My family and I try to take one big trip a year and we try to use points/miles to pay for at least one of the big expenses for that. So, my husband and son have decided that they want to take a train trip. That sounds good to me, but I did have to talk them out of doing the New Orleans to LA southern route. Right now we're considering taking the Crescent into NYC for xmas 2019 (what can I say, I'm a bit of an overplanner).
I'd like to book the train portion of this trip on points. There are a few reasons, but the main one is that, while we live near a station, it's hard to justify the time and expense of a regular train trip unless you're talking about New Orleans. And don't get me wrong, it'd be awesome to hop a train to NOLA for a weekend. All that's to say that I'm not going to be racking up points for regular travel. And that I don't mind blowing my whole points collection on a single trip whereas I kind of would like to save hotel and airline points/bonuses for future trips.
So, now I'm trying to figure out the best strategy. First question is about the companion pass. I understand that a sleeper car ticket has a per person component and also an accommodation arrangement. I'm looking to put two adults and a 6 year old into a bedroom. Could I use the companion pass to offset some of the per person point cost of the ticket for my husband? Also, if I'm able to sign up for both cards and get sign up bonuses for both then I'll be somewhat close to what I need for the tickets. Do you have a favorite exchange program? I see that the spg program is the best exchange, but I do tend to value those points a bit more than Amtrak. I see that the Choice hotels have a horrible exchange rate, but that's not a brand of hotel I'm likely to stay at so I could also get that card and earn the points specifically to transfer. Any other tricks I should know?