Maybe this isn’t fair. After all I’m just running into the same roadblock that families with 3 or more children deal with on nearly every hotel stay. But there has been a lot of attention given to IHG’s ‘Into the Nights’ promotion. A couple of the blog posts with most of the details, if you haven’t already seen them, are Travelisfree’s post on the Best Hotel Promotion, Ever? and Loyalty Lobby’s later post CLARIFICATION: IHG Rewards Club Into The Nights Award Night Expiry & Availability (update)and then further muddy clarification from IHG here on Loyalty Lobby. Based on this info, we’re not really sure exactly how these free nights will work out or how many rooms will actually be available. But I’ll be optimistic and assume for now that room availability will generally mirror standard rewards nights availability.
Let’s look at trying to use it for a family of 4.
Well, I don’t have one yet. Mine is one of the many accounts that still says ‘No Offers’. But what many people have, as well as the default offer for new accounts, basically boils down to
3 stays at your cheap local Holiday Inn gets you two stays at any IHG property, anywhere.
So what’s wrong? That doesn’t sound bad at all! Well, that Holiday Inn and most of the IHG hotels you might normally look at or stay in within the U.S. and Canada have standard rooms that allow 4 people. A few may have only rooms with just one king bed, and max occupancy two. The luxury property you have in mind for an escape half a world away, however, almost certainly has a maximum of 3 people for their award stays.
I ran into this a few weeks ago when booking a hotel for our 2-night trip to Cancun next February. All IHG hotels there are max 3 occupants for rewards nights, even though there are rooms with 2 queen beds. So instead of using our Chase free night certificate and 25K IHG points at the Intercontinental, we would have had to get two rooms using the certificate and 75K points. The Westin, with about the same price tag for a paid stay, has rooms for 4 at 7K-10K SPG points per night.
Since then, I’ve been playing around with it and looking at as many IHG hotels as I had time to, focusing on the properties that appear to be valuable enough to make a 3-night mattress run for Into the Nights worthwhile. Sydney, Bali, Hong Kong, South Africa, Europe, I have completely struck out on any way to make the plural aspect of Into the Nights work for a family of four. In all of these places, there are similar hotels available that will take a booking for 4 people at about the same prices as the IHG hotels. But of course we don’t want to pay at all, that’s what points are for!
There is an exception:
Bora Bora Thalesso is one aspirational luxury property often mentioned when talking about IHG free nights. And it’s one hotel that does allow 4 per room in their standard room, which is an overwater bungalow. Awesome, right?! Well, until you look for a room, keeping in mind Bora Bora isn’t exactly easy (or cheap, much less free) to get to. Currently they have available nights that can be booked with points or Chase free night certificates on only the following dates over the next 11.5 months:
Sept 19-21, October 4, 18, 26, 27, December 2, 6, 7, 12, 13, 18, January 13, 15, 17, 18, 24, 25, 29, 31, Feb 7, 8, 9, 21, 22, 27, March 1, 7, 8, 11, April 18, 26, May 2, May 30, August 16, 17, 22, 23, 29.
Only 40 of the next 350 days have available rooms for reward nights. Now look again. There are precisely two times there where there are 3 consecutive nights available, and just 9 more times with two consecutive nights. That idea of a couple each doing the Into the Nights promotion and maybe throwing in a Chase free night or two for 4-6 days in Bora Bora? Don’t plan on it! Instead, you’ll be paying ~$400 per person to get from Tahiti to Bora Bora after spending 75K or more miles to get to Tahiti, all for one or (if you’re lucky) two ‘free’ nights there.
It’s not all bad
If you can use a couple of nights next summer in downtown Seattle or Boston or any number of other places where hotel prices skyrocket during the summer holidays, Into the Nights can be a great way to prepay for those stays at a good discount. Just be aware that you will have a limited window in which to use those free nights, so you might be a lot better off taking the points for flexibility.
What does this mean for your family?
Maybe a lot. Maybe nothing. But just like airline promotions and deals, you owe it to yourself to run the numbers with your own wants and needs before jumping on a ‘deal’ just because it looks good! Bonnie’s offer looks pretty simple and we can do it with only one unnecessary paid stay, so we’ll probably go ahead and do it knowing that the ‘nights’ will actually have to be two rooms for one night at the Hong Kong Intercontinental next July. Or, if the ‘free nights’ do turn out to be useless due to restricted availability, we’ll have enough points to burn that we might go ahead and book pairs of rooms at the Intercontinental Cancun at ~.33 cents value per point with the bonus of having a two rooms.
Buddy! You just took the wind out of my wings! I don’t have a promo (not sure why), but, I was totally looking at Bora Bora… have flights in June. I may have to rough it at the Le Meridian Tahiti (have placeholder), or maybe the Hilton Bora Bora Nui.
This is a tough life we lead…
I’ve been planning on using the nights on getaways for just the 2 of us since, as a family of 8, we’re definitely in the boat you’re in.
I had thought about kind of what you were saying though, with everyone in the world doing their Into the Nights promo and all trying to get overwater bungalows in Bora Bora. That’s why I’m not telling anyone where I’m aiming to go 🙂
But if I look at it, I’m not sure about it. Yes, spending 6 nights at a Holiday Inn (~$600) is definitely worth 4 nights in a super fancy hotel, at least on paper. But is it worth it ENOUGH to justify spending that $600 in the first place, vs. just using the miles / points we ALREADY have to go somewhere 1/2 as nice as an Intercontinental (which, for us, will still be uber nice)
I haven’t decided on that for sure yet.
@Trevor – Sorry! It’s worth a phone call to make sure they can’t open up some more nights for you. Doesn’t look good for June though.
@PWAC – Good idea on keeping your cards close to the vest! Yeah, $600 is a lot for speculation especially with the limited availability.
@PWAC – If your offer is for 6 nights, why not just create a new account for the default offer of 3 nights? Much better risk v. reward.
Is an HIE stay qualify as an HI stay for this promo?
No. If your offer says Holiday Inn your stays must be at a Holiday Inn (including Holiday Inn Resorts) not a Holiday Inn Express. If I had to guess I’d say Bonnie got targeted for Holiday Inn Express because most of the stays we did earlier in the year for the Big Win promo were at Holiday Inns as they are usually cheaper than HIX here.
I see that 3 max often, but call the hotel. They may take a 4th, gratis. Slightly different situation but I booked a 1bd that has max occ of 3 in Cancun with SPG, Westin. Site and phone rep said 3 max. I booked anyway at 3 but we are 4. E-mailed the hotel directly. Got the assistant manager to confirm in writing that 4 is allowed, no problem, and she happily noted it on the reservation.
We also got a reservation for 4 at the Westin Cancun on SPG points by calling in, but IHG wouldn’t budge on the Intercontinental Cancun. If you knew the hotel layout well enough, I guess you could just check in alone and then have the family come and join you. But I don’t want any trouble so I’d say that’s a last resort.
Thanks for your research on Bora Bora availability. That is absolutely awful. When I booked with Hilton Bora bora in Feb, virtually every day April onward was available. Are IHG free nights capacity controlled?
I’m not an expert on it but it certainly seems so in practice. I’d check out Andrew’s post on it.
A Google search confirms reward nights are capacity controlled. Definitely decreases the value of the promo. BTW, is there an easy way to search a whole year’s availability? I’m not seeing any calendar option on their site.
I just did a month at a time.
but did you search one day at a time? That’s the only way I saw…