Family Birthday Trip to Hawaii using Points and Miles

As I discussed in an older previous post, "Points, Miles or Cash-Back?", there are great travel related credit cards out there that can help save you money on your next trip, weekend getaway or provide other great travel related benefits.


Travel rewards credit cards help users save money on travel expenses by being able to use those miles and points by using them to offset travel related expenses as statement credits, within a particular airline/hotel loyalty program, transferring to partner hotels/airlines or using a respective bank's travel portal to book travel.  You can see examples of some of these cards in my previous post, Points, Miles or Cash-Back?

For my own personal trips (and when helping others book their trips), I always try to see where I can use miles, points or companion passes to help save on travel costs and help extend our travel time and budget. 

Birthday Trip to Oahu & Kauai
Here is an example of a trip I booked using points and miles for our son's first birthday.  For this trip, we decided to take a birthday trip to Hawaii and visit Oahu and Kauai on this particular vacation.

I like to plan well in advance of a trip when I can to try to find the best value for our money or miles/points and have access to the best availability for flights and accommodations.

For this birthday trip to Oahu and Kauai, we had 2 Adults, 1 Child and 1 Lap Baby.


Flights on Hawaiian Airlines
Best flight options for us are out of Sacramento and flights to Hawaii are limited from SMF.  At the time this travel was booked, the only options were SMF to HNL or SMF to OGG.  Since we wanted to go to Oahu, the SMF to HNL flight on Hawaiian Airlines was our only option out of Sacramento, but since we had flexible travel dates I was able to check for the best pricing available.  Also, since we wanted to go to Kauai for the first time, we would take an inter-island flight from HNL to LIH and then back home we could fly from LIH to HNL to SMF.
  • SMF to HNL - 17.5k Hawaiian Miles one way per person
  • HNL to LIH - 7.5k Hawaiian Miles one way per person
  • LIH (via HNL) to SMF - 17.5k Hawaiian Miles one way per person


Accommodations
I am a big fan of Hyatt hotels and since I had mid-tier loyalty status (at the time of booking this trip) within their loyalty program, World of Hyatt, plus a lot of points, it made sense to consider Hyatt as our go-to hotel options on Oahu and Kauai.

On Oahu, we decided to stay at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa, as the hotel had points availability for our dates and I was able to use an upgrade certificate I had for regency club lounge access.
  • 2 nights at 20,000 World of Hyatt (WOH) points per night for two nights
  • Use Explorist upgrade certificate for regency lounge access







For our next stop on Kauai, the only option is to stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa (one of the best hotels in all of Hawaii!).

For our dates we lucked out and the hotel had points availability.  Unfortunately, due to an expiring upgrade certificate during our stay dates, I was unable to upgrade using the certificate for regency club lounge access.  Since I value club lounge access highly due to food/drink cost savings and convenience when traveling with kids, I ended up using more points to upgrade to a Club Lounge Room.
  • 5 nights at 33,000 World of Hyatt points per night for a Club Lounge Room 
    • We got an upgrade to an Ocean View Room!
  • Explorist upgrade certificate expired during our stay, so Hyatt wouldn't allow it to be used per their terms & conditions.  So instead of booking with 25,000 points per night, I had to pony up an extra 8,000 points per night for a club lounge access room, for a total of 33,000 points per night.







Total Miles / Points Cost
The total amount of miles and points we used for this trip for all of our flights and hotel stays is detailed below:

Flights:
  • SMF to HNL - 17.5k Hawaiian Miles one way per person
  • HNL to LIH - 7.5k Hawaiian Miles one way per person
  • LIH (via HNL) to SMF - 17.5k Hawaiian Miles one way per person
Total Hawaiian Miles = 127,500 miles + lap baby under 2 free

Hotels:

Hyatt Regency Waikiki at 20k points/night x 2 nights = 40k World of Hyatt points
Grand Hyatt Kauai at 33k points/night x 5 nights = 165k World of Hyatt points

Total World of Hyatt Points = 205,000 points

Since I had a large balance of Hyatt points accrued over the years from credit card bonuses and spend, I had enough points to book these hotels.  For the flights, I transferred American Express Membership Points (I accrue with their cards) to Hawaiian Airlines (Amex partner) to book the flights with Hawaiian Airlines.

Total Cost in Dollars
The total value in dollars that this trip would of cost (at time of booking) was as follows:

Flight Cost Total for all flights detailed above was $749/person x 3 people = $2247 (plus free lap baby)

Hotel Cost Total:
For the Hyatt Regency Waikiki for a regular lead in category room was $275/night and for two nights plus taxes/fees, it would have been approximately $683.

For the Grand Hyatt Kauai, a Club Level Room started at $620 per night for our travel dates.  For five nights, plus taxes and resort fee, we would have been looking at approximately $3765 for our stay.

Since we had club lounge access at both hotels, we saved a ton of money on food/drink costs (not include in the analysis).  I would estimate this benefit at approximately $75/day on the very low end, saving us at least $500-$600 on food costs.

The total cost for this trip (flights + hotel) would have been at least $6,695, not counting the food/drink cost savings.

Now would I have paid that much for this trip?  We would have had to budget for this trip and it would be a lot more then I would want to pay, but I'm not sure we would have stayed where we did given the high costs.  But with points and miles, the real cost never crossed my mind and I was able to save thousands of dollars for this trip!

Summary
What if you're planning a trip and don't have the necessary points and miles or just don't have the patience or the interest to accrue points and miles in an airline program, hotel program or a flexible point currency offered from banks like Chase, American Express, CitiBank or others?

Your best bet would be to wait for travel sales and promotions to help save on costs.  If you do go this route, finding extra value for your trip with value-added amenities is a must with travel advisor only programs like Marriott STARS and Luminous, the Virtuoso Hotel Program, Hyatt Prive or from other programs like American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) collection, Visa Signature Hotel Collection and others.

Also, another great option to consider when not using points and miles is wholesale travel suppliers and tour operators (typically only available through a travel advisor/agent).  Travel packages offered from these suppliers can offer great value and savings when you package up flights, hotels and/or rental cars.  Offers and promotions can vary from supplier to supplier, but I have seen some great pricing when packaging up flights and hotels, especially for Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean!  Examples of tour operators and travel advisor only suppliers include Pleasant Holidays, Classic Vacations, Travel Impressions, Blue Sky Tours and more.

If you're interested in learning more or need some help with an upcoming trip, send me a message and read more about me here!


Related Posts:
Oahu Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Waikiki
Review: Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
The Regency Club Lounge at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
Kauai Travel Guide: Where to Stay on the Garden Isle
Review: Grand Hyatt Kauai
The Grandest Club Lounge in all of Kauai
Exclusive Virtuoso Amenities at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa!
Introducing the all-new Marriott STARS and Marriott Luminous Program