Personal Finance

Book a memorable last-minute holiday trip using miles, points

The holidays mean different things to different people, but whether they conjure up images of the hustle and bustle around the Rockefeller Center tree in New York City, strolling the Christmas markets of Vienna or shredding down the mountains of Colorado, miles and points can get you there, even with the holidays looming in just a couple of weeks.

Merrymaking in Manhattan

If you love all things holiday and have never been to New York City in December, then make that a travel priority as outdoor ice skating, the multi-story-tall Rockefeller tree, Santaland at Macy's on 34th Street, the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular performance and the world-famous department store windows are all magical and filled with holiday cheer.

Despite the potential crowds, my favorite place to stay on points for a holiday visit to Manhattan is the Andaz 5th Avenue located across from the New York Public Library and outdoor ice skating at Bryant Park. This hotel charges 25,000 Hyatt points per night for standard rooms. Remember, you can also transfer Hyatt points at a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have cards such as the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve .

The Wingate by Wyndham on 35th Street near the iconic Macy's on 34th Street is another good New York hotel from a value and location perspective at 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night. If both of those properties are full for your last-minute dates, I would try the Grand Hyatt New York next to Grand Central Station. It charges 25,000 Hyatt points per night for a standard room, but has a very large number of rooms, so it is often available on points even when other properties are not.

Shop the Christmas Markets in Vienna

There are many famous outdoor Christmas Markets where you can eat, drink, shop, hear music and take in the season all across Europe, but one of the top cities for Christmas markets is Vienna, Austria . Airline saver award availability to Vienna from the United States is still pretty good from many cities for a last-minute December trip to Vienna in economy. There are also some premium cabin award seats available, though not nearly as many as you will find in economy.

You can fly on Star Alliance partner Austrian by booking with a frequent-flyer program such as United MileagePlus from 60,000 miles per round trip or even by booking via Avianca LifeMiles , also for 60,000 miles per round trip, though without the $75 close-in award ticketing fee that United charges within 21 days of travel. If you are running short of airline miles, you can transfer your credit card points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United or from the Citi ThankYou program to LifeMiles to book your award seats across the Atlantic.

When it comes to selecting a hotel for your Christmas market experience, you can stay at one of the best for just 25,000 Hyatt points per night even though peak season rates in December head north of 500 euros per night at the relatively new and very swanky Park Hyatt Vienna .

Christmas morning in the Rocky Mountains

While I have never spent a Christmas morning in the snowy mountains, I very much hope to one day, and miles and points will be what makes it a reality as paid rates can be extremely high anywhere remotely near a ski resort this time of year.

If this is going to be the year that your family hits the slopes on Christmas morning, then you can still find award rooms for Christmas Eve at the slope-side Westin Snowmass for 16,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points per night, at the Westin Beaver Creek Resort for 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points per night, at the new Hyatt Place Keystone for 7,500 Hyatt points + $100 per night, or you could go for luxury at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek for 30,000 Hyatt points per night or the St. Regis Aspen for 30,000 Starwood points per night.

To give you an idea of how great a return that can be for your points, the St. Regis Aspen is currently charging $3,467 for a standard room on Christmas Eve. With taxes and fees, that is over $3,800 for one night in a hotel that you can instead secure with 30,000 Starwood points.

If you can't find the airline awards you are after flying directly into the smaller Colorado ski towns such as Vail or Aspen, try flying into Denver and just renting a car from there. Flying into Denver around the holidays using Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be an excellent last-minute option since Southwest has no blackout dates, doesn't provide advance seat assignments and up to the first two checked bags will fly free. Southwest Rapid Rewards is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

There are a virtually limitless number of holiday travel dreams that you can still make a reality in the coming weeks thanks to miles, points and a little holiday magic.

See related:Don't let your annual rewards card's travel credits expire , 5 fun ways to create holiday memories using miles, points

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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