Our Next Trip: Amsterdam and London!

Our Next Trip: Amsterdam and London!

The number one reason I love the points and miles game is because it allows you to plan trips basically on a whim. Got points? Let’s travel! Because of that, Nick and I are headed back to Europe in March!

We had wanted to take a trip to Florida or the Caribbean in March for Nick’s spring break, but the last thing many of those places need is tourists sucking up valuable resources (if you can, donate to an organization supporting disaster relief), so we decided we’d head back to Europe for our week-long trip.

Here’s what we’re planning to do!

Continue reading “Our Next Trip: Amsterdam and London!”

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The Apology, the Excuse, and the Update

I have to hand it to people who can manage to go about their daily lives (successfully, I might add) and still have time to blog. So let’s get point one right out the open:  I’m sorry to have disappeared for so long! Between a crazy month of work and many weekends of travel–more on that below–I’ve neglected A Point Earned. Bad Sam! I’m not going to make promises, but I have very much missed blogging, and hopefully something like this doesn’t happen again.

So the fun part of being away  for so long is that I can update you on all the traveling I did (and how I did it for cheap–that’s the whole point, right?)!

Date Item Cash Spent Points Used Value of Points
5/12/2016 Delta Airlines Flight #3702 $42.10* 0 n/a
5/15/2015 Concord Coach #31 $15.00 0 n/a
5/15/2015 Amtrak #139 $0.00 2,490 $68.40
5/27/2016 Amtrak #176 $0.00 2,490 $68.40
5/27/2016 Concord Coach #36 $15.00 0 n/a
5/30/2016 Concord Coach #31 $15.00 0 n/a
5/30/2016 Amtrak #139 $0.00 2,490 $68.40
6/3/2016 Amtrak #174 $0.00 5,143 $138.80
6/3/2016 Concord Coach #36 $15.00 0 n/a
6/6/2016 Concord Coach #31 $15.00 0 n/a
6/6/2016 Amtrak #177 $0.00 2,490 $68.40

* I has a $200 Delta gift card thanks to my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, which I used to offset the cost of the plane ticket.

Over the past four weekends, I’ve been traveling for three of them. On these three trips, I spent $117.10 to get back and forth from my destinations. I also used 15,103 Amtrak points, which are valued at about $412.40.

Although you can’t put a price on two graduations and a relaxing Memorial Day weekend, being able to save over $600 to see my family makes going to these important things all the more easier. If only Concord Coach Lines had a credit card (or frequent busser program!), I’d be all over that!

To me, this post highlights a couple things:

  1. My undying love for Amtrak. So far this year, Nick and I have saved over $500 on train tickets thanks to my Amtrak card, and it’s only June! We have a trip coming up in July paid for in part by points, saving us an additional ~$200.
  2. Use points how you see fit! Some people like one first class trip, others like three coach class trips. Like I said above, these trips would have set me back ~$700 without points and giftcards, and I am so glad I got the opportunity to go home for all these occasions without having to shell out more cash!

So there you have it–my return to the blogosphere! Sorry I was truant for so long, and to reiterate, I will try not to let it happen again!

Trip Framework – Go West! New York-Chicago

In case you missed it, this is a multi-part trip framework. You can catch up on all the segments here:


So, let’s get rolling! The first part of the trip is taking Amtrak from New York’s Pennsylvania Station to Chicago’s Union Station. You’ll be taking the Lake Shore Limited #49 (a favorite of mine for getting to Utica) in a Viewliner Roomette. It’ll take just over 19 hours, but luckily you’ll have a bed for the trip.

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Amtrak New York – Chicago

This portion of your trip will set you back 19,424 points, which saves you $563.00. You could save ~16,000 points if you opted for the Reserved Coach Seat, but let’s be completely honest, that sounds TERRIBLE. Hard Pass.

One you get to Chicago, you’ll be staying at the Hyatt Place Chicago-Downtown/The Loop from 8/13 to 8/15. It’s a half mile walk from the station to the hotel. You’ll be getting in a little early, so your room won’t be ready for check-in, but hotels are usually pretty good about holding your bag(s) if you want to explore unencumbered.

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Chicago Hyatt Place Chicago-Downtown/The Loop

The two days in Chicago will set you back a whopping 0 points. You may be thinking:  “Sam 12,000 x 2 is certainly not 0.” And you’re not wrong; however, the Hyatt credit card’s sign-up bonus is two free nights at any Hyatt hotel. NICE!

This stopover on your trip gives you ~55 hours to explore Chicago, which isn’t a lot of time, but enough to get a few adventures in:  Millennium Park, a Cubs game (they’re playing the Cardinals at home that weekend!), Art Institute of Chicago, Willis Tower Skydeck, Museum of Science and Industry, and Navy Pier to name a few!

On the afternoon of 8/15, walk back to the train station for your 2:15 train to Seattle!

Why I’m Blogging

Well, here’s something you probably all knew:  blogging is hard work! I’m only a post in and it’s been a week. I think part of the slowness comes from the fact that publishing something (no matter the size) can be a little scary–you’re putting yourself out there for people to judge. The other side is that coming up with content can be tricky–I want what I post to be interesting, but also relevant. What’s a guy to do?

With that said, let’s explore the root of why I started this blog:  I’m taking a $6,000+ trip to Hawaii in April for only about $600. A vacation for 90% off–do I have your attention now?!

Here’s what it looks like so far:

Items Points Used Cash Value of Points Cash Spent
2x Delta tickets JFK-LAX-HNL 130,000 Delta SkyMiles $1,021.00 $11.20
2x Hawaiian tickets HNL-KOA 9,000 American AAdvantage Miles $174.00 $11.20
2x United tickets KOA-DEN-LGA 90,000 United MileagePlus Miles $2,818.00 $11.20
4 nights Hilton Waikiki Beach 160,000 Hilton HHonors $998.28 $0.00
3 nights Hilton Waikoloa Beach (Cash+Points) 60,000 Hilton HHonors $737.94 $515.34
Oahu Rental Car 13,056 Chase Ultimate Rewards $163.20 $0.00
Big Island Rental Car 23,808 Chase Ultimate Rewards $297.60 $0.00

Total:  485,864 points spent for a total value of $6,210.02. We’re paying only $548.94.

As this was a very “pieced together” trip, this wasn’t accomplished with only one or two credit cards. Between Nick and me, we applied for the following cards to make this trip happen:

  • American Express Delta Gold (Sam)
  • American Express Hilton HHonors card (Nick and Sam)
  • American Express Hilton Surpass (Nick)
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred (Nick)
  • Chase United MileagePlus Explorer (Sam)
  • Citi American AAdvantage Gold (Sam)

Honestly, this is a long term game. We’ve been collecting points for almost a year, and this is our first major redemption. And in truth, we’re doing it sort of backwards. Rather than plan a trip and then base credit card bonuses around it, we’ve applied for credit cards and made a trip out of it. Because of this, there was no way that with our individual point balances we could create an entire roundtrip on one airline. For some, that might be an issue, but I think it’s actually a positive as it allows us to try out a bunch of different airlines and to use a variety of points.

What I will say is this:  many people make it seem like you can only fly Emirates first class to get a great value out of your points. I disagree, and will disagree forever. What matters is that points got you to a vacation you might not otherwise take or a surprise visit home. That’s what matters most to me, and something I plan to highlight over and over again in this blog.

So, with a little planning–and a careful, methodical approach to managing credit cards–we’re taking the trip of a lifetime, and so could you!

EDIT:  I think my next project will be detailing every leg of the trip and going into more detail on how we booked them. Thoughts?