How This Girl Got 2 Free Nights in New York & $200 in Taxi Fares, Thanks to Credit Cards

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A couple of weeks ago, my family used Southwest points to visit us in Texas.  They had 20,000 Capital One Venture miles and wanted to know what the best way to use them was.  20,000 Venture miles are worth $200 when used towards travel expenses, so we decided on applying them towards the taxi fares around New York City!  You can earn 50,000 Capital One Venture miles (worth $500 in travel!) with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card after meeting minimum spending requirements.

While looking through my points balances, I noticed I had a Chase Free Anniversary night expiring soon with IHG.  So, it was the perfect opportunity to share those points with my “sister” Jen, for her 30th birthday in New York City!

Jen shared her story with us about her birthday trip to New York.  Thanks, Jen!

Jen Jumping on the Super Comfy Bed

I Grew up Tenfold in New York City

Jen:   My husband Jered and I moved to the Bay Area from New York City in April of 2015.  Since then, life and time has flown by without a good opportunity to go back for a visit—and so for my 30th birthday this year, I was determined for us to make it there.

To give some context on why this was such a big event, New York City is where I started my life, independently, as an “adult.”  It was the first place I moved to on my own, directly out of college, from my home state of Michigan.  It was where I started my first real job in the corporate workforce.  It was where I found out I didn’t like the corporate workforce and went back to school for design.  It was where Jered and I met, and where we started a business.  It was where we returned home to after our wedding.

Jen and Her Husband Jered in New York

There’s that saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  That’s New York City in a nutshell— it doesn’t coddle you, it doesn’t provide a safety net, it sweeps over you if you can’t keep up.  Over the 7 or 8 years that I lived there, I grew up tenfold;  I learned a lot both about myself and about life in general.

And together, Jered and I lived and loved the city in tandem, but we also increasingly faced increasingly difficult obstacles that came with running our own business.  When a client presented an opportunity to us in the greener pastures of the West Coast, we — after assessing some economical realities—decided it would be unwise not to give change a chance.  And that’s how we reluctantly said goodbye to the city where it all started.

Finding the Hotel for Birthday Celebrations

Flash forward to present time — to planning my birthday and our first visit back to NYC as visitors, not residents.  Since Jered’s best friend still lived there, we intended to stay with him in Brooklyn most of the trip.  But for 2 of the 6 nights, we were really hoping to find a hotel or Airbnb in the lower half of Manhattan, close to where we used to live on the Lower East Side.  However, every time we scoured Airbnb, it was impossible to find a decent space for less than $300 per night.  While I did want to “do it up” for my 30th, I am also by nature a fiscally responsible person, and I could not justify spending almost half a month’s worth of rent on 2 nights of lodging.

Emily went the extra mile to see if she had any hotel benefits available for use in New York City.  And that is how — through one free Chase Anniversary night and 50,000 IHG points—we secured a hotel reservation for 2 nights right in the Lower East Side.  Emily even got on the phone with IHG’s customer service to make sure the booking went through correctly.

Emily:   I have the old Chase IHG Rewards credit card (not open to new applicants), and every year I get a free night stay at various IHG hotels.   I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use it!  I also had 200,000 IHG points in my account, and used 50,000 IHG points towards another night for them to enjoy.

The new version of the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is also very good if you like their hotel brands such as InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, and Holiday Inn.

Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York

A few nights later, Jered and I checked into the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side on Ludlow Street, literally 3 blocks from where we lived on Rivington Street.  The design of the building itself is really nice: the red and brown brick gives it an authentic Lower East Side feel.  Inside, the graffiti-inspired decorative accents echo the urban art that can found all over the Lower Manhattan buildings.

The hotel is also structured in a quirky and interesting way.  When you walk into the “lobby” on ground level, the desk is actually the luggage concierge service.  You can also walk through to the back unofficial entrance on Orchard Street (in the evening, they rope off this area for people lining up to go to the popular rooftop bar Mr. Purple).

Hotel Indigo Lower East Side Concierge Desk

The real lobby is located on the 14th floor.  Here, you can also work or hang out at the tables and couches, look out onto the entire Lower East Side, or go upstairs to the bar and restaurant.  The staff was very genial, and we were offered a glass of Prosecco during check-in.

We Enjoyed Some Prosecco at Check-In

Because Emily is an Platinum Elite IHG rewards member, we were given a King Superior room with a pretty great view.  As you can see below, I was very enthusiastic about the experience.

Emily:   When I booked the room, I also politely mentioned that it was my sister Jen’s 30th birthday, and that I wanted to make her birthday trip very special.  I’m not sure if the hotel did any special upgrades for that reason, but it never hurts to ask!

Jen Jumping on the Super Comfy Bed

After a very restful sleep in a very comfortable king bed, Jered and I spent the entire day Friday revisiting more of our old stomping grounds.  We didn’t have a car when we lived in NYC.  We walked and biked a lot, so it was fun for us to trek the paths we used to take down through Chinatown, around to Tribeca and up through the West and Greenwich Villages.

This Hotel Brought Back so Many Fond Memories

Being able to stay in the Lower East Side really brought my 30th birthday wishes to fruition.  We were still so familiar with that entire neighborhood.  Some new restaurants and shops had inevitably popped up over the last 2 years — and some new glass towers in the skyline, but overall, the integrity of the neighborhood had been kept intact.  That very first night, after unpacking our luggage, we strolled around, zig-zagging around streets.

It was a literal tour through “memory lane” as we reminisced about this and that—walking our dog Jude through the park that runs from Houston to Canal Street, exploring the pitch-black streets after Hurricane Sandy knocked out half the power in Manhattan.  We even recalled when the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side was initially built.

Jude Ranks Highly on the “Best Dogs Ever” List

And of course, we ate a lot!  We started the morning off with a healthy breakfast treat from a new vegan spot right on the corner of Orchard Street (Dr. Smood), stopped for a late “brunch” at Jack’s Wife Frieda in the West Village, and ended with a fancy and delicious seafood dinner at Saxon+Parole on the Bowery.

“Brunch” at Jack’s Wife Frieda in the West Village

How I Spent My 30th Birthday in New York City

Friday evening, Jered had a couple surprises for me.  After dinner, we took a yellow cab (yellow cab drivers used to make a decent living before Uber and Lyft, but now the industry has been suffering with the introduction of the ride-share economy) up to Times Square, where we arrived at the New Amsterdam Theater to see Aladdin on Broadway.

Aladdin on Broadway!

We weren’t allowed to take photos of the actual performance, of course, but it was amazing and surprisingly comical.  It was also a special event for us because in all the time we lived in the city, we never really had the luxury of attending Broadway shows, so this was actually our first musical together!

The Inside of the Theatre Was Gorgeous

After the show, when we returned to the hotel, I thought we had planned on going upstairs to check out Mr. Purple (the rooftop bar), but Jered told me his friends were coming to meet us for birthday drinks and that we had to wait for them so that we could all go together.

In the meantime, I got all dressed up…

Dressed Up for My 30th Birthday in NYC

…and then when “his friends” arrived, it turned out to be the best surprise of all — 2 of my best friends from Michigan had flown in!!!

My Friends Flew in From Michigan for My Birthday!

I’ve known these girls since fourth and seventh grade, and it was such an added unexpected treat to be able to share the night with them in my old neighborhood.  On top of the roof, I was able to point out our old apartment building, as well as some famous sights like the Empire State Building (yep, the one growing out of my head above!)

The next morning, Jered and I went back up to the roof to take one last gaze of the view before checking out of the hotel.  New York City had been a bit gray and rainy from the remnants of Hurricane Florence when we first arrived, but it was a beautiful Saturday – soft clouds sailing across a clear blue sky.  A few hotel guests were enjoying their brunch in the nice weather.  We didn’t have a chance to take a dip in the pool on this visit, but it looked refreshing – maybe next time.

A Beautiful Day

And of course…we couldn’t leave without taking a selfie.

In the end, we couldn’t have asked for a better hotel in a better location.  While it was bittersweet to feel nostalgia from years of memories lived in New York City and the Lower East Side, it was also the perfect 30th birthday that I wanted.  Because of the familiar and convenient location, we were able to do all the activities that I had planned to do—a lot of them just mundane ways of NYC life that I missed.  But simultaneously, in being able to do them one more time, I received a sense of closure on my 20s and an acceptance and excitement for what this new decade of my 30s may bring.