What should you do when you have a few miles and points here and there with airlines, hotels, and credit cards — but nothing significant enough for a Big Trip? Scrape them together for a luxurious 24-hour excursion! We pooled all our points from various sources and planned a fantastic weekend in NYC. Altogether for the two of us, we spent $450 on an experience valued at $3,000.
In our “weekender” posts, we’ll tell you where we stayed and what we did on brief trips to interesting cities in the U.S. and around the world. In this edition, we’ll tell you how we planned and spent this bougie 24-hours in Manhattan’s Midtown while staying in a luxury hotel and going to a bucket list dinner.
Let’s Get Real
First, a moment of transparency: We follow all the points gurus, and we love them (as well as our points programs). Sometimes, however, we get annoyed when they talk about how they found a great deal for 60-100k miles on a first class flight to Dubai or whatever. First of all, you have to travel or spend a lot to get those miles. Second, the points experts are usually talking about a one-way ticket for one person. So, if you apply that same “deal” to a round trip fare for a couple, you’re still looking at shelling out 240-400k miles or a ton of cash for the balance of the trip.
While possible, it would take us years to accumulate all those points — and in post-pandemic times, we’re all about the here-and-now. Between the two of us, we had 156k points and miles — which is not too shabby. For example, we could’ve secured two round-trip economy tickets to Europe plus a budget hotel for a night for those points of they were all with Chase Sapphire Reserve — but they were distributed among several credits cards, airlines, and hotels, which made it slightly difficult to pool (though you should note that Chase Sapphire Reserve and AmEx have many common transfer partners, including Marriott).
When weighing all the options, we decided to put those miles to work and turned them into an absolutely luxurious and memorable weekend in Manhattan. Here’s how.
The Points Breakdown
American Airlines Flight
We had 30k miles total between the two of us on AA, so that + $22.40 got us two round-trip economy tickets from DC to NYC. Pro tip: If you have a few miles with several airlines, look at purchasing one-way tickets instead.
Ritz Carlton Central Park
55k AmEx points plus 10k Marriott Bonvoy points got us a room at this AAA 5-diamond hotel. I always wanted to stay at the Ritz Carlton Central Park with the fancy doormen (doorpeople?), beautiful marble, and elegant accents. That dream was made a reality through our Marriott and AmEx points while AmEx had a 1.3 bonus transfer deal.
Dinner at Le Bernardin
Dinning at Eric Ripert’s 3-Michelin star restaurant had been on our bucket list for a long time and our points helps make it a reality. We spent about 60k Chase Sapphire Reserve points on this experience through the “Pay Yourself Back” feature during a promotion with 50% bonus points for restaurants. So, a $900 multi-course dinner with a bottle of champagne and two glasses of dessert wine was “free” with 60k Chase points.
Swanky AmEx Airport Lounge
Access was included with our credit card. We had a few complementary drinks and bites on the way home at the brand new AmEx lounge in La Guardia’s Terminal B. We used to dread flying through La Guardia but the improvements are lovely.
So we shelled out 78k points each — That’s still a lot, but it didn’t feel like it since we scrapped them together from several programs.
We flew from DC to NYC, stayed in a beautiful, old school hotel at Central Park, dined at a world renowned restaurant, and even enjoyed swanky new lounge. What a perfect weekend!
What Cost Extra?
Of course, there’s no such thing as “free” travel. We pay annual credit card fees and charge everything to those cards to rack up the points — which is a great strategy if your card perks make up for the fees, and you pay the balance every month.
Our miles and points strategy covered about $2,600 in value for airfare, hotel, and fine dining. That’s pretty outstanding! But we still had a few extra charges:
— Uber to and from airports ($200). Even though that’s expensive, flying still wound up being cheaper than taking Amtrak. Plus we got to sit in the spacious exit row for free with our American Airlines status, and we sat next to an awesome flight attendant who was flying on standby.
— MoMa entry ($60). We couldn’t go to Midtown without visiting the Museum of Modern Art. What a beautiful stop on our short journey! It was well worth the price of admission to see the impressionist exhibit.
— Pizza for lunch ($45). Our doorman recommended the perfect spot down the street.
— Drinks at the Ritz bar ($100). Oooof. We could only get an 11:00 PM reservation at Le Bernardin, so we had a few cocktails after our visit to MoMa and lunch and took a nap before dinner.
— Starbucks breakfast ($25). We got some breakfast sammies and lattes and lazily watched people finish a Sunday marathon at Central Park before heading home.
Was It Worth It?
Yes. We mostly built this trip around our reservation at Le Bernardin. We love Eric Ripert and have been wanting to try it out for a long time, but as you can see, even just an overnight trip to NYC can be prohibitively expensive with a bit of luxury.
So, we’re happy we got to take this bougie trip (mostly) on points. The meal was exquisite, the Ritz Carlton was everything I imagined, and the extra bonus of pizza and modern art fit perfectly into our brief Manhattan weekender.
Would you do a trip like this on points for a weekend? Let us know in the comments.
4 responses to “NYC Weekender: How to Spend 24 Lux Hours on Points in Manhattan”
I love this article!!! Your honesty is so refreshing. You’re the most honest bloggers. Love this!!! Le Bernadin is worth it any time of the day or night. Also that photo of Theo with the pizza , yes!!
We want to to totally transparent! And yes! Your trip to Le Bernardin inspired us and it was so amazing to do it all on points.
Well done getting a great deal! I can’t decide which is making my eyes bug out more: a $900 meal for two, or staying up until 11pm for drinks – haha. This is why going to Spain is such a big ask. We’re usually in bed by 8:30. 🙂 We once paid close to that for a special dinner, but it was for 4 people. My bank account still hasn’t recovered – haha.
Hahaha! Right? It felt so good to click on our Chase points and watch the $900 bill disappear 😂 We definitely needed a nap to do an 11:00 pm dinner. It was totally worth it!