Best of 2013: Year in Review and Contest

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Just as I have done the last several years, I want to end 2013 by reviewing some of the best and worst deals and travel moments of the year.  It is a fun way to both look back at the last 12 months, and prepare to move forward to another year of travel ups and downs!  This post will focus on the good times, and tomorrow I will launch a post on some of the (sometimes entertaining) worst of moments.  Read all the way to the bottom (or just skip to the bottom) to learn how to turn some of your 2013 “Best of” moments into free goodies.
Best Travel Moments of 2013:
My own family had a big travel year, maybe too big but I’ll save that for the “worst of” post.  The good news is there were tons of special moments in our traveling adventures.  Here are a few of them.
January 2013:
Seeing my daughter ski for the very first time in Beaver Creek while we stayed at both the Westin Riverfront Resort and the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek was a definite best moment of 2013.  I was so very proud of my just turned three year old girl.
February 2013:
Taking US Airways Envoy Suites to Europe and exploring Ireland and London with my husband was another great moment.  We absolutely fell in love with Ireland and can’t wait to return.
March 2013:
Getting to go skiing with both my daughter and my parents together was a special experience.  I hadn’t skied with my parents since I was 15 years old, so seeing them back on the slopes was fantastic.
April 2013:
In April I took my first trip to Tokyo and had my first sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Market in the pre-dawn hours.  I can’t imagine I will ever be able to top the quality and freshness of the fish I had that morning halfway around the world from home.
June 2014:
My daughter and I headed to Kauai right after her pre-school let out for the summer, and we enjoyed several days just the two of us in Kauai.  It was a great adventure for the two of us, and led to some special moments like watching her grip my hand with nervousness while at the same time squealing with delight as we took off for a helicopter tour of the island.  She fell in love with the island, and we are returning next summer at her request.
July 2014:
We continued our tradition of getting together with my cousins and their children so that our kids can know each other and have a blast just as we did as kids.  This time we met at a rental house in the mountains in North Carolina.  What a beautiful backdrop for some quality family time doing simple things like playing in a blow-up pool.
August 2014:
My daughter spent her first few nights at her “Kansas grandparents” house without us.  I flew her up there so she could enjoy several nights with grandparents and her cousins who were also visiting while my husband and I went away on a different trip.  I didn’t expect to leave her there alone this year, but it went very well, and she loved her time with cousins.
September 2013:
For our 5th anniversary my husband and I stayed at the newly opened Andaz Maui at Wailea and enjoyed the heck out of the beautiful new hotel and its awe inspiring sunsets.  The best part of all of it was that he fell in love with Hawaii even though he thought he wouldn’t.
November 2013:
This year my husband and I were lucky enough to have lots of short getaways to amazing places such as St. John.  We rarely do anything resembling a “date night” while at home, but instead we save up our “grandparent time” for C and use it to sneak away for a night or two to a fun destination.  It may not be for everyone, but it is working for us!
Best Miles and Points Moments of 2013:
2013 may not have seen promos like Faster Free Nights or 100,000 point credit card sign-up bonuses, but it still had some highlights such as….
  • Mistake fares that were honored on many airlines including $5 on United, Delta for under $50, and a friendly Norweigan site called Widerøe that offered round trip flights to Europe for as low as $150.
  • Huge online shopping mileage opportunities such as 21x at Sears, 35x at eBags, 21x at, 18x at Neiman Marcus, 15x at North Face, and 60x at  On top of this there were several promos that easily gave thousands of additional bonus points for using certain online portals.
  • Getting the last award night free thanks to the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature.  This resulted in “buy one get one free” award nights on two night award stays!
  • The IHG Rewards Big Win promo didn’t work for me, but I know some families that scored over 100,000 IHG points pretty easily via their Big Win offer.  It is returning in early 2014 for those that missed out this time around.
  • The Southwest Companion Pass is still the best value in family travel and is easily available via credit card sign-up bonus points, and all of the Southwest credit cards were available with 50,000 point sign-up bonuses toward the end of 2013.  This allowed people to time the applications correctly to hit the companion pass in early 2014, thus giving them most of 2014 and all of 2015 to bring a “companion” on Southwest flights for free.
  • The AviancaTaca LifeMiles program and some of their favorable geographical classifications
  • Lots of targeted spending bonuses on cards such as the US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature, US Airways MasterCard, and of course continuing to enjoy 5x on certain categories on the Chase Freedom® – $200 Bonus Cash Back and Ink Bold® Business Card cards.
  • Introduction of the American Express Centurion Lounges in Las Vegas and DFW airports.  I am especially partial to the DFW location due to the complimentary spa services!
  • A targeted US Airways promotion that allowed US Airways MasterCard cardholders to get up to 50% of their redeemed miles back on a trip…this meant Europe round trip for as low as 15,000 miles!
  • The Hyatt and MLife partnership that allows you to leverage Hyatt status for MLife status, as well as the opportunity to earn and redeem Hyatt points at Mlife properties in Vegas.
  • Continued ease of getting credit card sign-up bonuses.  I was pretty light on rewards card applications this year, but my husband got hundreds of thousand of easy miles and points by getting a few rewards credit cards!

Win Prizes for Sharing Your Best Moments:

I’d love to hear some of your standout miles and points or travel moments for 2013!  How many miles and points did you rack up?  What were your favorite promos?  Favorite trips?  Favorite mistakes fares, redemptions, etc?  To end the year with a little fun I’ll be giving away several $10 Starbucks cards, GoGo internet passes, and/or Mommy Points t-shirts to a few who post some good “best of” moments in the comments section.  I’ll post the winning moments on New Year’s Day.  Stay tuned for an upcoming “Worst of” post as well.
Disclosure:  Some of the links in this posts are to my affiliate offers and I do receive a commission for approved applications that utilized my links.  All winners for this giveaway are selected after serious and official debate amongst the Mommy Points team (uh, my kid and me).

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Shopping Portal Bonus in addition to quarterly bonus on Chase Freedom card!! Help set up our trip to Thailand in April in ANA/Asiana/Thai First Class!!

  2. Best this year – Italy & Greece 12 day cruise on Celebrity. Looking forward to: Amtrak Coast Starlight Express from LA to Seattle – thanks to FT Bikeguy who suggested doing this by transferring 25k UR points to Amtrak for a $1,000 bedroom on the train (it’s a 36 hour trip), at the Chicago seminars.

  3. My “Bucket List” trip was the best: In March, we flew the longest non-stop commercial flight in the world – Newark direct to Singapore on Singapore Airlines in Business Class. This non-stop flight was 18 1/2 hours in duration! Now that’s flying ——

  4. AMEX Platinum 100K offer in January 2013!

    My wife and I also got to take our first big points/miles trip to Europe – Paris, Vernazza, Rome. Of course, this included a week at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome =)

  5. Best part of 2013 travel wise? Being able to take a fairly last minute trip to Ireland to watch my Friends become the first Non-Irish Team to win a Hurling Tournament in Ireland and then taking my son to see the Church and Well of his namesake. While we did pay for the flights (they were pretty cheap) we did take advantage of that awesome Club Carlson CC and the points from the Big Night out promos from the last couple of years.

  6. My Favorite redemption in 2013 was a total outlay of 36k points (+2 free nights) for 7 nights of hotels in Kauai, including 5 nights at the Sheraton Kauai, and 2 nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

  7. One of the most memorable was taking our two girls who are 6 and 9 to visit their uncle in Boston. We had some free nights thanks to promotions from Marriot. The girls were able to go to the aquarium and see the museum of science. Anyone who says that vacations can’t be educational AND fun is just wrong! I still remember the look on the girls faces when their hair got to stick straight up using the museums static electricity generator!

  8. Wasn’t my best redemption in 2013, but my 1 year old son and I took a spur of the moment trip to Disney World! Those are priceless memories that I will never forget!

  9. Took my 2 year old son to Disneyland, Sea World and San Diego Zoo in Feb. 2013. He had so much fun!

    I am just now entering the world of credit card bonuses and am very influenced by you as I too am a Mommy and love travel!

    Happy travels in 2014!

  10. Tagging along on my husband’s work trip to London, including my very memorable birthday, thanks to a good use of Chase Ultimate Rewards!

  11. Our first trip (wife and I) to the western part of the US to visit Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ. My favorite part may have been our hike to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona even though I’m a bit scared of heights. Happy Holidays M.P.!

  12. Took a two week father son trip with my Dad. Flew BA first using AA miles, 7 nights in London (Marriott County Hall) and 7 nights in Paris (Park Hyatt Vendome), all on points. Flew back on US Airways Envoy using United miles. Trip would have cost a fortune without points and simply wouldn’t have been possible without them.

  13. I managed to take my family to Milan, Italy. We were able to watch our (MY) favorite soccer team play Barcelona and win. Incredible !!!! Oh, Disney World’s Very Merry Xmas Party too !! 😉

  14. out on a business trip, I routed JFK-MSP-ATL-ANC-SLC-STL which let me get the miles I needed to take the wife away for a quick surprise trip.
    Happy new years!

  15. It is mind boggling of how many miles my wife and I have racked up in our second year of doing this. The last year and half my wife had the southwest companion pass and by the end of January I will have it for the next 2 years. Could have never thought all this was possible without reading your blogs and getting involved. Every trip we go on is an experience we will never forget and we are loving it now that we are retired. Just this month was San Antonio, for the first time ever to Texas and it was great.Thanks for all the great advice and have a Happy New Year!

  16. Trying out Turkish, Austrian, El Al and United in international business class and experiencing their ground products.
    Oh and I opened my first credit card too!

  17. Favorite trip was two weeks in Colombia all on our own when our group tour fell through at the last minute. We already had done our airfare using AA miles, but had to figure out an itinerary, lodging, and in-country transport. It was fantastic!

  18. Best travel moment of 2013 for is was our first family trip to Europe. We took our 6 and 4 year old boys to Barcelona and southern Portugal. That trip opened the world for us, and I now have a summer trip booked to Rio! That doesn’t even count our “little” trips to Destin, Galveston, NYC, Jamaica…it is truly a blessing to see the world with my husband and boys.

  19. Our best moments were spent in Hawaii — a trip made possible by reading here how to use 25K Avios from the West Coast to HNL. Our trip would not have been possible without that tip. Made memories to last a lifetime! Thank you again!

  20. I missed out on the 100k Amex Plat offer this past January… but regardless I still had some great points moments! You introduced me to the wonderful world of shopping portals and through that I was able to take aadvantage of the 35x promo, 60x promo, etc. Just from shopping portal usage alone on stuff I would have bought anyway, I was able to rack up 50k aadvantage points! 🙂 Thank you and happy 2014!!!

  21. Best of 2013: family trip (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, sisters, husband and 7-month-old son) to Greece to visit family in Athens and then relax on Crete

  22. My best trip was drive to LA and San Diego area, and slept at Embassy Suite for the first time using my points! No out of the pocket expense at Embassy Suite!

  23. My most exciting points coup of 2013 was IHGs The Big Win where I earned 87,500 ihg bonus points in addition to regular points earned for my stays…. & I only added one night at a Montreal city hotel that was not part of my regular travel plans to get all those points!!!!!

  24. We travel to Europe frequently with my 15 year old daughter. While she enjoys being with us, she is an only child and a teenager! So this summer we let her bring along her best friend on our vacation to Italy. Luckily for us, miles and points let us stay at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria, Florence Metropole, and Hilton Molino Stucky Venice – and of course, we needed 2 rooms each night. It was a wonderful trip filled with unforgettable adventures with the addition of our “new” daughter.

  25. This was my first year getting involved with points cards and traveling. My big trip this year was taking my 8 year old son to Churchill, Manitoba Canada to see polar bears in the tundra. I was able to use points for our travel to Winnipeg which significantly reduced the cost for us. It was an amazing trip we will never forget.

  26. Thank you Summer for sharing your traveling tips and experiences! I have learned so much from you this last year. A blessed and adventure-filled 2014 to your family!

    Our 2013 travel highlights were:
    *getting all into this hobby!
    *securing the SW companion pass.
    *Chicago Seminars & the Spouse Session 🙂
    *booking sales fares to Hawaii for $397 RT for this coming summer with a group of friends.
    *Wideroe mistake fare – $132 RT to Italy. Excited to go with my husband!
    *Our latest friend trip – taking our (point) talents to South Beach on a national park tour (Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas).

    Here’s to many more adventures to come in 2014!

  27. My best trip this year was 13 days in Punta del Este, Uruguay this past February. If you know it, nothing else needs to be said!

  28. Redeeming miles for a first class trip around the world! My husband and I flew Austin-Houston-Frankfurt-Bangkok-Bali-Hong Kong-San Francisco-Austin. We spent a week in Bali, which was amazing, and a few days in Hong Kong, which we absolutely loved as well! Looking forward to more trips in 2014!

  29. Best moment was surprising my gf on her birthday. She was in the southwest for her birthday and I spent the miles to fly from New York and surprise her.

  30. Favorite promo was the 100k BA Avios card sign up. Will be working toward the annual spend to earn a free companion cert for a New Zealand and Australia trip in 2015!

  31. Loved the 100k MR from Amex Plat and then the 75k MR from Amex Business Gold! Can’t wait for 2014!

    Happy New Year everybody!

  32. My favorite travel experience was being able to take my parents on a first class first rate trip to Italy on points and miles for my Dad’s birthday. My favorite mistake fare was the Wideroe error. Headed to Madrid in March for about $300 pp. Not as great as $150 to Milan but I will take it!

  33. Easy choice for me! Last July, when Singapore tickets were available on United’s website, used all of the Chase points I had been saving up for two tickets for first and business class.

    In February, my wife and I went to Sydney and Hong Kong for two weeks, but we didn’t take the direct way. First we went back to her home city, Taipei. Used Delta Skymiles to book business class tickets on China Airlines from LAX. After a couple weeks in Taipei, we left for our big trip.

    We flew from Taipei to Beijing (8 hr layover) to Singapore (relaxed in the Private Room) then to Sydney.

    In Sydney I had two free suite nights thanks to the Hyatt credit card and signing up as a Diamond member thanks to a status match. Used 22K Chase –> Hyatt points for one extra night. Stayed in Opera House deluxe room the first two nights which is the best they can offer for suite rewards. An amazing room! Hoped that they wouldn’t make us change rooms for the 3rd night since 22K points just gets a standard room, but we didn’t have to leave! Used Club Carlson points and Airbnb for the remainder of our stay.

    Sydney – Singapore – Hong Kong. Used cash and points at the Conrad Hilton with access to the executive lounge.

    Hong Kong – Singapore – Tokyo – Taipei

    From Singapore to Tokyo flew in Singapore’s A380 suites! Only had three people total so had excellent service. Got to experience sleeping in a double bed. Flight was only 6 hours so way too short.

    Rest of the flights were all in Singapore First class, once in A380 business, and once in the A380 economy. So we got to experience all of the cabins in the A380 on one trip.

    Without points and miles, would never be able to afford a trip like this. Best trip so far and one we’ll never forget.

  34. I has several ‘best of’ moments this year – or at least some unique ones:
    – Made 1K on United
    – Renewed Gold on Hilton
    – Gold on Marriott (thru United – Marriott match)
    – 1st trip south of Equator (Jakarta)
    – 1st trip to Far East Asia (Jakarta)
    – 1st 15 hour+ flight (ORD – HKG)
    – 1st stay in a JW Marriot (Bangkok)

    Safe travels to all in 2014!

  35. Could hardly believe we were able to find 5 business class tickets at low award level (100K) using Delta Skymiles for a summertime trip to Greece. We also used points for 2 rooms at the Athens HIlton for a week.

  36. Discovering the world of frequent flyer miles in January, racking up over 1.3 million miles between me and my wife over the last 12 months, and going through China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and South Korea for just 67.5K miles!

  37. Wow, you’ve done a lot of great trips this year!

    This is my first year collecting miles/points. My big thing was getting the Southwest companion pass and miles.

    We just started collecting American Airlines miles and hope to go to Hawaii in 2015.

  38. I’m torn between the dream trip to Europe in November which was the goal that got us into the game in the first place, flying relatives in to visit us with points, and the little rush of booking ANC, JAC and KOA for the family on Delta’s after-Christmas special 🙂 But I have to go with Europe.

  39. Best trip this year-6 weeks in late spring.I spent half the time in Kyrgyzstan and the other half in Uzbekistan, First, I flew Houston-Istanbul-Bishkek. Loved the new Turkish non-stop to IST. Kyrgyzstan was incredibly beautiful in the mountains.Went overland Osh,Kyrgyzstan to Tashkent. Also beautiful scenery,but Soviet-style mentality. That strong hand was everywhere. But, Khiva, Bukhara an Samarkand…. the historical and cultural treasures made the trip worth it and unforgettable. Nevertheless, I have never been so happy when I cleared customs and flew out of Tashkent back to the US.

  40. 50th birthday trip through Italy. We were upgraded (twice) to a Rome view room at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria and surprised with champagne and chocolate. A perfect night. It was a fabulous trip!!

  41. Toss up between the SW Rapid Rewards Visa (times 4…a business card and personal card for both my husband and I!!) Companion passes for 2014 and 2015 and lots of free travel.
    And traveling to Europe with my mom and daughters for 3 weeks virtually all on points and miles!

    thanks Mommy Points for all the advice!! …couldn’t do it without you!!
    (starbucks please!! : )

  42. Free night stay at the Radisson Martinque in NYC and was upgraded to a small suite. Got to go shopping, saw a play and then had my favorite scones at Alice’s Tea Cup for breakfast.

    2nd Favorite was I used a voucher from a bump to go to Montreal for my b-day. Stayed at the Le Meridian on a cash and points rate booked before the SPG devaluation. Great trip even in the rain.

  43. I was able to escape the heaviest snowstorm of the year in Minnesota for the relative balminess of southwest Florida. Priceless!

  44. Managed to book business award trip to Guam from LAX over Thanksgiving. Also stayed at Hyatt Regency Guam and Saipan, and Andaz Maui, all on points. Was able to check off 8 more National Park units out of the 401 in the U.S. I plan to visit. Now I have 353 done, and it’s been awesome to use miles and points for my quest.

    Was able to replenish lots of those AA miles with Sears and! Thank you Mommy Points!

  45. Mp, happy new year! My fav 2013 points deal was hyatt cc 2 free nights used in Kauai, in fact we were able to stay 9 nights in Hawaii at fabulous properties on points! Thanks for the information and inspiration this year!

  46. My highlight would have to be my wife getting involved with miles and points. She now reads MP regularly after meeting you at Chicago Seminars and picking up the $400 MSP-HNL flights. She is itching for another mistake fare after we booked wideroe $132 RT to Milan. Next year she can’t wait to get the companion pass after mine runs out next December!

  47. It’s a four-way tie that includes two Disney World trips: Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where my son got a chance to dance hand in hand with Mickey Mouse. That ties with a different trip where we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and were upgraded to a suite. Never dreamed we’d ever do that! Taking my son to his first Broadway show in New York and Riding a cable car with my husband in San Francisco were pretty amazing too–so hard to choose! Thanks Mommypoints!

  48. One of my best of 2013 was watching my 2 girls (2 & 4) walk up the aisle as flower girls for my sister and new brother in laws wedding in their winter wonderland wedding in December!

  49. The best redemption I had was 6 nights in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, kitchen and a balcony (more like a deck) in San Diego for 60k Choice points during spring break for my family of 6!

  50. As I am new to the points game, a highlight for me was booking an anniversary trip for my husband and I in Maui using miles and points and booking a family vacation for my husband and I and our 4 kids at Disneyland! I was also able to earn the Southwest Companion Pass which I am very excited about!

  51. Best travel moment of 2013 was booking our 1st International first class trip – to Thailand. We used United miles to book Lufthansa and Thai First to Thailand, and AA miles to book Cathay First home. Used SPG and Priority Club points for our hotels in Chiang Mai and Phuket. It was our first time without our 2 year old, which was sad, but we had a great time, and she got a lot of presents from mommy and daddy when we returned. Here’s to a great 2014!

  52. My best travel moment this year was going on my first cruises (starting on my birthday), bookended with two amazing IHG stays. The first IHG stay was a BRG free night at a Crowne Plaza and the other was a 35K point Holiday Inn award night when the going rate of the room was $525!

    I want to say thank you, Mommy Points, and all of the other bloggers and commenters that share their travel lives with us so that we can learn to have better travel lives 🙂

  53. I love love reading your blogs and thanks much for being so generous with your miles and points experience. Best travel is booking my family to Italy last May using AA miles and Avios and getting a free leg to Hawaii last October. These trips could have cost thousands, but with miles we traveled with little money!

  54. My favorite moment was hearing my 4 year old daughter exclaim, “Anything is possible on the stage” at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. We got super close seats thanks to a Chase Visa Signature promo. The trip was made possible by Southwest points, companion pass, and Hyatt points. My mom, brother in law, sister in law, and niece also joined us on their own points redemptions, allowing us to make new Christmas memories that will last a lifetime!

  55. I was able to save money using AMEX Synch and tried some new products while doing so. Also was able to use my SW points and companion pass to take a great free flight to Charlotte.

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