As my new husband and I flew home from Kauai in our cushy, free, first class seats, we clinked our champagne glasses together and both realized how absurd our trip had been.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, we had a fun time exploring new places and spending time with each other. But we have so much fun doing our hobbies, cooking dinner together, playing duets, and just being together doing anything in our home that it was kind of goofy for us to go way across the country on our honeymoon. We would have been just as content to be at home, and I really mean that. It makes me really happy that that’s true—our “normal” life is so happy that we don’t need to escape from it on a vacation.
Our honeymoon was certainly a neat, different experience that I am glad to have memories of. I’m just also glad we didn’t spend money out of our own shared pocket to sponsor that luxurious experience. And that brings me back to the point of the roundup: how did we get our airfare to and accommodations in Hawaii totally for free? I mean, so far I told you that I spent $174, which is pretty close to free, but it ain’t free.
Chase UR Points
After using Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points to get some free nights at the Hyatt Regency, we had 12,000 points left over. Since 1 UR point is worth 1 cent of cash, we got $120 back for those leftover points.
Chase Fairmont Points
When we got Fairmont credit cards, we had to spend $3,000 each to get the bonuses. Each dollar spent on the card earned 1 Chase Fairmont point, so we each ended up with about 30,000 points. While you can’t redeem these points for cash directly, you can redeem them for Amazon gift cards in $25 increments, for 1 cent per point. With our points we got $50 of Amazon money, which is as good as cash to me because we buy so much stuff there. Even if you want to discount the value by 10-20% to what someone else might pay you in cash for the gift cards, they are still worth at least $40.
Fairmont Gift Cards
Those Fairmont credit cards were incredible. Besides the free nights and points, each one also came with a $100 breakfast gift certificate and a $50 spa/dinner certificate. I would value each one of them at maybe 50% of face value, since you have to spend them in the pricy restaurants at the Fairmont. With two sets of them, at 50% value, between the two of us we had $150 worth of food for free!
We were swamped in other goodies too that we got either 1) directly from credit card bonuses, 2) as a result of the status with hotels/airlines that credit cards gave us, or 3) because the goodies were something you normally get if you live a first class/fancy resort lifestyle. Some highlights:
- Free champagne on the airplane and at the Fairmont
- Free wine tastings every other day and two free Mai Tais at the Sheraton
- Two free Mai Tais at the Hyatt Regency (are you seeing a theme here?)
- Free sunscreen at the Fairmont
- Free valet parking (that we didn’t use) and faster speed internet at the Sheraton
- Free ukulele lessons at the Grand Hyatt and the Sheraton
- Free late checkout at all the hotels
- Free use of the spa (lap pool, sauna, steam room, unlimited snacks) at the Grand Hyatt
- Free aqua aerobics classes at all the hotels (we actually really loved doing these)
- Free outrigger canoe excursion to a snorkel spot where we swam with sea turtles! at the Fairmont
These were the highlights, but there were so many other perks offered to us! Hotel and airline employees were forever giving us cups of mango juice or putting leis around our necks. We had tons of exercise classes and activities available at each hotel. These resorts were entire ecosystems that offered so many events that you wouldn’t ever have to leave if you didn’t want to.
Still, when we got off the plane and back in our own lovely home, we felt lucky to be there. We are so fortunate to be able to travel with little out of pocket expense, but we’re also very fortunate to have each other, our home, and our happy life together. And if we want to remember our honeymoon and our ridiculously luxurious free trip, we have a ukulele and Mai Tai ingredients at home!
Running total of Money Spent: $174 (spent) – $120 (UR pts) – $50 (Fairmont pts) – $150 (Fairmont certs) = -$146 (we earned money!)
Running total of Value (conservative): $1,500 + $400 + $200 + $400 + $600 = $3,100+
Running total of Value (actual value): $5,000 + $2,400 + $540 +$1,800 + $1,200 = $10,940+
Leftover bonus: 40k AA miles, 1k SPG points