On Monday we're FINALLY headed to Rome! We had planned to spend Winter Break LAST year in Italy but my father was seriously ill and the timing just wasn't good...so I cancelled that trip. December 20, 2018 is our 10th wedding anniversary and it's finally a great time to celebrate. We have so much for which to be thankful!
On this trip spreadsheet I changed the way I calculated perceived value. Instead of looking up the actual cost of the flights we're taking, I used Google Flights to estimate a ballpark figure of "reasonable" value. I know that most of you would never fork over $11,000 for two Business Class tickets to Europe - and I would yell at you if you did. If you are flexible, flights are often available in the $2,000 - 3,000 range which is much more palatable. Since we are traveling at peak times, however, prices are high which you will see reflected on my spreadsheet.
Rome is an expensive hotel city. I booked our first two nights at the Hotel Indigo using the yearly free night certificates from our IHG credit cards. This is the last year those nights are uncapped for us, meaning they are good at any IHG hotel worldwide. The next three nights were a fun challenge: I was eyeing the Hilton Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria resort. At around $350 a night for a base room it was way out of our budget, but since our stay was Thurs-Sun I knew we could use free weekend night certificates offered by the various flavors of Hilton credit cards. David already held the Ascend* card. All I had to do was spend $15,000 quickly on that card in order to earn one free weekend night. Kroger to the rescue! Over the span of about 3 weeks I bought thirty $500 Visa gift cards at Kroger. Since the card offers a 6X multiplier at grocery, I not only earned the free weekend night but also 90,000 Hilton points - enough to cover another night's lodging at the hotel. As soon as everything posted to David's account I booked Thursday night with 71,000 points and Friday night with the free night certificate. You'll notice on my spreadsheet I included the $171 opportunity cost to purchase and liquidate the thirty $500 gift cards from Kroger. Reach out to me privately if you'd like to know how to increase spend and earn more points on your own rewards cards.
Earlier this year Hilton and American Express introduced a new premium card, the Aspire*. It offers top-tier Hilton Diamond status, a FREE WEEKEND NIGHT after opening your account and every year thereafter, $250 resort credit per cardmember year, Priority Pass membership, up to $100 Hilton on-property credit, $250 annual airline fee credit, and a few other perks that more than make up for its annual $450 fee. So you guessed it - David applied for this card and was instantly approved. It took about six weeks for the free weekend night certificate to appear in his account. While we waited, I made a points reservation as a placeholder for Saturday night, then called Hilton to swap them out once the certificate showed up.
When the Waldorf concierge contacted "David" (me) in advance of our stay I let them know it was our anniversary. Hint, hint Waldorf Astoria. ALWAYS use a special occasion to your advantage when you have the chance. I generally don't reach out to the hotel in advance of any stay - but if they contact me you bet I mention a legitimate special occasion we're celebrating. Since David is a Diamond from the Aspire card I'm hoping for a nice bottle of champagne and a suite upgrade. We will use our $250 resort credit plus a card member offer from American Express to spend a total of $350 while we're on the property. The concierge already booked our anniversary dinner!
After five nights in Rome we're moving on to Budapest for New Year's Eve and day plus one, and then to Vienna for a quick three days. I am SO looking forward to our stay at the Park Hyatt Vienna since I have heard so many wonderful things about the hotel and I'm a Park Hyatt fan. I've already applied one of my Globalist Suite Upgrade Awards to our stay. And I will finally get to see the Vienna Staatsoper - even if only from a Standing Room ticket. I'm not picky! My journey to re-qualify for Hyatt Globalist requires its own blog post. Stay tuned.
Final tally on this trip is $1351 out of pocket, plus 495,000 loyalty points. I'm super proud of the flight value since I took advantage of the United Excursionist Perk to book all SEVEN of our flights for 260,000 United points and $280 in taxes. In simple terms, the Excursionist Perk is a free one-way award within select round-trip itineraries. That's pretty much what I did on this trip. If you REALLY want to explore all the possibilities, check out Richard Kerr's article over at The Points Guy. Genius stuff. But don't tell him I said that.
Other random notes about the spreadsheet - I was so excited to book several private transfers through Sixt on Black Friday. They were offering 30% off, and with this discount a private transfer was only a few dollars more than a taxi, especially in an expensive city like Rome. I'm using my Chase Sapphire Reserve as the payment method so the charges will be offset by my 2019 travel credit. I also cashed out 60,000 GameStop points I had been sitting on forever for Uber credit. Who knew you could do that? I know now!
Lastly, I'm searching for a graphic designer to dress up the blog and website. When I started this thing on a whim a couple of years ago I didn't care too much about a logo or social media presence, but it's time to step it up a notch. If you know someone willing to help me out, please get in touch. If you haven't joined our Facebook group you can find us here. Happy Travelin'!
*Referral link. We'll receive a bonus if you decide to sign up for the card using our link. Thanks!