Amtrak’s “buy one, get one” spring sale got me started.
My teenage daughter and I had used a similar two-for-one deal last year to take an overnight train trip from Los Angeles to Portland. This year, she wanted to use her spring break to check out colleges in Chicago as well as the Pacific Northwest. When Amtrak announced the return of its companion fare sale, I thought a couple of nights on a sleeper train might be a good way to start our college tour. She agreed.
At the same time, I noticed that we had travel rewards piling up all over the place: points, miles, free anniversary nights at hotels, even a Southwest companion pass that had yet to be used. At NerdWallet, we’re always telling people to spend rather than hoard their rewards, which get less valuable over time thanks to program devaluations.
So I decided to see how much I could save on one 10-day trip. The answer: more than $3,000. I’m bragging, but I also hope my experience might help you get more value from your own rewards programs.
First, the details. Our itinerary includes two nights in an Amtrak sleeper car, two airline tickets from Chicago to Seattle and six nights in historic hotels in three cities (plus one night in a convention hotel). The fare for our flight home was less than $90; and I got to use that companion pass, which allows me to add another person to any flight I book with Southwest for only the cost of fees and taxes (in this case, just $5.60).
My total cash outlay for all the booked travel: $846, including $740 for the Amtrak double-bunk roomette. The price tag for the trip without all the discounts: $4,234.