I have been infected with an incurable form of wanderlust.
Let’s face it, I like to travel. Fortunately, I am able to travel frequently for work as well as for pleasure. I have been infected with an incurable form of wanderlust. It’s so bad that if I were pay full price for these experiences, I would be sitting on a massive pile of debt.
A little over two years ago, Chase introduced the Sapphire Reserve credit card and I can equate this to my gateway drug into my favorite hobby, travel hacking.
Throughout my business travels, clients frequently ask if I have a blog about some of my adventures or how I do it. So, I am venturing down a new path to share techniques on how to travel to some incredible places nearly free. Today, I am going to showcase the most recent trip I took with my girlfriend – The Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas.
Airfare and Miles
First, I’ll talk about airfare. The trip from Fargo, ND to Nassau, Bahamas was 100% paid for with miles. I use a number of different strategies to accrue airline miles, but for now I’ll touch on how I redeemed the miles for the airfare in this instance.
Whenever I fly for business I am loyal to Delta. I personally do not value Delta SkyMiles much at all. The only time I have seen decent redemptions is when Delta places certain fares on sale.
If I am looking for a decent redemption for a domestic fare I will typically transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards, UR, to United Mileage Plus. For this redemption I transferred 70,000 UR (35,000 per person) and booked the tickets on United. The taxes for the flights were $118.41 per person for a total of $236.82. If the cash fare for the flights is reasonable, frequently I will just pay cash and save the miles. In this case, the cheapest fare was coming in at $633 each. After I did the math, I determined I found a strong redemption at about 1.8 cents in value out of each point ($1,266/70,000=0.018). I could talk about this fact alone for an entire blog, but, as a comparison you are lucky to get .05 cents out of Delta Skymiles. Let’s just chalk this up as a win for now.
Total Airfare: $236.82 + 70,000 miles
Now, here is the fun part and where it starts getting interesting.
I have dreamed about going to Atlantis in the Bahamas since I saw the commercial as a kid. Let me tell you, if you like waterparks, oceans, and nightlife, it does not disappoint. The resort does however come with a very hefty price tag. There are a number of different strategies to save money and I studied several of them before committing to an actual plan of action.
I was able to make Atlantis happen (finally) with FoundersCard. First of all, this is not a credit card. When I describe it to those that are new to travel hacking, I like to describe it like a Costco membership. By purchasing this membership there are a number of benefits that come with the card.
The one that I used for this trip was Diamond Status at Caesar’s Resorts. In December, my girlfriend and I also went to Vegas with this Diamond Status benefit for a long weekend. With it, our hotel rooms were 100% free and we did not pay a resort fee. I also used a few other hacks during that trip I will discuss in a later blog.
Back to the Bahamas. Atlantis has a promotion with Caesar’s resorts that if you are a Diamond Status member, which I automatically received when purchasing my FoundersCard membership, they will give you a Free 4-night stay! You can read about the promotion here. Disclaimer, you will have to pay resort fees and taxes which came out to be $260.31. If you read the details it appears that you are required to have 15,000 tier credits which is true, but they do allow those that have 0 tier credits to pay the resort fees and taxes and still stay 4 free nights.
To compare the savings, I looked at a full price booking. The total with taxes and fees came to $2,115.25!
Total Hotel Cost for a Four-Night Stay: $260.31
If you are interested in Founders Card, use my VIP Referral Code FCSIMON348 for an annual rate of $395 (vs. the standard rate of $595), valid through January 29, 2019. I feel that I have already received $395 in value out of the card from the Vegas trip that I can exclude the $395 from the total Atlantis trip cost.
But wait there’s more! Atlantis sweetens the deal by offering a few more “freebees.” As a Caesar’s Diamond member, we received $100.00 in free slot play and a Casino Experience Pass which included the following:
- One shallow water dolphin encounter ($157.00)
- One round of golf (We did not use)
- Two Cocktails at Olives ($40.64)
- Two Cocktails at Seafire Steakhouse ($36.35)
- One Sushi and Sake Sampler at Nobu ($44.18)
Total Value: $378.17
What we paid: $0
Because we prepared ahead of time for the trip, we knew that we should bring groceries to the island in our free checked bag (free because of another hack I used). We ate breakfast and lunch in our room each day of the trip which kept our out of pocket expenses minimal. (There was no microwave in the room, but just to say we did it, we made Ramen noodles in the coffee pot for icing on the budget cake!) We planned for $400.00 total in extra spending cash which included dinner each night and any incidentals.
Total Value: I can’t be completely sure, however I am certain we saved purchasing at least 10 meals.
Ultimately, when you add the taxes for the airfare and the resort fees our total came out to $497.13 and 70,000 UR. If I did not have FoundersCard the total would have been $892.13. In either case, we had a considerable savings.
I always enjoy evaluating what the trip would have cost if we were to pay full price.
- Airfare: $1,266
- Hotel: $2,115.25
- Casino Experience Pass: $378.17
Full Price Grand Total: $2,871.59 (excluding several meals!)
What I paid: $497.13
We absolutely enjoyed our time in the Bahamas and are planning on returning next January using the same methods above. We were able to have an over the top experience for a fraction of the price. If you have any questions or would like help planning your next trip feel free to reach out to me and stay tuned for blogs with future travel hacking tips. Shoot me an email anytime at [email protected]
-Simon in the Sky