Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

Our family LOVES Aruba!  The weather is beautiful all year round, it doesn’t get overly hot in the summer and it’s so friendly!  Aruba is not the type of place where you have to stay at your resort; there are a zillion things to explore and do throughout the island.  The last time we were there we got airfare for two out of four of us for FREE, and three FREE nights in an all-inclusive resort as well! Here’s how we paid for a big chunk of our Aruba family vacation with credit card rewards:

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

We ❤ Aruba!

My  husband used to travel a lot for work and had accumulated a decent amount of hotel points when we took this trip in the summer of 2015.  He also had plenty of Delta Frequent Flyer Miles, but not enough to get all four of us us to Aruba! 

Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

That’s where I come in. I’m frugal, but not cheap.  I like resorts that are four stars if possible (with one exception that I’ll cover in a separate post) and I LOVE the Caribbean. I’m constantly searching on sites like Travelocity for the best values in luxury travel and looking for ways to save. 

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

The Renaissance Marriott Ocean Suites Resort ©ValerieHoff 2015

Affordable Aruba: How we paid for our Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

Here’s how we saved over $2000 on this trip: Credit Card Points and Frequent Flyer Miles!   I routinely put virtually everything I buy on credit cards that pay top dollar rewards, and I pay off the balances every month.  By everything, I mean groceries, gas, clothing and most household expenses and bills.   I also pay close attention to the promotions my credit cards run:  American Express Blue Cash pays double points on groceries and American Express Business Rewards Gold pays the most for gas. Chase Ink offers high bonuses at office supply stores, so I buy gift cards for other retail stores, such as Old Navy, at Office Depot.  Creditcards.com is a great place to compare rewards cards based on your goals. Some people want cash back, some want miles and others want free nights in a hotel! (I personally want all three!)

Now, that number of points and miles won’t get us a free trip, (not even close) because I just don’t spend that much money!  So, I get most of my points from Sign Up Bonuses. Many credit card companies periodically offer sign up bonuses of 50,000 points or more to entice new customers, especially those with very high credit scores.  I use CreditSesame.com to check my score periodically.  Several of my credit cards also provide a free credit score on my monthly bill.   My score hovers around 850, which keeps those credit card offers coming in!  To keep your score high, always pay off your bills on time, and check your credit score periodically for any mistakes!

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

Look at these Gorgeous Flamingos! ©ValerieHoff

All-Inclusive Aruba with Credit Card Rewards  

With two rapidly growing boys who eat us out of house and home, all-inclusive resorts are quite often the better value for our family. They also take the aggravation and sticker shock stress out of a vacation. Who wants to be charged $15 for a glass of wine or $7.50 every time the kids want a smoothie?  I’m on vacation to DE-stress, not to watch my blood pressure rise every time the we get the dinner tab!

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

Unlimited Smoothies and Snacks for the Kids! ©ValerieHoff

We used Delta Sky Miles for two of the flights (about 100,000 miles.)  The other two flights were about $550 each on Travelocity, so right there we saved $1100 on our trip. I have an American Express Delta Sky Miles card that had a signup bonus and has earned me plenty of  miles.  My miles combined with Derrick’s were enough to pay for two tickets and we bought the other two on our Delta SkyMiles credit card. 

Next we needed a nice hotel, preferably four stars with an all-inclusive option and a one bedroom suite.  We always look for a suite, which can be challenging but crucial to saving money!  No way are we going to cram two adults and a 10 and 11 year old into one hotel room, but two adjoining rooms could break the bank at an expensive resort!  With a suite, Mom and Dad get the bedroom, and the kids get the pullout sofa.  

We found the Marriott Renaissance Ocean Suites on Hotels.com. The hotel is located near downtown Oranjestad, a very lively city with restaurants and shopping everywhere. Everyone was so friendly at the hotel and in town; the service was impeccable!  Even all the lizards and iguanas were friendly!

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

We loved the Iguanas and Lizards! ©ValerieHoff

We saved nearly 50 percent on our All Inclusive Family Trip to Aruba

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

Nice, relaxing view from our suite! ©ValerieHoff

The suite had everything we needed plus a GORGEOUS view.  That’s another thing we tend to splurge on during vacations.  Whether it’s a cruise or a resort, I will pay extra to avoid a parking lot view!  Here is one of our views: 

And here is the other!

Loved the View! ©ValerieHoff

The suite was about $325 per night, though I checked Hotels.com recently and they had a great price of even less than that!  We used 180,000 Marriott points to get three nights free and we paid cash for two.  Those points saved us close to $1000

 Marriott’s all inclusive program is optional at many resorts and it’s not cheap!  The resort allows kids to eat for free, so we didn’t have to worry about them.   For adults, you can add the All-Inclusive option for $130 per person per day.   (Marriott does not usually allow guests to pay the all-inclusive fee with points.) While on a normal day you might not spend $130 on food and drink, it’s pretty easy to do at an expensive resort! We bit the bullet and paid it, and were very happy with the selections.  For some families the A la carte option would make more sense, but isn’t it great to have a choice? The Marriott Renaissance Ocean Suites is affiliated with the Marriott Renaissance Resort and Casino a few blocks away, so we were able to eat at the restaurants at both locations.  

One of the Best parts of Our Affordable Aruba Family Vacation

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation using Credit Card Points

Just sign it to the Underhill’s room! ©ValerieHoff

The Marriott Ocean suites has a great pool with a swim up bar (don’t even get me started about how much time the kids spent there drinking smoothies and ordering burgers.)

But it also has a beautiful private beach where you can spend the entire day having a blast snorkeling, getting spa treatments (extra charge) and just hanging out. They take you over the to island by boat whenever you want!  

When can we go back? #Aruba ©ValerieHoff

The private beach has a lovely covered outdoor restaurant and an adults only side for those who don’t want to be around kids.   I lounged by the beach while our friendly waiter brought us big buckets full of bottles of Perrier Water all day until we were ready for some cocktails.  

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

Snorkling on the Private Island ©ValerieHoff

We also loved the Jolly Pirate Snorkeling Cruise.  TIP:  Before you go on a vacation book your excursions on Viator.  You’ll get discounts and other perks like front of the line privileges!  

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

Walking the Plank on the Snorkel Cruise! ©ValerieHoff

Affordable Aruba: Family Vacation with Credit Card Rewards

See ya back in Atlanta Kids, Mom and Dad are in First Class!

It was an amazing family vacation, one of our favorites ever, (though Costa Rica is absolutely amazing as well and we used points and miles for that trip too!)

Even the flight home was amazing, since Derrick and I were  upgraded to first class! 

(The flight attendants reported the kids were total young gentlemen back in Coach.)  At the end of the day, we saved about fifty percent on an amazing vacation. 

 

We used the same approach to get deep discounts on trips to Costa Rica and the Club Med Sandpiper Resort in Florida last year.  

This summer we aren’t leaving the country (so far!) but are planning a last minute trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina before the boys go back to school.  We prefer to rent a house or condo while in Hilton Head, and HomeAway is a great resource to find an affordable place!  To read my post on 10 affordable things to do in Hilton Head, click here. 

For more budget travel tips I hope you’ll follow me on Pinterest  and subscribe to my newsletter and email updates.   I’ll help you find Luxury for Less!

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Valerie Hoff