Seattle to Tampa Road Trip: Saving ~$2,000 with Points!

Introduction

My fiancé recently accepted a new position with a company in Tampa, FL, which means we will be relocating from Seattle at a time when hotel and gasoline prices increase for the summer tourist season. Since I’m a practical man with an affinity for saving money, this trip provides a great opportunity to burn some points while saving money on travel we would have otherwise been forced to pay cash for.

Because some readers may be road tripping this summer, I thought this would be the perfect time to show how points will save us around $2,000 during our transition from the west coast to the east coast!

The Road Trip Route

The map below identifies the route and cities we will stay in during the road trip. We decided to break up the trip by doing a 3-day stint in Moab, UT and check out Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Otherwise, we will stay in each location for one night while driving approximately 8-hours per day.

Using Hotel Points to Save $1,659

I love calculating redemption values for trips like this because they aren’t inflated based on cash values for premium cabin flights or luxury hotels we would never have paid for. As you can gather from my posts Churning the 100k Amex Hilton Upgrade Offer and Stacking Hilton Promos to Earn 24,566 Points and $35 for a Two Night Stay, I also love Hilton points. They are easy to earn and the Hilton property footprint is massive. Additionally, the recent normalization of Hilton point redemption values makes knowing whether a redemption is a good value a breeze. Effectively, if I am getting 0.44 cents per point or greater for my Hilton redemptions I am happy, regardless of whether the property is in Seoul, Paris, or Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

The table below shows the city, property, points and cash costs, and redemption value for each stay. All stays will be within the Hilton portfolio with the exception of the Comfort Suites in Austin, TX. I had some Choice Privileges points about to expire, so we are burning those in Austin. This trip will additionally help me requalify for Hilton Diamond Status through March 2019 since award stays counts towards the Hilton Diamond Status Match.

Hotel Redemption Values

CityHotel BrandNumber of NightsPoints Per Night
Cash Cost for Stay
(including taxes)
Redemption Value
(cents per point, cpp)
TRIP TOTALS7239,000$1,659Hilton - 0.65 cpp
Choice - 0.97 cpp
Boise, IDHilton Garden Inn127,000$1390.51
Moab, UTHomewood Suites by Hilton350,000$1,0550.70
Santa Rosa, NMHampton Inn120,000$1400.70
Austin, TXComfort Suites112,000$1160.97
Biloxi, MSDouble Tree by Hilton130,000$2090.70

As you can see from the table, our average Hilton point redemption is 0.65 cpp. I will take this any day of the week! The Choice Privileges redemption value of 0.97 cpp is very good as well.

Using Plenti Points to Save ~$300 on Gas

In the later half of 2016, American Express offered a transfer bonus of 1:1.5 when transferring Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points to Plenti. I was rich in MR at the time and decided to take advantage of the transfer bonus in order to defray future gas costs. Plenti points can be redeemed at a value of 1 cent per point up to $25 per refill at Exxon Mobil gas stations when using the Exxon Speedway+ app to checkout.

The road trip will be around 3,200 miles. Using GasBuddy’s Trip Cost Calculator, I see that the trip will burn approximately 130 gallons of gasoline in our Subaru Forester at a cost of ~$300. This number will likely be higher since the car is weighed down with our possessions, but it’s a good estimate. Assuming I can fill-up exclusively at Exxon or Mobil stations, I will use 30,000 Plenti points sourced from 20,000 MR to save ~$300 on out-of-pocket gasoline costs.

Summary

In total, we will save around $1,700 by using hotel points and around $300 by using Plenti points on gas for an overall savings of roughly $2,000! I am extremely happy with this redemption. Our 3 night stay at the Homewood Suites in Moab, UT will also give the ability to make our own food since all rooms have a fully-stocked kitchen, creating additional savings.

Remember, this hobby is all about pragmatism; set goals and stick to them! I have a ton of hotel points and find Hilton points particularly easy to earn, so I would rather have $1,700 in my pocket than additional points. If you are points-poor and cash-rich, you may treat a similar situation differently.

Have you used points and miles to defray the cost of domestic travel or a road trip? Let me know in the comments!

 


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