My daughter has a swim meet every year in St. Peterburg, Florida. This past year, the meet fell on the first weekend of our spring break. Since Jessie and I were already there, I had Rob fly down with the boys to meet us for the week. Over the 9 days that we were in Florida, we stayed at 3 amazing hotels, they got better at each location, and guess what? Yup, all the hotels we stayed in were for free!!!!!! Here is how we did it!
First Four Free Nights In St. Peterburg at The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club
Jessie and I started the Thursday before spring break in St. Peterburg at The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. (Marriott Rewards Category 7) We stayed here four nights for 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. How did I have 100,000 Marriott Points handy? Well earlier in the year I took advantage of an offer for 50,000 Marriott Rewards bonus points upon getting the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. (Rob just took advantage of a 70,000 bonus point offer) My task to get the points: spend $2,000 in 3 months. So I did! Don’t forget, I spent this $2,000 on my normal purchases. I am not buying anything extra to meet these minimum spend requirements. I just merely made the Marriott credit card my main credit card until I hit $2,000. Then I put the card in my drawer. Oh, and the fee was waived the first year!
These 50,000 Marriott Rewards points gave me 2 nights free out of my 4 night stay. But I wanted the whole hotel stay for free. So I transferred another 50,000 points out of my Chase Ultimate Rewards Account into my Marriott Rewards Account. Boom, my whole stay on points!!!! This hotel, conservatively, would have been about $400 per night. I saved $1,600. Nice!!
Our stay at this hotel was great. The hotel is located on the downtown waterfront with really pretty views of the boats on Tampa Bay. There are many shops and restaurants in downtown St Petersburg, all very close to the hotel. The rooms are really big and nicely decorated. There are always free snacks in the lobby that they frequently change (please take away the Bit-O-Honeys!)
Although a little crowded at times, the pool is big and has a fun waterfall. There is also tennis, golf and a spa, none of which I got to enjoy as my days are spent there at Jessie’s swim meet. (But wouldn’t trade this for anything ) During our stay, Jessie and I ate dinner on the gorgeous porch (best part of the hotel) and had many lunches in between meet sessions at the at the casual Veranda Café. Also don’t forget, I got 5 Marriott Rewards points per dollar by using my Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card on these non-room charges.
Next 2 Nights in Bonita Springs at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa
We picked Rob and the boys up Monday morning at Tampa International Airport and drove down to Bonita Springs for our next free destination, the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa. How did we get this stay for free?……..
Well, awhile ago, I got the Chase Hyatt Visa Card and fulfilled the spend bonus of $1,000 in 3 months with the annual fee of $75 waived the first year. This offer is still available. For doing so, I received 2 FREE NIGHTS at any Hyatt, even Hyatt’s highest category properties (Categories 6 and 7). We used these 2 free nights to stay at this Hyatt. (Hyatt Gold Passport Category 5). Conservatively, this hotel would have cost about $350 per night. Chalk up another $700 in savings!
We had so much fun at this hotel! The hotel overlooks Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It has a casual resort feel and was very family friendly! Our room was modern and spacious.
There are 3 pools on the property. One of which has a 140 foot water slide and another which has a lazy river. WOW! The hotel however is not on the beach. To get to the beach you take a 15 minute water taxi ride to the Hyatt’s private beach on Big Hickory Island. The beach has chairs and umbrellas but no lifeguards or snack bars. During the days we relaxed and hung out at the pools and beach and at night, we checked out some of Bonita Springs restaurants. We had two really good meals, one at Bice Grand Cafe and the other at Roys.
When we checked out of the hotel, we paid for the non-room charges on our bill with my Chase Hyatt Visa as we earn 3 points for every $1 spent at all Hyatt properties.
Last 3 Nights in Miami at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort
We saved the best hotel for last! The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. This Starwood Resort was an SPG Category 7. It was unbelievable and maybe even possibly worth the 30,000 Starwood points a night we used. The price of the room would have easily cost about $1,000 per night, yes we saved $3,000 using Starwood points! (We would never have stayed at a hotel like this if we had to pay!).
As for how I had so many Starwood points to cover this, I have had the Starwood Amex for a long time, use it often and have accumulated Starwood points over many years. In addition, we happen to be a Starwood Vacation Network timeshare owner and this ownership can be converted to Starwood points in any year that the timeshare is not used. In the past, I have taken advantage of this opportunity. (More about this timeshare in a later post)
The hotel was amazing. The room was really big and the bathroom was gorgeous! We had a huge patio with comfy lounge chairs and a table and a view of the ocean, a rare treat for us! The kids could have stayed in the room all day playing with the touchscreen lighting, touchscreen temperature and the electronically controlled curtains. AND lets not forget about a wall mirror in the bathroom that turned into a flat screen tv!
Miami Beach was in the hotel’s backyard. Each day upon arriving at the beach, we were greeted by a hotel staff member who basically set up beds for us on our lounge chairs. Towels, a pillow and top sheet, I had never been this comfortable on a lounge chair ever! The pool was also beautiful and was surrounded by these same comfy lounge chairs. We had a delicious yet very pricey lunch each day at the pool. (This is something you must consider if you plan to use your points to stay at a top property, most of the time the non-room charges are ridiculously expensive!)
After our fun filled days at the hotel, we had amazing dinners in a few different parts of the city. We went to Pubbelly Sushi and Tongue & Cheek in Miami Beach and Michael’s Genuine (my favorite) in Miami’s design district. Now I know why Miami is known for its food. Everywhere we had dinner was incredible! Thanks Lisa C for the recommendations. The day we were coming home, we had lunch in South Beach at the very popular News Cafe. (We did not see anyone famous )
Upon checkout from the St Regis, I paid for our very expensive non-room charges with my Starwood Preferred American Express as I earn 2 points for every dollar spent with the card (not to mention the other 3 points I get for my spending because I am a Gold member).