Jan072020

How I managed 65 hotel nights in 2019 at $53 per night.

Each year I examine my hotel stays for the calendar year adding up what I earned and burned and the cost for my hotel nights to estimate my hotel average nightly rate. For 2019, I spent $3,444 and booked 65 hotel nights for an average nightly rate of $53.

After 30 years traveling with the frequent use of loyalty miles and points and 14 years writing Loyalty Traveler with a focus on using hotel loyalty programs for discount room rates, it is obvious to me that most people have far more interest in airline frequent flyer miles than hotel loyalty programs and points. I get it. I started out that way too.

I accumulated several million frequent flyer miles by the year 2000 before it dawned on me that flying around the world in Business Class and sleeping in frequently crappy Priceline rooms meant that I had only mastered part of the travel loyalty world of points and miles.

Some travel bloggers prefer hotels.com or Airbnb to hotel loyalty programs. Then there are travelers who swear devotional loyalty to Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott or a combination of a couple of hotel loyalty programs with a focus on pooling their hotel spend into one program for high elite status. That was also my strategy for more than a decade holding top elite with Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood. In 2013, as hotel rates began skyrocketing, along with reward rates in these programs, I changed my strategy from focusing on top elite status in one or two hotel programs to focus on utilizing all major hotel loyalty programs to earn and burn points wherever I traveled for the best deals available. This also reduced my total annual hotel spend when staying 50 to 85 hotel nights each year.

In recent years my primary hotel stay strategy is to mix and match up the best deals across multiple loyalty programs to find the best discount rates combined with the best hotel loyalty promotions deals I can integrate for my travel destinations.

One general rule of mine has not changed over the past 20 years. I try and avoid spending more than $100 per night on hotel rooms, whether paying cash or points. Occasionaly I splurge and push that up to $125 to $150 for a hotel night when there is a good value opportunity for a high market segment hotel in a place I plan to be.

65 hotel nights in 2019 at an average cost of $53 per room night.

It is not like I slummed my way through economy segment hotels around the world in 2019.

  • 60 of 65 hotel nights were in chain hotels in Accor (6 nights), Best Western (2), Choice Privileges (26), Hyatt (2), IHG (16), Marriott (3), Radisson (4) and Wyndham (1). No Hilton stays in 2019.
  • 50 hotel nights were in 8 European countries: Czech Republic (16), Denmark (2), Greece (4), Netherlands (8), Norway (1), Poland (16), Sweden (2) and United Kingdom (1).
  • 15 hotel nights were in the United States: California (13), Florida (2).
  • 9 of 65 hotel nights had room rates over $300 per night.
  • 15 of 65 hotel nights had room rates over $250 per night.
  • 20 of 65 hotel nights I stayed in 2019 were hotels where the after tax room rate exceeded $175.
  • 6 of 65 hotel nights had room rates under $50 per night. Four nights were at a wonderful boutique hotel in Chania, Crete, Greece and two hotel nights were hotels I only stopped by to check-in and earn a free reward night at any Best Western in the USA and another earned 11,000 points in Choice Privileges.
  • 5 of 65 hotel nights were in non-chain independent hotels.
  • 3 hotel nights were compliments of co-branded credit cards with IHG, Marriott, and Radisson. I also had a free night with Hyatt I never redeemed.

Total spend for hotel nights in 2019 = $2,507 for hotel stays + $937 in Choice Privileges purchased points redeemed for 2019 hotel stays = $3,444 total hotel spend for 2019 stays.

$3,444 paid for 65 hotel nights in 2019 works out to $52.99 per night over the course of 2019.

The published room rates for these 65 nights totaled about $10,025 or $154 per night. Posted hotel rates are much more relevant to the actual value of hotel rooms than calculations for airline miles value compared to Business and First Class published ticket prices. However, the actual posted room rate is sort of irrelevant to me for my reward nights. My bottom line is how much I pay per night over the course of a year to stay in hotels and that worked out to $53 per hotel night in 2019.

$53 per hotel night through strategic use of hotel loyalty programs is a far better deal than I can get with Airbnb stays or 10% back on hotels.com for the chain hotel market segment I typically book.

Hotel Room Nights by Chain

A graphic display by hotel chain makes it easier to see the specifics of how I managed my discount hotel travel in 2019. Generally, I hotel hop on trips to take advantage of best rates and promotions for earning more points.

Choice Privileges = 26 hotel nights in 2019 (23 reward nights, 3 paid nights)

Choice Privileges was my major hotel loyalty program this year. On May 15, 2019 I purchased 267,000 Choice Privileges points for $1,368.00.

Loyalty TravelerAll in for 267,000 Choice Privileges points at $1,368 (May 20, 2019).

This works out to $5.12 per 1,000 points. I still have 36,000 points in my account with another 48,000 points redeemed for 6 nights in London in February 2020. With 84,000 points of the 267,000 Choice points still at my disposal, I can deduct $430 from the $1,368 I spent for 267,000 Choice points last May when calculating 2019 hotel spend.

I redeemed points at 9 Choice Hotels in 2019 with redemption value over $25 per 1,000 points. Bottom line is most of the Choice hotels I stayed at in 2019 actually cost me $41 to $61 per night paying with points. I also landed one night at The Thief, Oslo, one of the finest hotels in Norway for 6,000 points and $105 in April 2019.

Choice Privileges points can be purchased for any reward night as a Points Plus Cash reward at the rate of 6,000 points + $7.50 per 1,000 points for the remainder needed to book reward stay. I purchased 28,000 Choice points for Points Plus Cash stays in early 2019 for $210.

IHG Rewards Club = 16 hotel nights in 2019 (8 reward nights, 8 paid nights)

IHG Rewards Club is still a highly lucrative loyalty program for me with the overall annual best opportunities to balance  earning points with paid stays and burning points for good value reward nights.

In 2019, I spent $799.55 on 9 hotel nights and earned 113,786 points, primarily through the winter 2019 and summer 2019 IHG Rewards Club Accelerate promotions. I redeemed 130,000 points for 7 free nights and used my last unrestricted IHG Rewards Club Chase Mastercard free night for the 70,000 points InterContinental Monterey. In 2020, Chase credit card free nights are limited to hotels at 40,000 points or less.

IHG Rewards Club regularly sells points for $5.00 per 1,000 points during periodic buy points promotions.

Accor Hotels – ALL = 6 paid nights in 2019.

IHG Rewards Club offered me a poor value Accelerate Fall 2019 offer, so I took advantage of a Le Club Accorhotels promotion in September for 6,000 bonus points after 3 two-night stays by Jan 19, 2020. Le Club Accorhotels, recently rebranded as ALL – Accor Live Limitless, has gifted me Platinum elite status over the past few years. Ironically, after my first ever stays with Accor Hotels, I was downgraded to Gold elite on January 1, 2020.

My 6 hotel nights over the past two weeks cost $670 and earned 7,975 points. Accor ALL points have a fixed value of 2,000 points = 40 EUR in hotel credit. Once I pick up another 25 points I will have 160 EUR in credit for future stays.

I also received two suite upgrades in my account valid for 2020 stays.

Independent Hotels = 5 paid nights in 2019.

I only stayed in two non-chain hotels in 2019 and they were two of my favorite hotel stays of the year. Porto del Colombo in Chania, Greece on the island of Crete was my bargain of the year visiting in off-season March.

Hotel 1231 in Torun, Poland is a hotel I will likely visit again. We loved the historic medieval town off the beaten track. I even picked up 139 TAP Portugal points through the website I booked this hotel. 100 TAP Portugal points can be used for a $12 discount on an SFO to Rome $137 one way ticket I am looking at for spring 2020 travel.

Radisson Rewards = 4 hotel reward nights in 2019 

I redeemed 124,000 Radisson Rewards points in 2019. This almost cleaned out my account balance. The consistent movement of low category Radisson Rewards hotels in Europe over the past three years has eliminated most of the competitive value I had previously found with this program. For example, I stayed in Lithuania in 2017 and 2018 at Park Inn Kaunas when it was a category 1 hotel for 9,000 points. Park Inn Kaunas is now 28,000 points. Radisson Blu Klaipeda was a category 2 hotel in 2017 for 15,000 points per night. Radisson Blu Klaipeda is now 38,000 points.

Marriott Bonvoy = 3 hotel nights in 2019 (2 reward, 1 paid)

In 2019 I had one free hotel night through my Marriott Bonvoy American Express card. I also had 18,000 points through the 1:3 conversion of 6,000 SPG points in my account. I purchased 7,000 points during a Marriott 25% discount offer to get 25,000 points. I redeemed my free AmEx night and 25,000 points for a July stay at Marriott Sopot Resort & Spa on Poland’s Baltic coast. This is one of our favorite places in Poland.

My one paid night was a great deal for Westin Warsaw at $75 including buffet breakfast.

Best Western Rewards = 2 paid nights

I earned a free night in April 2019 for any BW property in North America after two Best Western hotel stays. I could have redeemed the free night for a $300 hotel night in San Francisco, but we were just not into it in the spring during the final weeks of my wife’s school year. I booked the free night, then canceled. Sometimes home is the best place to be.

Basically I wasted $39 on a hotel room in Prague I only stopped in to check-in and leave after five minutes. In the end, traveling across Prague by Metro and bus took me to new areas of the city I had not seen before, so I was not disappointed. My journey to Best Western Amedia is one of the more lasting memories of my week in Prague.

World of Hyatt = 2 reward nights

Hyatt points came in handy when returning from London in January 2019 and missing our flight connection at Fort Lauderdale due to a late arriving British Airways flight and my being selected for secondary agricultural screening at customs. American Airlines could not get us a flight back to San Jose SJC California for two days.

I was Diamond elite in Hyatt Gold Passport for several years. The high room rates along with the consistent movement of hotels to higher points category led me to move on from Hyatt several years ago. I have slowly redeemed my remaining points for one or two reward nights each year, primarily for category 1 and category 2 airport hotels in places where I needed an overnight transit stay.

Wyndham Rewards – 1 reward night

Wyndham Rewards is a loyalty program that had its peak years from 2015 to 2017. I had loads of points in Wyndham Rewards from U.S. Travel Association Daily Getaways sales in 2011 and 2012 when points sold for about $4 per 1,000 points. The introduction of GoFast cash and points rates in 2015 made all hotels worldwide available for 3,000 points plus a fixed copay amount. There were several hotels, like Ramada Apollo Amsterdam, where I was getting their top category hotel rooms, typically priced from $175 to $275 per night for 3,000 WR points + $65.

Then, Wyndham Rewards pegged GoFast copay amounts to 70% of the Flexible Rate. That killed the program for me. I burned my last 45,000 points for a 3-night 2018-19 New Year’s Eve stay.

 

Conclusion 

This post outlines my use of hotel loyalty programs for 2019. I’ll put together another post to show my airline spend for 2019 with my focus of earning Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite with Star Alliance Gold benefits. I requalified for Aegean Gold with my flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt the last week of December. I am good through March 2021 for airline elite status.

Further reading:

Buying hotel points is one of my primary hotel discount rate strategies.

Loyalty Traveler – Thoughts on buying hotel points after 65 hotel nights in 2019 (Nov 26, 2019).

Here are my hotel stay summaries for 2017 and 2018.

Loyalty Traveler – Deconstructing 85 hotel nights in 2018 by loyalty program points redemption value (April 13, 2019)

Loyalty Traveler – Loyalty Traveler 2017 in Review: 86 hotel nights in 9 programs (Jan 3, 2018).

 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. I’m surprised you still get value from IHG. Used to be very easy to earn points. And you used to be able to find 5k and 10k rooms.

  2. For me, the value of this kind of post is to highlight the fact that affordable travel is possible, and that chain hotels are one way to do this. I like that you collect points with different (often, lesser known) chains. Maybe for 2020, you might look at some Europe-only chains (e.g., Melia or Porto Bay) where I’m sure you would be able to find some additional value.

    I wonder why you don’t “play the credit card game” more: I personally find that the Hilton and Marriott cards provide me with outsized value—especially with the free breakfasts.

    And, like you, I am an IHG fan but, lately, it has become harder to find good value stays. If I read you correctly, you prioritize the *cost* of the hotel over the location….I do this too but not when travelling with my wife. (!)

    Finally, what exactly happened in Jan 2019 with that airport delay? Did the airline cover your costs?

    Happy New Year and good travels in 2020!

  3. @bluecat – generally I value location and will pay more to be in a place convenient to where I want to be. I weigh distance from city center to cost and seek a good balance.

    I did not pursue the Jan 2019 issue. While British Airways was late, the delay at FLL passport control and customs played a big role in missing the flight too.

    No idea why I was selected for a secondary agricultural inspection as a Global Entry member.

    ***

    Avoiding a focus on credit cards maintains my separation from the points and miles traveler Bourgeoisie.

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