Every now and then somebody raises the concern that points and miles blogs focus too much on the luxury travel aspect of this hobby. I think there’s something to that, but what bothers me is not that there are a lot of articles on luxury travel–luxury travel is awesome, of course–but that there are relatively few on cheapskate travel. There are good opportunities out there for hotels outside the upper echelon.
Why look to the Category 1 redemptions of the world? Several reasons:
- Volume. Sometimes you need rooms for a long time, or sometimes you need multiple rooms, or sometimes you need multiple rooms for a long time. That can drain your point balance pretty fast. Finding a good low-end redemption takes some of the sting out of a big trip and can let you take other friends and family members along for the ride.
- Travel more. Simple arithmetic would suggest that–for a given amount of points–a lower average point cost per night will give you more nights spent in hotels. So even if you are surrounded by friendly drugstores, grocery stores, and Walmart ATMs, you can get more traveling done for a given level of effort if you can find worthwhile lower-end redemptions.
- Use up leftover points. If you want that Maldives villa, then knock yourself out. But odds are the points you require for any given trip won’t be exactly what you’ve earned. Instead of letting points languish in your account, why not put them to good use?
- Everything is awesome when you’re five years old. I have four kids, the oldest of whom is seven. I’m sure this will change as they get older, but right now the greatest hotel in the world is the one they’re staying in on any given night. Why? Because hotels are AWESOME when you’re that age. I don’t know why they love hotels so much, but they do, and they don’t care how cheap or expensive it is.
- If your kids destroy stuff, it’ll hopefully be cheaper at a Category 1. This isn’t so much an argument for low-end hotels as much as a reason why I fear high-end hotels. But still.
- Staycations are more justifiable. You don’t need a flight or a long roadtrip to get away. If you’re low on energy or time, it’s a nice change of pace to drive for 90 minutes to a nearby city/town/attraction and stay in a hotel. If I were paying for the hotel out of pocket, or paying a lot of points, I doubt I’d do this. But if it’s relatively few points, why not try something a little different?
- Location, location, location. Lower tier hotels are more likely to be located in the middle of nowhere. But scenic natural areas are also more likely to be located in the middle of nowhere. Look around and you may find a reason to visit a hotel you otherwise might not have considered.
- Pockets of value exist. Just because something is Category 1 or Category 2 doesn’t mean it’s a lousy hotel. Most of the chain hotels with credit card programs will be, at worst, acceptable. And there may be other reasons beyond cost as to why it’s a low-end redemption–maybe it was just renovated, or just opened, or just put under new management, and the powers that be are trying to get some more customers in. Imagine that smug, self-satisfied feeling you’ll get when the hotel you stayed in last year increased in category. “Yeah, I stayed there when it was only a Cat 2,” you’ll tell everybody. “It was pretty cool before everybody else discovered it.”
That’s all I have, feel free to add your Cat 1 success stories below.