your points at 1.5X? Great post, never even thought to look at the spirit credit card. We are spending a weekend in NYC this July, for my 40th birthday. We’re staying at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square using Marriott points transferred from spg. We live in South Jersey so taking Amtrak into NYC using points churned from the Amtrak cc from BOA.

    • @Natasha I plan to redeem UR points before canceling CSR. My concern is this: if we end up canceling the trip, how will the refund be processed? I’m not sure at this point. We don’t plan to cancel, of course, but things happen when you have kids. I’m not sure what to do, but have some time to decide. I will probably book it right before canceling CSR in August if the rate is significantly cheaper at that time. In the meantime I’ll also check various discount codes etc.

  3. @Leana I have been finding the best car rental rates through Costco, and if the price drops, you can always cancel and rebook at the cheaper rate (but you’ll have to periodically check). I have tried Autoslash for the 2nd year straight for our Hawaii trip, and they haven’t been able to beat Costco’s rate (but I usually book 9-10 months out and get a super great rate), but that could be because Hawaii can get expensive the closer you book to your trip. And nice score on the IHG hotel…we’re unfortunately flying into JFK so I’ll be looking at one of the IHG hotels next to it and I think it’s 30,000 points.

    @Audrey does Autoslash let you cancel and rebook? Also, do they let you reserve with a credit card or do they want pre-payment? Thanks!

    • @Stephanie I don’t have Costco membership, but may need to research that option. Right now it appears that UR portal is the best deal, beating Autoslash by $40. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
      BTW, I’ll let Audrey chime in, but it seems that Autoslash is basically the middle man. You reserve through car rental company’s website, and it’s subject to their cancellation rules. The lowest quote I got didn’t require pre-payment.
      I’m pretty happy with that IHG hotel. For us, staying in New Jersey is best on this particular trip. If i were flying to JFK, I would definitely pick something else.

    • Autoslash btw now asks if you are a member of any wholesale club. No prepayment. Yes you can cancel. But one of the best features (to me) is that it automatically rebooks you if the price drops. A couple of tips: depending on where you’re looking to rent, it will always say “no inventory with our partners” or some such, and ask you to request a quote. Initially that turned me off because naturally I’m always chomping at the bit to research all my discount codes and I didn’t want to wait. However that quote is almost instantaneous. Also, it says you can only get a quote on one car class at a time, but when you get the quote it will show all car classes (the email prices just the class you asked for, but when you click on a vendor it has all available classes).
      I have not used it in a while and perhaps they’ve improved it, but it can seem confusing at first. Also, it’s hard to change dates and times without starting over (or I don’t know how to at least). Still, so beats an evening alone with my discount codes (with my kids never far behind…).

    • I guess I’ve had better luck (or worse?) than you guys, never did better than Autoslash. Or maybe they have “improved” it!:)

    • Another thing is that Autoslash applies coupons but you don’t know what they are, so hard to stack. I’ve never been asked to prove any membership though.

  4. Last year I made my car reservations on Costco first, then plugged them into Autoslash. Autoslash was able to get better on both of my reservations – one maybe only $20, but the other one something like $80. I was really surprised as I thought the Costco rate would be hard to beat.

    • @Kelly Thanks for the tip! Right now it appears that Costco and Autoslash return identical results. UR portal is currently the best of the bunch: $204 for three days, all-in. But I’ll be keeping my eye on Autoslash. I would rather use points from Arrival Plus.

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