Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Granite sculpture of cutthroat trout in downtown Santa Fe
Overview

This is a 5 night trip trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We used credit card points to cover ½ the flights (Spokane to Albuquerque), the rental car, and the Inn. Santa Fe has great hiking trails, eateries, art, and beer. It also has interesting Pueblo ruins nearby. We went in late August arriving on a Sunday and leaving on a Friday morning to avoid the weekend, and did not find it crowded. The temperatures were just right, highs around 80F.

Planning the flights

We used Alaska points to fly there, and our Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) $300 travel credit to pay for most of the return flight. We booked about 10 months in advance and unfortunately our convenient flight from Spokane to Albuquerque was changed for the worse. I called Alaska as soon as the flights were changed and asked for a better flight. The rep offered to refund my points. But I politely said that since I had booked so far in advance I did not want a refund, as there was now no availability to rebook using points. I requested a change to a specific flight which left at 6am. We were given that flight which now meant leaving the homestead at 3:30 am… This happens a lot to us when booking with points or cash far in advance. The flights are changed closer to the departure date, and it is usually less convenient. I suggest contacting the airline as soon as a flight is changed for the worse. But find a desired flight before you call, so you can ask for a change to the specific flight you want. For the return flight we found a convenient flight on Delta. Again the flight was changed to a longer layover (1h45min) in Salt Lake City after we booked it. I looked online and it was still the best flight so I did not request a change.

Booking the rental car with Chase UR points

For the car I like to use Chase UR points via the CSR card to take advantage of the primary insurance that comes with it. We don’t carry collision on our own older vehicles, so the primary insurance through the CSR card is important. I looked at the ratings of the car rental companies at the Albuquerque airport using Google maps and booked with Enterprise which had a high rating. Total cost to rent a compact from Enterprise for 5 days from the Albuquerque airport: 15,866 UR points taking advantage of the 1.5X value of points for travel using the CSR card.

Booking a place to stay using Chase UR points

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Trip to Waimanalo, Oahu

Trip to Waimanalo, HI
Waimanalo Beach
Overview

This is a one week trip where we stayed at a vacation rental in Waimanalo, Oahu. We used credit card points to cover the flights (Spokane to Honolulu) and the rental car. Waimanalo beach is spectacular with light colored sand and azure/coral blue water. Overall Oahu was a pleasant surprise, as for some reason I had expected the most populous island to be less beautiful than Kauai where we had visited previously. Instead I found the landscape stunning, and we were treated very well by the locals.

Planning the flights

We wanted to use points which required booking well in advance, almost a year. But I’ve found it’s often difficult to find convenient Round trip flights using points. But if you only look one way you can often find convenient flights using one program to get there, and a different one to return. We found convenient flights to Honolulu using 20,000 Delta Skymiles points per person and convenient flights returning to Spokane using 15,000 Flying Blue points per person. Once I had found the flights I moved Citi ‘Thank you’ points to my Flying Blue account which posted immediately and then purchased the flights. The Delta points came from an Amex gold card. In total we used 70,000 points for two people. To me there is no problem having flights there and back on different reservations/different airlines. But I like to book both passengers (DW and I) using the same program on same reservation so we can easily arrange seating together, and if the airline changes the reservation, both tickets are linked. The Flying Blue flights were actually on Delta, but we saved 5,000 points per person using Flying Blue points.

Planning where to stay

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Idaho loop

Map of road trip through central IdahoRoad trip overview

This is a road trip we did in Summer 2015 from the Palouse through central Idaho and a little bit of Montana. We camped three nights, stayed in a hotel one night, and stayed in a vacation rental the last two nights. It was a nice balance of roughing it and comfort. Idaho is an amazing state and we had a great trip with several hikes and enjoyed some fun eateries.

First stop: Boulder-Louie Lakes loop

We had a 7:30 am departure and got to the trailhead around noon. The drive itself was spectacular, particularly the drive from Grangeville down to Whitebird. It was a Tuesday and the first part of the loop from the trailhead to Boulder Lake had quite a few people. After we got to Boulder Lake the trail runs along the side of the lake before heading uphill and the traffic dropped off.

Boulder Lake Trail near McCall, Idaho
Boulder Lake

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