Travel Tip Favorites: Evaluating Hotel Points vs Free Night Offers

Ran into this article today and it is a great tool to help decide if you should go with the hotel points as a credit card bonus or if you should go with the free nights.  I came to this dilemma ad I recently applied for a Hilton Honors credit card.  The problem was figuring out if I should get the AMEX card that offered 100k points or the Citibank card that offered two free weekend nights.  Some Hilton properties can cost 100k point alone just for one night, so the better value looks like getting the Citibank card with the free weekend nights.  But after considering my upcoming travel needs, I decided to go with the AMEX card that offered 100k points.  I did this because it also offers one free Hilton reward night on account anniversary and I can be more flexible about redeeming the 100k points at cheap properties and at higher end ones.  In the end, I think I can squeeze out a little more value out of the 100k points instead of just the free weekend night certificates.  I could be wrong, but I’m okay with my decision and we’ll see how my points redemption works out in 2018.  Check out the article below…


Free Nights vs Free Points: What is Best?


Trip Building: When in Rome

Trip planning can just be as exciting as the actual trip itself — and it can also be just as overwhelming!  Our cruise ends just outside Rome, Italy on Saturday, July 22nd.  We will take a taxi to the train station and then a train into Rome…and then???  Yeah, exactly.  Rome is HUGE and some travelers can spend over a week there.  We do not quite have that much time, but I do want to allow for enough time to see the major sites and not be on the constant Go-Go-Go.  The first thing I had to decide on is where to stay.  And after much research reading books, blogs and travel advice forums it seems to be the neighborhood of Travestere is where we will stay.  It has a great location close to most attractions and has easy public transportation available.  As for our days of sightseeing, I’ve decided on this rough outline:

Saturday 7/22:  Taxi and train to hotel, check in by 5:00pm, walk around and check out the neighborhood

Sunday 7/23:  Tour the Forum and Coliseum

Monday 7/24:  Tour the Vatican and Sistine Chapel

Tuesday 7/25:  Day trip to Tivoli and visit Villa D’Estate and Villa Adrianna

Wednesday 7/26:  “Rest Day” – stroll the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps, both within a half hour walk of our hotel

Thursday 7/27:  Depart Rome to ???

It seems like we have to much time in Italy, but the more I read up about places the more I find that “I want to go there too!” but there just isn’t enough days to do it all.  I am also keeping an eye out for incredible cruise deals leaving from Rome.  The cruises I am tracking haven’t had any fire sales that would change our plans, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the next several weeks for anything that comes up.  As a matter of fact, there is a smoking good deal now, but we wouldn’t be able to catch our flight out of Milan and back to the US.  Here is the deal:


11 day cruise on the Norwegian Spirit for a rock bottom fare of $590.  Add in port and taxes and it comes to $776.  Add in the tips/gratuities for the crew of $14 per person, per day and that comes to $154.  Add everything up and the total price is $930.  Divide that by 11 days and it is around $84.50 per person, per day which definitely hits our sweet spot of cruise pricing.  Here is the full itinerary:

Date Port Arrive Depart
Sunday, July 30 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 5:00pm

Monday, July 31 At Sea

Tuesday, August 1 Dubrovnik, Croatia 8:00am 5:00pm

Wednesday, August 2 Venice, Italy Noon

Thursday, August 3 Venice, Italy 6:00pm

Friday, August 4 Koper, Slovenia 8:00am 5:00pm

Saturday, August 5 Split, Croatia 8:00am 4:00pm

Sunday, August 6 Corfu, Greece 11:00am 7:00pm

Monday, August 7 Olympia (Katakolon), Greece 8:00am 5:00pm

Tuesday, August 8 Valletta, Malta 1:00pm 8:00pm

Wednesday, August 9 At Sea

Thursday, August 10 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 6:00am


We would book this cruise if it only arrived back to Rome a day before.  As it stands, our flight leaves at 4:00pm on that Thursday from Milan and there are too many variables and possible setbacks that would prevent us from getting back to Milan on the same day.  So as far as this vacation deal, we will have to pass.

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend Cruise from Los Angeles

Here are the exact costs from last month’s three-day cruise out of Los Angeles…

$718.16 Carnival Cruise fare $906.86 TOTAL
$77.70 cruise tips 3 days
$158.00 Airfare SW
$10.00 MAX tickets $302.29 Daily average per person
$5.50 LAX to pier transport $151.14 Daily average per peson, per day
-$130.00 Onboard cruise credit
$27.50 Lyft fare from pier to LAX $796.00 Cruise only portion with tips
$5.00 Elephant’s Deli dinner PDX $265.00 Daily average per person for cruise
$15.00 Souvenirs $133.00 Daily average per person, per day for cruise
$20.00 Extra drinks on board


Our cruise fare came plus tips came to almost $800, which breaks down to around $265 per day and $133 per person, per day.  This is not the sweet spot of cruise deals and one that we would probably pass on.  However, the dates were just right and we were just looking for an excuse to use an unused Southwest Airlines credit, so that is why we picked the cruise we did.  It also helped that we were able to get $130 in shipboard spending money, so when we factor that bonus in the cost of the cruise ends up being $800 – $130 = $670, bringing down the per day cost to $223 and then only $112 per person, per day.

Our airfare on Southwest was only $158 round trip and the reason why that fare is so low is because we have the Companion Pass, which allows Lisa to travel for free as my companion.  Without that pass, the cost would have been $316 round trip.  Our only other expenses were transportation related on public transit and one Lyft ride.  Food was covered by our Priority Pass lounge pass for Friday breakfast and Sunday lunch, and we bought dinner at the Portland Airport Sunday night at Elephant’s Deli (using their 50% off evening discount).

In total, we spent just a shade over $900 for our three-day weekend and that covered everything from food, airfare and cruise fare.  While our aim is to be under $200 total per day, given the circumstances that we just needed a short weekend getaway, $300 per day was doable and necessary.  Despite the short duration, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and if the timing, cruise fare and the airfare were right, we would definitely do it again!

Team Up for Students 5k Run & Walk

This is the third annual Washington County Team Up For Students 5K run and walk to benefit Washington County Schools. This is also the third consecutive year that Lisa and I have participated. Last year Mike and I ran the course and did burpees after every mile. However this year Mike is out for the weekend so it was just me and Lisa to run or walk the course. Since I am training for my half marathon in Seattle next month this was a great opportunity for me to get in a longer run. So instead of doing the 5K, I ran the course twice and did 10K.


Prerace photo, it was raining cats and dogs just ten minutes earlier...


Post race hydration - - water!, my favorite beverage of choice