Summer Vacation Recap

Yeah I know, I know:  LATE. Better late than, never I suppose! This was definitely a cash-based summer, womp womp.

First, we spent 5 days in Cape Cod with Nick’s family. We took the train to Providence, RI and then were picked up for the drive to the cape. We stayed in a VRBO (this one) and had a great time exploring and sitting on the beach.

Next, and after two long days at work, we hopped back on Amtrak to spend Labor Day with my family. We can practically do this trip (train to bus) in our sleep, we’ve done it so many times! On the way up, we took the Northeast Regional and on the way back we took the Acela–it was cheaper than the slow train!

Item Points Used Money Spend
2x Amtrak tickets, 8/26, NYP-PVD 5,571 ($153.00 value) $0.00
VRBO for 4 nights 0 $670.00 (our share)
2x Amtrak tickets, 8/30, PVD-NYP 0 $98.00
2x Amtrak tickets, 9/1, NYP-BOS  0  $76.00
2x Concord Coach roundtrip tickets, BOS-CON  0  $60.00
2x Amtrak tickets, 9/5, BOS-NYP  0  $207.00

Overall, we used 5,571 points and spent $1,111. Sticker shock–reminds me why I try to collect and use points for all our travels!

LOL, yeah right.

We did earn 868 Amtrak points for all this travel, which is something (a very small something). Good thing our upcoming vacations were, for the most part, booked with points!


Birthday Surprise!

One of the great things (at least to me!) about earning points is that they give you the ability to book trips “on a whim.” Which is exactly what I did for Nick’s birthday! I wanted to surprise him with a little weekend getaway, and finally settled on Baltimore.

Baltimore skyline–image property of throwinrocks!

We’ll be heading down after work on October 21st, and we’ll spend all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday before we head back to NYC. No plans yet, so if you have a Baltimore recommendation, let me know!

So how did I do this? I did spend more money than points (bummer!), but that’s because we needed to use Amtrak points for another trip we have coming up later this month. Oh well, you win some, you lose some–this trip is still very much worth it :)! Here’s how it breaks down:

Item Points Used Cash Spent
2x Amtrak coachclass tickets, NYP-BAL 0 $98.00
2 nights at the Indigo Hotel – Baltimore Downtown (an IHG property) 30,000 IHG points $198.00
2x Amtrak coachclass tickets, BAL-NYP 0 $142.20

Total points used and cash spent:  30,000 points and $438.20.

We will earn the following points for this trip:

  • Sam:
    • Amtrak:  240 480 points from travel + 720 points from Amtrak credit card
    • IHG:  198 990 points from credit card (EDIT 9/18/2016:  Cash+Points stays DO earn 5x points–and I have the credit card statement to prove it!)
  • Nick:
    • Amtrak:  240 480 points

Happy birthday, Nick!

EDIT 9/18/2016:  We’ll actually earn 480 Amtrak points each from travel, thanks to the Amtrak Double Days promotion! 

We’re off to See the Wizard (No, Not That One!)

Image courtesy of Travel & Leisure

Sometimes you just need to take a vacation. And sometimes, you know you’ll need to take a vacation sooner rather than later. So what did Nick and I decide to do? Go to Harry Potter World, of course! And this wouldn’t be A Point Earned if we didn’t use points (and earn some!) to get there. Here’s our plan:  fly LGA-MCO (Orlando) on 11/18 and return MCO-LGA on 11/20. Yes, it’s a short vacation, but our LGA-MCO flight is early in the morning and allows us to spend the rest of Friday at the beach–only an hour from the airport. Saturday will be spent at Universal, and we plan to see both parts of Harry Potter World. Sunday will be a hotel/pool day, and we’ll fly back in the afternoon.

Points/Money Breakdown:

Item Points Used Value Cash Spent
2x DL tickets (11/18-11/20)


60,000 $732.40 $22.40
2 nights – DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Lake Buena Vista 0* Redeemed Hilton Select certificate (free three day/two-night stay) $362.50 $112.50
Enterprise Rental Car – Economy (Kia Rio or similar) 0 $80.01 $80.01
2 one-day passes to both Universal Studios Parks 0 $310.00 $310.00

In sum, we used 60,000 points and $524.91, which saved us $960.00 had we only paid with cash–over 60% in savings!

This trip could have been even cheaper had we not:

  • Decided to upgrade our hotel room ($112.50)
  • Paid cash ($80.01) rather than points (6,401) for the rental car

Had we not done either of these things, our trip costs would have been 66,401 points and $332.40.

We’re looking forward to our quick getaway–what was your favorite part of Harry Potter World?

Hawaii Day 6

We spent a lot of time in the car today! The drive from the resort to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year!) is ~2 hours away by car. Ouch! But it was definitely worth it–very cool, and I highly recommend it! On the way there we stopped in Hilo for a quick walkabout, and ran into someone from NH, what a small world! We also stopped at Volcano Winery and did the wine tasting, also highly recommended!

Hawaii Day 3

Day Three’s adventures included:  walking through the Waimea Valley Nature Park and seeing the waterfall, exploring Haleiwa, sitting on the beach at Sunset Beach, and learning how to surf (!!!), and looking out over Hawaii from Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. Let me say, surfing is REALLY HARD, but Nick and I had a great time.