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Memorial Day is right around the corner! For many of us, that means it’s time to break out the grills and celebrate spring with friends and family. But if you don’t have plans already, the three-day weekend also makes this an ideal time to travel.
Many destinations within the US are already booked up, but we’re seeing some last-minute award space to popular vacation spots. If you’re looking for a little bit of Memorial Day trip-spiration, here are your best options.
**Note that availability shown here is accurate at the time of writing but is subject to change. Depending on your departure city and what miles you’ve accrued, your specific options may be different.
1. Washington, D.C.
There’s no more fitting place to celebrate Memorial Day than our nation’s capital. D.C. is a walking city, and a perfect place to enjoy the warm weather, while eating, drinking and seeing the sights.
The biggest airport in DC by far is Washington Dulles (IAD), a major United hub. You can book a round-trip from Chicago (ORD) for as low as 20,000 miles. Just note that unless you have United elite status or carry the United MileagePlus Club Card, you’ll have to pay a close-in booking fee ($75, or less if you have Silver or Gold status) since these dates are less than 21 days out.
If you’re looking for a shorter drive into the city, you’ll be better off flying into D.C.’s more convenient Reagan National Airport (DCA), which is primarily served by American Airlines and Southwest. American is known for many things, but being generous with award availability is not one of them. That makes it even more exciting that we’re seeing ample award space to DCA from AA hubs like Dallas (DFW) and Charlotte (CLT).
Most domestic AA awards will cost 12,500 miles +$5.60 in taxes, but because Charlotte is less than a 500-mile flight it’s only 7,500 miles. This also means AA elites will be eligible for complimentary upgrades without having to redeem 500-mile upgrade certificates.
D.C. is home to a number of high-end and historic hotels, including the Washington Hilton, which hosts the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Even during the busy Memorial Day weekend, this hotel can be booked at a relatively “standard” rate of 50,000 Hilton points per night.
If you’re looking to rack up elite-qualifying nights under the new Marriott program, consider the JW Marriott DC for 45,000 points a night. While this hotel doesn’t really feel luxurious enough to merit its Category 9 ranking, its prime location just a block from the White House is hard to beat.
2. Austin, Texas
Austin is one of the most up-and-coming destinations in the US, with a fantastic music scene and barbecue that will make you want to stay forever. Given its location in the middle of the country, Austin is also easily accessible for people coming from either coast who don’t want to waste too much of their vacation traveling.
We’re seeing cheap Delta award space from Atlanta (ATL) to Austin (AUS) throughout the weekend:
We’re also seeing plenty of space from the West Coast, out of San Francisco (SFO) on United and out of LAX on American. Both airlines are charging 12,500 miles each way.
In terms of hotels, the Hyatt Regency Austin is available for only 15,000 points a night, and you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve to Hyatt instantly to complete your booking.
If you’re swimming in IHG points from the new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you can also book the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt to experience one of the quirkiest hotel brands in the US, but at 60,000 points a night you’ll blow through your sign-up bonus pretty quickly.
Memorial Day has a special meaning in Chicago, as it’s a sign that baseball season is in full swing. Whether you’re coming to root for or against the Cubs, or simply to enjoy a few slices of deep-dish pizza, trips to Chicago are still readily available for the upcoming long weekend.
Chicago (ORD) is a major hub to both American Airlines and United, and you should be able to find flights to Chicago from most major cities. Specifically, we’re seeing plenty of saver space on United out of Newark (EWR) and on American Airlines out of Miami (MIA). These tickets will run you 12,500 miles each way.
Chicago’s second airport, Midway (MDW), is more than just a Southwest hub; it’s a fortress. You can still find flights for about 20,000 points round-trip to Chicago from Boston (BOS), Atlanta (ATL) and Ft. Lauderdale (FLL). If you have a Companion Pass (or two) in your family, you can cut the cost in half to pay effectively 10,000 points per person round-trip.
When it comes time to pick a hotel, SPG is the way to go here. You have plenty of options to choose from for 12,000 SPG points a night or less, including the W City Center, Westin River North and the Gwen, a beautiful Luxury Collection hotel. If you’re really getting into baseball season you should check out the Hotel Zachary, a brand-new Tribute Portfolio property. This hotel is located right across the street from Wrigley Field and incorporates elements of the historic stadium into its design.
4. Ft. Lauderdale/Miami
The minute the weather gets warm people start running to the beach. And while popular Caribbean destinations are mostly booked up for Memorial Day, there are plenty of beaches to go around in the sunshine state. Delta has flights from Detroit (DTW) to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) for as little as 10,000 miles and $5.60 each way, a pleasant surprise given how hard it can be to redeem SkyMiles for a decent value.
If you’re willing to wait and leave Saturday morning, United also has saver award space to south Florida from several of its hubs, including San Francisco (SFO), Chicago (ORD) and Newark (EWR).
Whether you fly into Ft. Lauderdale or Miami, it’s easy to get around and pick the hotel and location that match the vacation you’re after. If you’re looking for a fancy but relaxing trip, you can book SPG’s Hotel Colonnade, a Tribute Portfolio property. Located in Coral Gables, it gives you plenty of beach access but also a bit of a reprieve from the non-stop party of South Beach.
But if a party is what you’re after, SPG’s Royal Palm, also a Tribute Portfolio hotel, is located in the heart of South Beach just steps away from Lincoln Road. Both of these hotels can be booked for 12,000 SPG points a night or less, as can the W Miami, located in the upscale downtown Brickell neighborhood.
There’s no such thing as a bad time of year to go to Paris, but walking along the Seine on a nice spring day is especially enjoyable. Flights from the East Coast are short enough that you could even squeeze this trip in over the long weekend and by back at work by Tuesday. United dominates the award availability here, with saver space throughout the week from several of its US hubs including Newark, Houston and Chicago. Expect a round-trip flight in economy to cost 60,000 miles per person.
You’ll also have plenty of points hotels to choose from in Paris to help you stick to a reasonable budget. The Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe and the Marriott Champs Elysee can each be booked for 45,000 points a night. Both these hotels are in prime locations near the main tourist attractions and serve as perfect bases to explore the city. The Hilton Paris La Defense can also be booked for 50,000 points a night.
What If I Can’t Find Award Space?
If you can’t make any of the above destinations work from your home airport or with your current stash of miles, you can use the “explore map” feature on Google Flights to find cheap cash fares. You can then use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book these tickets through Chase’s travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, or 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Alternatively, you could book with a fixed-value rewards card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Card and use your points to erase the charge from your statement.
Featured image by Corey Horner via Unsplash.
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