Last December, when we were putting up Christmas decorations at the house, Sharon and I were talking about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Despite living in the area for most of our lives, I had never been to see the parade and Sharon last went to see it when she was three. We had a crazy idea that this would be the year we’d head to New York in November.
The first thing I needed to check was if I could get the time off of work over the holiday. Amazingly, space was there so I put in for the time off and it was quickly approved. Then it hit me. I’d need to make hotel and flight reservations during one of the busiest travel times of the year. The one thing working for me was that I had plenty of notice and I smartly took the Monday after the holiday off so we didn’t need to fly home on Sunday.
I’m always up for a challenge, so I started looking to see what was available (and for how much).
I did searching for hotels that are on the parade route and quickly discovered that any room with a view of the parade was priced as part of a package requiring a stay of several nights and costing several hundred to several thousand dollars.
There was one helpful article on Oyster.com that provided eight hotels on the route with various price points. Some places like the Mandarin Oriental and the Ritz-Carlton were way out of our league but one place on the list stuck out.
Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square
1033 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, New York
This hotel was located right on the parade route, on the corner of 39th St and 6th Ave. Parade viewing locations south of 38th St are closed off for the media, so this would be towards the end of the route but we’d still be able to stay right by our hotel to watch the parade.
I went online to check how much room prices were for Thanksgiving weekend.
Then I remembered, at the time, Marriott would let you book a room with points even if you didn’t have enough points in your account. Maybe they’d have award rooms available? If so, I’d be able to take advantage of the fifth night free on award stays so I checked again.
All I’d have to is to get 160,000 Marriott points. Between transferring points from Starwood at 1:3 ratio and maybe getting a credit card sign up bonus, this would need to be the plan.
I booked the room. Over 2018, Marriott made all of the changes to the Marriott Rewards program, including adjusting the points needed to stay at certain hotels. Wouldn’t you know, the Residence Inn went down in points. By the time I had enough points in my account, I only needed 140,000 points for the 5 nights.
That turns out to be a redemption value of 2.25 cents per Marriott point. Most websites will say Marriott points are worth 0.8 to 0.9 cents each, so this was a fantastic use of points.
I was thrilled to book a hotel, now what about flights…
I’ve long heard horror stories about flying over Thanksgiving weekend and the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year. I purposely avoided that day to travel but I wasn’t hoping for any great deals on airfare, even booking almost 10 months in advance.
In January, I started my search for real. I looked for airlines we liked with direct flights (no need to add a chance for delays when flying in the winter). My first place to look was Delta.
To my amazement, I found a flight from Orlando to JFK on Delta for the day before Thanksgiving for only 6,500 Skymiles. SOLD!
Coming home wasn’t happening on Delta. Prices were way too high and their dynamic pricing model for miles made that not an option either. So what about other airlines? JetBlue – nope. Southwest – nada. Ok, how about American? I always leave American for last because they never have ANY award space at the saver level for flights to/from Orlando and New York. That is, except for on November 26th.
Once I saw there was saver space on American, I logged into the British Airways website. The reason I did this was because if I booked the flight with American, it would cost 12,500 American Advantage miles for each of us, while if I booked through British Airways it would only cost 7,500 Avios each. This only works if flights are available at the saver price. It also only works for non-stop flights, since booking a connecting flight using Avios will cost double the miles. I have a stash of Avios I’m looking to use up so this was a great opportunity.
So there’s the flights. I couldn’t believe it. We were going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and I was paying 140,000 Marriott points, 13,000 Delta SkyMiles, 15,000 British Airways Avios and $22.40 in cash for the flights and hotel.
The Bucket List Trip
There’s only one thing that you can’t plan on when booking a trip months in advance. The weather. Working up to the trip, we knew it was going to be cold. Then it ended up being the coldest day for the parade, EVER! When we went outside at 5:30AM to grab a spot on the curb outside the hotel, it was 22 degrees and windy outside. We bundled up the best we could and waited for the parade.
In the end, it was worth it. We had a great time and it was so wonderful to be able to turn around and walk 50 feet to our hotel after the parade, go up to our room to warm up and take a well deserved nap.
Hotels in New York aren’t cheap, particularly during any type of special event. Grabbing a hotel with points over Thanksgiving weekend was much better than paying over $3,000 for five nights and those rooms didn’t include the extra for the brunch package or the $80 per person Thanksgiving dinner they were serving at the hotel that night.
As I’ve said before, nothing’s impossible to do if you know what your travel goals are. Having a diversified set of points and miles let me take advantage of the values that were available and we got to see a once in a lifetime experience (cause I’m not going to be crazy enough to stand out in the cold like that ever again!)
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary