Posted by Ric Garrido

There are goldpoints to be earned in the hills and beach towns of California.

Where is the Value in Chain Hotels?

During the TBEX 2012 conference last weekend at Keystone, Colorado I spoke with many people who told me they do not see much value in hotel loyalty programs. Almost everyone said frequent flyer programs have great value.

Whatever!

I have no interest in converting people to hotel loyalty program aficionados.  I have found plenty of value in hotel loyalty program travel these past few years. I’ll just keep writing and sharing the promotions where I see value.

In remembrance of days past when flying earned the kinds of frequent flyer bonuses hotel loyalty programs now offer.

June 2000, twelve years ago, I flew from San Francisco to Puerto Rico to pick up a $100 flight from San Juan to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. That was my final flight to qualify for 1,000,000 frequent flier miles from the LatinPass loyalty program. Earning one million miles required flying 10 LatinPass member airlines and some other hurdles, although two of the LatinPass airlines had already gone bankrupt and were not flying during the promotion. Flying two of the other eight airlines twice counted for the LatinPass offer. Today three of those former LatinPass airlines – Avianca, Taca and Copa – have become Star Alliance members. The times they are a changin’.

In a four year period from 1999-2003 I earned nearly 2,000,000 frequent flyer bonus miles on just four airline promotions.

  • 300,000 bonus miles from a OneWorld promotion (1999) flying American, Cathay Pacific, Canadian Airlines, British Airways and Iberia from Las Vegas to Vancouver and London, Manchester, Amsterdam and Barcelona. Cost was about $2,000. Those miles were redeemed for two first class tickets to Europe on British Airways and Business Class tickets to Peru and the Caribbean.
  • 1,000,000 miles from the LatinPass promotion (2000) flying between Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Cost was about $4,000. I converted most of the miles into Hilton HHonors points at a rate of 1 mile = 2 HHonors points and redeemed those points for approximately $30,000 in Hilton hotel stays. The rest of the miles were redeemed for business class flights to Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Quito.
  • 450,000 miles with the Star Alliance 5th anniversary 55,555 promotion (2002) flying United, Lufthansa, British Midland, Air Canada and Austrian Airlines around Vancouver, Victoria, Belfast, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna and Budapest. Cost was about $2,000. Those miles were redeemed for Business Class tickets to New Zealand and several business class trips to Europe.
  • 200,000 miles flying Alaska Airlines in 2003 to Palm Springs, Boise, Spokane, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver. Cost was about $800 for 35 flight segments. Those miles were redeemed for two First Class tickets from San Francisco to London on British Airways.

I miss the days when flying earned huge mileage bonuses. The frequent flyer game now operates through bank intermediaries and the credit card churning game has so little appeal to me compared to planning clever trips to maximize frequent flyer bonuses.

Club Carlson brings back some fun to this freeway driving loyalty traveler.

My latest loyalty program scheme took me about 30 minutes to plan and book. If travel planning is a “high” almost as good as travel itself, then my buzz wore off rather quickly with my latest hotel booking adventure.

In our four nights of hotel stays my wife and I will complete our Radisson Big Night Giveaway promotions for 50,000 bonus points each and the Country Inn Stay One, Get One 44,000 bonus points offers.

My spend is $171 for a Radisson and Country Inn stay and my wife is spending 5,000 points and $133 for her two stays. For just over $300 we will pick up 188,000 Club Carlson bonus points. This is sufficient for 20 hotel nights at Club Carlson category 1 hotels. But there are not too many category 1 hotels and it is unlikely we will spend our points at those kind of hotels.

More likely I will find hotels where Points + Cash rooms will save us about $8 to $10 per 1,000 points in the way the Country Inn room we booked for this road trip as a Points + Cash room is saving us $45 for 5,000 points redeemed.

That kind of savings with Club Carlson points means the 188,000 points is potentially worth about $1,700 in future room savings for our $300 road trip investment this week.

California Highway 1

We are going to Disneyland.

This next week we are making a 5-day, 4-night road trip to Disneyland.

I think it has been over 20 years since visiting the Happiest Place in California. Our last trip to the Magic Kingdom was EuroDisney in a December rain storm about 10 years ago and we only managed to get through the interminable lines to actually experience one ride during the entire day. The experience turned us off to Disney parks.

This Disneyland trip is with our niece who will be turning six years old. Seeing the park through a child’s eyes might return some of the lustre to the Disneyland experience.

Club Carlson hotel stay bonus points will certainly cover the cost of this entire road trip in future hotel stay savings.

Club Carlson’s hotel brand promotions truly are a big night giveaway.

You can still register and earn 15,000 points for one stay at any of three Club Carlson hotel brands now that each promotion has exceeded member registration for the initial bonus offers. You can probably get as much value from the points as the cost to stay one night and earn 15,000 bonus points.

***** Club CarlsonRadisson Big Night Giveaway May 15-July 15, 2012. Club Carlson repeats the late-2011 promotion letting the first 100,000 members to register earn 50,000 bonus points after staying one night at a Radisson worldwide. Registration link.

***** Club CarlsonCountry Inns & Suites Big Night Giveaway May 15-July 15, 2012. First 35,000 members to register beginning May 15 earn 44,000 points after staying one night in a Country Inn & Suites.

***** Club CarlsonPark Inn Big Night Giveaway May 22-July 22, 2012. First 20,000 members to register beginning May 22 earn 44,000 points after staying one night in a Park Inn.

Club Carlson promotion registration links:

RadissonBigNightGiveaway.com

SOGOCountry.com

ParkInnOnePlusOne.com

4 Responses

  1. Enjoy Disneyland and the new California Adventure. With some recent improvements I think it’s actually worth the extra cash to visit both parks. And thanks for turning me on to hotel programs! When I have to decide between a mileage run or a mattress run, the hotel almost always wins these days.

  2. I’m completely with you on this conceptually, and have (also) followed your posts on Carlson being a good “rewards” value for some time … problem is, their hotels are pretty rough and rundown in this country. I keep trying, but it is what it is.

  3. I signed up for all three of the Carlson promotions and I completed my Country Inn stay a couple of weeks ago with a prepaid rate of $59.00 (the 44,000 points were posted within one week). I have my Park Inn & Radisson stays coming in July with a point and rates combination. Having worked for the the three big hotel chains I had not paid for hotel much in my life before. Hotel frequent stay programs have significant value. I have cashed in over 400,000 in Carlson Points and I have over million with Hilton Honors. I pay about 80% of all of my personal bills with my Priority Club CC and take advantage of every promotion I can so that when I do take vacation the hotel and or airline rates are free.

  4. These are great promotions and show Club Carlson buying mindshare. We’ll see how they do going forward.

    Especially as they add a credit card!

    Credit card bonuses work for gaining hotel points as well as airline miles. I’ve gained more bonus points than these by getting and using 3 hotel credit cards for no extra spend. Hmm, if you do spend on a credit card to get bonus points, would that be a “shopping run”? :-)

    I’m glad you still get a buzz from travel planning. Sometimes I just get a headache. Then comes the joy of the travel…

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