Using Points to Save on Ski Vacations — Reader Success Story
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Beth, who got excellent value from booking hotel awards during ski season. Here’s what she had to say:
My boyfriend and I are full-time consultants, part-time travel nerds. Realizing how many points we had accumulated and simultaneously itching to ski, we started looking into ski vacations in November of 2017. We realized the high prices at various Marriott and Starwood ski properties meant they would be great for redeeming points, so we picked a few places we wanted to go — Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Vail, Tahoe — and then decided when to visit based on award availability. We knew we could cancel if the dates didn’t work out, but we wanted to book early since the hotels would likely fill up.
Our first weekend was at Breckenridge in December. The Residence Inn Breckenridge is brand new (opened in 2016), right on Main Street, and provides a shuttle to the gondola as well as a room for ski storage. It was incredibly convenient for our first ski weekend of the year. We spent 35,000 Marriott points per night for two nights, which was an awesome redemption since rooms there can go for between $500 and $700 in peak season.
Next up was Beaver Creek in January for my boyfriend’s birthday. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is an amazing ski in/ski out property right on the mountain. They provide unbeatable service and so many amenities, including ski valet service and a massive indoor co-ed grotto style hot tub! We redeemed 70,000 points per night for three nights, and because of our Platinum Elite status we were upgraded to a suite at check-in. It included a full kitchen and living room, which was great because we could save money by cooking some of our own meals. A TPG article suggested that we always tell hotels about special occasions, and this time it paid off, as they brought us a bottle of champagne for my boyfriend’s birthday! Suites often go for over $2,000 per during peak season, so this was yet another great redemption!
In February we spent one night at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort for 45,000 points (when rooms often go for $900-$2000), and then three nights at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe for 70,000 points per night. We were again upgraded to a suite, and were able to have our friends stay with us on the pullout couch! Using points for our ski vacations helped us eliminate some of the usual stresses (carrying gear to and from the mountain, expensive hotels, etc.), and proved to be an excellent way to get value from our rewards!
Last summer Hilton, Marriott and IHG all updated their cancellation policies, requiring travelers to cancel reservations as much as 72 hours in advance to avoid a penalty. Hyatt followed suit in December, but while these moves certainly aren’t good news for customers, hotel cancellation policies remain fairly friendly overall compared to the more draconian airline counterparts. The upshot is that since hotel awards can generally be canceled with no hassle, you can afford to book rooms speculatively as Beth did. Just make sure you’re clear about which cancellation policy applies beforehand, since some reservations are non-refundable.
Most people first decide when they want to travel, and then sort out which air and hotel options work for their itinerary. But if your schedule is flexible, you can maximize your rewards by letting availability dictate when (and even where) you go. Beth and her boyfriend did just that in planning their ski vacations, and they were able to get excellent redemption values as a result. This approach won’t always work — you might have limited vacation time or a narrow window to travel around other obligations, and in that case it’s worth paying a little more to get the trip you want. When you can, however, look for discounted flights, award sales and other opportunities to score an unexpected deal.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Beth for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Feature photo courtesy Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.