So many trip reports out there tell you about all of the best hotel points redemptions. 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. Our last five week trip for Camp Mom South America used exactly two nights on points. But even when chains are where you want to go they may not be your best option.
I’m going to begin at the end here by reminding you that the best of anything is a tricky business. What makes the best sense on paper may not be the best for you. That’s why I’m calling this post “surprisingly good ways to use hotel points” instead of dictating to you.
I’m also not only profiling specific properties here. This isn’t a classic listicle. In fact you should take any listicle with a grain of salt. While gawking at luxury hotels is fun, I’m more concerned with giving you concrete tips you can actually use.
Three Surprisingly Good Ways to use Hotel Points
Road trips can be an especially good value on points. I’ve had success using points, particularly Club Carlson and Choice, 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.
Hotel points can also be great before and after flights. In fact the two nights we did use this summer were both at the Holiday Inn Santiago airport. Do keep in mind that many sky high priced downtown and airport 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.
The bad news about oblications– or those trips you to smaller markets you HAVE to take- is that hotel options are both limited and expensive. Lack of competition is bad for airfares, it’s absolute murder on hotel prices! I’ve seen barely 1 star Super 8s charge over $150/night in the most Podunk of places, simply because they can.
The good news is that many of those same hotels are low category redemptions on points. I’ve gotten as much as four cents a point by redeeming points at Country Inns, Hampton Inns, and Hyatt Places.
The small town redemption becomes even more valuable when there’s a special event- think state fairs, college football or any one week a year festival when prices go sky high.
An example: Camp Dad goes to the Iowa state fair every other year. For two weeks in August normally affordable Des Moines hotels rival New York prices. However, by booking as soon as the fair announced the dates I found a brand new Category 1 Hyatt Place. 5,000 points or $239? What would you do?
One thing I’ve noticed: new properties often are placed in a lower than expected points category. The category 1 Hyatt Place in Des Moines mentioned above is an example- the other Hyatt Place is a category 2 and I expect this one will go up next year.
In December I’m booked into a new Category 2 Four Points in Fort Lauderdale for 4,000 points a night (12K Marriott). Similar Marriott properties are category 6-7 at 30,000 to 35,000 points (10-12K SPG).
This anomaly is even more pronounced in luxury properties. I especially find it with SPG: my favorite points stay ever, Las Alcobas in Mexico City, started out as a way-undervalued category 4. Within a year it was a category 6 (and still worth every point).
This summer I noticed it in Argentina- two Tribute collection properties joined as a category 3 and were category fives within 3 months.
In what surprising way have you maximized hotel points? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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