I’m fortunate because for the most part, my husband finds my various personality quirks to be delightful. But there is one thing that seriously drives him bananas, and that is the fact that I always have four or five trips lined up in advance. When I ask him for his opinion, he just gets this annoyed look on his face and says: “Can we please get through all the stuff we have planned so far before discussing yet another vacation?”
But my busy (OCD?) brain refuses to operate in such manner and I need a hustle of some sort in order to keep it occupied at all times. Originally, my plan for spring of 2019 was to drive to Orlando and spend four nights in Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort using points. Cue the usual family vacation cliches: swimming in pools, partaking in resort activities and visiting Disney.
The thing is, I told my husband that I wouldn’t plan any flights for couple of years after going on our South Pacific adventure. He isn’t opposed to me taking the kids somewhere by myself. But if you ever met my son, you would know why I’m not eager to go this route. Talk about a busy bee! Plus, I like doing things as a family.
Dreaming about a quick trip to Washington DC
My kids are finally old enough to appreciate the Smithsonian museums plus, I really would like to see the famous cherry blossoms in the spring.
The direct flight from Tampa (our preferred airport) to DCA takes only two hours, so it’s relatively painless. We wouldn’t rent a car and simply use Uber or Lyft to get around. Would my husband be up for it? I picked a time when he was in a good mood and approached the subject. To my surprise, he didn’t put up too much of a resistance.
And then it dawned on me. He has been talking for years about going to Japan in order to see cherry blossoms. This is a poor (American) man’s equivalent of that. Plus, my husband really enjoys museums in DC. Bingo! Just incorporate things your spouse actually wants to do, and he will be much more receptive to travel ideas.
There was one wrinkle. I promised my daughter I would take her to Disney in 2019. However, as it turns out, her school will be having a filed trip to Animal Kingdom in May of this year. My husband and I will go with her as chaperones. I have been wanting to check out new Avatar ride anyway.
In few years we will probably have to go again with my son when he is in 4th grade and after that, sayonara, Disney! I know many of my readers are Disney fanatics, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Though like I said, Avatar ride looks pretty cool. I talked to my daughter and she was happy with the new plan. And both of my kids were ecstatic about the prospect of seeing dinosaur bones in Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
One of the reasons I want to go in 2019 is because it will be my daughter’s last year in elementary school. The Spring Break in our district usually takes place at the beginning of March, and that’s too early for cherry blossoms. So, in all likelihood, I will have to take the kids out of classes for two days. It will be much easier to do it while they are still in elementary school.
Covering the cost with miles and points
I’m supposed to get a huge stash of Jet Blue points in a week or two (speaking of, the 60k offer link for Jet Blue card is still working). Jet Blue happens to fly non-stop from Tampa to DCA airport, so it seems like a perfect option. But! The peak of cherry blossoms blooming period is tough to predict in advance. The time varies each year, which makes a trip to DC tough to plan.
It’s not so bad when you live within driving distance, but if you have to change flights, the penalties will add up. Jet Blue does offer Blue Flex fare which allows free changes, but it costs considerably more via points:Usually, cherry blossoms in DC area are at their peak at the beginning of April, so I would like to have flights lined up few months in advance, if at all possible. If our timing is significantly off, I will consider rebooking. Hmm, if only there was an airline that would let you make unlimited free changes…
Cough, Southwest, cough.
About a month ago I wrote an article where I’ve mentioned my plan to cash out Southwest points towards gift cards. I was in the process of doing just that, and redeemed 30,000 points so far. I still had 60,000 points left and planned to burn them on $600 in Walmart gift cards. But since this new plan has hatched in my brain, I was debating on whether it was still a good idea.
I thought about it and decided Nope. But, what about putting money into an IRA? I still plan on doing it and will possibly move some savings out of emergency fund. I’ve also recently signed up for several cash back offers and should have $1k coming my way shortly.
Sometimes plans change and we have to adapt accordingly. I don’t have any UR points, and due to 5/24 rule can’t get approved for any cards that will give me access to Rapid Rewards. Read this post on why you may want to start out with Chase credit cards if you are new to this hobby.
I also would like to hang on to all of my Jet Blue points for a possible trip to Costa Rica (more on that in another post). Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents towards Wanna Get Away fare, so cashing them out at 1 cent is obviously not ideal.
I have several options. Since we will need to spend three nights, I could use two IHG renewal certificates from credit cards and burn points towards the third night. Ditto for Hyatt, since Washington DC has several Category 2-4 properties. However, I’ve discovered something interesting, and may end up going with Points+Cash rate at a new Hyatt House Washington DC/The Wharf
Here is the most interesting part. While regular rooms cost 8,000 points per night, if you choose Points+Cash rate, you can book a 1-bedroom suite. I called the hotel to inquire about rollaways, and they said they don’t provide any. So, my kids would have to share a sofa sleeper in the living room. Not ideal, but we’ll survive. You can read more details on Hyatt credit card here
I have a feeling that it’s a mistake that will eventually be corrected, but I hope this info helps some of you plan your own trip to DC. Send me some photos of cherry blossoms, OK?
Update: this hotel is now a category 3 and you can no longer book a bedroom suite via cash+ points rate.
Travel isn’t free. By foregoing Southwest gift card redemption option, I’ll be missing out on $600 worth of groceries. If I go with Points+Cash rate at the Hyatt hotel, I will be once again spending real cash. However, to me travel is worth it. People spend their money on various things, I choose to invest it in experiences. Besides, I’ll be saving a ton of cash by not buying Disney passes next year, so it will probably be a wash in terms of overall cost.
I’ve seen this quote from a dad who loves to take his family on trips in one of the magazines, and I could totally relate: “Our house may be small, but with some planning and a little gumption our lives can be big through travel.” Amen to that. I would also add “miles and points” after the “gumption” part.
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.