Here’s how to book your dream trip with points and miles, from Spain to Hawaii.
It’s not too late to lock in the perfect spring or summer trip using your miles and points. Sure, you know about many of the hot spots, but we want to share why these four destinations can offer great value right now.
Even when a hotel does not fit a traditional loyalty program, there are still perks and benefits to be had if you get creative with your miles, points, and credit card benefits. Follow our suggestions or use them as hints for your own favorite destinations.
Late spring is shoulder season in Phuket, making it a great time to visit this Thai island. The rainy season is over, so why not fight the heat at a resort with private plunge pools and beachfront access? There are numerous brands with which to redeem points, but don’t forget about the independent luxury hotels that offer valuable perks when booking through credit card programs.
Take, for example, the stunning Trisara Resort, which just completed a full renovation of many of its private villa accommodations (each with plunge pools and outdoor showers). Booking a night via the Visa Signature Hotels program tacks on free breakfast daily, wireless Internet, potential room category upgrades, late checkout, and food and beverage credits. Or, if you have the American Express Platinum credit card, you can take advantage of one of its newest benefits and make your reservation through its booking portal to earn five points per dollar spent.
Trisara is running a promotion of its own this spring where you can stay for three nights for the price of two. It includes daily breakfast for two and VIP transfers through the Phuket airport. Pay for it with your Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and earn three Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent, no matter where you make the reservation! You can also score three ThankYou points per dollar spent if you pay for the stay with your Citi Prestige card. (Why not be rewarded with bonus points for all those lavish spa treatments?)
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Golfers know this place because it is home to the PGA Tour, but others might be surprised to know about this less-trafficked hidden gem in between Jacksonville and historic St. Augustine, Florida. The resort duo, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club, has a loyal following among serious golfers, families, and avid spa goers. The two properties share facilities that include multiple swimming pools (including two family options with waterslides), a lavish spa, oodles of “dining destinations” with everything from organic salads to sinful southern cuisine (try the freshly caught seafood), oceanfront accommodations, and ocean and lagoon golf courses both designed and played by some of golf’s biggest names.
Now is a great time to go before the late summer humidity sets in, and those who hold the Citi Prestige credit card have until July 23 to squeeze maximum value out of one of the best credit card perks in the business. The card comes with the ability to book three nights at a hotel and enjoy the fourth night free. Between now and July 23, the rebate back to your credit card is given in the form of the exact room rate of that fourth night, which could represent tremendous value at some properties if booked over a holiday or expensive night. Beginning July 24, the rebate changes to become an average of all four nights (and no refund of taxes), which softens the value a bit. To make your reservation, call the travel department of Citi Prestige.
Given that these two properties are membership clubs, the facilities are expansive (the health club is top-notch), but hotel guests are given full access to the facilities without having to pay any member dues. The spring season also comes with numerous packages that bundle together golf or tennis lessons, breakfast, spa treatments, or room upgrades for a better deal.
Castilla y Leon, Spain
This region of Spain is jam-packed with culture, and with the Euro at an all-time low, now is a great time to take the kids to Europe. American Airlines is launching new service from Chicago to Barcelona, and Iberia is introducing a new premium economy cabin on some of its flights from New York JFK and Chicago to Madrid. Also, don’t forget about Air France-KLM’s discounted award rates to Europe from select cities.
Of course, Madrid and Barcelona are important tourist meccas, but hop the train to Castilla y Leon, a large region north of Madrid that is home to more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other in the world (it has eight of them). These include the historic city centers of Avila, Salamanca, and Segovia, and Marriott Rewards points can provide a great way to stay free in the region at AC by Marriott properties (typically only 10,000 points per night, which is a steal). There’s also a promotion with Accor, which has several hotels in Salamanca, for a bonus of up to 6,000 points this spring.
The network of government-owned Spanish paradors (small hotels that blend historic surroundings with modern amenities) is another option, and this type of hotel has its own loyalty program that automatically provides a welcome drink upon check-in, free breakfast on your first stay, and points toward free stays. The best part about traveling this spring is that many of its hotels offer discounted award nights between now and May 31. Paradors are a wonderful way to experience Spain, and they each have restaurants that focus on local cuisine plus impressive attention to detail on dietary requirements such as gluten-free and vegetarian (not always common overseas).
One of the most popular mileage redemptions of all is redeeming for Hawaiian vacations. This means that finding award availability on flights to Hawaii can be rather tough (but not impossible). A good tip for finding award tickets is to begin searching 330 days out (that’s when most airlines make their schedules available for the coming months), but don’t forget to keep checking back (either online or via telephone) because airlines constantly adjust award inventory based on demand.
Now that the spring break rush is over, it’s a great time to hit the islands, and airlines are upgrading their service with flat-bed seats in business class and more inventive meals. In fact, Hawaiian Airlines is flying its new flat-bed business class nonstop from JFK to Honolulu on a daily basis with chef-inspired meals in all cabins. American is using many of its internationally equipped planes to fly the long haul to Hawaii from its Dallas/Ft. Worth hub.
Once in paradise, skip the more crowded resort areas of Oahu and Maui and cash in those Marriott Rewards points for a stay at the more secluded Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. The resort is celebrating its 25th anniversary with special packages, including food and beverage credits and plenty of “Instagrammable” #RCMemories from its Ambassadors of the Environment program by Jean-Michel Cousteau (yes, the son of Jacques Cousteau!). Educational programs include island hikes with visits to tide pools to explore underwater wildlife or ancient lava flow sites, whale watching, and geocaching sessions.
Take advantage of the flight and hotel redemptions via Marriott Rewards that package together free hotel nights with a bundle of frequent flier miles (they don’t have to be used simultaneously, by the way).