There’s something wonderful about getting something for free! It also feels great to scratch off several items from the old “Bucket List.”
Spring Break was coming and we needed to fly somewhere because I had just discovered that our Southwest Airline travel funds that I had planned to use for summer travel were actually scheduled to expire before the end of May!
Where to go for a short vacation?
1.) I did not want to give Southwest Airlines anymore money so I investigated where those “expiring travel funds” could get us that didn’t require long travel days and layovers.
2.) Sunny weather was a requirement.
3.) The Covid-19 situation also complicated the decision.
Remember the Alamo? How about The Riverwalk and some Tex-Mex?
Yes! We decided on San Antonio! It would be our first time to vacation in The Lone Star State and former Republic of Texas.
The airfare was completely covered by both Southwest travel funds (not free, just pre-paid) and Rapid Reward points, one flight was free.
Next up, accommodations!
I was perfectly happy paying $100 a night for a room at the Marriott Garden Inn, but what if we didn’t have to spend cash? Booking.com had rooms at the Hyatt for $178 a night. I looked into using Chase Ultimate Rewards to book.
This was my first time ever to use points for a hotel stay. According to the Hyatt webpage a standard room at three of their downtown properties could be booked for 12,000 points per night requiring 48,000 points for a 4-night stay.
First, I set up an account with World of Hyatt. Second, I transferred 48,000 points to my new Hyatt account from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account. Third, I signed into Hyatt and saw that the points transfer had posted immediately and I then booked the reservation. Easy peasy!
In my opinion 48,000 points is a lot of points considering one of us could’ve flown round trip to Europe for less points, but since we had them (and are continually accumulating more) we decided to splurge and enjoy the fruits of our point accumulation labors. Who knows when we’ll be able to fly to Europe again!
There has been one particular experience on my Bucket List that I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now. My kids said, “Not sure you can do it, Mom.” My husband said, “Be careful! You could hurt yourself.” I’m talking about those e-scooters that are all over Portland. They were all over San Antonio too.
The Cost of Travel: San Antonio
It’s been my practice to share what we spend on trips in order to encourage travel. Travel is not always expensive, although short trips do tend to be more expensive.
Total San Antonio expenses: $576.59 for 4 nights/5 days averaging to $115.32 per day for 2 adults. (Our 18:15 return flight from San Antonio gave us a full final day. We checked out at noon and stored our luggage with the concierge.)
Airfare: We used Southwest Funds from a canceled trip along with miles and $5.60 fee.
Accommodations: FREE! We stayed 4 nights at The Hyatt Regency Riverwalk paid for with 48,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Lyft rides: $120.70 including gratuities. We used Lyft six times: to and from the airports (both going and coming) and around San Antonio twice. It’s actually less expensive for two people to take Lyft than to rent the e-scooters.
Entertainment: $154.05 includes the Go Rio Boat tour for $31.22, a Park Ranger history talk at The Alamo for $20 (although it is free to enter The Alamo), Razor e-rentals $50.39 one day and $26.19 a second time. (They are not cheap but they work as transportation AND entertainment) and Bike rental $26.25.
Food: $296.24 average of $59.25 per day for 2.
My Complaint with Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines has been a great airline for ease in changing/canceling flights. Instead of losing your money and charging “change fees” they “bank” them as future travel funds. But, I have a complaint. Their policy states that unused travel funds must be used within one year of booking. (They can be extended at the cost of $100.)
In May 2020 we booked the flights for our December 2020 Panama Canal cruise which was canceled in November. That’s when we changed our travel plans and booked new flights to Cancun, but some unused travel funds remained (which is a good thing.) In January 2021, using those banked travel funds and paying an ADDITIONAL $400, we booked flights that we later decided to cancel. The entire dollar amount of funds, even the cash I paid in January, are set to expire in May 2021 – less than 6 months after paying – because they had been “attached” to the original travel funds from May 2020.
I don’t think that’s right. In fact, it greatly irritates me!
After booking our San Antonio flights we each have over $100 in unused travel funds that will expire in May 2021. Simple math dictates that our $200 in unused travel funds are clearly from our payment in January. The original travel funds have all been used, and in my opinion, these funds should not expire until January 2021.
Now I have barely a month to complete travel using this $200. There aren’t too many places where I can fly roundtrip on $100, but I’ll be watching. I don’t want to lose the $200 but I’m not keen on giving Southwest Airlines any more money!
I say, it’s time to open a new credit card. I’m looking at the Alaska Airlines credit card and hoping for a good sign up bonus of 50,000 – 60,000 miles.
Texas doesn’t have a state-wide mask mandate, but most individual businesses and restaurants stipulated a “No Mask, No Service” policy to enter their establishment.
Housekeeping Services at the hotel were not available for our entire 4 night stay. Strange for a $178-a-night room, but I get it.
Most of the Lyft drivers’ cars had clear plexiglas dividers installed between the driver and the back seat.
We had a blast in San Antonio and soaked up some sunshine too. I think everyone ought to visit San Antonio once. I think you’ll see why once I post about our visit to The Alamo and other missions, The Riverwalk, and The Food We Ate.