So many trip reports out there tell you about all of the amazing hotels you can book on points. While I’m not immune to the $2500/night redemption I’m finding more and more of my travels are booked without using my travel points on hotels. My favorite reason for preferring cash over points is location. I just am over being tied down to locations populated by chain hotels. The Canary Islands would have been totally off my radar if I only used points. But even when chains are where you want to go they may not be your best option.
I’ve come up with a handy checklist for times hotel points just may not make sense:
- When you’re sleeping more than four: You’ll most likely do much better renting an apartment than getting two or more hotel rooms. Check out my family hotel rooms in Europe post- the tips listed work outside Europe as well.
- When you’re staying for a week or longer: When Endless Vacation Rentals can go as low as $300/week it’s hard to justify spending points. You might even consider a monthly rental- I find they usually break even in about 10-14 days.
- In South East Asia: (AKA my $18/night Bangkok apartment) Unless you’re going 5 star you’ll usually be much better off with either a local hotel or renting an apartment. In Hanoi last year we had many points options but ended up going local. At the Boss Legend hotel we had an enormous brand new room with three beds. Total cost including breakfast? $68/night. Even better, we used Orbitz promotions to pay for the entire amount so the out of pocket was $0.
- On weekends downtown and near the airport: Many sky high priced hotel rates on Sunday-Thursday drop to under their points value on weekends. Be sure to compare the cash prices before assuming points will be the best deal.
- When a last minute 90% off option exists: I’m testing Sheradill next week and will update you, but if they’re 1/2 as good as advertised the site will be a steal. Sheradill is a terrific option to try when you have a confirmed points reservation. If you find something that works for 90% off just cancel it and bank your points.
And times when hotel points might surprise you with their value:
- On a road trip: I’ve had success using points, particularly Choice hotels points for last minute stops along I-95. Tip: if you’re booking a hotel at the last minute from the road- BOOK IT BEFORE MIDNIGHT. Most search engines will not let you book “in the past”. Even though you’re looking for that night if it’s after midnight they’ll default to the next evening.
- On Oblications: The bad news about oblications– or those trips you HAVE to take- is that hotel options are both limited and expensive. The good news is that many of those same hotels are low category redemptions on points. I’ve gotten as much as four cents per dollar by redeeming points at Country Inns, Hampton Inns, and Hyatt Places.
When do you keep your travel points stashed away, and in what place did they give you unexpected value? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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