Taking a vacation doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Kelli and I have become travel pro's. For years we have been collecting points via our credit cards. We used to do airline miles. Now we do hotel points. We each have a Holiday Inn card, a Capital One No Hassle Rewards card and I have a Starwood Preferred American Express. Kelli also uses her United airlines card as the points can be used for anything.
This weekend we are staying in two different hotels. The first two nights we are in a Holiday Inn Express (one of our top 5 hotels) and the third night we are in The Hyatt Place (one of my top 3 hotels). The Holiday Inn Express hotel is in Salinas, California. We wanted to stay in Monterey, but the prices and points required were much higher. The Holiday Inn Express in Salinas is only 3 months old. For some reason they have reward nights available for 5000 points per night. Most hotels are 25000 points per night (that's what was required in Monterey). On the third night we are using Kelli's United points to pay for the Hyatt Place.
Our rental car was super cheap. Alamo has a $10 a day sale going on from many airports. Each hotel has a set allotment of $10 a day sales. The Monterey airport was sold out. The cost would have been $160 for the three days. The San Jose airport still had the deal available. Total cost was $42 (I picked a mid-size at $14 a day versus a compact at $10 a day) plus taxes and fees for a total cost of $61. We could use points from Capital One to pay for it....but at such a low cost it would be a waste of points.
Airfare. Well this is where we have a huge advantage as I work for an airline. For most people though it is best to track the airfare for a week or so to get an idea on what the best price is. Airfares do change daily and sometimes hourly. Before I worked for an airline I found the lowest fares on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with the highest fares on weekends (when people are home looking for a deal). It's best to get the reward miles from the airline versus using a credit card to get miles. On a typical vacation one will spend much more on the hotel than the airfare to get to the hotel.