2016 Year in Review, By the Numbers

With 2016 drawing to a close I decided to reflect on our travels for the year.  It’s fun to reminisce and it should be informative for readers.  First I’ll break our year out “by the numbers” and then I’ll summarize the trips we took and explain how we pulled them off without breaking the bank.  Hopefully this post will give you some ideas for low-cost but luxurious trips of your own!

2016: By the Numbers

13: The number of trips Patty and I took in 2016.

As I tallied up our trips for the year I was surprised to see just how much traveling we did in 2016.  Each of the trips we took was unique and enjoyable in its own way!  It turns out that unlike 2015, most of our traveling this year was domestic.

3: The number of countries (besides the USA) we visited in 2016.

This year we visited England and Canada together and Patty took a family vacation to Ireland.

12: The number of states we ventured to this year.

We visited about a quarter of the marvelous states in the USA this year.  The ones we hit: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Texas, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Wyoming and Nevada.  I’m a little bummed that I didn’t visit any new-to-me states this year, leaving me with 7 of the 50 yet to be visited.

24,719: The number of miles I flew in 2016.

This year I flew on United, Southwest, British Airways and American Airlines.  Patty actually notched slightly more miles, with her trip to/from Ireland taken into account.

$6,181: The amount we saved in airfare using frequent flyer miles and Ultimate Rewards points.

This was another year of huge savings via frequent flyer miles.  We used quite a few Southwest Rapid Rewards (with companion pass), United MileagePlus miles and we also redeemed Ultimate Rewards points via the Chase portal.  Also, Patty, and most of her family, redeemed British Airways Avios for Aer Lingus flights to/from Ireland.

$6,455: The amount we saved on lodging using hotel loyalty programs and Ultimate Rewards points.

In 2016 we redeemed points for a wide variety of hotel stays.  From the utilitarian Ramada to the elegant Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, they ran the gamut, but they all offered us a safe and comfortable spot to rest our heads.

How We Saved Big on Our 2016 Trips

London in February

The London Tower Bridge lights up and reflects against the water scenically at night. ©The Honeymoon Guy

Patty met up with me in London for a long weekend, during which we toured the city from dawn until after dusk.  We visited tourist attractions such as the London Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the Crown Jewels.  It was a blast although it was a bit cool and damp as you’d expect.

Because winter is low season for London we were able to book a stay at the Amba Charing Cross for a decent price.  It didn’t make sense to burn a bunch of points for a hotel when cash rates were low.  On the other hand, Patty was able to redeem Citi ThankYou Rewards points for nonstop flights to/from Heathrow.

Savings Using Points/Miles: $717 in flights via 57,322 Citi ThankYou Rewards points

Jackson Hole, WY in early March

For the 2016 annual guys-only ski trip we made a repeat visit to Jackson Hole, WY.  We’ve visited many different ski resorts across North America; Jackson Hole, with its challenging terrain, remains firmly planted in the top tier.

We booked a condo via VRBO for our lodging for the trip.  I used my Citi ThankYou Premier card to ensure I got a good return (3X) on the travel booking.  I flew roundtrip on United for free by redeeming Citi ThankYou Rewards points.

Savings Using Points/Miles: $651 in flights via 52,096 Citi ThankYou Rewards points

MLB Spring Training in late March

Lido Key Beach Sunset Hotel Indigo Sarasota 20160312
The beaches in the Sarasota, FL area are soft as powder and offer sunsets to remember, like this one on Lido Key. ©The Honeymoon Guy

Spending a few days at Spring Training in Florida has become a bit of a tradition for Patty and me and we kept that alive in 2016.  This year we coordinated the trip with her parents.  We stayed in the Sarasota area and visited nearby Lido Key, Siesta Key and St. Armand’s Circle in addition to checking out the local baseball games.  We also took a day trip to Fort Myers to see the Twins stadium.

We all stayed at the Hotel Indigo Sarasota for the trip.  It was a great, somewhat eclectic hotel.  Check out my full review here.  To get there and back we flew nonstop flights to/from Tampa on Southwest Airlines.

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$720 for flights using 25,714 Rapid Rewards points and Companion Pass

$1,295 for hotel room via 75,000 IHG Rewards Club points (Patty’s parents did the same also!)

Eatontown, NJ in April/May

As April turned to May, Patty and I headed to the Jersey Shore to run the half-marathon and marathon, respectively. Despite being low season for the mid-Atlantic area, lodging in the immediate vicinity of the event was actually quite expensive due to the many runners staying overnight.  We decided to stay at the Homewood Suites which was within about a ten-minute drive of the race starting site.

Savings Using Points/Miles: $265 using 30,000 Hilton HHonors points

Las Vegas in May

Bellagio at Night
Staying at the Bellagio for free makes losing a few dollars at the casino a lot easier to stomach!

A wedding for one of Patty’s friends prompted a trip to Sin City in May.  Contrary to some Hollywood representations, weddings in Vegas are often classy, as this one was.  We had a blast hanging out with friends, donating a few dollars to the casinos and checking out the strip.

We flew Southwest nonstop to/from Vegas.  As our flight arrived late at night we stayed our first night at the Hampton Inn & Suites Las Vegas Airport.  Then we moved over to the beautiful Bellagio for the three following nights.

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$760 in flights via 27,142 Rapid Rewards points and Companion Pass

$954 in lodging via 20,000 Hilton HHonors points and 50,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points

The Honeymoon Girl’s Ireland trip in June/July

Patty and her family took a long-talked-about vacation to Ireland this summer.  The trip started off in nightmarish fashion but eventually the whole crew made it to the Emerald Isle.

They toured the countryside via bus with various stops at scenic castles, farms and other attractions.  They tried archery and falconry, sang with the locals at bars and even stayed a night at the Ashford Castle (rated the #3 hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure).

The trip was coordinated by a travel agency with Patty’s cousin’s help so the lodging was included in the package.  However, air travel to/from Shannon, Ireland was the responsibility of each traveler.  Patty and her family took advantage of my suggestion of racking up some British Airways Avios and redeeming them for flights on Aer Lingus.  Of the eight flight legs for her immediate family, seven were covered by Avios!

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$620 in flights via 40,000 British Airways Avios (Patty’s family members reaped similar savings)

Chicago July

The iconic “Bean” in Chicago offers some wacky reflections!

We took a weekend trip to the Windy City in summer to attend the wedding of one of my friends.  The extravagant black-tie affair was an extraordinary time in and of itself but it was also supplemented with a bit of city exploration.  We visited the iconic Bean and the classic Wrigleyville area, as well as the Magnificent Mile.

To get to/from Chicago we flew nonstop on Southwest Airlines.  We called the Hyatt Regency Chicago home for the weekend.  Its location served us well and the property itself was very nice.

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$780 in flights via 27,857 Rapid Rewards points and Companion Pass

$520 in lodging via Hyatt Anniversary Free Night awards

Ithaca Late July

Following the city wedding earlier in July we headed to the bucolic Ithaca area for another friend’s wedding.  It was a beautiful and charming ceremony and reception on the edge of Cayuga Lake.  We drove to Ithaca, stopping a night at Cherry Springs State Park for some stargazing (which didn’t go so well due to clouds).  We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Mansfield the first night and the Hampton Inn Ithaca the second night.

Savings Using Points/Miles: $425 in lodging via 80,000 Hilton HHonors points

State College in Early October

Patty and I headed up to Happy Valley in October to see Penn State take on Minnesota.  The comeback victory changed the trajectory of the season for the Nittany Lions – they didn’t lose the rest of the regular season.  During our stay in State College we called the Days Inn home.  The Days Inn is the best-located hotel in State College, just a few steps from the main streets (Beaver Ave. and College Ave.) of the town.

Savings Using Points/Miles: $688 in lodging via 6,000 Wyndham Rewards points

Albuquerque in Mid October

Seeing the hot air balloons at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta inflate into the dusk sky was a sight to behold.

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has been on my bucket list for several years and this year we checked it off.  Though the weather was unusually poor it was still a great experience.  I posted about our trip in detail earlier this year.

We made the trip out to Albuquerque via nonstop flights on Southwest Airlines and laid our heads down at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Airport.

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$858 in airfare via 30,643 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and Companion Pass

$380 in lodging via 10,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points

State College in Late October

Patty and I repeated the trek to Happy Valley in late October to see Penn State play Ohio State.  The Nittany Lions pulled off a stunning upset of the #2 Buckeyes.  During this stay in State College we called the Ramada home.  It’s certainly not going to win any luxury lodging awards but the price couldn’t be beat for a football weekend.

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$530 in lodging via 6,000 Wyndham Rewards points

New York City in December

In late December Patty and I headed in to the Big Apple to visit a friend and see Cats on Broadway.  We also got to see the giant Christmas tree and walk around Times Square a bit.  We booked a room for the night at the Intercontinental Times Square using an IHG anniversary free night award from the IHG Rewards Club credit card.

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$305 in lodging via IHG free night award

Quebec City in December

Though it was very cold at night the city of Quebec had a great warm ambience. ©The Honeymoon Guy

To wrap up the year we headed to a wintertime wonderland: Quebec City, Canada.  I’ll be posting more about this memorable trip in the near future.  Quebec City was charming and idyllic.  Our in-town frolicking was even supplemented with a dog-sledding adventure!

For this trip we flew nonstop between Newark (EWR) and Quebec City (YQB) on United Airlines.  We stayed at the timeless and elegant Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.  Both of our flights and the lodging were booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Savings Using Points/Miles:

$1,075 in flights via 71,672 Ultimate Rewards points

$1,093 in lodging via 72,867 Ultimate Rewards points

Hopefully sharing how we were able to take these trips without spending a fortune will provide ideas and inspiration for you!  Happy New Year!

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Where did you travel in 2016?  Share your experiences in the comments section below!

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2 thoughts on “2016 Year in Review, By the Numbers

  1. Wondering what was the outcome of you cancelliing your hyatt card in an attempt to receive free nights again after applying for the card for a second time? We have been thinking of the same idea but have not pulled the trigger

    1. Kelly, I actually haven’t applied for the Hyatt card for a second time. I fully expect that if I did I would be approved. The reason I haven’t applied is that my wife and I have a good number of hotel points/free nights at the moment. Once we’ve used them up we’ll probably both apply for the Hyatt card again. Note that for the moment you can get the Hyatt card with a $50 statement credit after first purchase. That effectively drops the annual fee to $25 for the first year. https://www.hyatt.com/gp/en/account/sign_in_chase.jsp?refererURL=/hyatt/chase/ICOffer.jsp

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