Our Frugal Weekend Trip to Colorado

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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?

See also:

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  1. Sounds and looks like a great time! Happy belated Birthday to a fellow August baby!!! Nope.. I have never hiked in Colorado. I have been to Denver on a “work” meeting for a week! It was just an excuse for the President of the company to party with the employees without his partner.. haha.. It was fun, and l liked Colorado. What to go with the hacking 🙂

  2. Never been hiking in Colorado, but I was born there. Also never been skiing. Yeah, I am probably broken somehow…

    Just wanted to say I am in awe of your credit card hacking skillz. At my husband’s old job, he flew internationally several times a year. He was allowed to charge it to his personal card and be reimbursed, so he had tons of points built up from all that travel. Remarkably, when we went to book my FinCon ticket, he checked all his rewards programs and… nada. I’m flying Southwest, though and got a great fare.

  3. Jealous! Colorado is a place I’d love to visit one day. Travel/credit card hacking from Aus might be a bit of a challenge though. 🙁

    Hopefully I’ll get there before I’m too old to hike – those views look amazing.

  4. Sounds you had great time in Colorado and also If I never been here seems a great place for hiking and have great time!!!

  5. What an awesome trip, Holly!! My husband and I have been to Beaver Creek, Pagosa Springs, Boulder and Denver. The first two were for snowboarding, the second two were to scope out the area to see if we’d want to live there 🙂 (Charlotte won, haha)

    I think the snowboarding trip was $750 total for three nights (no free points, but we drove and stayed at average hotels) and Denver was probably close to that, too. I HAVE to get into this credit card rewards thing. I love that you guys get to travel so often without spending much!!!

  6. Been hiking a time or two. There are all levels of trails so the kids would probably do fine on the right one. It’s been really hazy from the fire out in California but still beautiful. Glad you had fun.

    1. Yes, it was very hazy out. It was still beautiful but I wish we could have seen further!

  7. Looks like a great trip! I’ve been to Colorado twice, once on business and once driving cross country, both times I didn’t stay very long.

    1. We haven’t had time to stay long either. Our first Colorado trip was 2 days and this one was only 3.5 days!

  8. Sounds like a great time! I’ve never been to Colorado but want to get there one day.

    Please tell me you got video of the woman rapping ‘In The End’!

  9. Infinity hot tubs! That’s a concept I could get behind. Your Instagram photos were great. So glad you posted this recap. I’ve been to Denver a few times, but never long enough to leave the downtown (which is really great, IMO!). I’d love to take a trip like this. Thanks for showing that it can be done reasonably.

    1. No problem! =) I agree that the downtown area is awesome. I do love the mountains though!

  10. I haven’t been to Colorado since I was 12, but I loved it then, and would love to go back one day! Looks like a fun trip!

  11. Your trip sounds awesome! I’ve been dying to go to the resort in Jamaica you’ve talked about. Must research now! Plus I need a new credit card. We’ve just hit our spend on our current card and I should have applied a couple of weeks ago! Talk about losing opportunities!

  12. Sounds like a fun and low cost trip. I’ve never been to Colorado, but I love hiking. Last time we went I didn’t take my son because I figured he’d get tired or worse bored and want to be picked up. Hiking is great for adults and older kids though, plus it’s a fun workout.

  13. Sounds like a fun trip and even better it being on points. 🙂 We were in Denver at the beginning of the month for a family wedding. Normally we’d do something on points, but it was just too expensive points wise for my blood so we ended up renting a house. Thankfully we didn’t need to spend much of anything with all the wedding festivities. It’s been a few years since we’ve been hiking in Colorado but definitely plan on it again as the kiddos get older.

  14. Looks like an absolutely amazing trip!! We are about to embark on a road trip in a few days and are hitting up the Smoky Mountains and Charlotte NC for a few days each. My hubby is a Hilton Honors member because he travels so much for work, so all our hotels are going to be absolutely free since we are using points. They include breakfast too so we’ll only have to pay for pretty much gas for the car (we have a Prius so that shouldn’t be too bad) and then lunches, dinners, and a few fun activities. I can’t wait!

  15. I’d love to go to Colorado…I’ve heard it’s beautiful there. I’m always excited about travel hacking to go places spending very little actual money. If only it wasn’t as much of a hassle to get my boss to be more flexible about taking time off! =)

  16. It’s so inspiring to see how you can travel like that! My husband just started traveling more for work. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can utilize those points for some trips in the future!

  17. One time we almost got paid $2,000 in United Airlines vouchers to stay in Colorado for 24 hours…but that didn’t happen (still got $800 out of the deal!). My wife really would like to go to Colorado at some point, but I really am not that interested in visiting. I’m biased towards places that have either beaches or poker haha. But it looks like a good place to visit if you have extra time (as you two do) and are not confined to PTO of an employer! Not to mention how cheap the trip was for you guys!

  18. I live in CO about 30 or 40 miles away from Denver downtown. I had to chuckle at what you saw on the 16th street mall. I have lived here since 1995 and have been there only a handful of times for similar experiences with the local urban vibe and wildlife. Beaver Creek is an awesome place to spend time. You probably did your trip cheaper than I could.

  19. Sounds like y’all had a great time! I’ve never been to Colorado, but it’s definitely on my list. The lady rapping Linkin Park made me literally laugh out loud! Hahaha

  20. Colorado sounds like a fun time … will have to save up more travel points!

  21. Can you believe I lived one state away from Colorado for almost 10 years and never crossed the border? I’m such an idiot! It looks absolutely gorgeous. Happy Belated Birthday to your hubby! 🙂

  22. Jealous! That sounds like a blast. We’re ready to hunker down since we’ll be in baby mode. There’s a slight chance that we can do a trip next year (combined with business for part of it). We’ll see…

  23. I’ve only been to Colorado for work, and didn’t have time to explore. Definitely plan to go back for vacation one day. The Beaver Creek resort looks like a good time!

  24. That sounds like a great and inexpensive trip you and Greg put together!

    I have spent most of my life in Colorado and have hiked all over the state. We have a bunch of family living there and I visit five or six times a year. If you get a chance on your next trip, go to Rocky Mountain National Park, Red Rocks, and then hang out in the Breckinridge area.

    Today we are living and roughing it in Sedona. 🙂

  25. Tennille @ Two Kids And A Budget says:

    It looks like you had a great trip! I’ve never been to Colorado but my brother and his family live out there. I am always amazed at how you put these deals together!

  26. Next time you visit-I’m giving you a tour. Might be different than the one that your friends have taken you on! Love taking people on tours of my town. Have you had a chance to visit: Crested Butte or Breckenridge (my 2 favorite mountain towns).

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