Vacation has been booked! -or- Saving thousands of dollars using points!

(Note: Tonight’s blog is only going to be about the vacation I have booked for early April.  If you have a jealous streak or you tend to think anyone who’s excited about a trip is “bragging,” this post might not be for you.  I recommend coming back tomorrow.)

It’s official!  As of last night, Kristin and I are booked on a trip that will take place in exactly two months.

As most of you know, Kristin works at a charter school here in Ohio.  Vacation time is bountiful, but it’s also predetermined by the school calendar.  I greatly enjoy the flexibility of choosing my own paid time off, but I must admit to being quite jealous that she gets the entire month of July off… and continues to get paid, as she’s salaried.  Man, school administrators have all the luck.  Sort of.  I mean, she does have to deal with kids…  The point is that Spring Break, at least in her school’s situation, is the first week of April this year.  This also happens to be the last week to use my employer’s yearly allotment of paid time off, and I have managed to save just enough days to take that entire week off with her.

I’ve mentioned before that I am very high on collecting credit card and frequent traveler reward points.  The main programs that I’ve focused on are AirTran, Hilton, and AmEx Membership Rewards.  I flew back and forth quite often on AirTran when I lived in Minneapolis, I use the AmEx card as often as possible, and Kristin and I have three Hilton cards between the two of us (one of which will likely be upgraded before the trip).  Between the signup bonuses and other, standard rewards, we were able to rack up enough to pay for almost all of it.

Flight:  We had 32 A+ Rewards points (actually, 35.5), which is good for two round-trip coach flights or two one-way Business Class flights.  Sadly, there were no coach rewards left, but there was a cheap flight TO San Juan on Sunday, March 31st.  This left us all 32 credits to apply toward Business Class reward seats for the return trip on Saturday, April 6th.  There are somewhat decent odds we’ll be upgraded to Business Class on the way down, as well, thanks to my Elite status which lasts through the end of 2013.  Plus, we get to fly out of CAK, which is a pretty awesome airport.  Total cost: $350 for the flight down and all taxes.

Hotel:  I had 120,000 Hilton HHonors points and 40,000 Membership Rewards points.  American Express had a special (ending tonight at midnight, coincidentally) in which you could convert 1,000 MR points into 2,000 HHonors points, a 33% premium over the usual 1,500.  Altogether, I transferred enough to put me at 200,000 and some change.  Kristin had 50,000+ in her account as well, and I transferred 30,000 over to my account at a cost of $50 for the transfer.  Thus, 230,000 and some change.

GLON Rewards, the code name of the Hilton HHonors Elite points discount for multi-day reservations, allows you to save 25% of your points on reservations of five or more days.  While this typically would have ran 50,000 points per day for the Category 7 Hilton Caribe San Juan, the discount got us to 37,500 per day for a total of 225,000 points to cover six nights.  This was for a standard king room, and after booking, I was given the option of upgrading to oceanview at a cost of $20 per night, which I added for a total of $120.

Total trip cost:  32 A+ Credits, 225,000 HHonors Points, $520.

Total trip cost without points:  $3,620.

Yes, folks, the points saved us $3,100.  This is why I’m crazy about points!

Anyway, I’ve added a picture of the standard oceanview king room at the Caribe Hilton provided by Hilton themselves.  I can’t wait to be in this room, and on the balcony, and just out of Ohio.  Two months.  I don’t know if I’ll be sleeping between now and then.

An oceanside standard king room at the Hilton Caribe in San Juan, Puerto Rico

An oceanside standard king room at the Hilton Caribe in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The only thing I’m worried about is what the next vacation will feel like after this dream vacation ruins us forever.  Swim-up bar?  Private beach?  Hammocks in the shade of palms?  It’s going to be hard to top this on a budget, but we’ll get creative.  Or perhaps I’ll find a large bag of hundred dollar bills or something.

We’re planning on doing the Bacardi tour, some kayaking, visiting the fort and Old San Juan, as well as spending a lot of time at the hotel itself.  If anyone has San Juan suggestions, hit the comments section!

Hopefully, there will be a new post tomorrow in the Rage section related to a certain period in the political history of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I’ve been meaning to tackle the topic, and it’ll be fun!