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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Hilton Honors American Express Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
It may be a scorching 100 degrees where you are right now, but winter is coming back . . . eventually. And, when it does, will you be ready with holiday vacation plans?
You may be thinking that you missed the boat if you haven’t already made a points reservation at your favorite resort. But we have great news! It is not too late to plan a pull-out-all-the-stops Christmas or New Year’s vacation using points. While plenty of in-demand resorts are already booked to capacity, you may be surprised by the excellent options we unearthed when searching for availability from Dec. 23 to 28, 2019.
Just keep in mind that many resorts charge a daily resort fee — even on a points reservation — so be sure to look for those pesky details when searching for your holiday resort destination. If you’re staying on an award reservation, Hilton and Hyatt consistently waive resort fees.
Also, resorts usually have special dinners and parties on Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Oftentimes, it’s mandatory for overnight guests to pay for those events. Check on those details, too, before booking your award.
Spend the Holidays in an Exotic Destination
Let’s start with some aspirational points redemptions: While not everyone wants to be far away from friends and family during the holidays, it may be how you’re picturing this Christmas for yourself. If so, you can stay at some pretty swanky resorts using your points.
Visiting the Maldives in the middle of the Indian Ocean is about as exotic as it gets. SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton is joining Hilton Honors, and taking reservations for Sept. 1, 2019, and beyond. This includes Christmas week with wide-open availability at 85,000 points per night for a 473-square-foot Sky Room that accommodates two adults and one child. The cheapest paid rate for Christmas week is $562 per night but it’s nonrefundable. Otherwise, you’ll pay $750 per night and would have to cancel your reservations 60 days in advance if your plans changed.
Koh Samui, Thailand
In Koh Samui, Thailand, spend 85,000 Marriott points per night at Vana Belle, part of The Luxury Collection. Your five-night stay will actually only set you back 68,000 points per night since you’ll get your fifth night free on an award stay. The cash rate is $655 per night.
While Vana Belle is south of the airport, you can find The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui to the north. It has award nights available from 60,000 points per night. If you stay five nights, that reduces the rate to 48,000 per night. The cash rate is $582 per night.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
If Thailand isn’t of interest, you could instead head to French Polynesia — but you’ll need to pay a combination of points and cash — a lot of cash. Marriott has two Bora Bora resorts with availability: Le Meridien Bora Bora for 60,000 points per night plus a cash supplement, or the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort for 85,000 points per night plus a cash supplement.
We loved our stay at Le Meridien Bora Bora, which is located on its own motu requiring a short boat transfer from the main island. You can book an overwater lagoon bungalow for five nights for 240,000 Marriott points and about $1,850.
The St. Regis is significantly pricier, with a five-night stay in an overwater lagoon villa costing 340,000 Marriott points and about $2,900.
Use Your Points in Hawaii
Hawaii might not be as exotic as some of the choices we’ve already talked about, but it’s pretty much the holy grail for miles and points fans. There is actually quite a bit of availability at points hotels across the islands for the year-end holidays. Hilton has a strong presence in Hawaii and a handful of hotels are bookable with points for the entire week of Christmas. Marriott also has some options, but our favorite on the list is probably the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. This is the resort Mommy points calls the “crown jewel of award redemptions.”
Here are some best bets in Hawaii that you can book on points for Christmas or New Year’s right now:
- Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo, a DoubleTree by Hilton: 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- Hilton Waikoloa Village: 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- Ocean Tower at Hilton Waikoloa Village: 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay: 35,000 Marriott points per night (Use a Marriott 35,000 point free night certificate here; the type you get on your anniversary with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card)
- Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa: 20,000 World Of Hyatt points per night
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- Hilton Waikiki Beach: 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Alana – Waikiki Beach: 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach: 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Oahu Kapolei: 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night
- Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa: 25,000 World Of Hyatt points per night
- Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay: 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night
Plan a Holiday Ski Trip
The W Aspen, a new property pegged at Category 8 that opens this August, is now taking reservations. It’s got award availability for the entire week of Christmas. Nightly redemptions are 85,000 but as a Marriott Bonvoy member, your fifth night is free on a points stay. That brings the nightly rate down to 68,000 points. You can book into a Fabulous guest room with a king bed and city view. If you paid cash for that same room, it would cost $1,674 per night with the Marriott member rate.
If you prefer The Ritz brand over the W, you can get a similar points deal over at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Avon, Colorado. Also a Category 8 property at 85,000 points per night, redemptions are available for the week of Christmas. Stay five nights on points and only pay for four. Nightly cash rates here are $1,917 for the same dates so it’s a tremendous use of your points. Here’s a review of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.
Less Expensive Ski Options
The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, also in Avon, has Christmas week availability as does Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. Both are Category 7 properties with redemptions starting at 60,000 Marriott points per night. Stay five nights and get the fifth free on points, bringing the nightly rate down to 48,000 points. Rooms at the Westin are going for $635 on those dates and prices at Vail are even steeper, tipping $1,000 per night.
For 15,000 World Of Hyatt points per night, you can book a room with a king bed, one with two queen beds or a king plus sofa bed at Hyatt Place Keystone. Best of all, breakfast is free. Earn points with the World Of Hyatt Credit Card or transfer Ultimate Chase points to your Hyatt account at a 1:1 ratio. You can earn Ultimate Rewards points from a variety of cards, including Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Meet Santa in the Caribbean
Want to get away from it all but stay relatively close to the US? Look no farther than the Caribbean.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
You can use your World Of Hyatt points at The Liming Bequia, a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property. I’ve been checking for award availability for the fall and, when I looked today, Christmas week was available. Book a one-bedroom villa with a private infinity pool for 40,000 points per night. The cash rate for the same dates is $1,600 per night.
Another great Caribbean resort is the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa. You can stay there for Christmas week for 70,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night for an oceanview room (choose a room with one bed or two). The cash rate for those rooms on the same dates is $1,473 per night. If you’ve got the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you get the fourth night free on award bookings.
While the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica, may not be as polished as the Kimpton Seafire, for 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night you can enjoy an all-inclusive experience. Plus, kids under 5 stay and eat free and you’ll pay just $75 per night for kids 6 to 14. According to Hilton’s website, this rate is charged even if you’re on an award redemption.
Finally, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar at the Baha Mar megaresort in Nassau, Bahamas, is a solid choice for anyone who loves sprawling resorts, direct beach access and a dizzying number of swimming pools. Book a Grand Queen or Grand King room from 20,000 points per night. Read TPG‘s review of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.
Celebrate With Mickey Mouse or Harry Potter
We were pretty surprised to see so much availability in the Orlando area during the week of Christmas. Just be aware that the parks — like Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter — can get crazy crowded between Christmas and the New Year. In fact, it’s the one time of year that even Mommy Points refuses to visit Orlando.
But, if your family has its heart set on an Orlando getaway, you’ll find some especially good options using your Hilton Honors points. Look to the properties that are an “official” WDW hotel, which means you may get perks like Extra Magic Hours and extended FastPass+ bookings.
My favorite off-site but “official” WDW hotel is the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, but it costs 80,000 points per night. A less expensive alternative at 60,000 points per night is the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, which is right next door and has an awesome lazy river that you can easily spend all day enjoying. If you stay over a weekend, you could use your Free Weekend Night that is a benefit of a variety of Hilton credit cards, including:
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: You’ll receive a 150,000-point welcome bonus plus one Free Weekend Night upon opening the card and each year after your account renewal. You need to spend $4,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: As part of a limited-time offer, new cardholders can earn 130,000 bonus points and a Free Weekend Night Reward after spending $4,000 in purchases on the card within the first four months of card membership. Offer ends Aug. 28, 2019.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Also as part of a limited-time offer, new cardholders can earn 130,000 bonus points and a Free Weekend Night Reward after spending $5,000 in purchases on the card within the first four months of card membership. Offer ends Aug. 28, 2019.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Card does not convey any free night certificates, but you will receive a 90,000-point welcome bonus after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first three months. This is a limited-time offer that ends on Aug. 29, 2019.
The cheapest official WDW hotel in the Hilton umbrella is the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Disney Springs Area for 47,000 per night while both the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Disney Springs Area and Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs are 50,000 points per night.
If you’d rather spend Marriott points, there are also solid options. Stay right on Disney property at the Walt Disney World Swan (a Sheraton) and Walt Disney World Dolphin (a Westin) for 50,000 points per night. Cash rates on those dates start at $323 per night. You could use one a Marriott 50,000-point free night certificate at either the Swan or Dolphin. You can earn a free night certificate with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
If you have a Marriott 35,000-point free night certificate, you can look at the Orlando World Center Marriott ($280 per night), Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center ($317 per night) or the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld ($174 per night).
If you’re hoping to stay closer to Universal, IHG Rewards Club points will come in handy. You can book Christmas week at the Holiday Inn & Suites Across From Universal, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Nearest Universal Orlando and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando – International Drive — all have rooms starting at 30,000 per night. Bump up to 35,000 a night for the Crown Plaza Orlando – Universal Blvd. Be aware though that the cash rates for these hotels are pretty low ($100 to $180 per night) so do the math to be sure it’s worth using points and remember, the fourth night is free on award stays if you have IHG’s credit card.
If you’d like to spend the holidays away from home this year, there’s still time to plan a vacation on points. Just be sure to also check cash prices and find out if there are any extra charges (like resort fees or special holiday dinners and parties). Use our suggestions as a jumping-off point and start searching for resorts in your destination of choice. You may be surprised by the great deals that are still available. If you end up booking something, let us know!
For more trip-planning advice, read on:
- The Best Points Hotels in the Caribbean
- Best Luxury Hilton Honors Properties for Redeeming Points
- Are the Maldives Worth It?
- 3 Stunning Islands in French Polynesia That Will Make You Forget About Bora Bora
- Planning Your Ski Trip With Points and Miles
Featured image courtesy of SAii Lagoon Maldives.
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