Fly or Drive?: Traverse City, Michigan

There is a sweet spot on whether to drive or fly somewhere and you can calculate it here. According to this site it would be absurd not to drive from ORD to TVC, but I consider 6 hours in a car with two kids intolerable, so let’s look at using Avios Via AmEx transfer with the 40% bonus:

For cash for a one way we are looking at $290 a segment!

$290-$5.60 fee, we end up spending 7,500 Avios for a $284.40 ticket at 3.7 cents per point. When we take in the account of the bonus time we are only using 5,357 MR points at 5.3 cents per point for a one way ticket! Now it’s not fair to calculate one way segments since there is often a premium on single leg journeys. so I plugged in for round trip and AA wants $404 for a round trip:

We then can see the return leg is 7,500 Avios as well as the $5.60 fee.

If we take in the account of a $404 ticket minus the $11.20 fee we get $392.80/15,000 = 2.6 cents per avios or 3.6 cents per MR point using the 40% bonus. This is very stellar redemption as it is only 2.2 cents when using the AmEx Business Card 50% bonus. To fly 3 adults, a child and infant it would cost me 42,857 MR points moved to 60,000 Avios. This my friend is worth not driving if you are sitting on a crap ton of points with no where to go. With flying you get lounge access, and get to just relax as 6 hours of driving are reduced to 35 mins of flight time. Again it is not worth the $1,616 to actually buy the tickets if you have a car and 6 hours to drive.

Since we are flying and not driving, we won’t have a car so we need to rent one. I went ahead and used my $325 a year benefit on My US Bank Altitude Card to rent from Hertz. I then used CDP code 211762 on my AmEx Platinum card to get 20% 0ff.

Whats funny is they didn’t force me to use my AmEx Plat card for the booking to get the 20% off. I used US Bank Altitude for the free primary rental car insurance as well as the $325 credit. It essentially made the rental free!

On top of that I have Hertz Presidential Circle with my United Club Credit Card. I was given an upgrade from a Toyota 4Runner or similar to a pretty sweet GMC Acadia for $77 a day. I declined all the insurance to get the car for $320 for 4 days, which was all credited by the good folks at US Bank as part of my $400 annual fee. I also ended up getting 3x points for 4.5 cents worth of redemption ($14.40) for future travel. Similar results could of been had with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

In terms of hotels I just got the Chase IHG card for 105,000 points and Platinum Status. The only Holiday Inn Resort in the Midwest is found in Traverse city at 615 East Front Street. This hotel has its own beach and nice dock for weddings. The property sits on the West Bay of the Grand Traverse Bay with amazing sunsets and sunrises with the horizon facing north.

The booked rate for the wedding I was attending was $329 a night! Now if we consider points we can get a room for 40,000 points a night these points can also come from Chase Ultimate rewards at a 1:1 ratio, but would not be worth it as you are getting less than 1.5 cents per point. Remember you can book with UR for travel directly with Chase for 1.5 cents per point. I ended up booking with cash on the IHG card to complete my spend. This also opened up more nights to book and at a value of .64 cents per point according to points penguin we are getting 10% back per booking.

When using the IHG card we get 5 points per dollar spent including incidentals and for taxes. We then get another 15 cents per dollar spent on room rate as platinum members for. My calculations show the $1,216 spent on three nights resulted in 16,148 from IHG and then 6,080 from chase. If we value the points at .64 cents we get $142.25 of value from $1,216 spend (11% cashback). The card came with 105,000 points worth $672 and that is on top of the annual free night, so we are pretty much ahead of the $49 annual fee on this one.

The hotel was nice, it actually has a kids arcade and play room on the second floor that isn’t well advertised. I took advantage of the indoor pool and private beach. The views are spectacular, and the scene is pretty much right out of a post card.

I was able to get free drink coupons for 2 adults per stay as a IHG Platinum Member. My reservation was split up in two stays because the room block for the wedding didn’t include Sunday night. On the last night I got free breakfast for everyone for both mornings as that was the rate they booked me in, as well as two more drink coupons for platinum:

Breakfast was valued around $71.56 each morning for two mornings for a total of $143. The drinks were running about $6 a pop so that’s $24 right there, lets just say $200 just free comps.

The best part of Traverse City is it is close to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can get an annual Park Pass for military for $0 to get the $15 entrance fee waived. Just hang the card, signature out on the rear view mirror to get waived in to the parks. Go in the visitors center and show your CAC to get a pass and hang tag.

The 1,000 foot sand dune is fun to run up. Other attractions are a Historic Village and old precursor to the Coast Guard rescue station.If you are sitting on points like me and want a quick vacation, don’t have this sort of anxiety to use them for a short trip. I think a lot of times we save up for some spectacular European vacation, but it just never happens and the points devalue. No regrets at all to spend points for 4 days in the place that Kid Rock signs about in “All Summer Long”.


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