Well, it’s been a while since I booked myself a vacation! I finally felt the strong urge to get away from the busy city of Los Angeles and tap into my 1,000,000+ points reserves to book a spontaneous trip. With the help of trusty Facebook, I enlisted the help of some friends and some ‘acquaintances’ that gave me some great ideas on where to go. After doing some research on flight award availability and finding a place that has beautiful scenery and plenty more to explore, I came up with Kauai!
American Airlines has a direct flight from LAX-LIH that operates twice daily in both directions. Lucky me, there was plenty of saver award availability on the dates that I wanted (keep in mind I booked my flight on a Thursday for the following Monday!). To book that roundtrip ticket on AA would run you 45,000 AAdvantage miles. Though that’s not a bad deal, I knew I could take advantage of British Airways’ fantastic distance-based award chart, which charges only 25,000 points for that same roundtrip ticket (BA and AA are both part of the oneworld alliance and allow you to book award tickets with one another. Note: You can only book an AA ticket with BA Avios points if the saver award flight is available as seen below:)
Unfortunately, the British Airways website has been having issues booking AA award tickets lately, so I had to call them and wait on hold for 45 minutes before reaching a representative. There was no booking fee as I was unable to book it online, and for just 50,000 BA Avios (instead of 90,000 AAdvantage points), I had 2 roundtrip tickets to Hawaii that were retailing for $814 each for a total of $1,628!
Booking Hotels on the Island
I had heard fantastic reviews of the Grand Hyatt Kauai, a category 6 hotel, and booked 2 of our 3 nights in Kauai there. I’ll be writing a review of the hotel shortly, but my brother and I were able to combine forces and use only 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for 2 nights. My brother had 1 free night at any Hyatt in the world, thanks to the Chase Hyatt Credit Card’s amazing sign up offer. We then transferred 25k (Hyatt category 6 hotels cost 25,000 points per night, or 12,500 points + $150 if you use their cash + points program – good for if you have less points in your account and need to stay more nights) from our UR accounts and booked the second night.
– Retail value of each night at the Grand Hyatt Kauai: $595 for a total of $1,190.
For the third night, we contemplated staying at either the Marriott Kauai Lagoons Resort for 40,000 points, the St. Regis Princeville for 31,000 SPG points, or the Sheraton Kauai in Poipu for 12,000 SPG points. As luxurious as the two hotels were, we knew were going to be spending most of the last two days out and about the island, so we figured it would be best to use less points and stay at the Sheraton. The Sheraton is a nice property, but in no way compares or comes close to the Grand Hyatt Kauai in terms of service, attention to detail, and quality of the property itself.
– Retail value of one night at the Sheraton Kauai Resort: $199 + 30 resort fee (paid for with the Arrival Card).
The car rental was booked through Priceline’s “name your own price” option. We settled on a price of $130 for a Hertz compact car for the duration of our stay (4 days), which included taxes and fees. Thanks to the Arrival Card, we were able to reimburse our car rental with a travel statement credit of 13,000 points! More details on car rentals in Kauai to come in my full trip review.
Excursions, Activities, & Food
We booked our excursions and island activities through the Hyatt Hotel’s concierge. They were extremely knowledgeable and took care of the entire booking process for us. We booked a catamaran sunset dinner cruise along the Na Pali coast, which ran about $125 per person. We also signed up for the Secret Falls kayak, lunch, and hiking activity for about $80 per person. The concierge used Expedia to book our excursions and activities, allowing us to credit those on our Arrival Card. In addition to that, we ate a lot of our meals at the hotel and charged them to our room, also allowing us to use the Arrival Card for a statement credit. All in all, we credited at least $800 worth of points with Arrival points!
I never would have taken a last minute trip to Hawaii (especially for $4,000!) if it wasn’t a viable option thanks to points. I can’t stress enough the importance of diversifying your credit cards and points holdings across the various major reward programs. Having the flexibility to utilize my BA Avios points instead of AA points, saved me 40,000 points on the flight alone! We had the option to stay at hotels ranging between Hyatt, SPG, Marriott, and more. Not to mention the value of using my Barclay Arrival Card for every day purchases and accruing enough points to expense over $1,000 on the trip. I suggest anyone looking to diversify their holdings, take a look at these Top Credit Cards and start earning your way towards that next free vacation!
- Total Cost = $3,977
- Out of pocket expenses = $200
- Savings = $3,777
- 50,000 British Airways Avios – AA Flight
- 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards –> Hyatt
- 12,000 SPG – Sheraton
- 80,000 Barclay Arrival – Misc. Expenses
- Total = 167,000 Points