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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.