Cleared for Takeoff: Booking a luxurious celebration in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos
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On this week’s edition of Cleared for Takeoff, we’re not booking a trip to the Maldives or Europe. Instead, we’ll help reader Joey Huettemann and his wife book a luxurious celebration in the Caribbean with his points and miles. He writes:
“My name is Joey and my wife and I are hoping to book a trip in spring/summer of 2022 to celebrate our late anniversary, birthday and wife’s graduation. We are looking at the Caribbean, potentially The Bahamas or Turks & Caicos or something of the like. We do not have any experience traveling in luxury so we would love to go all out this trip. Our home airport at the moment is BHM in Birmingham, AL.”
Joey has a healthy stash of transferable points, airline miles and hotel points that he can use to fund the trip. Let’s take a closer look at his options for a trip that includes both the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos — because after all, why not see two amazing destinations when there’s so much to celebrate?
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As discussed, Joey has access to a handful of points currencies, including:
- American Express Membership Rewards – 160,000
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – 110,000
- Hilton Honors – 160,000
- Delta SkyMiles – 75,000
- American AAdvantage (Joey’s account) – 80,000
- American AAdvantage (wife’s account) – 65,000
This is an example of a solid points portfolio — it includes a handful of different currencies that open up a lot of travel opportunities. That said, I’d like to see Joey and his wife start to accrue more hotel points with other programs like World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy. I’ll go more in-depth on this later, but it could make his hotel bookings a lot easier in the future.
Airfare to the Caribbean
There’s no shortage of flights from the U.S. to the Bahamas, so we’ll start by looking for Joey’s flights from his home in Birmingham (BHM) to Nassau (NAS). There are no direct flights between the two airports, but it’s easy enough to book a connecting flight on any of the major U.S. airlines. Joey gave us plenty of flexibility for his dates, so I looked in early May 2022.
I found business-class award flights on American Airlines from Birmingham to Nassau via Charlotte (CLT) for just 20,000 AAdvantage miles and $6.60 in taxes per person in early May. These flights aren’t operated by wide-body aircraft, but since it’s a relatively short journey, domestic first class is still a great way to get to Nassau in style. This pricing is available throughout most of early and mid-May.
After five days in the Bahamas, the couple will need a ticket from Nassau to Providenciales (PLS), the largest airport in Turks and Caicos. The least complicated way to get between the two cities is flying nonstop with Bahamasair or InterCaribbean Airways, neither of which are partners with any of the major alliances. Thankfully, Joey can use his Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book the flight through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
InterCaribbean Airways flights are roughly $203 per person on many dates next May, so he can redeem 16,240 Ultimate Rewards points per person to book the ticket with his Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This is a total of 32,480 spent on these two tickets. Note that the numbers in the screenshot below are different because I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, so my points are worth 1.5 cents each through the portal.
As you might expect, there are no direct flights from Providenciales to Birmingham either. But, American has Web Special business-class awards between the two cities via Miami (MIA) for 30,500 AAdvantage miles plus $92.67 per person available through most of May. There are also a limited number of dates with tickets available for 20,000 miles.
How to earn enough miles for this award
Looking to recreate Joey’s flights? Consider opening an American Airlines cobranded credit card to earn AAdvantage miles. Each card has its own set of benefits, like priority boarding and free checked bags. Further, you’ll earn AAdvantage miles on all your purchases and may be eligible for a nice welcome bonus as a new cardmember.
These are some of our favorite American cards:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile on other purchases. ($450 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on gas station, restaurant and on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile on other purchases. ($99 annual fee, waived for the first 12 months)
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening. ($99 annual fee, waived for the first 12 months)
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile on other purchases. (No annual fee)
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Hotels in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos
Flights were easy enough to book, but hotels area little trickier. The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are home to some incredible resorts, but prices can soar sky-high during peak travel times — especially at nicer properties. Thankfully, having points and miles on hand makes booking award nights in both destinations significantly more affordable.
In the Bahamas, the couple can stay at the British Colonial Hilton Nassau for 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night in May. They can even use Hilton’s fifth night free benefit, bringing the total down to 200,000 Hilton Honors points for a five-night stay, equating to 40,000 points per night.
Joey has 160,000 Hilton points on hand and can transfer 20,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton to cover the difference as the transfer processes at a 1:2 transfer ratio.
While not the most luxurious resort, the historic British Colonial Hilton has everything the couple needs for an excellent stay. There’s a private beach, outdoor freshwater pool and multiple dining options on site. Plus, they’re close to the tourist hub of Old Town, Nassau that’s filled with local shops and eateries.
For Turks and Caicos, the couple can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt to stay at the Point Grace Resort and Spa for 35,000 points per night. This resort is a part of Hyatt’s Small Luxury Hotels partnership and is truly breathtaking, with a huge private beach, large pools, a spa and excellent on-site dining. The rooms have a modern beach vibe that perfectly matches the incredible views of the turquoise waters that surround the property.
This property costs a whopping $1,560 per night on many dates next May, but the couple can leverage their remaining Ultimate Rewards balance to book two nights at the property. Plus, the pair still has time to beef up their World of Hyatt balance and extend their stay even longer.
How to earn hotel points
The easiest way for Joey and his wife to accrue more World of Hyatt points is for Joey’s wife to open a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and earn the welcome bonus. The card currently offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. After earning the bonus and putting a few months of everyday spending on the card, the couple will soon have enough Ultimate Rewards points to book two more nights in Turks and Caicos.
Alternatively, Joey could apply for a World of Hyatt Credit Card to earn World of Hyatt points outright. Using this card, Joey can earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, he can earn up to 30,000 more points by earning 2 points per $1 spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 point, on up to $15,000 spent. The annual fee is $95.
If Joey is a business owner, he can also apply for The World of Hyatt Business Credit Card and earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The annual fee is $199.
Regardless of the route the couple chooses to go, it’s easy enough for them to earn bonus points toward their celebration in paradise.
Joey and his wife have a lot to celebrate, and a luxury trip to both The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos is a way to do it. Here, I showed them how to redeem their existing stash of points to book this trip with little out-of-pocket expense. Plus, I offered a couple of new card suggestions for them to beef up their points balance to extend their stay even longer.
Have a destination in mind and need help figuring out your points strategy? Send us an email to be featured in the next installment of Cleared for Takeoff.
Feature photo courtesy of Small Luxury Hotels
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