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Buying Gift Cards While Traveling
Recently someone posted in our Facebook group asking if others pursued their miles/points passions even while on vacation. In other words, do you continue this craziness while you are traveling or do you actually relax and enjoy yourself? While the answer to that varies for me, on a recent trip to Hawaii, I just couldn’t resist.
A Great Sale But Bad Timing
It all started earlier this year with an amazing Alaska fare sale to Hawaii from the West Coast. For less than $500 TOTAL for 3 tickets (utilizing a companion fare), my wife, daughter and I headed to Maui on the week before Mother’s Day. The flights to/from Maui (where my daughter and I were upgraded to Virgin America First Class) were from San Francisco, meaning we had to reposition. I was able to get us a cheap flight to SFO (where we spent 1 1/2 days before Hawaii), but flights back to Las Vegas were expensive so I held off.
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Gift Card Season
When I booked the flights I didn’t take into account that our trip was the week before Mother’s Day. In other words, one of the best gift card buying times of the year. And there we SO MANY DEALS. I just didn’t want to miss out. Thankfully I was able to work in some of the deals into our trip.
First in San Francisco, we found a store that had a great deal only a block from our hotel. Since we had to pass it quite a few times coming/going, we made sure to stop in there and buy what we could. It was a good way to start the trip, but it didn’t end there. Of course it didn’t! 🙂
More Gift Cards in Hawaii
The same chain also had several locations on Maui and the timing worked out well for us. We actually landed late at night and stayed in a cheap(er) hotel by the airport since it didn’t make sense paying for another night at the Hyatt Regency when we would arrive so late. This allowed us to hit up 3 locations of this store in the morning before we headed out to the hotel. Score.
We ended up being in Maui for 5 days and that meant we headed to town once or twice. Lahaina (near the hotel) had one location of this store so we made sure to stop in there only when we were already headed out. (No special trips.) Then of course on the last day we hit up all 3 locations on our way back to the airport for our redeye flight home.
Unfortunately though flights from San Francisco to Las Vegas never really improved so I came up with an interesting idea. What if we rented a nice car in San Francisco and drove our way back home hitting up a bunch of stores along the way? Airfare was going to cost us about $500 for the three of us, but this way we could make a profit.
To pull this off I decided it was time to use a couple of my National Free Night Certificates. Since I am Executive Elite, I can use my certificates for any car. To make sure I would get something nice, I rented a Premium SUV at the price of $321.07 per day. This netted us a nice new Cadillac Escalade for our drive home.
And so it went. We drove through the Bay Area hitting up some stores before eventually making it south where we hit up some more. Heck, as a side benefit I even got to check out the brand new Hyatt Place in Delano, CA. It is nothing special, but it may just be the most remote Hyatt Place in the U.S.
Was It Worth It?
If you made it this far you are either thinking that this is the dumbest thing you have ever heard or you completely understand it. What I will say is the drive home netted us over $3K in profit after factoring in expenses. It took us 1 1/2 days to get home, but those were working days anyway since the vacation was over.
We also made sure not to take too much time out of our vacation to buy gift cards and worked the buying into our schedule. Let’s face it. We were staying five days in a $1K per night suite in Maui for free because of stuff like this. I don’t feel the least bit guilty spending a few minutes buying gift cards. It is all worth it in the end.
So yeah perhaps I’m a bit crazy, but I do believe in taking advantage of opportunity when it presents itself. I can honestly say I have only done this occasionally while traveling and don’t make a habit of doing it regularly. But truth be told, when the universe gives you the ability to buy a bunch of gift cards and drive ten hours home instead of flying one hour, you take it! 🙂
What’s the craziest miles/points thing you have done while on vacation?
Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.