6 Memorial Day trips you can still book with points and miles
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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 family and friends. But if you don’t have plans already, you might consider using the three-day weekend to travel — especially if you’re vaccinated.
Although more Americans are starting to travel again, and cash rates are spiking, we’re still 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 some of your best options.
Note that the availability shown below 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.
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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 D.C. by far is Washington Dulles (IAD), a major United hub. Award rates are dynamic, but you can currently book a round-trip from Chicago (ORD) for around 25,000 MileagePlus miles round-trip. Not too bad, considering standard main cabin tickets are going for around $380 when paying cash.
Alternatively, if you’re willing to leave on Wednesday, you can book your United flights through Avianca LifeMiles for just 15,000 miles round-trip. You can quickly top off your United account by transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards or LifeMiles balance by transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One or Citi ThankYou Rewards.
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 AAdvantage miles plus $5.60 in taxes each way, while itineraries under 500 miles typically cost 7,500 miles. That said, you can pay as little as 6,000 miles each way by booking a Web Special. These types of awards cannot be changed, though they can be canceled for free.
D.C. is home to several high-end and historic hotels, including the Washington Hilton, which hosts the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Even during Memorial Day weekend, this hotel can be booked at a relatively low rate of just 32,000 Hilton points per night.
If you’re looking for something more luxurious, you could book a stay at the Conrad Washington, D.C. The property received high marks from TPG’s Executive Editor Scott Mayerowitz, who reviewed the property in 2019 and can be booked for 73,000 points per night during the holiday weekend. Keep in mind that Hilton elites get a fifth night free when booking with points.
Although not the most luxurious Park Hyatt out there, you could also stay at the Park Hyatt Washington, D.C. The rooms are spacious and can be booked for a flat 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night. The property’s amenities include an indoor saltwater swimming pool. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt or utilize points earned with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Meanwhile, Marriott Bonvoy loyalists could consider the JW Marriott D.C. for 50,000-60,000 points a night. While this hotel doesn’t feel very luxurious, its prime location, just a block from the White House, is hard to beat.
Austin is one of the most up-and-coming destinations in the U.S., 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 round-trip Delta award space from Atlanta (ATL) to Austin (AUS) throughout the weekend:
We’re also seeing some low-level space from the West Coast on American, such as out of LAX. Depending on what dates you fly, you may be able to book a Web Special for less than the usual 12,500-mile saver rate.
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 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 90,000 points a night, you’ll blow through your sign-up bonus pretty quickly.
Meanwhile, Hilton Honors members can book the Hilton Austin at a fairly standard rate of 60,000 Hilton points per night. It’s located at the center of Downtown, a short walk away from Sixth Street nightlife and the Rainey Street Historic District. Amenities include a full-service spa and rooftop pool.
If you’re looking for a beach vacation without traveling far, there are plenty of beaches to go around in the sunshine state.
If you have some flexibility in your travel dates, Delta has flights from Detroit (DTW) and New York-JFK to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) for as little as 11,000 miles round-trip.
If you’re willing to leave Saturday morning and return on Wednesday, United has awards available from Houston (IAH) to Miami (MIA) for 12,000 miles round-trip, a pleasant surprise given how hard it has become to redeem United miles for a decent value.
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 The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. Located in Bal Harbour, at the northern tip of Miami Beach, it gives you direct beach access and a bit of a reprieve from the non-stop party of South Beach. As a top-tier Category 8 Marriott Bonvoy hotel, a free night here will cost you 70,000-100,000 points per night.
But if a party is what you’re after, the newly renovated W South Beach (also a Category 8) or W Fort Lauderdale (Category 6) might be better fitting for you. Meanwhile, the Category 5 Moxy Miami South Beach also offers a party vibe but is more budget-friendly, with free nights costing just 30,000 to 40,000 points per night. You might even be able to redeem your annual free night certificate that comes with many Bonvoy credit cards for standard award night here.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
If you want to travel to the Caribbean, but the testing requirements upon return are deterring you, you might want to consider a trip to Puerto Rico. Although you must present a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival to enter, you won’t need another test to fly home. Plus, you don’t need a passport for entry.
Fares are relatively high on most airlines. However, Boston-based flyers can book nonstop flights on JetBlue for 10,600 to 17,900 TrueBlue points each way.
If you want a beachfront property, a solid option 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.
Alternatively, there’s the Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel, which sits near the bay in Old San Juan. Amenities include a beautiful rooftop pool overlooking the ocean. It’s a Category 5 hotel in the Marriott Bonvoy program, so awards here will set you back 30,000-40,000 points per night.
If you’d rather burn Hilton points, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Juan is still available for 60,000 points per night. It’s located in the Condado area, with easy access to the beach and a short drive from Old San Juan.
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 flights on United out of Houston (IAH) for around 12,000 to 21,000 miles round-trip. We’re also seeing some decent rates on American Airlines out of Phoenix (PHX).
Chicago’s second airport, Midway (MDW), is more than just a Southwest hub; it’s a fortress. You can still find flights for around 20,000 points round-trip to Chicago from Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS) and Atlanta (ATL) or around 10,000 points from Ft. Lauderdale (FLL). If you have a Companion Pass (or two) in your family, you can cut the cost in half to pay effectively 5,000 or 10,000 points per person round-trip.
When it comes time to pick a hotel, Marriott is the way to go here. You have plenty of solid options to choose from for 40,000 points a night or less, including the W City Center, W Chicago Lakeshore, Westin River North and the Blackstone, an Autograph Collection property.
If you’re really getting into baseball season, you should check out the Hotel Zachary, a Tribute Portfolio property. This hotel is located right across the street from Wrigley Field and incorporates elements of the historic stadium into its design.
While no hard date has been set yet, in mid-April, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that travel restrictions would start being lifted in May, opening the borders to vaccinated Americans. As such, you may be able to visit the capital city of Paris and enjoy its amazing food and culture this Memorial Day. Just remember to make flexible bookings in case travel restrictions aren’t lifted in time
Luckily, there are lots of cheap ways to get to Paris using points and miles. United dominates the award availability here, with lots of low-level space throughout the week from several U.S. hubs, including Newark (EWR) and Chicago (ORD). Expect a round-trip flight to cost 60,000 miles per person in economy and 90,000 miles in premium economy. These flights are also available through partners like Avianca LifeMiles and Air Canada Aeroplan.
American Airlines is offering similar rates on its nonstop flights out of cities like Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and New York-JFK. In fact, you may even be able to find saver business class awards on some dates. Although there’s some saver availability on flights operated by British Airways, you’ll likely want to avoid these awards due to high surcharges.
If you have lots of Delta SkyMiles, you can redeem them for nonstop flights on Air France out of cities like Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) for a flat 40,000 miles each way in economy.
Alternatively, if you’re willing to have a layover, you can book your flights through the Flying Blue program for as low as 22,000 miles each way in economy or 58,000 miles in business class, though the taxes and fees will be slightly higher.
You’ll also have plenty of points hotels to choose from in Paris to help you stick to a reasonable budget. The Hilton Paris Opera, Maison Astor Paris part of the Curio Collection by Hilton and the Niepce Paris Hotel, also part of the Curio Collection, can each be booked for under 60,000 Hilton points a night.
These hotels are in prime locations near the main tourist attractions and serve as perfect bases to explore the city. Or, if you’re not looking to be in the city center, you can also book the beautiful Waldorf Astoria Versailles Trianon Palace for just 60,000 points per night.
Paris is also home to some of the best World of Hyatt properties, which can be booked at relatively reasonable rates. Some of the top properties you can book include the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme for 30,000 points per night, Hôtel du Louvre for 25,000 points per night and Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile for 15,000 points per night.
IHG fields several options, including the Crowne Plaza Paris Republique for 24,000 points per night, Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame for 21,000 points per night and the InterContinental Hotels Paris Le Grand for around 68,000 points per night.
Many Paris Marriott properties are still temporarily closed. Still, you can book the Moxy Paris Bastille for 40,000 points per night, Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel for 70,000 points per night or the five-star Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel for 100,000 points per night. Again, you can maximize longer stays by using the fifth-night free night benefit.
Despite the surge in paid bookings, as you can see, there still are plenty of great Memorial Day trips you can book with points and miles. However, 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 Card or Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, or 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Alternatively, you could book with a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and use your miles to “erase” the charge from your statement.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg
Featured image by John Coletti/Getty Images
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