On our December trip to Europe we stayed in 5 hotels in four different hotel chains in 4 cities at a net cost of about $500 for 11 hotel nights in Vienna (2 nights), Bratislava (4 nights), Krakow 4 nights and Stockholm 1 night. Using a combination of purchased points for reward stays, discount rates, a $100 Best Western travel card from a 2016 best rate guarantee stay and current promotions, the net cost for 11 hotel nights was about $500.
Vienna, Austria – Best Western Plus Amedia Wien (2 nights)
51 EUR/night (AAA rate) = 102 EUR / $107 for 2-night stay.
After redeeming $100 Best Western credit, I paid $7 USD at checkout for this 2-night stay near the center of Vienna. This hotel stay also earned a $10 Best Western travel card from the current promotion. Best Western stays Nov 28-Jan 29 earn a $10 Best Western Travel Card rebate.
Last June I booked a Best Western hotel for Dallas DFW airport and made an immediate claim for a best rate guarantee. I paid $94 for the hotel night after tax and received a $100 Best Western Travel Card. Even though there were some good low rate hotel options with Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront ($105) and IHG InterContinental Vienna ($135), I decided this was a good opportunity to cut expenses on this trip and redeem my $100 travel card on a Best Western hotel in a convenient location for public transportation from Vienna VIE airport for our late evening arrival and to the city train station for our departure to Bratislava, Slovakia. A city bus stop outside the hotel put us in Altstadt, Old Town Vienna in 10 minutes.
Windows opened for fresh air which is a major plus in our travels.
Bratislava, Slovakia – Radisson Blu Carlton Bratislava (4 nights)
49.50 EUR ($51.85) per night = 198 EUR/$207.40 for 4-night stay using Club Carlson Gold member 4-for-2 weekend rate. Club Carlson Visa card members receive complimentary Gold elite membership.
We traveled from Vienna to Bratislava by train in one hour for 9.90 EUR each, about $10.50 USD.
Radisson Blu Carlton Bratislava has a perfect location in the center of the main tourist area of the city. We walked out the door into the Christmas market and the Danube River was one block away. The hotel was perfect for pub crawling around Staré Mesto/Old Town Bratislava. The Carlton-Savoy hotel was the grande dame of Bratislava a century ago, before nearly suffering demolition in the 1990s. The hotel building was purchased, restored and branded Radisson Blu Carlton Bratislava in 2001.
The hotel has 168 rooms. Our room was on the top floor 7 with arched ceilings and windows that opened wide, which might be a better feature when the temperature is not below freezing. I loved the views and all day Christmas carols music from the Christmas market on the street below.
We ate Christmas Eve Dinner at Savoy Restaurant and the stay earned nearly 10,000 Club Carlson points with the end-of-year Double Points promotion.
Radisson Blu Carlton Bratislava is a Club Carlson category 3 reward night at 28,000 points. There is also the category 1 Park Inn Danube Bratislava at 9,000 points, but it has been closed for major renovation most of 2016. The hotel reopening date was supposed to be December 2016, but currently is still not bookable for any 2017 dates. The Danube River location and renovation will likely mean it goes up in hotel category when it reopens.
Krakow, Poland Hotel Indigo Krakow (2 nights).
451.25 PLN ($107.06) per night advance purchase rate for King Superior with Breakfast = $214.12 for 2 nights. Stay qualifies for $75 rebate after one more night in an IHG hotel by Feb 15, 2017.
We traveled 6.5 hours by Ecolines bus from Bratislava to Krakow on a snowy Christmas Day through the hills and mountains of Slovakia to Poland. Bus tickets were 20 EUR each.
I splurged on Hotel Indigo Krakow since I could have booked a standard room without breakfast for $73 and I did not book the $135 InterContinental Vienna. We stayed two nights and I paid with MasterCard to qualify for the current two stays earn a MasterCard gift card of $100, $75 or $50. Hotel Indigo qualifies for the $75 rebate. I will book a Holiday Inn in January or February as part of my IHG Rewards Club Accelerate promotion tasks and double dip my $75 Mastercard rebate with bonus points too.
IHG Rewards Club Accelerate Jan 1 – April 15, 2017 targeted tasks for bonus points.
IHG-Mastercard Priceless Surprises – Stay twice and earn $50, $75 or $100 gift card Dec 1 – Feb 15.
Hotel Indigo is a new 2016 opening in a convenient location for Krakow with the city train station and major shopping mall five minutes walk and the Stare Miasto/Old Town Krakow about the same distance.
One of the cool features of the room is a heated bathroom floor. That came in handy when we needed to do hand laundry and dry our clothes overnight on the bathroom floor.
The entire hotel building was gutted and remodeled. There is an architectural photo display in the dining room detailing the work. A glass elevator and old staircase banister are notable features with tiled floors and a lot of nude women paintings in the stairwell.
I’ll post a full review of Hotel Indigo Krakow sometime in the next week.
Krakow, Poland – Best Western Premier Q Hotel (2 reward nights for 24,000 points; equivalent to $136)
Best Western Premier Q Hotel Krakow reward stay at 12,000 points per night. I had points earned from past Best Western stays and purchases from U.S. Travel Association’s annual Daily Getaways at rate of $55 per 10,000 points. I consider this to have been a $66 per night hotel stay. The published room rate for our dates was 513 PLN per night = $112 USD. Since I hardly ever see a Best Western hotel good value reward night for points, this seemed like a great opportunity to redeem and conserve some cash on the trip.
We were given a top floor room with a large patio balcony and complimentary breakfast.
Originally I had booked Radisson Blu Krakow on a 4-for-2 stay, but decided to divide our time between Bratislava and Krakow, pushing our stay from the weekend to weekdays. I canceled a terrific rate of $57.50 per night for Radisson Blu Krakow.
I decided to redeem 12,000 Best Western points for Best Western Premier Q Hotel across the Vistula River from Stare Miasto. It was about a 15 minute walk to Old Town. There is a Krakow microbrewery directly across the bridge.
Best Western Premier Q Hotel Krakow was the only well-equipped fitness center compared to Radisson Blu Bratislava and Hotel Indigo Krakow.
Quality Inn Stockholm Arlanda Airport – 1 night reward stay for 10,000 Choice Privileges points (equivalent to $42.50).
We flew from Krakow to Stockholm Arlanda Airport with Norwegian Airlines for $48.70 all-in each ticket including one checked bag each. Our SAS ticket for $469 round trip Stockholm to San Francisco will take us back to Stockholm in peak summer season July 2017 for our warm weather European tour. We needed to arrive in Stockholm the day before.
The problem with Stockholm Arlanda is the high cost to travel from the airport to the city. Flygbussen coach is usually the cheaper way at 198 SEK round trip ($21.70 USD).
Arlanda Express train service directly from the airport to downtown Stockholm is the most convenient and fastest way into the city and there was a Christmas season 350 SEK ($38.40 USD) special for two persons traveling round trip. Regular price is 280 SEK ($30.70 USD) per person when there is no special and you do not make an advance purchase booking. Since this was only an overnight transit, I booked Quality Inn Arlanda Airport using 10,000 Choice Privileges points. We stayed at the hotel last April for another overnight transit in Stockholm. The hotel location is about five miles from the airport with a free shuttle run every 30 minutes. The hotel is located in a rural shopping mall and a large grocery store in the mall made this a good deal for food shopping on our previous trip.
To my dismay the supermarket closed down last month. We ended up spending the evening in an isolated shopping mall hotel with McDonald’s and a small also sort of fast food restaurant outside the hotel. The room was adequate for the night, but I would have likely opted for downtown Stockholm and Clarion Hotel Sign if I had known the supermarket is no longer at the mall. The opportunity to walk around Gamla Stan on a December night would have been worth the $40 train ride.
Loyalty Traveler – Review Quality Airport Hotel Stockholm Arlanda 10,000 points Choice Privileges reward night (April 21, 2016).
Loyalty Traveler – Stockholm Clarion Hotel Sign great deal on points, convenient airport train access (July 13, 2016).
I rarely stay at Choice Hotels on paid rates. I buy points each year during the Daily Getaways sales at an average rate of $4.25 per 1,000 points. When I am running low I purchase points at $7.50 per 1,000 points using Points Plus Cash rates.
Loyalty Traveler – Only 104,000 Choice Privileges points from Daily Getaways this year (April 5, 2016).
Summary Hotel Expenses Vienna-Bratislava-Krakow-Stockholm
- Best Western Amedia Vienna = $7 (with a $10 rebate coming). Stay Earned 1,400 BWR points.
- Radisson Blu Carlton Bratislava = $207. Stay earned 9,932 Club Carlson points.
- Hotel Indigo Krakow = $214. Stay earns $75 Mastercard rebate + 3,004 points.
- Best Western Premier Q Hotel Krakow = 24,000 BWR points. (Equivalent to $132 to buy points in 2016 Daily Getaways).
- Quality Inn Arlanda Airport Stockholm = 10,000 Choice Privileges points. (Equivalent to $42.50 to buy points in 2016 Daily Getaways).
All in all, I spent about $500 for 11 hotel nights in Europe. No tricks or mistake rates. I simply use hotel loyalty programs to earn and redeem points and pick up the best value bonuses available during the dates of my hotel stays. And I only paid out $428 during this trip, earned thousands of loyalty points and expect to receive $85 in rebates from these hotel stays. Purchasing hotel loyalty points throughout the year when there are good purchase discounts comes in handy at some other time for some place I want to stay.
For about a decade I put most of my effort into attaining top tier elite in Hilton HHonors, Starwood Preferred Guest and Hyatt Gold Passport for the suite upgrades and perks. That hotel stay strategy was good when I spent most of my time in the USA or major cities and during the recession when hotel rates were really low. But these days average hotel rates are record levels in many places, especially in the USA and I find I get far better value for my hotel spend playing the field of hotel chains. Taking advantage of the best value opportunities in each location, regardless of hotel chain, works to reduce my overall lodging expenses.
The price of travel matters. Especially when I have a strong desire, like many people, to travel more frequently.
Trip Report: December 2016 Vienna – Bratislava – Krakow
Norwegian Oakland to Stockholm $259 round trip or $110 for my one way ticket home in March (describes last week’s SAS flight Stockholm – San Francisco)