Having signed up for both the Hyatt Visa from Chase and the Citi Reserve Hilton Visa this year we have found ourselves with quite the conundrum as to where to cash in the Two Free Nights coupons that come with meeting minimum spend on these cards, this is post 3 in the series, and explores the much broader Hilton Category 9 Hotel Choices to see where we might find inspiration for our next trip.
Hilton has 10 Hotel Categories, and this investigation has highlighted some interesting points about their equality – the Category 10 Properties (there are 9 of these) are mostly ‘Aspirational Stays’ – places like the Seychelles, Tahiti and the Maldives lead the pack; the Category 9 Properties open up a lot of options closer to home, and highlight the depth of properties within the Waldorf Astoria line within the US, which I think make an excellent option for weekend trips and a good solution to burn these free night certificates if time from work is limited.
Approximately half of the list of Category 9 Hotels consists of New York and Florida, the former being primarily based in Manhattan, with the big name hotels, the latter being primarily Resort locations, with notable exception of places such as The Bentley in South Beach.
Despite it causing consternation to some discerning readers, I will keep the same format of looking at pure price, location and tripadvisor.com score for this review. Please focus on whichever one of these makes most sense for your traveling needs, and please feel free to argue your case for and against this too!
Hilton Category 9 Properties By Price
This does have its limits – for example if there was a big event on in Florida, such as a Golf Tournament, the prices would be uncharacteristically high which may skew the data here, but lets see what we can discern from looking at pure price of the property, and if that shows any potentially nice getaways.
For me, the Price category highlights two very solid property choices from the Group, the Park Lane Hilton is good choice for central London, I personally haven’t stayed there as I picked the Intercontinental for my last visit to London, but I certainly would make use of the vouchers for this property. Chicago Waldorf Astoria also seems to be a good place to stay, with very positive reviews, though I think there might be other more competitive options there so I would hesitate about using the certificates.
I think that reaction comes from the overall challenge in London to find a high quality hotel that is affordable on points or for cash, whereas in Chicago there are a number of options that are more affordable whilst retaining a quality feel.
The ‘value per cent’ score for Saratoga highlights how a town with limited hotel resources, and high seasonal demand can produce good value when considering paying with points. In Saratoga that is typically related to the famous horse racing events that occur there. However we can see that for an anomalous reason we could also pick a second hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn and pay around 1/3 of the price of the Hilton… perhaps a conference or something has made the Hilton sell out their rooms and push prices. Personally I would not use the Certs in Saratoga unless I was already scheduled to attend something there and I really was desperate for a room with astronomical prices.
Other top 10 properties, excluding London include Ocean City, MD, this is one of those weird properties that commands a high price for a plain vanilla hotel, in a similar way to the Outer Banks, NC asking 80,000 HHonors points per night. I feel this pricing is due to a certain captive demographic that enjoys vacationing in such spots and a lack of competition. We have planned on visiting the Outer Banks, but I really don’t want to be paying that many points, or using certificates there.
Moorea is one that should catch the eye, but whilst it is in Tahiti it is more built up than Bora Bora and if I got myself all the way from NYC to Tahiti I would go the extra few miles and really find paradise. Perhaps it could be value if you needed a transit hotel should your flight arrive at a weird hour and you couldn’t move onto Bora Bora until the following day, though personally I would rather book a better flight than do that.
Tokyo Bay – waste of time. Good only for the Tokyo Disney or business in Makuhari, a large conference center in the middle of nowhere.
Miami, South Beach – The Bentley is certainly a possibility. The location is good, South Beach is small so anywhere in it pretty much works. I would put it on my list. My last visit to Miami was to the St Regis in Bal Harbour, a fantastic hotel but a little far apart from South Beach so certainly a different flavor of vacation.
The Waldorf Astoria NY- wouldn’t touch it. My mother stayed here in the Summer and it was just not value. It has the name but it is dated, packed with tourists (I know it is a hotel and it should be but it still annoys me, these are tourists that come for the WA, and overall the hotel is a disappointment) I would rather be in the DoubleTree across the street from here.
Just outside of the top 10 is the Rome Cavalieri Hotel, I stayed there earlier this year for 4 nights, and it was just OK. Pretty much killed by location. The breakfast for Hilton Golds was great, but felt very disconnected from the City. This is one where if you want to go to Rome (you really, really should go to Rome) then this hotel is a good option, but it isn’t a place that I would go back to.
Winner by Price – London Park Lane.
Hilton Category 9 Properties By Tripadvisor Score
The idea of this categorization is to identify Aspirational Properties. It fails a lot, but can be useful when there are a lot of similarly priced options in the same location, such as looking for the best Hilton Category 9 in New York, or in Florida where both have a lot of options.
The limitations of the system are evident in towns where TripAdvisor sub categorizes aggressively, as done in the Seychelles for Category 10, and here we see it in Arizona, for the Scottsdale properties. I had to pick two different towns’ in order to find comparable properties, and it is a lot easier to be the Number 3 hotel in a town that has 3 hotels, than the number 56 hotel in a city like NYC that has hundreds.
This is why Ocean City and the Outer Banks lead the pack here, I would list both as OK, but uninspiring hotels. Two that did catch my eye were Versailles, the Trianon Palace and Shanghai on the Bund. Both look marvelous, and would be very good points options, I name these as joint winners based upon their high scores here, the interesting locations and the look and feel of the hotels.
Hilton Category 9 Properties By Location
I find this category useful for those who want to go to X for a weekend and can compare the options there. For example we might consider a weekend trip to a resort in Florida to burn these vouchers, if we were to do so a quick glance here would imply that we should pick The Bentley for a South Beach type trip, or if we wanted kick back and resort style for the weekend we should look further between Key West or Naples for the Edgewater Beach Resort. initially, and then start exploring the other properties if they didn’t fit what we were looking for in terms of vibe.
One property that hasn’t scored particularly high through these 3 views has been Park City, UT and I think that this could be rather unfair to the hotel. I would certainly rank this highly based upon recommendations of it, but, as weird as it sounds, it is too affordable to stay using the Certificates from the Citi Reserve Visa for me.
My winners from the Category 9 Hotels would be: London Park Lane, great value and great location. The Trianon Palace Versaille – I would take a side trip from Paris to stay here for 2 nights, Shanghai on the Bund, a city that certainly takes a couple of nights to see and the location looks great. For the Americas, I pick The Bentley South Beach as the best bang for your buck.