Planning for hotel travel is a 12 month a year task for me. My primary objective is to earn free nights and points for free nights so when I travel I am not left to the whims of market forces. Elite status is also important to me, although I feel it is important to balance loyalty to my preferred hotel chains with opportunities for free nights in other programs. Maintaining points in a variety of hotel loyalty programs provides options.
I received an email from a traveler this week trying to find a hotel for Travel Blog Exchange 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia June 11-12. She had waited too long to book rooms and most rooms in downtown Vancouver show rates over $200 and hotels are sold out for places like Starwood’s Westin Grand all-suites hotel or the Westin Bayshore. I suggested she try Holiday Inn at $120CAD per night with the $75 rebate card for a weekend stay.
Actually, I also waited too long to book my hotel and I had to stay an extra night to get a Cash & Points award for one of the three Starwood Hotels. The Cash & Points option showed unavailable for three nights, but at four nights was available. In March I could have booked any of the three Starwood hotels in downtown Vancouver using Cash & Points awards.
U.S. Travel Association International PowWow 2011 San Francisco
This week I learned of a last minute opportunity to attend the U.S. Travel Association International PowWow 2011 in San Francisco starting today. Travel suppliers from around the USA are making sales with travel vendors worldwide. Regional tourist association representatives from all over the USA converge for several days of greetings, meetings, and parties. Suddenly I needed four hotel nights in a city where the rates are $200+ per night for all the major brand hotels.
Without hotel loyalty points I’d be shelling out over $800 to attend the conference or be commuting some distance from outside the city to get a decent hotel rate. I’ll be spending points instead.
Earning hotel loyalty points
InterContinental Hotels Group brands – I picked up over 200,000 points in the past year with only 10 paid hotel nights. I redeemed 6 nights using Cash & Points awards buying 10,000 points for $60 each time. There were also some Cash & Points award nights I booked and ended up needing to cancel. The purchased points at $60 per 10,000 points remained in my account. That is the backdoor way to getting cheap Priority Club points. I actually needed to cancel my award nights, but there seems no impediment to actually booking some Cash & Points nights, buying points and canceling the award nights to result in a boost in points at discount purchase rates.
My Crack the Case promotion was unlocked this week for 91,000 bonus points. InterContinental San Francisco is available for $60 and 30,000 points per night. That is a hotel adjacent to the Moscone Convention Center for the International PowWow. Rates are about $270 per night for this hotel during the conference.
Best Western Rewards had a February to April 2011 promotion for one free night after three stays that I earned in February for three one-night hotel stays in Napa and Monterey. I am still waiting to find out if I am one of the ten recipients of a 650,000 points prize from the promotion as one of the first 10 guests to stay in all three Best Western hotel tiers. I completed this task in the first three days of the promotion, however, Best Western Rewards has not announced the recipients for the 650,000 points as far as I know. I have a free night at Best Western I must redeem by June 30.
Wyndham Rewards points I purchased during the U.S. Travel Association sale on DiscoverAmerica Daily Getaways last month boosted my account balance from 0 points to 114,000 points in 5 minutes with $297 in points purchases. These points are sufficient for 3 nights at the Wyndham Parc 55 San Francisco at 30,000 points per night where rates are $189 for the PowWow conference. The points I purchased drop the rate down to about $85 per night to stay at Parc 55 for the conference.
Hyatt Gold Passport was my number one hotel stay program in 2010 and I earned around 100,000 points. Believe me that I did not spend anywhere near $20,000 to earn those points at 5 base points per $1 in hotel spend. More like $2,500. As a Gold Passport Diamond member I earn 6.5 points/$1 with the 30% elite bonus. The points were earned through a variety of promotions including 24,000 points purchased for $225 through Discover America Daily Getaways in 2010. This year I wasn’t able to successfully buy any Hyatt points through the DiscoverAmerica sale in April. Those points went fast.
Hyatt Gold Passport property specific bonuses (1,000 to 2,000 points per stay) and closed Regency Lounge bonuses (2,000 points) resulted in good points hauls. I have stayed at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, Park Hyatt Chicago and Park Hyatt Washington D.C. using points and free nights in the past year. Hyatt Regency San Francisco is 15,000 points per night for an award this week or paid rates over $300 per night.
Starwood Preferred Guest is my favorite program for urban travel using Cash & Points award nights. Over the past year I have redeemed category 4 award nights for $60 and 4,000 points and generally saved over $200 in room rate per night in cities like Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago and Vancouver. That is $50 per 1,000 points redemption value which makes the opportunity to buy up to 20,000 Starpoints at $28/1,000 points a pretty good deal with the current 20% discount through June 30, 2011 on the regular $35/1,000 points rate.
Loyalty Traveler is the site for keeping abreast of the promotion opportunities available with a variety of hotel loyalty programs. My 2011 resolution was to expand my hotel loyalty program options. So far 2011 has been a good hotel travel year with stays in many different hotel brands and points earned in several new hotel loyalty programs.
Hotel points open doors in new places for cheaper stays.