How to book 5 spring break dream getaways with points and miles
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest flight and hotel availability for Spring 2020. It was originally published on Feb 28, 2018.
With the holiday season long gone and summer still far ahead, the time has come for one of the most anticipated vacation periods of the year: spring break. Thanks to the scattering of spring break recess throughout the nation, there are tons of opportunities to cash in those points and miles you’ve been saving up to save big during this vacation period — even at the last minute.
Today we’ll take a look at some flight and hotel options available as of this writing that will make for an unforgettable spring break getaway, even for grown-ups. As of now, business is operating as usual in all of the destinations listed below, but in case the situation changes as a result of the global coronavirus outbreak, you may be eligible for a refund. Refer to our coronavirus hub for everything you need to know about the state of travel during the crisis.
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To best align with school breaks, all sample trips in this post are five to seven nights long and have either weekend or Monday departures and weekend or Friday returns. While you may be able to leverage Marriott or Hilton’s fifth-night-free benefit on your award booking, for simplicity’s sake, we’ve decided not to factor in that discount when discussing nightly rates (though they may appear in the images below), since not everyone will be traveling for the same number of nights.
Miami is the place to be for a quintessential action-packed spring break experience. Although you’d typically never run out of things to do there anyway, events like Miami Music Week and the Miami Beach Gay Pride festival make spring an especially exciting time to visit the city. There’s an influx of fabulous points hotels right in the heart of South Beach, and finding award flights to get there isn’t too challenging either.
Related: Beach days, street art and waterparks — Yes, Miami is a family-friendly vacation
As one of America’s busiest airports, finding flights to get you to and from Miami International Airport (MIA) is a breeze. Although American is the only airline to have a hub in MIA, all three major U.S. legacy carriers offer plenty of award options from across the country. If you want to redeem JetBlue or Southwest points, you’ll need to fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), which is about an hour away from Miami. While probably the best way to travel between New York and Miami, unfortunately, BLADEone flights can’t be booked with points.
Related: The best ways to get to or from MIA
American Airlines is currently offering flights to the Sunshine State from just 10,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip through its Economy Web Specials. The low fares are available from cities throughout the nation, including ones on the East Coast, such as New York-JFK, and ones on the West Coast such as Los Angeles (LAX). Web Specials don’t have all the usual American Airlines Basic Economy limitations, but they cannot be changed once ticketed. Regular MileSAAver economy awards will set you back 25,000 miles round-trip, or 15,000 miles for flights under 500 miles. As a reminder, American Airlines eliminated its $75 close-in booking fee in January 2020.
Delta awards are priced more dynamically. The lowest fares out of New York-JFK in March and April start at 12,000 SkyMiles round-trip, though we’re seeing some East Coast cities like Boston (BOS) starting at 9,000 miles round-trip. Awards from West Coast cities currently start around 17,000 miles round-trip.
United currently has the highest award rates with most March departures requiring at least 29,000 miles round-trip and April departures starting at 19,000 miles round-trip, though there still are a few cities like Chicago (ORD) that have options starting at 10,000 miles round-trip. You may be able to unlock additional award availability with MileagePlus Premier status or an eligible United MileagePlus credit card. United recently eliminated its close-in cash booking fee, but may charge more miles for flights booked within 30 days.
All of the major hotel chains have rooms available to book using points throughout March and April.
You can get amazing value out of your Marriott Bonvoy points by staying at the recently reopened Ritz-Carlton South Beach. The hotel is located right on the beach, offers beautiful rooms and has great food and drink options. There’s availability at the standard Category 8 85,000-point rate in most of March and April, though there are a few 70,000-point and 100,000-point off-peak and peak nights scattered. The hotel says that it charges a $45 resort fee daily, and Marriott does not usually waive the resort fee on award stays as other hotel brands do, but it wasn’t added to TPG reviews editor Nick Ellis’ bill on his recent award stay there.
If you want something swanky, but with a more modern, minimalist design, you can stay at the Category 8 Miami Beach Edition, which also has plenty availability at the standard rate. Or, for more of a party scene, there’s also the Category 8 W South Beach. The hotels charge $42 and $40 resort fees, respectively.
For Hilton Honors fans, there is the Hilton Bentley, which is available for 90,000 points per night throughout March and April. While that might seem like a lot of points for this hotel, it’s roughly in line with TPG’s valuation of Hilton points at 0.6 cents apiece since cash rates are hovering around $540 per night.
If you prefer being downtown, you could spend 55,000 IHG points per night to stay at the Kimpton EPIC Hotel. IHG also fields several 55,000-point Kimpton properties in South Beach, including the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel, Kimpton Angler’s Hotel South Beach and the newly opened Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach. IHG will soon also have Hotel Indigo in Brickell, but it’s not slated to open until May 2020.
While finding availability at this next hotel might be slightly tougher than the previous ones, arguably the best points redemption you can make in Miami is Hyatt’s Confidante Miami Beach. Rooms here can be booked for just 15,000 points per night, and you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards instantly transferred to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
While the recent earthquakes that rocked Puerto Rico might’ve made tourists nervous about traveling to the island, most of PR is spring-break ready. San Juan, the most popular tourist destination has tons of points hotels, and since PR is a U.S. territory, Americans don’t even need a passport to enter.
Related: Your points and miles guide to Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a short flight away for U.S. visitors and won’t require you to dig out a passport. There are many nonstop flights to take you to and from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU) from many major cities, such as New York-JFK, Chicago and Dallas (DFW). JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit offer the most nonstop routings, but you’ll find flight options with almost all of the major U.S. carriers.
Cash fares between the U.S. mainland and San Juan are fairly low so you’ll likely get the best deal booking your award with an airline that uses a dynamic award pricing scheme like Delta, JetBlue or Southwest. All three of these airlines have awards to San Juan available from around 8,000 to 10,000 points round-trip throughout March and April. Southwest is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and JetBlue is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase, Citi and Capital One.
American and United, on the other hand, require at least around 20,000 miles round-trip.
The InterContinental San Juan sits along a beautiful two mile white sand stretch of Isla Verde Beach. The hotel has a beautiful lagoon-style pool and five restaurants, but you’ll want to make sure you also explore the historic Old San Juan which is not too far away. Award rooms can be booked for 50,000 IHG points per night.
For a more modern and less expensive option, you’ll want to check out the AC Hotel San Juan Condado, which features a stunning rooftop pool with Caribbean views. As a Category 5 hotel in the Marriott Bonvoy program, standard awards here cost 35,000 points per night or 30,000 and 40,000 during off-peak and peak nights. Most nights in March and April are showing standard award night rates so if you have an annual up to 35,000-point certificate from a card like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, this may be your chance to redeem it. Other Category 5 hotels in the area include Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel and Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino.
Perhaps the most popular property among Marriott folks is the newly renovated La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort. It boasts five restaurants, three swimming pools and even a casino on site. Award nights require 40,000 to 60,000 points per night, with most nights available at the standard 50,000-point rate.
Hilton Honors loyalists also have a range of options, from the newly reopened Caribe Hilton (50k points per night) to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Juan (46k to 60k points), Embassy Suites by Hilton San Juan Hotel & Casino (60k points) and the Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan (60k points). Note that there’s also the Condado Plaza Hilton, which is open, but it’s not currently accepting award bookings as it’s being renovated.
You can use World of Hyatt points at the Hyatt House San Juan or Hyatt Place San Juan/City Center from 12,000 points per night or the Hyatt Place San Juan/Bayamon from 8,000 points. While not available in March or April, redemption should soon also be available at the Olive Boutique Hotel from Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
If you want something more luxurious and don’t need to stay directly in San Juan, there are some other great options like the stunning St. Regis Bahia Beach and the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico.
If you’re looking to indulge your senses with postcard-worthy beaches and not completely wipe out your stash of points and miles, then Jamaica is for you. While most resorts are family friendly, there are also many which are geared toward providing grownups some serious R&R. Given that most resorts offer a full array of activities, you won’t even need to step foot off the property to keep yourself entertained.
Of the three major U.S. carriers, American offers the most availability to Jamaica, but given low cash rates, you once again may be able to get better value by redeeming JetBlue or Southwest points.
With American’s Economy Web Specials, you can find awards to Jamaica from a number of U.S. cities from 20,000 miles round-trip.
Delta offers similar rates, with some midweek departures priced at 17,000 miles round-trip.
United, on the other hand, requires at least 35,000 miles for a round-trip award from most cities.
Depending on your departure city and dates, you may be able to book your flight for less than 4,000 points round-trip with Southwest or JetBlue. That’s a fraction of what the legacy carriers are charging.
Jamaica is the perfect opportunity to redeem your points for a stay at an all-inclusive resort. There are at least three all-inclusive points hotels on the island with availability this spring.
Two of them belong to World of Hyatt. The chain offers both its family-oriented Ziva brand and also its adults-only Zilara.
The two hotels are located on Montego Bay and are adjacent to each other, allowing you to trek between the resorts for a greater selection of activities and dining outlets. Across the two, guests have access to over a dozen restaurants and bars as well as room service, which is available 24 hours a day and is free. Rooms are available at both hotels throughout March and April at a nightly rate of 25,000 points.
Hilton offers the family-friendly Rose Hall resort. It features the largest water park and the longest white sand beach on the island, as well as seven bars and restaurants. There isn’t much availability in March, but rooms are available for 70,000 points per night most nights in April.
Rio De Janeiro
While you may have missed this year’s Carnival, March and April are still great times to visit Rio. Summer officially ended for the southern hemisphere on Feb. 29th, but that doesn’t mean that the nice weather is going anywhere. With the average highs in March and April ranging between 86 and 89 degrees and the lows between 71 and 74, you’ll still be able to hit the beaches and get your dose of vitamin D. Plus, U.S. citizens no longer need a visa to enter Brazil, making it a much more attractive destination than ever before.
All three major U.S. carriers have nearly wide-open saver availability to get you to and from Rio with miles in March and April, including a ton of nonstop options from Houston, Miami and New York.
Thanks to its Web Specials, you’ll find the lowest rates with American Airlines, with award options from a number of U.S. cities available from 30,000 miles round-trip.
If you’re lucky, you may even be able to snag business-class awards for 80,000 miles round-trip. Ordinarily, business-class awards cost 115,000 miles round-trip at the MileSAAver level.
United has saver-level economy availability most days in March and April, meaning 60,000 miles round-trip.
Delta is the most expensive option in this case, with the cheapest award starting around 62,000 miles round-trip.
If you’re looking to stay right smack on Copacabana Beach then you’re best bet would be to go with the JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro. It’s definitely not the most luxurious JW Marriott property, but it’s location and stellar rooftop pool make up for it. Award nights typically cost 30,000, 35,000 or 40,000 points per night, but you can currently book for 32,500 points per night thanks to PointSavers. Plus, if you’re already making the trip down to Brazil, hopefully you’ll be able to take advantage of the complimentary fifth night benefit.
The Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort, which costs 20,000 to 30,000 points per night, is a cheaper alternative, but it isn’t as centrally located. It has three pools, two tennis courts and is the only hotel in the city to have a private beach.
Also located on Copacabana Beach is the Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana. However, finding standard-level award space at this hotel is practically impossible so you’ll most likely need to shell out at least 54,000 points per night for a premium room award.
A much more upscale option would be the Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro. However, while it’s located by one of the prettiest and most exclusive beach stretches in the city, it’s a good distance away from the city center (20 miles). There are award nights available throughout March and April for just 12,000 points per night.
Although getting to Australia is quite a trek from the U.S., now is one of the best times of the year to visit Sydney. You’ll get to enjoy comfortable temperatures averaging in the mid 70s and avoid the larger summer crowds. But unless you come across a fare sale, the trip will cost you a pretty penny when paying in cash, making this a great opportunity to redeem your points and miles.
While the only nonstop flights that will get you to the Land Down Under are out of Los Angeles, San Francisco (SFO), Dallas and Honolulu (HNL), you can still book award flights from a number of cities across the U.S.
While American Airlines is no longer offering Web Specials to Australia for 10,000 miles round-trip, there are still some deals to be had. Awards are pricing from 70,000 miles round-trip in economy, 90,000 miles in premium economy, 160,000 miles in business or 220,000 miles in first class and are relatively widely available.
Delta doesn’t have any discounted premium-cabin awards, but economy awards are similarly priced, with awards starting at 80,000 miles round-trip.
The same holds true for United — no premium-cabin saver awards, but wide open saver economy availability. Saver economy awards cost 80,000 miles round-trip.
Sydney has a ton of opportunities for you to maximize hotel redemptions using points and miles regardless of your style or budget. For instance, if it’s luxury you’re looking for, then the Park Hyatt Sydney has you covered.
Its 30,000 points per night price tag may sound steep, but you’ll actually be getting a significantly greater value out of your points than what TPG values them at.
If Holiday Inn is more your style (or budget), you can stay at the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour or the Holiday Inn Potts Point-Sydney for 40,000 points per night.
And for a more mid-level treat, Marriott offers the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park, Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay, Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection and The Old Clare Hotel Chippendale, which are all Category 5 properties where rooms cost 35,000 points per night at the standard rate or 30,000 and 40,000 during off-peak and peak nights.
It’s not too late to book yourself an amazing spring break getaway using points and miles. In case you don’t find award availability for the hotel you’d like to stay at during your preliminary search, you may find some open award nights if you search night by night, and then book the remaining nights separately with cash.
If you’re short on points and miles with any of the airlines or hotels mentioned in this post, there are a ton of credit cards which allow you to transfer points to travel partners. That being said, you should still always compare the cost of using fixed-value points to transferring points to an airline or hotel program. You may come across good last minute cash booking options, in which case you’ll be better off redeeming your points at a fixed-value through a travel portal.
Featured photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.
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