Travel Hacking Trips For Two: A Weekend in Seattle for Less than $0

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travel hacking Seattle weekend
Photo by Tiffany Von Arnim

This is a continuation of our Travel Hacking Trip for Two Series. These posts are designed to cut through the overwhelming number of options available and walk you through an entire trip from credit card application to booking. This post is written by Noah who manages Money Metagame, a blog where he writes about optimizing your finances with the help of credit cards, gift cards, retirement accounts, and more.

Travel Hacking Trips For Two – Seattle

There are hundreds of ways to earn airline miles and hotel points between credit cards, dining programs, shopping portals, and simply paying for flights and hotel nights.  Not only that, there is a near infinite combination of ways to redeem them for free travel between all of the different destinations in the world, the various flights that can get you there, and the selection of hotels once you land.

All of these choices can become pretty overwhelming, especially for someone who has just discovered the world of miles and points. The goal of Travel Hacking Trips For Two is to walk through an entire trip from start to finish with all of the details necessary to get you there with little to no out of pocket cost.  From earning the miles to redeeming them for the perfect trip, even brand new miles enthusiasts can start planning their first big trip.

Travel Hacking Trips For Two Basics

As the title implies, this trip is set up to be taken by two people that will each fly to the destination and share a hotel room once they get there.  Luckily, both of these hypothetical people have a good credit history and can each sign up for credit cards to earn enough mile and points for the trip.

We’ll assume they are starting from somewhere in the continental United States and need to take a flight to get to the destination.  While the post is set up for two people, there’s no reason you can’t scale it up or down to meet your own traveling needs.

travel hacking Seattle weekend
Photo from Hyatt website

Mile High View of A Weekend In Seattle for Less Than $0

3 Credit Cards

  • 2x Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Cards for 25,000 miles and $100 each
  • 1x Chase Hyatt Credit Card for 2 free nights and $50

By signing up for these three credit cards between two people, enough miles will be earned to get two people from anywhere in the continental US to Seattle with two nights in the heart of downtown completely covered.  The statement credits that come along with the signup bonuses are enough to cover all the extra expenses and you’ll actually PROFIT from the process of earning the trip!

Each person will get an Alaska card for 25,000 Alaska miles which will cover the airfare and one person will sign up for the Hyatt card to cover both hotel nights in downtown Seattle.  Each of the signup bonuses can be earned by spending $1,000 on each card in the first three months which should be easily obtainable on almost any budget if you’re putting your regular spending on credit cards.

Out of Pocket Costs

  • $150 – 2x $75 Annual fee on the Alaska Airlines card
  • $72.40 – 2x $36.40 Taxes and fees on the award flight (Can be lower!)
  • $12 – 4x One-way Seattle Light Rail ride from the airport to downtown
  • Total Costs: $234.40

There are always costs to a trip even if you use miles and points, BUT in this case we actually earned $250 in cash at the same time we earned the “free” travel!

  • $200 – 2x $100 Statement credit on the Alaska Airlines card
  • $50 – Statement credit on the Hyatt card
  • Total Earnings: $250

Final cost for a weekend in Seattle: -$15.60 + 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points to use later.

That’s a negative sign in front of the $15.60 which means you actually pocketed just over $15 after earning and redeeming a trip for two people to go from anywhere in the continental US to Seattle and spend two nights in a luxury hotel!  The retail price of the same flights and hotel nights I used in my example below come out to over $1398 ($865 for the exact same flights and $533 for the exact hotel rooms).  If you told me this was possible before I got into the travel hacking game, I might not have believed you.  Now let’s look at the details a little closer.

travel hacking Seattle weekend
Photo from Hyatt website

The Earning Details

With 3 total credit cards between two people and a total spending require of $3,000 ($1,000 on each card), it should be pretty easy to sign up for the cards at your preferred pace.  Either do them one at a time and meet the signing bonuses together (as authorized users) or simply get them all on the same day and divide your spending over the next three months accordingly.  Some people seem to make the miles and points earning game a race, but there’s nothing wrong with taking your time if you’re just starting out.  Once you take that first free trip though, it might just become an addiction (it pretty much has for me at least)!

While an Alaska Airlines and Hyatt account will be created for you if you don’t provide on at the time of applying for the credit card, but I recommend joining yourself beforehand.  This will alleviate any confusion about your login information and prevent any delay in being able to redeem your miles or free nights.  For this trip, each person will need an Alaska Airlines account and one person will need a Hyatt account.

Alaska Airlines Card Details

  • $75 Annual fee must be paid in the first year
  • 25,000 miles are earned upon account approval (no spend requirement)
  • $100 statement credit earned after making at least $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of account approval
  • A Buy One, Get One for ~$121 Alaska Airlines Companion Pass is also earned upon account approval
  • Free checked bag for you and up to 6 other passengers on the same reservation
  • 3 miles earned per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines purchases
  • 1 mile earned per dollar spent on all other purchases

Direct Link to Apply for the Alaska Airlines Card with 25,000 miles and $100 statement credit

Hyatt Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee is waived for the first year ($75 each year after)
  • 2 free nights at any Hyatt are earned after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account approval
  • $50 statement credit earned after your first purchase
  • 5,000 Bonus points when you add an authorized user and use your card within the first 3 months.
  • Receive Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status for as long as you keep the card
  • Free night in a category 1-4 Hyatt property each cardmember anniversary
  • 3 points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties
  • 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, airline tickets purchased from the carrier, and car rentals
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Direct Link to Apply for the Hyatt Visa Signature with 2 Free Nights, 5,000 points and $50 statement credit

The Redeeming Details

The Flight

As always, I recommend you search for the flight first because the timing and availability fluctuates much more than hotel award availability.  Checking hotel availability is important if you have a specific property in mind, but unless you’re going to a particularly exotic or exclusive location, hotel availability usually isn’t a problem.  For this particular example redemption, I’m going to search for a flight from New York City to Seattle and line it up with a weekend so I can possibly get away with the trip without having to take any vacation days.

Even though our miles are split between two different accounts, I’m going to start by searching for 2 travelers on a single account to make sure both people can take the same flight.  Once I find a flight that works, you can reduce the travelers to 1 and check out.  Then simply repeat the search on the second Alaska account to finish booking the flights.  I checked several different weekend in different months and the availability was fairly open in all of them, so I decided to settle on the middle of April.  To start the searching, visit the Alaska homepage, log in, then enter your preferred cities and dates on the “Book” tab of the home page.  Be sure to check the “Use Miles” box to see the award availability.

Direct Link to Alaska Airline’s Home Page

travel hacking Seattle weekend

 

For this particular route (New York City to Seattle), Alaska seems to have much more availability on their partners (Delta and American) at the lowest ticket level.  On other routes (or if you find availability on this route), if you stick to Alaska operated flights, the cost will actually be much cheaper!  If you book the same flight on Alaska metal, the taxes and fees will only come out to $22.40 total for the two passengers.  This is because Alaska charges a fee for redeeming your miles on partner carriers.  For my example flight in April, I decided it was worth it to pay the extra fee for a direct flight each way at fairly convenient times (everyone’s definition of convenient will vary).

Once you find the flight you want, simply book the same one on each account and don’t forget to pay with your Alaska card if you want the free checked bags perk! (Note: You could also book two one-ways from account 1 to get you there and two one-ways from account 2 to get you back.)

travel hacking Seattle weekend

The Hotel

After booking the flight (or at the same time), we’ll want to head over to Hyatt’s website and pick our hotel for the weekend.  Hyatt has two very nice properties in downtown Seattle and several others spread around the city.  Availability was wide open for both of the nice properties and honestly I’m not sure which is the better choice.

Each of them are rated highly and the retail cost is about the same depending on which night you choose (I’ve seen each be the more expensive one on different nights).  Both the Grand Hyatt Seattle and the Hyatt at Olive 8 would make excellent selections for your weekend trip, so check them both out and pick which one sounds better to you!  I think I’d lean towards the Hyatt at Olive 8 simply because there is a swimming pool, but everyone has their own hotel preferences.

travel hacking Seattle weekend

Once you’ve made your hotel selection, it’s time to actually book the room.  The 2 free night certificates should show up in your Hyatt account within a few weeks of completing the minimum spend requirement on $1,000 on the credit card.  You can view the awards by selecting “Account Detail” from the dropdown menu at the top of the page after logging in to your Hyatt account.  Then select “MY AWARDS” from the menu on the left and you should see both free nights listed.  Simply hit the “Reserve” button on this page to search for the property of your choice and book your free nights!  If you have any trouble with this process, a call to Hyatt Gold Passport’s customer service should be able to get your free nights booked.

Direct Link to Hyatt’s Home Page

Direct Link to Hyatt Gold Passport’s My Awards Page (be sure to log in first)

travel hacking Seattle weekend
Photo from Hyatt website

Trip Summary and Extras

  1. Sign Up for 3 Credit Cards
    • 2x Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Cards for 25k AS Miles and $100 after $1,000 in spend
    • 1x Chase Hyatt Credit Card for 2 free nights and $50 after $1,000 in spend
  2. Spend $3,000 across the 3 cards to earn 50k Alaska miles, 2 free hotel nights, and $250
  3. Redeem 25,000 Alaska miles twice to book round-trip tickets from anywhere in the continental US to SEA
  4. Redeem the 2 free Hyatt nights at the Hyatt of your choice
  5. Enjoy your weekend in Seattle that you got paid $15 + 5,000 points to take!

The beauty of this particular combination of cards is that you can actually apply this free weekend to just about anywhere!  By anywhere, I mean places in the continental US that have a Hyatt, but that still leaves a ton of options available for you weekend getaway.  I chose a simple, two-night weekend stay to minimize the number of vacation days needed (if any!), but there is nothing stopping you from getting a second Hyatt card and extended the trip to 4 nights!  With the annual fee waived, 2 free nights at any Hyatt, AND a $50 statement credit, the Hyatt credit cards is one of the best signup bonuses right now in my opinion.

With the low minimum spend requirement for this particular set of cards and the travel being truly FREE, this makes an awesome first travel hacking trip if you’re just starting out.  I know I’ll be showing this post to my friends and family that are curious about the hobby and hopefully you’ll do the same.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Although it would no longer be a “free” trip, holders of the BofA Alaska Air Visa should always compare the cost of using their companion certificate instead of miles. Yes, it requires a cash outlay, but if the companion certificate pencils out, save your miles for another trip PLUS both travelers earn miles on the companion trip.

  2. I really like these trips for two articles. I have a question regarding airline credit cards and partner flights. If you use your Alaska card to pay for the award but chose a Delta/AA flight would you still receive the free checked bag? Also would this apply for a Delta Amex flying on Alaskan or any other partner for bags and zone 1 boarding?

    • Great question! I actually don’t know the answer, but I’m going to try looking it up.

      Reading through the terms of the Alaska card implies that you will NOT receive the free checked bag benefit if you book on partner carriers:
      “To qualify for the benefit, reservations must be on flights marketed by Alaska Airlines and operated by Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, SkyWest or PenAir.”

      Looking at the terms of the Delta Gold Skymiles card, it looks like you might be able to get a free checked bag on this flight booked with Alaska miles if you’re able to associate your Skymiles number with the reservation:
      “Reservation must include the Basic Card Member’s SkyMiles number.”

      I’m not sure if it’s possible to add your Skymiles number to the Alaska award flight or if it would even work for the free checked bag if you did get it on the reservation.

      • Thanks for finding that info. Sucks to hear it though since i want to credit all my delta flights to alaska. Another question, I checked alaska for flights from ATL to RDU (delta and USA fly there) but the site said there are no flights. Can you only fly these partners when booking an award ticket and not a paid ticket?

        • I believe that’s correct. Alaska doesn’t codeshare with Delta or American (I think US airways has completely moved over at this point), so you can’t book flights on them through Alaska unless it’s an award flight. You can still credit the miles to Alaska though by putting in your Alaska # when booking on Delta or American’s website.

  3. I’m sure I don’t need to tell an expert like you that using the Hyatt Visa Free Nights for a $200 room is a terrible redemption. Better to recommend a UR card like CSP and use Hyatt points instead. Or even the 80k Marriott card.

    • Terrible redemption is a pretty strong accusation, but it really depends on the person traveling.

      Can you use the same free nights at a hotel with a much higher price tag? Yes
      Can you use the same free nights at a “nicer” hotel? Yes
      Does that make this a terrible redemption? Not for everyone

      The CSP and Marriott both have much higher spending requirements and you even have to pay the annual fee on the Marriott card. Does that matter for people like you and me? Not really (I wouldn’t get the Marriott card with the current deal), BUT it does make a pretty big difference for others.

      I set up this trip as more of an introduction to travel hacking and free trips to show the potential that can be gained to someone who isn’t familiar with all the intricacies of credit cards, miles, and points. For that reason, I stand by me decision to pick the Hyatt card.

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that there is ALWAYS a better redemption. I try not to focus on the “value” I get out of my “free” travel anymore and just try to focus on reducing the costs of trips I want to take.

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