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Rewards Points

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

Our Weekend in Chicago

July 14, 2016

Chicago is quickly climbing up the ranks on our most favorite cities in the world list. The last 2 times we have visited, it seemed like the city, people, and weather have been teaming up to sweep us off our feet. Our most recent visit was no different. Again, with beautiful weather and friendly people, here’s how Lacey and I spent an early summer weekend in Chicago.

First off, I’m a big believer in managing expectations. If you’re expecting too much out of city, event, vacation, or anything else, odds are you’ll end up disappointed if it doesn’t live up to the hype. On the flip side, if you go into something with an open mind you have a greater chance of being pleasantly surprised. This was exactly the case with us and Chicago.  We had no expectations.  We just wanted to hang out and eat some pizza.

We stopped in Chicago this May on our way home from our 15 day Euro-Trip. The weather was absolutely beautiful at 65 degrees and sunny. We visited a few touristy locations such as the Skydeck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) as well as “The Bean” (Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park. Once again, we felt safe on public transportation and found everyone we were surrounded by on the streets and in restaurants to be welcoming and friendly.

We were lucky enough to stay at the historic Palmer House hotel during our weekend in Chicago. We had some Hilton Honors rewards to burn so we decided to use them in style. A funny thing I’ve noticed when we stay at fancy hotels for free is that the employees of the hotel react to us being there the same way Clark Griswold reacts when Cousin Eddy shows up for Christmas. All that aside, we enjoyed our stay and got back at the hotel a bit by “accidentally” sneaking into an executive lounge continental breakfast. Thanks for the free waffles Palmer House!

After breakfast, we walked over to Millennium Park to check out “the Bean“. While this has become a must see for travelers and instagrammers, we had actually never been there before. As with most pieces of art we’ve been lucky enough to visit recently, Cloud Gate (the bean) was much cooler in person than we expected it to be. We ended up hanging around it for about an hour. I snapped some funny pics of Lace rockin’ cheerleader moves in front of it that you can see below.

We left Millennium Park and hopped on a metro over to the Willis Tower where we had pre-purchased “Fast Pass” tickets to go up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor. While pre-purchasing these tickets cost us about $20 more, it saved us at least 2 hrs of standing in lines. Totally worth it. The views of Chicago and Lake Michigan from the SkyDeck Lounge are crazy beautiful. While up there, we stepped out onto the “Skydeck Ledge” which is basically a glass cube that extends out from the building and over the city. It’s a pretty overwhelming experience.  As an added bonus, the 30th anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is this year, so there is a roped off area where you can stand next to Sloane Peterson and Cameron Frye mannequins and put your head on the glass in the exact spot Matthew Broderick (Ferris) did.  Getting to do this was super cool for me as I grew up with that movie.

After our nervous stomachs calmed down from being in the Skydeck, we decided it was pizza time. Eating at Gino’s East has become a “must-do” each time we visit this city. Their super deep dish, sauce on top of the cheese, traditional Chicago style pizza is amazing. Gino’s has been around for 50 years and has multiple locations but we always go back to the original restaurant on Superior Ave. This graffiti tagged, celebrity memorabilia filled pizza joint makes for a fun and authentic experience while waiting the standard 1 hour of required baking time for the deep dish crust. If you haven’t been, you need to stop by on your next visit to Chicago. If you’re with a group of 2-3 people, believe us, a medium pizza will be plenty.

Our weekend in Chicago was once again awesome. The only thing missing was a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately they were out of town 🙁 Next time Cubbies!

We’re becoming so fond of this city that we’ve already booked our next trip!

See you in January Chicago!

 

Let us know if you have any questions!

Click here to see our video edit from this trip.

Click here to see how we used rewards points to book this trip for free!

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend In Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Travel

Off on our Big Trip!

May 18, 2016

Lacey and I are currently off on our biggest vacation adventure of 2016!  So far we’ve made stops in New York, Florence, and Rome.  We are currently on the beautiful island of Malta.  Tomorrow we head back to Rome for a full day before jumping on a flight headed for Chicago where we’ll spend the weekend.  While we’d love to give you all the details of our trip right now, we’re either out having too much fun or we’re too tired from having too much fun.  Believe us, we’ll give you more than enough of the details when we return next week. This may be forever known as our For now, you can keep up with what we’re getting mixed up in by checking in on our social media profiles. Links to our profiles are at the top of this page.

For those that don’t know, this is the biggest trip Lacey and I have ever booked with credit card rewards points.  We saved over $10,000 on this trip!  It’s super easy for anyone to do the same.  To see the full story on how we made this trip happen (for free-ish) check the link here.

We can’t wait to tell you about what we’ve experienced!

Azure Window Our Big Trip