By: 10xTravel Reader Crystal Robens
The idea for this trip began with an offer in my mailbox for 4 free nights at Atlantis. My brother-in-law told me that the biggest poker tournament of the year is held there in January, the Player’s Championship, with buy-ins upwards of $100,000 per person and celebrities galore. I was sold! That’s when we would go!
How I Earned The Points And Miles
Since I already had a Caesar’s Total Rewards Diamond card, I needed to get one for my husband and brother-in-law pronto! If you have The Platinum Card from American Express, you can add up to three authorized users for a total of $175. The users get most of the same benefits you get, including the Marriott Gold and Hilton Gold status (important for status matches for additional Diamond cards) and $100 credits for Global Entry.
I used both of those benefits for them and added my 20-year-old stepson as an authorized user, so he would get the Global Entry benefit. For my $175, they all got the status I needed, and $300 of Global Entry applications were reimbursed!
Getting the Wyndham status match is pretty easy! You first create or sign into your Wyndham account. You submit a screenshot of your Marriott Gold or another hotel elite status. In a few days, a confirmation email will acknowledge that you have been matched to Diamond status. You create or obtain your Total Rewards account number. Then, you can request a status match by providing your account numbers — Wyndham and Total Rewards.
For the flights, earning the American AAdvantage miles couldn’t have been easier. With the Barclays Aviator Red, all we had to do was make one purchase to receive the welcome bonus. We also had the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which had a 70,000-point bonus when we applied, good for $700 in any type of travel.
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credit cards page.
How I Booked Our Flights To The Bahamas
I had some American Express Membership Rewards points that I wanted to use for my flight. I found that I could use 15k British Airways Avios and $118 in taxes to cover a round-trip flight on American Airlines to the Bahamas from my airport in Washington, D.C. This, however, only applies if you can find availability for a non-stop flight and I searched with no luck.
The same route, however, is widely available for 30,000 American miles with just a few bucks for taxes and fees. I had earned 60,000 miles when I signed up for Barclays Aviator Red card so I used those to book tickets for my brother-in-law and my stepson.
A fare sale offered tickets for $238 non-stop from DC on the same flight as my companions, so I used my Barclaycard Arrival Plus to pay for my husband and me and erased the purchase with points. Because of a status match challenge I did last year, I have Platinum status with American Airlines and we were able to snag a first class upgrade on both the outbound and return flights!
A few hours later we were landing in the Bahamas!
The flight home we were able to get seats side by side in first class, so we had to sport our 10xTravel flair!
How I Booked Hotels In The Bahamas
My initial plan was to use our three Total Rewards offers, stacked for 8 nights total across two rooms, and then use Marriott Points to complete our free stay. I was actually able to do better than that thanks to finding out about a “poker player’s rate” offered by the hotel.
It was free to get a PokerStars Live card which makes you eligible for an $89 rate for the Beach tower (discounted from $359) or Beach Tower “Villas” which are little beach front condos right on the water.
Additionally, I could have extended my stay in the Royal Tower through the Total Rewards offer for $116 per night but we actually liked the cheaper Beach Tower better. Since I had points from my Capital One Venture card to use as a purchase eraser, I thought this was a better deal than using 200,000 Marriott points to stay in the Royal Tower.
If you’re going to visit during peak season, and your initial reservation is in the Beach Tower, you get the option of 2 days of extension for a mere $65 per night which is awesome. Since we were off-peak, we got the fancy water view in the Royal Tower which costs a bit more to extend.
The views from the rooms were SPECTACULAR and worth the extra money.
Part of the Total Rewards stay at Atlantis is what they call the “Casino Experience” card which offers you the following:
- A shallow water dolphin experience
- Free drinks at several places
- Free sushi & sake appetizer
- A free round of golf
- $100 free slot play (one per person with Diamond card reservation).
Also, as new members, you get free slot play at the end of your stay based on your play. I got an additional $50 and my husband and brother-in-law got an additional $25. We used all the benefits except for the round of golf.
The free slot play turned out quite well between all of us (we pooled it) and we used this money to book and pay for a boat trip.
The sushi was top notch at Nobu. We paired it with a couple of water vouchers to get some free beverages.
The dolphin experience was the absolute best of the freebies. We learned about dolphins for about an hour and even got to kiss a dolphin! Sadly, there’s no picture of that as they wanted $100 for a digital copy. After spending time with the dolphins, they put on a show.
The wetsuits were very snug but kept us warm once in the water.
Of course, the reason we went to the Bahamas on these dates was to play in the PokerStars poker tournaments. They did not disappoint! I was able to make the final table of the Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) tournament. My brother-in-law cleaned up in the cash games.
During the tournament, we met several (poker) celebrities including Norm MacDonald and Bruce Buffer at the annual player’s party. Who doesn’t love an open bar and free food?
Our splurge during our vacation was a boat trip to Exuma island. You can buy one of these 8-hour tours for about $240 per person at the Margaritaville on site where several companies offer tours.
The speedboats are fast, and even on an 80+ degree day, it was COLD on the boat. You’ll be on a boat for about 3 hours so be sure to pack a blanket and a windbreaker. Here’s us not doing that and freezing (but still happy).
The first stop was at iguana island, where we put bread on a stick to feed them. Don’t turn your back on the iguanas as they WILL bite your ankles! We then went to a marina where there are hundreds of nurse sharks to swim with, feed and pet. It was scary when they seemed overly interested in my toes – but all my digits were left unharmed.
During our visit to Exuma island, we enjoyed a free buffet and some drinks plus a little display of the Junkanoo festival — participation is optional.
Next, we visited the swimming pigs. They love vegetables and will sit like a dog when you tell them. Finally, the boat took us to a beautiful sand bar with gorgeous panoramic views and crystal-clear water. This is a must-see spot.
Guests of the hotel can visit the amazing aquarium and attractions for free, including the famous Aqua venture park. Others pay $150+ per day just for this!
And, of course, there was plenty of time for lounging on the beach with a nice coconut drink.
With a little planning, we were able to take a once in a lifetime trip to the Bahamas with points and miles! Also, with SPG Gold status (now Marriott Gold), we were eligible for upgrade to the water view rooms.
Also, having the Marriott Premier Plus credit card meant I was supposed to earn 6X Marriott points for all our purchases in the Bahamas that were charged to the room, but it coded as “travel” for 2X points so I had to call Chase and Marriott to fix this.
Pro-Tip: Everything is expensive in the Bahamas. We saved by packing snacks and bottled water in our checked bags. Another little gem is a poolside bar in a cave by the Beach Tower that offers $6 conch fritters and reasonably priced hot dogs and sandwiches. The conch fritters are a Bahamian specialty and a must!
Also, for the price of one roll of sushi at Nobu, you can go into town to visit Seaside Sushi and get a whole BOAT of delicious sushi. Highly recommended.
And, finally, don’t forget to use your Priority Pass benefit at the airport in the Bahamas. The food is amazing and with two people, they credited us $120 which even covered the gratuity!
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