Putting Together a Surprise 'Trip of a Lifetime'
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I was so very bummed I missed the chance to get two tickets to the Ryder Cup for just 20,000 total SPG points via a SPG Moments opportunity. While I think that going to the Ryder Cup would actually be a ton of fun, I didn't want the tickets for myself. I wanted them for my dad who has had attending that golf tournament on his radar for-ev-er. It's on his bucket list of sorts. Getting tickets to this tournament without having to turn to the pricier secondary market is very tough. We entered the ticket lottery to buy tickets directly from the tournament as we have in previous years, but as usual weren't selected.
One of the reasons that tickets are tough to get is that unlike most golf tournaments, this one only happens every two years, and is only held in the United States once every four years. This means it would be 2020 before we could try again to get tickets if we missed this year (since Europe is beyond his travel perimeter). Because of all this, I was so so bummed that I had missed such a good point redemption value, and the chance to surprise my dad with tickets to something that I know he would have loved. I mean, look at him, he is the perfect one to go cheer on Team USA!
So, I did what any "good" blogger would do and I worked through my disappointment in missing out on such a cool opportunity by blogging about it and encouraging others (and myself) to keep a closer eye on SPG Moments opportunities as you never know when an amazing opportunity will pop up...and then quickly disappear when others also notice how great a deal it can be!
I thought that was the end of that and moved on.
A few days later I was floored when SPG contacted me and offered to help surprise my dad with Ryder Cup tickets in time for Father's Day. It doesn't happen all the time, but do I turn down things for myself that I am offered because of the blog with some regularity for a variety of reasons. However, there is no way I could say no to this amazing offer for my dad.
Even with the insane level of excitement I felt when reading that email, before I said yes, I immediately started to see if I could put the other pieces of the trip together for him. Even if the tickets were gifted from the sky, I knew that the prices for flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. for such a big event could still kill the trip before it got off the ground.
To put the trip together quickly and for minimal financial outlay, I started with flights since I knew that Spirit Airlines operates a Houston - Minneapolis route, which is where the Ryder Cup will be held this fall. I checked award availability and to my surprise they had awards at the lowest 2,500 mile level each way on the dates they needed to travel. So, for just 5,000 Spirit miles round trip + $25-ish dollars in taxes/fees, I could book each of their award tickets. This lowest 2,500 mile award price requires a Spirit Airlines credit card, so I had to make some excuse about testing something for the blog to borrow his card for a few minutes to book the flights. Flights booked for 10,000 total miles and about $50.
As I'm sure you know, securing hotels for huge events can be very tough, especially when you are behind the curve with getting started. Per night prices even at very mediocre properties within 30 miles of the event were in the $350 - $500 per night range. Looking at cash or points options I struck out quickly with the major chains like Hyatt, SPG, etc. Many hotels are 100% sold out on points or cash or they only had non-standard rooms available that were priced way outside of our budget.
However, the program that came through for us was actually Club Carlson. This isn't my primary program, but I still keep them around in my points arsenal because you never know when you will need them. In this case, a renovated Country Inn and Suites that was within about 20 miles of the tournament had rooms available on points when the cash rates were $350-ish per night. This puts their out of pocket lodging costs at $0, and the points that were used aren't ones that will be missed very much since they are not in one of our primary programs.
Hotel booked for three nights for 118,000 total Club Carlson points and $0.00.
I checked car rental prices to make sure that wouldn't be a road block and rates could be had starting at around $10 per day, so I left that one alone for Grandpa Points to select on his own.
After less than an hour of searching and booking I had secured hotels, flights, and priced rental cars for a 'bucket list' Ryder Cup experience of a lifetime for my dad...all without him knowing. The out of pocket costs for him will be about $50 in flight taxes/fees and probably another $50 for the rental car + parking costs at the Ryder Cup. We were insanely fortunate enough to be gifted with the Ryder Cup tickets for my mom and dad by SPG, but had we acted faster those could have been had by anyone for 20,000 SPG points so this is something that others could replicate in future.
I am 100% aware of our insane fortune of being given the Ryder Cup grounds passes. However, even with that generous offer we still wouldn't have been able to get my dad to the tournament without having miles and points at the ready in some of these 'secondary' programs since lodging and flight costs would have quickly hit the four digit range for such a major event.
We surprised him with this news on Father's Day by having my six year old give him a rather random looking gift. The gift was, of course a "rider" and a "cup". It didn't take him long to catch on to what we were trying to convey, and seeing him smile wondering if we were really serious was worth way more than the miles and points spent to put this surprise trip together.
You can see a clip of the surprise being revealed shown below...
I can't wait for my dad and mom to get to experience the Ryder Cup in person, and I'm floored that it all came together in the manner that it did. I know he will report back here about the trip and hopefully one of you will be able to snag a similar SPG Moments opportunity at some point. I know I will be checking the Moments page even more frequently going forward because sometimes your points can do even more for you than just secure a flight or hotel room.