Maximizing Points By Redeeming During Special Events

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My family loves points and we love football, so I get very excited when miles and points help get us to football games.  Not everyone can (or wants to) use their miles and points to jet around the globe, but I think many can relate to using them to make exciting special events closer to home much easier to get to.  In this case, one of our very favorite college teams, Notre Dame, was playing one of their “Shamrock Series” games in the Dallas area.  Dallas is about a 3.5 hour drive from my home, but that is much closer and cheaper than getting to South Bend, Indiana.  So myself, my husband, my daughter, my mom, my dad, my sister, and even my dog all planned to make the trip to see them play in our home state.  The old dog has to come by default when all of the above mentioned potential caregivers are gone at the same time. 

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The back seat is sleeping on our road trip

We started planning many months in advance, and once tickets to the game were secured, the big decision was where to stay the night of the game.  The game was played at Cowboy Stadium/AT&T Stadium/The House that Jerry Built.  For those not familiar, it is in Arlington next to where the Texas Rangers play baseball and the Six Flags theme park.

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My little family at AT&T Stadium before kick-off

When I started looking at rooms in the immediate area about six months in advance, rates were already close to $400 per night for mid-range hotels like Hyatt Place, Courtyard by Marriott, and Sheraton.  For these hotels, it is all about location during these big events.  There was one hotel that was a clear winner for a game at AT&T Stadium, the Sheraton Arlington.  It is a category 3 SPG hotel which means it is 7,000 points per night, regardless of how high the going rate is for an individual “big event” night.  I’m sure on a non-event night, this hotel probably goes for closer to $100 per night.  While paying $400 for a mid-range hotel room is totally out of the question for my budget, spending 7,000 SPG points is right up my alley.  If you wanted to do the math in that manner, that redemption is about 5.7 cents per point based on the $400 per night rate, though that is really just an academic exercise since we weren’t going to pay $400 (though many at the hotel did).

Staying at the Sheraton Arlington allows you to literally walk to events at the two nearby stadiums.  This means that you can save on parking and transportation costs.  The hotel did have a shuttle that would take you to the stadium for $10 per person, but I don’t think it is worth that price at all unless there is really nasty weather or you have some mobility issues that would prohibit you from walking the 10 minutes or so it takes to get from the hotel to Cowboy Stadium.

The hotel itself seemed to be a pretty solid Sheraton, though nothing you would really want to pay $400 per night for.  The room we were in had two double beds, and the room my parents and sister were in had a king bed + a rollaway.

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The pool was above average for a Sheraton and would have been a great place to play with kiddos if the weather hadn’t been a bit too cool.  It even had a waterfall that is not pictured (since taking photos while on a walk with a dog and three year old near water is….precarious at best.)

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This hotel is very pet-friendly and they don’t even charge an extra fee or deposit for dogs up to a certain weight.  I’m pretty sure my dog has never been scratched behind the ears by so many people as she was while strolling around this hotel!  I actually think she is getting the hang of this traveling business!

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The crew hanging in the hotel lobby

There was a club on the 18th floor that had very basic offerings for breakfast.  There was no hot items for breakfast, but they did have packaged cereal, fruit, yogurt, pastries, muffins, bread, and granola bars.  It is not something I would advise paying extra to access, but we made use of it since we had it for free thanks to SPG Platinum status.  As a side note, the staff were very nice when our daughter dropped her glass of orange juice and then started to strip her now wet clothes off as we tried to clean up the spilled mess.  Our club visit ended with a wet, half-naked, and unhappy 3 year old who refused to put her wet pants back on, but that’s how it goes sometimes with family travel.

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Thankfully, attending the football game with a three year old the night before went much better.

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Grandma and C enjoying the pre-game activities

20131006-150755.jpgShe was pretty much speechless (and smile-less) when she got to meet the cheerleaders and see the Irish Guard before the game!

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20131006-154330.jpgI’m glad we waited until C was close to four years old to take her to her first big football game as I don’t think she would have done as well if she was a toddler.  She still didn’t do perfect at staying seated for long periods of time with so much going on, but had a great time overall.

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This is what points really are for my family – they enable us to do relatively everyday things and “ordinary” trips, but do them in a much more comfortable and affordable way.  We could have found somewhere affordable to stay in the Dallas area that night if we didn’t have SPG points, but it certainly wouldn’t have been walking distance to the stadium, and a $0 hit to our wallet was much appreciated.  Our very close location meant that when it was time to walk back to the hotel in the middle of the third quarter with a sleepy kid (and a sleepy mommy), we were tucked in bed in time to see the fourth quarter from the comfort of our room.  As an added bonus, the Irish won. 

Next year we hope to use our Club Carlson points to see the Irish play in South Bend!  It will be another “special event” that drives up rates and gives us another chance to use points to save big!  Do you use points to save big during special events?

Comments

  1. Glad you posted this. Sometimes it seems like the travel bloggers only post about First class trips halfway around the world. There is more than one right way to burn miles and using them for special events and travel with family are a great use if you ask me.

  2. Well done!! We’ve done this for football bowl games as well. The best ones are when you can continue the vacation after the bowl game and see the sights in the area too. Rose Bowl = Disneyland and LA, Sugar Bowl = New Orleans, Orange Bowl = DisneyWorld or florida beach, Fiesta Bowl = Phoenix and even the Grand Canyon! Remember, you can always make the reservation with miles and cancel it later if your team doesn’t make it:)

  3. MaryBeth, I love my fancy trips halfway around the world, but these types of trip are far more my bread and butter. Totally agree there is more than one “right way” to use your points!
    VD, aw, I agree. 😉
    Precia, love it! My husband is already checking out the Super Bowl with his 5-0 Chiefs!
    Geoff, LUCK of the Irish. Dirty mind!

  4. Great post! I agree that it’s nice to hear how “real” people without first-class status (yet!) use their points. And great description of that hotel. I have family in Arlington, so I will have to use points there instead of paying somewhere else!

  5. Love using points to travel to away NFL games for my favorite team, though no way in the world I could have left in the 3rd quarter though. 🙂

  6. Hey MP, well done. I am by no means a miles / points guru, but every once in a while (with tips and tidbits from you and a few others) I manage to get my family and I on some nice adventures and once in a lifetime getaways for practically zilch. 🙂

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