I realize that school just started (or is about to start) in most places around the country. But my mind is already on spring break 2019! The school year is hard on parents and kids. By the time spring break rolls around, we are all ready for a break!
A few years ago over spring break, my husband had just started a new job. He couldn’t take the whole week off to travel. Instead, we went on a short 3-day-weekend trip for spring break and spent the rest of the week at home.
The kids and I were miserable. It rained most of the week. And, since most schools in Texas have the same week off for spring break, local attractions were swamped with too many visitors. The truth is, I don’t enjoy spring break in Texas because of the weather and crowds.
Ever since that less than ideal spring break, and based on my experience on many similar spring break staycations when the kids were much younger, I vowed to prioritize travel during spring break using miles and points.
Original Plans for Spring Break 2019
Like many miles and points nutcases enthusiasts, I plan trips in my head several years out. Some of these trips materialize, others get canceled or changed.
Originally, I wanted to take my kids to New Orleans. Last year in summer, I spent two nights there with a friend from college and had a blast. I knew my kids would love the French Market, and we could see a few other sights in the city as well as go on a swamp boat tour. I had Hilton points to burn, and we could get to New Orleans on the cheap by trying out MegaBus.
But then a few months ago, I took all three kids by myself to Washington, D.C. to renew their Russian passports. The trip was overwhelming and exhausting, and overall we schlepped around too much.
After we returned home and I had some time to think about it, I realized that New Orleans wasn’t the best choice for a spring break trip. A visit to New Orleans would also require a lot of walking, taking public transportation and schlepping around.
Nope, not for spring break. I wanted something very easy, especially because I didn’t know if my husband’s work schedule would allow him to come with us on this trip. I’m thinking pool and relaxation with sunny, warm weather.
Revised Plans—Cashing out Hilton Points for Relaxing Spring Break
My first thought for a revised location was the Mall of America. I went there on a solo trip with my kids a few years ago and it was super easy. We all loved Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, and the kids have been begging to return.
Then I looked at the average temperature for our spring break week and saw that it was in the 30s. Uh, nope!
So I started looking at resorts I could book with my Hilton Honors points. I wanted a location where we didn’t have to leave the resort for entertainment. Somewhere with warm weather and a nice pool complex was ideal.
After looking at several options in Florida and California, I decided on Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. My kids have been to Florida and California before, but never Arizona. Plus, I have a friend from middle school/high school who lives in the Phoenix area and I’ve been wanting to visit her for a long time. And, the average temperature will be in the high 70s.
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak has a large on-site water park, River Ranch, with a lazy river, water slide and multiple pools. The resort also has a mini golf course, kids club, tennis courts and spa.
What really attracted me to the resort, however, are the large rooms. Every room is a two-room suite with a separate living room containing a sofa bed. As my kids get older, we all appreciate having more space when we travel, and my kids hate sharing beds. Our room sleeps up to six people, so if my husband can join us on this trip we can all fit in the room.
I booked us for 5 nights. We will still have a 3-day weekend at the end of Spring Break to lounge around our home, which my kids will appreciate.
Spring Break 2019 Flights
Flights over spring break week are so expensive! Everyone is trying to fly somewhere warm.
Normally, I would wait until closer to the trip and try to book cheap flights on Southwest or Spirit using Chase Ultimate Rewards points from my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve card. However, I need those points to book flights to Florida in January for our Star Wars Disney Cruise.
I decided to use our stash of AA miles to book four round-trip tickets. I normally save AA miles for international flights. But, since the cost was over $350 and I didn’t have confidence the cost would go down for a peak week, I decided to use AA miles.
I found plenty of award availability on AA, though unfortunately none were direct flights. Among several stopover options, I chose the one with a brief stopover in Roswell, New Mexico. I plan to keep checking to see if any direct flights on miles become available, since AA will allow us to switch flights as long as our origin and destination remain the same.
Hotel Cost: The cash price for 5 nights at Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak over spring break 2019, including a $28 per day resort fee and taxes, is $1979.25 using the Honors Discount Semi-flex rate. Ouch! I’ve been monitoring the price of this resort, and the cost has continued to rise for my dates. A little sleuthing helped me determine that the week I will be there is also the week that most Phoenix-area schools also have spring break, so it’s unlikely the rate will go down.
I paid 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night. Since I have the Amex Hilton Ascend card, the fifth night is free on points, so my total was 240,000 points. I used Hilton Honors points from my two Amex Hilton cards plus a few points from my husband’s account. To be fair, I need to include the cost of the Ascend card’s annual fee, which is $95. Since I booked on points, I won’t have to pay the daily resort fee.
Airfare: The cheapest cash price for four round-trip tickets was $1456 on American Airlines. Since we are still over 6 months from our dates, the cost could drop. Or, since everyone is trying to fly out the same date, the cost might increase.
I used 100,000 AA miles (my husband’s miles, actually) for four round-trip tickets. Taxes came to $44.80. To be fair, I need to add in the annual fee of his Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator card (current bonus is 60k), which was $95. So our total out-of-pocket cost was $139.80.
Total Hotel Plus Airfare Trip Cost:
Cash total: $1979.25 hotel + $1456 airfare = $3435.25.
Total out-of-pocket cash because we used miles and points: $95 hotel + $139.80 airfare = $234.80 or a 94% savings.
Of course, we will incur additional costs during our trip. If my husband joins us, we will have to pay for dog sitting and airport parking. We will need to pay for an Uber to/from the resort (~$20 each way). Food costs will add up. However, since I’m a Hilton Honors Gold member, we will receive a $20 breakfast voucher each morning, or $100 total to use in any of the on-site restaurants. I’m planning to bring our own breakfasts (oatmeal, muffins) and use the food credit for poolside lunches.
We’re getting out of town for spring break 2019 on the cheap using miles and points through credit card sign-ups. I’m looking forward to a change of scenery with warmer weather and cactuses. We are making no plans during our time in Arizona except to see my friend and float around the lazy river on our bums.
Are you making plans for spring break 2019 yet? What’s your ideal spring break vacation?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.