You guys know I don’t write about points too often, and I don’t claim to be an expert. Boarding Area has a ton of points experts with enough combined knowledge to fly us all to Europe first class for free. But I have struggled in planning a vacation lately using points, and it’s been complicated, so I wanted to share my story in case it can help others.
Our points and miles history
I’m a firm believer that points and miles for free stuff are one of the perks of business travel. We are away from our families days and weeks at a time, suffering through overstuffed flights and delays. Pre-kids I would use points to take some pretty awesome vacations with the Home Warrior, like Napa Valley, Puerto Rico (pictured), and Cozumel, to name a few. Once the Mini Warrior was born we spent most of our points flying the two of them with me on various work trips, including to Colorado, Vegas, and Chicago. But once the Warrior Twins were born, vacations were completely off the table and we spent hundreds of thousands of points on a new washer and dryer. (I know it sounds super boring but it was one of the best purchases we’ve ever made. Anyway.)
However! The twins are almost two, and can stay without us for a few days. So our super exciting vacation plan: leave the babies (toddlers) with my parents and take the Mini Warrior (who is almost five, omg) to Sanibel Island, FL. It’s not an all-inclusive in Cozumel, but I think it’s going to be pretty darn cool.
Changes in travel
My business travel has shifted quite a bit in the last year to two years. More car trips, fewer flights, but a similar number of hotel stays. Our personal travel has also changed quite a bit, as you can probably imagine. My family hasn’t flown anywhere with me in close to three years, and unfortunately I haven’t gone on too many fun trips on my own (since, you know, twin babies). So while we only travel in the minivan, we need adjoining rooms or a suite anytime we go anywhere, using hotel points like they’re candy.
A shift in strategy
Because of this, we have shifted our overall points strategy. For several years we had the Chase Southwest card, and got a Companion Pass when the Mini Warrior was a baby. Once we realized we didn’t need to fly much anymore, we switched over to the Chase Marriott card. At the time there was an 80k bonus (although they recently did a 100k bonus).
While I’m not flying as frequently as I was a couple of years ago, I’m still flying fairly often with at least two international trips per year. Because of these international trips, my focus with flying has been on maintaining status and being comfortable, not accumulating points. I’ve used points to buy upgrades for domestic and international flights, and was considering using them for a lounge membership.
Figuring out our trip
Another thing–we haven’t used points to fly anywhere in years. While I thought I had kept up with the reduced value of airline miles, there was definitely a bit of a sticker shock when I went to order our tickets to Florida. We were short by about 25k, so had a couple of options:
- Get two tickets with points and pay $220 for one ticket
- Buy the 25k miles for $650 (nope)
- Find a way to get 25k more miles
Obviously there was no way we were going to pay $650 for the equivalent of a $220 ticket. And really, $220 isn’t terrible for a flight to Florida during peak beach season. But was there a cheaper way?
A credit card bonus seemed like a good option. The catch is that many bonuses require $3k or so in spend. We can do that in a month or two without a problem, but we didn’t have that long. Then a friend and fellow frequent business traveler told me about the Barclay Aadvantage Aviator Red card, which has a 40k bonus after your first purchase. Perfect, and well worth the $95 annual fee. For our tickets home we used Southwest Rapid Rewards points we still had from using that card up until last year.
The total cost
So here is the tally of dollars spent:
- $95 for the Barclay Aadvantage Aviator Red card
- $30-ish for fees on our tickets
- $80 for hotel upgrade to oceanview
And points spent:
- 90k Aadvantage points
- 58k Rapid Rewards points
- 160k Marriott Rewards points
This whole exercise showed me how out of practice I am collecting and using points. If I had been a little more focused over the last year we wouldn’t have been short. And if I had been better at planning I would have had way more options for credit card bonuses. But even so, we are so excited about our trip! Hopefully the twins will be old enough to travel with us next year, so I will be super proactive with points in anticipation.
Readers, what are you using your points for this year? Any exciting vacations coming up?
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