personal reflections

State of My Travel 2023

a river with boats and trees

Today I completed the last of my reservations for May 2023 hotels for a trip to Oslo, Rhodes, Czechia and Tallinn, Estonia. All my hotel stays were booked with points, except Tallinn.

This past week has shown the 2023-Q1 weak promotions in the face of record high hotel rates and predictions of a recession taking hold this year. I am sticking with simply buying and redeeming points with IHG One Rewards and Choice Privileges as the best play for me to get deep discount hotel rates this year.

In 2021 and 2022 I purchased over 600,000 Choice Privileges points at an average rate of $5.20 per 1,000 points.  I redeemed 232,000 ($1,207) of these Choice Privileges points for 12 reward nights in 2022 to pay for $4,466 in rooms. Another 358,000 points ($1,862) were redeemed for travel with 23 hotel nights in Europe from February to May 2023 to pay for about $8,000 in room rates. 

IHG points covered the majority of my 2022 travel with 400,000 purchased points ($2,000) paying for 35 room nights with room rates totaling $3,900 out of 56 nights stayed last year. After reaching 20 nights with IHG hotel stays in July, then 40 nights with IHG in December 2022, I now have 2 confirmed suites (up to 5 nights each) and Lounge Access. By waiting until January 2023 to choose the Lounge Access IHG milestone, it is good for this year and all of next year. I now have IHG lounge privileges until Dec 31, 2024. 

The Diamond elite member fast-track deal in October 2022 provided room upgrades and free breakfast on my December trip and purchasing InterContinental Ambassador in December extended my IHG Diamond status through December 2023. 

The cost to buy points with Choice Privileges and IHG One Rewards works out to be far better in terms of return on investment than paying prevailing rates with any points bonus promotions that I have been offered in 2023.

In 2022 I paid for 6 nights and earned Accor and IHG points. I currently have a 5-night paid stay for an independent hotel in Tallinn, Estonia booked That will be my only hotel stay not using loyalty points for 46 hotel nights from January to May 2023.

No Summer 2023 Travel in Europe

Since 2012, I have spent 2 to 5 weeks in Europe every summer, with the exception of 2013. This year I have no summer plans for Europe. Each year it is miserably hot, wherever I have been. Ireland or Norway would probably be doable with regard to heat, but the airport experiences are unlikely to improve in the crush of summer season travel. My preliminary examination of summer hotel rates and reward rates for cities around Europe reveals some sharp rises in cash rates and points rates in June and July.

My plan is hang out in Monterey with some travel along the west coast this summer. In the autumn I’ll likely head to Europe again. Germany has been on my mind. Australia and Japan are in consideration too. 

Airline Tickets

As long as prices for economy class travel remain low I will continue to suffer the inconvenience of cramped space and middle seats. My attitude is I can suffer for 12 hours and use the savings from flying cheap economy to buy my way into hotel suites, mostly using purchased points. If all goes to plan I will requalify in May 2023 for Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite with Star Alliance Gold privileges into autumn 2024.

Credit Cards

I plan to pick up a couple of new credit cards in the first half of 2023. I still do not plan to get into the influencer marketing game of selling credit cards to readers. 

Bottom Line: Deals still abound for travel. Now that my wife has retired we have enjoyed traveling outside peak holiday weeks. For June 2022 to May 2023 we will come close to 100 hotel nights for the 12 months since she retired. Purchased points with Choice and IHG have paid for most of those nights at more than 50% savings compared to room rates. The hotel loyalty promotions will need to get much better later in 2023 to change the equation for me to favor paying cash rates for rooms.

a sign on a wall
Lisbon B Perfect Hamburgueria Bar


  • Dave Hanson January 26, 2023

    Thanks for this, Ric. I always appreciate your distinct perspective in a space crowded with more “aspirational” blogs funded by credit card affiliate relationships. Some of those are good too, but I think yours feels a void quite well.

    For what it’s worth, like you I accumulated several hundred thousand in Choice and IHG points over the last two years. IHG points were primarily from the same .5c sales you allude to, while Choice points have more recently focused on transfers from the Citibank Thank You Points currency, as they continue to transfer 1:2, unlike any other transferrable currency.

    And also like you, I also leveraged Ambassador to roll over Diamond status, and 40 nights to get a second set of confirmed suites and lounge access.

    A few credit cards can be quite helpful in these “value hotel” spaces. This is especially true with IHG. With the no-longer-available $49 “select” card’s 10% points rebate and the other cards’ 4th point night free benefit–still stackable benefits, impressively–points go that much farther.

    I picked up the Choice CC in 2021, for its promotional 75k point sign up bonus (now back down to the normal 32k), but also for its permanent elite status with no annual fee. However, I’ve been a bit disappointed that Choice hasn’t bothered to run any card-based promotions, unlike IHG, and wouldn’t have bothered absent the promotion.

    Will look forward to reading more about your 2023 travels!

  • bluecat January 30, 2023

    I can’t remember an IHG with a lounge. Which ones have those? (I usually stay at HI and HIX, though.)

  • bill February 1, 2023

    Sorry to see that Aegean is making it more difficult to earn elite status. Hoping that you’ll be able to qualify by the time the changes are implemented.

  • Ric Garrido February 1, 2023

    @Bluecat – InterContinental Hotels are primary brand with lounges. I am staying at a Crowne Plaza with a lounge in February.

    @Bill – I fly Aegean Airlines each year for status. June 2023 change only impacts people who do not earn Aegean or Olympic Airlines flight segments. I am flying to Rhodes, Greece in April from Oslo, then Rhodes to Prague for four flight segments with Aegean.

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