The ease of traveling with points

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Enjoying a last-minute babymoon, courtesy of Expedia+ rewards

The more kids you have, the more precious a babymoon becomes.

This might as well be a mantra in our family, which currently comprises two daughters and soon will welcome a third.

My wife and I are avid travelers, and we’ve enjoyed babymoons in advance of the births of each of our first two daughters. Before our Big Girl was born (she’s now 6), we went to New York City; before our middle child arrived (she’s now 4), we hit Maui. This time around, with two kids in school and finances tighter than usual, we weren’t sure if we were going to have the opportunity to take another.

Then a great thing happened: Expedia launched a new way to pay for travel.

That new approach, of course, is the Travel with Points program—an initiative that enables Expedia+ rewards members to use points as cash at the point of booking and defray the cost of travel.

Because I’m an Expedia Viewfinder blogger, I was invited to try the system before it went live earlier this week. To say it worked wonders would be an understatement: My wife and I were able to book a ($650) night in a posh Napa hotel for about 80,000 points. No cash. No taxes. No fees. Just points.

We ended up in a spacious room at the River Terrace Inn, a wonderful property adjacent to the Westin Verasa and the Oxbow Public Market on the east side of town. And we enjoyed a full 24 hours of child-free bliss—a phenomenon that only will become more challenging when our third daughter arrives in mid-November.

But more on our getaway in a bit.

Viewfinder Tip: When booking hotels, spend cash on low-dollar properties to accrue points, and save those points to defray (or eliminate) the cost of high-dollar stays.

Booking with points

Normally I wouldn’t spend more than a sentence or two writing about *how* I booked my travel. In this case, however, especially because the Travel with Points program is so new, I feel I have to share.

The first part of my booking process was exactly the way it always is on Expedia.com. I searched for hotels in downtown Napa, and received a number of options ranging from about $400 to about $700 per night. Admittedly, many of these options were sold out—I was searching for a room on a Saturday night during busy season (when most hotels have two-night minimums), and I conducted the search pretty late in the game. Still, when the River Terrace Inn popped up, I was stoked; I know that property and love it, and the price was right (about $600; spendy but for Napa during harvest not outrageous).

I selected my hotel and the site led me into the traditional payment procedure. On one of the first payment pages, it gave me a number of options. I could 1) pay with dollars or Bitcoin, 2) pay with points, or 3) pay with a combination of dollars/Bitcoin and points.

Because I had plenty of points in my account—I’m not just an Expedia Viewfinder blogger, I’m a customer, too!—I clicked the button to pay with points. Seconds later, my room was booked.

Traveling with points on Expedia hasn’t always been this easy; in the past, you could use Expedia+ rewards points to book travel but first you had to convert the points into coupons for certain denominations, and you didn’t get to use anything left over from each of the coupons. Under the new system, you basically can use points as cash—just like you would with major airlines or with credit card companies.

One other point worth noting: Expedia.com only gave me the opportunity to book rooms I could pay for instantly. My pals at Expedia call these “merchant hotels;” The group doesn’t include hotels that offer customers the option of paying upon check-in. We didn’t necessarily want to stay at any of these other spots, but if we had, in this case, we would have been out of luck.

Vineyard views from our babymoon

 

A weekend to remember

Our overnight babymoon certainly was something special. We dropped our girls off with my parents (who also live in Wine Country) right after breakfast, and motored over to tiny Yountville for lunch. Here, we managed to score a table at Bouchon, the bistro-style restaurant from Chef Thomas Keller (he of French Laundry fame). My wife sipped on a mocktail while I downed a Manhattan; the drink was the perfect companion to my lunch of fried chicken and bacon-infused waffles.

After an obligatory stop at the Bouchon Bakery, we hopped in the car and headed down to Napa. We checked in and hibernated for a while, then headed out to do some shopping downtown. (Check that—my wife did shopping, I stood outside stores and waited patiently.)

After a glass of wine (for me) from the complimentary wine hour at the hotel, dinner for the night was at Oenotri, a wonderful Northern Italian restaurant where chefs make their own pasta and source many ingredients from local farms. We were delighted when the hostess seated us at a table on the outdoor patio out back; from there we got a sense of the vibe inside but breathed fresh air all night long.

The next morning we awoke early and strolled down McKinstry Street to the Oxbow, for breakfast sandwiches on buttery English muffins from the Model Bakery.

We spent the rest of that second day luxuriating in each other’s company—strolling, relaxing by the pool, talking quietly as we so desired. I went for a run, my wife read a magazine. Both of us even napped a bit.

Considering how manic our lives are with the girls, this downtime was thoroughly restorative in its simplicity. All told, our babymoon was just about 24 hours; the blink of an eye in the context of a nine-month pregnancy. They were 24 hours we’ll cherish immediately for the next few weeks, then cherish again when the next Villano is added to the mix.

If you could stay overnight at any hotel on Expedia+ rewards points, where would you go and why?

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Matt Villano

In more than 20 years as a professional journalist, Matt Villano has had articles published in outlets including TIME, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, Coastal Living, and Entrepreneur, to name a few. He currently blogs about family travel at WanderingPod.com, and occasionally covers family travel for Family Fun and Scholastic Parent & Child magazines. Villano also wrote the family travel blog for Parenting magazine, and an adventure travel blog for SeeAmerica.com (a one-time website of Brand USA). In addition to travel, Villano’s areas of expertise are business, technology and gambling. When he’s not working at his stand-up desk, Villano is chasing after his three daughters, both of whom are future New York Yankees fans. His favorite destination on Earth is his (adopted) hometown of Healdsburg, California. No. 2 on the list: Vancouver Island, British Columbia (specifically Tofino). For more about Villano, visit Whalehead.com.

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