Author Topic: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?  (Read 2133 times)

lexde

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Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« on: March 01, 2018, 06:15:53 PM »
I have been churning credit card bonuses for the last year and a half to save up points and miles and would like to use them on an upcoming vacation. My boyfriend and I are looking to go somewhere for a week to 10 days sometime this fall. We decided to put three choices each into a jar and draw from it to pick. The problem is that I am much more frugal than he is, so our ideas of a big vacation differ slightly. I’m looking to fill my three vacation spots and would like some input about places we could go utilizing our points and miles so we don’t dip too heavily into our pockets.

I have (roughly):
215,000 Amex MR
185,000 Chase UR
175,000 American Miles
90,000 Southwest Miles

He has Hilton and IHG nights and points.

Any ideas? We would probably go in September and are based in the Southeast US.

His pics are Europe (Amsterdam/London or London/France) but he’s also picked the Glacier National Park in Montana where we could hike and stay in hotels, maybe drive to Yellowstone. That one is my favorite so far (exercise+nature!)

I haven’t picked anything yet as most of my initial choices were better for long weekends than our big hurrah.

bacchi

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2018, 07:10:07 PM »
With those points, you could fly business class to Europe, no problem.

Glacier is a beautiful park. It's slammed during the high season but it should be a lot better in September. Think about staying on the east side, which is less crowded but just as beautiful.

expatartist

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2018, 07:18:51 PM »
Personally, I'd do Amsterdam-France ;) September's a great time to visit Europe. Things have settled down from summer craziness yet the weather's still good.

London is relatively cheap due to the pound being low, so much depends on what you like to do. If outdoor activities are your thing, perhaps one urban and one rural destination? Say, hiking (Scotland/Lake District etc) and London or Paris?

chasesfish

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2018, 05:23:33 AM »
Have you been to Hawaii yet?  That's my favorite fall destination.  If you plan/book soon, you should be able to get business class there through American and have a comfortable connection via DFW then direct from there in the front of the plane.

Glacier/Western Mountains should be awesome and free of crowds if you go right after labor day.  Its more difficult to put your points to work.

I'd personally enjoy wine harvest and the coast in France/Spain/Italy for a September trip.  Business class to/from then utilize Chase/Amex for much of the other stuff.

Reddleman

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2018, 10:49:29 AM »
As a teacher, I'm used to having 2-3 week blocks to use, so I'm a little spoiled.  But here's my take:

Most areas in Europe are great in the fall- more temperate climate than you tend to see in the U.S. (given similar lattitude) for the most part.  Crowds are not as much of an issue.  Plus from the east coast flights are cheap on $$ or points, and relatively quick to get to.   Also, places that tend to be really annoying when crowded and hot during the summer (I'm looking at you, Rome!), are much more pleasant in the shoulder seasons.

A week to 10 days would be great for an "adventure" style vacation.  We've been mountain biking in the Dolomites, cycling the Loire Valley, long-distance walks in the U.K., etc.  That would satisfy the excercise+sightseeing combo that I'd agree is key to an excellent vacation!  Usually it is easier to buy a package than pay with points, though. 

So if you *only* have 7-10 days, here's my recommendation:  Use points for the flights and accomodations in a city when arriving and 1-2 days before departure- pick somewhere nice to satisfy the significant other.  Then actually use some cash to buy a 3-4 day "sporty" excursion in the middle.  We do this all the time. It satisfies both the urban/sophisticated/culture aspect as well as seeing a bit of nature.  Best of both worlds. 

I'd definitely second Hawaii, but if you only have 7-10 days, it's harder to justify the 3-4 days you really need for both flights/travel and dealing with the jet lag from the east coast. 

secondcor521

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2018, 08:24:11 PM »
Glacier is the prettiest place on earth that I've been to so far.  But I don't remember seeing very many hotels, so you might want to research that.

You might try https://www.google.com/flights/explore for ideas.

jmwagner5

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2018, 08:52:12 PM »
Cannot recommend Glacier National Park enough!  I was constantly blown away by how beautiful and majestic everything was.  Saw Yellowstone on the same trip but I felt it was somewhat spoiled by GNP. 

Addressing something from above about lack of hotels, I did AirBnB and stayed on the Western side of the park along Flathead Lake.  Another hidden gem in Northwest Montana that doesn't get much hype.

No matter what you choose, I'm sure you'll have a good time but I will certainly cast my support for GNP.

lexde

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2018, 07:25:24 AM »
Thank you all so much for the ideas!



@bacchi — I’m thinking about Europe but I only have a week of time I can take off and it just seems like a waste. I really want to plan a 2-week vacation for 2019 but it will take a lot of planning and hard work over this year to get any sort of pull to allow that. If I do pick Europe though it is definitely points-friendly! As for Glacier, I’ll have to read up more about the East side. I didn’t even think about that!

@expatartist — I love Amsterdam/London and that is our default trip I think. On the one hand, it’s very reliably fun, but on the other, I want to try somewhere new. I didn’t know there was good hiking in Scotland, and Scotland-London sounds like an awesome trip. Thanks for the ideas!

@chasesfish — unfortunately Hawaii has been vetoed by SO for this trip I think. He was there last month for a week so he doesn’t want to go back again so soon. Which is a bummer for me since it looks gorgeous! I’ll see what I can do to change his mind.

@Reddleman — Rome is one of our favorite places, maybe I’ll have to consider going back. When we go to any city we walk all day every day (averaging about 12-15 miles per day) and love it. And having a sporty excursion sounds like a good way to keep us both happy! Thanks.

@secondcor521 — I didn’t know about the explore option for google flights!! Thank you!

@jmwagner — that’s what SO wants to do, Glacier+Yellowstone. AirBnB sounds like a good idea too. I am kind of getting my hopes up for Glacier now, but he still wants to draw from a jar for our destination. Maybe if all 3 of my picks are hiking destinations...

Secret Stache

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2018, 07:31:59 AM »
Also wanted to mention www.awardmapper.com for help in locating award hotels and gauging the amount of points per night you'll need.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2018, 07:43:21 AM »
What about Jasper or Kootenay National Parks in Canada?  Similar to Glacier, but lower crowds.   (You could also do Banff or Lake Louise, but those have higher crowds.) 
Personally, I'd camp, but there are hotels too.

My husband is going to Cozumel in the summer on points for his plane and hotel (hotel was super cheap, but decent). He will only pay for his diving, and food. Food there can be really cheap, and diving is fairly inexpensive compared to other locations and similar service levels.

ketchup

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2018, 07:52:13 AM »
Also wanted to mention www.awardmapper.com for help in locating award hotels and gauging the amount of points per night you'll need.
Also, the similarly-named http://www.awardhacker.com/ for the flight equivalent.

Looks like 160k miles gets two people to New Zealand round trip, which would be pretty badass.

NotJen

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2018, 08:52:30 AM »
Glacier is my favorite place, but it's difficult to redeem hotel points there as any of the chain hotels are too far away from the park (imo).  What I do is sign up for credit cards where you redeem points for cash on travel expenses - that way I can book in-park hotels, and get a discount.  Some of the credit card companies that offer cards with good cash sign up bonuses for travel are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC, Barclaycard, and Capital One.

For a hiking vacation on points, consider Zion National Park.  There's a Holiday Inn in Springdale which is very convenient to the park.

secondcor521

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2018, 10:34:37 AM »
Additional thought:  Yosemite in California.  I think it's within driving distance of the redwood forests, which are also cool.  You might be able to get hotels within driving distance of these two items.  September weather there is probably nice, and you could definitely get cross-country flights for free with the points/miles you have.  You could do a combination of hotels and camping - fly to SFO, hotel it there, visit SFO attractions, drive to Yosemite, camp, drive halfway to redwood forests, hotel, redwood forests, drive to SFO.  Something like that.

Panfish

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2018, 02:50:08 PM »
The Glacier Trip is a great idea but as another person said, finding a Hilton/SPG/Marriot/Etc hotel might be hard.  Do you guys have good camping supplies?  If so the mountain west is great for car camping and backpacking because of all the public land.  If you are going to check out Glacier and Yellowstone I also think you should swing into Grand Teton which, imho, is much prettier than Yellowstone and has some awesome hiking.  If hardcore backpacking is your thing then the Wind River Range in western Wyoming is amazingly pretty with less regulation than a national park. 

Do you plan on driving up or flying?  If you are driving up from the southeast, I would make sure to pass through Badlands National Park in SD to see a sunset/sunrise.  I would also check out the Black Hill in SD, there are so many cool geological things to see in 'The Hills' it is about impossible to visit it all in a month, much less a few days. Custer State Park, Jewel Cave, Spearfish Canyon, Needles Highway, Deadwood, Devil's Tower, and to a lesser extent Wind Cave NP are all pretty cool.  (Full disclosure, I am from SD originally so I might be very biased).

I wouldn't call any of these trips in my post Travel Hack Friendly, but they can be done on the cheap very easily if you are ok with staying at cheap hotels and camping to cut cost.

JoJo

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Re: Travel-Hack-Friendly Vacation?
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2018, 06:47:35 PM »
How early in September?  I did Glacier park once around Sept 7th, and it snowed!  Not enough to hurt my day plans, but enough to make tent camping a bit too cold.  Then we went down to Yellowstone/Teton and it snowed pretty hard there (closing roads one day) and a night that the temp bottomed out at 20 degrees.