Wanderlust in Aruba

This post was written by Bonnie, a newcomer to the WorldWanderlusting way of traveling.  She recently took an unbelievable anniversary trip in February of this year with her husband, and wanted to share her experience with our readers (note that their camera date wasn’t set so the dates are incorrect).

Our 20 year anniversary was coming up, and I knew I wanted to do something special and big that included a white sandy beach.  I also knew that with 5 kids, I didn’t have a lot of extra money lying around.  So, I did what any other adventure seeker would do and sat down with my friend Sheldon.  Now my disclaimer to this is that I have listened to Sheldon blab nonstop about all the wonderful adventures that he has taken since I met him 5 years ago.  But I have a HUGE aversion to using credit cards, because I know far too many people that have not used them responsibly, and have later gotten into financial disaster.  So I would politely listen to the blabbing, smile, and wonder to myself how I could take the same trip “legitimately.”  I quickly realized that Sheldon’s blabbing WAS legitimate!  It IS possible to be a responsible credit card user and to travel the world almost FREE!!

Beautiful beach

I started applying for my first credit cards in September 2012.  I had no idea where I wanted to go, but knew I needed points to get there.  I also felt a little bit of a time crunch, because we wanted to take our anniversary trip in February 2013.  This gave me only 6 months to maximize my use of travel cards, which required some very close accounting.  Then, I literally started Wanderlusting any location that I could redeem my points, with white sandy beaches being the only parameter.  I wanted to go someplace a little remote; off the “normal” beaten path….which is why we chose Aruba.

Sailing in Aruba

My husband and I both applied for the Chase Marriott Rewards card.  My husband had applied for the card when they were advertising an additional incentive, so he received 80,000 points after his required purchase, and I received “only” 50,000 points after my purchase.  Regardless, this gave us 130,000 points to use at a Marriott resort.  The hotels in Aruba all required a larger amount of points, as they were at least a category 5 or higher.  We chose an ultimate beach front gorgeous Marriott resort that cost us 140,000 points, but you could stay 4 nights and get the 5th night free.  Luckily, to make up for the difference in points, we had a Chase Freedom card that allowed us to transfer points to various other travel partners.  Like magic, our white sandy beach resort hotel was paid for!!  My husband and I also both applied for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, which gave us each 30,000 frequent flier points after our required purchase.  Our airline tickets cost 35,000 points each, so I did have to dig into my wallet to buy the extra 5,000 points each, plus pay the taxes.  The extra Delta points and taxes cost a mere $450. (I’m certain if I had more time I would not have had to pay for this either.)  But, wait… there’s more!  We decided that we wanted 6 nights in Aruba instead of only 5, so I found another resort, using my Starwood American Express card, to receive 1 additional free night.  Then our flight back to Idaho took us through NYC, with an overnight layover in NYC.  So, I did the only natural thing, and used my Chase Priority Club card for another FREE night.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I tried to book the entire trip on my own to see my savings.  This trip would have cost $6000+, but it cost me $450!!!

Aruba Vacation

Bonnie and Wyatt enjoying Aruba

Aruba is a small island, only about 22 miles wide and 8 miles long, and located about 15 miles north of Venezuela.  Their motto on all license plates is “One Happy Island” and we can attest that everyone was pleasant and so wonderful.  We happened upon a “locals” beach one day, and the local kite surfers gave us our own show of spectacular jumps and flips over the waves.  Because the island is so small, we drove on every street and checked out all corners of the island.  The year-round temperature is in the mid-80’s with a constant ocean breeze.

Coconut Aruba

Wyatt enjoying a fresh coconut

If you’ve ever wanted to try fresh coconut milk, drinking it from a guy on the side of the road as he chops it with his machete is the only way to drink it!  Aruba is a very dry island, not what you would think of as a tropical island.  There were many cactus jungles, and most of the fruit was imported.  But the seafood was amazing, and we ate fresh fish almost every day.

Almost everyone on the island speaks English, although the native language is Papiamento.  It is a beautiful Creole language that is a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, and some African languages.

Sunset couple

Whether it was romantic poolside dinners or watching the ocean sunset on the white sandy beach, we had an awesome 20th Anniversary! So, blab your heart out Sheldon, and you can guarantee that we’ll be Wanderlusting again soon!!!

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11 Responses to Wanderlust in Aruba

  1. Kaziu says:

    Wait, but the pictures are from 2008 and you started with cards in 2012. ?

    • bradleyjai says:

      Kaizu- Good observation. Their camera date hasn’t been set, so all the photos have that date – a good reminder to make sure we get those set before a vacation. They took their anniversary trip in February of this year.

      When and where is your next trip?

      • Kaziu says:

        When? Not soon enough!
        I acquired half a million points in one week from Carlson Club chain. Got Concierge status with my first card. Signed up for the Signature Carlson Visa. Got 80k points in the first billing cycle. Then in February 2013 I booked 7 nights at Radisson Aruba for February 2014 where last night was free thanks to the Visa card. 50k x 6 for 7 nights. Got upgraded to a Club Tower on 7+ floor, with ocean view, free breakfasts and afternoon manager’s specials. Could stay longer but Continental is flying direct from ORD on Sat and Sun only and with 2 and 4 yo boys, I rather skip connecting flights especially when direct flight costed less than anything else, at $497 RT pp. this will be our first trip to Aruba. Hotel reviews are promising. When checked with Expedia, same accommodations were $780/night. I’m so proud of this entire arrangement 🙂

  2. Mike says:

    Aruba looks AMAZING!

  3. Debbie says:

    Aruba looks wonderful! Hoping to visit there someday! We just started thinking harder about our credit card choices as well. Hoping the rewards will pay off sooner now! 🙂

  4. Ken says:

    We just got back from a cruise that went to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Key West. Can’t wait to get back to those beaches!

    • Sheldon says:

      @Ken- Nice. Glad you finally got your wife out on a trip. Is she convinced?

      • Ken says:

        I had her use her own UR points for a Southwest flight. I’m hoping letting her see how everything works that she’ll get hooked. Flights and hotel was free, all we paid for was the cruise itself which saved us a bunch. Fingers crossed!

  5. Pingback: Aruba - Netherlands of the Caribbean | Travel Tips For World WanderlustersTravel Tips For World Wanderlusters

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