Time to Use Points to Book Winter 2013 Ski Trips

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At my house it is high time to book our 2013 ski trip. It would be an understatement to say I am excited about this. I love to snowboard, and used to love to ski, so I am excited at any chance to plan a trip to the mountains. We took a trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado last year with our then two-year-old daughter and had a blast. In case you missed it, you can read all about that trip here:

Booking the Flights

Trip Overview and Planning

Traveling to and From Colorado with a Two-Year-Old (including the lounges, the flights, the rental car, the gear, and more…..)

Review of The Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas

Review of The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa

Review of the Westin Beaver Creek Resort Amenities (spa, pool, restaurant, and more)

Winter Activities with a Two Year Old (including dog sledding!)

Deciding to Stay an Extra Day While on Vacation

What Happens When Your Whole Family Misses Their Flight (this one is coming soon)

Since our daughter was not yet old enough for ski school as she had just turned two, we opted to not ski or snowboard on that trip and instead do winter activities we could all enjoy together. Don’t get me wrong, we had a blast, but this year is different. This year she will be three. This year she is old enough not only for ski school but for the Westin Kid’s Club. I am very much looking forward to helping her learn to ski, but I am also looking forward to having a chance to ski or snowboard some myself. My husband hasn’t skied in quite a long time, but I am hoping to get him back on the mountain as well. If not, I know he was eyeing the snowmobiles as they cruised by while we were on dogsleds earlier this year. 😉

On a whim, I started looking at flights and hotels for ski season 2013. Being Mommy Points, naturally I was looking not only at paid reservations, but also for points and miles redemptions. We had such a great time in the Beaver Creek/Vail area, that I started my search there. I would return to the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in a heartbeat, and I also want to check out the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa. Truth be told, I am kind of on a kick now to visit every Hyatt resort in the US….not sure how practical or realistic that goal is, but I really want to do it! I found that for the dates I was searching in January 2013, there was still very good points availability at the Westin Resort.

While the villas at that resort increased to a Category 6 since I stayed there last, the resort itself is still just a Category 5. That means it is 12,000 SPG points per night. I have my fingers crossed that a cash and points reservation will become available, but 12,000 points for a room that is going for $400 – $500 a night is a very fair trade in my book. I locked in a couple of nights at that hotel on points, and since I can cancel the reservations without penalty for quite some time to come, I’m not yet really committing to anything. If you are toying with the idea of visiting that, or another similar, resort during ski season, now really is a great time to make a speculative booking. With this resort, there is nothing to lose by making a points reservation now. This reservation did bring my SPG points balance under 1,000, so it is time for me to get serious about getting the business SPG Amex to bring my balance up to a respectable level of at least 25,000 points. I’m also crossing my fingers for another limited-time 30,000 point sign-up offer for the personal version of the SPG Amex (currently at 25,000 points) just like we saw last summer. If that happens, it will be my mom’s next card for sure! It will also help that my husband is about to start a Platinum challenge with SPG, and will be taking advantage of the 3x points after 15 nights with the Nice Choice promotion.

I then looked at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek availability and found a very different situation than at the Westin. I could not get any rooms on points or dollars. A little further investigation revealed that for the dates I was looking for, there is a four night minimum. I don’t currently have 88,000 Hyatt points to use in that manner, nor is it possible for me to pay $600+ per night to stay there for four nights, so unless something changes, I may miss out on visiting that hotel on our next trip. There were one night stays available around my dates, but just not on the dates I was looking for. This is a Category 6 Hyatt, but getting $600 value during ski season out of 22,000 points is pretty great, assuming you can get the dates you want! This would actually be a great place to use your two free nights that come after the first purchase you make with the Hyatt Credit Card (you can play around with pressing “book now” for reservations at Hyatt.com to see if you can get a first year free offer to appear – you don’t actually have to make the booking).  I plan to keep trying to get a night or two at that Hyatt as I do really want to try it out and it is also more convenient to do ski school at Beaver Creek. 

Next up were flights. There is a direct flight from Houston to Vail Eagle Airport, and after our adventures in driving through a pretty big storm last year and subsequently missing our flights, we are interested in actually landing in Vail instead of Denver. Currently tickets to fly directly into Vail from Houston are around $500 per person, but tickets to Denver are about half that. I’m not sure if it is worth the difference to have a direct flight into Vail, but it is worth pointing out that reward flights are currently available some weekends in January for flights into Vail. That is actually a very good use of 25,000 miles. The availability isn’t there for every weekend, but it was for one of the weekends we are eying. If we did choose to use miles to fly on reward tickets with United into Vail, we could still change the dates for free up until 21 days before departure, so even booking those tickets wouldn’t really commit us to exact dates.

The downside to booking ski trips this early is that you don’t know what the snow will be like. Last January there was barely any snow on the ground in Colorado until the weekend we went. Conditions improved some while we were there, but the snow was certainly not ideal. If you wait until closer-in to book, you will have a much better idea of what the snow will be like, but rewards availability may be non-existent. Of course, with these reward bookings you aren’t really locking yourself into an exact trip quite yet anyway. In that respect reward bookings can be more flexible than paid bookings.

The last thing I did was make a speculative rental car reservation. We like to have SUVs on ski trips, so that means the reservations can get somewhat pricey. Last year we used Hertz points to save a bundle on our SUV reservation, but we don’t currently have enough Hertz points for this trip, so I compared rates with other companies. I started at Hotwire.com and saw that Alamo had mid-sized SUVs for just $30 a day, which is a real steal, and the rate was even cheaper than for compact cars! I made a reservation through a portal to earn more miles, and since it doesn’t even require a credit card, it is a risk-free reservation that we can easily cancel if we don’t end up making the trip.

So far I have a great deal on an SUV rental, rooms secured on points at the Westin Beaver Creek Resort and Spa, and flight alerts set for both award availability with ExpertFlyer.com and in case the price drops lower via Travelocity.com.  I can easily cancel this trip with no penalties at this point, but I really hope that we are able to move forward with the trip and take our daughter skiing for the first time!

 

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Pingbacks

  1. […] Earlier this week I posted about now being the time to make some reward hotel and airline reservations for the 2013 ski season to lock in some of the pretty solid availability that is currently out there to/from many desirable destinations (if you haven’t already). I booked some nights during ski season at The Westin Beaver Creek Resort and Spa on Starwood Preferred Guest points. We visited that resort last year and loved it, so I am very excited to return. We did have some trouble driving back to Denver after our trip due to some weather, and subsequently missed our flight last year, so we were very interested in flying directly into Vail this year. Additionally, while it is sometimes unavoidable, tacking a several hours car ride with a little one after a flight isn’t usually the most ideal way to start a vacation. […]

Comments

  1. Just looked at ski school prices. Since we have 2 little ones (3&5), it would be over $400 day for their lessons! Any ideas on how to bring that cost down? Or do you have to find the hotel & flights on points so you can afford the lessons?

  2. I’ve recently been in the snowboard trip mood as well! Just booked our JFK-YVR-JFK flights in Cathay F to revisit Whistler, BC for the first time in 3 years. I wish we could try the Westin Resort & Spa up there, but since we have a group of 15, we’re renting a huge chalet!

  3. Speaking of rental cars, how do you guys boost your rental car points balances? Are there credit card bonus offers out there? I haven’t seen much talk on this or any other blog regarding this matter.

  4. @Up&Away, ski trips are one of those things where lift tickets and ski school are going to be expensive. I haven’t done much research yet to see if there are any coupons or specials, but you are absolutely right that the way you bring the overall ski trip cost down is using miles and points for hotel and possibly flight. That leaves some cash (hopefully) left over to actually ski.
    @Sarah, I didn’t list it in the post b/c I honestly don’t remember which one I used. The good rate I found was only available via Alamo and while they have a 1,000 AAdvantage mile offer for rentals, it expires at the end of this year, so I couldn’t use that. http://boardingarea.com/aadvantagegeek/2012/03/02/from-alamo-save-money-and-earn-1000-bonus-aadvantage-miles/ I probably booked through United or American’s website, but I am not sure which one I picked.
    @infamousdx, that sounds awesome! I so want a good reason to fly that Cathay route…and I would love to visit YVR. Well done!
    @Mason, you could purchase Hertz points via the Daily Getaways, but there aren’t tons of great ways that I know of to boost rental car point balances outside of renting cars. You can redeem airline miles and such for rental cars (though the redemption value isn’t typically that great), but it is often possible to find a great rental car deal or coupon code. I’d love to hear if others have good tips though!

  5. We already have a one week stay booked slopeside at Hilton in Whistler, there is amazing zipline, snowmobile, and dog sled there, plus usually plenty of snow.I would forego Beaver Creek, and try Salt Lake City. Since you are a Diamond, the Hyatt Escala truly has the most amazing suites on an upgrade. Plus the Canyons Resort is right out the back door. Plus if you get bored with the Canyons, easy drive to Deer Valley or Park City ski resorts. Lift tickets are sooooo much cheaper then Colorado and rentals are sooooo much cheaper and better quality. There are direct flights to Salt Lake and the drive is about 25-30 minutes to mountain resorts, so easy you dont even need a SUV. We have a stopover booked on Delta in Salt Lake for skiing continue onto Las Vegas for some shows, then back home.

    • @Barb, Utah is on my radar for sure. I have gone snowboarding there in the past and did enjoy it. If we don’t do it on this trip, we absolutely will in subsequent years. I will keep an eye on it for this year though – thanks for the info and congrats on the Whistler booking!

  6. Great post, and very informative as always. I’ve also been busy booking our ski trips recently. I used 110k US Airways miles from the Grand Slam for 2 round-trip Envoy awards PHL-MUC in January. We’re going to Austria and will probably pay for our hotels out of pocket since there are so few points-hotels at ski resorts in Austria.

    Also just booked 2 round-trip economy awards to Eagle Airport on American (JFK-EGE) for just 40k Ba Avios in the spring. We are thinking of staying at Beaver Creek based on your review, probably at the Park Hyatt since there is availability then and it seems like a good use of points.

    Best of all the Envoy tickets on US Airways include 2 free checked bags, and the AAdvantage Citi credit card gives us 1 free checked bag on AA, so we won’t have to pay for bags on either trip.

    • @Billy, that is fantastic! Great use of Avios. If only we lived at an American hub……. 😉 Still, the drive to DFW isn’t too bad, so that is a possibility. I loved Beaver Creek, and while I haven’t personally stayed at the Park Hyatt, I would not hesitate to stay there. It looks like a great place to redeem points. Well done!

      @Branson, thanks for that tip!

  7. Just a heads up on booking the Hyatt free nights. I was trying to help my sister-in-law book 2 nights at the Andaz Hollywood using the 2 free nights from the credit card sign-up. We kept getting a message that the room was unavailable and to call customer service. However, the room was showing bookable at a paid rate. I called customer service and she explained that the free nights were only bookable as 2 separate “1 night stays.” So you can either call in and have a rep take care of it or make 2 seaparate 1 night bookings online. Hope this saves some people the aggaravation it caused me!

  8. I agree with Barb – you may want to start investigating Salt Lake City options – we had a horrible snow season in CO last year, as evidenced by the non-existent rafting season and now the wildfires spreading statewide. Of course no one has a crystal ball but I can say for sure I won’t be buying a season pass this year.

    We went to SLC in 03 and loved the incredible powder.

    We held off putting our 3 yo in ski school last year – all the instructors we know say kids should be able to balance on one leg to truly understand the mechanics of skiing (plus he hated being cold and danged if I’m going to drop that kind of money just to have him pitch a fit).

    This coming season we’ll head to Eldora, a small family-oriented (read, CHEAP) hill outside Boulder for both boys to give it a whirl. Loveland is also much less expensive (that’s where I learned to ski eons ago…).

  9. With all due respect, I think you’re off your rocker to stay at the Westin Beaver Creek. I’ve never been there, but I’ve done a fair amount of research and have a little experience on ski trips with kids.

    The hotel is not in Beaver Creek, I believe it is across the river in Avon right? Have you considered the pain in the neck about getting your child from Avon to Beaver Creek on the gondola? Most people are running late and it is a lot of stress to deal with. And what if the gondola is not running? This little bit can really start off the day on the wrong foot.

    We stayed with our children at 2 different resorts.

    The first was the Marriott Mountainside in Park City. Great location – you just walk from the door to the ski school. The room was a real steal on redweek. The food in Park City is great also. Very nice pool/hot tub. Park City and Utah has the benefit of lots of good flights non-stop (and SWA doesn’t charge for the bags). The airport is really easy in terms of access. Lots of stuff to do in Park City if you’re not skiing.

    The second was Steamboat. We stayed at the Sheraton. It’s not a Westin, though the rooms were very nice and had decent storage. The help in the hotel was lacking, but what can you do? Some of the waitresses were really dumb in the hotel. Anyway, the location on the mountain was awesome! Totally the best, just like the Marriott Mountainside. The hot tub was not as nice as the Marriott one. You can probably get non-stop flights to HDN on UA and then you take the one shuttle company to town. No need for a car.

    Again – YOU MUST CONSIDER HOW MUCH OF A PAIN IT WILL BE TO TAKE THE CHILD TO THE SKI SCHOOL. IF YOU HAVE TO WALK MORE THAN A SMALL AMOUNT, YOU WILL LIKELY REGRET IT!!

    Just my 2 cents…

  10. @Susan, we had a great experience there even with poor snow, so I’m willing to take that gamble this year – though Utah is on our radar for a future trip for sure. I started ski school at three, and am okay to have her give it a shot. I’m sure I will be doing plenty of one on one instruction with her, too. Thanks for the info!
    @Lawrence, thanks for the info. I may be “off my rocker”, but I’m okay with that. 😉 We had a fantastic time at Beaver Creek last year, and I very much wan to return. It will be different with a kid trying out ski school, but we are usually up very early in the AM, so I’m not too worried. As I mentioned in the post, the Park Hyatt is a much better location for ski school, and I do hope to end up with a few nights there, but if not I’m sure we will be fine. Worst case, we can just drive from the resort to Beaver Creek, have my husband drop us off close, and then he parks the car. I’ve never had the luxury of just walking right to the mountain, so I won’t yet know what I am missing. 😉 I’m sold on Utah for the next ski trip though!

  11. Now see, if you just lived here in this great state, you wouldn’t have to worry about burning your points to hit fresh POW. 😀

    Just shell out $450 for the season pass and $40 a weekend in gas.

  12. If you loved the lobby at the Westin Beaver Creek you will be very disappointed in the lobby at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. Tiny fireplace tucked away in a corner.Not much ambience. But if you got the money try the Ritz Carlton. It’s in Bachelor Gulch and is pure heaven. We have lunch there while skiing, and it is sort of considered a day lodge at bachelor gulch since anyone(dont have to be staying there)uses the bathrooms and sits in the lobby next to the beautiful fireplace. The staff is top-notch and last year they had a small animal exhibit by the outside firepits which included a falcon, owl, and hawk. The pool, eucalyptus steam room, and amazing grotto puts the spa at the Westin Beaver Creek to shame

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