Why I Love Miles/Points – $4,000 Worth of Travel for $23!

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last minute travel kauai
The Grand Hyatt Kauai. I have been wanting to stay here for a long time!

My Last Minute $4,000 Trip

I really love the miles & points game and what it makes possible. Right now I am on a plane to Kauai on a ticket that was booked last night! So much flexibility!

With a baby on the way, this blog and my work over at another, I haven’t really been able to travel much over the past couple of months.  Travel is a part of my DNA. I just have to do it.

My wife and I had left this weekend open for a quick late Valentine’s/early Anniversary trip. We were originally just going to drive to San Diego, but as much as I love that city, I just wanted to go somewhere else. Somewhere slightly more aspirational.

So I looked at various cities in Texas (not really aspirational) and on the East Coast, but with the weather being how it is lately, there weren’t many great options.

Then I thought, why not just go to Hawaii? So I went to Twitter and asked if it was crazy to go to Hawaii for just a three day weekend. Of course my Twitter feed is stacked with other crazy travelers who supported my crazy idea.



Thanks to miles and points I was able to secure the plane tickets which would have cost about $900 each for nothing more than the cost of the 9/11 security fee.

Additionally we will be staying in the $519 per night + tax Grand Hyatt Kauai for three nights. Are we paying $1800+? Nope. Our only cost is Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Hyatt. And don’t forget about the 20% rebate and the added value from my Hyatt Diamond status.

The final piece of our trip was a rental car. While the last minute prices weren’t too good, my Barclay’s Arrival Plus (my review) points will cover the $150 cost of that as well.

last minute travel kauai
Thank god for Ultimate Reward points! My cost will be $0!

I love leaving flexibility when traveling. It has certainly caused me problems in the past, but there is no denying that it worked here. If I had planned out my trip, I would be driving to San Diego right now instead of flying to Kauai.


In the future I will have a more thorough breakdown of the trip including retail costs, points costs and the cost to acquire those points, but for now I am happy to report this last minute $4,000 trip is only costing me about $23 out of pocket.

Do you like to meticulously plan every detail of a trip months ahead of time or do you value the flexibility that miles & points give you? Let me know in the comments. Have a great weekend!

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  1. Wish I saw this post last week! I was just at the GHK from 2/19-23. Such a fantastic trip I also (mostly) scored on points and miles. My 20 month old son absolutely loved the lagoon. Hoping to make it an annual thing with my family now.

  2. Have a fantastic time! That is a wonderful destination for a spontaneous trip. The only wasted points are the ones that never get used. Sometimes a splurge just makes a trip more memorable.

    A year from now you will have some great memories.

  3. I’d never say you wasted points–travel is about what *you* enjoy, and where you want to go. I’d rather go somewhere for a few days than sit at home, and I bet the memories made in Kauai were ones you won’t soon forget. Using points for last minute travel is a great way to minimize the exorbitant price airlines and hotels sometimes charge for last minute travel.

    I do take issue with the “$23” number you’re mentioning as your cost for this trip. There’s just no way this cost you $23 as you’re totally negating the cost of the points you used. With Arrival and UR being convertable directly into cash there’s a real cost associated with using those points. There should be a cost to the miles used as well (either directly, or in time to acquire).

    I’m confident this is still a fantastic value versus the $4,000 list price, but would love to see a more transparent breakdown of the true cost.

  4. @Shawn –

    There is no way this is a waste! In fact, I am doing something similar for my mother. She just recovered recently from facial surgery to remove cancer. It has left her appearance forever changed…and over time we have gotten her used to being in public again.

    So, as an emotional “victory lap” I am flying her to Seattle for breakfast, getting her a flat-bed upgrade from their to LAX where we will have dinner…and then the flight home.

    For us it is marking her victory over beating cancer, the remembrances we have had of travelling the world together when I was young…and a celebration of her returning to traveling and feeling comfortable again in public areas.


    John DELTA
    Also @laptoptravel (we sent you the photo of Shipwreck’s beach)

  5. On one hand I think it would have been better to have more time to spend there, as you’re letting go of so many points, on the other I think you have to do things while you can. My husband is suffering a lot from his back lately and that made me change my mind about traveling: do it while you can. Besides you must have tons of points, you are an expert after all!

  6. Nothing wrong going on impulsive trip, made possible having points & miles! I think knowing it won’t costs you a lot makes it that much more exciting and fun. I was planning a trip to Dubai having seen it featured on travel TV, then I impulsively thought (after reading a great MAldive trip report from million miles secret) why not add Maldive, so I did and booked the flight from AUH to MLE and used Hyatt points & promo award night for our 4 night stay. I’m truly amazed how much my hubby and I were able to travel to since I started travel hacking mid 2013.

    Thanks to you and other bloggers, I learned so much!

  7. Nathan – a very short sighted comment. Everyone has different goals, priorities, wants, needs, aspirations and what is right for one is not for another. Each to his own. Live and let live. Be happy for others.

    Shawn, this sounds like just the trip you needed at this moment in time. I hope you have a fabulous time.

  8. Great trip! I typically have to plan my travel well in advance due to job commitments, but once in a while I get to do quick getaways like this. Even better when it’s nearly free. Enjoy the weekend!

    • Nothing in life that is enjoyed is a waste. Each person’s priorities and experiences are different. At this point, with a baby coming, this is the perfect trip for us.

      Thanks for your opinion!

      • I agree with you. Normally I would say there were probably better options but it is a personal decision and I am in the same boat. Baby #2 is on the way and I’ve been scoping out last minute trips because it will probably be at minimum another year before we take another trip (traveling with baby is so difficult not to mention, under 1 can’t get many vaccinations so I don’t want to risk exposure to anything nasty).


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