In this series, I plan to share practical examples of how to turn seemingly unattainable trips into affordable travel options using a little creativity and some more traditional travel hacking techniques. If you’d like to have a trip hacked, complete the online form through this link.
Goal Trip Details
A couple is looking to get away to Los Cabos, Mexico for a 4-5 day trip during the dry winter months in Phoenix. They’d prefer a resort on the beach where they can relax and enjoy the waves but otherwise aren’t picky about location or specific hotel types.
The couple would like to keep credit card opening to a minimum and only one of them is willing to open new cards. With 0 points balances, we’ll be starting fresh on this one.
Costco Travel offers a vacation package to Cabo that they’ve been eyeing that includes flights, hotel, and transfers from the airport. However, with a price tag of $2,912, they’ve been reluctant to bite.
With their goal price set at a much more modest $500, let’s see how we can hack this trip.
One of the cheapest point options for getting to Cabo is on British Airways Avios because they use distance-based rewards. For two people, they would need 30,000 Avios for economy flights to Cabo. The couple would need to pay $170 in taxes and fees along with the award ticket.
To get the 30,000 Avios, one of them could apply for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. The current sign-up bonus is for 50,000 Membership Reward points after spending $2,000 in 3 months. This offer may only be available to those without current or past American Express accounts, which is true for this couple. If you’re looking for this same offer but already have an account, try opening the link in an incognito window. It should pop up.
After meeting spending, 30,000 of those 50,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points can be transferred directly to BA Avios at a rate of 1:1, leaving 20,000 MR points leftover to put towards the hotel or future travel.
The couple wants a four-star hotel or better on the ocean. They’re not too picky about location otherwise or amenities, although they would prefer a place with dining on-site. They liked the look of the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar offered in the Costco travel package and since it is bookable on Starwood (SPG) points we decided to check out that option and see what we could do to offset the cost.
The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar is a Category 4 hotel, coming in it a cost of 10,000 SPG points per night. The couple is hoping to spend 4 or 5 nights at the resort, which should mean that they would need between 40,000-50,000 points. However, SPG offers the 5th night free on award bookings at Category 3-7 hotels, so adding the 5th night here is a no-brainer. Whether they book for 4 nights or 5 nights, it will only cost them 40,000 points.
To earn the 40,000 SPG points necessary to book the hotel, the couple could apply for the Personal SPG Amex which has a current sign-up bonus of 25,000 after $5,000 in spending. After spending, the couple would have 30,000 points in their SPG account.
To top off the account to the 40,000 points needed, they could transfer the 20,000 leftover points from the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card to their SPG account at a ratio of 1,000 MR:500 SPG, giving them the 10,000 points needed to book the hotel.
Since the couple plans to mostly lounge around the resort, a rental car is unnecessary. The most affordable option would be a shared shuttle from the San Jose del Cabo airport to the resort for a cost of $17 per person each way. Directions for this shuttle are located on the Sheraton website.
APPLY FOR CREDIT CARDS:
American Express Premier Rewards Gold: 50,000 point sign up bonus with $2,000 spending in 3 months. Annual fee of $175 waived first year.
American Express Starwood Preferred Guest: 25,000 point sign up bonus with $5,000 spending in 3 months. Annual fee of $95 waived first year.
Round trip PHX-SJD
Points used: 30,000 Avios
Points used: 40,000 SPG
Shared shuttle from airport: $17/pp each way
TOTAL TRIP COST: $ 238
Consider this sunny winter getaway to Cabo hacked.
Do you have a trip you want hacked? Fill out the “Hack This Trip” form.
Full disclosure: I earn a small commission for signups from the cash back links on this page. You don’t have to use my links, but I appreciate it if you do!