You’ve been sheltering in place for longer than you’d like to admit, and you’re already daydreaming of your next adventure.
We’ll travel again eventually, right? And when we do, you want to get the most bang for your buck while redeeming your hard-earned rewards points. Here are three of our favorite points-friendly destinations to maximize your rewards.
Aruba might be small, but it certainly packs a punch. It features adventure, nature and history, plus, it’s in the Caribbean, so it’s affordable and home to delicious food.
It has a diverse population (75% of the 105,000 residents have European/Amerindian/African ancestry) and an array of possible activities, such as sunbathing on white-sand beaches or searching for one of the 300-plus ancient pictographs in island caves.
Aruba is also a hotspot for scuba diving at shipwrecks. Its leeward coast is the eternal home for two World War II wrecks: SS Antilla and SS Pedernales. This is a great option to travel to if you love the beach!
How to get there
American Airlines flies direct to Aruba from Miami multiple times a day. Right now, you can book flights for a three-day trip in December for as little as 30,000 points round trip. Or fly from Orlando to Aruba on Southwest for as little as 25,000 Rapid Rewards Points round trip — but keep in mind that it will still cost you in fees and the flights aren't direct.
Where to stay
Hyatt and Marriott loyalty program members can choose from multiple options in Aruba, from basic to luxury accommodations. Budget travelers can spend as little as 80,000 Marriott Bonvoy loyalty points for a three-night stay at the Courtyard Aruba Resort or 99,000 Hyatt Points for a three-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino.
Hilton loyalists can stay at the Hilton Aruba. According to a recent reservation search, a stay here will set you back 80,000 points per night. Keep in mind that all Hilton credit cards, like Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card award you a fifth night free when you book four award nights in a row.
» Learn more: Hilton credit cards: Which one should you get?
After spending all that time indoors in the pandemic, you’re probably experiencing a serious deficit of fresh air and nature. Colorado — and all of its wondrous natural glory — is an incredible weekend getaway, especially for those who aren’t looking to use their passport anytime soon.
From the 14,000-foot-and-up "14er" mountains (there are 58) to the river-carved canyons, there is much to explore for both the novice and experienced outdoors person. Staying in the U.S. has its perks, and Colorado is one of the best places to enjoy the fruits of domestic travel.
How to get there
Score a flash sale on JetBlue or book one of their already discounted flights. You can travel direct one-way from Boston to Denver for as little as 12,300 TrueBlue points for a midweek flight. Or, if you’re willing to put up with the (sometimes frustrating) lack of perks on a budget airline, you can cash in as few as 10,000 Frontier Miles for a one-way domestic trip on Frontier.
Pick up a rental car once you arrive. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve® credit card to book it and you’ll automatically get auto rental collision damage waiver coverage.
Where to stay
While it can be tempting to stay in town and explore Denver, we recommend you get out of the urban jungle and up into the mountains. You are seeking more space, after all!
Head west to the Rockies and use 15,000 Wyndham Points per night to stay at the Ramada by Wyndham Frisco. While Frisco isn’t the most luxurious mountain town, it will put you right in the middle of it all — perfect for hiking one of the dozen trailheads nearby or going stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Dillon. If you’re brave enough, summit Quandary Peak.
» Learn more: How the COVID-19 pandemic could change domestic travel
U.S. visitors may face some short-term restrictions on European travel, but once that changes, put Germany at the top of your list. Now may be a good time to start planning that trip you've long dreamed of to the land of schooner pilsners and soft pretzels (not that you really need any more comfort food after lockdown, right?).
How to get there
Use The Platinum Card® from American Express to transfer rewards points to any of its partner airlines — British Airways, Delta, ANA, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus, Air Canada, KLM, Alitalia, Iberia, Emirates and more. With so many choices, it should only take a few mouse clicks to find a spectacular deal on points redemptions for flights to Europe.
Those with Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can cash in Chase Ultimate Rewards® points on airline partners like British Airways or Virgin Atlantic.
Where to stay
Hilton has multiple hotels across Germany, from Frankfurt and Berlin to Munich and Freiburg. You can use Hilton Honors’ points and cash feature to find a hotel stay that fits your budget and travel plans or skip the bargain-hunting and book the Waldorf Astoria in Berlin for about 60,000 points per night. Get the deluxe upgrade for a stunning view of Berlin’s skyline. You can guarantee an upgraded room type prior to arrival by redeeming Hilton Honors Points via Premium Room Rewards or Room Upgrade Rewards.
The bottom line
Whenever you're ready to travel, the tourism industry will be ready to serve up your next adventure. When it's safe, book smart with a combination of rewards programs, miles and points to get the most out of your first post-pandemic trip.
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.
To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.
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:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card