Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, F...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Using points and miles to make luxury travel more affordable is kind of my thing.
I love using points and miles to plan exotic trips to faraway destinations. But, let’s be real — most of us can’t travel like that all of the time. Sometimes, all we can fit in is a quick weekend trip and I want to show you that you can make your points and miles work for you even on those short, not-so-exotic trips.
In this post, I’ll show you how I booked a trip to New York City using points and miles, and I’ll give you some pointers (pun intended) for booking a similar trip for yourself.
I decided to plan a surprise girls’ trip to New York City for my daughter’s ninth birthday. Since I had a stack of points and miles saved up, I knew I could get flights and hotels relatively cheaply, which would allow me to splurge on things like theater tickets without budget concerns.
What made this trip even more special was that we were joined by my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law.
In the end, I spent $22.40 out of pocket for 2 round-trip flights from Columbus, Ohio to New York City and 3 nights in a luxury hotel. In my book, that’s a great deal.
For full transparency, I spent WAY more than that on show tickets, activities, meals, and souvenirs. But isn’t that part of the beauty of points and miles? I could splurge on all the extras because I saved so much on flights and the hotel.
We started out our trip with a visit to the brand-new Escape Lounge at John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) before boarding an American Airlines flight to LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
Once we landed we grabbed an Uber at the airport (which I partially paid for using Uber Cash from The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card) and headed to our hotel for a 3-night stay.
During our trip, we did everything a kid could want to do in New York City. We saw “Hamilton” on Broadway, enjoyed the “Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall, saw the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, shopped at F.A.O. Schwarz, and went ice skating in Central Park. We also crossed the river into Hoboken, New Jersey so I could show my daughter where her dad and I used to live (admittedly I enjoyed this part more than she did).
Overall it was a fantastic weekend that I’ll never forget, and it was all possible because I was able to use points and miles to pay for the majority of our flight and hotel expenses.
Let’s look at some specifics on how I booked this trip.
I started my flight search on Google Flights to get a general idea of what the best options were. I quickly saw that American Airlines had direct flights at the right times with prices similar to other airlines.
While the flight cost was a reasonable $318 each, I saw that they were also available for only 13,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles each. That meant I could buy 2 plane tickets for only 26,000 miles and $22.40 in taxes.
That gave me a 2.4 cents per point value, which is excellent since we value American Airlines miles at ~1.4 cents each.
This redemption wasn’t flashy or complicated, but it illustrates one of the reasons I love this hobby — points and miles allow me to take “frivolous” trips like this one without thinking twice about the cost.
Sure, I could have bought 2 plane tickets for a fairly reasonable price of $634 — but I’m not sure I would have. A surprise trip to New York City for a 9-year-old may sound extravagant, but miles and points take it from extravagant to totally reasonable.
We were able to get complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating and priority boarding thanks to my American Airlines AAdvantage Gold status, however, since this was an award ticket I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade (only Executive Platinum status holders can get complimentary upgrades on award tickets).
Unfortunately, American Airlines only has 2 transfer partners: Marriott Bonvoy at a less-than-desirable 3:1 ratio and Bilt Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. The Bilt partnership doesn’t do much good unless you pay rent, which I don’t. That means getting more American Airlines miles isn’t as easy as transferring them in from another type of currency.
Since I recently missed out on a 65k American Airlines credit card sign-on bonus, I’ve been focusing on using a combination of AAdvantage eShopping and SimplyMiles to keep a constant stream of AA miles and Loyalty Points into my account. This has also been my strategy for earning American Airlines status.
There are lots of great hotels in New York City that you can book with points but since Hyatt is my favorite hotel brand, I only focused on Hyatt options. I knew I wanted a nice hotel in a great location. For this trip, a lot of our planned activities were in the theater district and Central Park areas, so I narrowed my focus to Thompson Central Park New York and Park Hyatt New York.
Both of these hotels are located 2 blocks from Central Park and have excellent reviews. We were traveling during a popular time (the first weekend in December) so both hotels were at peak prices. Thompson Central Park New York was priced at 29,000 World of Hyatt points per night while Park Hyatt New York was priced at 35,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
In the end, I opted for the slightly less expensive Thompson Central Park New York.
The cash cost of a room for the 3 nights we traveled was a whopping $775 per night, and that’s before taxes and fees. After adding in all of the taxes and the $40 per night destination fee, the cost of our room would have been $969 per night.
Of course, that’s not what I paid. I redeemed my World of Hyatt points and paid 29,000 points per night. That gave me 3.3 cents per point in value, which is more than double the 1.5 cents per point value we assign to Hyatt points.
Had I not had Hyatt points there’s no way I would have paid almost $1,000 per night for a hotel. Once again, points made this trip possible.
My stay at Thompson Central Park New York was booked as a Hyatt Guest of Honor stay. The Guest of Honor benefit allows Hyatt Globalists to extend their benefits to friends and family by booking a hotel stay for them. In my case, I had a friend who was a Globalist who booked this stay for me so I could receive her benefits like daily free breakfast, 4 p.m. late checkout, and a possible room upgrade.
While I didn’t receive a room upgrade, I got tons of value out of the free breakfast each morning. We were entitled to 3 entrées, 3 cold drinks, and 3 hot drinks each morning (since there were 3 registered guests in the room). In reality, the extra sides and drinks we ordered were also removed from our bill (which averaged about $160 per day).
This was a fun perk to use that allowed us to have a “fancy” breakfast each morning.
I had some World of Hyatt points already in my account from spending on The World of Hyatt Credit Card and the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card. To make up for the difference, I transferred over the remaining points I needed from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Hyatt is my favorite Chase transfer partner because I go through my Hyatt points quickly, and transferring from Chase is an easy way to replenish them.
This weekend in New York City was made possible by hotel points and airline miles. While I got an excellent cents-per-point value, I think this trip illustrates an important point (pun intended again) that often gets lost in the quest to get the most value out of every single point. The value of your points and miles can’t just be measured in cents-per-point. It’s important to not forget about the value of the experiences you can have because of those points and miles.
Surprising my daughter with a girls’ trip to New York City is something that I probably wouldn’t have done if I didn’t have points and miles at my disposal. The trip was incredible and we made memories that will last a lifetime. Those experiences and memories are even more valuable than the points I used to book the trip.
I’ll end with a piece of advice that I give out often — if you can book a trip you wouldn’t have otherwise taken with your points and miles, then it’s a good redemption, regardless of the “value” you redeemed your points for.
The information regarding The World of Hyatt Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
LaGuardia Airport (LGA), located in Queens, is closest to Manhattan. The next closest airport is John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), also located in Queens, followed by Newark International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey.
Thompson Central Park New York is a Hyatt Category 6 hotel that costs between 21,000 and 29,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
New York City can be a great place to visit with kids. There are plenty of kid-friendly things to do in New York City, including visiting Central Park, checking out the animals at the Bronx Zoo, shopping at F.A.O. Schwarz, or visiting the American Museum of Natural History.
It’s no secret that New York City is an expensive place. Thankfully, you can use points and miles to save lots of money on your hotel and flights, making it a much more affordable destination.
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.