My Frugal Trip to Denver with Credit Card Rewards

My Frugal Trip to Denver with Credit Card Rewards - picture of Denver skyline

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Early this morning, I left on the first non-stop flight from Indianapolis to Denver to catch an epic Pearl Jam concert that is set to take place at 7:30 tonight.  Our plane left at 6:50 which means that we had to be at the airport at 4:00 a.m. <Gulp>, which is why I might be slow to reply to comments today.  We arrive in Denver at 8:30 a.m. so I do plan to work for a few hours once we get there.  After that, I suppose we’ll drive around and kill some time until the concert.

Fortunately, the vast majority of this trip was paid for with credit card rewards.  Here’s how it went down.

Our Frugal Trip to Denver

Our Flights

Since we have plenty of Southwest Rapid Rewards points and the Southwest Companion Pass, we used them to book our non-stop flights.  For the two of us, the total cost came in at $11.20 and 14,300 Rapid Rewards points.  Our flight options weren’t that great, however, which is why I chose to fly so freakin’ early.  Better be early than late, right?

Total Cost: $11.20

Our Hotel

I’ve had a free Marriott night burning a hole in my pocket for a few months now, so I figured now was as good a time to use it as any.  Fortunately, I was able to find availability for one evening at the Ramada Denver Downtown, which is only about a mile from the Pepsi Center where the concert will take place.  The retail value of the hotel stay is $239, so I feel that I got a good deal since it was free.

In other news, our hotel seems to be near a lot of the recreational marijuana stores in town, including a shop called Starbuds.  Get it?  I do not want to go inside, but I would like to drive by and giggle.

Total Cost: 0

Our Rental Car

I’m generally against renting rental cars because it is such a huge PITA.  However, we chose to rent one in Denver because the numbers just didn’t add up.  For example, the internet informed me that the average taxi ride was more than $50 one-way from the airport to our hotel.  Yikes.  On the other hand, renting a rental car would only cost around $42 including all taxes and fees.  I obviously went with the cheapest option which is probably a good thing since it will give us the opportunity to drive around a little bit and explore.  Even after we refill the tank with gas, we will still end up ahead.

Total Cost: $42

Other Expenses

In addition to paying for our rental car ($42) and the airline taxes and fees ($11.20), we went ahead and budgeted around $100 for gas and meals for that day and the following morning.  We don’t plan to eat anything fancy, so I hope that will be enough to get us through the day.

We purchased our concert tickets months ago, and that’s where the major expense of this trip comes in.  Tickets in anything other than the nosebleed section were not cheap.  In fact, some of the tickets we looked at were almost $2,000!  Fortunately, we found a guy who would sell us his tickets via for $185.50 each.  And I’m extremely glad we bought when we did.  I recently looked online to see how much tickets cost now and several tickets in the exact same section as much as $400!

That’s our trip in a nutshell.  I don’t really like flying that much and I usually don’t enjoy trips with a quick turnaround.  However, I think this particular trip will be worth it.  We’ll see.

Want to travel cheaply? Check out my “Free Rewards Advice” page to get your free personal travel plan today! For more about our travels, check out these posts:

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  1. Have an amazing time Holly. I’m trying to get myself to Denver to New Years- but I have a feeling booking reward travel then will be nothing short of impossible. I guess we’ll see.

  2. I love Colorado! Climbing a mountain or going for a hike – anything outdoorsy is the best out there. Have fun at the concert!

  3. I’ve seen lots of blogs here on the PF community about using their rewards as hotel payments and sometimes for the whole trip itself! This seems to be one of the best options if you do not have any budget for travel.

  4. Enjoy the concert! May have to look into a Southwest card. We are planning a trip next year and looking to fly Southwest.

  5. Holly! Enjoy your trip to Denver. I haven’t been there but I’ve heard Denver Botanic Gardens is superb. I wish I were your travel buddy.

  6. Have fun! I’m always impressed by your travel hacking successes! We were in Denver for a wedding last year and our favorite things to do were: hike and eat. Mr. FW found a mountain not too far from town (Mt. Bierstadt) and he was able to go hike it on the morning of the wedding. I was a bridesmaid so I had to drink champagne and get my nails done. Oh the sacrifices I make ;)!

  7. Very nice Holly! We were in Denver a few months ago on our trip out to Denver and had to laugh at the names of some of the pot stores. Our short trip to Chicago was largely on points, which was nice as it meant only a couple hundred dollars out of pocket for a 5 day trip. Hope you have a blast!

  8. Sounds like an awesome short trip – and good call on the rental car! I honestly wouldn’t have thought to check those, I probably would have just taken the tax for what it was. Just another example of how questioning the cost of everything really pays off. Nice job Holly!

  9. Have fun at the concert! I think it’s awesome that because you saved so much money on everything else you got to spend money on great tickets instead. That’s exactly the way it should be!

  10. Hope you have a blast!!! I’ve been to Colorado a few times and always loved it! Such a pretty state with tons to do!

  11. PearlJam was here last weekend and I was shocked to see how many people went, it was SOLD OUT! My favorite spot to eat in Denver is Snooze… usually a bit of a wait, but worth it for sure! Enjoy Denver, it is on of my favorite places to visit!

  12. Have a blast at the concert!!!! Starbuds, ha!!!! Too funny!

  13. Have fun! Planning on using Chase Ultimate Rewards to pay for hotel in Philly. Is the free Marriott night from a Marriott card? I didn’t know Ramada was a part of Marriott…good to know for the future.

  14. If I remember correctly there’s some good micro breweries in Denver.
    16th Street mall is always an adventure.
    And if you are willing to venture outside the city, Red Rocks is amazing.

    Enjoy the concert, Colorado has been enjoying some beautiful weather, glad it didn’t snow for your trip.

  15. I can’t wait to hear about the concert!!! I recently had a 7am flight and I was shocked at what time my alarm needed to be set to go off. Needless to say, I was asleep before the plane took off and woke up right before we landed. It was an awesome power nap. Have a great time!!

  16. Never been to Denver but I plan on visiting Colorado soon! Have a wicked good time with Greg at the concert. Those early morning flights are brutal!

  17. Pretty sure the Denver show won’t be as good as the show we had in Milwaukee on Monday!

  18. What? You didn’t come all the way to catch the Bronco game tonight? 🙂

    Did you budget at least $30 for parking the rental car? Denver downtown is not car-friendly. Just think: if you knew someone in Denver, you could have stayed free and they might even have taken you to the concert for free. But where’s the fun in that? 😉

  19. Uber and Lyft were banned at the airport in Denver when I went in may but there was a really nice and cheap bus that drops off at Union Station downtown from the airport. And there are plenty of super cheap Rideshare options once you’re in the city.

    Otherwise if you’re gonna rent a car I usually get great redemption rates with Citi. Around 2-3 cents per point or u can also pay cash through Costco.

  20. I hope it was epic. Jim is leaving in a business trip to New Orleans today or I would have driven up for one day. PJ is worth it. Maybe next time.

  21. Hope you have a wonderful trip Holly. I don’t understand why rental cars have to be so expensive especially when we have to fill it up while returning it. Good move in using Southwest rapid rewards to pay for your trip. I need to get back into the creditcard rewards game!

  22. Am so jealous! I didn’t realize they were going to be in town. Hope you had an amazing time in Denver and at the concert! Next time we have to meet up when you’re here.

  23. I had to grab a cab from the Denver airport as well, was hoping to use Lyft or Uber, but I guess they’re still banned. I think I would have saved a bunch of money with Lyft, because I had a promo code for a free ride, but other than that my trip was fairly low cost.

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