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companion pass

Rewards Points Travel

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. The Golden Ticket!

March 27, 2016

I know Lacey and I are relatively new travelers, but I still can’t believe that we just recently found out about what I am now calling the Golden Ticket for couple’s travel.  A ticket so magical that not only will you have 110k miles to use yourself for free travel, but you will also be able to book a free flight for your travel companion at no extra cost EACH TIME you book a flight for yourself…drum roll…for up to 2 YEARS!!!  Yeah, you need to check this out.

The Golden Ticket is actually the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.  Earning this reward is a bit tricky but it IS doable and it will be worth every bit of effort you put into it.  You will be eligible for this perk after completing 100 Southwest flights in a single year (which no one will do), OR by earning 110k Southwest Airlines miles in a single calendar year (which I’ll tell ya how to do).  Once you qualify for the companion pass, you will be able to book a free flight for your wife, husband, buddy, or whoever you deem as your “companion” for the rest of the year in which you earn the pass AND the entire next year.  Pretty huge right?

Southwest's Golden Ticket for Couples Travel

So here’s how you can earn the pass…

Assuming you won’t take 100 Southwest flights in a year to earn the pass, you’ll need to sign up for at least 2 of Southwest Airline’s credit cards at a 50k points offer for each card.  By going this route, you’ll be on your way to 104k points in no time (50k for each card + the points earned from the spending requirements).

As you can see here, Southwest’s public offer is only 25k points for both of the personal cards right now.  Don’t worry, there are still ways you can get 50k points for each of these cards.

For the Southwest Premier (personal) card, send us your email address and I’ll personally send you a referral that will allow you to sign up for the 50k card.  Send your email address to contact@ditchingnormal.com and we’ll send it your way! Sometimes it takes a couple of days, but nonetheless, you’ll get it!

For the Southwest Plus card 50k offer, UPDATED: we now have a referral link to this card! Here is our referral link to the 50k Southwest Plus card.  it’ll be a little trickier.  Since we don’t have the offer to email you for this one, you’ll have to find someone that does.  However, people are stoked to give out referrals to this as they will receive some bonus miles when you sign up.  Here is a site where people seem to be constantly posting referrals for this card.  Just scroll down to the comments on that site and make sure to look for people that have the 50k offer for the “Plus” card.  …this is actually how we received the 50k offer for this card.

So there ya go, you’re like 98% of the way there.  But wait, what about the other 6k points you need? While you can sign up for the Marriott card or Hyatt’s card, receive their bonus points and transfer them into your Southwest account, I don’t think this is the best way to go about it. What Lacey and I did was utilize Southwest’s online shopping portal.  You can quickly earn tons of extra points just by linking through their portal and shopping for stuff you were going to buy anyways.  We got an extra 5,500 points in 2 weeks by linking through the shopping portal to do our taxes and then to purchase a couple of other things for our bedroom at a 6 points per $1 spent offer.

Wrapping up, this is by far the best rewards offer that I am aware of at this point.  Depending on how much you utilize the Companion Pass once earned, it could be worth thousands of dollars in free flights.  Just think, all of your flights will be taken care of for up to 2 years!  You can switch your reward travel focus to only hotel points for a bit.

Some initial questions you might have…

Do I get to keep and use the 110k points I earned once I receive the Companion Pass? – YES!

Can I book my companion’s free flight even when I am booking my own flight with my points? – YES!

Can I use my companion pass with more than 1 companion? – YES! You can change your companion’s name up to 3 times.

Can I sign up for both credit cards at the same time? – from what I’ve researched, more often than not, it won’t work.  I would recommend waiting at least 30 days in between applications.  Keep in mind that Chase bank will no longer approve you if you have received 5 new credit cards in the past 24 months.

Southwest's Golden Ticket for Couples Travel

Southwest flies to some international spots now!

 

Best of luck everyone! Hit us up with any questions and if you’d like to receive the 50k Southwest Premier card referral!

We’re going to use our companion pass to get back to Cabo this fall!

Mat and Lacey Ocean DitchingNormal

Rewards Points Travel

Grand Cayman Island

March 17, 2018

We are way behind on posts, so this one is from three trips ago! Yikes! In January Mat and I traveled to the beautiful Caribbean and spent a week at the Wyndham Reef Resort Grand Cayman (using our Wyndham points and the Southwest Companion Pass to get there of course) in Grand Cayman.  We spent the week snorkeling with starfish at Starfish Beach and drinking, eating and relaxing in a hammock at Rum Point. Our favorite lunch spot came with a gorgeous, on the beach table at Kaibo. This is a definitely a must eat if you are in Grand Cayman; they have great food and an even better view. We’d also recommend you check out the Blowhole on the southern part of the island.  There is a super friendly tour guide there that you need to meet!

The west coast of the island includes the capital city of George Town, the gorgeous Seven Mile Beach and my favorite, Camana Bay. Camana Bay is an adorable section of the city that is all new construction and includes shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, condos, gyms, etc. After the day we spent here I was ready to move! This island has it all, a city with things to do and make you feel connected, but also gorgeous, uncrowded, white sand beaches.

 

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Travel

Lacey’s 30th in Las Vegas

December 31, 2017

For my 30th (yikes!) birthday I wanted to spend it lounging by a pool, going to a spa and eating dessert. Since we have the Southwest Companion Pass, we made the quick trip down to Vegas and did just that! One entire day we spent by the pool and the staff at the Palms were super strict and allowed absolutely NO cameras so unfortunately we don’t have anything from one whole day. 🙁

We booked a condo at Palms Place, which was far enough away from the strip to be separated from the crazy (been there done that for the 21st), but close enough to have amazing views of the entire strip. I spent the morning of my birthday being pampered at the Drift Spa, getting a massage and soaking in their Turkish Tub as well as taking advantage of their amazing sauna! We had a delicious dinner (and free dessert!) at the super fancy Nove Italiano. The food was amazing and so was the service. Definitely recommend!

All in all my 30th in Las Vegas was a success. Now cheers to the next decade!

Happy New Year! 🙂

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Reviews Travel

Sunny Palm Springs

June 11, 2017

Mat and I took advantage of our three day weekend and flew to Palm Springs, CA for a quick and relaxing trip. Our three-day weekend can be described in three terms: naps, hats and pool floaties. Palm Springs was a great place to get the summer started because the weather was already HOT, which I loved. We stayed at The Avalon and earned 29k Southwest points for doing so.  I thought the hotel/bungalow accommodations were adorable. With these extra points, we earned the Southwest Companion Pass for 2018! Woo hoo!

After working a full day on Friday (we have to use our time off wisely!) we flew in late so we didn’t really get the vacation started until Saturday morning. However, The Avalon had a wonderful surprise waiting for us in our room-a HUGE plate of the most delicious and fresh fruit we have ever had. Mat went crazy on the fruit Friday night and I finished off some of it when I woke up on Saturday.

We slept in on Saturday and had breakfast at the Chi Chi restaurant, which has tables right beside the main pool at the center of the hotel. I had an amazing assortment of buttermilk pancakes, banana foster’s, barrel-aged maple syrup and candied walnuts. The best part was that it was still steaming hot when they brought it out. It was so good. If you follow us on SnapChat you probably saw me freaking out about it. Mat wasn’t as excited about his breakfast burrito, but it came with more of that amazing fruit and gorgeous poolside views, so it’s kind of hard to complain.

After breakfast we walked into town and did some shopping. This is when we made the most important purchases of the trip: our hats. I have become slightly obsessed with mine and it may have contributed to the fact that I didn’t brush my hair the entire trip. Mat looks extremely dapper in his, and of course they helped protect our skin from the blazing sun.

We made a quick stop at Las Casuelas Terraza for some giant margaritas before heading back to enjoy some pool time at the hotel. The Avalon has three different pools, which is nice that they cater to the different interests of their guests. One of the pools was kid friendly (we checked it out but promptly kept walking), and the main pool, located by the Chi Chi, seemed to be mostly couples. All the lounge chairs at this pool were already taken, so we kept going to the third pool. I called this third pool the ‘party pool’, which usually isn’t really our jam but we totally loved it! For the Memorial holiday, The Avalon hosted a variety of activities at the ‘party pool’ including: live DJ, a taco bar, booze-y snow cones, frozes (frozen rose wine), ping pong and bocci ball! We spent the majority of our time at this pool for obvious reason. 🙂 We then preceded to take a four nap after the sun had zapped our energy. Hey, it’s vacation-we can nap however long we want!

The best food of the weekend was at the hard to get into brunch joint, Cheeky’s. The Avalon provided cruiser bikes to hotel guests free of charge so we checked them out one morning and decided to bike the one mile to Cheeky’s. We arrived just 30 minutes after the restaurant opened and ended up waiting an hour and a half for a table! It was insane! During that hour and a half of waiting, dozens and dozens of people showed up to put their name on the waiting list. The restaurant is only open until 2 pm, so I have no idea if it was even possible to get through the list of people before they closed. The food definitely did not disappoint, so it was worth the wait.

Our last night we decided to drive the one hour and check out Joshua Tree National Park. The trees are so interesting, kind of a mix between a cactus and a palm tree. So cool! But to be honest, after you’ve seen 100, they all start to look alike. The park also has these amazing, huge, boulder structures. The park looked especially alien-like after the sun set and there were shadows everywhere.

Travel

Best New York City Experience…so far.

April 8, 2017

New York City is like a giant storage unit that the world keeps stuffing awesome shit into.  It’s filled to the top and all the way to the back with food, sports, architecture, shopping, art, and entertainment.  Anytime you slide up the storage unit door, a pile of awesome spills out on your feet and you’re like “do we have too much awesome in here? Nah, I think there’s still some room in the back.”  We were lucky enough to make our 3rd trip to this amazing city recently and agree that it was our best New York City experience…so far.

First of all, I’d like to thank Matthew McConaughy and Kate Hudson for making this trip possible.  Seriously.  If it weren’t for the 2003 rom-com “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, we never would have taken this trip.  Thanks to the scene below, going to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden had landed itself on Lacey’s bucket list.  We take bucket list declarations very seriously in our household, so I knew we needed to make this happen asap.  We scored amazing seats (11th row) as the Knicks caught a beatin’ from the 1st place Celtics.  Lacey was dressed up in her custom Knicks jersey and seemed to be constantly in awe of her surroundings.  In addition to the game, there were a ton of celebrities on hand that were often hanging out directly next to where we were sitting.  The Knicks even honored the team from 1999 during the game which included every player Kate Hudson and Matty Mc-C cheered for during the movie.  What are the odds?!! To top it off, Lacey caught a Knicks shirt from the t-shirt gun people.  It couldn’t have gone any better.  Bucket list item checked off in style.

We only had 1 other pre-planned event for this trip; a live taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers.  This ended up being way more fun than I think either of us thought it would be.  While being led to the Late Night Studio within the Rockefeller Center, we walked by the main Saturday Night Live stage which was really cool to see in person.  As our tickets were free and didn’t have assigned seats, we were thrilled when the NBC ushers placed us in the 3rd row from the studio floor.  The guests that night were Chelsea Handler and Jake Johnson (Nick from New Girl).  We like those two a bunch so it made for an even more exciting experience.  They didn’t allow anyone to take pics in the studio so I grabbed a couple of screenshots from the episode to show where we sat. Shown at the bottom.

The rest of the trip was accidentally action packed, but in a great way.  We ate tons of delicious food at places like PJ Clarke’s, Toscana 49, dessert at Serendipity, and Juliana’s Pizza in Brooklyn.  We visited Central Park for some morning hot chocolate, we stopped by the “Fearless Girl” statue near Wall St., and quickly passed through Time Square on our way to catch a metro.  Lacey visited “blo“, a blow dry bar near our hotel in midtown.  Her hair is always awesome but I think she appreciated having someone else wash, dry, and style it for the day.

Last but not least, we visited the jewelry boutique where I purchased Lacey’s engagement ring 3 years ago.  Neither of us had ever been there before since I ordered her ring online.  The boutique was hidden in a nondescript office building in midtown on the 9th floor.  You had to pass through 2 security doors before waiting to be buzzed in through the main door.  It felt good knowing that it wasn’t an easily accessible, run-of-the-mill jewelry shop with “80% OFF SALE” signs everywhere.  The shop was filled with beautiful antique jewelry and had an amazing view of Manhattan.  We had Lacey’s ring cleaned and maintenanced while we were there.  I don’t think she has stopped looking at her ring since.

One thing that stood out to Lacey and I the most during this trip was finally being able to experience New York City the way we always wanted to.  Since our flights were free (thanks to the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass) we felt comfortable dropping a few extra bucks on tickets, dinner, wine, coffees, and desserts.  The more we thought about and appreciated that simple fact, the more we realized that it really did change our entire experience.  If we had to swap out our intimate dining experiences for fast food or if we had balcony seats at the game instead of our floor seats, it would have been a completely different experience for us.  Still fun, but just very different.  We couldn’t be more thankful for the credit card award options that let us get to places like this for free!

This was our best New York City experience…so far.  We’re hoping to catch a live taping of Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live on our next visit!

Let us know if you have any questions!

Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge panoramic

Madison Square Garden Selfie

Madison Square Park

Madison Square Garden

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Madison Square Garden Lacey

Fearless Girl Wall St

Fearless Girl Wall St

Time Square New York City

Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge

Statue Of Liberty

Brooklyn Bridge walk

Brooklyn Bridge

2nd time visiting the Brooklyn Bridge

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Flat Iron Building

Central Park Lacey

Freedom Cone Brooklyn

St. Patrick's Cathedral New York City

Time Square New York City

NBC studios New York City

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers

NBC studios New York City

 

Travel

Los Angeles for President’s Day Weekend

February 26, 2017

Lacey and I didn’t originally plan on taking a trip in between Aruba (late Jan.) and Maui (next Saturday!), but the weather in Boise continues to be absolutely miserable.  The buzz from the Aruba trip wore off quicker than we’d hoped as the wind, rain, snow, and inversions of Southern Idaho kept coming.  Lacey and I are both really affected by ugly/dark/cold weather (who isnt?!).  I’m not sure if it’s to the level of seasonal depression disorder, but it sucks nonetheless.  After a few days in a row of being bummed out, we decided we had to seek out some sunshine.

With plenty of Southwest points paired with the Companion Pass and our recently earned 2 “anniversary” nights with Hyatt, I started doing some searching for a Presidents Day Weekend getaway.  From Boise, Southern California is usually our best bet for a quick trip to sunshine this time of year.  I had a little trouble out of the gates finding award night availability with Hyatt.  I searched places like San Diego, Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.  No luck.  It seemed this was just too short of notice to book a room with awards.  Then I remembered Lacey telling me about how much fun her and her mom had wedding dress shopping at Manhattan Beach.  I quickly searched for, and found, availability at the Hyatt House near Manhattan Beach.  After a quick chat with Lacey, we booked the trip.

The conversation went something like this:

  • Mat – “How do you feel about going to Manhattan Beach for President’s Day? We can get there for free, use 2 free nights at a Hyatt, and then book a 3rd night with a points+cash combination.  The entire trip would cost $83.”
  • Lacey – “Oh my gosh, yes! Book it!”

So I did, and we enjoyed a quick and casual, no plans, just hanging out, Netflix by 7pm, awesome weekend in the Los Angeles/Manhattan Beach area.

The weather was a little chilly during the trip, but the sunshine did come out each day after some morning clouds.  We ventured to Hollywood and Sunset Blvd, while hiking to the Griffith Observatory.  We made our way to Venice Beach and crushed some In and Out Burgers on the way back to the hotel.  We even caught a movie during a couple hours of cloudy drizzly weather one morning.

Another awesome experience courtesy of rewards points.  We saved $900+ on this trip by using the Southwest Airlines companion pass and the Hyatt rewards programs.  Let us know if you have any questions on how you can do the same!

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Sunset Blvd Hollywood

Sunset Blvd Hollywood

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Zoltar

Muscle Beach Venice Beach

Los Angeles for President's Day Weekend

Griffith Observatory

Rewards Points Travel

Nearly $22k of Free Travel in 12 months

February 11, 2017

Lacey and I just did the math and realized that we redeemed nearly $22k of free travel in 12 months.  To be exact, it was $21,833.42 from February ’16 – January ’17.  Holy shit!  We traveled to some amazing places (20 different cities) and stayed in some incredible hotels along the way.  The majority of our travel expenses were either highly discounted or completely free thanks to credit card rewards points.  I can’t stress enough how easily all of you can do the same thing!

Our 12 month travel recap includes the destinations listed below.  Click the links to get more details on what we experienced in the past 12 months and how we did it for next to nothing!

While there were a number of rewards programs we used to get all of this awesome stuff, there are a few programs that gave us the most in return.  Keep in mind that we don’t get paid to promote any of these programs.  These are our genuine opinions based strictly on our personal experiences.

  1. Southwest Airlines Companion Pass –  Lacey and I have redeemed over $5,000 worth of free flights from this reward so far. This reward lets you AND your companion fly for free for up to 2 years.  Lacey and I still have all of 2017 left to use this perk and we’re going to do our best to make sure we continue earning this reward for as long as possible.  Check out how to earn the SW Companion Pass here.
  2. The Hyatt “2 Free Nights” card – link here.  After meeting the spending requirements, you’ll earn 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt property.  Lacey and I both earned this reward and used our 4 free nights at the Grand Hyatt in Aruba for an $800 per night ocean view suite.  This card also gives you 1 anniversary night per year.  Lacey and I just used our anniversary nights to book a stay on Manhattan Beach – Los Angeles.
  3. The Wyndham card – What a nice surprise this card has been!  You don’t hear much about this card on the mainstream travel blogs.  You’ll earn 45k points after hitting the spending requirement.  You can book ANY of their hotels for a flat rate of 15k points.  So out of the gate, you get 3 free nights anywhere.  We used this to book an ocean front suite on South Beach in Miami.  It was one of the best hotel experiences we’ve had so far.  More details in this post.
  4. The Hilton Honors program.  I love Hilton! They have multiple cards you can sign up for making it easy to stack points quickly.  Their customer service reps treat you like royalty when you call to book your room(s).  I’ll never forget how cool it felt to have someone say “Alright Mr. Thompson, let’s see if I can get you into our most luxurious property during your stay.”  There aren’t many occasions in life when I feel like a big shot, but the Hilton reps make me feel like that every time I talk to them.

We are so lucky to have experienced everything we did during the last 12 months.  We are very grateful that there are ways for people on a budget to get to see the world.  When there’s a will, there’s a way!  We hope to continue this pace throughout 2017 as well.  So far we’re booked through June 2017 with vacations to Los Angeles (Manhattan Beach), Maui, New York City, and Sayulita Mexico.

Let us know if you have any questions once you start planning your next vacay!

Edits and pics from our travels last year:

San Diego:

Lahaina Beach House

Gas Lamp San Diego

Giant Margarita San Diego

Houston (Final Four):

Final Four 2016 NRG Stadium Houston, TX

Final Four Custom Lanyard

This pic was on our custom lanyards that we wore around our necks.

Lacey at Final Four 2016 Fan Fest

NRG Stadium Final Four 2016

New York City:

Brooklyn Bridge New York

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn New York

Freedom Tower New York City

Weekend in New York Yankee Redsox Game

Manhattan Skyline

Florence, Italy:

piazzale michelangelo florence

Scooter Tour 3 Days in Florence, Italy

Scooter Tour Florence, Italy

Tuscany Florence Italy

Bicycles Florence, Italy

Florence Italy downtown

Rome, Italy:

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy

Italian Open Rome 2016

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Malta:

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Free Summer Vacation

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Chicago:

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend In Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Huntington Beach, CA:

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Sunset

Denver, CO:

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

Aruba:

I heart Aruba Sign

Baby Bridge Aruba

“Baby Bridge”

Flamingo Island Aruba

Rainbow Aruba

first view upon opening our window shades at the Hyatt in Aruba. Not a bad start

Curacao:

Curacao Sign

Hilton Curacao

view from our Hilton Suite in Curacao

Curacao Hilton

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

South Beach – Miami, FL:

South Beach Miami

South Beach, Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

view from our upgrade at the Shelborne in South Beach

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

 

Rewards Points Travel

Aruba, Curacao, and South Beach Miami for free

January 29, 2017

Idaho is going through one of the coldest/snowiest winters in the past 30 years.  Snow, ice, freezing rain, slush, inversions, misery.  We had to escape it if only for a short while.  Luckily, we already had a getaway booked for January not knowing just how badly we would end up needing it.  This is kind of a funny story how it all came about actually.  Back in September, we booked this trip out of spite for the sole purpose of getting back at the Hyatt hotel brand.  Somewhat of a blessing in disguise, here is how we ended up visiting Aruba, Curacao, and South Beach Miami for free.

Last summer, Lacey and I visited Huntington Beach, CA.  You may remember our post about it here.  We ended up staying at a little Air BnB during that trip by default as Hyatt would not let us use the 4 free nights we earned from this card.  The Hyatt reps were so awful and unhelpful while I was trying to book nights at one of their $200 per night properties down there.  I felt like they were doing everything in their power to prevent me from redeeming the awards we earned.  Long story short, Hyatt pissed me off super bad and I wanted to get back at ’em for how they treated us.

Angrily, I googled “most expensive Hyatt hotel”.  At the top of the results was their resort in Aruba.  What a coincidence, Southwest Airlines flies to Aruba meaning Lacey and I could get there for free because we earned the Companion Pass.  This was our chance to stick it to Hyatt as these rooms were $600 per night.  Suck it Hyatt.  Side note, these rooms in Aruba were a challenge to book as well.  Their website would tell me there was no availability when I search for 2 or 4 consecutive nights at this resort.  Oddly, when I searched 1 night at a time it was available.  So, I ended up having to make 4 separate reservations in order to get 4 nights in a row.  Keep this in mind when you’re looking for availability on Hyatt’s website.  I’m not kidding, they do their best to prevent you from using your rewards.

While booking our flights to Aruba, I found that we could break up the trip by making stops on the island of Curacao and in South Beach Miami.  We had never been to either place and both looked amazing.  We booked a suite for a night at the amazing Hilton resort in Curacao with honors points and booked 2 nights at the Shelborne Boutique Hotel on South Beach in Miami with Wyndham reward points.  I have to mention how awesome the staff at the Shelborne resort were to us.  I emailed them prior to the trip to confirm our reservation and briefly mentioned that it was an anniversary trip.  When we checked in, they said “it looks like you are celebrating a special event with us so you have been upgraded to an ocean view penthouse suite.”  I had totally forgot that I emailed ’em about it and was a little caught off guard at first.  Then I turned to Lacey and said “happy anniversary, ha”.  If that weren’t enough, they sent us a bottle of champagne later that night.  That was pretty amazing of them and we are so grateful.

Our week-long trip was just what we needed to break up this awful winter here in Idaho.  Each place we visited was amazing for their individual reasons.  Aruba’s beautiful white sand beaches, flamingos, and iguanas made us feel like we were in a different reality.  Curacao’s tropical surroundings and heavily Dutch influenced architecture had us wishing we had more time to spend there.  The hustle and bustle of South Beach blended with the beauty and calm atmosphere at the beach had us asking each other if we were ready to move there.

One last thing to point out.  We ended up paying $25 a night to upgrade our room at the Hyatt in Aruba to an ocean front suite.  So for $100 + taxes we stayed in a room that was priced at $789 per night.  We ended up getting a value of about $3100 from our 4 reward nights.  Maybe Hyatt will rethink their customer service approach when someone is trying to book a $200 per night room next time 🙂

Total Amount of Free Flights/Hotels for this trip alone = $6,799 prior to taxes

  • Southwest Flights – $2900 (we used Southwest points and the Companion Pass to book these flights)
  • Hyatt in Aruba – $3100 (Lacey and I both signed up for this card to earn 2 free nights each)
  • Hilton in Curacao – $309 (used a combination of these cards over time to earn Hilton Honors points)
  • Shelborne Boutique Hotel on South Beach – $490 (we used Wyndham reward points from this card to book this)

Photos in Aruba –

Renaissance Island (where the Flamingos and Iguanas are)

Baby Bridge (natural arch)

Bon Bini Festival

California Lighthouse

Eagle Beach

Rainbow Aruba

first view upon opening our window shades at the Hyatt in Aruba. Not a bad start

Grand Hyatt Aruba

I heart Aruba Sign

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Iguana Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

California LightHouse Aruba

California LightHouse Aruba

Coconut Drink Aruba

Aruba Panorama

Baby Bridge Aruba

“Baby Bridge”

Aruba Rock Garden

rock garden near the natural bridge

Aruba Natural Bridge

Bon Bini Aruba

at the “Bon Bini” festival

 

Photos in Curacao:

Downtown Willemstad

Hilton Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Dushi Curacao

Curacao Sign

Curacao Hilton

Hilton Curacao

view from our Hilton Suite in Curacao

 

Photos in South Beach:

Shelborne Boutique Hotel

South Beach

Henna Tattoo on South Beach

South Beach, Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

Lacey got her 1st Henna Tattoo on South Beach

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami

view from our upgrade at the Shelborne in South Beach

Travel

A Day in Denver

August 24, 2016

Lacey and I had never been to Denver before.  Being that Southwest has nonstop flights from Boise, we decided to give it a look.  If nothing else, we could put a new pin on our travel map.  With the help of some beautiful weather, public bicycles, nachos, and 21oz. margaritas, we enjoyed our day in Denver.

Thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass, Lacey and I hopped on a free flight to Denver last Saturday morning.  We landed, caught the hotel shuttle, dropped off our bags, and took a $5 Uber to downtown Denver.  We were enjoying brunch and mimosas at the Viewhouse on Market St. by 11:30am.  The Viewhouse is one of the coolest sports bars I’ve ever been to.  It’s like Disneyland for drunken sports fans.  They have a huge outdoor area on the 1st level that is full of backyard games like corn hole.  The top floor patio, where Lacey and I hung out, has amazing views of downtown Denver and of Coors Field.  Their brunch is delicious and is accompanied by solid happy hour specials that include bottomless mimosas and a build your own Bloody Mary bar.  Our day in Denver was off to a strong start!

After brunch, we walked across the street and found a public bicycle station where we rented 2 bikes.  We couldn’t think of a better way to quickly find out what all was going on in the downtown area.  While cruisin’ around, we ran into a Farmers Market right outside Union Train Station and then discovered the 16th St. Mall.  Lacey had heard good things about the 16th St. Mall from a friend, so we hopped off our bikes and decided to check it out a bit more.  Full of shops, restaurants, and people, this 1+ mile strip of outdoor mall was something I had never seen before in any other city.

As on most of our trips, I was on the prowl for a delicious margarita.  I wish I could remember the name of the place we found on 16th St, but I definitely found a winner.  The menu offered a 21 ounce, margarita.  Yikes!  It took quite a while to finish that bad boy off, but we enjoyed some great people watching from the patio of the restaurant while I worked on it.

Still on 16th St., we visited a cool little sports apparel shop. I’ve been wanting a new Chicago Cubs hat for a while now.  I don’t know if it was the margarita or just the excitement of visiting a new city, but I figured this would be a good day to make that purchase.  Surprisingly enough, I found the exact Cubs hat I had been looking at online the day before in Boise.  An all black fitted New Era hat with a white “C” on the front…likely the best Chicago Cubs hat ever.

Still riding the high from my purchase (and margarita) we headed back toward Coors Field to grab a bite at Lodos Bar and Grill.  This rooftop patio restaurant looked out to 2 other rooftop bars as well as Coors Field.  The surroundings reminded me of a beer commercial or something.  I always figured they staged those commercials to make ’em look like that, but as it turns out, that’s real life in downtown Denver.  Well done Denver, well done.

Following Lodos we headed over to Coors Field as we had tickets to the Cubs/Rockies game.  Right around that time, Lacey started feeling ill and we decided to call it a day rather then head into the game.  I think the altitude played a role in her illness as I wasn’t feeling so hot either.  Make sure to drink tons of water when you visit Denver!  You need to keep as much oxygen in your blood as possible being that you’re not going to get as much from the air as you normally would.

Aside from getting sick, we still had a good experience in Denver.  We got to see this beautiful city via bicylces and rooftop patios, we had some delicious food and drinks, and I scored a new hat! We will surely visit the mile high city again someday.

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

Rewards Points Travel

3 Free Hotel Nights for Your Next Trip

August 6, 2016

Many of our recent “how to get free travel” posts have been focused on earning free flights.   The reason being is that we’re currently in love with our newly acquired Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.  We booked over $4k in free flights in 3 months!  Anyways, that’s a previous story.  While free flights are a huge piece to the free travel puzzle, let’s make it complete by adding some free hotel stays.  I am going to give you really quick tip that will result in you booking 3 free hotel nights while choosing from over 7,200 locations and properties.

Before I tell you the sweet, sweet magic that will get you around $1,000 in free hotel stays I want to remind you that we do not get any sort of compensation for what I’m about to recommend.  The coolest part about our travel tips are that you can trust they’re genuine.  We aren’t trying to push a sale on you or anything like what some of the other point guy(s) 😉 often do.  All of our free travel posts are simply a reflection of what my lovely wife and I are doing to try and see the world.

That being said, Lacey and I recently booked a trip to Orlando, Aruba, Curacao, and Miami for January 2017.  Our flights were taken care of by our Southwest Companion Pass, but we still needed some free hotel stays  to make this trip doable.  We already had 4 free nights with Hyatt Hotels to use in Aruba, which is awesome, but we still didn’t want to pay out of pocket for all of the remaining nights of our trip.  After a few hours of researching I discovered…drum roll…the Wyndham rewards Visa card.

Before stumbling on Wyndham’s site via Google, I had literally never heard of their rewards program.  I usually only see updates on the same 4 hotel rewards programs over and over;  Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and IHG.  At first glance, Wyndham’s bonus offer of 45k points didn’t seem very impressive.  In my experience, 45k points with any of the previously mentioned hotel chains would likely get you 1-2 nights at a shit hotel in a sketchy part of town.  This is not the case with Wyndham.  Every single one of Wyndham’s properties is a flat rate of 15k points per night.  Yes, this includes their most expensive properties.  No matter where you’re wanting to go, you’ll be able to book 3 nights with your 45k points.  Depending on where you book, you could save over $1,000 in free rooms with this reward.

This is how it works:

  1. Sign up for the card (here) – there is a $69 annual fee that will post on your 1st statement
  2. Use the card once and earn 30k points (posted to your account after 1 billing cycle)
  3. Spend $1,000 with this card in 90 days and earn another 15k points
  4. When your points post to your account, go shop for your hotel room at Wyndham.com3 Free Hotel Nights with Wyndham

Easy enough right?  Thanks Wyndham! 😉

Do yourself a favor and look at this list of the top Wyndham properties before booking your stay.  That’s where Lacey and I found this $330 per night resort we’ll be staying at on South Beach in Miami for free.  Spoiler alert, we’re going to put the extra money saved towards margaritas on the beach.  Sounds like a good investment to me!

Let us know if you have any questions!  Now go book a beautiful and expensive stay at a Wyndham property for free!

Huntington Beach Sunset