Getting to your destination is only half the fun. Now, you’ve got to check-in to your hotel and complete the rest of your journey. Do you know the ins and outs of your hotel’s loyalty program or the best use of using points to book hotels?
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to what you need to know to find the best hotel deals, and make the most of your stays.
STEP 1: Sign up for hotel loyalty programs.
It sounds easy enough, but many travelers book hotel stays without ever crediting their stays to a loyalty account. The more you stay in a particular hotel brand, the more that hotel brand begins to value you as a customer, and the more they will provide benefits that only their finest customers receive. To accumulate these benefits, you need to create an account with the hotel chain. In most cases, this process is free and painless. You can view your points/stays/reservations balance online, and often times there is an app to track the data as well. Sign up for all of the major hotel loyalty programs, even if you don’t intent on staying in a particular brand, or don’t have an upcoming stay. It’s better to have the account numbers set up and ready to go, just in case. Some hotels, especially smaller boutique hotels, may not participate in a particular program. In these cases, it’s best to contact the hotel directly to see if they participate in some sort of loyalty tracking.
- Park Hyatt, Andaz, Zilara, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House
- Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Westin, W Hotels
- DoubleTree, Conrad, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Home2Suites, Homewood Suites, Waldorf Astoria
- Marriott, J.W. Marriott,Renaissance, Courtyard, AC Hotels, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, TownePlace Suites, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, ExecuStay, Grand Residences by Marriott
- Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Staybridge Suites
- Country Inns and Suites, Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Inn, Park Plaza
- Baymont Inn, Days Inn, Hawthorne Suites, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Microtel, Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, Wingate, Wyndham, Wyndham Garden, Wyndham Grand Collection
- Ascend Collection, Cambria Suites, Clarion, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, EconoLodge, MainStay Suites, Quality Inn, Rodeway Inn, Sleep Inn, Suburban
- Kimpton Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants
STEP 2: SIGN UP FOR DEAL ALERTS
I recommend signing up for the Extreme Hotel Deals email list as these will provide you extremely discounted hotel rates at major properties. Be cautious as many of these rates are only available on select dates, or with limited terms.
I also recommend signing up for hotel alerts from Jetsetter, a popular hotel booking site that discounts major properties months in advance, and often for great rates.
STEP 3: SEARCH FOR HOTEL AVAILABILITY AND PRICING
The best way, although obvious, to search for hotel availability and pricing is with the hotel brand directly. For example, if you’re looking for pricing for a particular night at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, start your search on Hyatt.com. Hotel brands have “best rate guarantees” or similar concepts to ensure the pricing they display on their website is the best price publicly available. That said, I do recommend searching for prices at booking.com, hotels.com, and kayak.com, since lower rates found on another website will usually be matched by the hotel brand itself, in addition to some sort of extra discount provided.
I want to book a hotel stay. Now what?
Start your search on Tripadvisor.com. Look up the city you want to travel to, and find hotels in that city that meet your needs. Look at the ratings for each property, and the feedback from past guests.
Once you find your hotel of choice, look up the daily rates at the hotel’s website directly. Follow up your search on kayak.com, booking.com, and hotels.com and ensure the rate you find is truly the best available rate. Always book on the hotel’s site directly, since booking on an outside channel will disqualify you from any elite benefits, or having that hotel stay accumulate any points or status. The only exceptions to this rule would be for bookings involving booking through a credit card travel agency, since doing this will result in much higher benefits than booking on the hotel’s website, and will also result you in receiving points and status benefits for your stay.
STEP 4: ENJOY THE BENEFITS
I want some extra perks during my hotel stay. What are those upgrades you keep getting?
Everyone wants those coveted upgrades, and in hotels, this refers to those larger rooms, corner rooms, or rooms with a view. This could also mean the inclusion of breakfast, wifi, or some type of club lounge access. The best way to access this higher level of service is through these ways:
Method 1: Credit Card Hotel Booking Program.
- American Express Gold Card Hotels includes up to a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges and room upgrade at check-in, if available.
- American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts includes early 12p check-in, late 4p check-out, a hotel amenity (including possibilities such as a $100 food/beverage credit, $100 spa credit, complimentary dinner or lunch, etc.), and a room upgrade at check-in, if available.
- Mastercard World Luxury Hotels and Resorts Portfolio, available with select Mastercard cards.
- Visa Signature Hotels, available with select Visa Signature cards.
If you’re an American Express Platinum card holder, you can leverage the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program to your advantage and stay at not only the best hotels in the world, but also receive benefits for significant discounts. This is my favorite of the credit card booking programs.
Method 2: Elite Status
Elite status varies by hotel brand, but in general includes complimentary upgrades, internet access, breakfast, and other similar amenities. Elite status can be achieved directly through holding a particular credit card, or spending a certain amount on a particular credit card, or, by staying a set amount of nights in a particular hotel. My favorite elite programs are Kimpton’s InTouch Inner Circle status, Hyatt’s Gold Passport elite status (Platinum or Diamond), and Starwood Preferred Guest’s elite status program (Gold or Platinum).
Method 3: Carry the hotel’s co-branded credit card
Even without elite status, holding a hotel’s co-branded credit card can come with some major perks, many of which replicate entry level status that would ordinarily have been achieved by spending several nights in a hotel. Look at the benefits associated with each card, and consider how you would benefit from them.
Club Carlson Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card 10x points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties, 5x points per dollar spent on everything else; 40,000 bonus points upon account anniversary; free night when you redeem for two or more award nights; Club Carlson Gold status for as long as you have the card and 15 nights towards Concierge status if you already have Gold status.
Hilton HHonors Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card
Hilton Citi Reserve: 10x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 5x points per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases; 3x points per dollar spent on everything else; Hilton Gold status for as long as you have the card, which gets you free internet and breakfast/lounge access; free weekend night certificate after spending $10,000 in a calendar year; Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Hilton Amex: 6x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 3x points per dollar spent on everything else; Hilton Silver status for as long as you have the card, access to Hilton’s AXON awards, whereby you can redeem 145,000 points for four nights at any category seven Hilton property.
Hyatt Gold Passport Chase Hyatt Visa Card
Annual free night certificate valid at category 1-4 Hyatt properties; Hyatt Platinum membership for as long as you have the card, which offers free internet and other benefits; 3x points on Hyatt spend, 2x points on dining, airline, and car rental purchases; two stay credits and five night credits towards status after spending $20,000 on the card annually; another three stay credits and five night credits after spending $40,000 on the card annually.
IHG Rewards IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
5x points per dollar spent at IHG properties; 2x points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and at restaurants; IHG Platinum status for as long as you have the card; annual free night certificate valid at all IHG properties.
Marriott Rewards Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
5x points per dollar spent at Marriott, 2x points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals, and dining; annual free night at any category 1-5 property; 15 night credits towards status annually upon account anniversary; additional one night credit towards status for every $3,000 spent.
Starwood Preferred Guest Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express Two stay credits and five night credits towards elite status with Starwood annually per card (you can get both cards for four stay credits and 10 night credits towards elite status annually); Starwood Gold status after spending $30,000 on the card annually.
You’ll start to see a major theme here as I’ve discussed how to book a hotel, and how to receive the benefits. If you can find a cheap room, and find a way to enjoy the extra benefits provided at that hotel, you’re traveling right.
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