Trip Planning: The Big Easy & ATL

Intro – Planning
Delta and Weather Troubles to Start
Wyndham La Belle Maison
Cajun and Creole Goodness
Delta Strikes Again!
Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel
Southern Comfort Food


In light of this new found travel bug, Joann and I are once again going on vacation. We’re heading to New Orleans and Atlanta during Labor Day week.  It’s a great time for a full week of vacation because the kids will be back to school and you can outlast the vacationers that are just touring places for the weekend. For flights, we redeemed Delta awards and for lodging, we used a combination of Priceline Name Your Own Bid, and my parents’ Wyndham Vacations timeshare.

Through all the complaints that Delta generates about lack of low-tier (25k miles) award availability, I have never had a problem. Using The Points Guy’s guide on how to book a Delta SkyMiles award, I was able to secure 2 Coach award seats. We will be flying LGA-MSY-ATL-LGA. Total cost of 2 tickets – 50,000 SkyMiles & $10. We’ll spend 5 nights in New Orleans and 2 nights in Atlanta.

Delta SkyMiles are always easy miles to come by as a Membership Rewards cardholder since Amex & Delta love to run very generous promotions – Delta 100% bonus when you buy/gift/transfer miles & 40% rebate on MR points when you transfer to Delta. Thanks to a transfer promotion earlier in the year, I earned Delta Silver Medallion status so I  seated us in the comfortable exit rows as soon as we booked the ticket. We will also have Delta SkyClub  lounge access thanks to the Amex Platinum Card – full review by TPG here. Not a bad way to fly if you ask me.

For lodging, Priceline played a huge part as usual. Using my own Priceline Walkthrough, I was able to win the Sheraton New Orleans hotel for $70 a night (x 2 nights), a savings of almost  100% for that weekend! I’ll be sure to charge a few incidentals to the room and pay for them with my SPG Amex for 5x Starpoints.

The other 3 nights in The Big Easy will be courtesy of my parents timeshare – Wyndham Vacation Resorts. The reasons that you should never buy a timeshare are endless; I won’t go into them here. I will probably write a post about it. Regardless, we were able to book a 1 BR Presidential Suite for the amount of points of a regular 1 BR because we booked within the 45 day upgrade window. In proportion to their yearly maintenance fees, we paid them $165 for 3 nights.

In Nawlins, we’re definitely looking for fun stuff to do – see the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, take a swamp tour, etc. As for dining, we’ll be under the tutelage of Fanny & Brian from 2Top Tasting. I can’t wait to eat at some of the places they’re looking into.

As for Atlanta, we just wanted to visit the city for a few nights just to say we did. There is no reason we would go there otherwise so we might as well stop over there for free on the way home (free stopovers, another great feature of award flights). Priceline was used once again to win 2 nights at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown for $84 a night. The best rate at the time of booking was $149 so we saved 73%! In 2 days, we’ll probably just see a few sights and find some great places to eat (chicken & waffles).

One last thing I want to point out is that to Amex, Priceline is categorized as Transportation – Airline. If you read my blog, you already know what I’m getting at… the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card! Use this to do all your Priceline spending and you will receive triple MR points.

All in, we are looking at 50,000 miles & $546 for a week of vacation between the 2 of us… or $78 a night! Great value and lots of savings for activities and, of course, food! With a little bit of planning and ingenuity, you can also plan a budget trip just like this.

Stay tuned for the full trip report in 2 weeks…