Getting a great deal on a ticket to London like last week’s opportunity to fly Business Class for under $500 per ticket still leaves the task of finding affordable hotels during that same travel time frame.
Learning the hotel is going to cost over $1,000 USD for six nights kind of screws up a bargain London vacation. London can easily set you back over $1,000 on a week’s vacation for one of the low priced 3-star city hotels and 4-star hotels are typically $300 USD per night and higher.
I did not book the low British Airways Business Class fares, even after finding availability for Thanksgiving week at $1,225 per ticket. I did not have 30,000 Avios points to drop the price to under $500 round trip to fly Business Class.
I might be in London for Thanksgiving week anyway. The distinct possibility of a week in London had me looking at where I could stay using hotel points. Since I have redeemed points for around 60 hotel nights since May 2015, my account balances are fairly low in most programs. I do not have sufficient points in any single hotel loyalty program to book five or six free nights in London. My situation forced me to survey several hotel programs for the best reward options in London during Thanksgiving week.
No longer discount Club Carlson
Club Carlson was my primary hotel points program when I booked 15 nights in London in November 2014 and July 2015. Club Carlson Visa card members received one night free on hotel stays using points. That meant 50,000 points purchased two nights at more than a dozen London hotels one year ago for last Thanksgiving week holiday travel.
Two things happened in 2015 to devalue Club Carlson. Free night credit card benefit ended June 1, 2015. The other change is nearly all the Club Carlson hotels in London increased from 50,000 to 70,000 points per night. There are only a couple of hotels out of 17 in London still at 50,000 points.
I can squeeze two hotel nights out of a Club Carlson stay, if I spend 100,000 points.
My Choice Privileges points are tapped out after last month’s Scandinavia Nordic Choice Hotels on points. There is a limited time offer through November 24 to buy up to 65,000 points at $8.50 per 1,000 points.
Loyalty Traveler – Choice Privileges $550 for 65,000 points (Oct 21, 2015).
Most London hotels are 25,000 Choice Privileges points per night. Last month I stayed in a tiny room at Comfort Inn Westminster for 16,000 points. That is a $136 room night if buying points in the current sale.
Loyalty Traveler – Tiny Room Comfort Inn Westminster London (Sep 25, 2015)
Best Western is a chain where I can get two free nights. Most of the 18 or so Best Western hotels in London are not available for points that week in November. Two hotels have 36,000 points reward nights; the highest level of reward night in the Best Western Rewards program. Most of the Best Western hotels have room rates over $200 per night.
Hyatt Gold Passport wants 25,000 points per night for Hyatt Regency The Churchill or Andaz Liverpool Street. That is a high price and too high for me. Hyatt points have better value in other places.
Hats at Hyatt Regency The Churchill
London is a challenge where hotels are quite expensive on average with per night rates at $150 USD and higher very common for mid-level 3-star hotels and $300+ common for 4-star hotels.
Starwood Hotels in London
W Hotel Leicester Square is a location smack in the middle of the entertainment hub of London. $285 GBP ($440 USD) or 20,000 points or 10,000 points + $180. The value of 10,000 points is $260. Kind of like paying for the same hotel room twice at those prices, with cash and with points.
Great Northern Hotel, Tribute Portfolio the second member hotel of Starwood’s Tribute Portfolio is currently priced at SPG hotel reward category 5. That probably won’t last. The hotel with 249 GBP room rates is available for 12,000 points per night for some Thanksgiving week dates or 48,000 points for a 5-night stay.
Starwood’s Great Northern Hotel looks like the best value for SPG points. Pay 48,000 points instead of 1,245 GBP ($1,920 USD). That is redemption value of $40 per 1,000 Starpoints.
Aloft Excel is 10,000 points per night, so 40K with 5th night free stay.
I have points for one room night at Great Northern Hotel.
IHG Rewards Club
Most IHG hotels in London are 35,000 points per night. There are a couple priced at 30,000 points, but none priced at a lower reward rate within central London area. Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo and InterContinental Park Lane are priced from 40,000 to 50,000 points.
IHG Rewards Club has had a few opportunities in 2015 to buy points for around $6 per 1,000 points. That makes a 35,000 points hotel $210 per night. Points are still a discount rate considering 200 GBP is the average hotel rate.
The good news about Hilton is there are more than 30 hotels in London and many of these offer standard reward rates during Thanksgiving week.
The lowest rates are 50,000 points per night at Hilton London Metropole, Hilton London Hyde Park (177 GBP), DoubleTree Hyde Park (215 GBP), DoubleTree Chelsea (161 GBP), Hilton London Olympia (124 GBP) and Hilton London Kensington (150 GBP).
Hilton has sold points in 2015 at the rate $5 per 1,000 points. That makes most of these hotel rewards about a break even value. Waldorf Hilton (259 GBP) for 60,000 points looks like a good value.
Personally, I don’t have enough points for a standard reward stay with Hilton and only LHR and LGW airport hotels offer HHonors Points & Money awards, outside of weekend nights. Friday night has some good value Points & Money options in London.
Trafalgar London 219 GBP ($339 USD) for 82 GBP ($127 USD) + 28,000 points. $127 saves 42,000 points in this example and those points save $212. Still about $5/1,000 points value.
Hilton Hyde Park offers best Points & Money value with room rates at 197 GBP ($305) and Points & Money reward at 55 GBP ($85.10) + 20,000 points.
20,000 points saves $220 for an $11 per 1,000 points redemption value.
Marriott Rewards offers more than a dozen hotels in London with reward nights price range from 35,000 points to 45,000 points.
Marriott Rewards rarely discounts points to a degree that points purchases are advisable. Marriott tends to offer discounts on travel cards and a 20% room rate discount for London is still a high-priced hotel.
In 2016 there will be a Marriott Cash and Points option, but that is no help for Thanksgiving week 2015 trips.
Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors do not assist me in my London hotel planning. I do not have enough points to use those programs.
There is still one more hotel program in my portfolio for London.
There are only 3 Wyndham brand hotels in London, but they are available for 15,000 points per night on GoFree reward stays and two of them have GoFast rewards for 3,000 points + 62GBP ($96 USD) per night.
I have 30,000 points for two free nights or several GoFast nights.
Days Inn London Hyde Park is 108.80 GBP ($168 USD) per night. The other two hotels are Days Waterloo at 127 GBP ($197 USD) and Ramada London Docklands 136 GBP ($210 USD).
Ramada Docklands gives higher redemption value, but Days Inn London Hyde Park is a better location for me.
The redemption rate for Days Inn Hyde Park saves $72 with 3,000 points. That is $24 per 1,000 points redemption value.
Paying 3,000 points + $96 for Days Inn Hyde Park is an affordable rate for a couple of nights and there is availability for Wyndham GoFast rewards all week.
Wyndham Rewards members can buy up to 5,000 points in a calendar year at $11 per 1,000 points. If I did not have points, Kelley and I could buy 5,000 points each; enough for one hotel night each.
Wyndham Rewards comes in at a slightly lower price overall ($129 USD) for Days Inn Hyde Park than Comfort Inn Westminster using 16,000 Choice Privileges points ($136 USD).
What will I book?
Looking at my options for Thanksgiving week shows my best value option is Starwood’s Great Northern Hotel Tribute Portfolio for one night at 12,000 points.
I can book a couple of IHG nights on points, but those points have so much value as PointBreaks that I am reluctant to blow 50,000 points for two nights in London. The new PointBreaks list with November reward dates should be out sometime in the next week. Kelley and I have a couple of free night certificates to burn too and that is a better option for us in London.
Hilton Points & Money might buy one good value reward night.
Hyatt is too high priced for points stays in London.
Choice Privileges points are far more valuable to me for hotel stays using points in Scandinavia.
Club Carlson is an option for two nights. There are no Club Carlson 2-for-1 rates available at London city center hotels.
Best Western and Wyndham Rewards look like good options for me. These are points I rarely find to be the best choice, but I don’t mind downgrading my hotel market segment for expensive London. There are so many things to do in London besides sit in the hotel. As long as the bed is a firm mattress and large enough for two, then I don’t mind a mid-scale hotel in London.
All this planning is for a week in London and I don’t even know yet if London is our November destination. I am waiting for IHG PointBreaks new list this week to see if there is a hotel somewhere in Europe where we can book all Thanksgiving week. We might end up in Bucharest, Romania if that looks like a great deal on PointBreaks.
On Wednesday, I found American Airlines AAdvantage awards to London and Paris and several places for 20,000 miles + $5.60 one way. In the afternoon most of the awards with American Airlines operated aircraft were blacked out again, like they were last week. I am learning that American plays with its award charts to Europe with periods where British Airways is the only transatlantic flight option.
Since London is back on hold for the time being while waiting to book low-cost frequent flyer awards with AAdvantage miles, I am in an airport holding pattern, while waiting to see the new IHG PointBreaks list before I finalize our Thanksgiving travel plans.