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Loyalty Road Trip 11 nights, 5 chains, $728

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.]
  3. 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.]
  4. Aloft Broomfield, Colorado $79 nonrefundable rate booked day of arrival. Starwood Preferred Guest stay credit.
  5. TownePlace Suites Denver Downtown $68 (original rate I booked on was $129; applied Marriott LNF guarantee on 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.
  6. TownePlace Suites Denver Tech Center $46 (original rate I booked on was $94; applied Marriott LNF guarantee on 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.
  7. TownePlace Suites Denver Downtown (2 nights) $87 (original rate I booked on was $169; applied Marriott LNF guarantee on 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Net Results:

  • 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.

LT post July 11: Dead or Alive: Dinosaurs and Pronghorns on US 40 Northern Utah and Colorado.

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 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

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.

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  • Mike July 23, 2013

    Got you beat. I did 2 weeks (14 days) in Brussels, vienna, tokyo, amsterdam, zurich and istanbul for $116 TOTAL. i didnt use any points, no hostels, no friends place, no cheap motels/hotels, no BRG’s, etc.

  • Ric Garrido July 23, 2013

    Great. Care to share how you did it? Not too useful to know otherwise.

  • Fishing4Deals July 23, 2013

    What are the mechanics of filing an “LNF” claim for day of reservations? Than k youQ

  • Ric Garrido July 23, 2013

    @Fishing4Deals – Marriott, like SPG, requires the claim to be submitted at least 24 hours before check-in.

    In that case the rate difference can make it better to go with the third-party booking site to lock in the lower rate, but no additional discount will be applied and loyalty credit will not be earned for a stay booked through third party.

    And if you booked through SPG or Marriott and find that lower rate on day of arrival, then you are screwed paying a higher rate.

  • DJP July 23, 2013

    there are actually a few Cat 1 and cat 2 Marriotts you can use.

    Most are in smaller cities (not tourist meccas) and suburbs of larger cities with a few airport hotels.

    Some that I have stayed that were cat 1 or cat 2:

    1. Fairfield Puyallup(10K)…stayed here once to do a free cert night. closest Marriott to my home. The hotel can be expensive because its walking distance from an area hospital and the western washington state fair grounds.

    2. Fairfield Inn Yakima (10K)..stayed here a few times exploring locally with the Rattlesnake Vally (yakima wine country), various fruit farms near by, and for a night stay if doing the Gorge Amphitheater for a weekend concert. The gorge has little lodging within a 45 minutes drive. the closer Marriott is a higher category and usually required 2 night weekend stay. Stayed here over the weekend which along with a different stay in Portland earlier in the week gave me a cat 1-5 cert.

    3. courtyard Famington (10K). Stay here on a recent trip. I did a paid night stay given the rate was really cheap(<$70) and was used for a 1-5 cert. Farmington is a good base to explore the 4 coirners area. You can do one day at Chaco Canyon, next day at Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley, 2 days at Mesa Verde, and a day trip up to Durango and drive up the million dollar highway to Ouray and back. there is a townplace here that i think is 7500 pts.

    4. Courtyard Stapleton/Denver (10K)…did a 3 night cert stay. Had a 3 day training class near this hotel. Work was only going to cover the cost of the course not travel expenses. I did this as part of a vacation/work trip in June (see below)

    With Marriott points stays—4 points stays in a row will get youy a 5th night free.

    I did a vacation earlier this year going on a one way rental from PHX to DEN.

    day 1 flew into PHX, stayed in scottsdale for $50 at a Fairfield Inn (double bonus–free cat 1-4 cert and 5000 bonus points for 2 fairfield stayes that ran from May-July)
    day 2…drove up to Holbrook stayed a t a choice hotel
    day 3..drove to cortez colorado where I found a cheap hotel rate
    day 4…stay in farminton, NM at a courtyard
    day 5 choice hotel which gave me the 8,000 bonus points round up.
    day 6 drive to denver stay 3 nights at the courtyard in stapleton
    day 7-8 Denver
    day 9 after Denver drove up to Eastes Park and stayed at a Comfort Inn for 2 nights. That 8,000 bonus points gave me enough to convert one of those stays to a points stay.
    day 10 after RM NP drove to DEN for a flight home the next morning. Stayed at a Fairfield Inn. This stay along with the courtyard gave me a cat 1-5 stay cert.

  • DJP July 23, 2013

    @Ric….one thing to watch for….I have seen this if you do it through Kayak searches for rental cars…but not yet for hotels.

    If you use the kayak search for cars and then click on the rental agency link and book the car throuygh that company’s web site it may still classify you as a 3rd party rental even though you booked it through their site.

    I know for airlines you can do this—unsure with hotels—Orbitz you can book flights and enter your mileage account and get credit. You cant do this through other third party sites.

  • Fishing4Deals July 23, 2013

    Thanks Ric,

    I have never tried a BRG and am fuzzy on the procedures. I have enjoyed your trip reports — am heading out to Utah for a week today. I’ve booked a week at the Best Western on Priceline. Probably should have waited until the last minute, though, because I the rates have gone down on Hotwire.

  • Ric Garrido July 23, 2013

    @DJP – that happened last summer with Best Western when I linked through to Best Western and my BRG claim was denied since they said I had used Kayak.

    I wrote a post about how I booked the hotel through the Best Western site after linking to the site through Kayak.

    Best Western executives had a meeting and sent me an email that their Best Rate Guarantee team would be instructed that a booking on the Best Western site linked through Kayak was an eligible claim.

    I had already canceled the reservation. Best Western sent me a $100 gift card anyway.

    A couple months later Best Western dropped the $100 gift card portion of their Best Rate Guarantee.

    Just now I can’t even locate a webpage for Best Western Best Rate Guarantee.

  • Ric Garrido July 23, 2013

    Marriott and Hyatt have been the programs with the best Category 1 hotels for several years. Hyatt has been moving a higher percentage up in categories. Marriott has taken a number of category 1 hotels up too. They used to be great looking bell curves graphically from low to high categories. The programs over the past ten years have shifted more to the right as more hotels move up from low categories to mid and high categories as a proportion of overall portfolio.

  • DJP July 23, 2013


    I think we are talking about different things…i could be wrong.

    I recall last year through Kayak you would get into an alternate best western site that were reduced room rate that were prepay with or without refund/cancelability and it would not count as a night for various promotions.

    What I’m talking about through a kayak search a reference code is put into the reservation system that doesnt really affect the rate (with or without the code you get the same rate). With this code you are categorized as a third party reservation even though you are booking through the site and any email confirmation makes it appear its coming from the vendor and not through a third party.

  • Ric Garrido July 24, 2013

    I think we are talking about the same thing. Linking through Kayak to Best Western made it look to the consumer like they were on Best Western, yet Best Western was saying the reservation was made through a third-party site due to the code attachment.

    It happened to me for a best rate guarantee claim and probably happened to others with regard to promotions.

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