After reading all 58 posts on the new batch of Pointbreaks, you probably feel like you know all you need to about IHG. You probably have similar sentiments regarding Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, Club Carlson, and Marriott and to a lesser extent Wyndham and Choice. (And to an even lesser extent: Best Western, and Red Roof Inn.) That’s certainly how I feel. But are there any travel hacking opportunities outside the big brands? Any value to be gleaned from smaller hotel chains in the United States?
I’ve been wondering about this and I haven’t found a good source of information so I decided to write about it myself. I’m writing as a researcher here, not as an expert. I’ve never stayed in any of these hotels; the point of this exercise is to find out if there’s any reason for me to consider doing so. If anybody reading this has any experience worth sharing, by all means add a comment.
Now then: let’s talk about hotels!
This is the only one of these chains I’ve mentioned before since it has a credit card issued by Commerce Bank. Brands operated by Drury include Drury Inn and Suites, Drury Inn, Drury Suites, Drury Plaza Hotel, and Pear Tree Inn. They are primarily in the Midwest and South:
This may be selection bias on my part, but the sample of Drury Hotels I looked at on TripAdvisor was very well-reviewed on TripAdvisor. One interesting thing is that a number of them do what they call a 5:30 kickback, which is basically a light dinner except for everybody, not just the elite lounge-dwellers among us. That could save you some money and hassle if you’re traveling with a group.
They have a loyalty program called the Gold Key Club which awards 10 points per dollar spent. There’s no award chart; points requirred for a free night vary from hotel to hotel. Award redemptions start at 7,500 and go at least to 30,000 (for the Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio Riverwalk). You can also trade 25,000 miles for 5,000 miles with American or United, which is a lousy deal. There do not appear to be any status levels within the program.
For what it’s worth, the aforementioned credit card touts the following benefits:
- Best room available within the category booked
- Early check-in and late check-out privileges (when available)
- Complimentary room upgrade promotions
- Exclusive offers and bonus points
There’s no map available, but this chain has hotels in 21 states scattered coast to coast as well as an odd assortment of six countries (Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Egypt, and St. Maarten). Their loyalty program offers 10 points per dollars spent with redemptions starting at 17,500 and topping out at 30,000 points:
Additionally there’s currently a sale where a number of redemptions are half off, putting the lowest redemption at 10,000 points. Redemptions apparently need to be made over the phone. Old school! There are three status tiers: Member, Preferred, and Elite (See Hyatt? That’s how you name status levels), which kick in at 0, 6, and 12 nights respectively. Elite benefits include complimentary room upgrade to the next highest category (“subject to availability” of course), 50% off a suite upgrade at check-in if you’re so inclined, and complimentary club lounge access.
Possibly of interest to those of you reading this: Sonesta does status-matching. Scroll down to #4. If you end up in a place like the Royal Sonesta New Orleans, a status match could be worthwhile for a club-level room.
This is a surprisingly big chain that came into existence in its current form when Red Lion bought Vantage last fall. Red Lion’s brands include Red Lion Hotel, Red Lion Inn & Suites, Hotel RL, GuestHouse, and SettleInn (“Why not settle for SettleInn?” The marketing copy writes itself!). They are strongest on the west coast and I would suggest to them that if they open up shop in the southeast they drop the name “Red Lion” since it sounds too much like Food Lion, the supermarket chain. They are strongest on the west coast:
Vantage, meanwhile, is a surprisingly large chain (and is not be confused with the VantageScore credit scoring model). Its flagship brand, America’s Best Value Inns, has over 1,000 locations nationwide. At least, that’s what Wikipedia says. They don’t offer a map or a comprehensive list of locations but a cursory look at Google Maps confirms that there’s a good number of these hotels. Other brands include Country Hearth Inn & Suites, Jameson Inn, Canada’s Best Value Inns, and Lexington Hotels & Inns.
In the poor man’s version of the Marriott / Starwood merger, both legacy chains still have their own rewards programs. Red Lion has Hello Rewards, which has no points involved but offers a free night every seven stays. Other than that there isn’t much of interest in that rewards program. Vantage, meanwhile, has the Vantage Rewards program which also has no points involved and not much in the way of rewards, which come to think of it may be why the two companies merged, though they both offer free room upgrades (“when available”). What you do get with Vantage, however, is discounts at Applebee’s and Olive Garden:
So there’s that. (You all are familiar with the famous Olive Garden review, right?)
Did I miss any chains worth mentioning? Overall, I’m not seeing any screaming hot deals or missed opportunities, though I think a Sonesta status match could be worthwhile given the right situation. Likewise I think a 5:30 kickback could be pretty awesome if you have kids with you and can snag a low rate on a Drury hotel. With the exception of the Drury credit card, which earns points at a 1X rate and has a middling 15,000-point sign-up bonus, there are no ways to earn points at any of these chains outside of the old-fashioned staying-at-the-hotel approach.