Here we are, at the end of 2018. When looking back at our hotel stays from the past year, I get a sense of how we traveled and how it compared to previous years. I make travel decisions based on how I think we travel but if those trends are changing, I’ll need to adapt the methods I use when looking at the best way to maximize our points usage and out of pocket spending. When I look back at 2018, I’m really happy how everything turned out. Going into the year, due to some work changes, I knew that saving cash on hotel stays would be a priority. I never really focused on earning hotel points before but I’m a quick study and I set a goal to not pay for a hotel room if I could help it.
I did really good in achieving my goal. We stayed in hotels for 37 nights and only paid $1000. When I paid cash for a room there was a specific reason I did so. The rest of our hotel stays were paid for by points or free nights earned by having certain hotel credit cards. Here’s a breakdown of our stays for the year:
- Marriott/Starwood – 20 nights
- IHG – 12 nights
- Hilton – 5 nights
That’s it, All of our stays were focused on three chains. I kind of missed staying at independent hotels this year but we did still manage to stay at some unique properties, which shows that just because you’re staying at a chain hotel, it doesn’t have to be a boring hotel.
The biggest factor this year was the merger of SPG and Marriott. This merger happened sooner than I thought it would (and probably sooner than it should have) and left me with a ton of Marriott Rewards points. It also gave us the rare opportunity to combine our planned hotel stays with credit card sign-ups and rollover nights from last year and qualify for Marriott Rewards Platinum status.
The way my work schedule turned out this year it favored us taking longer trips instead of more short weekend jaunts. We took advantage and stayed for five nights at three different Marriott Hotels (Sheraton New York Times Square, W New Orleans French Quarter, and Residence Inn Times Square). We booked each of these stays with points since you get the fifth night free on award stays with Marriott. I also booked an inexpensive three-night stay with Citi ThankYou points, used a free night from our Marriott Business credit card and booked a single night at the extremely overpriced Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, located across the street from Bern’s Steak House.
My total expenditures for twenty nights at Marriott/Starwood hotels this year was zero dollars, 459,000 Marriott Rewards points, 27.928 ThankYou points, and 1 free night certificate. Not bad.
We stayed for 12 nights in IHG hotels this year and seven of those nights (two trips, 4 and 3 nights) were in our go-to hotel for Schlitterbahn, the Candlewood Suites in New Braunfels. Our stays at IHG hotels were a combination of paid stays, promotional offers, and points redemptions. We took advantage of a great Citi offer to save $50 on any two-night stay, paid for a stay using the IHG Easy Like Summer rate, and used a convention rate to earn points with the IHG Accelerate promotion. Redeeming points for hotel stays at IHG hotels is cheaper for us because we receive 10% of the points back for having the IHG Select credit card. This card also provides a free night at an IHG hotel (which we used at the Kimpton Gray).
Our total spend this year for the 12 nights was $805, 81,000 IHG points and 1 free night certificate.
The other five nights in hotels this year were spent at Hilton brand hotels. I stayed for a night in a Hampton Inn in Tampa after seeing an Ed Sheeran concert, two nights in Washington D.C. for the Frequent Traveler University seminars and we stayed two nights in the Casa Marina Key West Waldorf Astoria.
I paid for the Washington D.C. stay because I needed to extend the life of my Hilton points (and the room was the cheapest in the area). I used points for the Tampa hotel because room rates were crazy high that night and we used the two free weekend nights we received as a sign-up bonus from the (no longer available) Citi Hilton Honors Reserve credit card to stay in Key West.
Total Hilton spending for the year was $202, 40,000 Hilton Honors points and two free weekend night certificates.
In looking back, I was really surprised at our hotel stays this year. I’ve hoarded SPG points for years, hoping to transfer them to an airline for some amazing trip. I now have enough points in other programs for those trips, so after the merger and seeing a huge points balance with Marriott, I’m willing to burn them on hotel stays as they’re not going to get any more valuable sitting in my account.
I still love the IHG program and think that it fits our usual travel style better than any other hotel chain. I didn’t buy IHG points this year, as we didn’t use many points up with our stays.
We didn’t stay much with Hilton this year and had no stays with Hyatt. Our lack of variety was mostly because when we went on longer trips, we didn’t change hotels. It wasn’t because I was particularly focused on Marriott to earn status, but that is a nice thing to have.
The one benefit I didn’t get to use this year was the fourth-night free benefit from our Citi Prestige card. I’m fixing that problem as our first hotel stay of the new year will combine the Prestige’s free night benefit with our Platinum status because I booked through the concierge instead of the website, a benefit Citi is taking away later this year.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary