Joining The Points Game

If you can afford it, that is.

Over the next few weeks (until Christmas, that is) I intend on sharing my attempt at joining the points game. Justin and I have a trip planned to NYC, Paris, and Germany and we're going to see how much we can pay in points and how little we can pay overall.

Here's where we are at:

• 66,000 Ultimate Reward (Sapphire) points
• 91,000 IHG points (spire status)
• 59,000 Delta points
• 43,00 Hilton points (gold status)

and just for arguments sake:

• 5,000 Marriott points
• 7,000 Club Carlson points (gold status)

Here's what I've accomplished so far:

• Booked flight for 2 at a price of $1,100 (for both tickets total) flying from NYC to Paris RT for Dec. 27 – Jan. 10.

What we are looking at doing:
• Fly to NYC from ATL on Dec.25
• Fly from NYC to Paris Dec. 27
• Train from Paris to Strasbourg (to see a Christmas Market) Dec. 30 (maybe?)
• Continue the rest of the way to Germany Dec. 31 (early morning)
• Who knows? (Spend time with friends.) Dec 31 – Jan. 9
• Train back to Paris Jan. 9.
• Fly from Paris to NYC Jan. 10
• Fly home Jan. 11 (night)

My research thus far:

• I can get a RT flight from ATL to NYC for the dates I want at a cost of 50,000 Delta points and $20 or I can pay $300+.
• Taking Amtrak to NYC is only 30,000 UR points but it requires 17 hours of train time. :(
• I spent 10 hours researching hotels in NYC for Dec. 25-27. I really like the idea of staying at the Waldorf Astoria to see all of the Christmas lights, but I've heard the hotel is kind of run down and not too impressive (19,000 HHonors points or $243). Other options I've looked at are the Intercontinental Times Square (40,000 IHG points + $70 or $306), Hyatt Andaz Fifth Avenue (25,000 UR points or $545) and Hilton Times Square (24,000 UR/Hilton points or $299.24). Pana Travel Concierge App has also recommended a few hotels to me that I will have to check out.
• I can book flights to Germany from Paris for 30,000 UR points + and are more expensive; I'd rather pay the fare and travel by train.
• Train tickets to Germany are looking to be about $100 straight from Paris or $150 if I include a stopover in Strasbourg. (information via Pana)
• Strasbourg has (supposedly) one of the best Christmas markets in Europe (that is still open at that time of year) and is not too far out of the way for where we are going to in Germany. Still trying to decide if that's worth giving up a day in Paris though.

My expectations:

• free flight to NYC?
• $1100 spent on flights from NYC to Paris
• $250-ish RT train tickets per person between Germany and Paris
• 2-3 free hotel nights can be booked with UR points
• 2-3 free hotel nights with IHG points
• 1-2 free hotel nights with Hilton points

* Justin and I will have one more Hilton stay before our trip which is probably the equivalent of between 6,000 and 10,000 more points. (Yay mystery shopping! Possible extra night free.)
* We are talking about staying at 2 more IHG hotels to take advantage of the accelerate promotion and obtain an additional 40,000 IHG points (the equivalent of one free night at a hotel!).
* We could potentially use our Discover Card discount to get money off of a car rental.

Finally, what I need to do:

• Book the Hilton and IHG stays (from expectations).
• Talk to boss about time off. (Because duh.)
• Figure out trip insurance.
• Find warm clothes. (We live in Georgia where it is warm 75% of the year.)
• Book free flight to NYC.
• Decide on NYC hotel & book.
• Research things to do in NYC.
• Find out if friend is joining us in Paris.
• Research and book Paris hotel/Airbnb.
• Figure out what we want to do in Paris.
• Book train tickets to Strasbourg (or straight to Germany, whichever).
• If we are staying one night in Strasbourg, research and book hotel.
• Car rental for Germany.
• Research and book hotel/airbnb.
• Talk to friends about plans. (Because seriously.)
• Enjoy!

So what do you think? Will I be able to pull off the points game with this trip? Are you interested in following my progress as I plan? Do you have any suggestions regarding my itinerary or points planning? Or questions? Share! I'd love to hear about your own points planning adventures or struggles! I'm sure I'm not the only one with the goal of free or cheap travel in mind…

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