Once-In-A-Lifetime Experiences I've Earned With Credit Card Rewards
As a travel rewards enthusiast, I've burned through well over a million points and miles in the last few years alone. While I've cashed in some of our credit card points for boring stuff (think motel stays and flights to work conferences), my family and I have also enjoyed once-in-a-lifetime excursions that have helped us see the world in new ways. (See also: 5 Steps to Getting a Free Vacation in 9 Months)
The best part is, these experiences have all been free, thanks to travel rewards credit card points and airline miles. Here are some of the most memorable adventures we've checked off our bucket list using rewards points.
Snorkeling with stingrays in Grand Cayman
In May of 2016, I surprised my husband with a trip to Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. We used points from the Starwood Preferred Guest program to stay at The Westin Grand Cayman, and we paid for our flights with American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
The highlight of the trip: an excursion to Stingray City, a famous stretch of sandbar that's home to dozens of huge stingrays. I booked this excursion with Chase Ultimate Rewards points so it didn't even cost a dime.
Once we arrived by boat to the sandbar, we were surrounded by enormous stingrays within minutes. We climbed down a ladder into the crystal-clear water, and the stingrays approached all around. Some let you hold them and even kiss them, while others just swam around our legs. The entire trip was a hoot, and we got awesome pictures of ourselves holding stingrays as big as five feet across. (See also: How to Use Travel Rewards Cards to Get Free Trips)
Luxing out at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme
A few years ago, we used two free nights from my Hyatt credit card to book a weekend stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. Considering the fact that rooms here usually cost $800+ per night, this isn't just any hotel. (See also: How to Stay in a 5-Star Hotel for Less Than the Cost of a Motel)
The lobby is pristine, with art and décor that screams Parisian elegance. The large rooms are decorated in gold leaf, while the whole hotel reeks of luxury and seclusion. The breakfast, which we got for free, was regularly more than $100 for two people. And the service was impeccable.
Because the hotel was the most luxurious I have ever stayed in, it was an experience in itself. (See also: Benefits and Value of the Best Hotel Rewards Programs and Cards)
Exploring Athens on an electric bike
When my husband and I visited Greece in 2016, we wanted a fun and interesting way to see the city. While we did a lot of exploring on foot, we were stoked when we found an electric bike tour we could book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The weather was perfect the day of our trip, making breezing through ancient Athens fun and comfortable. On our electric bikes, we viewed the Acropolis and its famous Parthenon from afar, visited other historic sites like the Roman Agora and the Temple of Zeus, and zipped through busy streets lined with locals and tourists dining al fresco.
We thought the bike tour was the perfect way to see parts of the city up close and can't wait to do something similar again. (See also: Are Airline or Travel Rewards Credit Cards the Better Deal?)
Touring ancient Tuscany on rewards
When we went to Italy a few years ago, we wanted to see some of the countryside near Florence without renting a car. We found the perfect solution: a day trip to three ancient cities throughout Tuscany, which we booked using Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
After we boarded our bus near the train station in Florence, we set off to experience the unique charms of San Gimignano, Pisa, and Siena.
Our visit to the medieval town of San Gimignano was a wander back in time. The walled city is home to beautifully preserved tower homes — the medieval equivalent of skyscrapers. After climbing 200+ steps to the top of the highest tower, we were rewarded with some of Tuscany's best views.
In Pisa, we of course saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa and its adjacent baptistery. And yes, we got a silly picture of ourselves pretending to hold up the tower. Our last stop was Siena, where we visited the beautiful gothic cathedral known as the Siena Duomo, strolled through the famous Piazza del Campo in the heart of the city, then explored the winding city streets on our own. (See also: Which Airline Miles Have the Best Value?)
Snorkeling through Cenotes in Mexico
Another excursion we loved was snorkeling within three separate ecosystems in Mexico. This is yet another trip we booked with points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and it was a great one.
After the bus picked us up at our Playa del Carmen hotel, we went to swim in a freshwater cenote — a natural sinkhole formed where a cave ceiling has collapsed. There, we saw tons of tiny tropical fish and zip-lined from a platform high above. Next, we snorkeled in a freshwater cave with catfish and amazing rock formations. Lastly, we headed to a protected ocean reef where we snorkeled with vast schools of fish and sea turtles. While there, I dove down to the quiet ocean floor and observed stingrays and huge parrot fish. It was an unforgettable experience. (See also: How I Redeemed a $12,000 Family Vacation With Credit Cards in 2 Months)
Plan your own amazing rewards adventure
When it comes to credit card rewards, don't forget to think outside of the box. Sure, you can use your points for a regular flight or hotel stay, but there's so much more you can do.
With the right card, you could take a hot-air balloon ride to see the Loire Valley's famous castles, dive for pearls off the coast of Hawaii, or spend a few nights in a hotel you could otherwise never dream of affording. If you're ready to boost your vacation fun with credit card rewards, be sure to compare travel credit cards to find an option that will help you see the world your own way. (See also: Get Started with Travel Rewards in 4 Simple Steps)
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