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Travel Hacking Our Way to San Francisco!

Updated on August 23, 2016
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Guomeng is a recent doctoral graduate who enjoys traveling through minimizing out of pocket expense while maximizing on the experience.

How we saved over $1,000 for our San Francisco trip!

The Mrs. and I have just booked our flights and made hotel reservations for our 6 days/5 nights trip to San Francisco, CA next month. We planned this trip with the goal of spending minimally on transportation and lodging while maximizing on the actual experience in San Francisco (so maybe splurge on dining?).

We will be flying with Delta (I know, given the very recent power outage that caused massive worldwide delays on Delta flights, you'd think I'd know better than flying with this legacy carrier, right?)

Flight (per person):
CID - MSP - SFO - MSP - CID: redeemed 27,500 Delta Skymiles + $11.20 in tax (I used the Citi Prestige card to pay the taxes for the tickets, why? See below).
Cash value: $383.20 per person

Lodging:
JW Marriott San Francisco: 3 nights. Redeemed 90,000 Marriott points earned from the sign-up bonus of the Chase Marriott Premier card + $480.69.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: 2 nights. Redeemed a free night certificate from the Chase Hyatt card for the first night, redeemed 10,000 Hyatt points + $146.31 for the 2nd night.

Total cost for flights & lodging if paid with cash:
$1528.94 (3 nts @ JW Marriott SF)
$785.01 (2 nts @ Grand Hyatt SF)
$766.40 (2 pairs of roundtrip tickets)
-------
$3078.35

So the cost for transportation and lodging alone would have cost us ~$3,100. Instead, by leveraging airline miles and hotel loyalty points, we paid $649.40 ($324.70 per person). Now of course, we could have stayed at a cheaper hotel, but paying for the cheapest hotel rate (Hotel Bijou, $190+tax/night, $1,104.37 for 5 nights) will still cost us over $1,000.

Why did I use the Citi Prestige card to pay the taxes for the tickets? That is because the Prestige card, along with a few other credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers complimentary travel insurance (including flight delays). Given that any flight delays can be detrimental to a planned vacation (and you can't predict whether a flight will be delayed or not with much accuracy), the added benefits and compensation provided by cards such as the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Preferred provides us with a bit more peace of mind.

It will be the Mrs.'s first time to San Francisco and only my second time there since 2009, so we are looking forward to this trip, hoping to visit the redwoods of the Muir Woods National Monument, sampling the wineries of Napa Valley as well as (re)visiting the infamous Alcatraz prison.

San Francisco

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