CLEveland to LAx – October 2017 for 2 People

A friend from Shaker Heights wanted to treat her BFF to a trip to LA.  The time frame was ideally mid October, and they’d be flying out of CLEveland (Hopkins). She is new to Churning, so the planning for this trip went as follows for simplicity:

  1. Find Flights – Cheapest with Points without being 8.5+ hours
  2. Find the card(s) that are offering bonuses now that line up with those flights
  3. Find Hotel, or AirBnB and compare the options
  4. Find the Hotel CC or Barclay/CapitalOne card to  cover the hotels

First, find out how much flights are via the SouthWest, United, and perhaps Delta.  For the most part all domestic flights are 25,000 Points on all airlines except for Delta and SouthWest.

Delta prices their stuff ‘randomly’ but occasionally they have good flights depending on your itinerary.  In this case they had a RT Trip to LA with one stopover, for 22,000 a person.  The catch is they all depart pretty early, and one only has a 35 min layover.  Conveniently there is a Delta Amex Card that is offering 60,000 Points right now, with no annual fee after spending $3K.


United is the only airline where you’ll find a direct flight CLE-LAX, but they seem to know that so they ‘black out’ those dates.



You’ll notice United ‘Offers‘ a non-stop flight, and they have seem to have many Award Options available… but for some reason the ‘Direct 4 hour flight’ is twice as much (25,000) for ONE WAY, whereas the schlubb flights that are 8 hr 24 min via United are only 12,500 like they should be. This is done so United can legally say they ‘don’t have blackout dates‘ and people with tons of points can still redeem them for many nice flights, albeit at a worse value.  As a rule of thumb, the more in demand your flight is, the higher the cost or less availability you’ll find with Points… So Plan Ahead!


Conversely, SouthWest offers a slew of great flights, that are only 2+ hours more with one stopover…. And for only 16,000 Points per person!  This same flight happens to be $327, and usually SW Points are ‘worth’ 1.6 cents, so this is a great value.

Not Pictured: American Airlines (25,000 points, terrible routes / availability), and British Airways – which is only good for short distances in the US.  Others were omitted for being too obscure or not having a corresponding ‘Highest Offer’ Credit Card right now.


While in LA, there are seemingly endless places to lodge.  If you’re an Elitist I’d recommend the fancy pants Hyatt Andaz in the West Hollywood area.  I would personally choose the more affordable and less opulent Hyatt Place in El Segundo.  Why is that you ask?   Well for one its 12,000 Hyatt Points instead of 20,000 (Hollywood) but more importantly:

  • Its Centrally Located t Near LA Super-FunTimes
  • Its $ price is around $184 ish a night, so at 12,000 Hyatt Points you get a nice Value of 1.5 cpp
  • It Includes Breakfast, saving you $8-$25 a day
  • Rooms have a FULL Kitchen, so you don’t HAVE to eat out every meal
  • Not too posh or too cheap
  • Has a Pool, Grill, and Tennis Courts
  • Hermosa and Manhattan Beach are only 10 min away

Of course you can simply apply the concepts on our ‘How To‘ page if you wanted to stay in say Long Beach instead.  I prefer Hyatt points because they have a tremendous value compared to all the others.  The average stay can cost you 8k-12k,  and even the amazing island or big city locations are only 20k or 25k.  Compare that to 40K for Hilton/Marriott/Holiday Inn etc…

LA Area HotelsAnother favorable option is Marriott, as they have a CC offer for 80,000 Marriott Points for $3k.  You’d have close to 90K after spending the $3K requirement and possibly another 5K for adding an Authorized User, which is enough for 3 of their 30k level (nice) hotels… which there are a good amount of, so finding Award Space would not be too difficult, even as October gets closer.  If you can manage to rack up 100,000 points, they have a ‘5th night FREE‘ Deal, so a 25k a night place would only cost you 100k!   This one has a fridge and a pool, near Manhattan Beach.  However the card is $99 the 1st year (and thereafter.)   Imagine the ‘deal‘ as paying $99 for $720 worth of Marriott stays – since they average ‘.08 cents per point.’  You’d be getting that approximate value with the 5th Night Free Promo.

“What about Holiday Inn or SPG or Hilton Points?”

Those programs and dumb and you’re dumb for suggesting we even use them.  JK, they all are not currently offering Credit Cards at the highest bonuses at the moment, and you don’t want to get a new card when its not at its peak offer (or close.)

Alternatively, one could stay anywhere you’d like that is coded as a ‘Travel Purchase‘ and ‘erase the charge’ with a Barclay or Capital One card.  The advantage of this is that you can stay ANYwhere you want, at ANY time. You can purchase through a site like Expedia or a hotel directly, who will usually offer the same room at the same price or less (sometimes you have to ask, and sometimes they price match + a bonus).

If you have a slew of hotel or airline points already, check out our guide and use the ‘Useful Tools’ Page to plan accordingly.  Below are our new credit card and travel options for this trip:

Obtaining the Points

The wisest move is to use SouthWest to Fly there.  The 60k SouthWest Personal Card for $69 Offer JUST Expired, but their $99 / $3K Spend 60,0000 BUSINESS CARD Version is still live.

You can also get SouthWest Points by transferring ‘Ultimate Rewards’ Points to SouthWest (1:1 ratio) .  The Chase Ink, Sapphire Preferred, and Sapphire Reserve all allow you to do this, but only the Ink Card is at its highest bonus.

Scenario One:

  • Get the Chase Ink Preferred Card – 80,000 UR Points for $5K Spend, $95 fee
  • Transfer 32,000 of those points to SouthWest
  • Transfer 48,000 to Hyatt
  • Buy your 2 CLE-LAX Flights on SouthWest with Points
  • Buy your 4 Nights at the El Segundo Hyatt with Points
  • Apply your remaining 5,000 or more points to your car rental, via the UR Portal
    • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals
    • You CAN ‘use a sliding scale’ of how many points you want to redeem if your rental costs more points than you have

In this scenario, you get all of your points for hotels and airfare all at once, but you have to spend $5K quickly since the trip is coming up in October… and it costs you $95 for 4 nights at an LA Hyatt and 2 RT Flights Pretty Sweet.

Scenario Two:

Optional: Capital One Get the or Barclay Card INSTEAD of the Hotel Card, book hotels anywhere and ‘cancel the charges’ after.  CapitalOne Venture will give you a $50 Statement Credit,  plus $460 worth of “Any Free Travel’ which would cover your hotels.

In this scenario, you’d have enough leftover SW Points for another RT flight or possibly 2 later on.  You’d however need to pay more for your remaining hotel stay nights.  The ‘Travel Card’ option would be my move, as you can use it to assist with hotel and car rental costs as well.  Plus they both have no Annual Fee the first year.  The SW Biz card will cost you $99, and you’d be spending $3K within 3 months twice.  You’d have 2 Free Flights, and $510 worth of Free Travel Money in this setup.

Scenario Three:

  • Get one of the Delta 60,000 Point Cards, enough for 3ish round trip flights
  • Use 44,000 of them for the CLE-LAX Flights on Delta
  • Get the Hyatt 40,000 Point Card OR the Marriott 80,000 Card
  • Book 3 or possibly 4 nights with said card

Optional: Capital One Get the or Barclay Card INSTEAD of the Hotel Card, book hotels anywhere and ‘cancel the charges’ after.  CapitalOne Venture will give you a $50 Statement Credit,  plus $460 worth of “Any Free Travel’ which would cover your hotels.

Lastly, if you are doing this last minute or have time constraints, simply get a ‘Travel Cash Back’ card as referenced above and at least enjoy $500+ worth of free travel stuff.  I would recommend getting Chase Cards 1st because of their 5-24 Rule, but that’s not as relevant if you only plan to get 2 new cards a year.

Looking for a Free Trip in the near future for yourself?  Leave us a Message and we’ll try to do a write up for you!


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