It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. Monday was the first day of school for my kids, and now it’s back to our routine of homework and lunches and nightly reading logs. Sigh.
But not so fast, summer! I just put the finishing touches on a weekend trip designed to soak up every last drop of the season. In a few weeks, we’re headed to San Diego for a final hurrah before fall sets in. I’m excited about this trip, but the best part is that we’re traveling for free.
You can do it, too. In fact, I hope that by the end of this post, you feel inspired to plan an end-of-summer trip of your own!
Fly to San Diego Using Miles
I booked our flights on Southwest, because that was the least expensive and most convenient option.
- First, I got two of our flights for the “price” of one (with points). I’m flying with points, and because I have a Companion Pass for my daughter Bird, she can fly for free. How did I get the Companion Pass? At the beginning of this year, I applied for 2 Southwest Visa cards (one personal card and one business card) when the signup bonus was 50,000 points per card, for a total of 100,000 Southwest points. I was able to earn or transfer the remaining 10,000 points, for a grand total of 110,000 points, which is the amount you need to earn the pass. (In case you are interested in exactly how I did this, you can read more details here).
- For the remaining two flights, I waited for a fare sale, then booked with points. This method ensures that you spend the least amount of points possible!
If you want Southwest points, there are several ways to get them:
- Apply for the Southwest Visa card(s). These cards regularly have 50,000 point signup bonuses, so it is possible to earn 100,000 Southwest points by applying for both the personal and business version of the Visa.
- Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest. There transfer at a 1:1 ratio, so if you’re flush with UR points, this could be a good option for you.
- Fly Southwest 😉
Stay for Free – Use Points for Hotels
Originally, I had planned for us to stay at the Andaz San Diego. However, after reading a few reviews of this hotel, I quickly realized that this was not the hotel we were looking for. (You can read my post titled “Why I’m Switching My Andaz Reservation To Homewood Suites” here.) Basically, the Andaz is more of a sleek, snazzy hotspot than a family-friendly chill zone. So instead we’ll be chilling at the Homewood Suites.
As the name implies, every room at this property is a suite. This setup is perfect for our family because of my dynamic no-sleep duo (AKA my kids). On the property, there are rolling lawns, a bike/walking path, and a swimming pool with a big patio area. Rooms feature kitchens, and many rooms are bay view, some with balconies.
Each night at this property costs 40,000 Hilton points.
I’m going to use 2 weekend night certificates (the signup bonus from my Citi Hilton Reserve card), plus 40,000 points for another night, so our 3-night stay will be free. Normally, rooms at this hotel average $200/night, so we will be saving $600.
If you want free Hilton nights, here are some ways you can earn them:
- Sign up for the Citi Hilton Reserve Card. This will earn you two weekend night certificates. The Citi Hilton Reserve Card will also earn you an anniversary bonus of one weekend night when you spend $10,000 or more on eligible purchases each cardmembership year.
Here is a big tip to double your points:
- Transfer Hilton points from Amex Membership Rewards to Hawaiian Airlines or Virgin Atlantic (at a 1:1 ratio), then transfer your airline points to Hilton (at a 1:2 ratio).
Here are all of the various sign up bonuses you can earn through credit card applications:
- The Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Card will earn you 50,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles (which you can transfer at a 1:2 ratio to earn 100,000 Hilton points)
- The Bank of American Hawaiian Airlines Visa will earn you 35,000 Hawaiian Miles (which you can transfer at a 1:2 ratio to earn 70,000 Hilton points)
- The Citi Hilton HHonors Visa will earn you 50,000 Hilton points
- The American Express Hilton Surpass will earn you 60,000 Hilton points
- The American Express Hilton HHonors card will earn you 50,000 points
While we are in San Diego, we plan to hit Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, and Legoland. If you’ve seen the admission price for these hot spots, you know they can be more expensive than a flight or a hotel room! I’ll share my tips on how to lower your costs for these fun attractions in a future post.
Now it’s your turn – where will you go for your last trip of the summer?