Let's get this out of the way right here at the top: This post is sponsored by American Express. Nevertheless, it is about traveling, and at the end, you have a chance not only to dictate my next trip, but also to win something. Okay, that is the end of the disclaimer. Too bad, because I kind of like typing in italics. 

It's no secret that I love to travel. In fact, I think it's probably the opposite of a secret. I grew up traveling, I travel a whole bunch for work, and as soon as I get back from one bout of traveling, I'm planning the next. And you know, I'm not even joking about that last one: I know it makes for a cutesy line and everything, but I have, on several occasions, actually started arranging a new trip while I was still on the current one.

Because if there's one thing I could possibly like more than traveling, it's planning that traveling. I get really, really into researching my next trip, and it doesn't matter if it's an African safari or just a quick jaunt to see the in-laws at Thanksgiving; I always need to have my next move on the horizon. Is that weird? It could be, I suppose. All I know is that nobody should ever have to deal with me when I'm moping around with "Leaving on a Jet Plane" on repeat on iTunes, researching the cheapest flight from A to B just for kicks. 

So when American Express offered me 150,000 Membership Rewards points and asked me to use them to design a weekend getaway, I was......well, I was suspicious. Did they realize this was my travel-planning nirvana? Doing hours and hours of research to design the perfect vacation? With money that isn't even mine? They must have had Jimmy McNulty put a wire tap on my phone, I figured. How else could they have known that creating potential travel itineraries for myself is basically my idea of a rocking Saturday night? Either that, or they had implanted a chip in my brain to read my thoughts.

Not that I minded, of course. Brain, schmain. I've got a vacation to plan! 

You may not be familiar with Membership Rewards points, but if you are an American Express cardholder—which I am already, actually, mainly because I like that it forces me to pay my bill at the end of the month; also, the card we have is gold, which makes me feel super fancy when I hand it over for an otherwise lame transaction like paying my library fines—you are automatically eligible for the Membership Rewards program. You earn one point for every dollar you spend, and sometimes you get the chance to earn points even faster, like when there was a promotion once for us to earn triple miles on gas and groceries and so we filled up the car a whole bunch and were really diligent with not letting the refrigerator get down to, like, beer and condiments.  It was great for a while, and then the promotion expired and so, promptly, did our newfound responsibility. After that, we were back to letting the gas light go on and pouring half and half on our cereal because neither of us had remembered to pick up milk. 

Anyway! Because Membership Rewards points have no expiration date and there's no limit on the number of points you can earn, I can basically use my 150,000 bad boys whenever I like. WHICH TECHNICALLY MEANS I COULD RESEARCH THIS FOR MONTHS. I won't, though—you're welcome!—because I need your help. (And also because I would probably develop carpal tunnel syndrome, or at least some sort of unflattering ghostly pallor, what with staring at my computer all day and never going outside again.) 

So tell me this: how should I use my points? Where should we go? We only want to get away for the weekend, so it's got to be somewhere close enough to San Francisco that we aren't spending half our trip in the air and the other half fighting off jetlag (so au revoir, Paris. Selamat tinggal, Bali!) (Yes, I am fluent in Indonesian.) (Okay, fine, you looked up my Internet history and I totally just googled "how to say goodbye in Indonesian." You got me!)

Apart from that, though, the sky's really the limit—even more so because I can use my points a few different ways. While the Membership Rewards program features more than 20 major airlines and hotel reward partners (as well as cruise and rail partners) with special offers, you can also just book your trip like you'd book with any other online travel agency—i.e.: no blackout dates or seat restrictions—and then pay with points as though they were regular money. I could even transfer my Membership Rewards points over to one of the frequent flier accounts I already have (including JetBlue, Delta, or Virgin Atlantic) to turn them into miles and make them go even further.  

So what should it be: a city mini break? A weekend on the beach in Mexico? Two days of nonstop spa treatments somewhere idyllic? A weekend of things happening in Las Vegas that will stay in Las Vegas? A personal challenge to drink all the coffee in the Pacific Northwest? A visit to our neighbors to the north? I'm just throwing things out here. I could probably go on all day. No, I'm not even kidding: I really could go on all day. 

If you have a suggestion for a fun weekend getaway, leave it in the comments—could be a destination, could be a type of trip, whatever you want—and you'll be automatically entered to win a $100 American Express gift card. I'll be back next week with a few final contender itineraries and the name of the gift card winner, as chosen by random.org. Until then, I'll be right here at my computer, looking up flight times and obsessing over hotel reviews. Not to alarm you, but I may not actually go to sleep before then. 


Aug 09, 2011

A weekend vacay from SF? Hawaii all the way! The flight isn't that long and I don't think a true vacation can happen if it doesn't involve a beach, blue water, and a rum drink :)

Aug 09, 2011

I'd visit Portland! Or Seattle! I love both cities and for, a weekend getaway, they're close enough!

Aug 09, 2011

Oh wow- jealous.com. I would definitely go to Cabo!!!

Aug 09, 2011

You should totally go to Banff!

Aug 09, 2011

Why not do a two day rafting trip down the Colorado River, and intersperse those moments of tranquil natural views with flashes of sheer panic! :-)

Aug 09, 2011

If I were based in San Franciso and had the entire continent to play with? Toronto. This is because I very much want to go to Toronto, even based in the UK, and it's got to be easier to do from SF than London!

Aug 09, 2011

I think you should do a weekend in Moab or Quebec!

Aug 09, 2011

I second the Banff suggestion!

Aug 09, 2011

I think you should choose at random... maybe print off or bring up a map of North America, close your eyes, and wherever your finger lands is your destination!

Aug 09, 2011

Why not combine two of your suggestions and do spa treatments somewhere? If I lived in San Fran, I guess I would go to Mexico. The funny thing is that we're trying to plan a trip and now all I can think is GO TO SAN FRAN, which would be the lamest way to use your points.

Jaime Thomas
Aug 09, 2011

I think you should travel to a small town somewhere new and see what it has to offer. They've all got their own quirks and I think it would be neat to discover them.

Aug 09, 2011

Since I know you have already been to Banff (long time reader) ...how about Vancouver Island or the San Juans? Or Sante Fe or Taos for something different?

Aug 09, 2011

Oh, Quebec City is beautiful! And it feels kind of European. (Maybe not Paris European, but...)

Aug 09, 2011

I would go to Philadelphia. I love that city

Aug 09, 2011

How about somewhere in Colorado, like Denver or Boulder? I keep hearing about what a wonderful place Colorado is to live (and seeing it on House Hunters) and I want to visit, but I don't know what I'd actually do there. Except tour the Fat Tire brewery, of course.

Aug 09, 2011

Holly, you need an adventure. Don't just plan a vacation, plan an experience/challenge. Swim the fjords in Norway - (in the winter) and go to see the Northern Lights. Alaskan adventure cruise? Swim with the great white sharks in South Africa? Here's the thing. These are all crazy places to go and typically you'd spend more than a weekend there, right? But now you don't have to - FREE points and the chance to do something a little crazy. How often will you get the chance to justify a long flight for a fantastic day adventure??

I feel like anyone, even you and even us meager blog readers could come up with a spa trip on a tropical island or something still fun but more everyday. Do something different and amazing and that you will never in your life forget. Think bucket list. :) And take me with you.

Aug 09, 2011

I would go for NYC since I've never been. A shame, really!

Aug 09, 2011

I can't remember if you've been to Vancouver before. It's gorgeous there, fantastic food (I ate at an Ethiopian restaurant there that knocked my socks off), and a short flight from SFO. :)

Aug 09, 2011

go to taos new mexico. i mean, i don't want to tell you what to do...but go to taos. seriously.

Aug 09, 2011

I was going to say Denver when I read your post. So even though the commenter above me also suggested it, it is an original idea to me. Not that I've been, I've just been wanting to go!

Aug 09, 2011

Bajaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Exotic, but close!

Aug 09, 2011

Yay, American Express! I think you should go to Vancouver, BC - I hear it's gorgeous and if you book it soon it won't be too cold!

Aug 09, 2011

I would go someplace fairly close so I didn't spend a lot getting there and could afford to spoil myself once there. Bodega Bay, maybe?

Aug 09, 2011

I agree with the Colorado suggestions. Denver, Boulder, Manitou Springs. I was there for a short trip last June and we loved it!

Aug 09, 2011

I vote either Hawaii or Mexico, purely for selfish reasons revolving around my interest in going to both of those places and how invaluable your write-up would be. :)

Aug 09, 2011

I vote Toronto too! It's close enough, for you to say "I went to another country for the weekend" and there is so much to see and do, and more importantly EAT! If you come in early September, there's the Toronto International Film Festival going on, where the chances of catcihng George Clooney walking around town is moderate to high! We have the CN tower, the worlds tallest free standing structure - think Seattle's space needle and quadruple the hight. The Art Gallery of Toronto has been recently redesigned by Canada's own Frank Gehry and is stunning. Harbourfront, Free Concerts (Broken Social Scene, the Stars and Drake are all from Toronto), the ROM, did I mention LOTS TO EAT? :) PS: Niagra Falls is only an hour away!

Kristin Huston
Aug 09, 2011

New Orleans! Yummy seafood, great ambience, and so very much fun! Plus you can stay in a lovely historic hotel.

Aug 09, 2011

Since it's hot as Hades in the South right now, I'd get away to Banff or Sechelt. Coming from SF, you probably want warmth but I can't even think about being in the sun all day.

Aug 09, 2011

I vote for the Pacific Northest. Rent a cottage on Whidbey or some delightful island, read books and enjoy the scenery. Throw in a couple spa days (would you have to go to Seattle for that?)and some fancy meals, perfect vacay!

Aug 09, 2011

Oooh Puerto Rico! It's super easy to get to since and since it's almost an American state you don't have to pay crazy taxes or take your passport. I went in April and it was lovely.

Aug 09, 2011

I vote for an eco-resort in Costa Rica! Or this place in Mexico : http://www.imantaresorts.com/

Not that I've been to either place, mind you. Just wishful thinking...

Aug 09, 2011

And by, "Northest" I mean, Northwest. I made up some entirely new region.

Aug 09, 2011

I think you need more Red State America in your life. I vote for Dollywood/Pigeon Forge. The posts about it would be amazing.

Aug 09, 2011


Jackson (Hole) Tetons and Yellowstone

Jessica McManus
Aug 09, 2011

Hm. A free weekend getaway? Up to Canada for some Wine Gums? I'd prefer a beach and a mojito, so maybe cabo?

Aug 09, 2011

A resort ranch in Montana. A little horseback riding and a little spa service all rolled up into one! Plus big sky country and breath taking views.

Aug 09, 2011

I agree with Isobel's suggestion to go to Toronto. Not until September though. That's when the weather is usually the best.

Aug 09, 2011

As a Canadian, all the Canada suggestions are making me happy! I would vote Montreal or Quebec City because both feel really European and you could practice your French. Or Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival - I've had friends that have gone and they've said the people (and Celebrity) watching is amazing!

Aug 09, 2011

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay! You can drive there and spent all of your points money on spa treatments and room service eaten in the giant, pillowy beds that feel like sleeping in a cloud.

Whatever you decide, enjoy!

Aug 09, 2011

I vote for something a little bit country kitsch. Why not a weekend in Nashville (great food and music) with a stopover at Dollywood?

Aug 09, 2011

I highly recommend Santa Fe, New Mexico.
One of my all-time favorite domestic places to visit. There are goregous resorts so you can get in your spa time, along with a ton of culture, and fantastic food. 3 days there is the perfect amount of time too.

Aug 09, 2011

Niagara Falls!

Aug 09, 2011

I just read a blog post about how gorgeous Banff is right now, so I'm with everyone who suggested that- it sounds so perfect!

Aug 09, 2011

How about a weekend in Vancouver? Ooh, or Boulder! (Because those are totally similar locations...)

Aug 09, 2011

Victoria, BC
You can fly into Vancouver and then take a sea plane over to the island of Victoria. It is one of the most beautiful places!

Aug 09, 2011

Well, I'll go ahead and second (third? Fourth?) the votes for Colorado... granted I live here, so I'm biased, but the mountains are fantastic this time of year, it's close to SF, and you could do what another commenter suggested and go whitewater rafting. The rivers are running higher than usual this year and the rafting around Buena Vista is a-MA-zing. (Plus, yes, Colorado has more microbreweries than any other state, so you could go rafting, then hit up one of a number of small craft breweries for some good drinks.)

Aug 09, 2011

Another Canadian chiming in! Quebec City, Vancouver and Toronto are all great recommendations. The east coast is also beautiful. Check out Lunenburg and Mahone Bay--I was just there last weekend and it was BEAUTIFUL!! Maybe a little far from San Fran, but definitely worth a visit.

Aug 09, 2011

travel on someone else's dime? I'd go someplace less touristy, and buoy the economy somewhere that needs it. Detroit, maybe? There's history, and a Great Lake, and good breweries...

Aug 09, 2011

Durango, Colorado!

Aug 09, 2011

I vote for Quebec. Probably because that's where we honeymooned and I have been fantasizing about going back lately...Ah, honeymoon, I loved you!

Tammi Marie
Aug 09, 2011

That amazing Fairmount in Canada on Lake Louise.

Aug 09, 2011

Oh goodness...how can I ever pick just ONE weekend getaway?

Personally, at this moment, I would choose Boston. I've never been there, and I'm a total nerd for U.S. history, so I would go there and do all the touristy stuff.

But that could change tomorrow. I'm like you - always plotting out the next travel. Even if it never happens, it's fun to plan!

Elizabeth in Chicago
Aug 09, 2011

Please go to a beach in Mexico. And then I can live vicariously through you.

Aug 09, 2011

Tulum, Mexico!!!!

Aug 09, 2011

Nicaragua or Honduras!

Aug 09, 2011

I want to go to Victoria, British Columbia, because it sounds cool and green and we are PARCHING here.

Aug 09, 2011

Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado.


Never been, but sounds ah-ma-zing.

Aug 09, 2011

everyone keeps suggesting canada...so i'll second it


this is the most beautiful place in the world. i could go there and never leave the inn...but the hiking's beautiful, it's remote, there's nature, there's waves, there's even a lantern festival if you go the last week in august!

Aug 09, 2011


Jesse B.
Aug 09, 2011

I live in MT, we have some great places to visit. Glacier National Park has some gorgeous hiking and great resorts. I would, however rather visit somewhere tropical. My 15 year anniversary at work is this month and I get two airline tickets as my reward! I'm also trying to figure out where to go!

Aug 09, 2011

You should go to Zion National Park. It's smaller and less crowded than most, and my favorite of all the parks I've visited!

Aug 09, 2011

How about the Grand Canyon? (I see several people have recc'd Banff, but haven't you been there to see some ice castle on a lake or something? All that aside, I did just read someone else's blog about Lake Moraine near Banff being the most beautiful place on earth...)

There's good hiking etc. at the Grand Canyon. Of course, it'll be stinko hot. Sedona is south of there by about three hours, has awesome spas (and a TEAL McDonald's sign, I'm not even joking, b/c the gold would clash) and is a whole different feel, but you can take a train up to the Grand Canyon.

I'm from the Midwest, and my favorite weekend getaway is either NYC or Saugatuck, MI (kind of like "Cape Cod of the Midwest" I think is their shtick. And for the love of God do not go to Pigeon Forge.

Aug 09, 2011

I'd say go to Portland, then drive the Columbia River Gorge - beautiful!

Aug 09, 2011

FUN! I've always wanted to go to Seattle and take a day trip to Victoria, BC.

Aug 09, 2011

Find just about any Four Seasons and go there. Maybe the one in Santa Barbara (The Biltmore), which looks off the HOOK and would be a quick flight for you?

I would otherwise have said Hawaii, but you would be bummed to only have two days there; that's a good solid week trip, at least. I have also heard amazing things about the Wickininish (or whatever it is) Inn in Tofino, BC, but that's a lot of travel time for just a weekend.

Eeee! I'm excited for you. So many possibilities.

Aug 09, 2011

Oh, I'm jealous. I've been wanting to go to Moab. Temps have cooled off a bit I believe!

Aug 09, 2011

I think Vancouver, BC fits the bill nicely. The flight will only be a few hours, it is a gorgeous city, and there is a lot to do to use those points!

Aug 09, 2011

Go to Vancouver!

Aug 09, 2011

My vote goes to a weekend in Napa! Spa treatments, wine tasting, sleeping... Sounds pretty ideal to me!

Aug 09, 2011

What about somewhere like Phoenix, AZ or the Grand Canyon

Aug 09, 2011

Vancouver or New Mexico is my suggestion. Just think of all the beautiful photo ops!

Aug 09, 2011

If I were you, I think I'd go to Quebec!

Aug 09, 2011

Well, being from the Northwest, I'm biased and think you should come to Portland. But it's a vacation, go exotic! Head South and spend all of your time eating amazing Mexican food.

Aug 09, 2011

While I KNOW there are far more glamorous destinations, the north shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota cannot be beat in the fall - - specifically the Duluth or Two Harbors area. Beautiful views, a bunch of both hipster and gourmet dining options, and plenty of Minnesota nice. Your best bet would be to fly in and out of Minneapolis St. Paul and drive up north so add a stop in Minneapolis for a day on either end and you will have the perfect mix of city and small town.

Aug 09, 2011

Having never been to the west coast it's hard to pick just one place, there's so many I'd love to visit. Seattle tops my list, though. Can't wait to hear what you choose.

Laura B.
Aug 09, 2011

My vote is for Sedona. A relaxing spa weekend sounds divine. I would do something totally crazy like fly to Alaska! But that would probably eat up the whole weekend just in flight time.

Aug 09, 2011

I am going to try this again.

While I KNOW there are far more glamorous destinations, the north shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota cannot be beat in the fall - - specifically the Duluth or Two Harbors area. Beautiful views, a bunch of both hipster and gourmet dining options, and plenty of Minnesota nice. Your best bet would be to fly in and out of Minneapolis/St. Paul and drive up north so add a stop in Minneapolis for a day on either end and you will have the perfect mix of city and small town.

Aug 09, 2011

If I was in SF and wanted to take a weekender I would do Mexico with lots of relaxing activities like massages, lying on the beach doing nothing, and drinking delcious drinks while reading.

Pam Brain
Aug 09, 2011

Banff or Tahoe or Mendecino (wine tasting the Northern Sonoma and mendecino wineries totally knocks the socks off of Napa - no crowds and some world class Pinot Noirs!)

Aug 09, 2011

I'm liking the Canadian suggestions (although Jackson Hole/Grand Tetons is/are amazing). I was thinking of Quebec, but since you've already had that suggested, so I want to throw out PEI. You can buy lobster right off the boat and stay at a cozy B&B. There's kayaking and spas and Anne of Green Gables.

Aug 09, 2011

I agree with the Banff suggestions. It sounded amazing the first time you went and it's probably so beautiful this time of year!

Aug 09, 2011

Ooooh, rent yourselves a little beach condo in the North Shore in Oahu and spend the weekend on the beach drinking out of a coconut. Plus, you could start each day with a Matsumoto Shave Ice...mmmmmm.

Meghan B.
Aug 09, 2011

I love Colorado in the summertime!

Aug 09, 2011

Costa Rica surf camp!

Aug 09, 2011

I've always wanted to drive up that little highway that runs up the western coast of the US. So I'd take that trip, stopping at little bed and breakfasts along the way.

Aug 09, 2011

If it was me I'd pick Vegas right now because I've been Jonesing to go there for a few months now....but for you I'd recommend the San Juan islands above Seattle...breathtaking! We took a ferry there from Seattle and had a wonderful day trip...it would make a great little weekend trip.

Aug 09, 2011

go to one of those resorts in Mexico where a pool boy will refill your pina coladas all day long. then, when you're nice and toasty, drag your beach chair into the ocean and sit on it while you nap all afternoon.


Aspen. Go stay in one of the glamorous ski lodges, eat ice cream at Paradise (rocky mountain red raspberry and chocolate, in a cup - they give you a mini chocolate-chip oatmeal cookie with the cup), and check out some of the amazing restaurants in town. Oh, and you could always go for a little "adventure walk" in the rockies, too!

Aug 09, 2011

We took a fabulous weekend trip to Denver right before Christmas a few years ago. So much fun!

Aug 09, 2011

Fly into Jackson Hole... stay someplace super fancy and eat an amazing steak dinner, then 2 days in Yellowstone and stay at the Mammoth Hot Spring Hotel. Awesome 20's-era hotel directly next to the hot springs, which are so much better/weirder than Old Faithful! Wherever you go, have so much fun!

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