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Spring Break Trip to Washington D.C.

spring break at Cherry Blossom Festival

It’s been less than a month since our last vacation, but I’m already chomping at the bit to head out of town again. I may have missed my calling. If it were the 80’s all over again, I’d be opening up a travel agency. Luckily, you don’t need a travel agent to take a fantastic and frugal vacation. I just booked a spring break trip to Washington D.C. for less than $500.

The Value of Different Points and Miles Programs

There are rarely saver level redemptions from the small regional airports that are convenient to us, and we don’t have time or desire to drive to Albuquerque this spring break. Tickets were pricing out at around $800 each from Durango, way more than we wanted to spend.

I have been known to hoard points and miles, usually for a blow out trip like our European vacation last summer. Right now, we are sitting on a huge stash of American miles, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend 100,000 of them for two tickets from Durango to DC. Those miles can take us back to Hawaii or Europe. We needed another alternative and decided to use Citi Thank You Points. Those work kind of like cash back you can use for anything, but the most value can be had by redeeming them for airfare on American, where each point is worth 1.8 cents. 

Annual Fees Are Not Always Bad

Jim and I both signed up for a Citi Prestige Mastercard last year and spent $3,000 in three months on normal expenses to get the bonus of 50,000 points x 2. Now at first glance, this seems like a terrible credit card for frugal people because of a $450 annual fee that is not waived for the first year.

That being said, Citi Prestige gives a $250 statement credit for any airline purchase, including airfare, each calendar year. After card approval, you can use $250 in the current year and another $250 in the following year before the fee comes due again. Since we do book at least $500 a year in airfare, that adds up to a profit of $50 each on this card, not even counting the points. If your employer allows you to book business travel and get reimbursed, it’s a great way to cash in!

Spring break presented the perfect opportunity to use our Thank You Points, and for around 90,000 of them, the kiddo and I fly absolutely free from our expensive, local airport to Washington Reagan. Some might argue against using that many points for a domestic flight, but this redemption means we get to go where we want without spending $1600 or two days driving.

Peak Season in D.C.

Since this is the first trip my daughter and I will take by ourselves other than visiting family, I had a couple of hotel requirements. We had to be in a relatively safe area and within walking distance to all the attractions in DC that we wanted to see. I was also hoping for free breakfast because my kid eats like a linebacker when on vacation.

The original plan was to pay for a hotel stay and keep points for a bigger vacation TBA, at least until realizing our trip was during the first week of Cherry Blossom Festival. Almost all hotels that met our criteria were over $300 a night, even crappy ones.

Then I remembered that Hyatt recently made it easier to redeem points and cash for hotel stays. After a bit of research, I decided on the Hyatt Place DC National Mall. It met all my requirements, but when I tried to book online, I got the ridiculous total of over 2 million points plus $75 per night!

Obviously that was a glitch. After a phone call to Hyatt Gold Passport, I was booked at 6,000 points per night plus $75. This deal is even better because of a Hyatt gift card purchased for 10% off during a recent website sale.

Free History and Fun all over Washington

One excellent thing about Washington D.C. is that most of the attractions are free, including the Capitol, Smithsonian, National Zoo, and most of the monuments. The White House tour is free also, but you do have to submit a request through a member of Congress to get a ticket. I did that in December, so hopefully it will come through.

The only paid excursion we will be doing is a $90 tour of Mount Vernon and Arlington National Cemetery that includes transportation. We could have taken trains or the bus to save money getting to those places, but with me being the only adult, it feels less stressful to have that already covered.

Total Cost For a Five Night Trip to Washington D.C.

Airfare: $0

Hotel: $337.50 plus tax

Tour: $90

Total: $427.50

Of course we will have some food and transportation expenses, but hopefully those can be minimized by taking the metro and eating large at the free breakfast. Being just myself and an 8 year old, we won’t be dining in Michelin rated establishments.

Spring Break Trip to Washington D.C.

Points and miles rarely mean completely free, but they certainly make dollars stretch much further. In this case, points will make our first girls only trip to Washington D.C. pretty affordable. Let’s hope for a spring break without more winter storms!

Is it funny for adults to take spring break? What are your travel plans for the next few months?

Image: Flickr

 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

6 comments

  1. Sounds like a fun trip Kim! I grew up in Richmond and spent quite a bit of time in D.C. and you and your daughter are going to love it. It sounds like you ended up getting a good deal with getting the glitch fixed. We’re going to Boulder in March, I believe, and we’re going to Cancun in May for our 15th. We have a few other trips planned for the year and trying to finalize something for the end of the year.

  2. What an affordable vacation! My plan this year is to churn the United business card and the Chase Ink(?) business card. I’ll throw all the miles into my United Mileage plus account and we should have a whopping 230,000 miles when it’s all said and done. Europe 2017!

  3. $500? That is really a frugal vacation. I never thought that you could get all those with just that in Washington DC. What is your next travel destination, Kim?

    • We have a pretty big trip to Seattle, Glacier National Park, and then riding the Amtrak across the country to Chicago this summer. I’m pretty excited.

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