Book a memorable last-minute holiday trip using miles, points


Personal Finance Writer
Summer Hull writes the weekly “Get to the Points” column for

Get to the Points

The holidays
mean different things to different people, but whether they conjure up images
of the hustle and bustle around the Rockefeller Center tree in New York City,
strolling the Christmas markets of Vienna or shredding down the mountains of
Colorado, miles and points can get you there, even with the holidays looming in
just a couple of weeks.

Merrymaking in Manhattan

If you love all
things holiday and have never been to New York City in December, then make that
a travel priority as outdoor ice skating, the multi-story-tall Rockefeller
tree, Santaland at Macy’s on 34th Street, the Radio City Rockettes
Christmas Spectacular performance and the world-famous department store windows
are all magical and filled with holiday cheer.

Despite the
potential crowds, my favorite place to stay on points for a holiday visit to Manhattan
is the Andaz 5th Avenue located across from the New York
Public Library and outdoor ice skating at Bryant Park. This hotel charges
25,000 Hyatt points per night for standard rooms. Remember, you can also
transfer Hyatt points at a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have
cards such as the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve.

The Wingate by Wyndham on 35th Street near the
iconic Macy’s on 34th Street is another good New York hotel from a value and location perspective at 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per
night. If both of those properties are full for your last-minute dates, I would
try the Grand Hyatt New York next to Grand Central Station. It
charges 25,000 Hyatt points per night for a standard room, but has a very large
number of rooms, so it is often available on points even when other properties are

Shop the Christmas Markets in Vienna

There are many
famous outdoor Christmas Markets where you can eat, drink, shop, hear music and take in the season all across Europe, but one of the top cities for Christmas markets is Vienna, Austria. Airline saver award availability to
Vienna from the United States is still pretty good from many cities for a last-minute
December trip to Vienna in economy. There are also some premium cabin award
seats available, though not nearly as many as you will find in economy.

Video: Credit card reward hacks

You can fly on
Star Alliance partner Austrian by booking with a frequent-flyer program such as
United MileagePlus
from 60,000 miles per round trip or even by booking via Avianca
, also for
60,000 miles per round trip, though without the $75 close-in award ticketing
fee that United charges within 21 days of travel. If you are running short of
airline miles, you can transfer your credit card points from Chase Ultimate
Rewards to United or from the Citi ThankYou program to LifeMiles to book your
award seats across the Atlantic.

When it comes
to selecting a hotel for your Christmas market experience, you can stay at one
of the best for just 25,000 Hyatt points per night even though peak season
rates in December head north of 500 euros per night at the relatively new and very swanky Park Hyatt Vienna.

Christmas morning in the Rocky Mountains

While I have
never spent a Christmas morning in the snowy mountains, I very much hope to one
day, and miles and points will be what makes it a reality as paid rates can be
extremely high anywhere remotely near a ski resort this time of year.

If this is
going to be the year that your family hits the slopes on Christmas morning,
then you can still find award rooms for Christmas Eve at the slope-side Westin
for 16,000
Starwood Preferred Guest points per night, at the Westin Beaver Creek Resort for 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest
points per night, at the new Hyatt Place Keystone for 7,500 Hyatt points + $100 per
night, or you could go for luxury at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek for 30,000 Hyatt points per night or
the St. Regis Aspen
for 30,000 Starwood points per night.

To give you an
idea of how great a return that can be for your points, the St.
Regis Aspen is
currently charging $3,467 for a standard room on Christmas Eve. With taxes and
fees, that is over $3,800 for one night in a hotel that you can instead secure
with 30,000 Starwood points.

If you can’t
find the airline awards you are after flying directly into the smaller Colorado ski
towns such as Vail or Aspen, try flying into Denver and just renting a car from
there. Flying into Denver around the holidays using Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be an excellent last-minute option since Southwest has no blackout
dates, doesn’t provide advance seat assignments and up to the first two checked
bags will fly free. Southwest Rapid Rewards is a transfer partner of Chase
Ultimate Rewards.

There are a
virtually limitless number of holiday travel dreams that you can still make a
reality in the coming weeks thanks to miles, points and a little holiday magic.

See related: Don’t let your annual rewards card’s travel credits expire, 5 fun ways to create holiday memories using miles, points

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