The more points and miles we have and the more we travel, the finer we cut our trips. However, the trip we took this last week was booked in part while we were on it, leaving surprises at every turn for ourselves and our daughter. This family travel experience was truly flying by the seat of our pants.
We hadn’t even been home for 24 hours when the poor excuse for spring weather in the northeast was already getting old. My husband was returning from a business trip, Lucy and I returning from a holiday in Florida. We decided to ditch the cold weather and head somewhere warm but where would we go? A quick scour of google flights, a glance at some mileage balances and we had narrowed it down to a few sun-filled options.
We considered hitting the “easy” button and staying with family in Fort Myers, but decided to check for something a bit more exciting. Key West (a place I’ve never been) became a possibility with numerous nonstop flights into Fort Lauderdale and a few hours drive by car. Nicaragua, Grand Caymen and other places in the Caribbean all came into play but which flights would work the best and where would we stay?
After a little deliberation we decided to get to Florida and roll the dice on the rest. We called this the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trip.
The first and only thing we figured out was that we would fly to Florida on Monday but hadn’t booked a flight until day of. OneJet now offers a nonstop flight from Pittsburgh to West Palm Beach, this would be our flight down but we wouldn’t stay in West Palm for long. Instead our adventure lead us to Miami where we would cash in one free Hyatt night at a favorite of ours, The Confidante.
Once we were settled in Miami, we went back to the search. Would we stay in Miami? Drive to the Keys? Or leave the continent?
With our hotel fully booked the following night we searched for another place to lay our heads on day two. Checking hotels lead to checking flights and just like that we saw our golden ticket. A flight leaving Fort Lauderdale the following day on Spirit Airlines into Cartagena, Colombia for $123/pp. (P.S. We upgraded to the Big Front Seats which was totally worth it.)
It was hard to narrow down the hotel options in Cartagena as many of them appealed to us and we found more than one to be an affordable option. The good news is when you choose your own adventure, you might just end up trying more than one property… and we did.
From there we made a rough itinerary for our route home flying from Cartagena to Fort Lauderdale and up to Orlando to fly back home at the end of the week. It was still slightly up in the air, but we knew that by Monday morning we would make our way back to our home snowy home.
For those that are concerned with the details, here is our cost breakdown in both points and cash for this impromptu trip. The most important detail is the total cost on a per person basis. While it may not seem like a steal to some, this trip spanned six days and most of the reservations (flights and hotels) were made inside of 24 hours of arrival.
- PIT-PBI = Free (details in a following post)
- PBI-FLL Rental Car = $18.50 (1-2 free certificate)
- Hyatt Confidante = Free (credit card annual 1-4 category night)
- FLL-CTG = $544 ($136/per one way + $45 big seat/per)
- Conrad = Free (48,000 points)
- Hyatt Regency = Free (12,000 points per night, club floor)
- CTG-FLL = $280 (taxes for three people plus 30,000 True Blue points)
- FLL-MCO Rental Car = $18.50 (1-2 free certificate)
- Marriott Residence Inn MCO = Free (promotional 1-5 category night)
- MCO-PIT = $11.60 for two passengers (companion pass plus 16,000 Rapid Rewards) and $239 for Kyle
Total cash outlay = $1,111.60
30,000 True Blue points
36,000 Ultimate Rewards points (transferred to Hyatt)
48,000 Hilton Honors points
(4) Promotional certificates
- 10,000 True Blue points
- 12,000 Ultimate Rewards points (transferred to Hyatt)
- 16,000 Hilton Honors points
- (1.3) Promotional certificates
We don’t usually fly by the seat of our pants, though I can’t say we are typically organized when it comes to trip planning either. With this adventure we booked almost everything the night before, and even the day of. It all worked out great and we had a wonderful week in Cartagena. Did we get lucky? I don’t think so, but I don’t really believe in luck… I would say we just found what worked best and utilized our resources from free stays, free car rentals and affordable flights. We used what we had available – which included sometimes difficult to utilize certificates – and when cash was the right answer, we paid cash. We could have used all points to pay for this trip, but it wouldn’t have been as good of a value.
If I had to choose our adventure all over again, I would. I look forward to choosing another one soon.
Thanks to this unexpected adventure, we will have some great reviews to follow;
- Our flight OneJet from PIT to PBI
- Review of Conrad Cartagena and the Hyatt Regency Cartagena
- Our favorite spot in the walled city.
- A spa day fit for a princess, and more.
Do you enjoy the last minute “choose your adventure” style of travel? or do you prefer to have everything all planned out?