Trip Report: 9 Days in California for Under $265

Since my mother passed last April, my Dad has insisted on having what is now an annual family vacation together. Last year, we spent a week together in Monterey, California, and this year, we spent 8 days together along the beautiful Newport coast in California. It was a great time spent with family, though the perfect storm of east/west coast time change + Daylight Savings + the start of teething, did converge on us... we made it through the week! *whew*

Beautiful Crystal Cove State Park


We still have over a year of eligibility with our Southwest Companion Pass, which I wrote about, so we utilized that, along with the points gained in obtaining the pass, to fly out to California. Southwest usually has a connection somewhere, and rarely has direct flights unless it is a short distance, but this worked out fortuitously for us. Let's just say a 2 hour and 3 hour flight, with a break in between, is much preferred over a direct 5 hour flight when traveling with an infant!


  • Our Costs: 18,804 points, $22.40 for taxes & fees
  • If we had paid in cash, it would've been a minimum of 2 x $446.49 = $892.98
  • Benefits: 2 free checked bags/person, an awesome SW flight attendant who made an awesome shaker toy out of a plastic cup and some pretzels for Malin
  • Downside: Early morning flights due to no direct flights, made for a tired and fussy baby

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $22.40



The view from one of our villa balconies

This was actually a trip that I didn't have to do any lodging research for! My Dad has several timeshare properties in other locations, but he traded those for 2 villas here - one for my family, and one for my sister's family, while both him and my brother utilized the extra bedroom in either villa. It was a super nice property with 3 different pool areas, lots of activities for kids and adults alike (i.e. - corn hole, ping pong, movie theater, arts & craft times, fire pits, basketball court and putting green, etc.), and situated on the hillside with amazing views of the coast! The property is also only about 20 minutes to major shopping centers in Newport Beach and Irvine, and a stones throw away from Crystal Cove Beach & State Park. The only thing we regret was that Malin wasn't old enough to fully take advantage of all the facilities/activities!

My Dad sat in on a timeshare presentation, so that he could get a couple hundred dollars in gift cards (something I would do, so I guess I got that from him, haha!), and found out that each villa costs approximately $6,000 for a weeks stay. So the two villas combined would have cost $12,000+ with maintenance and cleaning fees included O_o!

Marriott Newport Coast Villas

  • Our Cost: $0, thanks to my Dad's generosity
  • His Cost: Approximately $1,500+ yearly, for maintenance fees for his other timeshare properties

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $0


We however, did take an over-night trip down to San Diego to have some family pictures taken by my friend, Katie (Katie Gardner Photo), who I knew back from when I was living there. And since we needed some accommodations, I put us up at the Hyatt House San Diego/Sorrento Mesa. I chose this location for the free breakfast, but it was also very close to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant!

The boys enjoying the Hyatt House pool all to themselves

Hyatt House San Diego/Sorrento Mesa

  • Our Cost: 2 Free Night Certificates (from 2 Hyatt credit cards, which give a free annual night to category 1-4 properties) and 8,000 Hyatt points
  • If we had paid in cash: 2 Queen Rooms x $174.49 = $348.98 + 1 King Suite Room $163.24 = $512.22

Out-of-pocket costs: $0



We flew into LAX and got a Silvercar for an 8-day rental. Silvercar is a car rental agency that only rents out Audi A4's, which include a slew of free features such as - WiFi, GPS, satellite radio, toll tracking (which was awesome, as the Newport coast is accessed by a toll road, and it was one less thing we had to worry about), and they refuel the car at the going gas station rates + a $5 fee. Depending on the area, rentals cost anywhere from $39/day to $69/day. They are currently only located in Austin, Dallas Love, Dallas DFW, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Chicago, but are looking to continue to grow in other locations!

The great thing about Silvercar is their service. They pick you up in a Silvercar directly from the terminal, and when you return your car, they simply drive you to your departure airline in the same car, taking away the hassle of unloading your bags (boy did we have plenty... babies require a lot of stuff) and having to lug it all onto a rental car shuttle.


  • Our Cost: $43.16 for one tank of premium gas
  • If we had paid in cash:
    • 8 x $59/day = $472 - $276 (I had a 50% off discount from completing a survey, but they took it off of the $69/day rate for some reason) = $196 + $37.01 (taxes & fees) = $313.01
    • Second Fill Up: $22.87 + $5 fuel service charge = $27.87
    • Total: $260.88 - but I had travel credits to redeem against this = FREE

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $43.16  


*Silvercar is currently having several promotions that I want to share, especially if you're interested in trying out their amazing service:

  • Save $100 on your first reservation: Use promo code ELEVATE75 on your reservation to get $75 off any rental of 2+ days for first time renters! Then stack this with my sign up referral JCHIU, and get $25 deposited into your PayPal account when you make that first reservation!
  • Save 15% for returning customers: Use promo code ELEVATE15
  • Free Day for any rental of 3+ days: Use promo FREEAFTER3


Food & Misc.

When it came to food and eating, we were once again beneficiaries of my Dad's generosity. He would not let anyone pay for any of the meals, and generally wanted to take care of everyone's needs. However, we did have some costs such as a Jamba Juice (we really need one out here on the east coast!) here and there, airport food on the days of travel, as well as miscellaneous costs such as parking and some small contributions to the groceries for the week.

Out-of-Pocket Costs: $197.99



We spent 9 days and 8 nights in Newport Beach, spending a total out-of-pocket cost -- including airfare, ground transportation, and food -- of $263.55. If not for my Dad's generosity, our SW Companion Pass, discount coupons and travel credits, this trip would have cost us at minimum $8,140.07! For more pictures of our vacation, check out #chiufamilyvacay2015!

If you have any questions, please email me or comment below!

*Don't forget about the amazing Silvercar savings above! And if you're interested in learning how to plan a trip like this, earn tons of points, maximize your reward redemptions, and travel for free, click HERE!