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How we stayed in New York City, Niagara Falls, and Toronto for FREE (worth nearly $5,000)

IMG_5544.JPGGoing to NYC could be adventurous, and at the same time disastrous to your wallet. One of the things that could hurt you is your airfare, the other major expense is your hotel stays. Before I got in to earning miles and points, there was a time, when Nancy joined me on a last-minute trip to NYC. Because it was unplanned, she paid a hefty $800 for the airfare. I told myself, “not again” and that there had to be better ways to travel than break my bank account.

I’ve already shared with you that we only paid $5.60/person out of pocket for our airfare from Los Angeles to New York. Now, I’ll share how we stayed in New York City for free – for six days. We also stayed for free in Canada (Niagara Falls and Toronto) for FREE! Here goes.

IMG_5813.JPGOur goal for our trip to New York was to stay in Manhattan, and not have to leave the city. We’ve stayed outside Manhattan before (in Secaucus or Meadowlands in New Jersey). Staying there was cheaper in points but there’s an added inconvenience where we had to take a bus ride to NYC. The bus ride when there was no traffic could be 20 minutes long, but with traffic, it could take us up to an hour to ride a bus to and from the city. With this trip being a first for Evan and Caitlin, we wanted the convenience of staying right in the heart of the city. We wanted to have easy access to the Subway, and beFullSizeRender 88 in close proximity to anything and everything the NYC has to offer.

Park Hyatt New York
– Over a year ago, Nancy and I opened up two separate Chase Hyatt credit cards. What’s the perk? You get two (2) free nights at any Hyatt Hotel or resort worldwide. The keyword here is ANY. Hyatt has different product sets to accommodate your needs and budget. Since we could stay at ANY Hyatt, Nancy and I decided to open up two separate Chase Hyatt accounts, therefore, we were able to get four free nights. We made it a point to use them at Hyatt locations that will give us the most bang for our buck. So far, we’ve used them in the following Hyatt hotels: Park Hyatt Paris Vendome and Park Hyatt Sydney. Both hotels charge close to $1000, if not more. When I began to plan our return to New York, there’s no doubt that we wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt.
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My review and impressions about the Park Hyatt New York? We checked in on Thursday morning when we flew in directly from the airport. I called to check if any rooms were available for early check-in, and sure enough, there was an availability.

Located in Midtown Manhattan, they gave us a room with two double beds. It was expansive. It was massive compared to other New York City hotels. It was extremely

FullSizeRender 91.jpgroomy with high vaulted ceilings. With tax and everything for one night, if we paid for this room in cash, it would’ve set me back over $1,300. But, it
didn’t. We got it for free. There was a separate bath tub, a rain shower room and a toilet, and a roomy vanity. We could see Carnegie Hall directly across from us. It was just pure relaxation after catching a red-eye flight. The kids were also able to enjoy the indoor pool located on the 25th floor. Best part? We were offered an option late checkout of 2:00 pm, which gave us time to enjoy the comforts of this hotel.

Element New York Times Square West by Westin – this is where we stayed for the next five nights. Since I knew we’d be in New York for 7 days (or 6 nights), I wanted to take advantage of the perk where we canScreen Shot 2017-04-15 at 8.40.43 PM.png
stay for four nights and get the fifth night free. I opted for SPG or Starwood Preferred Guest (affiliated with the Sheraton, Westin, etc.). I booked a regular room, but as we all know, we need more space. But, I opted to stick with booking the room that would cost me less points to use. I tried to call the hotel weeks prior asking for an upgrade but there were no guarantees until the check in day. We arrived at the hotel close to 3pm. Judy, one of the front desk managers, assisted me. They were fully booked that weekend, but she managed to give me an upgrade. She saw my SPG Gold Preferred status, and gave us a one-bedroom suite with a full-kitchen.

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It was perfect for our semi-extended stay. So thankful for this upgrade. We used 28,000 SPG points for five nights and if we had paid for this one-bedroom suite in cash, it would’ve cost us slightly over $500 with taxes and fees. So our five night stay at the Element Times Square wCaptureas easily worth over $2500, and we paid ZERO! How exactly did we do that? It was thanks to my American Express SPG card, the bonus points alone got us up to 5 nights in New York City, and I’m sure you can find ways to stretch those points elsewhere. Others have stretched their points and got 7-8 nights.

Now for the next leg of our trip, our party flew from JFK to Buffalo (Upstate New York). Our plan was to go to Canada and visit Niagara Falls, and spend a few days in Toronto. Buffalo Niagara International Airport was only 30 minutes away from the Canadian border so I chose to pick up our minivan rental and drove to Canada.

How did we stay for free in Canada?Back in January, one of my favorite travel bloggers, The Points Guy aka Tr54fYOPb.jpgPG, ran a Facebook online contest. The criteria was to tag your travel partner, Nancy, and why we love to travel, and what we looked forward to in 2017.  The prize was $500 for you and $500 for your travel partner. The announcement took place at 5pm PT. Nancy and I couldn’t watch the Facebook Live announcement because she and I planned on watching La La Land in the theatre. But, as any responsible travel-bugged family, we told one of our kids, Ethan, to tune in and watch TPG make his announcement. At around 5:20pm, while sitting comfortably inside the theatre, enjoying our popcorn and the movie, I received a text from Ethan, “Dad, you won $1,000!!!” Honestly, I didn’t believe him. I mean, c’mon! Me, a winner of $1,000? Far fetched! A few minutes later, I got another message from two other travel buddies, Edith and Ron. They, too, watched TPG’s Facebook Live, and they sent me a message and congratulated me for winning. Okay, now I knew Ethan wasn’t playing a trick on me. I was ecstatic. I wanted to watch the FB live feed at that time. When I finally watched the replay, I was named as the very first winner of the contest. Woohoo!!!

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hoteltonightSo, the $1,000 prize was not in the form of cash. Brian Kelly, aka TPG, sent me a private message and informed me to work with Kate O’Brien, Director of Marketing and Compliance. The prize was $1,000 of HotelTonight credits. What is HotelTonight? It’s an app where you get last minute hotel deals. The catch? Back in January when I won the prize, I couldn’t book our hotel stay far in Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 8.11.15 PMadvance. You could only book it close to one week before our travel date. Kate and I were in constant communication. She assured me that that when the right time comes, she’d be the one booking on my behalf. In this case, my plan was to book our Niagara and Toronto stays.

The moment that we goScreen Shot 2017-04-15 at 8.11.34 PMt to New York City on April 6th, I sent Kate an email and told her that I looked at the HotelTonight app, and requested for her to book Sheraton on the Falls for me. Kate was quick to respond, and booked our one night in Niagara Falls. Why the Sheraton? Well, I’m a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, and I could use an upgrade if available. By the way, there’s an offer right now with American Express SPG, you can earn 25,000 bonus points that could get you similar hotel stays in New York (and other places) just like the way we did. Click here for more info.


Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 8.14.04 PMA couple of days later, I checked HotelTonight app again, and asked Kate to book Radisson Admiral Toronto Harbourfront. Why Radisson? I figured I could leverage my Club Carlson Gold status for a free upgrade. So there, that’s how we got our free nights in Canada. Not bad, eh???

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FullSizeRender 98.jpgIn summary, here’s a breakdown of our hotel stays, and the points we’ve used, and their value had we paid for those nights in cash. Close to $5,000, and we got them for FREE. I’m still in shock. These were not cheap hotels either. They were between 4 to 5 stars, and we didn’t have to settle for anything less. All my research and points-earning strategy paid off.

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Lastly, when Kate and I were in communication via email, knowing that I’ve been a TPG avid follower for nearly three years now, I had asked her if it was okay to visit the new TPG office in the Flatiron District since we were in town. She gladly said yes, and suggested for us to come by on Tuesday afternoon. Sweet!IMG_7754

My party of six stopped by their office, the kids got to meet Brian Kelly aka TPG. I’ve met Brian a couple of times in Los Angeles, and most recently in Beverly Hills. Nancy and I went to his event that he co-sponsored with the Hilton, and there was a pre-Grammy special performance by Lukas Graham.

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He quizzed my kids about their worldly travels, and the perfect credit card. Of course, my kids showed off with their list of places they’ve visited, along with Ethan’s knowledge with using Chase Sapphire Preferred  and Reserve that garnered us thousands of points.

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Thanks, Kate O’Brien, for coordinating this visit

Aleta, one of the TPG staff members, along with Kate, also gave us a tour of their new digs. I also got to meet James Cury (Editorial Directorial), Cliff Fleiser (VP of Marketing and Communications), and Becca Denenberg (Marketing and Events Manager). What a great visit and experience for me and my kids.

I remind our kids every time how lucky they are to be traveling to all these many places, and it is thanks to the many travel bloggers out there where I get my knowledge and ideas on how to best maximize our travel.


As a final note, there’s this big sign inside the TPG office, and I believe that to be true….so go, go and travel

How was this possible

For those who are just starting or who are not aware of the points earned with credit cards, that’s truly what made this possible. As you can see with this example, each traveler needed approximately 37,000 points. There are quite a few credit cards that are perfect for beginners that could get you to travel for nearly free. Two of the ones that come to mind:

Chase Sapphire Preferred(click here), Chase FreedomChase Ink Business Preferred, and Chase Sapphire Reserve – each of those cards could get you you 50,000 bonus points (as of March 2019 – that bonus increased to 60,000 points). You have to meet a minimum spend of $4,000 within the first 3 months of opening the account, once you do so, you will be awarded your 60,000 bonus points. We’ve used those points to our many trips to Hawaii, New York, Europe, Peru, and just about any where in the world. For more details, click here for a list of my favorite travel credit cards.

 This is the perfect starter credit card

25 thoughts on “How we stayed in New York City, Niagara Falls, and Toronto for FREE (worth nearly $5,000)

  1. What an amazing experience for you and your family! Being able to use your points makes it even more awesome to get free stays. Unfortunately, being from a third world country we’re quite limited in what cards we can access!

    1. Thanks for the feedback. We are very fortunate to use credit card points for our family trips. If you have a relative in the US, they could sign up for a card, and add you as an Authorized User, perhaps that might be a way of taking advantage of the perks. Some of the cards do not require a Social Security #. Each bank program could vary.

    1. Yep….you can’t go wrong with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I have that too, and lots of other credit cards that allow us to travel the world for nearly free 🙂

    1. Just know that NOT all credit cards are created equal. Everyone thinks that since their cards are earning points, that it’s good enough. You have to know which card gives you the best bang for your buck. If you are serious about earning points, please read this blog entry that I wrote, and my suggestion is to start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred (I appreciate it if you use my link)

  2. $800 for an airfare is totally expensive. I still have to also learn miles and points by the way to save money for travels. Lucky you. You learn how to keep the budget for travels low 🙂

  3. What an amzing experience and education for the kids. Start themoff at a young age and they will learn fast.
    I’m not sure but i think these credit card hacksonly work in the States as ive never heard of them in the UK.Please correct me if im wrong and i’ll check them out.

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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