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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:
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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