How I Used Miles to Book a 25th Wedding Anniversary Trip to Saba

When I recently published a post outlining my family’s travel plans in 2023, I thought that was it as far as major trips are concerned. Sure, I could see myself adding a local/cheap beach getaway on a weekend if I felt like it. But certainly nothing that would involve an airplane. After all, we have enough flights scheduled already. But an interaction with  our reader Russ in the same comments section led me to scheduling another trip. There I’ve mentioned to him that I would like to visit St. Lucia or Saba one of these days.

That conversation planted a seed in my mind, so I’ve told my husband I want me and him to finally fly to one of these islands next year. To my shock and surprise, he said we should do it this year for our 25th anniversary instead. To be honest, I didn’t really plan anything special. We were thinking about doing a Windstar cruise in Tahiti, but that plan fell through for various reasons. So, I figured we would drive to a local beach in Florida and use Wyndham points on Vacasa rental or something along those lines. Plus, I did book a trip to Costa Rica where my MIL will keep the kids in a separate room from me and my husband. I figured that sort of qualified.

But my husband said we should do a proper anniversary trip, something unique and memorable. Since I’ve mentioned St. Lucia and Saba, he told me to pick either one. Naturally, I got excited and instantly started looking at award availability. We only had a specific window in our schedule where we could get away and leave the kids. Since I live in Florida, flying from Miami (about 3 hours from our house in light traffic) on American Airlines is the most logical option.

I have a small stash of AA miles, as well as Avios (AA partner) and could use either currency. I prefer to burn Avios, since it costs 11k points one-way to fly AA to either St. Maarten or St. Lucia. Saba requires a separate Winair flight from St. Maarten, bookable only with cash (more on it later). There was no sAAver availability to St. Lucia, so I would not be able to utilize my Avios stash. Instead, it would cost us 65k  AA miles per person for a roundtrip flight, quite steep.

St. Maarten was a different story. There was sAAver availability on outbound flight, so I could burn Avios. The taxes are only $5 per person, so that’s what I would lose in the event of cancellation. The flight back cost 21k  AA miles per person. Not great, but good enough. I would only get 1 cent per mile in value (once you deduct $80 in taxes), but free cancellation and mileage re-deposit is definitely worth something. Saba (well, St. Maarten) it is.

Sure, we could wait till next year and hope for a better mileage deal. But I’ve been dreaming of going to Saba for two decades, and always found an excuse on why we should put off the trip. What if we miss the flight to Saba and get stuck on St. Maarten? What if a hurricane comes early to the Caribbean? I remember seeing a post on Saba on RapidTravelChai blog and thinking I need to finally book a trip there. It has been 8 years since then!

I’m tired of making excuses. My husband and I are currently in a “grow a little pot belly, grow another chin” stage of our lives, but not quite at a point of “calling Jamaican nurse mama”  Though judging by the amount of medication my husband has to take every day, he is well on his way.

Anyway, friends, looks like we will be heading to Saba in a few months. No, sadly there are no Hyatt hotels there or any other chain, for that matter. Just local mom-and-pop establishments. That little extra flight to St. Maarten discourages many tourists from considering this island, which makes sense. Plus, there are no beaches.

Speaking of this flight, it looks terrifying, and one of the reasons why I put off visiting Saba for so long. The runway is the shortest in the world, and one of the most difficult ones to land on. There is a 3-minute long video of the landing on YouTube if you care to watch it:

When I told my husband that we are going to Saba, he got a  smile on his face. That’s the one he preferred, and this particular flight is the big reason why. I haven’t actually booked it yet, since I’m waiting for my $300 travel credit on Capital One Venture X card to post. Should be any day now. It is quite expensive on our dates ($135 per person one-way). But we can’t swim to Saba, and out flight lands too late to take a ferry. We do plan to use the  ferry ($65 per person) on the way back to St. Maarten, since we will have plenty of time to make our flight. Plus, I like the idea of seeing the island from a different perspective.

We only plan to stay three nights on Saba and overnight in Miami, since our flight to St. Maarten  will leave at 10 AM. Naturally, I wanted to get a hotel  in Miami Beach. It’s not my favorite in Florida, but any beach is better than staying near Miami airport.

I had 56K Radisson points that I really wanted to get rid of. So, I was happy to find a new option in the area: Radisson Resort Miami Beach  It runs at 60k points per night, so I went ahead and purchases 4k Radisson points for $28. If a better redemption comes along before our trip, I can always cancel and get the points back. If you stayed there recently, let me know how you liked it. Either way, the main purpose of this hotel is to give us a place to sleep before our early flight. But if I can spend a few hours at the beach while I’m at it, why not, right?

Final thoughts

To say that I’m excited about this trip would be an understatement. Saba is definitely a worthy candidate for our 25th anniversary, and the fact that my husband is looking forward to going makes it that much sweeter. There is no jet lag to worry about, and the flight to St. Maarten is only 3 hours. Sure, it’s not the easiest island to access, but that makes it more special.

I’ve always tried not to let miles and points dictate where we travel. If we are going to go through the  trouble of flying somewhere, it better be special and something I actually want to do. That’s why I doubt you will ever see me plan a trip to Maldives. While it looks beautiful and can be covered with points, it’s just too far to justify such a long trek.

I don’t see anything there that can’t be found in the Caribbean if you look hard enough. Obviously, I don’t mean any disrespect. To each his own. Plus, if we ever travel in Asia, I would love to add a Maldives detour. Occasionally, things align, as was the case with Andaz Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful thing when you can cover the trip entirely with miles and points.

But then there are places like Saba. If I insisted on only using hotel points, I would miss out on seeing this amazing island. And I don’t want to miss out.

How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.

 

 

 

 

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