Our Independence Day Weekend
This past weekend my wife and I decided to take the baby on her first road trip. With our son up at his grandfather’s, it was an easy way to get out of town and test ourselves for some of the bigger trips that we have coming up over the next year. After all it has been awhile since we have done this baby travel thing. (And we did learn a thing or two.)
While one of the truths about using miles & points is that it is best to book ahead, the flip side is that they also can be fantastic for last minute trips. The value can be compounded even more when those trips happen to fall on a holiday weekend. Since I think real world examples are both helpful and expiring, let me share a little more about our weekend and the value we got for our points.
Everyone knows that the 4th of July Weekend is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. This means that hotel prices jump up. While those who plan ahead may be able to snag a halfway decent rate, anyone thinking of making a last minute road trip like we were can forget about it. That is of course unless you have points!
The great thing about hotel points programs is that they generally charge the same amount of points no matter what day of the year it is. (Some programs like Hilton and SPG have ranges.) Of course the trick on busy weekends is finding availability, but if you have points in a variety of programs, then you can normally find something and generally at an amazing value.
Hyatt Regency Valencia – 3.13 Cents Per Point
We had originally decided to go to San Diego, but got a late start on Friday and thus decided to head to the L.A. area instead. (Shorter drive.) There is a new coaster I have been wanting to ride at Magic Mountain, so it made sense to head to Valencia where we could stay at the Hyatt Regency and eat at one of our favorite Italian restaurants.
I reviewed the Hyatt Regency Valencia last year if you are interested, so I won’t go into too much detail about the hotel. It is the only full service Hyatt is Southern California that costs 8,000 points and is generally a good value. The rate for the night was $179 which comes to $200.60 with tax.
On the surface that is a very good 2.5 cents per point redemption, but it is actually better. Right now Hyatt is giving back 20% in points, so my cost was only 6,400 points making this a very nice 3.13 cents per point redemption. We also received free breakfast as Diamonds and I took a 1,000 bonus points as the amenity, although I won’t factor that in.
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach – 3.7 Cents Per Point
So we ate some spaghetti, slept in Valencia and I woke up early to ride the coaster before we headed to the beach. Huntington Beach to be exact. The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach is a category 5 property and it sits in an ideal location just across Pacific Coast Highway from the ocean.
The hotel had been pretty much sold out, but as I was searching different properties (I was considering Hyatts in Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, Long Beach and even San Diego) I saw a standard King room open up for 20,000 points or $499 for the night! Naturally I snagged it on points.
I am really happy I was able to get this hotel, since I love Huntington Beach and I have actually wanted to stay at this property for awhile. So our cost was 16,000 points after the 20% rebate. The cash price including tax and resort fee was $592. That amounts to a 3.7 cents per point redemption. As Diamonds we were also upgraded to an oceanview room (with views of the fireworks from our balcony) and given lounge access. Win!
Without Travel Hacking
Alternatively I could have done this trip without travel hacking. I could have done both nights in a motelish place for under $200 total in the same areas. Instead, I stayed in very nice hotels, enjoyed free breakfasts, lounge access and my cost to acquire those 24,000 points was definitely less than $200. Did I invest time in it? Yes I did, but the rewards that come out the other side are well worth the effort.
I have plenty of stories to share about things going wrong when waiting until the last minute to book travel. The truth is it is best to plan ahead, but that isn’t always possible. Thankfully miles and points can provide an amazing value during peak times. Would I have spent a combined $792 for those two hotels? No, but I didn’t have to. I got to experience them at cheaper than motel prices!