Breaking up the long and dreary winter for a few days of fun in the sun doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Would you believe me if I told you that you could fly the whole family on a Caribbean escape for less than 100,000 miles total?
You can 100% do this too, even if you don’t live somewhere that is especially bleak in the winter as some sun and fun in paradise never hurt anyone. Here’s some award inspiration:
1. Maho Beach, St. Maarten
Have you heard of Maho Beach in St. Maarten? Even if you haven’t, you’ve definitely seen it in pictures. Maho Beach is hands-down an AvGeek bucket-list trip that the whole family can enjoy. (Watch this video of tourists feeling the jet blast at Maho Beach.)
Two years ago, I took a short trip to Maho Beach with my kids solely for the plane-spotting experience, which any aviation enthusiast can appreciate.
Many airlines, including Delta, American, JetBlue and United, fly to St. Maarten (SXM) nonstop from the Lower 48.
Playing around with awards at JetBlue.com, I saw nonstop flights between New York (JFK) and SXM for just 8,300 TrueBlue points each way. That means that a family of four can fly round-trip for total of 66,400 TrueBlue points. Don’t forget that you’ll get 10% back on redeemed points with your JetBlue Plus Card.
If you don’t have any of the JetBlue credit cards, the airline is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points. JetBlue also has a family-friendly points-pooling program.
As far as hotels, I’d absolutely recommend the all-inclusive Sonesta Resort, right on Maho Beach. When I visited in 2017 (before the devastation from Hurricane Irma), I was blown away by how much fun it was. There was a kiddie waterpark (with spectacular plane-spotting views), several playgrounds and a great indoor kids club for kids of all ages when everyone needs a break from the sun.
Though the resort closed after suffering from extensive damage from Irma, the good news is that the property underwent a complete makeover and is set to reopen in late February 2019. The even better news is that Maho Beach Resort is offering great grand-opening rates of about 45% off.
When I searched for dates in March for a family of four, I saw rates of $312 per night, which is a steal for a brand-new all-inclusive resort right in the middle of all the action. And, you can stretch those savings further by booking with your Citi Prestige with the fourth night free benefit.
Keep in mind that St. Maarten is extremely expensive in general (a lunch for two at the Sunset Bar on Maho Beach without alcohol can easily add up to $55, including tax and gratuity), so not having to worry about food costs at an all-inclusive resort really allows you to kick back and enjoy.
If you want to stick to points, you’ll find the Algeria Hotel, a no-frills Choice Hotels property, on the opposite side of Maho Beach, for 20,000 points per night. Either way, enjoying the warm weather and the beach while planes pass above, one after another, is truly the best of both worlds.
2. Nassau, Bahamas
I recently booked a family getaway to the Bahamas for early April using Delta SkyMiles. Even though SkyMiles gets a lot of slack from the miles and points community (ahem, the infamous nickname of SkyPesos), sometimes there are great redemptions and “SkyMiles Deals.” We redeemed 9,000 miles each for a nonstop Delta flight between New York (JFK) and Nassau (NAS). If you don’t plan on using Delta SkyMiles, here are the best ways to get to the Bahamas using points and miles.
We’ll spend three-nights at the new family-friendly, 1,800-room Hyatt mega-resort — the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar — for just 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night. (And here are free things for kids to do once you get there.) You can transfer points to Hyatt from Chase Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, or start earning Hyatt points with The World of Hyatt Credit Card, which is offering a bonus of up to 50,000 points; earn 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, plus an extra 25,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 total in the first six months.
Miami or Charlotte-based travelers can redeem just 7,500 British Airways Avios each way for a nonstop American Airlines operated flights between Miami (MIA) and NAS on American Airlines. Chicago-based travelers can fly for 10,000 British Airways Avios each way on American. Here’s how to redeem British Airways Avios on American Airlines flights. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios.
American Airlines currently has an amazing award sale between several US cities and the Caribbean. Some destinations on sale include: Chicago (ORD) to Montego Bay (MBJ) for 10,000 miles one-way and Miami (MIA) to Aruba (AUA) or Belize (BZE) from just 5,000 – 7,500 miles one-way. (This route is normally 15,000 miles one-way.)
Aruba is one my family’s favorite spots for a quick winter getaway because there are several kid-friendly hotels right on Palm Beach, which is also walkable to many great attractions and local restaurants serving delicious food.
Some of my favorite hotels include the Hyatt Regency Aruba for 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night and the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino for 50,000 Marriott points per night. Don’t forget that you can get a fifth night free when you redeem Marriott points for a stay of five consecutive nights, which cuts the cost by 20% (averaging just 40,000 points per night for a five-night stay).
If you need to earn points for a future trip, now through April 24, 2019, you can get 100,000 Marriott points as a welcome bonus when you apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card and spend $5,000 in the first three months. Soon, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card will also temporarily jump to the 100k bonus club on Feb. 28.
Neighboring Dutch island, Bonaire (BON) is another great winter family escape. Part of the “ABC” islands, Bonaire is a quick hop to/from Aruba or Curacao or you can fly your family directly to BON from the mainland.
There’s a United nonstop flight from Newark (EWR) to BON with plentiful saver award space that operates on Saturdays for 17,500 United MileagePlus or Singapore KrisFlyer miles each way. Another great Star Alliance option to consider is Aegean, which only charges 12,500 miles for any award within North America, so it’ll only cost 12,500 miles each way plus taxes and fees between US cities and Bonaire (BON), allowing a family of four to escape the winter for 100,000 miles round-trip.
American Airlines also operates a nonstop flight from Miami Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday that’s often reasonably priced ($99 or so each way), or 10,000 British Avios each way, which is cheaper than redeeming the 15,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles it would require for the same flight.
Your family can enjoy a few nights at the Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort, which is highly recommended by several of my travel friends for just 12,500 Marriott points per night. The hotel also offers a complimentary shuttle service to/from Bonaire International Airport and Te Amo Beach if you call the hotel and schedule it within 48 hours in advance.
5. Destin, Florida
If you want to get away to cooler winter temps where you don’t need a passport, consider a hop down to Destin. My family and I just returned from a last-minute weekend getaway to the white sand beaches of Florida’s Emerald Coast by redeeming just 5,515 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per person each way for a flight between Newark and Panama City, Florida, which is under an hour’s drive to family-friendly Destin. If both parents have a Southwest Companion Pass, you can fly a family of four for just 22,060 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per round-trip. In fact, the Southwest Companion Pass can also be helpful in getting to a variety of the previously mentioned international destinations.
The Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort is an excellent use of weekend free night certificates from some of the Hilton credit cards, or there are several affordable budget hotel options from Hilton and Marriott that are right on US Route 98 and accessible to the beach and many kid-friendly attractions such as go-karting at The Track, as well as seafood restaurants with marina and beach views.
With the Polar Vortex 2019 seemingly on repeat, there’s no better time to gather the whole family for a quick escape from the cold. Where have you redeemed your points for a winter getaway with the family?
Featured image by Getty Images