Not all travel is irresponsible right now, and after months of lockdown a getaway can be just what the mind and body need to reset and relax. Crucially, there are ways to remain as socially distant, if not far more than one would be even in their own home, or while bopping around town near home.
From private rental homes to villas and boutique hotel suites, there are so many ways to unlock the value of points and enjoy fabulous trips all over the world, without the stress of spending the ranch. Whether you plan to set foot on an airplane, or not, here are a few clever things to keep in mind, as you plan…
Pick The Right Destinations First
Even an amazing, sprawling complex in the middle of a busy street might not feel nearly as safe and socially distant as one in the mountains, or secluded on a beach. Travel right now is about picking locations that make sense for any personal risk and comfort levels.
Research matters more now than ever before, and choosing boutique hotels with fewer rooms, or Airbnb style properties with no other guests at all can be the magic touch. Here’s a few great ways to get that done…
Loyalty Programs That Let You Book Suites Or Villas With Points
Suites, some of which even have multiple bedrooms are a great way to create that extra little bit of space, or secure a more secluded part of the hotel, where fewer guests can be found.
Wyndham Rewards, World Of Hyatt, IHG, Choice Hotels and Marriott Bonvoy all allow you to redeem points for vacation shares, villas or luxurious hotel suites all around the world.
In the case of Marriott Bonvoy, the program launched Homes & Villas, where you can use points at a rate of circa 0.7 cents per point to cover the cost of a nice home or villa, perhaps even with a private pool. A key benefit here is that these are maintained with Marriott Hotel standards, and could be slightly more reliable than one off personal home rentals.
World Of Hyatt now allows members to redeem points for suites online, and with some stunning hotels now a part of the program through the Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) partnership, there are some incredible options. There are also “all suites” hotels, like the Viceroy, a GSTP favorite in Bali.
IHG is a less traditional option, but with partnerships including Six Senses resorts and Mr & Mrs Smith properties, there are plenty of all suites, or super secluded options which may be even more fun than renting a house.
Cash Back For The Easy Win
Having points in a variety of loyalty currencies can be great, but for simplicity, having points which can act as cash towards some, or all of a purchase can be just as valuable.
Cards such as: Citi Double Cash, Chase Freedom, Bank Of America Rewards, Amex BlueCash EveryDay, and Capital One Venture can present easy ways to pay for your whole vacation, a small part, or at least make it more affordable to book a better place.
With cards like Capital One Venture, you’re able to use purchase eraser to “go back in time” and remove any purchase which codes into the travel category, or just some of the purchase. If you had 50,000 points, which you could easily acquire via a current welcome bonus, you’d have $500 to play with.
Chase Freedom is currently offering a huge $200 cash back bonus after just $500 in spending right now, creating a really easy opportunity to boost your travel funds, from money you’d inevitably spend anyway. Plus, bonus categories until September earn 5% cash back are Amazon and Whole Foods, so even more cash back could be on the way shortly.
Social Distancing On The Plane
Airline miles have been frustrating for years, but with fewer people flying, and airlines keen to just put butts in seats, it’s hardly ever been easier to use your miles to secure a better seat.
Whatever type of airline miles you have, upgrades from economy to business and flat out redemptions for seats with more room and distance between you and the next passenger are worth considering.
Upgrades or premium cabin points redemptions for peak summer travel would’ve been laughable last year, but can make all the difference in securing a bit more breathing room, and also creating considerable savings this summer.
Team GSTP is (fingers crossed) headed to Santorini and cashing in British Airways Avios for Club Europe Business Class was a fantastic value, compared to paying cash. Oh, and hot tip: using miles makes getting airline refunds a lot less stressful when plans change, since the airline isn’t holding heaps of your cash.
Amex Travel, Chase Travel Bookings
Both Amex and Chase allow you to book travel through their booking platforms, and each allows you to redeem points. You’ll get a set value for your points, which may not be wildly exciting, but it’s money off of travel, and still actually “good” value.
Chase allows you to do this with Ultimate Rewards Travel, powered by Expedia, and Expedia has a wide variety of homes, villas and vacation rentals, in addition to the standard run of hotels from budget to ultra luxury.
You can pay with points to cover some, or all of the trip, and the rate you’ll get depends on the card. For a Sapphire Reserve cardholder, this really isn’t a bad option at all.
Amex allows you to do the same, with AmexTravel.com. Once logged in, an Amex Membership Rewards earning card can cover some, or all of the cost, and most hotels around the world are up for grabs. Pick an all suites destination and it’s hard not to love your points.
Earning Mega Points On Airbnb
You can redeem a variety of credit card points for Airbnb gift cards, but it’s hard to pretend that’s even decent value. If you are booking Airbnb though, that doesn’t mean you can’t win big, with stacked points earning when you do.
Yes – you can earn airline miles, including with British Airways, Delta, United and Qantas, or cash back and so much more when you book Airbnb, and it’s pretty easy. Check out GSTP’s mega guide to Airbnb points earning mastery.