It is often debatable whether collecting miles and points is even worth our time and effort, given the existence of 2% cash back credit cards. TravelWhimsy and I just returned from a whirlwind long-weekend trip to Kaua’i, HI, with our moms. The entire trip was conceived and booked on a whim – 7 days prior to departure, to be exact. A last-minute trip like ours seems to indicate that miles and points could trump cash back, and we will let you be the judge.
As a recently-converted nature lover, I am proud to report that TravelWhimsy and I have survived the self-imposed mission of visiting 5 national parks in 4 consecutive weekends. Our “National Park Extravaganza” was made possible by:
- TravelWhimsy’s continued ability to secretly influence/convert a city lover and tireless willingness to play along with a crazy wacky maximizer;
- Our Southwest Companion Pass;
- Hertz’s unbeatable weekend rental car rates;
- “America the Beautiful” national park annual pass;
- A few Marriott-related deals.
No time was taken off work. We would usually leave home on Friday nights or Saturday mornings and return on Sunday nights. In short, our 4 whirlwind weekends came at an effective total cost of $496 for two people (see the following table for details).
Many of you might have already heard about or taken advantage of the ongoing Hertz Triple Points and National’s One Two Free car rental promotions. I’d like to point out that those offers may not be as lucrative as they sound, at least for leisure weekend travelers.
Let me share two of our Hertz car rental receipts from the past two weekends. The one on the left was for a two-day rental in Denver, CO, and the one on the right was for a two-day rental in San Jose, CA. For each rental, I received 600 Southwest points, valued at $10 (but in our case $20, thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass, practically making the rentals free).
Would you like to ski for free at a Park City ski resort of your choice this winter?
If you are not a resident of Utah and can get on a flight that takes you into Salt Lake City (SLC) at reasonable morning hours, you can turn your same-day boarding pass into a free ski lift ticket at one of the three Park City ski resorts, including the world-famous Deer Valley Resort.
Rather than put the 100+ miles on our own car, I booked a car with AVIS for the day to take advantage of the 3,000 bonus AAdvantage miles promotion. This was my first time renting from AVIS, and I was surprised to discover the $4.05 frequent flyer (“FF”) surcharge on my final receipt.
Until about two weeks ago, I had been watching rental car prices for an upcoming two-day trip during Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, my usually trusty Hertz was not giving me the bargains I’d normally get; instead it was telling me that I had to settle for an all inclusive rate of ~$120 for two days.
A quick look on carrentals.com showed me that Budget was offering an all-in rate of ~$80; a quick Google search for Budget coupons led me to a random working discount code marked for “25% off.” I had no idea what that coupon was for, but it gave me an all-in rate of $42.22 (base rate of $12/day)! I could also cancel the booking any time, should Hertz decide to redeem itself.
The Budget confirmation email came, and I realized that the discount code was for USAA members. I have never rented a car from Budget before; do I have to show proof of a USAA membership? Instead of letting myself feel a bit uneasy and hoping for the best, I went on the official USAA website. The short and quick conclusion is that you DON’T have to be associated with the military to become a USAA member. Getting a membership can be done online for free in just a few minutes!
Usually, you can earn 50 airline miles a day for your car rentals. Occasionally, you can also earn 500-1,500 bonus miles for a rental of 3+ days. I normally rent from Hertz for ~$10-15/day with taxes and fees included, and credit a short weekend rental to Southwest Airlines (600 points = ~$10, or $20 if you have the companion pass).
Two of our dear friends are flying to Niagara Falls for their 3rd wedding anniversary today. As loyal Avis and AA fans, they casually mentioned that they were getting 500 AA miles for their 3-day Avis rental. Unable to convert them over to Hertz with a $30 discount, I set out to see if I could find them a better deal with Avis. A quick Google search led me to a current promotion that almost sounded too good to be true!
Despite a very good 3-day rental car quote from Hertz, TravelWhimsy and I opted to take advantage of public transportation between Baltimore Airport (BWI) and Washington DC during our Easter weekend DC trip.
Instead of spending at least $160 on car rental, gas, and expensive parking in DC, we only spent $36 for both of us ($9 per person each way).
For those of you East-coasters, I am sure you are very familiar with public transportation options for major metropolitan areas; but for those of us new to an area, how do we go about finding useful information to take us to and from an airport unfamiliar to us?
Week 4 has some hidden gems for those of you planning to travel outside of the US. Examples include hotels in Paris, Rome, or Venice for as low as $30 a night (including breakfast!), or a one-week Hertz car rental in Europe for $124.
One of the most frequently asked reader questions is “How do you get a rental car for $10 a day?” If you guess “Priceline” or “Hotwire”, my answer may surprise you. I normally book our car rentals directly with Hertz, one of the leading car rental brands and generally considered the most expensive.