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This week I was able to book a trip that I have had in the works for at least 18 months…a trip to take my family to Atlantis in the Bahamas. Call me a sucker for the delightfully family friendly commercials on TV, but it’s always been on my list of places to visit. However, when I initially looked at prices I balked and pondered if it was really worth that amount for pretty modest looking accommodations. There were some pretty nice accommodations also available, but those prices were truly out of the question at close to $500 per night. I was in no rush, so I just waited for the right deal to present itself. Then, in 2012, the Daily Getaways offered the answer in the form of Choice Hotel points. What do Choice Hotel points have to do with the Atlantis Resort you may ask? In a word, everything!
It is a fairly well kept secret that you can stay at the neighboring all-suites Comfort Suites Paradise Island (that is in the Choice Privileges points program) and have full access included to Atlantis and of all their facilities, including swimming pools, private beach, waterscapes, Lazy River Ride, water slides, health spa, tennis, and Kids Camp. Guests at the Comfort Suites also have full signing privileges at Atlantis’ restaurants and lounges. This is all in addition to the free hot breakfast provided at the Comfort Suites (though I’m sure the breakfast is nothing to write home about).
Rates for this hotel per night are often in the $250+ per night range (plus some pretty strange taxes and fees), or you can do what I did and spend 25,000 Choice points per night (and still pay the strange mandatory fees). I bought these points via the Daily Getaways for less than $300 for the 75,000 points I needed for three nights, so I am paying less than $100 per night (plus fees) or my family of three to have full access to Atlantis in the Bahamas. Of course, if you didn’t have to buy your Choice points because you earned them via actual hotel stays then you could be paying even less!
I am certain that this Comfort Suites will have quite modest accommodations compared to the Park Hyatt style hotels we have stayed in from time to time, but I don’t care. I like luxury, but I also have no issue with modest (clean) hotels that put me where I want to be. I’m certainly not going to the Bahamas to stay in the hotel room! One thing to be aware of is that the Choice program only allows international point redemptions within 60 days of arrival (30 days domestically), but with their Platinum elite status you will be able to book 75 days in advance. It isn’t a huge difference, but it was enough for me to match my Hyatt Diamond status to Choice in order to get Platinum status for the purposes of booking this trip.
For flights we used British Airways Avios to fly on American Airlines operated flights from Houston – Miami – Nassau for 24,000 Avios round trip per person. This is a much better deal than most traditional frequent flyer programs in the US can offer since they use a distance based award chart, and it isn’t all that far from Houston to the Bahamas. Since I transferred those Avios from the American Express Membership Rewards program during a previous 50% transfer bonus, my actual cost in Membership Reward points was something like 16,000 Membership Reward points per person to fly from Houston to the Bahamas. There is currently a 20% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to the British Airways Avios program.
If you are doing the math at home, that means that for a family of three we spent 48,000 Membership Reward points for the flights + 75,000 Choice Privileges points for the hotel that gives us access to Atlantis. We now get to go on a vacation that other families spend thousands of dollars on for very little cash outlay. Our trip won’t happen for a few more months, so I can’t yet speak to how it all will go in practice, but I can say that I am pretty excited about how everything lined up for miles and points to make this family trip possible.
If you want to do this yourself, but don’t yet have the miles and points to make it happen, you have a few options.
Options for Staying at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island:
- Wait for another Daily Getaways sale and see if Choice points are again available at a discount. This sale typically happens in the late spring/early summer.
- Get the Choice credit card for up to 32,000 points (though I don’t really recommend this).
- Transfer Choice points from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 rate (this can be an okay deal depending on the going rate of the hotel, but you may not get a great value from your MR points this way)
- Top off by buying up to 20,000 Choice points per year at a rate of $11.00 per 1,000 points.
- Pay for the stay at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island if the rate you can get it a fair amount better than at Atlantis
I’m looking forward to all the family friendly offerings at Atlantis, but do be aware if you want to hit the big water slides with your kid(s) there is a 48″ height requirement for those attractions.
If you have been to Atlantis or stayed at this Comfort Suites, I’d love to hear your tips!