How we booked a week long trip to Arizona for $34 for our family of 3

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Arizona road trip

Our first official attempt at travel hacking.

We learned about the wonderful world of travel hacking in September of 2017; we were blown away and ecstatic to say the least. We listened to the multiple ChooseFI episodes that detail the Chase gauntlet, checked out The Points Guy and read various blogs and knew we had to get in on the action.

We’ve taken a few trips here and there where we have been able to partially travel hack but we’ve yet to really take advantage of a full trip.


Day 1 Tucson
Day 2 Tombstone/Sedona
Day 3 Sedona
Day 4 Page
Day 5 Page
Day 6 Scottsdale
Day 7 Scottsdale

This trip is basically a tour of Arizona. We are going to Tucson, Tombstone, Sedona, Page & Phoenix/Scottsdale. We aren’t sure of the next time we will be in Arizona so we are trying to experience as much as we can.

We would have skipped Tucson & Tombstone had D not mentioned that it was one of his bucket list items to visit Tombstone, because of Wyatt Earp. So now we included the Southern part of the state in the trip.

Many people asked, why Arizona? And my question back was “why not?” It is beautiful! At least it looks beautiful from the pictures so we had to experience it for ourselves. We have been talking about an Arizona trip for years and with travel hacking, it finally came true!

Here’s how we did it:

Southwest Companion Pass:

This is by far my favorite part of travel hacking. We have taken about 4 round trip flights with the companion pass and have only paid for taxes.

We’ve taken a bunch of trips over the past year but we were never able to truly “travel hack.” D signed up for both the consumer card and business card. The sign up bonuses for both equaled the 110,000 qualifying points that made us eligible for the companion pass. There is an annual fee for both of these cards so you need to be aware of that.

Another note, Southwest is great as they are basically a “no fee” airline. We initially booked and then booked again when the flight prices dropped and I actually got points back. Instantaneously, I must add and it was about 5 seconds of work.

Hyatt Credit Card from Chase:

This card was the icing on the cake. Of course you can use your Ultimate Rewards to book almost any hotel that you want to stay at. This is especially true considering they have now combined with Expedia but I felt as though the valuation wasn’t great. With the Hyatt card we received the sign up bonus of 60,000 points. That’s up to 12, you read it right, 12 nights of stay. The “low end” (category 1) Hyatt hotels start at 5,000 points per night. I don’t know about you but a category 1 Hyatt hotel is perfect for us. They are clean, spacious and usually include a free breakfast. That’s a win in my book!

Other Chase Credit Cards:

D and I both got the Sapphire Preferred and the Business Ink Preferred. Between these cards alone we earned about 280,000 points. And we barely even touched it with this trip. These points are mostly in reserve for a future trip.

How we used the points:

Flights-$33.60 & 30,000 points.

Obviously we booked Southwest. With the companion pass we only had to book a ticket for D and I get to jump on for “free.” It’s “free” because you still need to pay taxes, $11.20/person including the Companion. So right there our total would have been $22.40 but we decided to splurge and get a ticket for our son. He is under 2 and eligible to fly as a lap-carry but with a 6-hour flight we figured it would be easier to have a guaranteed full row rather than having to try and reason with our 1.5 year old that the stranger next to us doesn’t want to play with him the whole 6 hours.

For the points, I’m neurotic and check flights semi-constantly. I was looking daily and finally decided to book when the flights were at 19,000 points round trip. At the time I thought it was a steal! 3 round trip flights: 38,000 points, how can you get much better?

Then I saw an advertisement, Southwest is having a sale! I decided to take a look and saw that the flights dropped to 15,000 each! What?! Although I had originally gotten a great deal, I wanted better and found out how to adjust the pricing. I did a little research, found an article by The Points Guy, and processed the adjustment in about 5 seconds. Just like that 8,000 points back in reserve.

7 night hotel stay- $0, Ultimate Rewards 12,612, Hyatt Points 40,000

$0 out of pocket, when I was booking the trip I didn’t really think this would happen… but it did. Getting the Hyatt Chase credit card really helped here. For 5 nights, it cost 40,000 points. And this was due to me going “overboard.” In Sedona, I could have probably booked a cheaper hotel through the Ultimate Rewards portal but I couldn’t pass up the category 4 Hyatt that I found in Sedona. The pictures looked stunning and the reviews were great. So we spent the 30,000 points to make that hotel happen.

There were 2 nights that I couldn’t book through Hyatt so I booked it through the Ultimate Rewards portal. It was a highly rated Best Western in Page, Arizona. And for only 12,600 points, I’ll take this deal too.
The whole itinerary including redemption values will be in the follow up post. Once the trip is complete and everything is set in stone, I’ll give a detailed account of it all.

Car rental- UR: 29,000

This is the only element I feel like I didn’t hack the best. And quite frankly, I didn’t even book this with points until 24 hours before we left for the trip. Every time I looked at the UR portal I didn’t find a good valuation for a car rental, they were about 40,000. That would equate to $400. I didn’t think it was worth the points. When I book something with points, I want to make sure it’s a good valuation; I try for every point to equal at least $1.25. I honestly prefer a much higher redemption but with the Sapphire Preferred card, the standard conversion rate is 1 point to $1.25 so I accept it when it’s the best rate I can find.

Due to the poor valuation, I booked a rental minivan with our work discount for $360. Literally, a day before the trip I decided to check the Ultimate Rewards portal again and I found a deal for 29,000 points for a standard SUV. Perfect! I quickly booked that and cancelled my other reservation. One tip of mine, always book with terms that you can cancel unless you are 100% positive your plans won’t change. I always keep looking for deals and sometimes prices drop so you can always rebook.

Travel hack success!

Overall, I have to say I consider this trip a travel hack success! We still have a ridiculous amount of points left in the UR portal and spent a total of $33.60 for 3 nonstop round trip flights, 7 hotel nights and an 8 day car rental. More to come for when I review the actual trip.

Any thoughts on how I could have done better? Need any suggestions? Comment below and let me know!


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