Dec012015

IHG Rewards Club made Thanksgiving in London affordable

London currently ranks as Europe’s most expensive capital for hotels with average rates at £140 ($211 USD). TripAdvisor lists 1,055 London hotels. I have stayed in ten different London hotels in the past year, five of these being IHG brand hotels using IHG Rewards Club points and free night credits.

The typical hotel rate for the 20 nights in central London hotels I stayed at was far higher than I have ever paid for a hotel room. For example, InterContinental Park Lane, where we stayed two nights last week on free night certificates, had an advance purchase nonrefundable rate of £264 ($398.11 USD) per night at the time I booked the hotel in November. When we stayed at the InterContinental London Park Lane in July the advance purchase rate was £382 ($576 USD) per night. We also stayed for free in July using IHG Rewards Club certificates earned from promotions like Into the Nights. Kelley and I earned four free night certificates for around $500 on five paid hotel nights one year ago through IHG Into the Nights promotion.

InterContinental London Park Lane ranks as #130 of 1,055 London hotels listed on TripAdvisor.com.

Loyalty Traveler Hotel Review – Into the ‘Free’ Nights at InterContinental London Park Lane (July 11, 2015).

Victoria Tower London

Let’s Make London an annual Thanksgiving Tradition

Last year Kelley said she wanted to make London an annual Thanksgiving tradition. I kind of had my sights set on Berlin for Thanksgiving this year, but after spending most of September traveling around Europe solo, Kelley’s wish became her command.

The problem with London is the cost of hotels. Hotels are expensive, whether you spend cash or use hotel loyalty program points. I published an analysis of London hotel reward rates across different chains a couple of days before I booked our flights in late October.

Loyalty Traveler – London hotel reward rates compared across 9 hotel programs (Oct 22, 2015).

When IHG Rewards Club came out with their current list of PointBreaks hotels, I jumped at the chance to book the Crowne Plaza Heythrop Park near Oxford at 5,000 points per night.

Loyalty Traveler – Visualizing Travel Before Bookings (Oct 26, 2015) is a piece I wrote about visualizing a trip before finalizing purchases. At the time, I still planned on us staying at the Crowne Plaza near Oxford.

Then, after careful consideration, the fact that the Crowne Plaza is in a rural location about 15 miles outside of Oxford, forced me to reconsider my hotel bargain stay. I canceled that IHG PointBreaks hotel stay and reconsidered how IHG Rewards Club could still put us in central London affordably. I rarely spend more than $100 per night on hotels.

Affordable London using IHG Rewards Club Accelerate Promotion

There are 23 IHG hotels within London’s city limits and another 49 hotels in the greater London metropolitan area, including London Heathrow and London Gatwick Airports.

Nearly all the hotels in central London are 35,000 points with eight hotels at 40,000 to 50,000 points and a few hotels in London at 30,000 points, mostly in places away from the main city center tourist sites.

Five nights at the InterContinental Park Lane would be 250,000 points. We had two free nights, but not another 150,000 points to allow us to stay put at the InterContinental for five nights.

IHG Rewards Club Accelerate is the current global loyalty program promotion.

Loyalty Traveler – IHG Rewards Club Accelerate Sep 1–Dec 31 targeted offers (August 24, 2015).

My IHG Rewards Club Accelerate has a task requiring three Points and Cash stays to earn 3,600 points. I need to complete 3 of 4 tasks requiring either 5 paid nights or 3 Points and Cash nights to earn 33,100 bonus points.

Initially, I assumed I would skip the Points and Cash task and stay five paid nights, but I ended up not needing five paid nights with my end of year travels. In October, I stayed one night at the InterContinental Geneva on Points and Cash. By booking two hotel stays in London last week using IHG Points and Cash reward nights, I redeemed 50,000 IHG points and figured I would get nearly all those points back through the Accelerate promotion. The two hotel nights I booked using IHG Rewards Club Points and Cash cost 25,000 points + $70 per night.

Loyalty Traveler – Burning and earning in London with IHG Rewards Club Accelerate Sep 1- Dec 31, 2015 (Nov 19, 2015).

Last week consisted of four hotel nights in London and one hotel night at London Heathrow before our early morning flight to Stockholm. Hotel hopping can be a drag, but it was not really too time-consuming since we left our luggage at the hotel for the day while we went about our touring in London and came back to the hotel when we were ready to move to the next place. I picked the hotels in London based on their location and proximity to museums and places we wanted to visit while in the city.

InterContinental London Park Lane – two free nights using last year’s Into the Nights promotion rewards from Kelley’s IHG account. Cost = free. We walked around Hyde Park’s seasonal Winter Wonderland, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Tate Britain Art Gallery.

Holiday Inn Regent’s Park – Points and Cash reward night for 25,000 points + $70 to buy 10,000 points. I received 5,000 points as a generous compensation for the list of complaints I had about the room. More on that in my forthcoming hotel review. We walked around Regent’s Park, spent the afternoon in Camden Town, visited the Wellcome Collection Museum and had a great night hanging out in a neighborhood pub.

Holiday Inn Bloomsbury – Points and Cash reward night for 25,000 points + $70 to buy 10,000 points. Complimentary Executive Floor upgrade and two free beers at the bar as a Platinum member. We visited the Grant Museum of Zoology, Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Museum with another memorable night in a historic London pub.

Holiday Inn London Heathrow – T5 Room rate £59 ($89 USD). We arrived late and left early with time to hang out for 90 minutes at the British Airways First Class lounge before our flight to Stockholm.

All four hotel reviews to come.

IHG Rewards Club made Thanksgiving in London Affordable

My three London hotel stays at Holiday Inn cost $229 USD and completed 3 of 4 of my IHG Rewards Club Accelerate tasks to earn 43,200 points.

I redeemed 50,000 IHG Rewards Club points for two IHG Points and Cash hotel reward nights in London. As an IHG Rewards Club MasterCard member, I will receive 10% of those points back making my net redemption 45,000 points. At the LHR hotel I took 500 IHG Rewards Club points as my Platinum amenity instead of a free drink. At Holiday Inn Regent’s Park I received 5,000 bonus points compensation. I will receive another 1,300 or so points for the paid night at Holiday Inn Heathrow T5. Once all the accounting is settled, I will receive back all 50,000 points I redeemed for two nights in London and a little more.

London hotel rates currently average $211 USD per night in Europe’s most expensive capital city. We stayed five nights in London last week for $229 using the IHG Rewards Club program.

This was our second annual trip to London for Thanksgiving. Hotel loyalty programs have made it possible for us to afford London with Club Carlson reward nights last year and IHG Rewards Club reward nights this year. London, despite its outrageously high hotel rates, could be turning into our affordable annual Thanksgiving week tradition.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. Hi Ric,

    I recently stayed at the Hotel Indigo Kensington a few weeks ago and it was one of my favourite hotels ever. Next to Earls Court tube station. And a very good deal on points (30k) per night.

  2. Ric,

    You are one of the more dependable and down to earth bloggers who seeks out value for his $$/points but I think you, too, succumbed to the allure of an Intercontinental hotel over some of the better London IHG competitors.

    Unfortunately, the mention of an Intercontinental hotel sets some hearts aflutter, when there are better value opportunities out there.

    Although you acknowledge that the IHG room is small — 18 square meters — and you know that you were unlikely to get any sort of upgrade to your Platinum status, a perusal of FT would have demonstrated to you that you definitely would have gotten a larger room and perhaps even Lounge Access at the Crowne Plaza the City, had you used your free nights there.

    You would have received a more modern and larger room than you have now twice received at the Intercontinental, and although it is not situated in tony Mayfair, it is better situated for the London tourist sites, being just a short stroll across Millenium Bridge to the Soutbank to such sights at the Tate modern and all the fashionable restaurants there.

    Yup, you made the newbie error of having stars in your eyes with respect to the Intercontinental — due to its price and location — when you likely would have received better value and more offerings at the Crowne Plaza the City or other IHG properties.

    Certainly, the dining establishments near the Crowne Plaza are less expensive than those near the Intercontinental and you probably would have scored lounge access, as well, since this is a slow time in London, as well.

    So, next time don’t necessarily go by reputation or price tag for the room — read the reviews and see what one gets at each establishment — and then make an informed and logical choice!!!

  3. I almost mentioned Hotel Indigo Kensington in this article as probably the best IHG 30,000 points hotel for London. I am glad you did and enjoyed it. Proximity to a Tube Station is a big hotel factor for my wife.

  4. We used some IHG free nights for the Hotel Indigo next to Paddington Station (and it is next door, which is nice to take Heathrow Express into airport). It is usually 45K a night, but it is nice to know about the 30K night next to Kensington.

  5. @Horace – Thank you for your detailed comment. Crowne Plaza The City is a hotel I have wanted to stay at, but it has not fit into my plans yet.

    I assume you are not a lawyer based on the large number of incorrect assumptions you made about my motivations for choosing InterContinental Park Lane for our free nights.

    The two free nights last week were from my wife’s no status account. I did not expect any kind of upgrade and assumed we would get an interior courtyard facing room, which we did. The benefit of that courtyard facing room was the quiet. My wife’s primary issue with the InterContinental Park Lane last summer was the noise from the street with my upgraded room.

    InterContinental Park Lane was the perfect area for our stay in July when we used my Platinum account free nights. We attended the 10 year 7/7 bombing anniversary memorial across the street in Hyde Park and the 75th commemoration of Battle of Britain at Buckingham Palace in July, where we saw Prince William and Queen Elizabeth II. My wife could not have asked for a better London experience than we had with our hotel location in London.

    I assume you are not a regular reader of my blog or you would probably know that I rarely eat at restaurants. Tesco, Sainsbury, M&S and Morrison’s are my primary dining establishments in London.

    We did the City on our November 2014 trip. This trip we wanted the InterContinental Park Lane for its proximity to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and within walking distance of Westminster Abbey and the neighborhoods around the hotel where we honeymooned in 1989. We laughed about referring to Buckingham Arms as our local pub.

    It is rather presumptuous of you to assume I did not make a logical and informed choice for my hotel stays.

  6. That’s funny.

    You and the other bloggers extol the value of credit cards and yet your wife has no status with IHG Rewards because PRESUMABLY she never got the IHG credit card that provides for the annual free night.

    And yet, you talk about MAXIMIZING value — many couples have 2 accounts AND each has the companion credit card for just such an occasion.

    Don’t worry, I don’t read your blog for your certain knowledge of everything — and this further example just proves how correct I am.

    Sorry that I upset you with my observation and sorry too, that you did not prevail upon your wife to get the IHG credit card that would have conferred upon her Platinum status that would thereby have upgraded her account AND likely would have given her lounge access at the Crowne Plaza the City, as well.

    With respect to Sainsbury, Tesco and the like, well I do take my morning breakfast at the Sainsbury across the street from the May Fair when I last stayed there on points and will do so again, when I use my and my partner’s FREE NIGHTS there from the credit card snafu that US Bank gave to its Club Carlson card holders, but I do prefer to actually eat in restaurants at other times, especially my evening meals.

    Obviously, you don’t from your post above.

    I’m sorry, but since my partner is a partner at a major law firm with a fantastic salary we do on occasion like to indulge in eating at restaurants.

    However, at other times, we do like the occasional freebie from an executive lounge.

    Since you seem to enjoy paying for Tesco’s over the lounge freebies at the City Crowne Plaza, I won’t try to dissuade you.

    Good luck and safe travels.

  7. Ric, I’m a +1 on your comments about staying at the IC versus Horace’s choice (who sounds like a very unpleasant piece of work from his above comments) of the Crown Plaza The City.

    Location is important when visiting a city, and I’d value the IC’s a great deal more than the Crown Plaza. We unfortunately stayed in that area this last visit in October and found it not as tourist friendly — so much depends on what you’re visiting a place for, the sights you plan to see, and the activities you have planned. For some reason, even though it’s walkable to many things, I felt very ‘out of the loop’ being in that neighborhood and would choose not to stay there again. Even at a bargain price. With a limited time visiting London, I don’t want to be somewhere that doesn’t give me the feeling I want.

    As for what credit cards you and your wife sign up for…well…I consider that your business and find it quite rude that Horace would comment on that. Your personal financial business is just that…personal…and no one else’s business.

  8. @Horace – I do not pimp credit cards and I do not encourage others to sign up for credit cards, especially my wife.

    My opinion is banks co-opting travel loyalty programs over the past decade through credit cards have accelerated the devaluation of frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs for most travelers worldwide. I would prefer no connection between credit cards and travel programs, but no way to turn back that clock.

    I rarely write anything about credit cards. I signed up for IHG Rewards Club to fulfill Into the Nights promotion last year.

  9. @Ric,

    I agree with you concerning most of your credit card sentiments. I am a not too frequent traveler and that is why I initially applauded the credit card tie-up.

    What has ruined same is the churning and MS that can be done on those for little cost that have greatly inflated the ranks of elites, as well as those with points. Unless the banks wish to curtail the giving away of such things, there is little one can do.

    As noted above, it is unfortunate that you took great offense to my observations as I often am in agreement with you on many things and enjoy your blog — I am glad that some of my assumptions were incorrect given your response.

    @Alistair — I need not dwell on your comments, your name encapsulates all one requires.

    Toodle loo!

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