My travel budget is focused on finding hotel lodging deals when I travel since airfare is so inexpensive these days. In 2017, I managed to stay 86 hotel nights for about $4,000. Looks like I will end 2018 with about 81 nights stayed in hotels with annual spend a little over $3,200.
This post shows how I traveled 12 days to Europe paying $380 for 10 nights.
My latest trip had me flying Icelandair San Francisco to London with an overnight in central London, Wizz Air to Romania with 7 nights in Cluj-Napoca and back to London for one night in Windsor with a fantastic Windsor Castle view from my room. Then, one night in Reykjavik, Iceland before flying to SFO and back home to Monterey, California.
Keeping lodging expenses down is a combination of
- buying hotel points during discount promotions
- earning points through paid stays during good value promotions,
- redeeming points for places where points offer higher than average redemption values
- booking inexpensive rooms when the price of reward nights is not a good redemption value
- credit card annual nights and points (Hyatt free night, IHG free night + 10% rebate on reward night points redeemed, Club Carlson 40,000 points annually).
10 Nights in Europe for $380
Night 1 – Hotel Indigo Leicester Square, London
Published Rate: about $500 at time I booked, then Sold Out before my stay.
I paid: annual free night from IHG Rewards Club Mastercard ($49 annual fee).
Turned out my stay was during the annual British Film Institute London Film Festival with a Red Carpet nightly event happening outside the Hotel Indigo Leicester Square. This explains why Hotel Indigo was priced higher than InterContinental Park Lane London for my date of stay.
Loyalty Traveler – My room over the stars at Hotel Indigo London Leicester Square
Incredible views from 9th floor roof top bar offer a way to experience Hotel Indigo Leicester Square for the price of a drink.
Night 2 – Domus Apartment, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Published Rate: 44 EUR / $49 USD
I paid: $49
I felt let down to arrive at Hotel Alexis in Cluj-Napoca at 19:00 after a day of traveling from London, only to learn the independent hotel I booked through Booking.com did not have a reservation or room for me.
Needing an instant alternative, I ended up booking a private apartment with a full kitchen and balcony in the same neighborhood through Booking.com.. Two hours after the initial mishap I was in Old Town Cluj pub crawling my way through the city. All is well that ends well. Especially with $1.75 pints of beer.
Loyalty Traveler – My booking.com hotel reservation with no ***king room upon arrival, yeah!
Nights 3-8 Hampton by Hilton Cluj-Napoca
Published Rate: $77 nonrefundable/$87 Honors member flexible rate x 6 nights =
$462 nonrefundable/$522 Honors flexible rate for 6-night stay.
I paid: 29,000 Honors points, which cost me $145 to buy during Hilton Honors 100% bonus points promotion.
The price for a reward night at Cluj-Napoca changed to 20,000 points per night about 6 weeks before my hotel stay. The cost for several Hilton brand hotels in Romania doubled with two hotels previously at 5,000 points rising to 10,000 points (Iasi, Sighisoara) and 10,000 points hotels rising to 20,000 points (Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu).
During a temporary reward rate anomaly a few days before the change to 20,000 points, I was able to book a 5th night free reward stay at Hampton Cluj-Napoca for 19,000 points and a single night for 10,000 points.
Loyalty Traveler – Hampton Inn Cluj-Napoca, Romania 29,000 points for my 6-night stay
Night 9 – Clarion Collection Harte & Garter, Windsor, UK
Published Rate: 198.55 GBP / $271 USD
I paid: 16,000 Choice Privileges points I purchased for $80 during 2018 Daily Getaways.
Clarion Collection Harte & Garter is located across the street from the walls and entrance of Windsor Castle and I was able to book a castle view room as a standard reward night for 16,000 points.
Not too often do I walk into a Choice Hotel room and say WOW!
Loyalty Traveler – Clarion Collection Harte & Garter Windsor castle view room review
Night 10 – REK Inn, Reykjavik, Iceland
Published Rate: $57 USD booking.com
I paid: $57 USD booking.com
Iceland can be a budget buster for a regular hotel, but there are some budget accommodations available in downtown Reykjavik, especially if you are willing to accept a shared bathroom. Traveling alone, I figured one cheap room night would not be too much of an inconvenience. But REK Inn is basic lodging at a standard I don’t generally experience as a Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler – My 72 square feet with REK Inn Reykjavik Iceland $57 room
10 days lodging in Europe = $380 my cost for $1,339 in posted lowest room rates at time of booking.
- $106 for 2 booking.com independent lodging paid during trip.
- $80 Choice Privileges points purchased April 2018.
- $145 Hilton Honors points purchased August 2018.
- $49 IHG Rewards Club card annual fee paid Oct 2017.
My total lodging cost at $380 for 10 nights combined with a $270 Icelandair SFO-London round trip ticket and $106 I paid for London LTN to Cluj-Napoca, Romania CLJ on Wizz Air and about $100 in total ground transportation for the week kept my travel expenses to about $856 all-in.
Daily expenses for London and Windsor were around $35 total for food and drink, Iceland cost about $25 for food, and Cluj-Napoca, Romania cost about $150 for seven days of restaurant meals and many pints of beer.
Europe can be an expensive vacation. But does not have to be. Especially if you focus on travel in Eastern European countries.