In case you didn’t know, my husband is S-P-O-I-L-E-D. This is partly because he’s so dang cute, but also because I’m a travel writer and credit card expert who gets to take advantage of lots of free stuff.

Case in point: This past weekend, I took the hubs to Colorado to celebrate his 36th birthday. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t. Let me explain.

How We Paid for Our Frugal Weekend Trip to Colorado

First, let’s talk about how we paid to get to Colorado from Indiana, shall we? As a Southwest Airlines enthusiast, I am proud to announce that we used Rapid Rewards points to fly round-trip to Colorado. For around 16,000 Rapid Rewards points plus $11.20 each, we flew to Denver and back. Our only expenses for transportation were $36 for airport parking, which is something I absolutely hate paying. But at $36, it was cheaper than ubering both ways. Meanwhile, we also paid $120 total for an Alamo rental car for three days.

Total transportation costs: 

  • 32,000 Rapid Rewards points
  • $22.40 in airline taxes and fees
  • $120 for rental car
  • $36 for parking
  • $20 to fill up the gas tank
  • Total: $198.40 plus 32,000 Rapid Rewards points
westin beaver creek

Westin Beaver Creek Resort & Spa Pool

As far as hotels go, we used points to pay for all of our hotel stays. In Beaver Creek, we spent 10,000 points from our Starwood Preferred Guest American Express cards for one night at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain. We even got upgraded to a two-bedroom suite somehow, which was super swank. It’s a nice resort anyway, but the room we had really put it over the top.

For our two nights in Denver, we used 80,000 Hilton HHonors points to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Denver. Although the hotel itself is rather basic, this property is in an awesome spot right in downtown and next to the popular 16th Street Mall. And since my Citi Hilton Reserve credit card grants me Hilton Gold status, we got free breakfast at the hotel both days. And it wasn’t just cereal and toast either; it was a full breakfast buffet with cereal, oatmeal, fresh fruit, omelets, bacon, toast, bagels, yogurt, etc.

Total Cost for Hotels:

  • Hotel Stays: $0
  • Parking at Hotels: $40 total
  • Total Cost: $40 plus 80,000 Hilton HHonors points and 10,000 starpoints

Our Frugal Trip to Colorado in Pictures

Beaver Creek

In addition to paying for transportation and parking, we also spent some money on lunches and dinners. Fortunately, it was only around $200 total for the four days – and only that much because we went out fancy for my husband’s birthday.

Other than that, we took advantage of some fun and free activities. On our first day in Beaver Creek, for example, we hiked four miles up Beaver Creek Mountain through some really challenging and rugged terrain. We even got off the trail for a while, and Greg thought he saw bear tracks! Since the hike took two-and-a-half hours and was a lot harder than we thought it would be, we weren’t sure the friends we brought along would ever talk to us again. But they ultimately forgave us, and the views were absolutely spectacular!

The best part is, the lift ride down the mountain is free (it costs $38 per person for the ride up), so we got to enjoy a leisurely ride on the way down.

view from beaver creek mountain


After that, we spent quite a bit of time in our awesome hotel room and in the resort’s infinity hot tubs. It was super relaxing, and the resort even had live music that evening.

beaver creek westin


After we left Beaver Creek, we went straight to Denver to check in to our hotel. Once we got in our rooms, we went over to the 16th Street Mall to see what was going on over there. Fortunately, I got to do a ton of people-watching while we walked up and down the mall. Things in saw on 16th Street in Denver:

  • A forty-something year-old woman with a mohawk freestyling Linkin Park’s “In The End.” While she rapped, her friend sang the background vocals.
  • Lots of recreational pot shops (well, maybe 2 or 3 where we were staying)
  • A clearly unstable person trying to climb into a street drain that was probably 3 by 12 inches.

Good times.

The next morning, we took off to Golden, Colorado to hike North Table Mountain. It was pretty dang steep getting up there, but the views were awesome! Even better, we saw a coyote and a rattle snake on our way down. Plus, we got an awesome workout in….and again, for free!

We had a ton of fun with our friends in Colorado, and we hope to do it again soon. Actually, I would like to take our kids there once they get a little bit older. While the hiking might be a little much for them right now, I think they would truly enjoy it in a few years. And, I would definitely stay at both of the resorts we chose again. With great locations and the ability to book with points, both properties can’t really be beat.

Have you ever been hiking in Colorado? Where did you stay? Did you have fun?

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