How to Do Coachella on Points and Miles: Flights and Hotels
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Among the many music festivals that take place around the globe each year, one stands out for variety, verve and sheer star power: Coachella. The festival is held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, over two weekends and draws headliners who regularly pack major stadiums, not to mention celebrities, chefs and international visitors from all over the world.
This year’s festival takes place April 13-15 and April 20-22. Among the big names who will be there are Beyoncé (yes, Beyoncé!), Eminem and The Weeknd, plus about five dozen other bands and performers.
Though Coachella is just over two months away, there are still plenty of ways to put your points and miles to use in order to get there and find a place to stay. Here’s what you need to know about booking flights and hotels — in part two of this series, we’ll explore experiences and transportation options you can find at Coachella with points and miles.
The closest major airport to Indio, where Coachella takes place, is Palm Springs (PSP). According to the airport’s website, here’s a current list of carriers and the destinations they service from Palm Springs:
As you can see, several major North American carriers are represented, including Air Canada, Alaska/Virgin America, American, Delta, JetBlue and United.
Here’s a basic table to remind you of which points and miles you can use on each. Don’t forget to think out of the box with other partners, like using British Airways Avios (which you can stock up on by transferring from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest) for redemptions on partners like American and Alaska.
|Airline||Miles and Points|
|Air Canada||Aeroplan (Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest)
United (Chase Ultimate Rewards)
|Alaska||Alaska Mileage Plan (SPG)
American AAdvantage (SPG)
British Airways Avios (Amex, Chase, SPG)
|Allegiant||myAllegiant Rewards (only for credit cardholders)|
|American||American AAdvantage (SPG)
Alaska Mileage Plan (SPG)
British Airways Avios (Amex, Chase, SPG)
|Delta||Delta SkyMiles (Amex, SPG)|
|JetBlue||JetBlue True Blue (Amex, Citi ThankYou)|
|United||Aeroplan (Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest)
United (Chase Ultimate Rewards, SPG)
At this point, the lowest level of saver award availability on the Thursdays/Fridays and Sundays/Mondays around the festival weekends is scarce or non-existent. But if you can make a longer weekend out of it and either depart on a Wednesday or return on a Tuesday, you might still be in luck.
From award searches at the time of writing (January 16-18), there was some saver (or at least low-level non-saver) award availability in both economy and first class on Alaska, American, Delta and United. However, be prepared to make at least one stop — and in some cases two — from the East Coast or the Midwest. Or, steel yourself to pony up miles at a non-saver level that might require 30,000-50,000 miles round-trip in economy and up to 100,000 in first class.
JetBlue has some decent airfares and points deals on the off days around the festival like this nonstop itinerary from New York JFK from Friday, April 20 through Tuesday, April 24.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind renting a car and driving a few hours (plus, it might be a good idea to have a car in Palm Springs so you can get around to non-Coachella things), you could consider flying into another major area airport like Burbank (BUR), Los Angeles (LAX), Ontario (ONT), San Diego (SAN) or Santa Ana (SNA).
Any of these could be great options not only for opening up saver award availability on your airline of choice, but also in terms of cheaper airfares than flying into Palm Springs, which is essentially a small regional airport.
One final note on flights: Though we usually discuss Starwood Preferred Guest as the best transfer option of hotel points to airline miles, don’t forget to consider Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages. This option could come in especially handy if you plan on staying in Palm Springs for a whole week, but even if you decide to use the hotel portion of one of these awards on a later stay, the miles you earn from this conversion could well be worth it.
Unfortunately, one of TPG’s favorite properties in town, Le Parker Méridien Palm Springs, left SPG on January 3 of this year. But there are many other hotel options in and around the area where your points might come in handy. There’s not enough space for an entire list here, but here are a couple of good choices to give you some ideas.
In terms of Starwood Preferred Guest properties in the area, there are award nights available at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa both the first and second weekends, and at the Westin Million Hills Resort Villas Palm Springs and the nearby Westin Desert Willow Villas in Palm Desert on the second weekend as well.
That’s great news considering how high the paid rates available on these dates are.
Save yourself $970 per night at the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage the first weekend by spending 60,000 Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards (or 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points transferred to Marriott) per award night.
There’s also availability the second weekend at properties in Palm Desert…
And Palm Springs.
Most of Hilton’s properties in the area are sold out of both paid and award nights the first weekend, but things open up on the second weekend, when you can score rooms at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Golf Resort Palm Springs and the Homewood Suites by Hilton La Quinta for 50,000 points per night; the Embassy Suites by Hilton Palm Desert and Embassy Suites by Hilton La Quinta for 60,000 points per night; or the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton for 70,000 points per night.
There are several IHG properties in the area, including the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Rancho Mirage, with rooms available for 30,000 points per night both weekends. But perhaps more interestingly now that you can finally redeem IHG Rewards points for stays at Kimpton properties, you can spend between 45,000 + $104 to 60,000 points outright for an award stay instead of shelling out the $650 or so rooms there are going for during Coachella.
There’s currently no award availability at the Hyatt Palm Springs or the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa for either weekend. Rates start at $519 and $709, respectively. Still, it’s worth checking back in on the Hyatt site as we get closer to the festival dates to see if any award availability there opens up. The Hyatt Palm Springs is a Category 3 property where award nights cost 12,000 points, while the Indian Wells resort is a Category 5 property requiring 20,000 points per night.
If you do end up booking a paid rate at a hotel rather than going the points route, don’t forget that there are other programs you can take advantage of. The Platinum Card® from American Express members can book through Fine Hotels & Resorts to score extras like on-property credits. If you have the Citi Prestige, your booking might be eligible for that card’s 4th Night Free benefit. And you can earn bonus points on hotel stays with a card that offers category bonuses on travel purchases like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Citi Premier® Card.
You might also look into Airbnb stays. Those purchases would also earn a travel category bonus with the cards above. Delta SkyMiles members can register here to earn 1 SkyMile per dollar spent on Airbnb (new Airbnb guests can even get a $25 coupon toward their first booking). Delta is also offering a limited-time bonus on stays booked through February 28, 2018, for travel up to February 28, 2019, where you can earn up to 5x SkyMiles per dollar. Check out the promo terms here.
These bonuses are stackable with earning 2x United MileagePlus miles per dollar by purchasing Airbnb credits through the MileagePlus X app.
In short, even if you cannot find a way to redeem your points for a stay this time around, there are plenty of ways to maximize your spending and earn bonus points on your trip.
Featured image by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella
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