Real World Hotel and Airfare Savings

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Yesterday was one of those days where I spent a chunk of the day playing the role of “family (money saving) travel agent”.  It’s a role I love as it helps lots of my family members travel further and save more than they otherwise would.  None of the trips I helped with yesterday were first class or far flung adventures, but they all resulted in very real world savings on travel that I think many families can benefit from.  While none of these examples are super exciting or overly complex, they are all very practical ways to integrate miles, points, and deals into your travel arsenal.  Here are some glimpses into how my family does what it does without going broke.

Save $150+ Booking Hotels via Travel Pony Sale:

The first thing I noticed yesterday was the 10% off FLASHPONY sale that I wrote about.  I have had very good luck solid hotel prices with Travel Pony, so I immediately starting pricing upcoming trips that I had, as well as some upcoming hotel stays I knew my parents had.  They don’t care at all about hotel elite status and such, so missing out on earning hotel points/stay credits for stays by booking via a third party site is inconsequential for them.  They care about staying in a decent place at a good price.  They have a couple nights booked soon at the Grand Hyatt Washington DC, and while they had a decent price of around $160/night, via Travel Pony they were able to knock about $45 off their two night stay.

Travel Pony Grand Hyatt Washington

This doesn’t change their hotel plans at all, but it keeps more money in their pockets.  Easy win.  I then found them a night they needed in Virginia at the hotel they were after there for about $40 less for the one night stay than other sites via Travel Pony and the 10% discount.  Another easy win.  I re-booked a few hotel stays for myself with the 10% code and then had breakfast.  All in a couple hundred dollars in hotel costs saved, and all the reservations were booked at the exact hotels we needed/wanted for our trips anyway.  Took about 30 minutes in the morning, so well worth it.  If I had waited until the afternoon all the 10% Travel Pony codes would have been gone.  Gotta move quickly sometimes with these deals.

Save $200+ on Hotels Via IHG Rewards PointBreaks:

The next deal to break yesterday was the IHG Rewards PointBreaks list around mid-morning.  We knew this one was coming, so I had a head start searching for hotels that we might be able to book for just 5,000 IHG Rewards points per night.  This is a huge deal if the hotels on the list line up with some of your travel plans.  In this case, my in-laws are heading to Montreal for a night this summer as part of a larger trip.  There were two hotels in the Montreal area on the 5,000 points per night list, so I quickly got in touch with Josh’s mom and verified one of the hotels in Montreal would work for them.  As luck would have it, there was PointBreaks availability for the night.  Montreal can get quite pricey, and the going rates for the night they are there are $200-ish all in, so being able to secure a night for just 5,000 points was great.

Holiday Inn PointBreaks

They had never booked with IHG before, so I walked my mother in law through the process of transferring 5,000 points from her Ink Plus® Business Credit Card Ultimate Rewards account to her newly created IHG Rewards account.  Normally this isn’t a great use of Ultimate Rewards, but since she was starting from zero, and needed the points quickly, it was a solid option that wouldn’t cost her anything out of pocket.  The only hitch was that availability on PointBreaks can dry up quickly, and almost 24 hours later the points still haven’t transferred into her IHG account.

I’m not sure if this is normal, if there is a glitch, or if there was some sort of user error that we haven’t identified.  In the meantime, I booked the night for them out of my stash of IHG points as a back-up.  With IHG you can’t book using your points in someone else’s name directly, but they can be added on as a registered guest on your reservation.  This allows them to check-in and it is standard operating procedure for handling that issue with IHG.  I made the reservation over the phone with IHG to ensure she was properly listed as a registered guest on the reservation.  If the availability is still there whenever her transferred points finally post then I will rebook the night purely in her name and cancel the one I booked from my account.

This was a very good win as the $200 savings is easily worth way more than 5,000 points.

Rebook a round trip flight for $110 + 9,000 Avios:

My husband has a guys weekend camping trip to Colorado this summer and he botched the date.  We had him all booked on my United miles for the trip in July, only to find out yesterday the dates were a month off, and it is actually in June.  Oh these boys men and their attention to details!  Luckily based on prior experience with this group of nice but detailed challenged guys, I booked using United miles out of my elite account that can be redeposited with no penalty.  This meant that undoing what we had already booked was simple and painless enough.  However, there was no United award availability at the saver level for their correct dates, so I had to get more creative.

I was able to find routing on the outbound using British Airways Avios on American Airlines operated flights.  Since Avios are distance based, and Colorado is pretty close to Houston, it was just 9,000 Avios for the outbound.  This is better than the 12,500 miles it would be if I had booked using American Airlines miles.  British Airways also doesn’t charge a “close in” booking fee the way that American Airlines would have, so that also resulted in a savings.  There was no saver award availability for the return, so I used a $50 American Airlines gift certificate I had received “for free” via the $100 American Airlines fee credit bonus we got from our Amex Platinum as a courtesy when we lost access to the American Airlines lounges in March.  This knocked the one-way ticket price down from about $160 to $110 out of pocket.

This meant we were able to book a flight just a few weeks out for 9,000 Avios + $110 cash and refund the incorrectly booked flights at no penalty thanks to booking for an account that wouldn’t have fees if our plans changed.  He now has to connect through Dallas instead of having a nonstop, but that’s a small price to pay to undo a date mix-up (and he will get lunch at the Centurion Lounge in DFW thanks to the Amex Platinum Card).  I also get my 25,000 United miles back, which I value higher than 9,000 Avios + $110 anyway!  Another victory.  Now I just have to plan what C and I will do while daddy is camping!

This was just a normal day of deal hunting and travel planning around here where not everything is “free”, but sometimes getting a good deal is good enough.  I’d love to hear about any recent bookings and deals your family has taken advantage of!


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  1. Great post. While it is always fun to see pictures and trip reports from aspirational trips to exotic places, to me it is much more valuable to see real-world experiences of “normal” people constantly saving a few bucks here and there

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Makes me wonder how award booking services make any money, it’s all so time-consuming.

    One minor quibble, most folks like to deduct the value of those airline credits off the top when considering the Amex annual fee. But you can’t then turn around and not count that as an out-of-pocket outlay. Does that make sense? I don’t want to count it twice…

  3. It’s a little silly to say that hotels are going for $200/night in Montreal. You can easily get hotels for any night for under $100.

    Just look at Hotwire for tonight: $75+tax for a 3-star hotel… or June/July nights for $64+tax 3-star downtown!

  4. Points with a crew, thanks and I agree real world stuff is not exciting, but hopefully helpful!
    DBest, true but this was some bonus credit from the AA lounges going away above the normal $200 per year. 😉
    Cogswell, Hotwire was not anywhere near that low for their dates sadly. Could prob find something closer to $150 all-in if you looked really hard, but not much lower for somewhere you would be okay being.

  5. I used BA Avios (10K) for a ticket from IAH to BNA (Nashville) which was wonderful for us (since I was able to treat friends). Since BNA is a regional airport really the flights tend to be a bit pricey, so ya to Avios! And blogs like yours.

  6. Having united elite status really helped the last booking. That puts that tip out of the reach of most of us.

  7. Good article MP, you might want to clarify that your BA booking was IAH-DFW-DEN with 2 4,500 BA Avios flights. I was scratching my head figuring out how you got 9,000 BA Avios.

  8. Thanks for saving us some dinero. Grandma Points will be very happy as she will now not have to just share my dinner. And if she doesn’t go overboard, maybe we can go to the Newseum.

  9. Charlotte, awesome!
    Tex, not really. The trick is knowing which programs you can access that are more flexible if your plans change. Even without elite status, BA is a good example of a program that has much more reasonable change/cancel fees (just taxes online). There are other foreign carriers you can transfer points to that also have much more reasonable fees on “iffy” trips. I could have also booked the United flights through Singapore Airlines (transfer partner of UR) and they have just a $30 redeposit fee.
    Grant, wasn’t Denver but rather a small and expensive Colorado airport, but same premise. It also was just one award, but it does price the two segments at 4,500 each. Sorry for any confusion!
    Free Travel Guys, cool – thanks for the link!
    Grandpa Points, ha ha. I hear Newseum is on Travelzoo discounted right now. 😉
    Cogswell, I try not to share exact travel dates of folks but randomly I entered June 7th and Hotwire was coming back with crazy people prices if you weren’t staying near the airport. If I dug deeper I’m sure I could find something, but $200 isn’t a all-in crazy number.

    Actually, we toured the Newseum on a previous DC trip. It is outstanding. It is like a lot of museums in that there is more to see than one visit really allows. The 9/11 exhibit was especially memorable.

  11. Mommypoints – you “randomly” chose June 7 (ie. Canadian Grand Prix = busiest weekend of the year in Montreal)? Haha 🙂

    Even for that night there are plenty of places under $100 on hotelscombined, hotwire etc… I think you are convincing yourself that you are saving much more than you really are.

    • Cogswell, yes randomly picked. I’m sadly not up to speed on Canadian events down here in Texas, but I can assure you rates were similar for their real night. It could be another special event there for all I know. I’m also certain you could find somewhere to sleep for a bit less, but anywhere most would want to stay would be at least $150 all-in – often closer to $200. I did check Hotwire and that backed up my hunches, but it’s okay if we disagree on the amount saved. 5k points is a great price no matter how you slice it up.

  12. Thanks for the reminder about TravelPony. I booked the Hampton Inn JFK in Nov (overnight flight connection) for a total of $94. The 10% off stacked with my $35 credit. Rooms on other sites/hotels were upwards of $180+ tax.

    • Deborah, your new customer bonus and 10% off stacked?! If so, you are super lucky as that seems to have stopped working for most! Did you maybe sign up a while back and just hadn’t used the $35 credit yet?

      • Yes, I signed up a couple of months ago looking for a room at JFK. When the calendar didn’t go to Nov, I kinda forgot all about it until your post. The credit and 10% stacked which was awesome. There are still 94 10% off’s left.

        • Deborah, awesome! Must be the older accounts still work with stacking, but the new ones don’t. Glad you were able to do it!

  13. Grandpa Points, I love museums, and if you’re ever in the Scottsdale area I strongly recommend the Musical Instrument Museum. It’s the #1 attraction on TripAdvisor in the Phoenix area and if you look it up you’ll understand why. I’ve been to many museums in DC, and this one is really really up there toe to toe with any of the ones in DC. I was really impressed. Spent 4 hours there.

  14. I’m a hotwire expert and pointsbreaks are better plus you can cancel them when/if a 5 star for $60 becomes available on hotwire. I have been to Montreal and driven to Laval to visit friends. They can eat a wonderful dinner on what they save in the city. Montreal is cool.

  15. I’d love to see more posts like this! I’ve got the earning down, but (as always) the redemptions can be tough to learn. It’s helpful for me to see how you readjust on the fly, and I learned a lot from this post! Thanks for all you do!

  16. To me, part of the fun of learning about points and miles is to help my friends save $ using what they have. Just the other day I taught a friend using her membership reward points to transfer to Avios for her flights between Taipei and HK, and found her a BRG opportunity for Renaissance Harbor View Hong Kong, showed her how to file a claim which was approved! We had the rate cut from HKD2000 on Marriott’s website to HKD1200 per night for 4 nights. Today I got my first Hyatt online BRG claim approved and had my stay at Grand Hyatt Guangzhou China slashed by 50% to $112! I can do stuff like this all day long as it is much more fun than full-time work 🙂

  17. Another real world example: Recently we went to Sequoia National Park for a day, followed by Yosemite for a day. Lodging: Reasonable hotels along the way (Club Carlson, Fresno, 2 nights, 9000 points, worth $45; Comfort Inn, Merced, 1 night, 8000 points, worth $40). A great example of using points to stay for about 1/3 of what a cash booking would have cost. I saved enough to pay for my Advanced FTU booking in September :-).

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