Travel Hacking in Action – A Trip to North America (Part 3)

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You can catch up my trip to North America by reading Part 1 and Part 2 of the series…

Hyatt Place Fort Lauderdale

After Disney, we loaded up two rental cars and drove down to Fort Lauderdale, where I would need FOUR! rooms, since my brother and his partner were arriving as well.

Starwood Preferred Guest would be no help, since the chain had no properties that combined an airport shuttle with proximity to the cruise terminal. So I decided to go for a Hyatt Place hotel. Even though the cash rate was $159 + taxes, I managed to book all four rooms through different methods.

Room 1 – Points + Cash

This one was for me… As I mentioned in a recent post about buying Hyatt points, reward nights booked with points do not count for elite status purposes, but Points + Cash nights do. So, I booked one room at this Category 2 hotel for 4,000 points + $55. That works out to more than 2.5 cents per point and gave me an eligible night to help me re-qualify for 60-nights-per-year Globalist.

World of Hyatt, however, only allows members to earn one night credit, even if multiple rooms are booked.

Room 2 – Points-only

I happen to have a healthy balance of Hyatt points so I decided to spend 8,000 on a reward night.

Room 3 – Free Night Certificate for Reaching 30 nights in 2017

One of the new benefits in World of Hyatt is free night certificates given to members reaching a certain number of nights in a calendar year. Members can receive:

  • after 30 nights, a free night certificate valid at a Category 1-4 hotel
  • after 60 nights, a free night certificate valid at a Category 1-7 hotel

This looks great on the surface, but these certificates must be used within 120 days of being earned. I hit my thirtieth night in June, which meant that my free night certificate would expire in mid October. When I looked at my upcoming travel plans, I couldn’t find anywhere to spend this certificate at a Category 3 or 4 hotel.

So, even though it pained me greatly to spend a Category 4 free night certificate on a Category 2 hotel, I decided to use my certificate whilst I could. This is surely part of World of Hyatt’s thinking – members using their certificates sub-optimally due to their short validity period.

Room 4 – Free Night Certificate from a Credit Card

This wasn’t really me. My brother is based in the U.S. and he has a Hyatt credit card. Although of minimal interest to UK readers  (other than to jealously look at the potential benefits), cardholders also receive a Category 1-4 free night certificate each year. My brother also couldn’t figure out a better use for it than the Category 2 Hyatt Place we stayed at in Fort Lauderdale…


I’m not a big fan of cruise ships and I spent a week thinking that I could be surrounded by far fewer people at a nice Conrad or Park Hyatt in Asia (for half the price and with a room twice as large). But eventually we made it back to land.

As I hinted at previously, I booked my flights using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan in order to have a free stopover. In the end, I decided to fly to Ottawa, Canada. So, my full itinerary ended up being: Barcelona to New York to Washington DC, overnight layover before continuing to Fort Lauderdale. Stopover in Miami before flying to Philadelphia. After another overnight layover in Philadelphia I flew into Ottawa. All five flights were considered part of a “one-way” itinerary from Barcelona to Ottawa. All on American Airlines in Business / First Class for 50,000 miles + $65…

I wasn’t really sure how much margin you are supposed to leave for the possibility of weather-related delays to cruise itineraries. So I spent a night near Miami airport at an Element hotel costing $70 + tax. Another Starwood Preferred Guest Best Rate Guarantee claim… yawn… Perhaps I should add a bit more variety, but it’s hard to avoid the fact that:

  • You can reach or renew SPG Platinum status with 25 one-night stays – and SPG Platinum status is one of the most valuable in terms of benefits
  • Earning 2,000 Starpoints (£40 in value, plus whatever you earn for the stay itself) on a one-night stay is usually the highest rebate available for a stay, and that’s before considering any bonus point promotions. At the same time, the headline price is going to be lower due to price-matching an online travel agency.

I also had a one-night stay in Philadelphia and I chose the Four Points hotel near the airport. Also part of SPG, this hotel is allocated to award Category 2 and cost 4,000 Starpoints for a mid-week night. Since I happened to purchase Starpoints during the recent 35%-off promotion (2.3 cents), my room ultimately cost me $92, with no additional tax to be paid.

Canada – More World of Hyatt Cash+ Points

In 2016, an Andaz hotel opened in Ottawa and I’ve been keen to try it out. This award Category 3 hotel should cost 6,000 + USD75, but for some reason only charges CAD75, which is a substantial discount.

As a Globalist member, I receive four free upgrades to a suite each year, and I decided to spend a certificate to upgrade my stay in Ottawa. I can’t resist a slight dig at Dr. Redeye and query whether there are alternative boutique hotels offering free breakfast, free minibar and a top floor suite with this view of Parliament for less than £50 per night…

After my stay in Ottawa, I took the train down to Montreal and I again stayed at a Hyatt hotel, a Hyatt Regency. Similar to the Four Points at Philadelphia airport, one of my favourite travel hacking strategies is to stay at “lower award category” hotels with relatively high cash rates. I have no real idea why everybody doesn’t buy Hyatt points at a discount and book this:

Instead of this…

Flying Home

If you followed my “Travel Hacking in Action” series for a trip to Colombia, you might remember that Turkish Airlines offered me quadruple miles on a paid ticket in Business Class from Bogota to Spain via Istanbul. Since I now have a healthy balance of Turkish miles, I decided to spend 45,000 of them on a one-way Business Class reward from Montreal to Barcelona, connecting in Istanbul. I did have to pay approximately £200 in taxes and surcharges, but a similar peak-date itinerary on British Airways would have cost me 75,000 Avios and £300.


Hopefully readers enjoy these “travel hacking in action” series. However, it can be hard to find the right balance between showing actual examples and explaining each concept fully. So, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I’d be thrilled to address them in a future stand-alone post…


  1. SSS says

    Apologies if I missed this, but how did you manage to get so many stops on the Alaska one-way award on top of the stopover in Miami? Presumably you can get indirect flights for each of your two ‘segments’? Is this easy to manufacture this way, i.e. where you wanted to stop, or was this the only option provided to you?

    • Craig Sowerby says

      It’s tricky to manufacture layovers in specific cities. But it’s fairly easy to generate indirect flights by choosing your target cities wisely. For example, if you search for FLL instead of MIA, you will undoubtedly be offered connecting options since AA don’t have a direct flight from Europe to FLL.

      Once you have a 4-flight itinerary booked – i.e. A to B to C, stopover, C to D to E – then you can change your award itinerary for free online. When in change mode, it becomes even more powerful since you can ask to change just flight C to D for example, and you might be offered C to F to D. Or you can ask to change A to B to C and be quite specific in where you want “B” to be.

      It’s more difficult to try to explain than it is to do though! Next time I book something similar with Alaska I’ll try to remember to screenshot the entire process.

  2. Ian Macky says

    Am I right that you really started your trip in the UK and that your first real destination was FLL ? If so it looks like it took you 7 flights and at least 2 overnight stay (I dunno if you also overnighted in Barcelona on the way out), to visit the 3 cities you intended (FLL,MIA,OTT). That seems like an awful lot of collateral damage in terms of travel hrs, overnights and flights.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Started in Barcelona as I’m based here usually…

      Without availability on a direct BCN-MIA I had to get creative. Definitely not for everybody but, as I mentioned, having a long layover somewhere is nice to stretch your legs and wander around the city…

      As for MIA-YOW, I could either pay cash for Y on Air Canada or fly in First Class with AA for free but connecting. I could have skipped the overnight in PHL by doing a 6 a.m. flight from MIA. But why bother? I have to stay somewhere… so instead of 2 nights in MIA I had one night in each for 2 SPG stay credits.

  3. Pangolin says

    Only just got round to reading this but I would say that these kind of detailed posts are the most valuable to me (compared to info about TCB offers, etc.).

    When SPG offers points at 35% discount I always fill my boots (buy to the maximum 30K yearly limit), like I did in the recent promo that was extended until July 14. To me it’s a no-brainer in a way that it wouldn’t be with HH/IHG points at say 40% or even 50% discount (OK, I’d probably swing for IHG at 50% but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as clear cut as SPG at 35%).

    Good stuff, anyway. Only comment I would make is perhaps to include a bit more on rental car options in a future post, and how these might tie into travel hacking (e.g. why Hertz Five Star Gold Plus via Amex Plat might make you more likely to choose that, etc.). It’s a complicated area though.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Thanks! I think I admitted in the first or second post that car rentals is one of those areas where I’m quite weak. I can barely even figure out when/how I have the Preferred service (where you are already pre-allocated a car and you just drive off.)

      I definitely need to do some more research as it’s not an area well covered by the major travel hacking blogs.

  4. Craig Sowerby says

    P.S. I sort of pre-wrote this post and I neglected to add that I had a quick chat with David Baddiel at breakfast at the HR in Montreal… complaining about the lack of a chef to cook our morning eggs!

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