Mother’s Day Memories for $55, 30,000 Citi Thank You Points & 10,000 Priority Club Points

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Emily Jablon:  Thanks to our miles and points, I had the joy of visiting my grandmother and mother for Mother’s day this year.  My mother’s birthday is slightly before mother’s day, and my grandma’s slightly after, so we celebrated their birthdays as well!
Mothers Day 2012
Mother’s Day Weekend Thanks to Miles and Points!

We saved $360 on the flight and $200 for 2 nights in a hotel thanks to miles and points.  More importantly, Emily had a wonderful weekend of memories with her mother and 82 year old grandmother!

The Flight:  I goofed on this one.  I usually book flights as soon as the booking window opens (~11 months in advance) for trips which I know we’ll take.  We always visit Emily’s family for Thanksgiving and my family for Christmas, so I like to book those flights as early as possible since they are over peak travel periods.  I know that I won’t cancel those trips, so there’s no point in waiting to make the booking.

Similarly, Emily always visits her grandmother in Toledo, Ohio in May, but I didn’t book her flight until a few months before.  I couldn’t find award flights at the low mileage level using American, United, or Delta miles.  And I didn’t want to use our Southwest points because I’d rather use them for flights where I can add Emily as my companion using the Southwest Companion Pass and get a 2 for the price of 1 redemption.

So I dipped into our stash of Citi Thank You points, and redeemed 30,000 Thank You points for a ~$360 ticket from Kansas City to Detroit.  I like collecting Thank You points from credit card sign-up bonuses because they are great for situations when you need the flexibility to actually buy a ticket, but don’t want to pay cash!

The Hotel:   Emily also needed a place to stay since other family members were already at her grandma’s place.  Fortunately, there was a Candlewood Suites (an extended stay  hotel) listed in the Priority Club PointsBreak list. This hotel usually sells for ~$100 a night.

The PointsBreak list regularly has Priority Club hotels for only 5,000 points a night versus the usual 10,000 to 50,000 points needed.

You can buy Priority Club points for 0.6 cents per point, using the Priority Club cash and points trick, so this means that a room on the PointsBreak list costs only $30 a night including taxes! 

I always use the PointsBreak list as a starting point when I’m searching for hotels.

I was actually a little nervous sending Emily off to a Candlewood Suites because she didn’t like the last Candlewood Suites we stayed in (at the PointsBreak rate) in Dallas.  But 5,000 points is 5,000 points!  So off she went.

The Car:  The best rate for a car rental was ~$55 for 2 days from Thrifty and I added a coupon to get 1,500 US Air miles for the 2 day rental.  That’s $15 off, if I value US Air miles at 1 cent per mile. Emily Jablon:  On Friday, I left work for the flight to Detroit.  Daraius booked a non-stop flight on Delta for me, and I’m assuming he used miles for that.  I prefer non-stop flights because it means that I can take less time off work and spend more time in my destination.  But I know that it is hard to always find non-stop flights when you’re using miles and points.

After landing in Detroit, I picked up the rental car which Daraius had reserved for me, and  drove 45 minutes to Toledo to take my grandmother out for dinner.

My grandmother grew up extremely poor.  She had eight children to feed, and worked very hard to provide for her children.  My mom reminds me how she had to eat ketchup soup, line her well-worn shoes with cardboard, and how sad she was when her friends received dolls for Christmas, but she did not.

So I like to treat them and spoil them during the few times I see them in the year.  And I used the money saved from not paying for this trip to take them out to eat and to a special mother’s day and birthday surprise!

After dinner, I dropped granny off and then went to the hotel Daraius booked for me with only 5,000 points (and no cash, of course!).  I stayed at the Candlewood Suites  in Perrysburg and the room was very comfortable and spacious.  It was a newly built hotel and was very clean and much better than the one in Dallas!

Mothers Day 2012
Emily in the Candlewood Suites for 5,000 Points a Night

The next morning, I picked up my grandmother and took her to Bob Evan’s for breakfast.

After breakfast, we went to the Toledo Main Library, which is a beautiful Art Deco building in downtown Toledo.  It was also Ohio’s first free library.

Mothers Day 2012
At The Toledo Main Library

The outside is made off cement with beautiful detailing on the windows.

Mothers Day 2012
Outside The Toledo Main Library

Inside, it is a architectural beauty.  Toledo is referred to as the Glass Capital of the world, and there’s a big glass mural in the lobby to honor that tradition.  I had my camera fired up and got lots of great shots.  My grandmother had not been there in many, many years, and she loved recounting stories about her and her brother playing in the stairs as kids.

Mothers Day 2012
Inside the Toledo Main Library – Glass Mural

The library had one of the best children’s libraries I have ever seen, complete with a very colorful aquarium…

Mothers Day 2012
The Rainbow Fish
…with beautiful fish!
Mothers Day 2012
The Rainbow Fish

After the library, we drove around Toledo & saw more of its architectural heritage.  We then went back to her apartment where I spent the next several hours cleaning her apartment for her.  My mother arrived, and we all had lunch which consisted of  leftovers from dinner.  We then went back to work cleaning and doing laundry for my grandmother.

At around 5:30pm, my mother and grandmother left for my hotel.  I wanted to change clothes before the big surprise.  They both loved that the hotel was so large and had a complete kitchen.  They also loved the bathroom & kitchen with the marble countertops!

Mothers Day 2012
Emily’s Mom by the Kitchen in the Hotel Room

I took them out to dinner at Golden Lily, a Chinese restaurant where my mother has been eating for the last thirty years.  We shared egg foo yon, moo goo gai pan, and lemon chicken.  They have the best egg rolls!

After dinner, I took them to their birthday and mother’s day surprise: a night of “Simply Sinatra,” starring Steve Lippia.  We all loved the music, especially my grandmother.  She loves to sing and dance, and some of her favorite music includes Engelbert Humperdink and Mario Lanza.  She also loves old Hollywood and Chuck Norris movies.

She kept humming and silently singing along with a big smile across her face!

Towards the end of the show, Steve announced that he would be signing autographs for everyone in the auditorium after the show.

We waited in the short line so that my mom and grandmother could get their programs signed and we took a few pictures with Steve as well.

My grandmother even asked him if she could kiss him and he said yes!  So my 82 year old grandmother gave him a peck on the cheek.  She said she would never forget that night for as long as she lived.

The next day, we went to my grandmother’s to start cooking for the Mother’s Day lunch.   We also got two ice cream cakes which are my grandmother’s favorite!

Mothers Day 2012
Grandma’s 82nd Birthday

I gave them their mother’s day and birthday gifts  –  a porcelain doll from Thailand for my grandmother and a lacy blouse for my mother.

Mothers Day 2012
My Grandma with her porcelain doll

My uncles and cousins arrived and we had lunch and ice-cream cake to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday.  It was so nice celebrating my grandmother’s 82nd birthday together!

Bottom Line: Emily Jablon:   Redeeming our miles and points for a weekend was totally worth it to spend a wonderful weekend with my family. Daraius:  Emily saved money and had a very memorable mother’s day weekend (Big Travel with Small Money) thanks to miles and points.  Miles and points are useless if you don’t use them.  So use them in whatever way makes you and your loved ones happy, because that’s all that matters!  

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