So is spending 33% really traveling for free? A breakdown of my trip to Grand Cayman.

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I have shown some of the amazing views and video clips of the diving we did this year. It was so relaxing and I just loved my time coming back to the Reef resort again. Please note I was able to lock in early at the old pricing and costs have gone up (like over 50%) so keep this in mind if you want to go for a visit.

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I really love Grand Cayman Island. From the botanical garden in the middle of the island to the 7 mile beach – there is so much to see and do. But most of all it is just relaxation and time in the sun. Oh, that and spending a ton of time under the water!

But this is not Facebook and you can take your own vacations 🙂 What you want to see is just what it cost me using points – right?!? Please note I took a conservative evaluation of expenses and included many things others maybe do not. I want to see the real out of pocket costs to me for our trip. Let me break it down for you:

  • Air was Hawaiian points flying on Delta via 2 – 35k cards $79 each, hours of time on the phone, plus tax was $77 each thus $312 total for the two of us vs $900 to buy direct from Delta.
  • Car was $425 for two weeks paid for with Barclay’s Arrival via 42,500 points from my wife’s new card no fee 1st year so just the gas of almost $50.
  • I also had to park at SBN and that set me back $92 and I may be able to get the airport to code this for travel and get it paid back but if not I can live with that expense (at least I earn 2x points back).
  • Total for resort and diving (billed to resort so I could pay with points at 1.25 cents each) $3310.48 all in or almost 265,000 UR points. I will count as cost the fee’s to have my Chase INK Plus & Chase INK Bold cards (from Lisa & Me) and my Chase Sapphire cards (Chase Freedom has no fee) I hold so a total of $95×3 each or $285! (I canceled my BOLD and Lisa canceled her Sapphire so no second year fee there). Some may say this is a bad use of UR points – I say hogwash! I have more airline points than I can spend already with loads more on the way. This is real value to me!
  • Hotel incidental and wifi $135 paid with my Barclays Arrival card 13,500 points and this is year two for me with this so let’s add the $89 fee for that card to this trip.
  • The rules of what you can bring into Grand Cayman are very liberal so we brought some food to have breakfast and some lunch in the room. I did pay $40 for a wheeled cooler (looks like luggage) so let’s count that too as a cost.
  • Dinners were expensive on this vacation. The average cost was $60 each night for the two of us, but we did have a few leftover meals and our unit had a fridge etc. Not to the penny but food, drinks and such was basically $1000!

So how much was my “FREE” two weeks vacation? Almost $2000 all-in. However, this is vs NOT using points to offset much of the cost and it would have been almost $6000! In other words by using points I paid 33% out of pocket what it would have cost for this trip. That is the value of points! Not free, but affordable travel and a savings of over $4000.

Now this math is cold hard facts. It does NOT count back the value I get from many of these cards like TripIt Pro from the Arrival cards or no international transaction fees or 2 Lounge Club passes from EACH INK card and on and on. Not just that, but if I had been at home I would have to eat and buy food. Sure not for $1000 for two weeks but still it would have cost me to live at home too.

What will I take from this latest adventure? I am not all that sad to see Hawaiian no longer redeemable for flying Delta as wow what a total pain to spend and manage. Delta Skymiles I can manage very simply, but not Hawaiian. I think Alaska points are going to be a good option to supplement my Delta points spending to fly Delta. I love to use my Ultimate rewards points for this type of spending. Others may poo-poo this but just I love it and they keep pouring in. I also just UBER love my Arrival card for hotels, cars and other such spend. I need to rethink just using these points for positioning flights for mileage runs (good I have US BANK FlexPerks for that kind of thing anyway).

Have you had a good year redeeming points for trips? Are you geared up for 2014? I am! – René

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10 comments

  1. I have had a great year flying my family using Delta sky miles and using hotel points. We have had some incredible trips. It has not been totally free, but we saved a lot of money. Most important of all – the memories and the way it has changed our lives is priceless!

  2. Regarding calculating your cost to get the 265k UR points. You are implying you either did no manufactured spending or else if you did you broke even or made a profit on it. Which is it?

  3. @Dave – we did and do it all, new cards, bonus categories and on and on and are building for next year (up to 110,000k as of today). And when I do mfg spend I make sure I am earning very well 😉

  4. Hey, 2k Even would of bought you a 2 weeks of diving with no points in Honduras! Check out Roatan direct delta flights! Or if you can stomach the adventure Utila has some great cheap diving! 300$ for ten dives either place! and 30-40 a night for a good Hotel!

  5. Hi Rene …. Great posts all year!!!! Have you heard of success recently with the 4-$50 certificates. Thanks, Bob

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