I recently read an article from a travel concierge (I forget who, so no link) that brought up a really great idea, especially for family travel. Since we now travel as a three, with a toddler, having a Suite is something that has gone from something fun to post on twitter, to a real game changer in terms of having a segregated sleeping area for us.
The idea that I recently stumbled upon was to look at the ‘best rooms’ a level down from the hotel that you’re used to staying in. For example, a Suite in a 4 star hotel might be far superior than a regular room in a 5 star hotel. For the kid free traveler, I’d argue that the total package of the 5 star hotel might win out, but for those wanting a little peace and quiet, booking the extra room is a game changer.
As an aside, I generally use transferrable points for for flights, rather than hotels, so I’ve been building out cash based programs for this. I signed up for both FlexPerks and the USB Altitude card in the last year, initially planning on using for short hop flights, but am finding that this hotel spend sector is a useful one too.
The Plan in Action
We’re going on a cruise again… (don’t judge me) in January, from Barcelona. Our flight arrives on the 12th, and the cruise departs on the 14th, so we need two nights.
When booking these things, I typically head over to awardmapper.com to check on points options, while I rarely have enough hotel points, I do this for a sense of what ‘big brands’ are there, and get some sort of idea of cost/value of the area.
After discarding the points options here, my first stop was Booking.com, and I booked a cancellable room to ensure we had something secured, but wasn’t comfortable with the reservation, because it was a smaller, boutique hotel, and while it was 5 star, it felt more appropriate for a solo/couple visit than a family one, with a small room.
First thing to note here is that Flexperks is a different program from the Altitude, and I believe that they are closing Flexperks, rolling points into the Altitude program. Currently, you can get up to 2 cents value for flights with Flexperks, vs 1.5 cents using Altitude, so if you have flights to book, it is worth trying to use them up here. Many people decried this, but it always comes down to the individual’s booking needs, and while I’m trying to get a 2 cent flight from Flexpoints, I’m finding Altitude easier to get value from.
The hotel I found in Barcelona is the Novotel. It’s big, well located (on Diagonal, but nearer the center) and has a nice supermarket across the street. Tying into the style of travel, I’m more reluctant to stay in anything other than a big hotel with a family at this age, and while I hear great things about AirBnB, I don’t want to worry about a host cancelling on me with an overtired toddler.
I checked the prices using both Flexperks and Altitude, Flexperks prices by the block of 10K, whereas Altitude prices to the ‘penny’ since the max redemption on Flexperks Hotels is 1.5cents (vs 2 cents for flights) this means that Altitude will always be better value, you can see this in action below:
Notice how the Suites start at 15,000 Flexpoints for $152 value, whereas the penny pricing of Altitude gets the same room for 10,183 points. I’ve no idea why they have many different pricing options for the Suite, perhaps it is view based, but in any case, I selected the cheapest option.
The Altitude card is my current favorite, and I’m getting great value from it, since earning is at 3x, and redemption is at 1.5x, paying a little more for Suite from a wider marketplace is a lot more viable than focusing on points redemptions and hoping for upgrades. And while the Flexperks/Points program roll in is technically a devaluation, it’s not the worst for some travelers.