As you may have read, we had a blowout trip through the American Southwest in 2017. For us, a fifteen night trip is an amazingly long time to be away from home. We could have stayed at the same hotel chain properties and worked our way towards some low level of status. However, it was much better for us to pick the best hotel for us in each location and use the most sensible form of payment, be it paying cash or using points. The same thing went for the flights, which were booked with a combination of cash and airline miles.
This was possible because I had a stash of points in several hotel programs as well as had transferrable credit card points. Some of the rooms I paid for because the hotels either weren’t part of any point program or there was a promotion that made paying with cash a much better value than using points.
You don’t want to have small amounts of points scattered in so many places that you can’t do anything with them but once you have a healthy balance of one type of point, it pays to branch out and start building a balance with a different program.
To show how this approach works, here’s a recap of our trip. Note: The number of points needed for any redemption was current at the time of the trip but may have changed since then.
Night 1 – MOXY Phoenix
Cost – 15,000 Marriott Rewards points earned from the signup bonus of the Marriott Credit Card.
Nights 2-3 – Hyatt Sedona
Cost – 30,000 Hyatt points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards points that were earned with the Sapphire Reserve sign up bonus.
Nights 4-6 – Grand Canyon Thunderbird & Bright Angel
I paid for these nights because the hotels at the Grand Canyon are not part of any points program. I did use my Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for the rooms and received 3x points for the money we spent.
Nights 7-9 – Hilton Vacation Club Las Vegas
Cost – $500
I paid for the room because of the large number of Hilton points I could accumulate between the Hilton Promotion that was in effect at the time stacked on top of an AMEX offer that was available. In all, I earned over 20,000 Hilton points for the stay which works out to a $100 rebate.
Cost – $628
I paid for this room with my Citi Prestige card because we were able to take advantage of the card’s fourth night free benefit, which saved us over $200 for this stay. I also earned 3 Thank You points per dollar.
The Candy Cane Inn is an independent hotel just outside of Disneyland and prices less than the chain hotels in the area. We loved its charm and the effort they put into keeping the property clean and tidy.
Nights 14-15 – W Hollywood
Cost – 40,000 Starpoints that were earned from spending on the SPG Amex card. While it hurt to spend that many Starpoints for this stay, the hotel was perfect for our needs. I’m not sure if we’re the right party crowd the hotel desires but it was a great place for us to stay.
Just in case you lost track, for this trip I took advantage of the following:
- Marriott Rewards Points
- Hyatt Points
- Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
- AMEX Offers
- Hilton Seasonal Promotion
- Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit
- Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints
I almost forgot I booked two of the flights on the trip with Delta Skymiles I’ve been collecting from sign up bonuses on the Delta American Express cards.
I’ve always been one to diversify my assets because you never want to keep too many eggs in one basket. Once you’ve earned a decent amount of points in one program (whatever you’d need to book a trip you want to take), it’s time to branch out. Because I had points in several different hotel programs, or transferrable points, I was able to pick and choose which hotels worked the best for us and book the flights we wanted without paying anything out of our pocket. Doing the same thing I did for your big vacation isn’t difficult. It’s pretty easy, actually. Hopefully, you’ll share some of your stories in the comments.
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