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How I Used Travel Rewards To Save Nearly $8,000 On A 7night Family Vacation To Aruba

TravelHow I Used Travel Rewards To Save Nearly $8,000 On A 7night Family Vacation To Aruba
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How I Used Travel Rewards To Save Nearly ,000 On A 7night Family Vacation To Aruba

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My friends always ask me. "How can you afford to constantly travel with your family to amazing destinations?" My husband and I explain to them that unless we are multi-millionaires, we are rich in another currency: travel rewards. Thanks to great sign-up bonuses and using the best credit card with every purchase, I declare that almost everyone can even have an almost free family vacation.

My family of four recently traveled to Aruba for a full week in the sun over December break. Our trip included a flight to Aruba on American Airlines, a return flight on Delta Air Lines, a five-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino, and a two-night stay at the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort included. If we had to pay cash, this seven-day trip would have cost us a total of $7,815. But thanks to using travel rewards for most of our trip, we were able to travel with just over $200.

So how did we do it? And how can you collect the travel rewards you need for a similar vacation? Here's everything you need to know.

Although each airline's policy varies, most open the booking window 330 days before travel. And if you plan to travel during busy periods such as, for example, during holidays or spring break, book as early as possible to use up as few points as possible. And since many airlines allow you to cancel award reservations for free, there's often no harm in booking a flight even if your plans aren't yet real.

I did just that. When day flights became available for the dates we wanted to travel to Aruba, I booked our outbound flight with American Airlines. Although the flight was less than requested, it only cost me 11,000 AAdvantage miles plus $15.60 per person. For just 44,000 miles and $62.40, I was able to book my family of four to Aruba. Otherwise, those one-way flights would have cost us a total of $1,064 if we hadn't used the travel awards, making our American Airlines miles worth more than 2.2 cents, which was a good trade.

If you want to fly American Airlines, you need to start earning miles through American Airlines' AAdvantage frequent flyer program. Airline credit cards make it easy to earn free flights in no time. And luckily, American Airlines offers many credit cards in its program to earn valuable miles.

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For example, several American Airlines-branded cards allow you to earn anywhere from 10,000 to 65,000 miles to start. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® Card allows you to earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months of account opening. Or consider the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which offers 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of account opening.

If you have a Bilt Rewards credit card, you can transfer earned points to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. It's one of America's few money transfer programs, making it a great option if you're looking for a flexible credit card. Bilt is also one of the best credit cards for renting.

About four weeks before our vacation, Delta's nonstop flight home from Aruba dropped significantly to 9,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $73 in taxes and fees, or $160 per passenger. I chose to pay the $160 per passenger price because I received a $500 Delta voucher from the previous flight fiasco. That means I only spent $140 to get the four of us home from Aruba – an absolute steal, especially at such a busy time.

If I didn't have the $500 Delta voucher, I would still have paid for the ticket because getting Delta SkyMiles on that particular ticket wouldn't be worth much. Since taxes and fees alone are $73 per passenger, I would spend 9,000 miles per person to end up saving $87.

Another option would be to use the Chase Travel Portal to book your flight and use Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® credit cards. With these credit cards, you can redeem points at a fixed rate, with the points being worth 1.25 to 1.5 cents, depending on the card.

But when you find a flight worth using Delta miles, earning Delta miles is incredibly easy. With seven Delta credit cards, you can earn Delta SkyMiles in no time.

Plus, Delta is a transfer partner in American Express's Membership Rewards program, which offers even more opportunities to earn Delta miles. For example, after you earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months of your American Express® Gold Card membership, those points can be instantly transferred to your Delta Sky Miles account. 1 to 1 ratio.

Five nights at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino

My family has stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aruba before and loved it, so there was no doubt we would stay at this hotel again. One of Palm Beach's most luxurious resorts, it features a three-story pool complex, two-level waterslides, a swim-up bar, free beach huts, and plenty of children's activities. But prices can skyrocket and rewards can be hard to access, so you need to be flexible and plan ahead. Luckily I booked early and was able to secure a five night stay at this hotel.

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The World of Hyatt award table determines the redemption of points based on your category, but there are also peak and off-peak rates depending on the time of year you choose to travel. During our winter vacation, top rates were applied with 29,000 World of Hyatt points per night. Although we spent a total of 145,000 points on the stay, it was significantly better than the mere $4,907 we would have paid out of pocket, which was a huge compromise.

For an upgrade, we were able to apply the Hyatt Suite Upgrade award to our reservation, allowing us to stay in a two-bedroom suite with a king-size bed in one bedroom and a set of bunk beds in the other. We owe this distinction to our premier Hyatt Globalist status, earned through our World of Hyatt credit card. With this card, you receive Discoverist Elite status for free, then earn two qualifying Elite Status points for every $5,000 you spend. This credit card benefit not only allowed us to earn and purchase this property's upgrade package through Globalist status, but also earned us complimentary breakfast, Club Lounge access, and two complimentary daily cruises.

In addition to the World of Hyatt credit card, you can also earn Hyatt points with any of the many Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards, as points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to 14 different travel partners, including Hyatt. contains Chase. Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred® credit cards. If you own one of the non-annual cards like Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom Unlimited® and link it to the Chase Ultimate Rewards rewards card, you can transfer your points to Hyatt at the same time. Relationship – 1.

This means that if you apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred and earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, it can be converted into 60,000 World of Hyatt points. As a Category 6 hotel, Hyatt Regency Aruba offers 21,000 to 29,000 points per night to redeem your 60,000 points for two to three nights at an exclusive Caribbean resort. Hyatt also waives all resort fees when you use your points, meaning you don't have to pay any refundable fees, another benefit of using points over cash.

We split our vacation to Aruba for two reasons. The Hyatt Aruba was only available for five nights and we wanted to try something new. This led us straight to the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort, a property in a completely different area with its own private island. And since the Renaissance is part of Marriott, it was easy to get a free stay with Marriott Bonvoy points.

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Located in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba, the resort offers two different properties, an adults-only property and a family-friendly property, about a five-minute walk from each other. The family resort offers a large pool area, a sandy beach and a swimming lagoon. Despite being right in the capital, the property has a real resort feel, with a swim-up bar, restaurant and plenty of seating (pool and beach). The property is located just on the marina and offers a private pool and access to a family friendly pool and beach. From the family and adults-only resorts, a ferry takes you to Renaissance Island, the resort's 40-acre private island, where you can feed flamingos and iguanas, snorkel and just relax.

During our stay, the hotel charged 60,000 points per night, but for a suite (the only option when traveling with a family) there is an additional 15,000 points or $80 per night. I decided to pay the full amount in points, which cost us 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for our two nights. The cash rate for our two nights would have cost us a total of $1,204. However, you can find even more value when you buy points for a five-night stay at a hotel like the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba, as Marriott offers a fifth night for free awards.

Marriott's co-branded credit cards offer great ways to top up your account balance. With five different credit card options, there's sure to be a card that best suits your needs while earning Marriott points. For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card gives you a free night on your card anniversary, valid for up to 85,000 points per night. Plus, the card comes with an enticing welcome offer of 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months.

In the end, my family had a great vacation with only $202.40 out of pocket for flights and hotels. Thanks to travel rewards and a flight credit, we were able to save about $8,000 on the price of this vacation. Although we've been collecting travel rewards for over a decade, it's never too late to start. With the right credit card and a little strategic planning, you too can have a great trip for little or nothing in the near future.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards available right now.

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