Our last trip of the year was to the Marriott Waikoloa Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. It involved MY BEST TRADE of frequent flyer miles to date.
I am holding a ton of American Airlines miles (650K+) from bonuses and promotions and have the opportunity through their program to trade them at the rate of 2 Hilton Hhonors points for every American Airlines mile. I posted on line that I had these Hilton Hhonors points available and got a response from a guy that had too many Marriott Rewards points. He was looking to diversify his holdings, thinking about his upcoming honeymoon and wanted to broaden his options for a honeymoon stay. In my mind a Hilton Hhonors point is worth .7 cents and a Marriott point is worth a penny. These numbers hold for small trades, but I was able to arrange a trade of 270K Hilton Hhonors points for 250K Marriott Rewards points. My trading partner knew I was looking to do a Marriott Travel Package award and did not mind the deal, so everybody’s eyes were wide open. Here’s what I did:
Katy had an odd number American Airlines miles 35K so we converted those to Hilton Hhonors points and my trading partner had his first 70K. I then converted 100K American Airline miles into 200K Hilton Hhonors points and my portion of the trade was fulfilled.
When I collected my 250K Marriott Rewards Points I ask for a Travel Package that consisted of a seven night stay at a category 6 hotel and 120,000 airline miles as part of the Travel Package.
We ended up with a 7 night stay at the Marriott Waikoloa for the net cost of 15,000 American Airlines miles. I of course put the 120K miles that I got as part of the package back in my American account as they counted towards achieving lifetime Elite status with American.
We got to Hawaii on a voucher I had from United Airlines from a previous sweet deal and upgraded the flights to first class with another trade that cost me virtually nothing.
Now for the hotel and Waikoloa. It is a nice place with good beach, ancient fishing ponds that hold a variety of fish, and a great pool area. The room was a standard room with no particularly outstanding features, but clean and of ample size. We loved the sea turtles which Katy named Floyd??, as they were not afraid of humans and hung out close to the fishing ponds outlet. Food was expensive so we ate across the street at the Kings Mall which had a convenience store for breakfast goodies and coffee, and several restaurants that were more reasonably priced.
Take note: Waikoloa is all by itself 18 miles from Kona and there is nothing in the area of the resort. You need a rental car to get there and the island is huge, so plan on spending all day if going to the volcanoes or Hilo on the far side of the island. We drove north one day to see a famous valley (so famous I forgot the name already, but it was stunning). The most striking thing about the Big Island is the lava. The whole island is lava, but the recent flows are jet black with nothing growing on them and they contrast the older flows which have vegatation on them.
The most intriguing part of the trip was the Hilton Waikoloa Resort just down the road. It has 30+ acres, 5 or 6 towers of rooms each with their own pool area. There is a central ocean fed lagoon for snorkeling and best of all the Dolphin Encounter. We spent two afternoons at the Hilton watching the dolphins play and perform. The actual encounter was very expensive ($200) for about 30 minutes in the water with one dolphin that was more interested in the trainer than the participants. We could see it all from the boardwalk and other trainers were available to answer questions. The only negative about the Hilton was the size of the property. It could take 15 to 20 minutes to walk to your car if you were given one of the far tower locations. A tram or boat were available to transit the property, but they took just as long when consideering the waiting time.
Room rates when we were there were $209 at the Marriott and $259 at the Hilton. If I had to pay, I’d spend the extra $50 per night for the Hilton. Thank goodness we have enough points to go back next year.
A Tip to Remember:
The two weeks after Thanksgiving are GREAT weeks to travel. Occupancy is low, flights are empty and prices are lower than the holiday weeks. This holds true at any US travel destination. Always try to schedule your travel when others are at home. Just before school lets out for the summer and a week or two before kids return to school are great times to
“See the USA in your Chevrolet”
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