I recently had a very impromptu vacation to Miami and Key West, FL with a couple of friends and given how last moment it was, I managed to score some amazing deals using points, free night certificates and free rental days. I had an amazing, no-compromise vacation that involved flying premium economy, staying at some of the best properties in Key West and driving a convertible for the first time – all costing me less than $30.
Booking American Airlines using BA Avios
First order of business was booking our flights and upon searching google flights, roundtrip tickets in early-mid February were $1000+ for two between Houston and Miami. I logged into my American Airlines account to see availability on standard award availability and found roundtrip fares for 22.5K per person for a total of 45K for two (plus $22.4 in taxes and fees). I then checked British Airways’ Avios search tool and found the same exact flights for 36K points and $22.4.
Based on availability, I transferred 36K points from my Capital One Venture X card to my linked BA account and completed the booking (points transfers are instant).
Thanks to having AA Platinum Pro status (a perk given to Hyatt Globalists), I was upgraded to premium economy 24hrs before my flight and was up in the front after business class. This made it an especially comfortable journey as we were flying at 5AM in the morning and were very sleepy. Definitely appreciated the extra legroom.
Booking Hotels in Miami and Key West
Given that we were traveling really early in the morning, I wanted a hotel in Miami that was close enough to the airport for the first day so I could get some much needed rest and be able to work and take meetings. So, I decided to book a stay at the Hyatt Place by the Airport. Nothing really to hit home w.r.t the property.
Stay in Miami
Given the close proximity to check-in, I had to pay peak rate pricing which was 9500 points. However, I had registered for a Hyatt 20% back on points promotion which resulted in a net booking cost of 7600 points.
Having Globalist benefits really helped as I was able to get an early 9AM check in and leverage free breakfast and parking for my stay for me and my guests.
Hyatt Centric Key West
For the other two nights in Key West, I had booked the Hyatt Centric which is a category 7 property using a Cat 1-7 FNC (free night certificate) I had. This was a great property given it’s closeness to Duval Street and all the happening spots in the area. I was upgraded to their best room which was a premium king – normally going for well over $1400/night.
This 750sqft room had amazing views of the bay and sea and getting it is really rare. I just happened to get into the property early and was offered a complimentary Globalist upgrade. I’d personally never pay for this room but loved the experience.
I got free parking and breakfast (no limit) which I took full advantage of to cover food for all of us.
The Reach – Curio Collection by Hilton
For my second night in Key West, I used a Hilton Honors Free Night Certificate which I had gotten with my Hilton Surpass Card. I was able to find standard room reward availability which let me use my certificate. The rooms were going for almost $900 a night and we were able to get a newly remodeled room for our stay with an okay-ish view.
Plus, thanks to my Hilton card, I get complimentary Gold Status which gives me $18/person dining credits which I can use at the property for breakfast/meals. I also received free parking for this stay – although I think it wasn’t supposed to be that way – no complaints.
The property itself had it’s own natural beach and we saw a really beautiful sunrise from the balcony. Another good experience in my book.
Convertible Rental Car
Finally, we needed transportation to get around and since the weather was great, I wanted to pick up a fun car if possible. Using the remaining travel credits I had on my Capital One Venture X card and a combination of free rental days I’d collected on my National Account, I reserved a midsize sedan and was offered a selection of Mustang convertibles upon arrival thanks to my Executive Elite status (which can be earned by status matching with Hertz President’s Circle – complimentary with the Venture X).
In the end, I paid nothing out of pocket for this rental which would’ve otherwise costed me atleast $1000 for four/five days.
Ultimately, this last minute impromptu vacation to the Florida Keys was amazing. We had a great time knowing we had more room in our budget to spend on food, drinks and activities than actual travel costs. This is what I love about the flexibility that points and miles offer and being able to take advantage of the various benefits makes trips like these unforgettable!