The Buccaneers' win in the 2021 Super Bowl put Tampa in the spotlight, but it's more than just a football town. The Tampa Bay area is also a popular tourist spot along Florida's western coast.
The area's many beaches are an obvious attraction, and if you're interested in spending time outdoors, you can try activities like fishing and paddle boarding. Busch Gardens offers family fun if you're traveling with kids, and there are plenty of places to dine and shop.
If you've got some travel points and miles saved up, booking a Tampa trip could be a great way to use them. Here's how to travel to Tampa Bay on points and miles.
Getting to Tampa Bay
When planning your Tampa Bay trip with points and miles, it helps to know which airports are nearby.
Airports serving the Tampa Bay area include:
Tampa International Airport (8.4 miles away).
St. Petersburg Clearwater International Airport (17.3 miles away).
From the airport, you have numerous ways to get to your hotel — or anywhere else you might need to go. Options include taxis, shared passenger van service, bus service and ride share options like Uber and Lyft. There are also 15 rental car companies to choose from, including Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Hertz.
Major airlines flying to Tampa Bay
No major airline has a hub in Tampa, but the Tampa International Airport is a hub for private airline Silver Airways.
The majority of flights at TPA are operated by these carriers:
It's helpful to check the full list of airlines through the airport website when using miles and points to book an affordable Tampa Bay trip.
Flying to Tampa Bay on points and miles
Say you want to book a round-trip flight from Chicago-O'Hare to Tampa International Airport.
You would need about 12,158 Southwest Rapid Rewards points to fly round-trip on the cheapest days.
On JetBlue, you would need 18,700 points per traveler to fly round-trip.
Delta Air Lines
A booking with Delta would cost 14,000 miles.
Consider whether budget airlines are worth a look. For example, you'd need 13,000 Free Spirit points to fly Spirit Airlines from Chicago to Tampa round-trip during the same time period.
Southwest Airlines yields the best deal when looking for cheap and simple ways to get Tampa Bay. But keep in mind that different departure destinations may cost you more (or less) points or miles, and your travel dates will be a factor, as well.
Other tips for flying to Tampa Bay
Here are a few other things to know about flying to this destination.
Lounge access at Tampa International Airport
If you're stopping in Tampa Bay before traveling on to another destination or have time to kill before your departing flight, you may want to relax in the lounge. There are three lounges to choose from at TPA:
American Airlines Admirals Club: Located at Airside F, adjacent to Gate 85. Amenities include snacks, a full-service bar and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Delta SkyClub: Located at Concourse E, Gate 68. Amenities include beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), snacks, fax and printing services, phones, TV, Wi-Fi and personalized travel assistance.
The Cafe by Mise En Place (Priority Pass): Located at Airside F, adjacent to Gate 85. Amenities include TV, refreshments and alcoholic beverages.
» Learn more: 5 reasons you should be using airport lounges
Helpful travel cards
If you fly regularly, it may be worth getting a travel rewards credit card that includes lounge access as a benefit. Some of the cards you may consider include:
Navigating the airport (COVID-19 guidelines)
The Tampa International Airport enforces several guidelines related to COVID-19, including:
Limiting access to certain amenities or areas of the airport.
Encouraging carry-on luggage and mobile boarding to minimize touchpoints.
Mandatory mask requirements.
Encouraging passengers to arrive and check-in early to avoid crowding.
Departing and arriving passengers have the option to get tested for coronavirus at the airport within 72 hours of their flight. The airport offers two types of tests, including a rapid antigen test which can produce results in one hour.
Hotels on points in Tampa Bay
There are plenty of hotels in Tampa Bay that are available to book with points.
Some of the properties closest to the airport (less than five miles away) include:
Hilton Garden Inn.
Embassy Suites by Hilton.
Tampa Airport Marriott.
Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.
SpringHill Suites by Marriott.
As part of your points and miles guide to Tampa Bay, here's a closer look at three top hotel brands.
Tampa Bay Marriott hotels
Tampa Bay Marriott Water Street
If you're interested in a luxury hotel stay, you might consider the Tampa Bay Marriott Water Street. This hotel, which sits adjacent to the Tampa Riverwalk, features an on-site spa and fitness center, a full-service restaurant and rooftop pool bar.
Cost to book in points: Category 6 rooms in the Marriott Bonvoy program start at 50,000 points per night for standard rates, though you may need more or fewer points depending on travel dates.
NerdWallet values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.9 cent apiece.
» Learn more: What is the value of my Marriott points?
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card could be a good fit for earning Marriott Bonvoy points toward stays at this hotel. This card offers the following welcome offer, which could help you earn a one-night stay relatively quickly if you meet the minimum spending requirement: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in Statement Credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
If you want elite status, but don’t want to commit to a Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit card, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with automatic Marriott Gold Status. Plus, the card is currently offering this welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Those points can typically be transferred to the Bonvoy program at a 1:1 ratio.
Tampa Bay Hilton hotels
DoubleTree Beach Resort by Hilton Hotel Tampa Bay
The DoubleTree Beach Resort by Hilton Hotel offers waterfront views of the Gulf, along with full-service dining and an outdoor pool. The property is on the shore of North Redington Beach between Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach; you're a bit further away from the Tampa city center.
Cost to book in points: Hilton doesn’t have a set award chart. This property offers rooms starting at 37,000 points per night and goes up to 60,000 points per night. NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at 0.4 cent apiece.
» Learn more: How much are Hilton points worth?
How to earn Hilton Honors points
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card are both worth considering for earning Hilton Honors points. Both come with a generous welcome offer, as well as a free weekend night award annually. Terms apply.
If you want status or the ability to book on points, but don’t want to commit to a Hilton branded credit card, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which also comes with automatic Hilton Gold Status.
Those points can typically be transferred to the Hilton Honors program at a 1:2 ratio, which means 1 American Express point can be turned into 2 Hilton points. Terms apply.
Tampa Bay Hyatt hotels
Hyatt Place Tampa Busch Gardens
The Hyatt Place Tampa Busch Gardens could be a great fit for families who want close proximity to the theme park. This hotel offers free breakfast and an on-site restaurant, as well as a fitness center and pool — plus it's just five minutes from Busch Gardens.
Cost to book in points: Category 2 rooms start at 8,000 points per night, which puts it in the budget category. This could be a good spot if you're hoping to maximize the value of your hotel rewards. NerdWallet values Hyatt points at 2 cents each.
» Learn more: What is the value of my Hyatt points?
How to earn Hyatt points
The World of Hyatt Credit Card is worth considering for earning Hyatt points. This card's introductory bonus is large enough to get 12 free nights at Category 1 hotels if you meet the minimum spending requirement. You can also earn nine points per dollar on Hyatt stays.
» Learn more: How to find cheap things to do in any city
If you visit Tampa Bay with points and miles
This step-by-step guide highlights the most important things to know about how to get to Tampa Bay with points and miles. Whether you want your travel plans to aim for high-end or low-budget, you can find flights and hotels to make the most of your travel rewards.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card