15 Spring and Summer Vacations to Book with Miles and Points
Using your loyalty program currencies to book that dream trip is not as hard as it seems when you know about the variety of options out there. Here's how.
Sleep in the shadows of the Pyramids
The newly remodeled Marriott Mena House is literally a stone’s throw from the Great Pyramids of Giza. Not only is it a favorite of travelers, but at only 17,500 points per night, it’s also one of Marriott’s best bargains. Balconies overlooking the gardens or pools are lovely, but Pyramid-view rooms are some of the best (and plentiful) options in the house. This well-positioned hotel gives guests first dibs at visiting the Pyramids in the morning before the crowds of tour buses arrive. Don’t have enough points? Marriott Bonvoy, the combined loyalty program of Marriott, SPG, and Ritz Carlton, is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. A redemption here can be worth around $200 since that is often the cost of one night. These are the 10 best hotel reward programs—ranked.
Use credit card points to book luxe hotels
You can’t always redeem hotel program points for stays at amazing hotels, and that’s where credit card reward programs have an advantage. Citi ThankYou Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and American Express Membership Rewards allow you to redeem points like cash toward a hotel stay (one penny equals one point). If you have Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, points redeem at 1.5¢ or 1.25¢ per points respectively making them even more valuable; this can represent hundreds of dollars of savings from paying cash or transferring points to hotel programs.
Choose hotels that add unique, in-house benefits for guests like a suite at Lebua at State Tower in Bangkok where guests get priority at its famous rooftop dining and bar spaces. Tourists queue for hours for a coveted spot whereas guests can visit anytime it’s open. Now, that’s squeezing maximum value from your points! Don’t miss these 16 most luxurious presidential suites around the world.
Explore the night markets of Bangkok
The Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit, one of the newest hotels in Thailand’s capital, is especially ideal for those with World of Hyatt points because it’s convenient to both of the city’s airports and a Skytrain station, an easy and inexpensive way to get around town. For only 12,000 points per night, you get access to an infinity-edge pool overlooking the skyline and an on-site restaurant with an impressive menu crafted with the help of local street vendors. World of Hyatt points are easy to come by since they can be transferred quickly from credit card programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards. Even better, if you know a Globalist member in World of Hyatt, they can make a Guest of Honor reservation for you, which extends their elite perks to you even if they are not part of your party. Check out these stunningly gorgeous pools around the world.
Go all-inclusive with World of Hyatt
If you’re the type that likes to truly relax without signing a bill, then Hyatt Ziva (families) and Hyatt Zilara (adults only) properties in Mexico are for you! Rates include meals, most drinks, and non-motorized activities so that you can lounge by the pool with a cocktail in hand as your partner kayaks across the horizon. Unlike most other all-inclusives, these World of Hyatt-affiliated properties are a solid deal when it comes to redeeming World of Hyatt points, which are easily transferable from credit card partners. The Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos in Mexico is known for its beautiful sunsets, and at 20,000 points per night for two people (rates usually begin at around $476), it’s a real steal!
Catch the luck of the Irish with Choice Privileges
When you book a night at luxurious Dromoland Castle, 15 minutes from Shannon Airport, you will discover a fairytale castle come to life with more activities than most guests have time for including a sumptuous afternoon tea, rounds of golf at a championship course, fishing, tennis, and even falconry lessons. Rates typically start at $310 including an impressive Irish breakfast. The castle hotel is a member of the iPrefer program of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, which comes with unique benefits like free wireless Internet, and if available, free early check-in for iPrefer members. One tip that people may not realize is that you can redeem as few as few as 25,000 Choice Privileges points per night for Preferred Hotels and Resorts. Choice Privileges can be transferred from credit card programs like American Express Membership Rewards if you’re running low on points. Here’s a little insight on how to use credit card rewards for your hotel upgrades.
Experience Aloha for less
If Hawaii is on your bucket list, get there for less by signing up for a Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard. At press time, those who sign up and are approved for the card get 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within the first 90 days of opening the account. The card also comes with a 50 percent off companion discount for round-trip economy flights between Hawaii and North America on Hawaiian Airlines (in case you can’t find free seats for everyone in the family), plus a free checked bag on Hawaiian-operated flights. Cardholders earn three miles per dollar spent on eligible Hawaiian flights, two miles per dollar spent on gas, dining and grocery stores, and one mile per dollar spent on everything else making the annual $99 fee well worth it. Find out the 11 best credit cards for every type of purchase.
Sleep in the world’s first underground quarry hotel
It’s not every day that you can say you’ve slept in an underground quarry. But, on your next visit to Shanghai you can by redeeming 70,000 IHG Rewards Club points for a night at the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland. It is billed as a “ground scraper” (a play on the word skyscraper) and is the 200th InterContinental in the world. Spanning 18 floors with most dipping beneath the Earth’s surface, this architectural feat of a hotel faces a beautiful lake inside the quarry with water sports and a nightly water and lights show set to music. Each room has a furnished balcony with exquisite natural views, but it’s the handful of underwater rooms with aquarium vistas that are among the most popular. With rates regularly starting at $600, this is a deal that’s not to be missed.
Use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to fly Delta for less
Delta shook up the awards-travel reward when it did away with its awards chart in favor of variable pricing. This means awards can cost much more than they did previously and the only way for travelers to know the cost is by searching different dates. Luckily, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club sometimes has award flights with its partner Delta available for much less than Delta itself charges. Insider tip: Virgin has an award chart for Delta flights!
If you find a flight that works, transfer miles from credit card partners like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou points. Virgin Atlantic charges only 100,000 miles for a roundtrip business class flight between the United States and Europe whereas Delta charges at least 160,000 miles if not many, many more. (Those flights can regularly reach prices of $6,000.) First class flights within the continental United States are 45,000 miles roundtrip, but these prices are only eligible for nonstop flights. Still, if you live in a gateway city, this could result in some big mileage savings.
Hunt for great bargains with IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks
IHG Rewards Club puts a chunk of its hotels around the world on sale each quarter through its IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks. These can range from as few as 5,000 to 15,000 points, which is a solid deal considering some rooms at hotels can be quadruple as much in points (or several hundred dollars) at the most popular hotels. If you’re short on IHG Rewards Club points, IHG often sells them at a discount and with bonuses of free WiFi and no blackout dates; you can also transfer points from credit card partners like Chase Ultimate Rewards quite easily. If you prefer to look for discounted rates, check out Kimpton’s Last Minute Deals program (Kimpton is owned by IHG.)
Make a bucket list trip more affordable
Depending upon where you are going, it isn’t always possible to book an entire trip using miles and points. Don’t give up: Instead, book your flights and city tours using airline miles or credit card points to save a hefty amount of cash. For example, if Bhutan is your dream destination, Druk Air is one of the only airlines to fly into Paro, Bhutan, and ticket prices can be high. Work the system by booking a flight with miles to Kathmandu or Delhi, then buying a connecting flight to Bhutan for hundreds of dollars less.
Keep an eye out for new routes
It’s often easier to score reward seats on new airline routes because not as many people know about them. For example, American Airlines is starting a new, summer-seasonal flight between Philadelphia and Bologna, Italy. An economy class ticket on this flight can cost around $1,600 roundtrip so using miles can save you plenty of cash to spend a hotel room and delicious dining instead. Buon appetito!
Turn unwanted gift cards into Hotels.com cash
Hotels.com has a great loyalty program where for every ten nights you stay you receive the average cost of those nights as cash to redeem toward an additional free night. But, there’s another great perk offered by the site: If you have unused or partially used gift cards, the site lets you convert them into money to spend on stays booked via Hotels.com. What a great way to squeeze every last drop of value from that gift card!
Stroll the streets of Paris for less
Flying Blue, the loyalty program of Air France and KLM, miles are a great currency to have in your pocket, whether you earn them from flying or not. (Chase Ultimate Rewards is a partner of Flying Blue.) The program offers some amazing Promo Rewards each quarter where both economy and business class flights are on sale as much as half off with miles. You can fly to and around Europe and between Europe and Africa or Asia, too. The cash value of this mileage promotion could be worth several thousand dollars if you score 50 percent off a business class redemption, for example, a business class ticket from Chicago to Paris runs around $3,500. Just be sure that award space is available if you’re transferring points from another program.
Get a free elite status match, no questions asked
Best Western Rewards is known for its rather generous program offering perks like seasonal awards at any hotel for 10,000 points and its Status Match No Catch program. (All you have to do is send a screenshot or information about your current elite status with another hotel program, and Best Western Rewards will enroll you in theirs.) Best Western properties are individually owned and include some beautiful properties around the world including the Westminster Hotel & Spa in Nice, France; the Hotel Kung Carl in Stockholm, Sweden; and the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. Don’t miss out on bonus perk opportunities like room upgrades and extra points. Plus, between now and April 14, 2019, you can earn a free hotel night after every two eligible stays in the United States, Canada, or the Caribbean after registering. Don’t miss these 15 travel perks you never knew existed.
Marriott Bonvoy bargains aplenty
After the merger between Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, some travelers were nervous that the program might be devalued although it appears that most of the best benefits have remained in place. Perks include redeeming four nights and getting the fifth night free and converting 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for 25,000 airline miles. Another great perk for United fliers is that Marriott and United are continuing their close partnership. The benefits of this program include transferring miles and points between programs, the opportunity to earn miles while staying within the Marriott portfolio of brands, and enjoying a reciprocal status offering between MileagePlus and Marriott Bonvoy programs. To take advantage of this status match opportunity, you must register for the RewardsPlus program and link your United MileagePlus and Marriott Bonvoy accounts. Find out how credit card reward programs can score you the best vacation ever.