Have Cards, Will Travel

Destination celebrations and shoulder season weekends away with rewards

Visiting a popular destination during the shoulder season makes it easier to land both better rewards and bigger experiences


Traveling during a destination’s off season is a great way to get great deals on accommodations and flights – and rewards points can make it even easier.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

This weekend was my birthday, so my friends and I headed out to Lake Tahoe to celebrate. This wasn’t the kind of milestone birthday that warrants a big destination celebration; however, when your friends are also points-collecting travelers and your birthday is in the destination’s shoulder season, you have the perfect conditions for a girls’ getaway.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, “shoulder season” is the time period between a destination’s high and low tourist seasons when travel isn’t as busy. The crowds are smaller, hotels tend to have better rewards and upgrade availabilities because they aren’t at capacity, and flights are usually cheaper or easier to purchase with points.

In the case of Lake Tahoe, shoulder season is the few weeks between the end of the high summer season on the water and the high ski season in the mountains. The mornings are chilly, but the lightly snow-dusted mountain hiking is still amazing and a sunny day on the lake is the perfect condition for a birthday sail.

In fact, I wasn’t the only one smart enough to celebrate a special occasion during shoulder season in Tahoe – I witnessed four gorgeous weddings on the beach at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe over the weekend.

I mean, if you’re going to bring a bunch of people to a popular destination, why wouldn’t you do it while the weather is still perfect and the room rates are lower?

See related: How to plan a fly-and-drive road trip using rewards, points

Planning a shoulder season getaway

Planning a shoulder season getaway isn’t much different from planning a regular holiday.

In fact, it’s probably easier since the whole purpose of traveling on the edge of the off-season is cheaper travel and better availability. The only thing you’ll want to double check when planning shoulder season travel is the weather so you can pack appropriate layers.

I personally chose Lake Tahoe as my birthday destination because I wanted a central location that friends from Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco and Portland could all access it easily.

I also wanted to be able to stay at a higher-end place where we’d be able to afford a little bit of luxury by offsetting the cost with points.

Because Tahoe is a popular holiday destination, there is no shortage of accommodations that are bookable using your credit card rewards points.

We easily settled on the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort and Spa since I’m obsessed with The World of Hyatt Credit Card and my globalist elite status. Plus, the location was really convenient for cheap flights to get all of my girlfriends into Reno (RNO) on points or bargain fares.

To get to RNO, I actually paid for my American Airlines flights (and took a much less direct route than Alaska Airlines offers) because I’m currently working on an AA status challenge for the next 90 days! I’ll save my AA points from my Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard for some international flights I’ve got coming up.

To get from RNO to North Tahoe, I booked a rental car using AutoSlash. Not only did I get a bargain because it was off season ($107 for four days), I also got to take advantage of the perks of National’s Emerald Club because I carry The Platinum Card® from American Express.

This benefit meant skipping the line at pickup and got me out of the airport and into my rental car in under 15 minutes. I was checked into my hotel and watching the sunset over Lake Tahoe in just over an hour after my plane landed!

The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort where we spent three amazing nights is a category 6 Hyatt property, bookable for 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night. However, since the shoulder season weekend rates at this hotel were so good, we opted to pay and split the cost between us.

There were no regrets on our choice of accommodations – the staff at the hotel were experts at celebrating the special occasions of their guests! There were plenty of highlights – including champagne on arrival and a piece of chocolate brownie birthday cake after relaxing in the steam room, delivered right to me.

We got a great room upgrade, thanks in part to my World of Hyatt Globalist status and also my friend Robin, who called the hotel ahead of time to ask for help in arranging champagne and birthday flowers to be in the room on arrival.

Getting to Tahoe

If you want to head to Tahoe yourself, there are plenty of ways to get there with points – no matter where you’re starting your travel.

If you want to visit North Tahoe on either the California or Nevada side, Reno (RNO) is the quickest commute to the top of the lake.

If you want to hit the more touristy side of South Tahoe, Sacramento (SMF) is a good alternative for a shorter drive or any of the bay area airports (SFO, OAK or SJC) for a bit of a longer haul.

Both main and budget airlines have flights into one or more of these options, so no matter what rewards points your banking from the cards in your wallet, you’ll be able to get a flight – especially if it’s shoulder season!

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Have Cards, Will Travel

Earn a sign-up bonus on the Citi Double Cash Card when you apply in-branch

Citi is offering inflated, limited-time intro offers for select cards when you apply at your local Citi branch.

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more