Travel’s Just the Beginning — How Families Can Use Points to Try Something New
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Miles and points can send you around the world, but that’s just the start of it.
Have you ever dreamed of belting one out on the Broadway stage, trying goat yoga, taking your kids to meet their sports heroes before a game or learning to do something new and fun? I know I did as those are the sort of experiences that kids are more likely to remember. But — I couldn’t spend a fortune to make those dreams come true. However, a little research showed me that in addition to using my points to book a hotel or snag flights for my family, I can also use them to redeem unbelievably cool and, in many cases, exclusive experiences. Here are a few discoveries I made when looking for less common ways to use my points.
I recently stayed at Hyatt House Jersey City for just one night. As a lifelong New Yorker, I wanted to see the city from a different angle for a change. In addition to the comfy room with loads of amenities, there were astoundingly beautiful views of the New York City skyline from the rooftop bar and dining rooms. Best yet, it was an easy and direct commute into Downtown Manhattan that cost just 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night (dropping to 15k per night in March).
More than that, this stay made me curious about new ways to use my stash of World of Hyatt points. Since I was already playing hooky from my regular life, I decided to have a little fun and make use of my points in other creative ways.
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Hyatt’s FIND Experiences
Last summer, Hyatt launched FIND as a way for World of Hyatt members to earn and redeem points on activities. FIND provides a curated selection of exclusive experiences focused on enhancing the mind, body and spirit, both during and beyond hotel stays. Members have the option to purchase experiences offered in the US with cash and can earn 10 World of Hyatt points per dollar or redeem World of Hyatt points for experiences worldwide. Sounds good so far, right? But wait, there’s more. You can also book Exhale Spa experiences with your points. So that means if you’ve always been curious about things like barre classes, you can use your points to try them on for size.
Here’s how it works: Browse the FIND website, and look up experiences based on your destination. Then book the experience through the portal. It’s that easy. Just so you know, the experiences aren’t created exclusively for World of Hyatt members. They already exist through IfOnly, which partners with Hyatt.
The experiences are divided into a few sections: tours and adventure, food and drink, and fitness and relaxation. New experiences cycle in and out constantly, so there’s always something fun and new to pick.
Here are a few of the craziest, over-the-top experiences you and your family can sign up for:
- Exclusive Hands-on Aerial Photography Session of Los Angeles — Imagine what your holiday cards could look like next year as you take photos high in the sky from a helicopter! (35,571 World of Hyatt points for two people, or pay $498 and earn 4,980 points)
- Star in Your Own Music Video Choreographed by International Pop Star and Choreographer Heath Hunter — Your family could be the next online sensation. (A four-hour session for four people costs 71,429 points, or pay $1,000 and earn 10,000 points)
- Guided Hike with Ambassador Wolves — See nature firsthand as you walk among the wolves in Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, California. (A one-hour session for two people costs 42,857 points, or pay $600 and earn 6,000 points)
You can also gift FIND experiences to your friends and family. So, for a big anniversary, birthday or graduation, you can treat someone to the experience of a lifetime. Your return per point may or may not be worth it for you, but there are some really cool ideas lurking in FIND.
Chase Offers Experiential Bookings With Points, Too
While I sampled Hyatt’s FIND selection firsthand, Chase Preferred Experiences also offers many events and experiences for families — from sporting events and concerts to special dining options and movie tickets. For some events, like concerts, you’ll pay cash and will benefit from access to the best seats in the theater. Other experiences, like ski lift tickets and fresh tracks at Deer Valley (16,000 points), PGA Championship tickets (3,800 points) or a private card member dinner at Husk in Charleston (15,000 points), accept Chase Ultimate Rewards points as payment. However, you may want to use cash instead as the return per point is just 1 cent per point.
Chase Preferred Seating is the best option if you’re most interested in live entertainment and sports events. Exclusively for Chase credit and debit card members via Ticketmaster, Chase Preferred Seating gives you access to the action. Additionally, at select events, Chase card members who buy a Chase Preferred Seat may also receive an exclusive invite to the Chase Lounge for a special pre-event reception. Chase Preferred Seating is available at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre in NYC; The Chicago Theatre in Chicago; and The Forum in Los Angeles.
If you’re more interested in booking excursions with your Ultimate Rewards points, log in to Chase’s travel portal and click on “Travel” and then “Things to Do.” From there, you can find all sorts of unique tours to book. (Here’s how to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points for activities.) For example, set sail aboard the Appledore II, a classic windjammer that embarks out of Camden Harbor in Maine. The experience costs about $43 per person or 2,826 Ultimate Rewards points for adults (1,766 points for kids 11 and under).
Access to Exclusive Events With United Miles
If you have some United miles burning a hole in your wallet, you can use them for “Exclusive” events, such as 10,000 miles to attend a Denver Broncos Skills and Drills experience where you train like a member of the Denver Broncos at their training center. Or, spend 25,000 United miles for a suite-level ticket (with drinks and food) to take in the end of an era when the final KISS tour heads to the United Center in Chicago.
Those with a United cobranded credit card can unlock even more exclusive opportunities for using their United miles on events.
Concerts and More With Hilton Honors Points
If concerts are your jam, Hilton Honors points can unlock many a venue. They have ticket packages to shows from Pink, Fleetwood Mac, KISS, Ariana Grande and Cher.
For example, there are packages of two tickets in the top standard price point available (aka good seats) to Pink shows in various cities available for 110,000 Hilton Honors points. Sure, you could use those points for some top Hilton properties around the world, but if your teen would much rather see a show than head to a far-flung corner of the world, then sometimes you can’t put a price on a memory. Heck, you could recently even redeem Hilton points to attend the Grammys — talk about access.
If there’s an #AVGeek in your mix (and you speak German), you can also redeem 220,000 Hilton Honors points to go behind the scenes of Munich Airport (package also includes two nights in an executive room at the Hilton Munich Airport with breakfast).
So, how did my staycation turn out? I kept seeing gorgeous acai bowls popping up on my Instagram feed and was curious how to make one. Through FIND, I went to Ono Bowls to learn how to make acai bowls. I connected with founder and CEO Patricia Caminos who taught me a bit about the history of the current acai fruit craze and also walked me through creating my own bowl. She invited me to taste every possible acai combination and permutation out there. Not bad for a staycation where the goal was to try something new.
Meanwhile, despite my best intentions I didn’t end up going to Exhale for a Boutique Barre class, despite being really curious to try one out. Instead, I opted for a massage. Maybe I’ll try the barre class next time.
Using points to push myself slightly out of my comfort zone without flying halfway across the world turned out even better than I had hoped. While the return per point isn’t always up to TPG standards when redeeming for experiences, other times, points are literally your only way in the door. If your family has ever wanted to try a new sport, get backstage access or take a class together, there are ways to leverage your points for a slew of new shared experiences.
Have you tried a fun experience using your points? We’d love to hear about it.
Featured photo by Westend61/Getty Images.
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