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For a few months, I have been tossing around the idea of going on a warm beach getaway with the Mrs. over Thanksgiving weekend.  We got child care arranged (thanks in-laws!) and then it just became a matter of figuring out where to go and how to get there!

We looked at a variety of places to go but flights were EXPENSIVE! Which is not surprising, given that it’s a time of year that people want to go and a place that everyone wants to go (SEE ALSO: The truth of the traveler’s triangle; the relationship between location, time and price). We tried to be as location agnostic as possible (in the hopes of finding a reasonable price) – so we were looking all over the Caribbean, South America and even further.  November is still hurricane season in the Caribbean but it’s at the end of November so I’m crossing my fingers (this may come back to bite me)

Winter escape to Hawaii

Image courtesy of Jason Francisco

Problems booking flights

Prices were crazy expensive.  We’re talking $1000-$1500, even if you were willing to fly on Thanksgiving Day and take long connections.  The outbound flights were better, but flights coming back on that Sunday were outrageous.  I’m not complaining or anything – just stating the facts.  It makes a lot of sense that flights coming back on Sunday of a long weekend from beach locations would be expensive

Award availability?  That was a joke.  I actually was able to find occasional United availability, but AA and Delta were either not available or 50,000 miles+ one way.

I finally found some decent cash flights on AA, but when I went to book them, the availability would dry up

 I wrote about this a few weeks ago (SEE: AA.com keeps showing me flight prices (that don’t exist)) and today it was happening again.  Talking to a few folks – Gary from View from the Wing alerted me that there is a class action lawsuit going on about this

Finally getting flights booked

I am pleased to have things finally booked.  I don’t want to share exactly where we’re going because I’m still trying to surprise my wife because I’m crazy like that.

But I did want to talk a little bit about the cost of the flights we ended up booking

On the outbound, we are going to fly out Wednesday night and stay the night in Charlotte before connecting on Thursday morning. Total cost on that was $264 / person.  I used ~$259 in AA gift cards I had from previous year’s airline credits and my $250 Citi Prestige airline credit for this year and only had to come out of pocket about $20

On the return, we are flying out from our destination Sunday afternoon and staying the night somewhere else Sunday night before coming home on Monday. Total cost on that was $303 / person.  I paid with my new Sapphire Reserve card and chose to spend some of that towards my $300 travel credit

In hindsight, I probably should have just spent the 20,200 URs per person and kept my travel credit for other random expenses throughout the year.

So total cost for 2 passengers

  • 44,000 Ultimate Rewards
  • $261 (paid for by my CSR annual travel credit)
  • $259 in gift cards
  • $250 from my Citi Prestige annual travel credit
  • $20 out of pocket

Keep in mind that the baseline if I were able to find saver availability on say United, it would be 35,000 United (Chase) miles plus about $140 in taxes and fees per person.  So 70,000 miles AND another $280 on top of that. So even though conventional wisdom says that you “shouldn’t” use Ultimate Rewards through the UR portal, my vote is and always has been the best use of your miles and points is the one that gets you where you want to go, when you want to get there, for the least amount of money out of pocket.

Hotels?  That’s where the magic is

I really think that the true magic of miles and points in a case like this comes in the ability to have essentially “free” hotels.

(SEE: Last night miles and points saved my bacon)

Most people wouldn’t be able to handle additional random overnights but for those of us in the miles and points world – it’s no problem.  In addition to the 4 days and 3 nights at our destination, we have an overnight on the way there and on the way back.  Most people wouldn’t be able to or wouldn’t want to deal with that, but with miles and points, it becomes much more palatable

Here is a list of our hotel costs

  • 5000 Hyatt points (Category 1 Hyatt)
  • 2 IHG free night certificates (one for me and one for my wife)
  • 25000 Hyatt points
  • 18,000 Hilton points

25,000 Hyatt points is more than I like to spend on one stay, but it beats the alternative…

What about you? Headed anywhere exciting for Thanksgiving weekend?

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