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.