I recently planned out all of our trips through November 2015.  Crazy, I know, but it is just part of the sickness.

Still, sometimes it pays off to plan ahead since some of the best award redemptions can only be made early.  Personally, I like to have as many options as possible, so I always start scheming as soon as I can.

In addition to credit card rewards-fueled trips to Jamaica, Dallas, Charlotte, Aruba (maybe?), and Italy this year, we’re also spending a week in Las Vegas and San Diego near the end of July.   Here are the juicy details of our frugal west coast vacation and how we leveraged our points and miles to make it happen:

Why Las Vegas and West Coast?

I’m going to be honest here.  Part of the reason we chose Las Vegas was the fact that I have more than 300,000 myVEGAS points to burn.  If you’ve never played myVEGAS rewards, it is a time-wasting Facebook game that rewards you with points you can redeem in Las Vegas.  As it stands now, I have enough points to pay for almost all of our meals for three days, and not just in undesirable places either.  Our plan is to eat Subway for a few meals and enjoy the rest at the Luxor, Excalibur, and the Monte Carlo buffets.  I love me a good salad bar.

Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to travel across the country for free food, right?  The other reason we chose Las Vegas is because hotel prices were crazy cheap the week we have off.  After some deliberation, we chose to stay at the Flamingo for only $41 per night.  Even better, I paid for our three nights with $200 in Expedia credit they gave me when I called and complained one day.  I just had to pay the taxes, which were around $25 total.

After our three days in Las Vegas, we’ll pick up a rental car and drive to the West Coast.  If anyone wants to offer me a free place to stay on the west coast, I’m all ears.  Otherwise, I plan to use SPG points for a few nights at the Westin in downtown San Diego or book a condo on AirBNB.com.  Either way, our lodging will be paid for with credit card rewards.  I have around $700 in cash-back on one of my cash-back credit cards if we go the condo route and I have a bazillion SPG points if we opt to stay at the Westin.

Flying to Las Vegas and Home from San DiegoIs it possible to have a frugal west coast vacation? Read this post for details on how I made it happen.

You’re probably wondering why we’re taking such a random vacation to begin with.  One set of grandparents lives about 12 hours away which makes it really difficult to get together on a regular basis.  We’re all really good about it, but they still don’t get to see the kids as much as they should, and they never get to watch them alone.  So we’re driving them up to their grandparents, leaving them there for five days, then picking them up and driving them home.  Squeezing a vacation into that week made a lot more sense than making the trip twice and just coming home.

To pay for our flights, I used 21,600 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book two one-way flights from Minneapolis to Las Vegas.  I was going to transfer those points to Southwest, but I went ahead and booked them directly through Chase.  For our flight home, I spent 50,000 American miles to fly both of us from San Diego back to Minneapolis.  The redemption options were crappy, so we ended up having to book first class for that one.  Totally pointless in my eyes, and I told Greg not to get used to it!

Personally, I can’t wait for this trip to happen.  I love all of the cheesy, free stuff to do in Las Vegas and I have never even been to the west coast!  Once it gets closer, I’ll budget a certain amount of money for gas, food, and incidentals.  And in the meantime, I’ll continue to try to convince Greg not to play craps.

Got somewhere you want to go? Let me help. Head to my “Free Rewards Advice” page for tailored advice on traveling cheaply today! For more about our travels, check these out: