Greetings from San Juan, Puerto Rico!
Andrea and I decided to get away for the weekend and decided upon San Juan to “relive” our first trip we took back together in 2008. That was before I was involved in the points and miles game so I think I spent over $1,000 for a 4 night stay + flights last time. Thankfully I’ve gotten a little smarter since 2008 and with the help of this amazing hobby of ours, Andrea and I booked our flights for a whopping total of $26 and ended up with a great rate on our hotel (and I used giftcards I acquired at 19% off to pay for the room). Here is how I did it.
Departing: American Airlines – Business Class – JFK-SJU for a cost of 20,000 miles plus $2.50 in taxes per person.
Return: American Airlines – Economy Class – SJU-JFK for a cost of $208.50 a person, paid with $200 of American Airlines Gift Cards acquired as part of American Express Platinum card each.
I will get into this some more in my trip report but I used British Airways Avios instead of American Airline miles because of the uniqueness of British Airways award chart. Since it’s distance based, it cost 20,000 Avios for business class or I could have used 17,500 American miles for economy – easy choice there. British Airways miles can be obtained via transferring either Amex Membership Rewards points (which is what I did), Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood SPG points or by having the British Airways credit card. In short, there are a lot of easy ways to rack up Avios.
For the return, I was focused on flights that left after 6pm on a Sunday so I could maximize my time in San Juan. By doing this, I limited my flight options and there was no award availability for either economy or business class on the way home. I ended up choosing a 7pm American Airlines flight that cost $208.50 each but I only ended up paying $8.50 of it per person.
That is because I am an American Express Platinum card holder and each calendar year you are entitled to a $200 airline credit. With this credit, you can buy airline gift cards (though the rules technically prohibit this but it still works) twice in a one membership year. In other words, I signed up for the card in 2013 (and paid the $450 annual fee) BUT I got $400 of that back when I bought $200 of AA gift cards (technically 4 gift cards at $50 each) in March 2013 and again in January 2014. I simply applied this gift card to these flight and paid the remaining $8.50 per person.
Courtyard (Marriott) Isla Verde Beach Resort- 3 Nights.
I know this isn’t the fanciest hotel on the nice strip of beach in Isla Verde as its right next store to the Ritz-Carlton San Juan and the InterContinental San Juan but it was far by the cheapest for our stay and I was able to use Marriott gift cards I acquired at 19% off to pay for the room!
AAA rates were only $122 for the first night and $139 for the remaining two nights so it didn’t make sense to redeem Marriott points for this stay since a free night would have cost 35,000 points a night resulting in a very poor value per point (.003 per point, not even half a penny!). Additionally, I had a $500 Marriott Gift card burning a hole in my safe that could be used for this stay. I only paid $405 for this $500 gift card via American Express Daily Getaways which typically happens once a year in which Amex partners with variouis companies to sell discounted travel.
Stay tuned for the trip report in which I’ll provide a little more detail on the flights and hotels and decide whether it was worth it.