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Miles and points have played a huge part in my life since I first started collecting them back in 2013. They’ve allowed my family of eight to travel more than I ever would have thought possible. Because we are still somewhat constrained by work and school schedules, we try to use points to pay for our travels as much as possible. Unlike people who travel regularly for work or other reasons, I don’t have a lot of stays where I pay cash — I prefer to use points whenever possible.
Still, I have managed to end up with hundreds of thousands of points. Between my wife and I, we have the following approximate balances:
Over a million hotel points — though admittedly they would be more useful if they were concentrated in one or two different programs instead of spread out like they are. I do subscribe to the belief that you should "earn 'em and burn 'em" and not hold on to your hotel points, but sometimes the points just come in faster than I have actual time and opportunity to use them.
As I mentioned, I don’t travel for work, so I don’t get to rack up tons of miles and points while traveling on someone else's dime. Generally, I try not to book cash rates, but sometimes the cash fares are just so low or the particular promotions are so good that it makes sense.
The overwhelming majority of my points have come from welcome offers on new credit cards. Here are a few of the credit cards that I have applied for over the years that have helped add to my hotel point balances:
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My family and I decided that we wanted to spend a week or so in Hawaii this spring. It took a bit of coordination, but we were able to get the flights booked using . It didn’t work out for one of my kids to come with us, so we booked seven round-trip tickets to Hawaii for 105,000 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles, transferred from Citi ThankYou points.
Then, it was time to look for lodging and put those hotel points to work! I’m not necessarily opposed to changing hotels every other night, but I wanted to minimize the disruption on our family trip. Still, I had a basic plan of using our Hilton points to book five nights at one of the many Oahu Hiltons (), then making alternate plans for the other three nights. I knew it would be expensive, but I had no idea how expensive it would be.
Those figures don’t even account for the fact that at many of these properties we would need two rooms to fit our family of seven people. We tried various combinations of different hotels, dates and chains, but didn’t really find anything that would fit our needs.
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After striking out with hotels, we decided to look at Airbnb. Many of the Airbnbs or other vacation rental homes we looked at were pretty expensive as well, especially outside Honolulu. There were many vacation rentals and other places near Waikiki Beach that were well out of our price range. On the other end of the price spectrum, we gave a hard pass to the listings where we could pick up camping supplies to camp in the woods or the listing on a sailboat outside of town.
We ended up finding a 600-square-foot condo near downtown Honolulu that listed its capacity as six people. Looking around at the bedrooms, I thought it would work for the seven of us, so I messaged the host and he had no problem with us fitting two adults and five kids there. For eight nights, our total came to about $1,500, which I thought was fairly reasonable for spring break in Hawaii.
After all of that work and planning, there was definitely a bit of a letdown when due to the coronavirus pandemic, .
Everyone was disappointed about not being able to spend a week in Hawaii. Hawaii was (and still is) my 50th state to visit, but I'll have to wait to cross off that travel bucket list milestone.
Still, I think the planning we did can be helpful as you look to book lodging for your trips. Hotel points are great, and they have definitely saved me thousands of dollars over the course of the past few years, but don’t be afraid to consider alternatives.
To view rates and fees of the , see .
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the , including those best for: