The Magnificent Maldives- Reserving a Room (For Free!)

Hello Dear Readers!

I’ve made so much fuss over the last year about the Maldives, and previously when I wrote about going, I detailed how I would spend points for nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives. Well, like I told you before, I ended up trading in those nights for a 4 day stay at the Conrad, simply because it was easier (and I wanted to go to their underwater restaurant.)

So how did I do it?

Well, the Conrad Maldives is the absolute highest category hotel that they’ve got, clocking in at an astonishing 95,000 points/ night. For reference, their cheapest hotels (Category 1) go for a mere 10,000 points/ night.

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I spent all year saving up for this, using sign up bonuses from the Hilton Honors Ascend card (which offers 100k points after 3k spend in 6 months) and the now defunct Citi Hilton Reserve card, which offered two free weekend nights at any hotel after 3k spend in the first three months.

I also saved up all the points I’d ever earned from doing my Diamond status challenge and made sure most of my stays during the last year were at Hiltons. This wasn’t just to earn points (though the earning ratio is vastly improved when you have status), but also because being a Diamond member means I get better perks here than at any other chain.

If you’re looking to acquire Hilton points, you can get the card I mentioned above as well as the Hilton Honors Aspire card, which earns you 100k points after 4k in spend in the first three months. (It also gives you Diamond status simply by owning it). There’s also the no annual fee Hilton Honors card, which gives you 50k bonus points after 1k in spend in the first three months.

Obtaining these three cards will net you a minimum of 250,000 points before spend (which will easily drive it up another 10-15k)- nearly enough for three nights at the Conrad Maldives. If you can get yourself up to 380,000 points (very doable in a year, as the Hilton cards earn rewards very quickly), you’ll have enough points for 4 nights. The Hilton Honors program gives the 5th night free on all hotel stays, so you’ll be able to stay for 5 nights for the cost of 4!

So, yes, it’s expensive. But you’re also redeeming your points at a hotel that regularly goes for over $2,000 a night, so you’re making it well worth your while.

The reward room you get is the beach villa, which is nice enough on its own. But a mere month before my arrival, Hilton accidentally made overwater villas (normally a $150-$300/ night upgrade) available for redemption for only 95,000 points a night- the same rate as a beach villa!

Unfortunately, I was past my cancellation window, so thought I had lost the opportunity to snag this. However, I still gave the Diamond desk a call and to my extreme surprise, they pulled some strings, replacing my 4 night stay in a beach villa with 4 nights in an overwater villa at no extra cost! I was more than a little pleased, and have continuously gloated since.

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For us!

Anyway, if you’re looking to stay, those three cards are the easiest way to earn large quantities of points, and once you’ve accumulated enough, it’s worth your while to aim for 4 nights and get 5. If you’re averse to too many cards, American Express transfers points to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio, so you’ll need a mere 190,000 American Express points for your 5 nights at the Maldives.

Up next, more fun and less points. See you soon!

– Carissa “Smug AF” Rawson

Weekly Inspiration: Hawaii on Points and Miles

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d start posting different examples for vacations that you can take using points and miles, so I thought I’d finally make good on the offer. Now in the past I’ve posted up my own trips, but since I’m only one person and I can’t possibly take every trip in the world, let’s start working on some hypothetical ones.

First up: Hawaii!

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I know for a lot of people Hawaii is a bucket list item (I still haven’t been…yet), and unfortunately, it always seems to cost a ton of money. Now, there are loads of options for using points and miles to get to Hawaii, but I’m just going to highlight one really easy one, for people who are just getting started. Ready?

How to Get There: Airfare

While round-trip flights from the mainland can usually cost more than $400/person, snagging flights on award availability isn’t all that hard. British Airways, which offers a co-branded Chase credit card, will give you 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Thanks to British Airways’ award chart (it’s distance based, rather than based on the cost of the ticket) this means that you can score a round-trip flight to Hawaii for just 25,000 points. (This is using its award partner, American Airlines) That means that you and someone you really like can fly to Hawaii for free!

Where to Stay: Hotels

There are tons of hotels in Hawaii. For the most part, they’re all ridiculously overpriced. While there are again many hotels that can be redeemed for award points, here we’re going for longevity. What’s the use of spending 50,000 points to stay one night at the fanciest hotel, when you can spend the same for 4 nights elsewhere?

To that end, I recommend the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach. It’s a category three Hyatt hotel, which means it will cost you just 12,000 points/ night to stay there. In July, the cost to stay there is $270/night, plus taxes and resort fees.

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Chase has both the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards, which each offer a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points. (After 4k in spend in the first 3 months). You can transfer Chase reward points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, meaning you can spend a whopping 8 nights in Hawaii for free if you get both cards. That same stay would cost you almost $2500 out of pocket. (The Chase Sapphire Reserve even has a 100k sign up bonus available until March 12th if you apply in-branch)

What About the Rest of It?

I know that airfare and hotels are often the two most costly portions of a vacation. But what if you wanted a truly free vacation?

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after 3k spend in 3 months, and you can use its redemptions to erase travel charges at a rate of 1 cent/mile. That’s another $500 worth of stuff you can have for free. What’s not to like about that?

All in all, the travel game isn’t too difficult. Once you get your head wrapped around the different points and their possibilities, almost nowhere is off limits.

Now here’s a solicitation: does anyone have any requests for places to go? Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to do some research and come up with a point plan for you.

Cheers!

-Carissa

Florence, Dog Pee, and a Vacation from a Vacation

Hello All,

I’m writing to you from my hotel in Florence, where I am taking a vacation from my vacation. God, how spoiled do I sound? The truth is, it’s pretty tiring getting up and getting out all day, every day. Combined with the care of a tiny needy dog who sometimes pees on things like your bed, it can be downright exhausting!

So! Like I mentioned previously, I’m completing a status challenge in order to get Hilton Diamond status for the next few years. That meant canceling a few of my Airbnbs and switching to hotels.

And boy, is it worth it. I took off yesterday from Nice, where it had kindly decided to start storming exactly as I ran for the train station. Soggy and freezing, Nala and I climbed onto the train, where we sat, delayed, for two hours. Like, I mean, we hadn’t even left the station yet.

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But look at that tongue.

Anyway, I had a connection in Milan, which I ended up missing. Knowing this, I went down to customer service, where I waited for an hour for help and ended up missing another train. Oh! And someone tried to pickpocket me! Never underestimate the excitement of travel, guys.

Long story short, I ended up in Florence 4 hours late and tired of hauling all my (Nala’s) stuff through train stations. Luckily, upon arrival at the Hilton, (almost) everything got immediately better. Seeing as how I’m currently a top-tier elite, my room was upgraded, and, of course, I got executive lounge access, which means free food and drinks all day long. The point I’m making here is: get status! It makes everything 1000% nicer.

I’m now freshly showered, fed, and watered, and spent a lovely morning in a whirlpool spa area doing absolutely nothing. It was glorious.

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From the rooftop terrace at the executive lounge.

Now, a final story to send you guys off before I spend some more time relaxing and chilling out.

So, last night, like I mentioned, I was pretty tired. Nala too, since she had been traveling with me all day. Well, she had already pooped in the train terminal, but luckily the Italians love dogs so everyone just chuckled and shook their heads.

After arriving to the hotel, I spent a few minutes in my room before heading to the club lounge to grab a few drinks and snacks. When I came back, Nala was waiting for me at the door, frantically greeting me and jumping around. Well…I soon found out why, when I encountered my plush, amazing, king-size bed covered in pee. This means my dog, who I had just left, (and who was just outside!) found herself alone, jumped up onto the bed (because the floor wasn’t good enough?) and decided to relieve herself. All. Over. It.

I mean come on! Shamefully, I called down to the front desk and asked them for a new bedspread, because my dog has no manners. They were very kind and sent up housekeeping with a new one, who remade my bed while I awkwardly watched and tried to ignore the wet pile of dog pee bedding right next to us.

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I am a shameful pee dog.

Good times.

Ciao!

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Selfie Queens

-Carissa “Under the Tuscan Sun” Rawson

Skiing With the Rich and Famous: A How-To Guide for the Poor (and Unemployed) Among Us

Hey guys!

Ok, so I’ve been sitting on this one for a while because I reaaally wanted to do it justice.

What is “it,” exactly?

Well, let me tell you!

It was our Valentine’s Day celebration that we celebrated in a totally planned and not-at-all last minute fashion! Ok, you caught me, it was like a week in advance and maybe I forced David to cancel all his plans. But trust me, it was worth it. So what did we do?

We went to Beaver Creek, Colorado! (It’s for skiing). More specifically, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and skied our tails off on Beaver Creek’s many many ski runs.

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The view from our hotel room

Now, in case many of you guys don’t know, Beaver Creek is full of rich people. I mean like, “Oh I guess I’ll just spend ten thousands dollars this week and go to Beaver Creek” rich. Way above the likes of us. Luckily, and you guys guessed it, Carissa-the-Points-Queen was here to save the day. So how did I manage this?

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Yes. I live here.

Well, the Hyatt brand happens to be a transfer partner of Chase. If you guys remember, I’ve got a few different Chase cards, which have earned me almost 200k Chase points. However, I also happen to have the Hyatt Chase card, which has a sign-up bonus of 2 free nights anywhere.

Now, I had originally planned to use those free nights at the Maldives, but a quick search showed me that I could save myself some points and swap those free nights over to the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

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Why? Because the Park Hyatt Maldives is only a Category 6 hotel, which costs 25,000 points/night, and the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is a Category 7, costing 30,000 points/night. So, by using my two nights at Beaver Creek, I could save myself 10,000 points over a 2 night stay. Well worth it, in my opinion.

For reference, the Park Hyatt is currently going for almost $1000/night, so this was a pretty big deal.

With the hotel taken care of, all we had to do was get there. Starting from Washington D.C., roundtrip flights were around $700/person. Ew. Too much for me.

However, after a stupidly long amount of time, I found some Southwest flights from Philly that were $180 roundtrip. And you know what flying Southwest means, right? David comes for free! (I also redeemed points for our flight) So we drove our happy butts two hours up to Philly, spent a night in Denver, then rented a car and drove the additional two hours to Beaver Creek.

Pause for a moment here. At the request of David, I need to enthusiastically tell you guys how great our rental car company was. I rented from Silvercar, which gives a 30% discount to Visa signature card holders (Chase Sapphire Preferred/ Reserve) They only rent out Audis, which is the coolest thing ever, so we cruised to Beaver Creek in style. It’s also worth noting that the cost of our Audi was $269 for the entire weekend, while a shuttle roundtrip would have cost us $349. I’ll take the leather seats, please.

Let me just say, our hotel was awesome. It was located at the bottom of the ski slopes, so you literally left the hotel and got onto the chair lift up. Super cool.

Now, if you guys happen to know me, you happen to know that I had tried skiing exactly once in my life before this. Suffice to say, it went badly. (So so badly). So I was fairly concerned about attempting to ski again. David had been before, so he was all set, but I opted for ski school. And I mean like “how do I put boots on?” ski school.

Of course I was obviously the best at it (why? I’m normally so clumsy). In fact, I was so good that my instructor had me go it alone on the ski lift. He called me athletic and sent me on my way, which meant that I immediately fell over and ate shit as soon as I tried to get off. Very encouraging.

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Look how perfect I am.

Overall the day was fantastic and made huge ski fans out of both David and I. Unfortunately, since the skiing up there is so bleeding expensive, we only managed to make it out for one day. The other day we spent wandering around Beaver Creek village (they hand out free chocolate chip cookies!) and watching a concert with Glen Morrison, who is some guy from Glee and also other famous things.

Did I mention that David opted for no ski school? He says he had a great time, but he also had a GoPro strapped to his and oh my God you guys need to see the videos of him wiping out. He promises he’s uploading them to YouTube soon so I’ll link you guys as soon as they’re up.

Otherwise, we had an amazing weekend which we could have in no way afforded without points. True, ski rentals and ski school cost us out of pocket, but a free hotel and free flights meant we could afford this awesome opportunity without breaking the bank. Totally worth it!

Carissa “Snowbunny” Rawson