Travel

How I Booked An 8 Night Hawaiin Vacation for $153.52

Hawaii has always been on my travel bucket list! From the bright blue ocean water, to the tropical drinks & the amazing views… not to mention you don’t need a passport to get there, it sounds like the perfect recipe for a fun, relaxing and eye-opening vacation!


Years ago, I thought the flights to Hawaii and the hotels at the various islands would result in thousands of dollars out of my pocket. I now know that if you do spend that much on plane tickets or hotel nights, you are not traveling smart and you must love to throw your money away! :) You don't need to be a millionaire or anywhere close to that to fulfill your dreams of a five-star Hawaiian vacation! All you need is dedication to planning your trip, some flexibility and hotel points & miles! Using points & miles saves you a TON of money and is completely worth it in the end. So, here’s how I booked 8 nights in Hawaii and saved myself almost $5,400:

The Flights

The flight is the first thing on my to-do list when planning a vacation. We booked our flights on United.com using United miles. James (my husband) and I both signed up for the United Mileage Plus credit card a while back which earned us each 50,000 miles after spending the minimum amount required. Since we earned these miles separately, we booked our reservations separately and just selected seats next to each other on the flights.


Our flights cost us 51,000 miles plus $11.20 in taxes each. Typically, you can get a round trip ticket to Hawaii for 45K miles on United; however we booked an extra flight between Oahu & Maui for an additional 6K miles. Without using miles, our flights would have cost over $1200 each, yikes!

Our Flight Schedule:
Orlando to Honolulu (22.5K miles)
Honolulu to Maui (6K miles)
Maui to Orlando (22.5K miles)
Total: 51K miles

TIP: If you book your flights using your United MileagePlus credit card to pay for the taxes (or paid flights) you get two free checked bags and free priority boarding. Something to keep in mind, because otherwise it's $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for your 2nd checked bag. Eeek! Now that we have the flights covered, we need to find amazing resorts to stay at...

The Hotels

There are so many beautiful resorts in Hawaii; however it was really easy to pick the ones we were going to stay at since we had free hotel nights at certain chains.

Three Nights in Oahu on Waikiki Beach:



I earned two free weekend nights at essentially any Hilton property (with the exception of a few high-end resorts) from my Citi Hilton Reserve Credit Card I had signed up for last year. We decided to book two nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort on Waikiki Beach located on the island of Oahu. I also had 36,888 Hilton points from various purchases from the Citi Hilton card that I knew I would probably never use since Hilton’s redemptions for free nights using points is super high. The Hawaiian Village costs 50,000 Hilton points for a free night, so I decided to purchase an additional 13,122 points for $131.12 to get one more free night at the resort. Since I have the Citi Hilton Reserve card, it automatically gives me Hilton Gold status which includes free Wi-Fi, free bottled water, an upgrade to the best available room on the day of arrival, and at this resort we'll get a $10 daily credit voucher for food & beverage at the resort. The credit is for me and one additional guest so since we are staying three nights, we get $60 in free food & beverage... not bad, huh? We would have spent $1040 for three nights if we didn't use points/free night certificates!

Five Nights in Maui:


Maui was super simple to book. We decided to stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui as it comes highly recommended by friends and family and it only costs 20K points per night. James signed up for the Hyatt Chase credit card which gave us two free nights and we transferred 60K Chase points to Hyatt for the other three nights. Having the Hyatt Credit card automatically gives us Platinum status which gives you late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a few other perks. We earned the 40K Chase points through a combo of credit card sign-up bonuses from the Chase Ink Card (60K points) and various purchases. The 5 night stay would have cost us roughly $1900 if we didn't use points!

Bonus!


We booked a Sunset Dinner Cruise in Maui for 16,488 Chase points (which normally would have cost $206) It’s a great way to use your Chase points since you get 20% discount for using your points and booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.  I love to use my points for activities that include a meal & drinks since you get more bang for your buck (in this case points).  

Overview:
  • We booked our flights for 51K miles plus $11.20 each. We earned the miles from each signing up for the United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card (however, the current sign-up bonus is only 30K points right now). I would recommend signing-up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card for the current 55K sign-up bonus or the Chase Ink Credit Card for the current 60K sign-up bonus and transferring your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United miles at a 1:1 ratio. 
  • We booked three nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Oahu using our two free weekend night certificates we earned from the Citi Hilton Reserve credit card and one extra night using points (36,888 points earned plus 13,112 points purchased). 
  • We booked 5 nights at the Hyatt Regency Maui using our two free Hyatt nights earned by signing up for the Hyatt Chase Credit Card. For the other three nights, we transferred 60K Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at 1:1 ratio. We earned the 60K points by signing up for the Chase Ink Credit Card
  • We booked a Sunset Dinner Cruise in Maui for 16,488 points using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. 
Total we WOULD HAVE spent:
$2400 on flights + $2940 on hotels +$206 on dinner cruise = $5546

Totals we actually spent:
$22.40 flight taxes + $131.12 hotel points = $153.52

We saved $5392.50!

So, there you have it everyone! Now... I need to go pack for our tropical trip of a lifetime! Check back for my next post which is going to be all about packing essentials for your next trip! For more Travel posts, check out the Travel section on my site!

 Do you have any travel advice for Hawaii? What are your favorite activities to do on the islands? Let me know in the comments. 


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A Romantic Getaway: Falling in Love with Paris in Just Three Days

Paris is such a magical place for a romantic getaway: the gorgeous structures, manicured gardens, the laid back atmosphere, and of course the flowing champagne! 


As I talked about in my two previous posts here and here, we stayed in Paris for three nights on our way home from our honeymoon and it was such a delight! We both has never been here before so experiencing this amazing city together for the first time was a dream. We decided this was going to be our “relaxing” part of the trip as we just came from doing every major thing there is to do in Rome and we wanted to wind down and just relax.

Paris is a place you can go back multiple times and experience new things every time, so I wasn’t worried about seeing everything as I know we will go back someday.

Day 1: An early start and a wonderful surprise

With VERY early morning flight from Rome and one connection in Germany, WE ARE FINALLY HERE! Baguettes and champagne here we come!

We decided to be adventurous and take the train to get to our hotel instead of spending 50-60 for a cab. With our dependence on Siri to tell us how to get everywhere basically all of our adult lives, this sadly was going to be a challenge. As delirious as we were, we thought this was a GREAT idea!

Well, with a little help from the English speaking airport employee, a detailed map he gave us and Google maps on our phone... we found our hotel! It only costs 10 per person for the train so we were pretty proud of ourselves for figuring it out.

TIP: You can use your phone’s Google maps even if the data and cellular service is turned off. It just shows where your blue dot is in relation to the city’s maps but it’s very helpful still.

We checked into the Park Hyatt Vendôme, however since it was about 10am our room wasn’t ready so we decided to walk to a café to grab a bite to eat. 

We got burgers A LOT.

Once our room was ready, we couldn’t wait to see what a 900 a night room looks like! When we got to the room, there was a chilled bottle of champagne and a card congratulating us on our honeymoon! Nice touch!  

TIP: In our reservation we mentioned that it was our honeymoon, as well as emailed the hotel separately to let them know. Telling a hotel about a special event your are celebrating is ALWAYS a good idea.

Our view of the courtyard from our room
I booked the room, that's why it says Connelly not Bostwick.

Poppin' bottles in Paris!

The actual room was pretty nice, but THAT bathroom though. There was top to bottom marble, gold accents everywhere, Blaise Mautin toiletries and even a towel warmer!

The Gold hardware is EVERYTHING.
That walk in shower and rain shower head. There are no words!
After a nap, a shower in the absolutely gorgeous bathroom, and some bubbly, we started to explore the city in search of some dinner. 
 
Wine costs about the same as soda at most restaurants, so you know what I was drinking!

We strolled the streets around our hotel after dinner and surprisingly they were empty! The streets were very quiet (it was a Sunday night) which made it nice & felt more relaxing.

Pretty sure I need all those gold Eiffel towers
During our stroll, we found a dive bar with live music and decided to check it out. The bar was TINY and packed with locals. It was really entertaining to listen to the french performers sing all American songs! Super fun. 

Day 2: Museums, Cafés & a Dinner Cruise

After a full nights sleep, we were ready to tackle our first full day there! BUT FIRST, I had to start my day off with a free Nespresso in bed.


The room included free bottles of Evian and a Nespresso machine! Restocked everyday.
Our plan was to go to the Louvre, get lunch and then go back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner cruise that night. If you plan to go to the Louvre, GET TICKETS BEFORE. We did not get tickets ahead of time online, but did buy them directly from our hotel when we were there for 20 each. I would recommend getting them online for 15 each. If you don't buy them ahead of time, the line to buy tickets was over a 2 hour wait and definitely a waste of your precious time. 

Outside the Louvre
The Louvre was AMAZING! It's so large and filled with so much history, you could spend all day in there. You can see the Mona Lisa, the Great Sphinx of Tanis, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and much more! My favorite was Napoleon's apartment.

Pretty view from inside the Louvre!

Part of Napoleon's apartment

Venus de Milo
We spent about two hours at the Louvre, ate lunch and then headed back to our hotel to get ready for our dinner cruise along the Seine River! 

Getting ready for the night! Wearing Urban Decay Naked 1 Palette and NARS Satin Lip Pencil in 'Palais Royal'

 Before the cruise, we took pictures by the Eiffel tower since the river is right next to it!
We booked the dinner cruise through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, so it didn't actually cost us real cash. It's a great way to spend your Chase points as you are getting a free meal and an activity in one! 

On the cruise!
Fancy soup. YUM!
At night, the Eiffel tower SPARKLES


On the cruise, we enjoyed a three course meal with unlimited wine (I like to think because our server liked us) and took in all the amazing sights! We got to see the Eiffel tower all lit up, the small Statue of Liberty, and much more! The sun set as we ate dinner and it was so perfect.

Day 3: A stroll along the Avenue

Our 3rd and final day in Paris we strolled the Avenue des Champs-Élysées eating macarons, checked out the Arch de Triomphe, window shopped, and ate lunch at a café

Arc de Triomphe


Wearing W+L Sky Blue Gold Tassel earrings

Pierre Hermé macarons

The desserts at Ladurée
Jardin des Tuileries
All in all this quick trip was absolutely breathtaking! If you are thinking about going to Paris, I would highly recommend the dinner cruise! It was such a once in a lifetime experience.

Do your travel plans include Paris? If so, what will will do there? Let me know in the comments! 

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We have all heard the saying “you get what you pay for” implying the less you pay, the less value you get out of it. In most situations, I totally agree with that statement, however with traveling on points & miles this is not the case AT ALL. 

Today, I am going to talk about the logistics behind booking luxury hotels using points instead of real money and the two different ways that lead me to three free nights at a luxury hotel in Paris! 


As stated in my previous blog post, James and I stayed three nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme during our honeymoon and it was magnificent! We loved the level of service we received, the location of the hotel and the overall feel & look of our room and the hotel surroundings. We saved thousands of dollars by booking our stay with points (see my previous post for a breakdown of the savings) and today I will explain how we did it exactly.

First off, when planning a trip I almost always look to see if there is a Hyatt we can stay at. Not only because their hotels are almost always clean & beautiful, but because their hotel points give you SO much more value as opposed to programs like Hilton or Marriott.
I have always wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme. Park Hyatt is Hyatt’s luxury brand of hotels and when something is free, why not go for top shelf?

The front of the Park Hyatt Paris
Here are the steps I took to stay here for free:

Step 1: I applied for the Chase Hyatt Card.


This card is the freaking best for getting the largest value on a Hyatt hotel. Once you get approved for the card and spend $1,000 in 3 months you will get a certificate for 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt location in the world. This is HUGE savings if you use it at the right property. 

The free night certificates are only valid one year from the date they are issued, so you will need to plan your trip within that one year time-frame or hold off from applying for the card until you know when you will go on your trip.

In addition to the two free nights, you receive 5,000 bonus points after adding an authorized user to your account. It’s super easy to do and I recommended adding the additional user during the application so you don’t have to call Chase later on. This step isn't required, but 100% recommended. 

A breakdown of the card:
  • 2 free nights at any Hyatt after spending $1,000 in the first three months of opening the card
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after adding an authorized user (& that user making one purchase…could be a pack of gum for $1.00)
  • Automatic upgrade to Hyatt Gold Platinum membership which includes free internet, late checkouts and many other benefits. 
  • No annual fee for the first year ($75 after)
  • 1 free night on your card membership anniversary for any category 1-4 property
PRO TIP: I HIGHLY recommend you not use these two free nights at just any Hyatt hotel. Meaning, use it on the expensive hotels, not the cheap ones! You want the BEST value for these certificates as you can only get these once every 24 months (per the Chase website). Stays at the Park Hyatt Sydney, Park Hyatt Tokyo, or Park Hyatt Maldives Hadhaa for example, will all give you an enormous value as these hotels are normally very expensive. If you wanted to stay at an average priced Hyatt, I would recommended using Hyatt points and saving the "certificate option" for a time you want to stay at a luxury property.

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadhaa



Park Hyatt Tokyo

After I spent $1,000 on my card, I received the free night certificates via email the next billing cycle. BOOM: two free nights down, one to go...

Step 2: Transfer 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt Gold Passport account

To stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, it costs 30,000 Hyatt points per night. Since I had just got the Hyatt credit card, it seemed that there was no way I would be able to earn enough Hyatt points for another free night, right? WRONG. This is where I introduce you to the holy grail of the points & miles world: Chase Ultimate Rewards Points.  

There are many ways to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) Points, but the easiest way is to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. After approval and spending the minimum amount required you will receive a large bonus (right now it’s 50,000 points). This is the easiest and quickest way to earn a bunch of UR points at once. 

Once you have the UR points, you can transfer them to other hotel and airline programs at a 1:1 transfer ratio (which means you don’t lose any points during the transfer). What is one of my favorite programs to transfer Chase UR points to? You guessed it! The Hyatt Gold Passport program

Here is how to transfer the points:

Go to https://ultimaterewardspoints.chase.com and sign in using your normal Chase login.
Sign in to the Ultimate Rewards website and hover over the "Use Points" drop down. Select "Transfer to Travel Partners"


If you don't already have a Hyatt Passport Member ID, sign up for one here.

FYI points can only be transferred in increments of 1,000

After this page, it will let you review & verify that everything is correct before you submit. After you submit, VOILA! The points will automatically be added to your Hyatt account and ready for you to book your room on the Hyatt.com website. It's that simple. 

There you have it! Three free nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme. Let me know your travel plans in the comments, I would love to hear them!

Next up: My full review of Paris, the hotel and everything we did there. Also, look forward to a detailed breakdown of how to book a free stopover flight.

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Three Days in Paris: Intro to Planning a Trip of a Lifetime on a Small Budget | Part 1

James and I spent our honeymoon touring Italy, France & Spain and this week I'm going to talk about my favorite city we went to, Paris! Paris is everything you want it to be and more. From the quaint s nettled along the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, to the gorgeous glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower at night, it really does have that magical feel you see in the movies.


Gloomy day in Paris, still beautiful!



Our first Parisian café

Since we were already flying from Orlando (MCO) to Italy (FCO) for our 7 night cruise along the Mediterranean, we decided at the last minute to book a stopover in Paris on our way home and I couldn't have been happier with that decision!


On the way to Paris!

A stopover is when you stop at a city along the way to your final destination. It’s basically a long layover. To be considered a “stopover”, it needs to be more than 24 hours long. Stopovers are such a great way to see a second city in addition to your original destination! PRO TIP: United Airlines offers 1 free stopover on international flights. Since we were flying with United, we would have definitely been missing out if we didn’t utilize this opportunity for a free flight! I’ll be covering how to book a stopover flight with step-by-step instructions in the next part of this series.

Let's be real...Paris is EXPENSIVE and planning out your trip ahead of time is a must if you don't have an unlimited budget (like most of us.) Utilizing airline miles and hotel points are the best way to travel on a small budget in my opinion. I am not going to lie, it does take time but it's totally worth it!

Outside the Louvre

 I knew I could plan this short trip for little to no cost, so I did my research & started planning away! Planning a detailed honeymoon while trying to save as much money as possible AND planning a wedding while simultaneously running a business with a full-time job is probably the most stressful things I've done thus far. Even just writing that sentence exhausted me. In the end, everything worked out great and I was so happy I put the time into planning the best honeymoon ever! My college degree was in Event Planning, so I guess it wasn't completely worthless? Thanks UCF!

This trip would have cost us a total of $2995.50 (including the three hotel nights & one way trip to Paris from Rome) How much did we end up paying you ask? It came to $39 per person (taxes for our flight into Paris) and $29.82 for hotel taxes which is a total of $107.82. We SAVED a cool $2887.68.

Our Room at the Park Hyatt
Here’s the breakdown: 

What the flights would have cost:
FCO (Rome, Italy) to CDG (Paris, France)
Two adult tickets - $377.60
Taxes & fees - $107.00
Total = $484.60

What we paid:
Taxes & fees - $39 per person
Total = $78

What the hotel would have cost:
3 nights at the BEAUTIFUL Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme
Night #1 - 756.50 €
Night #2 - 756.50 €
Night #3 - 756.50 €
Subtotal: 2.269,50 € 
City Tax: 13,20 €
Total Per Room: 2.282,70 €

Converted to USD:  $2510.90

What we paid: 
$29.82 for hotel taxes

 I would have never spent almost $3,000 knowing what I know now about how to travel large on a small budget. With points & miles, it really is a reality and with some time & commitment you can too! I'm here to share my knowledge on utilizing airline miles & hotel points to travel for free or little cost. I am also going to share all the highlights from my trips and give you recommendations based on all my research and first hand experiences.

On a Seine River dinner cruise, one of my favorite things we did!

UP NEXT: A review of the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme and HOW we stayed there for free, as well as how to book a stopover flight.

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2 comments

  1. Loved all the Paris pictures!!! I went there with a group in high school but would absolutely die to go back as an adult with my husband :) Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loved all the Paris pictures!!! I went there with a group in high school but would absolutely die to go back as an adult with my husband :) Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

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