Mar 03 2017

Trip report: Overnight to Ohio

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We took a weekend trip to Ohio and had a fun time! Here is what we did and the points we earned.

Museum #1

We drove to Dayton to visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Admission and parking were free. The place was huge and we saw some incredible aircraft, memorabilia, and even artifacts pertaining to the space program. We saw the command module from the Apollo 15 mission to the moon, which was piloted by Al Worden whom we met when we visited Kennedy Space Center. Yay!

Hotel

We drove another hour from Dayton and stayed at the Sheraton Suites Columbus. It is a category 3 hotel and we opted to pay $20 extra to stay on club level. This proved to be worth it, as it gave us access to the club lounge, where we ate much more than $20 worth of food. The evening spread offered chicken fingers (surprisingly tasty), a cheese tray, granola bars, fruit, yogurt, and non-alcoholic drinks in the mini fridge. It was dinner for my kids, and a good start for my husband and I. He and I shared a yummy cobb salad from the restaurant to finish off.

Later in the evening, they put out cookies. The morning’s continental breakfast was fairly standard but satisfying. If we weren’t on club level, we would have had to pay $15/person if we wanted breakfast in the restaurant. Nope. We would have just brought our own food or gone elsewhere. If I’m paying $75 for breakfast, you’d better believe it would be at some fancy place at Disney World.

The pool was warm and small, sort of U-shaped.

It was a reasonable place to stay, and if you are a larger family, the two double beds + double pull-out sofa suite helped us spread out a little to get a good night’s sleep. We’d stay there again. Depending on the standard amenities at a hotel vs. club level amenities and the price, I’d likely stay club level again, too.

Museum #2

The next morning, we went to the COSI Museum in Columbus. Admission was free thanks to our ASTC reciprocal membership (we have passes at the Indiana State Museum). Parking was $5. This place was amazing — exhibit after exhibit was engaging, well-planned, and fun. I sprung for planetarium show tickets ($5 each) and while I thought the “Wildest Weather in the Solar System” show was interesting and fun to see on the big dome, it was short and perhaps not worth the price for a family of 5. I don’t regret it, though.

The food court had healthy, delicious options. Bean Sprouts offers kid-friendly selections — my daughter had an adorable grilled cheese sandwich designed to look like a … monster? Not sure. Had cucumber and olive eyes. She loved it.

Our food tab was expensive ($57!) and I think it was boosted since we had two bottled waters and some side frosted pretzels. (Sapphire Reserve cardholders: it did not code as a restaurant purchase). Still, worth it.

If you have any reason to pass through Columbus or make a day trip and have kids, check this place out.

Points

I’m still waiting for all of my Starwood points to post, but I’m anticipating a fairly big payout thanks to some promotions. First, my Starwood American Express earned me 2 SPG per dollar at the hotel. Then, as a SPG member, that’s another 2 points per dollar earned. There were two promotions: Double Take for double points for the first three stays, through April 15 (must opt-in), and a targeted promotion, a “select member exclusive” that should earn 1,500. In total, I’m anticipating about 2,200 SPG for this one-night stay.

That’s enough for a 1-night weekend stay at a category 1 Starwood (only 3 of these exist in the US, though). For a category 2 weekend night, I’d need 3,000 points. Some stays have a cash+points option, which can be an even better value. Always do the math on a particular stay.

I don’t have an intended redemption that I’m saving up for right now, but I think I’d rather use the points for a more expensive or extended stay, rather than a cheaper one night where paying cash makes more sense.

 


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Feb 20 2017

What to do with Southwest Rapid Rewards points on your child’s account

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Southwest Airlines, Boeing 737-76Q(WL), N565WN - SEA (21783111420)

By Eric Salard (N565WN SEA) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On our kids’ first flight back in 2014, we flew Southwest. I set up their Rapid Rewards accounts and they earned some points for that flight. (I used Barclaycard statement credits to erase the bulk of our cost for that trip.)

Since then, we’ve used Southwest Rapid Rewards points accumulated from credit card bonus and spending and points earned my husband’s revenue bookings to pay for their flights. We will be able to do this 1-2 more times before we’ll need to transfer points from Chase or use the cash rate. Right now, his account has most of the points, and my account and my kids’ accounts are in the 900-1,800 each point range. Not enough for a flight anywhere.

As Rapid Rewards expire after 24 months with no new activity, I wanted to keep their points active in case we can use some in the future. Now, I’m looking at ways we can top off their accounts to be able to redeem them for a flight at some point. Here are some ideas:

  1. Use the Rapid Rewards shopping portal to keep all accounts active. I was able to do this by purchasing a $2 Restaurant.com egift certificate through each of their portals and earning a few points for the transaction. This reset the expiration clock by 24 months. Purchases on iTunes are also a possibility for you Apple users.
  2. Use the Rapid Rewards shopping portal for purchases from other retailers, including bonus offers. I can prioritize one account until we have enough for a plane ticket and then move on to another. Or, I could rotate through the accounts.
  3. Link their account to the Rapid Rewards Dining site. I have yet to earn points this way.
  4. I can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to the Southwest account in increments of 1,000, but only to authorized user’s accounts. You must have a premium Chase card to do this (Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, and certain business cards). Note that you can also earn points from shopping through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, so it might make more sense to do your shopping there, unless the offer via Southwest is much better. So, I wouldn’t be able to transfer points to my kids’ accounts, but if I were listed as an authorized user on my husband’s (or vice versa) then we could do that.
  5. Purchase a revenue (cash) booking for the child, rather than a booking on points. I don’t know why I’d do that rather than use points, though. Maybe if there were some offer/incentive to do so.
  6. Purchase points from Southwest via Points.com. Right now, you can get a 40% points bonus when you buy a minimum of 5,000 points (so, 7,000 points for $137.50). Not worth it for my purposes, but it’s an option anyway. Note that the transaction wouldn’t likely code as “travel” for credit card category bonus spending, since the transaction is processed through Points.com rather than Southwest.

Final word:

I think for right now, I will just make sure to use the Rapid Rewards shopping portal to keep all accounts active, and I will focus on the account with the highest balance for those Rapid Rewards shopping portal transactions, as long as shopping through another portal isn’t a better deal. Eventually, perhaps there will be enough for a cheap one-way ticket. Or eventually, we’ll book a cash booking and earn more points on their accounts.

Honestly, with the points-earning bonanza I’ve been on lately, it’s hard to say when we’ll be oh, you know, paying for a flight next. :D


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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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