Rocking the Holidays

As I’ve said many a time before, ever since Scott and I went on our Honeymoon, I’ve committed that we’ll do some form of holiday together each year.

I fully admit, I try to be frugal when it comes to holidays, but I’m also practical in that when I can, I like to kick things up.

In 2016, we’re actually doing two holidays.  Here’s why – I’ve been saving up my vacation time and I’ve been on a pretty tough work project for the past two years, and going almost a year between holidays has been pretty gruelling.  In short, I forgot or didn’t feel I was able to take any vacation time in 2015 other than the two weeks (ended up being close to 15 days of work time) off.  I still have 88 hours (11 days) of vacation time.

I’m taking a week off at Christmas – Something I wasn’t planning on doing originally as it’s a stay in Toronto year.

That still leaves me with 40 hours (5 days) of vacation time I need to take in Q1.  On top of that, I get 5 weeks (25 days) of vacation time so that means 6 weeks of vacation I need to use up.

February

For February, I decided that we needed to go to a sun destination.  Scott doesn’t always do well with the dark of winter, and admittedly neither do I.  I have wanted to get us on to a winter vacation routine to help and I’ve finally been able to do it!

We’re taking a cruise on Royal Caribbean from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas – Specifically RCI’s private island, CocoCay, which is really Little Stirrup Cay.  We then go on to Nassau, a day at sea and then back to Port Canaveral.  We’re also going to stay on either weekend days and soak up the Florida sun, possibly hitting Universal Studios and I am not sure what else.

Rocking the Points for February

We’re not going to stay at any of the Disney properties preferring to use my Starwood points!  We found an AWESOME deal at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort where I got us rooms for 3,000 to 3,333 Starwood Points per night at the beginning and end of our trip.

To put it into perspective, that is an insanely cheap rate for that area.  Here are some comparisons

  • We were getting hotels in Japan for between 10,000 to 12,000 points in Tokyo and 7,500 points outside.  The value per point is insane, and I typically get 2,000 to 3,000 points for a single stay at when I travel for work.  The hotel is a very short walk to Disney Springs and Walt Disney World.  Universal Studios is just a bit farther away.
  • Hilton HHonours is asking for 30,000 points for a room that’s $119/night and I’d say that earning points on HHonours is at the same rate as SPG.  It’s not worth being an HHonours member.
  • Marriott is not that great a value either.

So that saved us about US$750.

On top of that, I’ve been working on the Hertz Gold Plus points and membership.  I’ve rented from Hertz so many times that I’m now Hertz Gold Plus Five Star.  I was able to rent a car:

  • One way from Orlando to Port Canaveral for 3 days, so we can drive around to our hearts content and see more of Orlando, maybe drive around Celebration, FL (the community that Disney created)
  • After our cruise, after we do the tour of the Kennedy Space Centre.  We can spend a few days driving around Orlando.

That alone saved us about US$500.

Sweet!  This means we are pretty much out of hotel points and car rental points until I go on more business trips.

Excursions

One excursion we are already booked for, which for us is a no-brainer – Kennedy Space Centre.

For Nassau we have several options such as a tour of Nassau, or going to Atlantis.  Checking out the prices for Atlantis, seriously, while it’s such a neat place, it is ungodly expensive for very little value.  And when I say value, I admit, I’m looking for food and non-alcoholic drinks to be included in the $125-$350 price to visit the water park and the aquarium.  Nope!  So I’m not sure what we’ll do.

For CocoCay, we have so many options for things to do there such as learning about Stingrays, parasailing, a nature walk…  We’ll see.  I’d love to try parasailing admittedly.

September

We saved our DVC points from the 2014 Use Year (ending December 2015), used our 2015 Use Year points (ending December 2016), and borrowed from our 2016 use year ((ending December 2017) to book a cruise on Disney Cruise Line.

We were originally hoping to use the points for the 2016 Member Cruise, however the itinerary was not something we were interested in, for so many points (New York City to Halifax and back).  Yes it will probably be a fantastic trip from the special entertainment that will be on board and the unique gifts (it’s the 25th Anniversary), but not worth it.

Scott and I need something a bit more relaxing and, well, bigger.

If we were not going to do the Member Cruise, then I had through we would go to Alaska. Then looking at the options of what we could use our points for, the lengths of the various trips, and we had two other options also come up – Denmark & Norway, or a Transatlantic.

All three options are amazing.  I felt like we wanted to go somewhere different, so Alaska fell off the list – leaving Denmark & Norway or the Transatlantic.  I started researching Denmark & Norway, and beyond all the Frozen festivities on board the ship, it would be a fantastic trip with some neat cultural points – Trolls, food, etc…

I was surprised when Scott actually suggested the westbound Transatlantic from Barcelona to New York City stopping in the Azores; Sydney, NS; and Halifax, NS.  The romanticism of doing a Transatlantic caught his eye.  11 days total, with 7 or 8 of those being sea days.  Honestly, I can’t think of a more relaxing time rather than jumping on and off the ship all the time at ports, and having to get up early, as we experienced with our Princess Cruise.

I’ll be honest, I always thought we’d do a Transatlantic on something like the QE2.  That said, I’m not a huge formal kind of guy, so that’s kind of lost on me.  I have to admit, I’m a bit apprehensive about Disney Cruise Line from the standpoint of, will it be too much Disney?  For 11 days?  I know there are a lot of areas strictly for adults on the ship.  Comparing to what Royal Caribbean is offering, I’m almost wondering if there will be more to do on an RCI ship for me versus Disney.  We shall see.

And admittedly, I do want to try the Quantum Class ships on Royal Caribbean.

The stops will be interesting.  The routing loosely follows the route our new MINI took from Southampton, through the Azores and over to Halifax, and then the ship went on to New York City.

This cruise will start in Barcelona, sail by Gibraltar and on to the Azores, then on to Cape Breton which will be the furthest east Scott will have been in Canada, Halifax which is a great city and to New York City which Scott has not been to.

Japan and Hong Kong was awesome and I wouldn’t change this for anything.  It was a pretty hectic trip, and I know I need sometime to just sit back and enjoy myself and not rush around places.  I think Scott could use the time too.

Rocking the Points for September

I’ll save points by using them to fly us to Barcelona and from NYC.  In fact, I could use my companion fare to get Scott a free ticket from NYC.  Booking Barcelona one way is going to be interestingly tricky.  Airfares were ungodly expensive, although we’ll see if Disney can come up with an alternative.  To put it into perspective, I’m not paying Air Canada, $3000 one way in Economy on Rouge when it’s ~$895 return.  They can kiss my Elite 50K butt for that.

For the hotel in Barcelona, I’m going to try and save up points for that.  Alternatively, to help me keep my elite status with Starwood, we have several options for that.

Same with New York City which has the cheapest hotel at $328 a night.

Alternatively, if I don’t have the points, I can always revert to using Hotels.com which is not a bad service. 🙂

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