One of my best friends (I’ll call her Ginger) lives on the East Coast. Ginger moved from California over ten years ago, and since that time, we’ve made what I would call an extreme effort to stay in touch. How extreme? Well, I call her almost every day. Several times a day. I never actually talk to her (that is part of the deal, we don’t pick up) but I leave her a ton of messages. It’s kind of like free therapy – I just tell her everything that is happening in my life. And she does the same.
It’s a virtual best-friendship. It totally works for us. However, we do like to see each other in person as well. So we meet up each year in our favorite city: New Orleans. While we are in New Orleans, we love the blend of sparkly, spontaneous, delicious random fabulousness that is always in the air. We love how people are quick to celebrate, and how that is a big part of the culture of the city.
Here is a wonderful example. A typical night in the French Quarter:
Our trip is just around the corner, so I thought I would create a little series on how to put together a short vacation to New Orleans using miles and points. In this post, I’ll explain the basics. Later, I’ll post details, so you can plan a great trip of your own! I’ll share our favorite places, describe our new finds, and include tips on how you can do this trip as well – all without spending a lot of cash.
1. Oakland to New Orleans on Southwest
Retail cost: $348
My cost: I found a slightly discounted “Wanna Get Away” fare that cost me 15,780 Southwest points plus $2.50 in fees.
How I did it: I earned the Southwest points from the 100,000 point sign-up bonus I got in February from the combination of both the business and personal versions of the Premier card (50,000 points per card). Note: the current sign-up bonuses are not as high (25,000 points), but these cards seem to be on a 3-4 month high-bonus cycle, so if you are interested in getting one or both, my advice is to wait a couple of months to see what develops.
2. New Orleans to San Francisco on United
Retail cost: $470
My cost: I got a Saver fare for 12,500 United miles plus $2.50 in fees.
How I did it: I earned the 12,500 United miles by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio. Since I’ve got three Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points (the Sapphire Preferred, the Ink Bold, and the Freedom card), I put most of my everyday spend on these cards and rack up Ultimate Rewards points quickly. I love the versatility of these points. One of my favorite redemptions is to find Saver award fares on United, because the value can be incredible – as in my redemption detailed above.
Out-of-pocket totals: while I could have paid $818 for my flights, instead my total out-of-pocket cost rang in at $5. I am loving this trip already!
Ginger and I like to stay at the Renaissance Arts Marriott. Located in a former warehouse in the Arts District, it has a bit of a “boutique hotel” vibe.
Rooms at this property normally go for around $225/night. When we were first planning this trip, rooms were listed at the highest price I’ve ever seen for this hotel – $249/night. While we love this hotel, we did not want to pay that much to stay here. However, a little patience blended with some travel savvy ensured that we wouldn’t have to: I was able to locate and lock in an amazing rate for us – $115/night. (I promise to “tell all” in a future post!)
So, instead of paying $900 (or more!) for our 4-night stay, we’ll be spending half that amount – $460. Actually, I was able to whittle another 10% off that total by purchasing Marriott gift cards through shopping portals (I’ll share how I did that as well in a future post), so I got our total cost down to $415.
Since we’re splitting the cost, my total hotel bill will be around $210 (plus taxes and fees). Add that to the $5 I’m paying for my flights, and you get a very affordable getaway! The price difference is truly astonishing: if I had to pay full price for my flights and hotel, I would spend almost $1300. However, using points and miles, plus some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned in this hobby, I am spending $215. That is an 85% savings (or if you are a “fractions” person, I am paying one-sixth of the original price)!
This is why I am so passionate about collecting points and miles: they make it possible for my family and me to enjoy fabulous trips for a fraction of the cost. Stay tuned for more details on our trip to New Orleans. I hope that I can inspire you to plan a trip of your own using points and miles!