This is an instructional piece on how I used five hotel loyalty programs for 11 hotel nights on my recent 2,800 mile road trip from Monterey, California to Denver, Colorado and back for about $700. Five hotel nights were points rewards and six hotel nights were paid stays on published rates eligible to earn points and loyalty promotion credit.
While I earned and burned loyalty points for every hotel night, there was nothing exclusive about these hotel stay opportunities. Any adult American could have replicated these hotel stays and rates for the same cost as me, regardless of hotel loyalty elite status.
Someone planning summer travel in the USA had the same opportunities as me to buy hotel loyalty points during the U.S. Travel Association’s Daily Getaways in June and July.
Choice Privileges, Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest provided hotels available at low rates with points or low rates with cash. 11 nights for under $700 used strategies anyone, even a brand new member who joined these hotel loyalty programs in June 2013, could have taken advantage to get these rooms at the same price I paid for the ten hotels on this trip. There was no need to have elite status for any of these hotel deals to get the same rooms I booked and stayed.
Travelers commonly tell me they do not see the value in hotel loyalty programs. Cookie cutter hotels, high brand prices and corporate identities turn off travelers who prefer lowest price available, Priceline, rental homes and couch surfing.
I’ve done all those lodging options. For me, the greatest convenience of hotel chains with loyalty programs is the ability to easily put together a last minute hotel stay when I am on the road and not sure if I will cover 200 miles or 500 miles driving in a day. Sometimes there are great roadside attractions to fill the day with delays. Other times my mood or schedule is move as far and fast as I can to get closer to the destination.
10 Hotels over 11 nights with $66 average rate.
- Holiday Inn Express Carson City, Nevada. PointBreaks Award stay for 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points. [Cost of 5,000 points $30 to $35. Daily Getaways is still offering 15,000 IHG Rewards points through this week for $100 or $90 when payment is made with American Express] LT post June 27: IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks to August 31.
- Holiday Inn Express Tooele, Utah. PointBreaks Award stay for 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points. [Cost of 5,000 points $30 to $35. Daily Getaways is still offering 15,000 IHG Rewards points through this week for $100 or $90 when payment is made with American Express.]
- Candlewood Suites Craig, Colorado. PointBreaks Award stay for 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points. [Cost of 5,000 points $30 to $35. Daily Getaways is still offering 15,000 IHG Rewards points through this week for $100 or $90 when payment is made with American Express.]
- Aloft Broomfield, Colorado $79 nonrefundable rate booked day of arrival. Starwood Preferred Guest stay credit.
- TownePlace Suites Denver Downtown $68 (original rate I booked on Marriott.com was $129; applied Marriott LNF guarantee on expedia.com rate $91 and approved LNF reduced rate to $68). This paid hotel stay was eligible for Marriott Rewards Unexpected Bonus promotion for two stays earns one e-certificate night for a category 1 to 5 hotel.
- TownePlace Suites Denver Tech Center $46 (original rate I booked on Marriott.com was $94; applied Marriott LNF guarantee on hotels.com rate $61 and approved LNF reduced rate to $46). This paid hotel stay was eligible for Marriott Rewards Unexpected Bonus promotion for two stays earns one e-certificate night for a category 1 to 5 hotel. This second Marriott brand stay earned a free night award certificate in my Marriott Rewards account. LT post April 29: Marriott Rewards Unexpected Bonus May 15-Sep 2, 2013.
- TownePlace Suites Denver Downtown (2 nights) $87 (original rate I booked on Marriott.com was $169; applied Marriott LNF guarantee on expedia.com rate $118 and approved LNF reduced rate to $87). This paid hotel stay was eligible for Marriott Rewards Unexpected Bonus promotion for two stays earns one e-certificate night for a category 1 to 5 hotel. I need one more stay by August 31 to earn my second free night certificate from Marriott Rewards.
- Comfort Inn Green River. 16,000 Choice Privileges points reward night = $60 cost for points purchased. Published rate was $95 + tax. Booked day of arrival. I purchased 152,000 Choice Privileges points at the rate of $3.75 per 1,000 points during the Daily Getaways sale in June. The Choice Privileges points sold out on the day of the sale and are no longer available on Daily Getaways website.
- THEhotel, Las Vegas Strip at Mandalay Bay $136. This rate was $108 room rate + $28 resort fee and this hotel night was a Hyatt Gold Passport eligible stay with the new Hyatt-MGM M life loyalty partnership effective June 20, 2013.
- Fairfield Inn Tehachapi 7,500 Marriott Rewards Points. I needed to buy 2,000 points for $25 to buy the necessary points to book this reservation on day of arrival. The Marriott website published rate was $124 + tax, yet buying 8,000 points through Marriott Rewards to book this hotel as a reward night would have only cost $100 for someone without any Marriott points.
- 11 hotel nights
- $728 for 11 hotel nights all-in after tax.
- $66 per night average rate.
- Earned one free category 1 to 5 e-certificate with two paid stays and I will earn a second free e-cert night after one more Marriott brand stay before August 31, 2013. Free nights at Marriott brand hotels are valid for one year from date issued.
Now the subjective part of these hotel stays
This past weekend Kelley and I completed a 12-day road trip out to Denver and back. We stayed 12 nights in hotels with five chains and all hotel nights earned or burned points in a hotel loyalty program. The use of several hotel loyalty options reduced the hotel cost for 11 paid nights to $678 and about $50 tax on the $500 in paid stays, while providing hotel rooms in the midscale to the upper-upscale and luxury segment for our trip.
One hotel night in Las Vegas at MGM Grand was a complimentary night courtesy of MGM Resorts M life and Hyatt Hotels Gold Passport loyalty programs partnership launch, but that hotel night is irrelevant to this analysis. We could have easily booked a paid stay at the LVH Resort in Las Vegas, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, for under $50 all-in for the night in lieu of the room we received complimentary at MGM Grand.
Most hotel bookings for my road trip were made the day of arrival.
Here is a quick statement about each of the hotels and brands.
Holiday Inn Express Carson City, Nevada – Near Highway 95 freeway to Reno. Near downtown for Nevada capital city sites like Nevada State Museum and the Capitol. New looking Holiday Inn Express hotel with nice lobby. LT post July 9: Crossing the Sierra Nevada and fire on the mountains.
Holiday Inn Express Tooele, Utah – near Salt Lake City and in shopping center. Biggest regret is we were too tired to visit the microbrewery nearby. I did not even know they had microbreweries in Utah. LT post July 10: ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ – U.S. Route 50.
Candlewood Suites, Craig, Colorado – rural northern Colorado. This place is called the elk hunting capital of the world. Mistakenly walked into the Holiday Inn across the street to see numerous animal heads mounted on the walls. Glad there were no animal ghosts haunting the Candlewood Suites. Full suite for $30 is great hotel deal.
Kelley and I saw elk living in Rocky Mountain National Park the next day.
LT post July 12: Elk High in Rocky Mountain National Park
Aloft (Starwood Hotels) Broomfield, Colorado. This property midway between Boulder and Denver was a convenient location after a day in Rocky Mountain National Park and dinner in the college town of Boulder. LT post July 14: Simple chic @Aloft Broomfield-Denver, Colorado.
Marriott Look No Further best rate guarantee
Denver area TownePlace Suites were booked the week before arrival for three bookings with Marriott Rewards at TownePlace Suites in Denver which were Look No Further approved and reduced rates.
LT Post July 7: Deep Rate Discount with Expedia 48-hour sale and Marriott LNF claims.
Look No Further is Marriott’s best rate guarantee program and provides a 25% discount on a lower rate found within 24 hours on a competitive online travel agency site like Expedia.com. The guest must first confirm the reservation at Marriott’s rate, and then submit a claim based on a lower rate found on another website. I found the lower rates before booking the Denver hotel stays and four nights of hotel rates were adjusted to be close to 50% of the published hotel rates I originally booked through Marriott.com.
We arrived in the TownePlace Suites Denver Downtown on a 100 degree afternoon. The air conditioner did not blow any cold air after being on high for 30 minutes. Kelley went to the desk to complain. The receptionist handed her a fan. I went down and told the receptionist we had to be moved to another room. AC worked fine in other room.
Comfort Inn Green River, Utah had one of the best hotel beds I have slept on in the past year. Direct TV offered loads of channels and great reception. The hotel lobby had free chili and chicken noodle soup when we arrived at 7pm.
THEhotel Las Vegas was a one bedroom full suite. Las Vegas offers some of the best value on hotel rooms for large rooms at a low price when you are staying Sunday through Thursday nights. LT post: The King Suite at THEhotel, Las Vegas.
Fairfield Inn Tehachapi, California was the totally unexpected ‘wow’ hotel. This category 1 Marriott Rewards hotel we booked for 7,500 points was a chic junior suite room with balcony patio at a budget price using points. LT post: I gambled and won! Fairfield Inn Tehachapi, California is great Marriott Rewards category 1 hotel award.
I hold elite status in several hotel loyalty programs, but that elite status made little difference when staying at midscale hotel brands and on points award stays. I received the room I booked at every hotel with no complimentary upgrades.
Hotel travel in summer in the USA can be expensive.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.