If you are a crazy person like me then you are not only enjoying the holy moley out of the holiday season this year, but simultaneously planning out some family events for next Christmas. I know, crazy. Now that we have all agreed on the crazy part, let me share with you what points just allowed me to plan for next year.
As you may already know, we are a crazy Christmas family. I can’t truthfully say we are crazy about Christmas in a religious way (though C does have the Fisher Price manger), but really we go truly crazy in more of a Chevy Chase “Christmas Vacation” kind of way. I give you Exhibit A, Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
It is awesome and as an added bonus you can probably see it from space. If you happen to be flying over the Houston area and see the red and green stars, just give us a little wave.
I share the info about our level of insanity so that you can understand how important this trip that I booked today is to my family. You see, next year Little C will be just about three years old during Christmas. That means she will be in full-on Santa mode. She already loves him this year, but it will be even better next year. So, instead of just going to see Santa at the mall, I want to take her to Santaland at Macy’s on 34th Street in New York. Not only that, but I want her (and the whole family) to see the Rockefeller Tree, the decorated store windows, do a carriage ride in Central Park, etc… Even when I lived in NYC I thought Christmas there was magical. The thought of returning with my own family makes me excited and it is still a full year away. Not only will my family of three be going, but Grandma and Grandpa will also be making the trip with us!
A key part of my points strategy is almost always to book very early. I know that award availability can fluctuate throughout the year and that not all awards are available at a year out, but this early booking strategy has worked very well for my family. The flight booking window for when we are going is not quite open, but the hotel bookings are now open for our dates. Since all of the hotel points reservations I made are changeable until 48-24 hours before check-in, I can change all the reservations I made today on the off-chance that I can’t secure flights for the dates that we want.
For my family of three, I wanted to use Hyatt points for our nights in Manhattan. After looking at the main options: Grand Hyatt, Andaz 5th Avenue, Andaz Wall Street, and 48th Lex, I decided that the hotel that looked best for us was the Andaz 5th Avenue. It has a great location, looks beautiful, apparently has a very generous breakfast benefit for Hyatt Diamond members, and I would just about trade my left-hand to somehow get upgraded to the Splash Suite. In fact, my only real concern about the hotel is that most of the rooms seem to only have showers. Maybe C won’t mind that next year, but a shower certainly wouldn’t go over well this year, (hence my almost being willing to trade my left-hand to weasel into the Splash Suite. Ha ha.) Thanks to Gary for some of the detailed info about all four of those properties! Anyway, for the nights we will be there the basic room at the Andaz 5th Avenue is going for over $600 per night.
That would absolutely never happen in my budget. I have spent $300-$400 per night during our honeymoon for a two story suite, but I would never pay $600 a night for a basic room. I will, however, spend 22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night. My husband earned virtually all of those 44,000 points required for our two night stay during trips away from home for work. I think it broke his heart a little today to see his Gold Passport balance plummet today, but we are all excited that his mandatory time away for work will turn into something magical for our family. We also have another 50,000 fresh Ultimate Rewards points, that can be converted into Hyatt Gold Passport points, that we will have as soon as we finish spending the $5000 minimum on our new Ink Bold® Business Card. So even though these points are now gone, we have more coming down the pipe to help with the next trip!
Next-up was booking a night out of the city in Connecticut to visit some of my husband’s family members there. We could have just paid for a night with cash since rooms are much more affordable in the suburbs, but why spend $159 per night, when you can spend just $45 plus 2,800 SPG points?! Especially now that SPG cash and points room count towards elite status, that was a no-brainer. Those points were redeemed about about a $0.041 valuation. When used for cash and points reservations, you will almost always find that SPG points can be redeemed at a very high value. That is one of the reasons you see the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (and its 25,000 points sign-up bonus) as a very highly recommended credit card on so many points blogs and message boards! There was a 30K offer that was rumored to be ending on 12/12, so if you are interested in the card, you can also check to see if that offer is still available or not. you can get more info on that and other top offers here.
Next up was to secure rooms for my parents. They will be in Manhattan the two nights we are there, but then they will also stay for 1-2 days after so they can enjoy the city without serving double-duty as our esteemed helpers/Grandparents. Back in the spring I purchased 32,000 Wyndham points just for this occasion. I like to help my parents travel (virtually) for free whenever possible, but if we are going to ask them to help with Little C on the trip, we feel it is only fair to cover as much of their travel expenses as possible. So, when the Discover America Amex promo happened in the spring I jumped at the chance to purchase 32,000 Wyndham points for $90. Those points allowed us to book them two nights at the Wingate by Wyndham Manhattan Midtown. The going rate for that room for two nights is $433 per night. With taxes, the two night total would be $1001.
By purchasing points through the awesome Discover America promo, I reduced that cost by over $900. In this case, we redeemed points for $0.028 each. Since these were very cheap points to come by, this was a spectacular deal.
We have not yet made the reservations for the final night or two that Grandma and Grandpa are in NYC, but I have recommended the new Hyatt 48 Lex hotel. It is only 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night, and with her new 50,000 point sign-up bonus Chase Sapphire® Preferred Card, my mom has more than enough points to cover that for a night or two. Heck, the points they earned for their 10x Ultimate Rewards Black Friday TV purchase at Best Buy just about cover one night at that hotel! Rate for the nights they are looking at are currently about $619 per night at this hotel (ouch!), but at only 15,000 Gold Passport points per night they would be getting a $0.041 per point value for their Ultimate Reward points. Way to go mom and dad!
As a funny side note, when I told them which hotel I recommended for them for their final night or two in the city, they said “Well, I don’t know. That hotel looks really new. It probably is too expensive for us.” I tried to keep a straight face and asked if they preferred only older hotels and they said, no, they just were fine with something less expensive to try and save points or money. In this case they can get a nice, new hotel and still stretch their points very far – especially for New York City.
Assuming they end up booking one night at the Hyatt 48 Lex, we booked $3169 of hotels for only $135 plus 93,800 points. I just can’t get over what points are doing for my family. While we would have found a way to go to NYC without spending quite that much on hotels if we didn’t have points, we probably wouldn’t have had near as nice of accommodations as we will now have. It also would have easily cost our family in the $1500 – $2000 range just for decent rooms on those dates. I know points are doing great things for many of your families as well; I would love to hear some of your stories!
In a few weeks I will let you know how the reward airline ticket booking goes for this trip! Hopefully there will be award availability for the dates we want, but we are flexible in the event we need to pick other dates.
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