Reader Success Story: A Trip to the Primetime Emmy Awards
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Here at TPG, we spotlight stories from our readers — fantastic travel made possible with some savvy tips and tricks. In our new lounge on Facebook, TPG Lounge member Shana Gainey shared her tips on maximizing reward travel — her points and miles took her far! Do you have any tips to share? If your story catches TPG’s eye and we publish it, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Thanks to The Points Guy I have had many valuable redemptions for fabulous vacations and experiences — from access to New York Fashion Week to my upcoming trip to the Maldives. But the one that stands out the most is my trip to the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards back in 2015. Attending a Hollywood awards ceremony had been on my bucket list for years.
In 2014 when I read that, unlike the Oscars, the Emmys made tickets available to the general public ($400 for orchestra seats and $750 for Governor’s Ball tickets), I decided that I would save up (points, miles and cash) to attend in 2015. In early 2015, I predicted the date of the ceremony (since it had not yet been announced), and used 80k Marriott points that l earned from business travel to book a two-night stay at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles, which is connected to L.A. Live where the ceremony is held each year. I then booked my Delta Airlines flight as a paid flight and used my Platinum Medallion certificates to upgrade to first class.
When TPG announced the increased 50k-point sign-up bonus on the Southwest credit card, I signed up and booked a nonstop, round-trip flight for my traveling companion between Chicago and LA using 18,151 Southwest points (which was better than the 25k miles Delta would have charged for a connecting flight).
Next, I had to find my ensemble. I loved Oscar de la Renta’s gowns and Jimmy Choo’s sparkly shoes; however, they’re so expensive that in order to buy them I’d have to get a huge discount. Imagine how ecstatic I was when I found both within walking distance of my apartment in Chicago at a consignment shop called Luxury Garage Sale. The gown was from the 2012 Resort Collection and the shoes were from the 2010 15th Anniversary Crystal Collection. The original prices were $5,990 for the gown, and $845 for the shoes, but I found them in excellent condition (probably only worn once) at prices I could afford: $1,495 and $195, respectively (and I knew that I could wear them once and then sell them for nearly the same price). I was also able to negotiate a lower price since the gown needed dry cleaning and alterations. For my accessories, I considered renting real diamonds, but decided against it since I was afraid of having to pay the huge deductible if they were lost or stolen, so I bought some nice costume jewelry and decided to carry a Swarovski crystal clutch, which I already owned.
Once I had my travel plans booked and my ensemble purchased, I needed to wait for the nominees to be announced in July and purchase my tickets. The Emmys website had been saying that shortly after the nominees were announced, they’d release information on purchasing tickets. Just after they announced the nominees imagine my shock/horror/dismay when they suddenly changed the language on their website to state that they would not offer tickets to the general public.
This is where TPG saved the day! In the midst of my panic, I browsed my favorite travel blog and saw the most wonderful announcement: Chase was offering red carpet access to the Emmys for their Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders! Fortunately, I was a Sapphire cardholder — the first card TPG convinced me to open. I immediately called Chase to book tickets at $1,500 a ticket. I knew it was worth it because the price in 2014 for just the seats and ball was $1,150, so for $350 more, I would also get red carpet access. Fortunately, they had four tickets left so I was able to get two of them.
Then I called the Ritz-Carlton Spa at my hotel to book their “Red Carpet Ready” package and I also flew my makeup artist from Chicago to LA on Saturday night. I used 12,360 points from my Southwest card’s sign-up bonus to book his flight, and just like TPG taught me, I rebooked my traveling companion’s flight at the lower cost. (When Southwest has a fare sale, the cost of rewards redemptions drops too and the tickets can be rebooked without a change fee.) I also had a large stash of Hilton points from travel for business, so I used 40k of those to book him a one-night stay.
In addition to his fee to do my makeup and per diem for food/incidentals, I also bought my makeup artist a seat in the bleachers from Chase (so that he could take pictures of me on the red carpet…er…I mean as an extra thank you), which could have cost either 15k points or $150. TPG‘s valuations told me that the points were worth more, so I paid cash. I checked into the hotel, dropped my gown off to be pressed/steamed and the next morning my makeup artist arrived and did a great job on my makeup.
Then it was off to the big event. I wish we could have arrived in a limo and stepped out onto the red carpet, but that honor was pretty much reserved for the nominees. I took advantage of the hair and makeup refreshing stations while my companion took pictures with the actors. Finally, it was time to step out onto the red carpet. It was magical!
I watched as the actors were interviewed, and took a picture in front of the big Emmys wall. Meanwhile, my trusty makeup artist had things under control in the bleachers. He had already made friends with everyone in his vicinity and when my turn came, he screamed for me which prompted the other people to scream for me as well. They took pictures of me on their phones too, and even the professional photographer on the red carpet took pictures of me. I’m not sure who they thought I was. It would have been hilarious if it had not been so surreal!
Our seats in the auditorium were located close to the aisle and I actually sat next to a Chase executive who admitted that she thought I was a nominee. I assume this was because of the gown I was wearing (most non-nominees wore black cocktail dresses instead of long evening gowns). I had made a point to watch the Emmys the year before and to catch up on the nominated shows so that I could be prepared. The ceremony actually seemed to be more entertaining and to go by faster in person than on television; it was fun to watch the actors interact with each other and to watch the theater people direct seat fillers during commercial breaks.
Afterward, the Governor’s Ball was fabulous. I can’t remember what I ate and I forgot to get a copy of the menu, but I do remember liking the food and decorations and that there was a lot of mingling and networking going on. One of the servers asked my companion and me how he could get to our level. I gave him the TPG website.
Featured image by Krabikus/ Getty Images; all other images courtesy of author.
What are your top tips for using points and miles? Let us know in the comments, below.
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