How to book VIP activities — like breakfast in the Vatican and a princess makeover — with Chase points
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You may know that you can book tours with Ultimate Rewards points. However, the word "tour" might bring to mind crowded buses and throngs of tourists at each five-minute "photo stop." But there's actually so much more available via that Chase booking portal -- including luxury travel experiences.
I know "luxury" is a subjective term, but in this case, think of it as more private or more exclusive than a traditional tour.
In terms of pricing for these higher-end activities you can book with points, the Chase Sapphire Reserve provides 1.5 cents per point on travel bookings, including these activities. Here's a post with more detail about how to book experiences with Ultimate Rewards points.
If you're using other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, remember you can combine points into the account you hold to give you the best value for travel redemptions. Here's our guide on redeeming Chase points for maximum value. If you don't want the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve, you have other options including Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) or Chase Freedom Unlimited, albeit at lower redemption rates.
The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
With that in mind, here are some luxury experiences I found bookable with Chase Ultimate Rewards points:
Vacation Photo Shoot in New York City
I love this option for families because at least one parent always tends to be behind the camera. Get in the picture with PicVoyage's one-hour private photo shoot on the streets in New York City. The results seem tailor-made for a family holiday card (so two birds, one camera). If you already pay for an annual family photo, taking it on vacation amps it up a notch.
PicVoyage packages are also available in Tokyo, Paris, London and Lisbon. I think 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points provides good value for this experience, which will last long beyond your return from the Big Apple.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Doo Delivered
If your little princess would love a visit from the fairy godmother at Walt Disney World but you balk at the near $200 price tag, here's an option that will save you money and hassle: an in-room princess makeover in Orlando. They can't use the Disney name because of trademarks, but the "Brilliant Princess Makeover" package by Character Dresser should more than fit the bill.
A "royal dresser" comes to your room as early as 6am ready to do hair, makeup and nails and your Princess can choose from 15 royal gowns as part of the package. Best of all, the cost is only 8,996 Ultimate Rewards points -- including the dress. I know, no-brainer is cliché, but this comes about as close to one as I can imagine for little ones in that strong, magical princess phase of life.
Eat Breakfast at The Vatican
My first priority for a tour is special access. While researching tours of the Vatican, I encountered many companies advertising “early entry.” If so many companies have early entry, I suspected that things could be a little busy, even early in the morning. Turns out I was right: the “jump-the-line” passes simply put you in a shorter line with everyone else who buys a pass.
Then I came across the Breakfast at the Vatican Museums Tour by City Wonders. At first it sounded too good to be true, but City Wonders negotiated a partnership with the Vatican that grants its tours both a specific entrance and the ability to start the breakfast at 7am … so you get a jump-start on almost everybody.
This one isn't entirely private, but the tour is limited to 16 people. The breakfast buffet matches that of a four-star hotel. The Pinecone Courtyard setting is a real star of the show.
I will say that the other groups caught up quickly once the doors opened. The City Wonders jump-start is only 15 minutes ahead of the others. Soon enough, flags started popping into view and groups started snaking through at warp speed to reach the Sistine Chapel. Because we had time to prepare, we felt no need to rush and were able to enjoy all the wonder.
As you can imagine, exclusive access doesn't come cheap, but it is bookable for slightly under 8,100 Ultimate Rewards points for adults and 7,700 points for kids and that seems well worth it.
VIP Universal Studios Hollywood Tour
If you read the Mommy Points VIP Universal Studios review and coveted the experience but not the $3,000 price tag, here's a more affordable option: Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Tickets with Priority Pass. This VIP experience is a small group tour, but offers very similar walk-on ride benefits and exclusive parking. At 23,266 Ultimate Rewards points per person, a family of four could do this in Universal Studios Hollywood for half the price of the private tour in Orlando.
Unfortunately, the VIP option is not offered for Universal Studios in Orlando with Ultimate Rewards points, but standard tickets can be booked using your points. (Here's how to make the most of one day at Universal Orlando.)
Private Boat Tour in Portugal
Here's the experience that got me thinking about luxury experiences with Ultimate Rewards points: a private chartered boat through the Benagil Caves in the Algarve. When I researched sunset cave tours, most of what I found was around $60/person on a large boat. Because there were four of us, I realized we were within reach of a private boat for around the same price point. I found this tour from Cave Captain:
We arrived at the dock in Portimão, Portugal, about 6:15pm to be greeted by our captain and first mate. The boat wasn't huge, but the four of us fit comfortably. It technically seated nine but that would have been tight. Once the captain realized that we were enjoying the trip, our small boat was an asset because the captain made it his mission to get us into caves that larger boats couldn't have entered.
The tour was supposed to be two hours, but he kept us out for almost three to make sure we got picture-perfect views of the sunset. He served sparkling wine and juice to toast the setting sun.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are just about my favorite points currency. Not only can they transfer to a number of airline and hotel programs, they can save you a bundle once you arrive at your destination. Best of all, they can open the door to family experiences you couldn't afford without miles and points. And, isn't that the reason we do all of this in the first place?
Looking for more advice on how to make the most of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points? Read on: