How I Booked An Amazing Budget Tropical Weekend Getaway

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After surviving a pretty crappy winter in the northeast – including the blizzard that dropped about 30 inches of snow in 30 hours a couple of weeks ago – I decided that I would try and put together an inexpensive weekend getaway.  My criteria was simple – I wanted some place that was tropical, and preferably a non-stop flight away. I also wanted to be able to do it without “breaking the bank” and spending too many points, so it would have to be on the lower end of the points chart on Starwood, Hyatt or IHG as I have the most hotel points in these programs.

My first thought was to check out Southwest Airlines Low Fare Calendar.  What is nice about this feature is that it will show you the cost in both points AND dollars. Although this is a calendar for March shown below, I was able to find a flight out in February for 10,430 points and $36.90 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 3.00.23 PMMy return flight was 12,320 points with $67.76 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 3.00.44 PMSouthwest currently runs the route on the 737-700 and it was a 3 hour and 27 minute non-stop flight from BWI to PUJ. Sometimes they use the 737-800 on the route, depending on the loads and season.  Even tho my flight left at 8:40am, I had a few Rapid Rewards drink coupons so I decided on some breakfast margaritas.  In chatting with the flight attendant, she told me that margaritas are fairly new to the drink menu and she suggested lightening it up with a splash of Sprite Zero.

IMG_0405When it came time to pick a hotel, I must admit that I like to redeem on the low end or the high end of the award chart. Since this was my budget weekend and I have always been curious about the Sheraton Four Points Puntacanna Village. The hotel, which is right around the corner from the Punta Cana (PUJ) airport and across the street from the Puntacanna Village, is a Category 1 for the next 5 days before Starwood reclassifies it as a Category 2 on March 1, 2016. Weekday nights at Category 1 hotels are 3,000 points, and weekend nights are 2,000 points – so for my 4 nights it was an amazingly inexpensive 10,000 Starpoints. If you want to replicate this deal, book fast, as the rate increases in just a couple days.

IMG_5201When I checked in, I found out that I had been upgraded to a suite!  The 122 room 4-story hotel was opened in the winter of 2012, and it still feels fresh, clean, and modern.  There is a lobby bar that fills up in the evening, mostly due to the 1/2 price Happy Hour from 5pm-7pm.

IMG_5204As a Starwood Gold, I also received a drink coupon for a free beer, and I am also participating in Starwood’s “Make A Green Choice” where you receive a $5 voucher each day that you decline housekeeping.IMG_5205One of the best benefits at the Sheraton Four Points Puntacanna Village is the free shuttle service to the Playa Blanca beach club.  The shuttle, which takes about 7 minutes to get between the hotel and the beach club runs daily from 10:15am to midnight.  It also stops at the Westin Punta Cana, and a few other stops. IMG_5200 (1)IMG_5183During my visit to Playa Blanca, I walked about a quarter of a mile around the shore, and the very next resort over was The Westin Puntacanna Resort & Club – a Starwood Category 5 – 12,000 to 16,000 Starpoints per night.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of their over-the-water wedding gazebo. IMG_5189Meanwhile, back at the Sheraton Four Points, a little pool, and small gym and fast/free wifi helped to round out my stay. DSCN0733Bottom Line:
While this stay isn’t at a fancy all inclusive resort, I enjoyed my stay, and I think I received an excellent value for the points I redeemed.  I can’t wait to do a more informational Hotel Review, and tell you a funny story about how I received the suite upgrade.  Stay tuned!

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