Weekly Inspiration: All-Inclusive Cancun on Points and Miles

Hello!

So I realize I started a new series of posts called weekly inspiration, and then never followed up on that. Now, a few weeks later, I finally have time to write some more about awesome things you can do with points.

Today’s topic is Cancun! This comes partly as a result of my own impending trip to Cancun (with my friend Chrissy! Hi Chrissy!) and as a result of a conversation with Joni, where I asked a billion questions about what types of vacations people like to go on.

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This could be you

Now, without further ado, I give you Cancun on points and miles:

Hotels

Now, everyone knows there are a billion all-inclusive hotels throughout Cancun, and a lot of them are good. Great, even. But if you’re going for the experience of a lifetime, the Hyatt Zilara (adults only) and Hyatt Ziva (family-friendly) are the gold standard of all-inclusive luxury. They have tons of reviews talking about how amazing they are, and, even better, can be booked using reward points! (That’s very uncommon, by the way).

The Zilara costs more, since it’s adults only, and a four night stay there in July will run you $4300. Yes, that is mind-bogglingly expensive.

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Ouch.

However, the Chase Hyatt rewards card, which I have mentioned previously, comes with 2 free nights at any hotel in the Hyatt portfolio. (After 2k spend in the first 3 months). If you and your other half (or friend, or literally anyone else you wouldn’t mind sharing room with) each get this card, you’ll both be basking in the Cancun sunshine before you even know it.

Alternatively, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred currently come with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after 4k spend each in the first 3 months. These points can be transferred over to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, meaning you can use them to pay for your entire stay at the hotels.The Hyatt Zilara Cancun will run you 25,000 points/night, and the Hyatt Ziva will cost 20,000points/night.

And it’s all free!

Flights

Now, flights to Cancun can be relatively inexpensive, if you keep an eye out and book quickly when good rates appear. I just snagged a flight going from Orlando-Cancun-Los Angeles for $260 total. I paid using points from my American Express Business OPEN, and since it was on Delta (my preferred airline), I received a 50% rebate on points, meaning I spent only 13,000 points total for my flight. (Which is the equivalent of paying $130).

However, if you’re going at peak season, or if you don’t feel like scouring the web for stuff, tons of options abound for reward flights to Cancun.

Southwest usually has really good (and cheap) options for flights to Cancun. To that end, I recommend one of Southwest’s Chase credit cards. There are three, currently offering sign-up bonuses ranging from 50,000-60,000 points.

A quick search on Southwest shows me that they have roundtrip flights to Cancun in July (flying from Los Angeles) starting from 11,108 points roundtrip per/person. This means you and your new best friend can both fly (twice!) roundtrip to Cancun on points. Of course, if you live on the east coast things tend to be a bit more costly, but you should still have more than enough points to cover the cost.

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Since these are all-inclusive resorts, of course, flights and hotel are the entirety of your cost. This whole vacation is free!

To put this into perspective, the dollar cost of your stay would go like this:

$4352 on hotel
$520/flights ($260/person on Southwest)
=
$4,872 for four nights at one of the best all-inclusive hotels in the world. Or, using points, it’ll cost you nothing at all.

So there you have it! A really easy way to get the vacation of a lifetime using a few different cards. Let me know if you guys have any other recommendations for vacations, or if there’s something specific you’re dying to see. Until then, I’ll be dreaming about the beach! Adios!

-Carissa “Gettin Tan” Ragland

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

The Joy of the American Express Concierge

Today, I want to share something really awesome that the American Express platinum card can do. If you guys read my blog from a few days ago, you saw that there’s an Amex concierge for platinum card holders, which will make dinner reservations for you, buy and deliver flowers to your beloved, or even snag you theatre tickets for hard-to-get plays.

Well, I’m here to officially say that, thanks to American Express, we got tickets to Hamilton! As in, tickets at full face value, not price gouged to 8x the cost.

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How, you ask? Well, I had heard of American Express selling tickets at face value before, so I signed up for all the different newsletters that announce it. As soon as it popped up, with availability on 5 separate dates, I called up the concierge and had her reserve me some tickets. Since the maximum number of tickets any one person (or account) can buy is 4 (to prevent reselling, I guess), I then asked my stepmom to call her concierge and buy the final ticket. It worked like a charm!

The show is February 7th, and 5 of us are heading over to Chicago to see it. The tickets were only $120 each, rather than ~$700, which makes flying all the way to Chicago worth it.

Since I’m in California right now, David is flying separately to meet me out there, and then we’re using our Southwest Companion Pass to fly back together for half the cost. Cool, right?

See ya guys in Chicago!

-Carissa the deal Queen

The Southwest Companion Pass: The Holy Grail of Reward Travel

What’s a Southwest Companion Pass?

Well, my friends, let me educate you. I am celebrating particularly hard today, because I finally managed to finagle the Southwest Companion Pass for myself and David. I first learned about this thing almost a year ago, and I’ve been dancing with anticipation for 2017 to come, because qualifying for the pass (in January of the current year) quite literally means 2 (almost) years of buy one get one free travel for you and your luckiest friend.

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And I’ve finally done it! I’ve designated David as my companion, (for obvious reasons) and from now until 31 December 2018, whenever I fly Southwest, he is able to accompany me for free. No matter what the ticket. Southwest’s route map is extensive, and they’ve recently added new international travel too! Can you say Cancun?

So how do you get this pass? There are a few different methods:

1. Fly 110,000 miles in one calendar year on Southwest Airlines. (AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR DAT)
2. Fly 100 one-way flights in one calendar year (NO SERIOUSLY NO ONE HAS TIME FOR THAT)
3. Game the system with credit card reward bonuses

Which one do you guys think I did? (Though I used a different one than the one I’m about to detail below, a great loophole that Southwest is finally closing up.)

It’s actually quite simple. Southwest has three separate credit cards that they offer through Chase bank. Each credit card has a bonus attached to it, which qualifies as mileage through Southwest Airlines in order to earn the pass.

The first, called the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card, currently has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points.

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Here’s the Link

Spending $2,000 on this card within three months (though ideally you’d do it as quickly as possible in order to earn the pass as quickly as possible) will net you a total of 52,000 points toward the 110,000 you need for the pass.

The second card is Southwest’s business version of the rapid rewards card, called the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business credit card, is earning a 60,000 point sign up bonus. This is a limited time offer, so signing up now is the best idea if you want to get these points. (It goes back down to 50,000 points)

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Here’s the Link

If you guys are concerned about getting a business card, see my post from yesterday. It’s cool, seriously. Anyway, that card will net you 63,000 points after meeting $3,000 worth of spend in the first three months.

The third card you can apply for is called the Southwest Rapid Reward Premier credit card, and will also offer you 50,000 points after $2,000 in spend in the first 3 months.

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Here’s the Link

I would personally go for the first two cards outlined above, simply because the Plus card has a $69 annual fee, whereas the Premier card (both of these are personal cards) has a $99 annual fee, and you earn the same 50,000 point bonus for either.

So, after getting two cards (if you get one business and one personal), you’ll have earned 115,000 points, (including the points you’ll earn from meeting the minimum spend requirements) which will qualify you for the Companion Pass! How easy is that? Do you have someone you like/want to travel with? Then get this pass! It’s the holy grail of travel rewards and is so easily achievable right now, there’s no excuse not to!

Keep in mind that you should have good credit before attempting this (or any reward travel, for that matter). Otherwise, it’s free game! Have fun!

-Carissa and her Companion David