What is a mattress run and how can you use it to help you travel better?

I often use the term “mattress run” with friends and family, and every time I say it, I get looks like a deer in headlights because they don’t know what the words mean. Do I like running on mattresses? Do I have an addiction purchasing mattresses? Not quite. Let me explain.

What is a mattress run?

A mattress run is booking (though not necessarily staying) a hotel night for one (or both) of two purposes:

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  • Earning hotel points, usually through a promotion.
  • Earning additional stay credits for hotel elite status.

Basically, you’re booking a hotel night, completing the night/stay just to earn hotel points, or to add to amount of needed nights/stays you need to qualify or re-qualify for hotel elite status. You need to check-in and check-out.

Let’s take a look at the Hyatt Dulles for a random weekend rate in November.

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$79 is a fairly cheap rate for this property – though I’ve seen cheaper, it’s a decent enough rate that’s much cheaper than weekday business prices.

Since Hyatt requires 5 stays to earn their Platinum status, if you booked 5 separate stays at this property, for a total of $395 (not including tax), you’d earn their Platinum status. Now, of course, I have no reason to consistently stay at this hotel but perhaps if I wanted Platinum status and was willing to pay the $79 per night rate, I would. This is a mattress run. 

I’d book the hotel for five separate stays and either check-in and stay (easy enough for me living near DC), or check-in remotely (you can do it on the app, or, in many cases, call the hotel) and never stay, but simply earn the credit because you’ve booked and checked-in.

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Starwood is running a promotion where if you stay 5 nights at a Sheraton hotel anywhere in the world, you earn free weekend night. If you find a cheap enough Sheraton rate, you may find value in booking 5 of these to earn the one free-night that you’d use at an otherwise very expensive property. This is a mattress run.

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Tips for Mattress Running

You don’t mattress run at an expensive hotel. The idea here is to book a very cheap rate, because the cheaper the rate, the cheaper your costs are to achieve your goal. So, what makes a good property to mattress in?

  • Airport hotels are generally cheaper than inner city hotels.
  • Try booking lower-tier hotels in a hotel’s brand. Hyatt Place is cheaper than Grand Hyatt. Element is cheaper than W. Holiday Inn is cheaper than Intercontinental.
  • Book a hotel over a weekend when rates are generally cheaper. If you book during the week, you compete with business travelers staying for work, and rates are forced higher.
  • Check your loyalty program and how to use it best. Hyatt offers points and cash rates that still count for stays/nights toward elite status. SPG allows award stays to count as eligible nights, too. So, you don’t even need to pay for a hotel night for you to get some benefit out of it.
  • Nights are different than stays, and you usually need less stays for hotel elite status. The point here is that hotels assume that on that one stay you’ll stay longer, but you as a mattress runner can easily utilize this by doing one night stays. Check-in, check-out. Maybe go to a hotel down the road and then come back to the first property, thus incurring 3 stays vs. 3 nights. If you can get to elite status faster using stays, you’ll want to maximize your opportunity to accumulate them.
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  1. says

    Although you touched upon it in the last bulleted item, lodging chains frown upon counting consecutive nights at the same hotel as different stays and will usually count them as a single stay. This is a very important point which needs to be clearly stated.

    Either ensure that enough time passes between stays at the same hotel property, which is typically a minimum of two nights between stays; or at least — as you suggested — alternate nights at different hotel properties in order for the stays to count as individual stays.

  2. Doug says

    I mean, really – all of you bloggers write for a living. I see better grammar out of most of my first year student’s papers than on boardingarea.

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