A few weeks ago we stayed at the luxury wellness resort Miraval, located an hour north of Tucson.
The retail cost of the trip was $4,338.5, which is broken down below. The actual price we paid? $243.50. We got over $4,000 of value for free. How’d we do it? We got the hotels and airfare for free via credit and airline points. See, things don’t have to be super expensive. You can get luxurious things at great values.
Breakdown of Value of the Trip
The below are total retail costs for the two of us:
2 Nights Miraval Dreamcatcher: $3288 (free)
1 Night Hyatt Place: $89 (Free)
Roundtrip Flights for two NYC->Tucson: $636 (free)
Transport To/From Tucson Airport: $82 (estimated via Uber)
Transport To/From La Guardia Airport NYC: $50 (estimated via Uber)
Car Rental for 3rd day to explore Tucson: $56
Food for 3rd day for two: $104.5
Pima Air Museum 3rd Day for two: $33
Total Retail: $4338.5
Total we paid: $243.5
What Did We Pay For Ourselves?
The only things we paid for with actual dollars are the food costs on the 3rd day, the cost of the Pima Air Museum, the rental car, and the Uber in NYC to/from the airport. If we’re being technical, the luxury trip was free because the third day we stayed at the Hyatt Place for free and explored the city instead.
Free Miraval – Hyatt Category Explanation
So, how did this trip start? We got 2 nights free for signing up for the Chase Hyatt Card last year. It was a really awesome bonus since those two nights could be used at any Hyatt hotel. The bonus has since changed to 40,000 Hyatt points, which is both good and bad.
Hyatt hotels are classified into categories 1-7, with point redemptions ranging from 5,000 – 30,000. As you can see, previous 2 night certificates could be redeemed for 2 nights in a category 7, which would be worth 60,000 points for a two night stay. That’s the bad part of the 2 night certificate change if you love staying at luxury hotels. If you’re more the kind of person who wants to stretch their points for normal properties, this is good for you because you’ll get up to 8 nights at a Hyatt (5,000 points at the category 1 hotels).
Miraval is not even in a category. It’s beyond 7. A couple of years ago, Hyatt bought the privately owned wellness resort and started to include it in their redemption program. For a normal room, Miraval is 45,000 points per night for a single person and then 20,000 more points for a second person. So that’s 65,000 points per night for a normal room. 2 nights would be 130,000 points, which is an incredible redemption for our 2 night certificate from Hyatt.
FYI, Miraval is running a 50 percent discount on both points and cash for its rooms for the summer (June 1 to August 31st, 2018). This is its low season since Miraval is located in the desert and gets higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When we went a few months ago the weather was quite nice, but the tides are turning. So if you can stomach that kind of heat and still enjoy your vacation, it might be worth it to check out the award or cash stay.
UR points are transferable to Hyatt so if you have a bunch of extra, you can use those. You get 50,000 points when signing up with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, so that’s another way to go for more nights if you want.
Why Did We Choose Miraval?
We caught a lucky break, as we were ruminating on booking the 2 free nights at Hyatt at the Paris Vendome, Park Hyatt Milan, Park Hyatt St. Kitts, or Hyatt Zilara. We talked to our most senior points guy in our friend group and he asked why we weren’t booking the Miraval (shoutout to Harry, whom you might remember from this snowboarding story). It hadn’t come up on our radar because we didn’t see it on any of the blogs posts we Googled. Having knowledgable friends is better than Google sometimes.
Why did we love the Miraval redemption? Free transport to/from the Tucson airport, all inclusive wellness resort (free food, no tipping even if you tried, etc), and $175 resort credit per person per night. There were also free unlimited wellness, physical, and spiritual activities at the resort. The only things you had to pay for was alcohol (we don’t drink), the spa (let’s be honest, otherwise I would be in there all day and so would probably everyone else), and the occasional private class (some cooking classes, horseback riding, etc). The bf was excited for advanced mountain biking (free), which was amazing the dessert.
It also had the best spa in the country, and oh man, those massages were heaven! Plus, we could really use that relaxation as it’s been somewhat of a rough year personally.
Booking Miraval Through The Phone
There’s no online booking for Hyatt certs through Miraval, so I rang them up and booked with the sweetest operator. The booking took over an hour because their systems couldn’t handle searching across multiple dates for activities and we wanted to stay during two days with our favorite activities available.
I was somewhat surprised at this because if people are paying more than four figures a night, they might expect reasonable tech. It’s possible people just emailed requests for activities though. We needed to book them on the phone because we decided we were going just a few weeks prior and the activities were getting filled up.
We were also upgraded to a Dreamcatcher room, which is one step above their lowest offering, the Native Spirit. I don’t think that’s normal and they only booked up into that room because all Native Spirits were sold out.
My complete Miraval review is here (coming out tomorrow), because this post was getting too long!
Airfare on Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
For airfare, we used Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points to buy our American Airlines tickets through the UR travel portal, where the points are worth 1.5 cents per piece. Are there better redemptions than the 1.5 cents we got for them? Oh, absolutely (hint, international business class or last minute domestic redemptions). But we aren’t running low on points and just like in real life, inflation strikes points and miles redemptions. Remember the Hyatt example above? Use them or lose them. We did all this because UR points are worth 1.5 cents in the travel portal, but just 1 cent for cashback. We declined travel insurance because the Chase Sapphire Reserve has that for free as a perk on the card.
Using Our Annual Night Free On The Hyatt Card
We also got the third Hyatt night free at the Hyatt Place in Tucson because you get one free night each year you have the Hyatt Card for a category 1-4 property after your anniversary. So you’d get your free annual certificate at least 1 year after you got your card. Again, could we have used it for a better redemption? Probably. Couldn’t figure out what category this Hyatt Place was, but it’s at most a category 4, since we were able to book it with the certificate. If you know of how to figure out the categories of Hyatt hotels, please let me know down below.
There was free breakfast for two with stay. We missed it because the bf didn’t realize what time breakfast ended and woke up earlier than me. I woke up at 9:36AM and said sleepily, “Breakfast stops at 9:30, you might want to get some. If it’s closed can we get In-And-Out?” He missed breakfast and we went to a nice diner instead. Make sure you know when breakfast is and get up in time!
We also got 2 free bottles of water due to our Discoverist status with Hyatt, which they hand out to everyone who has the Hyatt credit card. The annual fee is $75, but considering you get a free night every year, it’s worth it. Also, they give bonus points when spending on Hyatt hotels so we do our Hyatt spending on there.
We took the Uber in NYC to/from the airport.
We booked a rental car in Tucson for the third day and declined insurance because our Chase Sapphire Reserve has free insurance as a perk on the card.
Food Outside The Resort
For food, we went to In-And-Out twice for the double double burger and animal fries. Oh man, do I wish we had one in NYC. But maybe it’s a good thing we don’t as that might be too tempting. After all, we did just get Chick-Fil-A a few years ago. We went to a cute coffee shop, got some Asian food, caught a bit of live music, and then got some snacks at the airport (they have surprisingly good hot dogs).
We also took a stop at the Pima Air Museum, which was quite fun. The bf loves aircrafts. Looking at them up close, it still amazes me they don’t encounter more accidents. So many moving parts! We tried to get a tour of the boneyard where donated aircraft sat in the desert heat, but were told you needed to schedule that 10 days in advance (in case you guys decide to get the tour).
Minute Suites In Charlotte – Priority Pass
Our flight home stopped in Charlotte, so we decided to take a nap in the minute suites. After all, we love using our Priority Pass, which comes free with the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Normal rates are $42 per hour in a minute suite. We both have Priority Pass and are each granted one hour for free in the suite. Our connection was in 2.5 hours, so it was the perfect amount of time.
Most Priority passes grant you free access to lounges with food (usually business class and above lounges), food outright (Singapore was an example of this – we got free sushi at a restaurant in addition to staying at a lounge), or access to rooms where you can rest for a few hours or take a shower (mostly minute suites in the US).
I also got Bojangles at the airport because I missed that place a lot. I think there were three StarBucks in that airport, which is kind of insane. At this point we were pretty sleepy so we took a nap for a bit. There was an Alexa Echo in the room, so we played around with it. I can’t remember what song I asked for specifically, but it started playing “The Duck Song” instead, which was just hysterical as we were so sleepy. Listen to it for yourself. Waddle waddle.
Where To Next?
We landed thoroughly refreshed. Someday soon we can travel full-time with geographic arbitrage. Until then, these vacations are gold :).
We’re looking at the Bahamas, south of France, or the Riviera for our next trip, but we’ve been known to change our plans as well. Also thinking of Iceland with the Wow layovers but landing in Europe. Any great places you guys have been that you’d recommend?
Missed the last trip we wrote a blog post about? Here are the parts to our Japan trip:
Hope that helped you guys understand our redemption process for miles and points! Let me know in the comments below some of your best redemptions or any questions you guys may have!
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