As many of you know, we have traveled all over the place using credit card rewards during the last 12 months. Since this time last year, we’ve gone on a cruise to the Bahamas, traveled to London and around England, visited Paris and New Orleans, and jetted off to St. Maarten, Jamaica, Canada, Las Vegas, and California. You can read those trip reviews here:

It’s been a lot of fun, but 2015 isn’t over yet.  And since people keep asking me where we plan to go for the remainder of the year, I thought it might be wise to write an update post with details on how we pay for all of this. Because, let’s be honest, when it comes to budget holidays, the whole goal is paying for as little as possible, right? Right?!?!?

With that in mind, I created this post. Dear frugal friends, fellow travel enthusiasts, and genuinely nosy readers, this one’s for you.

[Editor’s Note: This is a post from 2015. Therefore, these offers and redemptions may no longer be current or available.]

Our Budget Travel Plans for the Rest of 2015


My husband is spoiled, I tell ya. S-P-O-I-L-E-D. Last year I took him to the Bahamas on a cruise for his birthday, and this year I’m taking him to Beaver Creek, Colorado, and of course, Denver. We’re going with friends too, which means plenty of shenanigans will ensue. For the record, we are going hiking up a mountain or something, so I know at least one day will be chock-full of good, clean family fun.

How we paid:

We used Southwest Rapid Rewards points to pay for our airfare. We couldn’t use our companion passes because we already have our children designated for an upcoming flight, so our flights cost us around 16,000 miles plus $11.20 each. For our hotel stays, we paid 10,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points to stay the Westin Beaver Creek Resort & Spa and the Westin Denver downtown.

Total Cost:

  • 32,000 Rapid Rewards miles + $11.20
  • 30,000 SPG points

Important: Please don’t tell me I can change my companion with Southwest. I freakin’ knooooooow. I can’t change it because my kids are our companions on a sold-out flight later this year.


Although this trip will only be financed partially with rewards points, I thought it was worth mentioning. Folks, we’re going to FinCon in Charlotte this year, and it’s going to be grand! I really like networking and meeting people, so make sure to hit me up if you’re going to be there! Warning: I am pretty awkward in person after years of working alone at home. Sorry.

How we paid:

Since we got a group rate for our hotel, we opted to pay the $149 per night and take the tax write-off. We also paid for our flights home with real money because all of the points options left at the crack of dawn. Last year I flew home from FinCon on the first flight out Sunday morning at like 6:00 a.m. Big mistake. Since I have like a gazillion American Airlines miles, I opted to purchase our flights to Charlotte with them.

Total Cost:

25,000 AA miles plus $11.20, and I paid for the rest as a business expense.


This is our really big trip for the year, and I’m so excited. We’re going to ItalyI’ve been dreaming about this day for a while now, folks. I simply cannot wait. Our itinerary includes Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, Florence and Venice. Please don’t email me and tell me I should spend time somewhere else in Italy because I already have it all booked people! (If you have restaurant suggestions or anything, feel free to hit me up.)

How we paid:

We used 80,000 American miles to pay for our round-trip flights to Rome and home from Venice. Our taxes and fees were $109 total. We paid for our hotels in the three main cities using cash-back from my final and last Capital One Spark Business card. That was fairly easy to do since we’re staying in cheap bed-n-breakfasts that run about $100 per night. We also booked trains for around $120, and I paid for them with real money.

Total Cost:

  • 80,000 AA miles + $109
  • $600 in cash-back for hotels
  • $120 for trains


This is a trip that I’m extremely excited about! For the first time ever, we are taking a family vacation during Christmas break. We have never been able to do that before because of Greg’s job, but now we are freeeeeeeeeeeee. We didn’t want to deal with the hassle of customs or international travel over Christmas, so we opted for a resort in Marco Island, Florida. I can’t wait to take the kids on a relaxing beach vacation!

How we paid:

We turned in 390,000 Marriott points for an Air+Hotel package worth 7 nights in a Category 9 Marriott hotel and 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Our flights cost around 25,000 miles for Greg and I, but our kids were free as our companions.

Total Cost:

  • 390,000 Marriott points
  • 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points plus $44.80 in taxes ($5.60 per leg)

Budget Travel: Gearing Up for 2016

Even though we have a lot of trips planned, I am just starting to price and point shop for our 2016 travel. So far, we’re already heading back to Jamaica and staying at the same hotel during Spring Break! However, we also plan to (maybe) go somewhere warm in January or February, plus head back to Europe and work in a few weekend trips. I also plan to take an international trip with the kids during their Fall Break. We’ll see.

And in case you didn’t know, I do offer free travel advice on my Free Rewards Advice page. You should also check out some of my favorite cards, including these great Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits. All I ask in return for my free, personalized advice is that you use my affiliate links when you sign up for new cards. So feel free to email me with any questions you have, even if they are simple or about something related to credit cards. I love talking about travel, so it never gets old!

What are your travel plans for the rest of 2015? Any credit card rewards-fueled trips coming up?

See also: