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Denver is one of the crown jewels of the Intermountain West and is rapidly growing for a few reasons: its proximity to the mountains, a whopping 300 days of sunshine and a thriving art and food scene. It’s no wonder you might be considering it as your next getaway using points and miles. To help you with your planning, here are the best flight and hotel redemptions to make your visit a success.
How to Book Flights to Denver Using Points and Miles
The Denver airport is about 25 miles northeast of downtown Denver and is a major airline hub for Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Frontier Airlines. There are a total of 215 different cities you can fly from to get to Denver nonstop. Armed with this information, let’s dig into the best flight options to book with points and miles.
Knowing that Denver is a Southwest hub means that this should be one of your first searches when looking for a flight. There are 82 different cities that offer nonstop routes to Denver during the week and 77 cities offering nonstop trips on weekends. The points rates vary based on the cash prices of the flight, but if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, choosing Southwest is an easy call.
United Airlines is the largest airline at the Denver airport based on the number of departing and arriving flights each week. United offers more than 50 domestic direct flights into Denver. This makes it another great airline to look into when you’re on the hunt for flights. If your travel dates are flexible, use the low-fare calendar to identify which dates have the lowest rates.
Since Frontier is another major airline at the Denver airport, let’s touch on it next. The airline serves 30 nonstop routes into Denver. As a low-cost carrier, it can be a great option if you’re interested in paying cash for your flights. If you prefer to use points for a Frontier flight (or other low-cost airlines, such as Spirit Airlines or Allegiant Air), you can redeem flexible points through a travel portal.
In the past, it wasn’t possible to redeem points online for some of these budget airlines through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Now that Chase replaced Expedia with cxLoyalty to power its portal, these flights have become available for online booking. If you’re still having difficulty getting the flights to appear, you can always call the travel portal customer service line to have them help you over the phone.
American Airlines has a total of 13 routes to Denver, nine of which are nonstop. American also has a low-fare calendar you can use to determine the least expensive travel dates if your dates are flexible. A great trick to getting even better points deals on American Airlines flights is to also run an award search with British Airways, another airline within the Oneworld alliance.
British Airways Avios can be used to book American flights often at cheaper rates because the Executive Club award chart is distance-based while American’s is dynamically priced based on the cash price of the flight.
Below is an example of the exact same flight comparing the price if purchased through British Airways vs. American Airlines. The savings aren’t huge, but a point saved is a point earned, right?
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines has 11 total nonstop routes to Denver, but its dynamic award chart can make it difficult to find inexpensive award fares. Fares for this round-trip itinerary to Denver are actually pretty reasonable, but know that if the cash price increases, so will the number of points you need to redeem.
JetBlue only has three nonstop routes to Denver, so this likely won’t be the best option. However, it’s still worth checking out if you’re traveling from the Boston or New York areas as it’s a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Where to Stay in Denver Using Points and Miles
There are plenty of hotels to choose from when planning your visit to Denver. All of the major hotel chains have multiple budget, mid-range and luxury options that will situate you close to downtown Denver or in nearby neighborhoods. Let’s take a look at a few hotels at each price range to help you best plan your trip within your budget.
For your budget options, I’ve chosen one hotel each from Hyatt, Marriott and IHG. All three of these hotel chains are transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so it won’t be tough to earn enough points for your stay. Marriott is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.
The Hyatt budget choice is the Hyatt Place Denver/Cherry Creek. This hotel is located in the Cherry Creek neighborhood, which is a more affluent area with a big shopping district. It’s about a 20-minute drive to downtown Denver. You can expect cash rates for this hotel to sit around $130 per night for a standard room on a weekend night or 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
For the Marriott option, I picked the Fairfield Inn & Suites Denver Cherry Creek. This is in the same neighborhood as our Hyatt option, and cash rates typically run about $160 per weekend night or 17,500 Marriott points per night.
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the cash rate is low enough for your dates, make sure to check the Ultimate Rewards travel portal because you’re likely to find this hotel available for fewer points. The nightly cash price of $160 would cost you 12,800 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or 10,666 points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
The last budget option is the Holiday Inn Express Denver Downtown, which is a part of IHG. Of the three options, this hotel will put you closest to the action. Cash prices for this hotel are usually around $175 per night or 21,000 points per night. This is another one that I would search in the Chase travel portal for if you have one of the Sapphire cards. You can likely book it for a lower points rate.
For the mid-range hotels, the best options are the Grand Hyatt Denver and the Le Meridien Denver Downtown. They are both within a few blocks of each other and are situated right in the city center.
The Grand Hyatt Denver is usually priced at $200 per night, but you can use 12,000 World of Hyatt points to book a room instead. This hotel has an indoor pool and a rooftop track you can use to stay fit during your visit.
The Le Meridien is a great spot for views of the city with its rooftop bar. You can stay here for around $240 per night or opt to use 35,000 Marriott points. This is another good example of evaluating your choice between using Marriott points or the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. The portal would be the best move here because you would be getting 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs. 0.6 cent when redeeming Marriott points.
The Thompson Denver, the Ritz-Carlton Denver and the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa all fall into our luxury category. All three hotels are in LoDo, a downtown neighborhood near Union Station making them convenient to get to and from the airport rail.
The Thompson Denver is a brand new Hyatt hotel that is accepting reservations starting Jan. 24, 2022. It’s a luxury boutique hotel that typically charges $350 per night or 25,000 World of Hyatt points. Its two chic dining options will keep you well-fed during your stay.
The Ritz-Carlton Denver is the most expensive option on the list both cash-wise and points-wise, but sometimes you just need to treat yourself. The typical cash price is between $500 and $600 per night, or you can redeem 60,000 Marriott points. If the cash price is high enough, booking directly through Marriott could be the best move here to get a better value out of your points.
The last luxury option on the list is the Brown Palace, a Marriott hotel, part of the Autograph Collection brand. This historic hotel was built in 1892 and has some fantastic architecture. A night in this hotel could cost around $315 per night, or you could choose to use 35,000 Marriott points per night. Again, as with most Marriott hotels, compare against the rates you see in the Chase travel portal to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
How to Earn Points and Miles for Your Visit To Denver
Since the Denver airport is a hub for both Southwest and United, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are going to be the best cards to help you earn points for your weekend getaway. Southwest and United are both transfer partners of Chase, so these cards will give you the most flexibility when it comes to booking your flights to Denver.
These two cards are also perfect for earning points for your Denver hotel stay because Hyatt, Marriott and IHG are all Chase transfer partners. Being able to transfer Chase points to these hotels sets you up to book any of the hotels in either the budget, mid-range or luxury category.
Having a Sapphire card also grants you access to the Ultimate Rewards travel portal where you can book some of the hotel options I shared at the following rates: 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and 1.5 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
With the welcome bonus offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you could easily have enough points to book your round-trip flight on United, Southwest, JetBlue, American (through British Airways), Delta (through Virgin Atlantic) or Frontier (through the travel portal). Depending on the price range of the hotel you choose, you could even have enough points left over to book your hotel stay, all with one card!
You could also consider co-branded hotel cards as a way to earn more points for your stay. Currently the World of Hyatt Credit Card is offering a 30,000-point welcome bonus, which is enough to book two nights at the Grand Hyatt Denver.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card is another option offering three free nights (worth up to 50,000 points per night) that could help you book a three-night stay at the Brown Palace or Le Meridien. But, to be honest you would be losing about 15,000 points worth of value per free night certificate if you used them this way because standard rooms at both of those hotels cost 35,000 points per night.
Things to Do in Denver
Denver is filled with activities to keep you entertained during your trip from sporting events to museums and from breweries to concerts. From my numerous visits to this great city over the years, here are some of my favorite places to check out.
Rockies Game at Coors Field
Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, is located just two blocks from Union Station in the LoDo neighborhood making it incredibly easy to visit from wherever you’re staying in the city. While you’re in the stadium, you’ll be able to spot the purple row of seats that are exactly a mile above sea level. Going to an evening game here is a great way to catch stunning sunset views. You can get Rooftop level tickets for about $30 each, and that comes with an $8 credit to the concession stands. You won’t have a designated seat, but there are plenty of table seating and restaurants where you can take a seat if necessary.
Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
The Red Rocks Amphitheatre is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Denver, but it’s well worth it to make the drive. It’s one of the best live-music venues I’ve seen. The entire amphitheater is built into a rock formation that makes the acoustics amazing and the views even better. Definitely check it out if an artist you like is performing during your visit to Denver.
Hiking in Windy Saddle Park
Just a short 30-minute drive from Denver, you’ll find Windy Saddle Park, which has a number of different hiking trails that offer scenic views. Beaver Brook Trail is a good option if you’re an adventurer open to facing a few obstacles along the way like creek-crossings, large rocks and ledges.
Favorite Food & Drink Stops
Denver’s food and bar scene is growing rapidly to the point where you can find most cuisines in the area. Here are a few of my favorite spots.
Linger: Described as “global street food,” you’ll find small plates with food from around the world.
Safta: A Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant where you should definitely get the lamb ragu.
Kachina Cantina: A twist on Mexican cuisine. Get the Wagyu brisket taco on fry bread
El Five: A rooftop bar with amazing views. El Five is right next to Linger, so you can come here before your dinner reservation next door.
Herb’s: A dive bar with live music in the heart of LoDo.
Number 38: A large beer garden with food and live music.
The city of Denver is booming for a reason, and there’s no better way to find out why than to check it out yourself. Whether it’s the art, food, nature or live music that draws you in, you’ll find something to love in Denver.
With three major airline hubs at the Denver airport, you’ll find plenty of ways to travel painlessly to the Mile-High City, and we’ve got you covered on the best hotels to stay at during your visit. Let Denver be your choice for your next weekend getaway using points and miles.
New to the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best card to start with.
With a bonus of 80,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!
Editors Note: 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.