Leisure travelers have the burden of paying their own way for all, or at least, most hotel stays. The cost factor to earn points is not necessarily a significant consideration for a business traveler not paying out-of-pocket. Cost is always a factor for a leisure traveler.
Vacation travel planning is easier when I have access to hotel loyalty points in several programs. When it comes to traveling, being in the place takes precedence over any specific hotel brand.
My strategies for reducing the cost of leisure travel include leveraging paid hotel stays to accumulate points where rates are low and redeem points for stays where hotel rates are high. Earning bonus promotions in different hotel chains lets me maximize the value of several offers and diversify my travel points accounts.
Choice Privileges vs. SPG for Paris in the Spring
Starwood’s ‘Better by the Night’ promotion gave triple points for three-night or longer stays from January to April 8, 2012. Starwood has 1,100 mostly upscale hotels worldwide.
Say a member spent $3,000 on three six-night vacation stays at Starwood Hotels anywhere. This earned 18,000 to 27,000 points with the 3x promotion depending on elite status and SPG credit card membership.
Let’s go to Paris in luxury. Three Paris hotels offer SPG member points redemption. May 2012 rates are W Paris at $800 or 30,000 points per night and Westin Vendome at $700 or 20,000 points per night.
Le Meridien Etoile at $300 or 12,000 points or SPG Cash & Points stay for $90 and 4,800 points each night is the most economical Starwood option. SPG in Paris takes $360 and 19,200 points to book four award nights. SPG 3x promotion points save $840 on published rates for this stay–$840 savings is a 28 percent rebate on $3,000 in Starwood Hotel spend.
Inexpensive stays may reduce the cost of 18 nights at Starwood Hotels to $1,800 for six three-night stays. This also reduces the points earned from 10,800 to 16,200 points and reduces the number of Cash & Points nights in Paris.
Or just buy 20,000 Starpoints for $700 and still save $35 per night using SPG Cash & Points at Le Meridien Etoile Paris. Award stays count for SPG elite qualification.
A Midscale Choice
Choice Hotels has over 5,000 hotels in the United States. Choice Privileges offers a recurring promotion for 8,000 points after two stays. The most recent version of the promotion runs March 8 to May 8. There is no earning limit for U.S. and Canada members. Other members have a 48,000 points limit.
Say I book 14 one-night stays and earn 56,000 Choice Privileges points. Quality Inn and Comfort Inn hotels in the U.S. at $70 per night rates are common so Choice Privileges offers 56,000 points for about $980 when staying 14 nights. Fifty-six thousand points buys France in low season at more than a dozen Choice Privileges brands like Clarion, Comfort Inn and Quality Inn hotels in May and June. These Choice Hotels for 8,000 points per night have published rates ranging from $150 to $300 per night. There are over 250 Choice Hotels in Europe.
Fifty-six thousand Choice Privileges points for seven award nights in Paris saves $1,000 to $2,000 in hotel rates; more than twice the cost to stay 14 nights in the U.S. to earn 56,000 points. Choice Privileges gives 100 percent redemption value in Paris for $1,000 in hotel spend compared to 25 percent rebate value for $3,000 in spend at Starwood Hotels. Seven nights in Paris are free after $1,000 in Choice Hotel stays. Award nights count for elite with Choice Privileges too. Mid-level Platinum elite after 20 nights offers an extended 75-day booking window for awards.
Choice Privileges offers hotel award nights for 8,000 points in Europe and other global regions at hotels with far more expensive rates than median rates in the United States. Most Choice Hotels in the U.S. are 12,000 to 20,000 points per award night where rates are frequently $60 to $100 per night.
Upscale hotel chains with loyalty programs like Starwood cost more per room night than midscale chains. Spend $1,000 staying at midscale Choice Hotels and earn enough points for one week of free nights in Paris in a midscale hotel.
The (X) Points Factor
A common question for the leisure traveler is how to accumulate sufficient points for free hotel stays?
U.S. residents should check out DailyGetaways https://dailygetaways.ustravel.org for a chance to buy cheap hotel points and stays during this year’s sale April 9-May 11. Wyndham Rewards 4/23; Hilton HHonors 4/25. In 2011 40,000 Choice Privileges points were $150. That’s one cheap Paris vacation.
Buying points directly from hotel programs during special offers for bonus points or discount prices is another way to build points balances and diversify your loyalty accounts without having to sleep around so much.