New York City for (mostly) Free!

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I wrote all about Southwest’s Companion Pass back in 2014, and I earned mine February 2016, allowing G.Hammer to fly with me for $5.60 each way any time I fly Southwest through the end of 2017. In a nutshell, I had to earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in one year to qualify which I did by applying for Chase’s Southwest Plus card in October 2015 and Chase’s Southwest Premier card at the end of December 2015. I didn’t meet my minimum spends on the cards until after the new year, and I bought and transferred 24,000 Choice Privileges to 6,000 Southwest points to get the extra points I needed to push me over 110,000 points.

Voila! Companion Pass.

In November 2016 we each opened a Chase Hyatt credit card which at the time was offering two free nights in any hotel after meeting the minimum spend. That offer has since been downgraded to 40,000 World of Hyatt points after meeting the minimum spend, but it’s still a card worth considering imho.

We considered using our four free nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, but it requires a $520 per person transfer from the international airport which you have to reserve at the time you book your room. When G and I fly standby we have no idea when we’ll get anywhere and we weren’t sure we would have the three weeks we’d like to dedicate to a trip across an ocean, what with G working over the holidays. It just sounded too risky, and we knew we’d be able to book this hotel later with points if we really wanted to. At just 25,000 Hyatt points per night, it’s not an unobtainable dream by any means. Truth be told, I’ve got my eye on this IHG property in the Maldives anyway: Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives

We were going to use our four free nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo in September when we got standby on a Business Class on a flight to Tokyo, but just as I was calling World of Hyatt to make the reservations and settling into my lay-flat seat the flight attendant informed us the flight was overweight, and we’d have to disembark. Wah wah wahhhh. We went backpacking across Isle Royale National Park instead and it was totally awesome.

Our free nights expire just after New Year’s so as soon as we were finished farming and made a plan for the holidays I called Hyatt to see about getting four nights in a row at our other choice- the Park Hyatt New York, surely New York’s finest hotel experience. The exceedingly kind and helpful agent found us a room for four nights- the only four in a row in December- and we were booked. Hyatt award nights are free to book and free to cancel, but if you don’t use them by their expiration date they are so long, sucker.

After we got our room confirmed I quickly found a Southwest flight from Tulsa to LaGuardia for 14,577 points + $5.60 for me, and another $5.60 for my companion, Greg. Southwest award flights are like, super dope, because you can cancel them for free up until 10 minutes before their scheduled departure times. I used to hate Southwest for not having seat assignments, but Greg and I have never had to sit apart on a flight. We just go straight to the back and we nearly always get a row to ourselves. Plus you can check bags for free. I’m already mourning the loss of our Companion Pass, but neither of us are eligible to apply for more Chase cards until the end of 2018, at which time I’ll pursue another. I booked a separate flight from Newark to Tulsa for 23,530 points + $5.60 for me, and another $5.60 for my companion, Greg. It was the same price to fly out of LaGuardia but we needed Newark anyway because they have a Global Entry desk there and we had already applied online and just needed to interview in person. Have I ever mentioned how much I love crossing things off my to do lists?

Spoiler alert: We got out of our Global Entry appointments early and were able to catch a standby flight home, saving us 23,530 points + $11.20. Score! Have I ever mentioned how much I love saving points and money? We would’ve flown standby on the way there, but it was the day after Atlanta’s airport had a massive power outage and tons of flights were cancelled. We’ve never been so happy to have confirmed flights!

It was an easy bus ride to the subway, and an easy subway ride to 57th St, and an easy half-a-block walk to the Park Hyatt. We checked in at the front desk, then were escorted upstairs to actually check in at the actual front desk, then we were escorted to our room to be shown how to work the tv in the bathroom mirror. We were feeling a bit uncomfortable in our fancy surroundings, but Dave Grohl was hanging out in the lobby with his kid when we checked in, so that really put us at ease. That’s all true.

At check in we were upgraded to I want to say a Park Model but I think that’s a term for fancy mobile homes. Anyway, we got a city view which costs $100 more/night than their standard room. I didn’t take pictures of the room because you can find that on their website if you so desire. We faced 57th St and there were electric drapes and sheers because who can be bothered to pull a string when you need some privacy? The king bed was entirely too big for us snuggling Warckens but the pillows and linens were incredible. Like make you cry when you have to leave incredible. I didn’t bother looking up the brand because I knew I’d never fork over the money for them. Just trust me on this one.

The location was great, the staff helpful and kind, the room surprisingly cozy, and the bathtub and bed worth getting home early for every night. Would we stay there again? Maybe if we had tons of free nights to burn, but I think I’d rather see other Hyatts before returning to this one.

Since we “saved” all that money on flights and lodging we were free to eat our way across the city. We had sushi and pasta and pizza and Shake Shack and bagels and doughnuts and still only spent $204.86 on food for five days. Drink water. It’s free.

We opted not to stand in ridiculous lines for ‘half price tickets’ or to pay $17 per person in Ticketmaster fees and went instead to the theater box offices where we still got half price tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for $50/person. What a steal! I just looked- our section is selling for $189/person for tomorrow night’s show. What a rip! We did the same thing for Book of Mormon and got tickets for $130/person at the window. They start online at $150 + $30 apiece in handling fees. Next time we go to New York we’re heading to theaters straight away to set our line up for the week. After the Book of Mormon (delightful, start to finish)(if you’re not easily offended), I was desperate for more shows, but we couldn’t make Wicked or Phantom fit into our plans. p.s. At the window Phantom tickets start at just $29. Best deal in the country.

When we weren’t eating, watching shows, sleeping, or soaking in the tub we walked and walked and walked and walked. We took the subway from the end of the High Line to the World Trade Center, then again from the west end of the Brooklyn bridge to Grand Central, otherwise we walked everywhere we went. We birded in Central Park, and visited the tree at Rockefeller and watched Saks’ light display every night. We people watched and drank coffee and met one of Greg’s friends for dinner. It was just a real Warcken treat of a trip.

Flights: 14,577 points + 11.20

Lodging: free

Transportation: 47.50

Food: 204.86

Entertainment: 359.00

Grand Total: $622.56

We didn’t buy a single souvenir and since I’m on a clothing freeze I didn’t even step foot in a clothing store. Not even H&M, which if you know me, is a big deal. I did make Greg go into Tiffany & Co, just to see if anything had a price on it (nothing did). Not that I’m interested in diamonds, I just wanted to see how much some women like to guilt their men into spending. Give me vacations or give me death.

Happy a very travelly, financially happy new year everyone!

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