My Rookie Mistake: The tale of 2 hotel stays in Fort Lauderdale.

I made one of the most rookie mistakes on a recent hotel stay and I ended up paying for it, with cash. We needed a one night stay in Fort Lauderdale for when we were going to see a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by the Slow Burn Theater Co.  I wasn’t familiar with the area so I looked at Hotel Hustle to see if any good values were available to book a room with my hotel points. As it turned out, one of the best values for hotel point redemptions listed was at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. This hotel is a category 8 resort (on a scale of 1-10) and rooms go for between 40,000 and 70,000 points a night. The day we wanted to stay, the rooms were listing for 50,000 points a night. That seemed steep but you also have to consider that a paid stay at this hotel was going for over $400 on that Friday night. Since most of the websites peg Hilton points to be worth 0.4 to 0.6 cents, getting 0.8 cents a point appeared to be a great deal.

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Photo from the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort website

I do admit the location looked wonderful. It was right on the beach and wasn’t too far from where we needed to be. I had some Hilton points on Sharon’s account from a previous stay so I went and booked the room.

I started to have some concerns when I looked a bit further at the reservation details. We would be driving there for the night and the only parking available is by valet and would cost $39. So my free room would now be $39 + 50,000 points. Still not bad. This “resort” also adds a fee of $25 to the room for each night of your stay. For this fee you received:

  • WiFi access *unlimited devices
  • 2 welcome drinks
  • 2 Venti Starbucks Coffee daily
  • 2 daily Zephyrhills 16.9oz water
  • 2 beach chairs daily
  • kids activities
  • 20% spa discount
  • 10% gift shop discount
  • local and toll-free calls

I wrote to the hotel asking them to allow us to use my Hilton Diamond status for the reservation. I hoped they might waive the resort fee or at least this would have earned us more points back on the costs we were incurring and possibly a better room. We originally had to book it under Sharon’s account because she was the one with the points (and Hilton does not allow family pooling like SPG does). This was the response I got from the hotel:

Unfortunately we are not able to switch the status on a points reservation. The system does not allow us to do so as the reservation with points is the only one attachable. I apologize but on the hotel’s end it just not possible.

We look forward to your stay,

Now my “free” room ended up costing me $64.80 (don’t forget tax) plus 50,000 points. Most of the benefits of the resort fee were of no use since we were only staying overnight and were leaving early the next morning. We did stop at the hotel bar for our 2 welcome drinks, which were mediocre at best. The Starbucks coffee was from the coffee bar in the gift shop which “proudly” served Starbucks. That’s not a Venti Starbucks in my book so we stopped at a real Starbucks for our lattes. We also don’t drink Zephyrhills water because we think it tastes nasty. Finally, why the value of free local and toll-free calls is considered a perk anymore is beyond me. Like who does not have a cell phone?

We thoroughly enjoyed the show that night and saw that the company was going to be doing a production of another of our favorite shows, Titanic: The Musical. When we got home we immediately purchased tickets and started planning our next weekend trip.

So what did I learn from our first stay and what did I change the next time?  While the booking with Hilton points seemed to be a great value, I never would have paid $400 to stay at that hotel. Using that price was inflating the value I was getting for those points. I also did not take into consideration the additional fees associated at staying at this hotel. During our stay we did learn the locations of the places we needed to go in Ft. Lauderdale. This made it much easier to research hotels for our next trip.

I used my go-to hotel site, Tripadvisor, to look for hotels in the area. There was a good rate at the Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek of $158 after tax. That was much more in line with what we’d be willing to pay for this type of trip.

The hotel appeared to be an 1980’s era Embassy Suites which was rebranded to a Sheraton. The decor was a bit dated but still fitting in the Floridian style. The location, while being convenient to Interstate 95, was in the middle of a business park and next to the Tri-Rail railroad track. Not nearly as nice as the beachfront we were staying the last time, but fine for our needs.

We were still about the same distance away from the theater, the reason we went to Fort Lauderdale. We had a 2-room suite with a full living room and bedroom which was quiet and comfortable. A perfectly acceptable stay for us. Did I mention they also left a free bottle of Dasani water in the room for us without charging a resort fee, and parking was free?

For the miles and points geek, here’s where it gets interesting. Here’s a list of the Starpoints I earned for the stay:

  • 286 Base points (2 points per dollar)
  • 143 points (50% Gold SPG bonus)
  • 250 points (Gold SPG amenity welcome gift)
  • 286 points (Current SPG promotion)
  • 286 points (by using SPG Amex to pay for stay)
  • 3000 points (Suite promotion)

I love that last one. Starwood was offering 3000 bonus points for booking a suite. Since all rooms at this hotel are suites, all of the rooms were all eligible for the promotion. In all I earned 4251 Starpoints for my stay. Since Starpoints are regularly valued at 2.2 cents a piece, I received almost $93 worth of points back on my $158 bill (which could bring my cost down to $65 if you take those things into account)

So we have 2 hotel stays. One where I had to pay $65 in fees plus 50,000 Hilton points and another where I paid $158 but got back 4,251 Starpoints. For what we were going to Fort Lauderdale for, I’d much rather spend money and get back points than spend points and still have to spend money.

 

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