7 ways to save serious cash on holiday travel

Want to fly home (or far away) for the holidays? According to AAA, the average price of an airline ticket to fly home around the holidays is close to $500 per person. Checked bags — or even boxes of presents — can set you back $60 or more per trip if you aren’t careful. And if you need to book a hotel room to stay near your family, you’re easily looking at an additional $100 per night, if not more, depending on location.
Quick math says a family of four is in for a few grand in travel costs before they can say, “Ho, Ho — no way that’s too expensive, we’re staying home!”
Fortunately, we have more than a few strategies for saving money every step of the way, whether you want to find affordable flights or save money on bag fees and airport food.
Know how to look for cheap airfare
Despite headlines that suggest otherwise, you can find affordable flights out there, even for holiday travel dates — but you have to know where to look or you won’t find them.
TPG has a complete guide to finding cheap airfare, so I won’t repeat all the tips, but I’ll remind you of my favorite tool: Google Flights, which has a search option that doesn’t require you to put in your destination. This tool is good as gold if your holiday travel plans are still up in the air.
You can put your city as the origin, your preferred travel dates and then just leave the destination blank and see the prices it finds to points near and far.

Or, if you already know exactly where you need to go to trim the tree and break the bread, plug in your origin and destination, and use Google Flights to quickly scan for the cheapest travel date. During the holidays, having even one or two days of flexibility can swing the price over $100 in either direction.
Go where others aren’t
If you live in New York City, flying to sunny Cancun or Aruba during Thanksgiving may be appealing, but it could cost you more than $600 per person. Keep those swimsuits packed away in the drawer, however, and you could save about $150 each if you cross the ocean to London, Amsterdam and Milan instead. And there are plenty of great reasons to visit London — and the rest of Europe — during the holidays beyond cheaper airfare. (Think: Christmas markets and thin crowds.)
Tropical getaways can cost a fortune during the holidays, but from Houston, approximately $200 per person during Thanksgiving week gets you round-trip flights to Las Vegas, which is a great starting point for exploring great outdoors destinations such as the Valley of Fire, Death Valley, Zion and the Grand Canyon if Vegas itself isn’t your thing. They’re all a reasonable drive from Las Vegas, and you don’t have to worry about stifling desert heat during November and December.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. (Photo by Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images)
And travelers based in Los Angeles can spend around $300 round-trip to really skip town and go to Beijing or Shanghai, while approximately $400 on airfare can be the key to spending your holiday hunting for the northern lights in Alaska.
No matter where you’re based, good deals can be found by heading to offseason locales and setting your sights somewhere far from the crowds. Instead of a beachy retreat in the Caribbean or Mexico, or a classic holiday ski week — especially during the December holidays and the New Year — consider a European city break or a national park.
Related: Best places to travel in November
Don’t rule out first class
Here’s the weird thing about the holiday travel season: Leisure travel picks up, but business travel grinds to a halt. Business travelers are usually the ones snapping up first class seats on someone else’s dime or with their frequent flyer perks. So, around the holidays, it’s not that unusual to find first class seats that don’t cost much more than economy would if you pay with cash — and with miles, those first class fares may be cheaper than economy. This was true on the search I ran on flights from Houston (IAH) to Los Angeles (LAX) the day before Thanksgiving.
That nonstop flight is available for 30,000 American Airlines miles in economy, but the exact same flight in first class is just 25,000 American Airlines miles.

And on Nov. 26, American’s economy seats from New York-JFK to Miami International (MIA) aren’t available using partner miles, such as British Airways Avios. But you can fly that same route in domestic first class/business class for just 16,500 Avios, plus $5.60 in taxes and fees.
Related: How to fly American’s best business class seats domestically

Be a points pro
I know, your favorite airline frequent flyer program or using points at a fixed cash value is your warm and comfy spot. But this is the holiday season, when otherwise sane people line-up at Walmart at midnight to save a few bucks on a gadget or gizmo. This is when we cut down live trees, cover them in tiny lights and fake snow, and watch them die slowly over the course of a month in our living rooms.
Mostly, however, it’s the time to up your points game if you want to save a lot of money on holiday travel.
Learn about transferring those Chase, Capital One, Citi and Amex points to partners as it can be the difference between saving all your holiday dreams or emptying out your wallet. Want to fly to snowy Aspen before New Year’s Eve? That’ll cost you 10,000 Avianca LifeMiles from Houston — or more than $300 per person in each direction if you prefer cash. So transfer your miles to Avianca from Capital One, Amex or Citi and book that United flight without blowing your budget.

If you just can’t shake the idea of ditching your turkey and cranberry sauce for sunny Aruba, JetBlue might be your answer, as you can book a one-way flight on the Monday of Thanksgiving week from New York-JFK to Aruba (AUA) for 9,100 points and just $15. If you don’t have JetBlue points right now, that’s not a problem. You can transfer them from Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards to fill your up TrueBlue account.
Eagle Beach in Aruba. (Photo by Marc Boettinger/Getty Images)
Leave early or stay late
Want to pay 32% more for your holiday flights? Go home on Sunday. If you want to avoid that Sunday surcharge, Hipmunk advises travelers to sneak out early or stay an extra couple of days. Whether you depart on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or fly out last-minute on Thanksgiving morning, your savings will be significant if you leave the Friday following Thanksgiving. Even Saturday departures are significantly less expensive than those turkey-stuffed travelers flying on Sunday. You can also save on the front-end of the trip if you head home for Thanksgiving on Monday or Tuesday instead of waiting for Wednesday.
While we’re talking about travel dates, yes, Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas and the New Year are very busy and often pricey. But those first couple weeks in December are slower than normal and there are outstanding deals to be had if you’re OK taking your holiday trip sandwiched between the most popular travel times. There are other timeless travel tips that still hold true, too. Among them? It’s almost always cheaper to fly on the holiday itself.
Last year, Expedia reported, travelers saved roughly $100 by flying on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve versus travelers who began their trip the Saturday before.
Photo by Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock
Ship it or pack it?
It can cost $30 to $50 for a standard checked bag on a domestic flight. Ideally, you have a way around those fees thanks to elite status or with the right credit card in your wallet, but if you don’t, that adds up. If your bag is overweight or oversized, it adds up even faster.
For example, a 50-pound bag would cost at least $90 to check with Spirit Airlines, as it’s overweight by a good 10 pounds. However, in the case of our test flight from Houston to New York, you could ship it via a UPS extra-large simple ship box (up to 50 pounds) for about $24. If you don’t want to shop around yourself, you can use the site LugLess to price out and purchase shipping for your stuff with services ranging from DIY dropoff to doorstep pick-up and delivery.
Shipping won’t aways be cheaper, but it can be. Even if shipping isn’t cheaper, it will usually be easier than lugging extra stuff and waiting around at baggage claim. Just be sure to allow some buffer delivery time around the holidays.
Fill up for free
It’s a known fact of life that airport food is expensive. Sure, you can pack your own snacks and sandwiches from home (and huge high fives if you do), but you may have enough going on around the holidays without slicing grapes and melons before heading to the airport. If you get to the airport hungry or thirsty, remember there are 28 restaurants across 21 U.S. airports where a Priority Pass lounge membership that comes with select credit cards may buy you and your friend(s) or family a free meal.
Whether you’re starting your journey or connecting at an airport such as Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Boston (BOS), Miami (MIA) or St. Louis (STL), pack a Priority Pass membership that didn’t come with an Amex card, and get around $28 per person worth of free food — usually at least one or two guests is allowed a $28 food allowance, too.
Eat at Landry’s in Houston’s Terminal C for free (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
If you do have The Platinum Card® from American Express, swipe your way into one of the Amex Centurion Lounges across the country in airports such as New York-LGA, Philadelphia (PHL) Miami (MIA), Las Vegas (LAS) or Houston (IAH) and visit the buffet or bar with up to two guests at no extra charge.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Bottom line
The holidays are a dichotomy of extremes — it can be a magical time to travel, relax and spend time with family, but it can also be stressful, harried and expensive. Our goal is to help you minimize the stress and expense that can come with holiday travel. Since the holidays fall around the time of year that winter weather picks up, be sure and book the trip with a card that conveys trip insurance (or buy your own) in case you hit delays or cancellations. You’ll also want to ensure that your PreCheck, Global Entry and/or CLEAR memberships are up to date so you can get through airport security faster.
Cheaper holiday travel is a very real thing, as long as you are strategic with when you fly, where you travel and what type of rewards you use to help you get there.
Featured image by Bernd Ducke/Courtesy Munich Airport

Visiting Exuma With Kids

If you want to escape the crowds flowing out of oversized cruise ships into the major tourist centers of the Bahamas, it’s time to visit the untouched islands of Exuma. There, isolation brings serenity and the beaches and marine life make Exuma perfect for kids or even the pickiest traveler.
Exuma consists of 365 individual islands with Great Exuma and its main village of George Town as the gateway to surrounding isles. You can fly or arrive by boat but the effort of getting there is rewarded by crowd-free beaches and perfect sunsets.
When to Go
Exuma is a tropical destination you can visit year-round, with consistent temperatures in the high 70s to 90s. Many people prefer to visit from December through May,  when it’s dry and a pleasant escape from winter elsewhere, but it is also the peak travel season.
The months from July through October are hurricane season with an average temperature in the high 80s but you could experience high winds and cloudy days. Be sure to buy travel insurance if you visit during hurricane season. If you’re looking to save a few bucks with less risk, travel to the Exumas in the beginning of July or the end of October.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
How to Get There
Flights arrive at Exuma International Airport at George Town (GGT) on Great Exuma, or you can connect via boat from Nassau (NAS). Flights are available on American Airlines, Bahamas Air, Delta Air Lines and Silver Airways (a United Partner). Look for JetBlue’s flash sales when prices are ultra-affordable or try booking a United flight with your MileagePlus miles.
The Silver Airways flight leaves from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and availablity looks wide open in late autumn. If you can get to FLL from your city, the entire trip should be 17,500 miles one-way in economy. This is a great price going directly to Great Exuma.
Screenshot via United Airlines
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your United account instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Just remember to log into your United account before searching for award availability since flyers with elite status and holders of cobranded credit cards like the United Explorer Card get access to additional award options.
After landing at George Town or Nassau, you can get to the other islands by high-speed boat. Most families stay on the main Exumas and make daytrips to other islands, most of which don’t offer accommodations or are owned by celebrities.
What to Do in Exuma With Kids?
Sightseeing tours by boat from Great Exuma start at $250 per person. Yes, that’s pricey for a family but most shared tours offer a full day of attractions with lunch included. You’ll need to rely on tour operators to see and do most activities.
For children, the recommended age to travel on a high-speed boat is 4 years old. Our daughter was 3 when we visited Exuma but she has traveled on similar boats before. A few things to keep in mind as a first-time traveler on a high-speed boat is that the water isn’t always calm and the sun will beat down on you if there’s no sunshield or roof on the boat. Bring a jacket for the wind and lots of sunscreen.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
 
Look to the Chase travel portal for outfitters that offer a variety of the tours we mention below. You can pay cash or use your Ultimate Rewards points to pay for activities offered via the portal.

Or, earn 2 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on tours booked through Viator.com

Hit the Beach
Here are the best beaches to visit with kids on Great Exuma:

Coco Plum Beach: This public beach is free to visit and has a sandbar directly off its shoreline. Coco Plum is a great spot to collect sand dollars. The only downside is that there are no amenities, beach bars or restaurants.
Stocking Island: Across from George Town, this amazing beach stretches for three deserted miles. You’ll likely have it all to yourself, all day. There are also a few dining options on the island. The public beach is free but to get here, you must take a water taxi for $15 per person round-trip.
Jolly Hall Beach: There’s plenty of shade at this free public beach on Augusta Bay on the main island close to George Town.
Hoopers Bay: If you want to see turtles, visit Hoopers Bay. There’s no charge to see the turtles that come ashore to nest. There’s plenty of free parking across from this free public beach if you decide to drive.

Go Kayaking
Rolle’s Sea Kayaking on Great Exuma offers a variety of watersport services in the area. Tours are $70 to $90 per person.
Snorkel
If you want to snorkel without time constraints the freedom to explore where you want, rent gear from any of the dive shops on Great Exuma. Or book a snorkel tour.
Here are the best waters to snorkel:

Stocking Island: Off Great Exuma, take a water taxi ($15 per person round-trip).
Three Sisters: Off Queen’s Highway close to George Town in Moss Town (Great Exuma), this beach offers shallow reefs with schools of fish.
Thunderball Grotto: Take a boat tour or private charter to get here. It’s quite a trek from Great Exuma.
Jolly Hall: On Augusta Bay on the main island close to George Town. This reef is filled with schools of grunts and yellowtail snapper.

Try Paddleboarding
If you want to rent a paddleboard in Great Exuma, it will cost $25 per hour, $65 for a half day or $90 for the full day with Exuma Kitesurfing. The company also offers group lessons, free pickup and drop-off.
Visit the George Town Straw Market
At the straw market (open 9am–5pm, Monday–Saturday), you’ll find handmade Bahamian crafts such as straw bags, dolls, hats and shell jewelry.
Swim With Nurse Sharks
You need to take a guided tour boat or hire a private charter from George Town to swim with the nurse sharks at Compass Cay (quite a distance from Great Exuma). it isn’t cheap but the experience is worth it! I recommend taking a shared tour with Exuma Cays Tours. A full-day tour includes visiting Compass Cay for the nurse sharks, Pig Island, sandbanks, Thunderball Grotto (the James Bond film was made here and the grotto is great for snorkeling/diving) and a local island like Staniel Cay for lunch. The tour rate is $250 per person (same price for adults and kids) or you can choose to take a private charter (up to 12 people) for $1,700 to $2,000.
Feed Endangered Bahamian Iguanas
This activity also requires a guided tour boat or a private charter from George Town so your kids can feed the indigenous iguanas. Exuma Cays Adventures offers a variety of stops along the way to Iguana Island. Pricing is the same as the nurse-shark tour mentioned above.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
Feed the Swimming Pigs
You’ve probably heard about the famous swimming pigs of the Bahamas. Families can see them by taking a private or shared tour to Pig Beach (close to Compass Cay). Various tour companies can get you there.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
Visit Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is only accessible by a private charter or boat tour. Admission is free and you can paddleboard and kayak with no equipment rental fees. This is a bit far from Great Exuma.
Photo By Jessica Rooks
Where to Stay?
There are no points-friendly hotels in the Exumas. Your two options: 1) Pay cash for your hotel and “erase” some or all of the statement charges with a credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, or 2) Book through a portal where you can either earn or use points (more on that in a minute).
Here are three hotels to consider on Great Exuma:

Hideaways Exuma is a beachfront hotel in an ideal location six miles from the international airport and less than a 10-minute drive to the main town of George Town. The property offers one-, two- and three-bedroom villas and cottages. Suites have two bedrooms with spacious king or queen beds that accommodate families of up to six people. There is no twin bedding available at the Hideaways Exuma. On site, there is a restaurant, outdoor pool and a variety of water activities for the family. The starting price for a two-bedroom is $187 per night.

Book via Hotels.com/Venture with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 10 miles per dollar on your hotel stay, which is up to 20% back in total rewards.

Exuma Palms is a beachfront hotel in George Town that offers an on-site restaurant and complimentary breakfast each morning. The bedrooms offer twin and queen beds that can accommodate a family of four. The starting price is $128 per night.
Peace and Plenty Resort has an outdoor pool, restaurant and spacious rooms. Rooms with ocean views and more than one bedroom are available and can sleep up to six people. This property offers rooms with twin, queen, and king beds to chose from. Peace and Plenty Resort is also located in George Town.

Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards: Many hotels in the Exumas, including the three I mentioned above, can be booked through Chase travel portal. (See the screen shot below for even more options.) Pay cash and earn points — at a rate as high as 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve — or use your Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for nightly stays.

Bottom Line
If your family is planning a getaway to the Bahamas, I recommend the pristine waters of the Exumas. The white-sand beaches are breathtaking and the surrounding waters offer a host of watersport opportunities and abundant sea life to explore.

Close, but No Cigar: A Review of Mr. C Seaport Hotel in NYC

Before the New York location, only a single Mr. C hotel existed, in Beverly Hills, California. In late 2018, Mr. C Seaport opened in lower Manhattan as a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, and Mr. C Coconut Grove will soon bring the brand to Miami. Brothers Ignazio and Maggio Cipriani are known for their restaurants, but I’ve come to know their work by staying in their newest hotel in New York’s Seaport District NYC (formerly South Street Seaport). The 66-room property feels quiet and quaint, located on the corner of two cobblestone streets just a stone’s throw from a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

In This Post

Booking
This view of the Brooklyn Bridge is just two blocks from Mr. C Seaport.
While Mr. C Seaport is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, it does not partner with any other points-earning alliances. You can book directly, but I bought my three-day stay in January through Hotels.com/Venture. I paid for the room with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card for 10x back via Hotels.com/Venture, a breath of fresh air when it comes to staying at properties that don’t earn points.
 
Even in the dead of winter, I paid $321.93 per night, all taxes and fees included. That was for the property’s cheapest room type, Superior Courtyard, though I was upgraded to a Deluxe Peck Slip room with a solid view by being a Hotels.com Rewards Gold member. It helped that this property was also listed as a VIP venue at Hotels.com, which granted me, as a Gold member, a $10 valet credit, a $10 minibar credit and free premium Wi-Fi. 

As this is a five-star property, you’ll find rates north of $500 if you’re looking to stay during warmer months. Plus, you’ll want to budget $20 per day for the “residence fee.” Best I can tell, this covers a welcome Bellini drink upon arrival (not per day), morning coffee/tea in the lobby, Wi-Fi access, access to a Lincoln Navigator to take you anywhere within a 20-block radius, and two basic laundry services per stay. As with pretty much all resort fees, this one feels like a rip-off as well. 
Location

Remember the Best Western Plus Seaport Inn Downtown? Sitting at 33 Peck Slip, that was the building that now houses Mr. C Seaport. It was purchased for $38.3 million through a bankruptcy auction, and developed by the same duo behind Mr. C Beverly Hills — Bob Ghassemieh and Alex Ghassemieh.
The site was near the Brooklyn Bridge, and even the New York Stock Exchange was walkable on a pleasant day. 

Hurricane Sandy packed a powerful punch in the Seaport, but all appeared to be recovered and humming along just fine. I found the neighborhood to be blissfully quiet for Manhattan — a welcome respite after a bustling day. Cornered by cobblestone streets, the surrounding shops and eateries felt hip yet historic, and the dearth of tall skyscrapers in the immediate vicinity brought a sense of calm and smallness to an otherwise larger-than-life metropolis. 

I’m not exactly the nightlife type, so I wasn’t bothered by the relatively sleepy nature of the businesses surrounding the hotel. I also found the area to be more community than tourist hotspot — a plus, in my book. 

The brand-new Lincoln Navigator available to shuttle you 20 blocks in any direction was on a first-come, first-served basis, and the final stop for the 6 train was about a 10-minute walk away.

I found this to be particularly useful. The uptown 6 line begins at the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station, which meant that I was guaranteed a subway seat for my morning commute to Union Square regardless of when I left the hotel. 
Check-in

I immediately felt underdressed when arriving to check-in. Behind the desk was a gentleman clearly trained in the art of hospitality, dressed to the nines and surrounded by gleaming wooden panels in the lobby. I recall stumbling over the usual, “I’m well, thank you!” response to his initial inquiry, but no matter. He pressed on and made me feel welcome, never pausing to question my ability to form full sentences when handling basic day-to-day interactions. 

Rather than handling paperwork at the check-in counter, I was encouraged to visit a sitting area just behind me where I’d be treated to a welcome Bellini.
Your posture immediately improves upon waltzing into this sitting area.
The sitting area was lush and full of grandeur, as if from a modern European fairy tale: delicate velvet couches, glossy paneling, soft music and a couple of Very Important People making Very Important Calls. I found it a bit much for my simple tastes, but I did appreciate that the gentleman delivering my Bellini was as down-to-earth as they come.

Moments after my Bellini — which was spectacular, by the way — was served, I was presented with a form to initial, an overview of the hotel’s layout, confirmation of my room upgrade and my key. I provided my Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel globally, for any incidentals.
Room

I was upgraded to Room 308, halfway up the building and overlooking Peck Slip. My first impression upon entering was amazement at the square footage. At 263 square feet, I found it quite spacious for a room in Manhattan.

I’d also expected the European sensibilities of the Mr. C brand to further compound the smallness, but mercifully those worries were assuaged. 

All guest rooms featured teak veneer, rainfall showers, 50-inch, 4K televisions and Italian linens so white that you needed sunglasses to properly evaluate them.

My room had a sitting chair, a simple work desk, a massive king bed and a bathroom fit for royalty. I also had plenty of room to navigate and a great view from my window. Plus, the window would open — an appreciated touch given my love of outside air. 

Unfortunately, that same window wasn’t great at blocking sound. Even on the third floor and with the window shut, voices and vehicular noises seeped into my room at all hours of the day (and night). I resorted to cranking a white-noise app on my phone at night to achieve a more restful night. 

The bed was massive and remarkably comfortable, and while the desk chair looked quite curious, it proved to be comfortable. The spacious shower was a real treat, as were the individual bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
Interestingly, the towels were so enormous that they were a bit difficult to handle, but you can bet you’ll never read an online review kvetching about towels being too big. 

The new Samsung HDTV included Chromecast, which was a real boon. This allowed me to use the Netflix app on my iPhone to broadcast “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” to a much larger screen. I’m now completely spoiled. Every hotel should include a television with built-in device streaming. 

One element that I did take issue with was the HVAC. While the wall-mounted control unit was easy enough to figure out, it never seemed to do exactly what I instructed. I genuinely had no idea what the temperature was in my room during my stay. I tried A/C, I tried heat, and I never settled on a comfortable temperature. 
Food and Beverage

At $29.99 per person for breakfast, I decided not to indulge. As part of the $20 residence fee, guests were welcome to coffee and tea in the lobby until 10am each morning, but I had a couple of bones to pick on this front. 

For starters, the coffee was pretty bitter on the two days I went down and partook. But more importantly, I have a strong preference for in-room coffeemakers. In the early morning, the last thing I want to do is go downstairs to a public place to get coffee. The coffee should be in the room, where I’m free to enjoy without being concerned with how I look.

It baffles me that some of the most basic hotel properties in the world can provide gratis Keurig machines for guests, and yet a five-star location charging upwards of $300 per night does not. 
Given the wind and snow outside during my stay, I decided to try dinner at the hotel restaurant, Bellini. On a Monday evening, for nearly two hours, it was just me and one other party of four.

The restaurant itself was beautiful, and the waitstaff was attentive and gracious. I’ll confess that I felt a bit uncomfortable with the fanciness of the service — I can pour my own refills from the water on the table, you know? — but clearly, intentions were good.

What wasn’t good was the entree. My starter salad was fantastic, but the cheese risotto that followed was unremarkable in every way. I ate it, as I was famished, but I then went back to my room and snacked. It tasted overly cheesy with little in the way of nuanced flavor, and it was in no way worth the $20-plus tag assigned to it. 

The most egregious part of the meal, however, was the single bottle of still water. That rang up for $10, roughly a 10-times premium over what I’d pay at a local bodega. That was just outright extortion, and it left yet another bad taste in my mouth. Based on other online reviews, the general perception of Bellini is that it’s solid. Perhaps I just arrived on an off night, but I would recommended dining elsewhere. 
Amenities 

The use of the Navigator was a nice touch. Even on rainy or snowy days, you could use this to drop you at a subway station and be on your way. 

The free basic Wi-Fi was, in a word, lackluster. I saw upload and download rates of around 4 Mbps during my stay, serviceable for basic email but far below what I expect from a five-star property. For perspective, the nearby CitizenM Bowery capsule hotel offers its guests 120 Mbps down and 125 Mbps up free of charge. 

There was an on-site fitness center stocked with Technogym equipment, a concierge for handling reservations and car rentals and a very cool set of perks for kiddos. Dubbed Little C, those traveling with kids received a Mr. C teddy bear, homemade cookies with Nutella spread, sprinkles and milk on the first night, Honest Company Discovery Set bath and body products, a coloring book, free access to a crib and discounts to local attractions.

Pet-friendly rooms could be requested by contacting the property in advance, for $25 per animal. 
Overall Impression

My stay at the Mr. C Seaport was a mixed bag. There were more positives than negatives, but I can’t say with a straight face that this property is worth the astronomical rates I’m seeing. Couple that with the fact that you cannot redeem points for stays here, and I’m inclined to recommend one of the myriad other top-tier properties in New York City.

While the renovation is impressive and every element of each room is brand-new, there were still reminders that this place was once a Best Western. The carpeting in the public spaces just felt a notch below five-star, and the windows still let plenty of city noise in. I could also see guidelines used by construction workers etched into the marble above my toilet.
Installation guides are still visible in the bathroom.
While the lobby and bar area were impeccable, as was service from end-to-end, the on-site restaurant left much to be desired in the taste department. Wi-Fi speeds were well below five-star standards, and the lack of an in-room coffeemaker was a miss. 

I adored the sleepy neighborhood, the easy walk to the Brooklyn Bridge and the friendly faces, but the overall package isn’t worth the asking price. 
All photos by the author.

How to Fly Delta’s Best Business Class Seats Domestically

Delta’s modernization of its fleet continues to mean good things for those seeking out premium experiences — even domestically. Typically, the carrier’s best cabin interiors are reserved for its long-haul international routes. Those routes, of course, demand big bucks (and significant award miles) to fly. There’s a secret, though: every so often, these cabins find themselves flying domestic routes. Perhaps Delta just needs to reposition a plane in preparation for an international leg, perhaps it’s flying a special load of cargo, or perhaps it’s running a rescue mission. As is the case with its 757s featuring Delta One lie-flat seats, it’s competing with other major carriers like United, American Airlines, and JetBlue on coast-to-coast routes popular amongst business travelers.
Seats in the center section are staggered to the right and left. Delta 767-400ER (Delta One Cabin)
Whatever the reason, these routes (which are often one-time events) enable you to fly in Delta’s fanciest cabins for far less than you’d spend to fly overseas. And, because it’s domestic, the entire experience is easier: flights are shorter, there’s no passport required, and there’s no long immigration line on the other side.
While its Delta One Suites are currently installed only on the Airbus A350-900 and a few retrofitted Boeing 777s, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that these birds begin to make domestic jumps in addition to their current international jaunts. Meanwhile, you’re left looking for the coveted reverse herringbone seat found on Delta’s A330-200 and A330-300 aircraft (we’ll miss you, 747-400!) and the 180-degree flat-bed Thompson Vantage seat found on select transcontinental routes.
Delta regularly updates its global timetable, shifting aircraft and routes from time to time. So, we here at The Points Guy dig into it regularly to unveil where you can find these excellent seats. Our current list covers December 1, 2018 through January 15, 2019.
Whether you splurge on a business class award or paid ticket, choose to burn a Regional Upgrade Certificate, or score a complimentary upgrade as a Medallion member, we’re showcasing how to fly on Delta Air Lines’ best business class seats without having to bring your passport.

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Airbus A330-200 and A330-300: Delta One Reverse Herringbone 
Delta Air Lines flies two variations of the Airbus A330: the A330-200 (332) and the A330-300 (333). While the latter will hold 59 more people, you’ll be thrilled to know that both feature an identical quantity of Delta One seats (34).

Regardless of which A330 you end up on domestically, you’ll wind up in a reverse herringbone 180-degree flat-bed seat while in the front of the cabin. One layout quirk to be aware of – the A330-200 has its exit and galley between rows 6 and 7 in the Delta One cabin, while the A330-300 fits all nine rows of Delta One ahead of the exit/galley area. Here are the routes on which DL is using these aircraft within the 50 US states:
Daily A330-200 Routes: Dec. 2, 2018 – Jan. 4, 2019

New York (JFK) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Los Angeles (LAX) – New York (JFK)

Single Flights:

Detroit (DTW) – Seattle (SEA): DL0435 on Dec 29 departing at 8:35am
Seattle (SEA) – Detroit (DTW): DL2138 on Dec 29 departing at 12:00pm

Daily A330-300 Routes: Dec. 18, 2018 – Jan. 15, 2019

Atlanta (ATL) – Honolulu (HNL)
Atlanta (ATL) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Atlanta (ATL) – Phoenix (PHX)
Atlanta (ATL) – Salt Lake City (SLC)
Honolulu (HNL) – Atlanta (ATL)
Honolulu (HNL) – Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
Honolulu (HNL) – Salt Lake City (SLC)
New York (JFK) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Los Angeles (LAX) – Atlanta (ATL)
Los Angeles (LAX) – New York (JFK)
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) – Honolulu (HNL)
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) – Atlanta (ATL): Mondays/Thursdays only
Phoenix (PHX) – Atlanta (ATL)
Salt Lake City (SLC) – Atlanta (ATL)
Salt Lake City (SLC) – Honolulu (HNL)

Single Flights:

Atlanta (ATL) – Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP): DL1866 on Dec 18 departing at 9:10am
Atlanta (ATL) – New York (JFK): DL1866 on Jan 19 departing at 4:05pm

Boeing 777: Delta One Herringbone
Delta One interior on a 777. The layout is 1 – 2 – 1 herringbone with seats angled toward the aisles.
The Delta One cabin on its fleet of not-yet-retrofitted 777 aircraft is arranged in a 1-2-1 herringbone layout and each seat has direct aisle access — in other words, no one is going to have to jump over you if they want to get up and walk around or use the restroom while you’re asleep. While Delta’s 777-200LR business class has started to feel outdated, it’s still a solid product, particularly when viewed against recliner-style domestic competition.
While just the flights below are officially slotted into Delta’s upcoming global timetable, keep an eye out on routes between ATL and LAX, where the 777 tends to surface on occasion. We’ve also spotted the 777 routed between RDU and ATL.
Daily 777 Routes

Atlanta (ATL) – Honolulu (HNL): Dec. 2, 2018 – Jan. 4, 2019
Atlanta (ATL) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Honolulu (HNL) – Atlanta (ATL): Dec. 2, 2018 – Dec. 11, 2018
Los Angles (LAX) – Atlanta (ATL)

Single Flights:

Atlanta (ATL) – Las Vegas (LAS): DL0185 on Jan 12 departing at 8:55am
Atlanta (ATL) – Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP): DL8770 on Dec 22 departing at 9:30am
Detroit (DTW) – Atlanta (ATL): DL8801 on Jan 14 departing at 11:15am
Las Vegas (LAS) – Atlanta (ATL): DL0186 on Jan 7 departing at 10:00am
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) – Atlanta (ATL): DL8771 on Dec 24 departing at 12:30pm

Boeing 767: Delta One Thompson Vantage
A two-seat row in the Delta One cabin onboard a Boeing 767-300.
Delta has a gaggle of Boeing 767 variants, with effectively all of them featuring the Thompson Vantage flat-bed seats that TPG reviewed on his flight between New York-JFK and Accra. When booking, make sure that the forward cabin shows the lie-flat icon, as well as one of the following aircraft type indicators:

Boeing 767-400ER (76D or 764)
Boeing 767-300ER (76W)

We’ve carefully combed through Delta’s upcoming schedule of 767 flights, with the following routes scheduled to have flat beds onboard.
Daily 767 Routes

Atlanta (ATL) – Las Vegas (LAS): Jan 6-10; Monday, Thursday and Sunday
Atlanta (ATL) – Orlando (MCO): Dec 5 – Jan 9; Wednesday – Sunday
Atlanta (ATL) – Portland (PDX)
Atlanta (ATL) – New York (JFK): Dec 20 – Jan 5
Atlanta (ATL) – San Diego (SAN): Dec 22 – Jan 2; Wednesday – Sunday
Honolulu (HNL) – Los Angeles (LAX): Dec 22 – Jan 5
Honolulu (HNL) – New York (JFK)
New York (JFK) – Los Angles (LAX)
New York (JFK) – Atlanta (ATL)
New York (JFK) – San Francisco (SFO)
Las Vegas (LAS) – Atlanta (ATL): Thursday – Sunday
Los Angeles (LAX) – Honolulu (HNL)
Los Angeles (LAX) – New York (JFK)
Orlando (MCO) – Atlanta (ATL)
Orlando (MCO) – Salt Lake City (SLC): Daily Dec 2 – Dec 21 and resumes daily service on Jan 5
Portland (PDX) – Atlanta (ATL)
San Diego (SAN) – Atlanta (ATL): Dec 22 – Jan 2; Wednesday – Sunday
San Francisco (SFO) – Atlanta (ATL): Dec 22 – Jan 2; Wednesday – Sunday
San Francisco (SFO) – New York (JFK)
Salt Lake City (SLC) – Orlando (MCO): Daily Dec 2 – Dec 21 and resumes daily service on Jan 5

Single Flights:

Atlanta (ATL) – Boston (BOS): DL2771 on Dec 22 departing at 7:45am
Atlanta (ATL) – Las Vegas (LAS): D2225 on Jan 12 departing at 8:10am
Atlanta (ATL) – Salt Lake City (SLC): DL8801 on Dec 23 departing at 3:15pm
Atlanta (ATL) – Salt Lake City (SLC(: DL8803 on Jan 2 departing at 5:50pm
Atlanta (ATL) – San Francisco (SFO): DL2049 on Dec 24 and 25 departing at 8:10am
Atlanta (ATL) – Las Vegas (LAS): DL2139 on Jan 5 departing at 3:25pm
Boston (BOS) – Atlanta (ATL): DL1805 on Dec 22 departing at 11:19am
Detroit (DTW) – Atlanta (ATL): DL1943 on Dec 22 departing at 10:22am
Honolulu (HNL) – Salt Lake City (SLC): DL2768 on Jan 6 departing at 9:40pm
New York (JFK) – Atlanta (ATL): DL8801 on Jan 2 departing at 6:15pm
New York (JFK) – Atlanta (ATL): DL8801 on Jan 3 departing at 10:20am
New York (JFK) – Seattle (SEA): DL2961 on Dec 22 departing at 7:00am
Los Angeles (LAX) – Atlanta (ATL): DL2707 on Jan 5 departing at 10:30am
Seattle (SEA) – New York (JFK): DL1109 on Dec 22 departing at 11:39am
Salt Lake City (SLC) – New York (JFK): DL8800 on Jan 3 departing at 10:05am
Salt Lake City (SLC) – Honolulu (HNL): DL2767 on Dec 24 departing at 11:50am
Salt Lake City (SLC) – Honolulu (HNL): DL2767 on Jan 6 departing at 11:45am

Transcontinental 757-200
Delta 757-200 (Delta One cabin)
The Delta transcontinental 757 seat — which TPG Reviews Editor Nick Ellis flew between Seattle and New York — falls in line with the rest of the legacy airlines. Set up in a 2-2 configuration, the seat goes fully flat, and sports an in-flight entertainment screen, USB ports and power outlets. While the seats are not private in any way and there is limited storage, they are perfectly acceptable — and even deservedly coveted — on transcontinental routes.
Be aware that while Delta has many 757 variants in its fleet, only one iteration is equipped with flat bed seating in a Delta One cabin. The rest have First Class recliner-style seats. Delta’s own booking engine doesn’t always reflect the proper seating at first glance, but SeatGuru provides a clearer picture of which is which. I recommend double (triple?) checking the seat selection map on Delta.com during the booking process to make sure you’re booking a route with lie-flats in the forward cabin.
Delta 757-200 (Delta One cabin)
While Delta could retrofit any 757 in order to expand Delta One service within the United States, the following are the only regularly scheduled domestic 757 routes currently served with flat bed seats:

New York-Kennedy (JFK) to/from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), San Diego (SAN) and Seattle (SEA)
New York-Kennedy (JFK) to/from Las Vegas (LAS)
Washington D.C. (DCA) to/from Los Angeles (LAX)
Boston (BOS) to/from San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX)

Single Flights

Atlanta (ATL) – Las Vegas (LAS): DL1402 Dec 22 departing at 12:25pm
Atlanta (ATL) – Las Vegas (LAS): DL0839 Dec 29 departing at 12:15pm
Las Vegas (LAS) – Atlanta (ATL): DL1402 Dec 22 departing at 2:56pm
Las Vegas (LAS) – Atlanta (ATL): DL0839 Dec 29 departing at 2:50pm

It’s worth reiterating that these routes are also served by non-Delta One 757s, so check the seating chart before you finalize a booking. The routes shown below are scheduled to fly with flat bed seats, but equipment swaps do happen from time to time.
How To Book
If you’re looking to book an award ticket on any of these routes, you’ve got options. While SkyMiles aren’t highly valued per TPG’s own valuations, you can boost your SkyMiles balance by adding a co-branded Delta Amex to your wallet.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

What we’d recommend instead, however, is booking through a partner in order to score seats for less. Delta seats can be found and booked via the Flying Blue search calendar, as well as the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club calendar. Both of these portals, while they have their quirks, generally price Delta award tickets out cheaper than Delta’s own booking engine.
Remember, you don’t need to have ever flown Virgin Atlantic to book Delta award tickets through its Flying Club program, and the same is true for Flying Blue. Once you find the flight that works for you, you can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards (instant transfer), Citi ThankYou Points (instant transfer), American Express Membership Rewards (instant transfer) and Starwood Preferred Guest (1-day transfer). Here’s a sampling of credit cards you can use to earn points in these programs:

The Platinum Card® from American Express for Membership Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for Ultimate Rewards
Citi Premier Card for ThankYou Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express for Marriott points

If you’re on the fence about which card will serve you best as a Delta flyer, we’ve assembled a guide to help out.
Additional reporting by J. Scott Clark. 

5 Family-Friendly Hotels in New York City Where You Can Use Points

Usually, a night in New York City’s famously tight quarters can cost an average of $320. Fortunately, there are a handful of unsung hotels with enough space for traveling families to stay comfortably when visiting the Big Apple.
Best of all, many of these rooms can be booked with points — saving room in your budget for more New York City attractions.
To help you find the best place to bed down during your family’s New York City vacation, we highlighted five of our favorite family-friendly points hotels, including one option from every major hotel brand.
Kimpton Ink48 Hotel
Brand: InterContinental Hotels Group
I’m a huge fan of Kimpton hotels, and the brand’s playful sensibility. I was thrilled when IHG acquired the Kimpton portfolio, making it possible to use IHG points and free night certificates from the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card for Kimpton stays. There are currently three Kimpton properties in Manhattan, all which are pet-friendly (furry friends are family, too). My favorite, however, is Kimpton Ink48, located on 11th Avenue in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. It’s a great place to use uncapped IHG free night certificates, or burn IHG Rewards points at a rate of 65,000 points per night.
Guests will enjoy Kimpton’s signature amenities touches (animal print bathrobes, custom PUBLIC bikes) and have access to plenty of infant and toddler gear, including cribs, scooters and strollers. If there’s a Kimpton Secret Password available during your stay, your kids (or you) could be in for an extra special treat such as a free in-room movie or credit to “raid the minibar.” And parents will appreciate the free coffee in the morning and complimentary social hour (read: free drinks) in the evening from 5:00pm to 6:00pm.

If you book a room at Kimpton Ink48, opt for one with two queen beds and about 330 square feet of space. Mommy Points reported having plenty of room when her family of four stayed at the Ink48 over the summer — just know the bathrooms have showers, not baths. Admittedly, not everyone at TPG loved their stay at Kimpton Ink48. But for families looking for a larger-than-average-room you can book with points, this is one of the best in New York City.
Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Midtown East 
Brand: Marriott
This property is centrally located on 48th street, close to Grand Central Station, and the rooms are spacious enough to comfortably sleep larger families, with two beds and a pull-out sofa bed. There are also kitchenettes (including a full-sized refrigerator) and free hot breakfast each morning, which can translate to serious savings during a New York City stay.
Photo courtesy of the Residence Inn New York
Family-friendly services include free pack-and-plays and 24-hour grocery delivery, and there’s even a common area where families can enjoy board games. This is a Category 5 property, requiring 35,000 Marriott points per night (30,000 points during off-peak stays and 40,000 points during peak travel times). You can also use an annual award certificate, available each anniversary with these Marriott/SPG Cards:

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
Marriott Rewards Business Premier Plus Credit Card

Grand Hyatt Grand Central 
Brand: Hyatt
I love staying at Hyatt hotels when I travel with my family, especially when I can really leverage my top-tier Globalist status with upgrades, free breakfast and lounge access. The Park Hyatt New York and Andaz 5th Avenue are two of Hyatt’s better known New York City properties, but the Grand Hyatt Grand Central is excellent for families, especially those with Hyatt Globalist or Explorist status, or who are willing to use extra points to secure Club Lounge access.
Photo courtesy of Hyatt Grand Central
Food expenses can add up quickly when traveling in New York City with a family, so having Club Lounge access is seriously helpful for keeping trip costs down. Lounges can vary greatly from hotel to hotel, but the Club Lounge at Grand Hyatt Grand Central exceeds the typical Club Lounge in North America.
Photo courtesy of the Hyatt Grand Central
Aside from the convenience of being able to pop in throughout the day for complimentary drinks, coffee and light snacks, there are plenty of great dinner options in the evening such as salads, sushi, sandwiches and an array of rotating hot dishes. In the morning, your family can grab breakfast at the Club Lounge, too.
Room rates tend to skyrocket, especially during busy times, making the 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night for a room with two double beds a great redemption. To boost your World of Hyatt account balance you can turn to the World of Hyatt Credit Card or transfer points to Hyatt from your Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
TRYP New York City Times Square South
Brand: Wyndham
With Wyndham’s revamped Wyndham Rewards program, all free nights are just 15,000 points per night. Using Wyndham points in an expensive city like New York is a great use of points — and earning Wyndham points is super easy with the brand’s generous promotions, like the annual Daily Getaways offers and the credit card that allows you to earn up to three free nights from the sign-up bonus.
Despite its name, Wyndham’s Times Square South TRYP hotel is on 35th Street, near New York Penn Station (rather than the madhouse that is Times Square) — making it a very convenient option for families arriving by train.
Photo courtesy of TRYP Wyndham
Surprisingly chic guest rooms feature reclaimed wood floors, 10-foot ceilings and contemporary urban decor. But the coolest thing about this property (other than the 15,000 points per night rate) is that it offers rooms designed exclusively for families, which include a combination of bunk beds, a separate king or queen-size bed and a sleeper sofa. Some rooms even have two bathrooms! These rooms may not always be available as standard rooms, but an upgrade may be possible if you have Wyndham Diamond status: attainable through the Total Rewards reciprocal benefits.
Homewood Suites by Hilton New York/Midtown Manhattan Times Square-South
Brand: Hilton
Traveling families often love feeling at home, and that’s what Hilton’s Homewood Suites in Midtown delivers. This hotel is steps from Broadway, Fifth Avenue and Madison Square Garden, and the studio-suites are more spacious than what you’d normally expect to find in the city. (Each studio-suite even has a fully-equipped kitchen.)
In addition to the free hot breakfast for all guests every morning, parents can partake in a complimentary evening social (consider it dinner if you aren’t too picky) with included drinks Monday through Thursday.
Photo courtesy of Homewood Suites
Instead of a fixed award chart, the Hilton Honors program uses a variable award chart. This means the price in points for free nights will vary when the price is lower, but the absolute maximum award price for a standard room won’t increase (for this property, that’s 70,000 points per night). If you have a Hilton credit card that offers free weekend night certificates such as the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card or Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, it may make sense to use them here if you’re visiting New York City with your family during peak times.
Angelina Aucello covers family travel for TPG and blogs at Angelina Travels. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram.
Featured image by Bady Qb/Unsplash