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The best award travel deals for Spring Break are usually booked far in advance, but many families simply aren’t able to be that organized. Fortunately, TPG Senior Contributor Jason Steele can suggest some great Spring Break destinations for families that can still be booked with points and miles—even now.
Finding Spring Break (late March through early April) award availability for an entire family can be a challenging task, so it’s best to focus on destinations that can be reached with airline awards from fixed-value programs such as Southwest and JetBlue. For hotel awards, look at programs that offer free nights in any available unsold room, like Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Starwood Preferred Guest and Club Carlson; if you see standard rooms for sale in one of these programs but no free night awards, take Nick Ewen’s advice on What to Do When Your Hotel Doesn’t Follow Its Own Rules.
Using this criteria, I found that these family-friendly destinations still have award availability for Spring Break:
Award flights on Southwest are available via Baltimore or Atlanta, and you might even find saver award space on some of the major carriers. Unfortunately, the Bahamas does impose about $100 worth of taxes on visitors.
When it comes to hotels with award availability, choices include the British Colonial Hilton Nassau and the Atlantis Paradise Island, the latter of which can now be booked with Marriott points.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Like other Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico has beautiful beaches and enjoys warm weather in the spring, but as part of the United States, parents don’t need to worry about obtaining passports for their children. Family activities in and around San Juan include the El Morro castle and the El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system.
San Juan (SJU) is reachable on Southwest via Baltimore (BWI), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA), and also enjoys service from JetBlue and most major carriers. Several local properties have available awards, such as the Radisson Ambassador Plaza Hotel & Casino (38,000 Club Carlson points per night, with the last night free for Club Carlson credit card holders), the Waldorf Astoria Resort El Conquistador (60,000 Hilton HHonors points per night), and the Sheraton Puerto Rico (only 10,000 SPG points a night, with the fifth night free).
For more information about using points and miles in Puerto Rico, read my guide to Credit Card Combinations for a Puerto Rico Vacation.
While Aruba is on the far side of the Caribbean, it’s one of the regions warmer destinations, with constant temperatures year round and very little rainfall in March and April. The numerous pale-sand beaches and water sports will appeal to kids, as will animal attractions like the Aruba Ostrich Farm , Donkey Sanctuary, and Butterfly Farm.
Beginning on March 7, 2015, Southwest will serve Aruba from Baltimore (BWI), Orlando (MCO) and Houston-Hobby (HOU). Service is also offered by JetBlue, Spirit, and most major carriers.
There are some great hotel options available, including the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino, where a Garden View room is 25,000 points per night and a Regency Club room, 33,000 points per night (see screenshot above), as well as the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa (50,000 Club Carlson points a night), the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino (30,000 to 35,000 Marriott points per night), and the Ritz-Carlton Aruba (from 50,000 – 60,000 Marriott points per night).
One of my favorite family skiing destinations has always been Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada, where by spring, the snow is deep and powdery, the sun is out, and the major ski areas are large enough to enjoy all week long. And as an added treat, families can enjoy evening musical or magic shows at casinos on the Nevada side.
All of the major airlines, including Southwest, serve the Reno-Tahoe Airport (RNO), which is within an hour’s drive of all the major ski resorts in the area, such as Heavenly Valley, Squaw Valley, and Northstar.
When it comes to hotels, here are a few options:
- Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe—30,000 IHG Reward points, near Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe
- Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino—20,000 points per night, located at Incline Village in North Lake Tahoe
- Hyatt High Sierra Lodge at Incline Village is a Hyatt Residence Club property
- Grand Residences by Marriott—40,000 points per night, at the base of the Heavenly Valley gondola
- Marriott’s Timber Lodge—40,000 points per night, at the Heavenly Valley gondola base
- Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe—60,000 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points per night, with ski-in/ski-out access to the Northstar area
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Punta Cana is growing in popularity due to its great beaches, low price, and convenient air service, and features kid-friendly activities like the Bavaro Runners Zip Line Adventures, Monster Truck Safari, and surf lessons at the Macao Surf Camp.
In addition to flights from major airline hubs, the Punta Cana Airport (PUJ) offers year-round service on Southwest from Atlanta (ATL), Baltimore (BWI), Chicago-Midway (MDW), and seasonal service from Milwaukee (MKE).
On the other hand, the Westin Punta Cana Resort and Club is the only award-travel option at this time, requiring 12,000 points a night.
Nevertheless, I wanted to highlight this destination because it’s very reasonably priced, and would be a great place to use miles from your Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card cards on hotels, car rentals, and other travel expenses.
Key West, Florida
When you think of visiting the Caribbean, you probably don’t imagine a road trip. But Key West is essentially in the middle of the ocean, connected to the mainland by 113 miles of roadway and 42 overseas bridges. Once there, families can ride around on bicycles, take a trolley ride on the Conch Tour Train, or swim with animals at Theater of the Sea.
The island is a scenic 3.5 hour drive from the Miami airport, and within four hours of the Fort Lauderdale airport. Between these two airports, you will find extensive service from Southwest, Jet Blue, Spirit, and all of the major airlines. In addition, there is also a smattering of service to the Key West airport itself from American, Delta, and US Airways.
Furthermore, it offers a feast of properties available with points including:
- Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort—30,000 – 35,000 SPG points per night
- The Westin Key West Resort & Marina—20,000 – 25,000 SPG points per night
- Sheraton Suites Key West—12,000 – 16,000 SPG points per night
- Hilton Garden Inn Key West—30,000 – 60,000 Hilton HHonors points per night
- Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa—25,000 Gold Passport points per night
Colorado’s best skiing conditions often occur in late March and early April, during the heart of Spring Break. (As as a Denver resident, I can personally attest to a great snowfall so far this year.) When taking a break from the slopes, families can enjoy backcountry activities like snow-shoeing and snow mobile rides.
While there are some flights to small airports near Vail, Steamboat, Aspen, and Crested Butte, most skiers will probably arrive at Denver International Airport (DEN) and drive two to three hours into the mountains. Thankfully, Denver is home to major hubs for United, Southwest, and Frontier, and enjoys frequent service from all other major airline hubs.
As for hotels, there are some great awards available at the Hampton Inn & Suites Steamboat Springs (40,000 Hilton HHonors points during ski season) as well as a wide variety of Hyatt and Starwood properties:
- Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa—30,000 points per night
- Hyatt Grand Aspen and Hyatt Mountain Lodge – both Hyatt Residence Club properties in Aspen
- Hyatt Main Street Station and The Residences at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek— Hyatt Residence Clubs in Beaver Creek
Don’t forget that there are two free nights offered by the Hyatt credit card from Chase.
- Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Avon/Vail Valley—12,000 – 16,000 SPG points per night
- The St. Regis Aspen Resort – 30,000 – 35,000 SPG points per night
- St. Regis Residence Club, Aspen—30,000 – 35,000 SPG points per night
- Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas—30,000 – 35,000 SPG points per night.
- Sheraton Steamboat Resort – 12,000 -16,000 SPG points per night.
- The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain—12,000 – 16,000 SPG points per night
- Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas – 20,000 – 25,000 SPG points per night
- The Westin Snowmass Resort – 12,000 – 16,000 SPG points per night
- Wildwood Snowmass 10,000 SPG points per night
So where is my family going, you ask?
Due to uncertainties in my family’s schedule, we were unable to book our Spring Break trip until recently. After examining all of our options from Denver, we chose to fly Southwest into Fort Lauderdale (FLL), then drive to the Sheraton Suites Key West. Using our Southwest Rapid Rewards points, our two Companion Passes, and our Starwood points, the four of us should be enjoying the southernmost beaches in the continental United States for almost nothing this spring!
Are you looking for a last-minute, family Spring Break trip? What have you found?