Sensibly Spending Points – My Favorite Hotel Award Redemptions
I recently described my favorite airline and rail award redemptions, focusing on sensibly spending those currencies as a financially independent (FI) individual. Similarly, I focus on hotel point redemptions that are convenient, cheap, and flexible. I spend down hotel points steadily and efficiently. I want these points to finance most, if not all, of my hotel stays over the long haul while I continue to actively earn hotel currencies via credit card spend. Let’s dive in to my favorite hotel award redemptions (in no particular order).
#1. Hampton Inn
Hilton Honors enables a great balance of convenience, cheap rates, and flexibility through multiple hotel lines. I can easily obtain Hampton Inn reward stays with minimal point amounts. With little effort, I’m able to keep my Hampton Inn redemptions at 20k points per night or under. While Hilton’s cancellation policy has gotten a bit trickier recently, I’ve cancelled without issues as necessary.
That’s all great, but what about the Hampton Inn experience? It’s all about expectations. Primarily a road trip solution, we use Hampton Inns for quick, comfy, if not memorable, overnight stays. Plus, Hampton Inns are seemingly everywhere domestically. And their product is remarkably consistent in our experiences. We know what we are getting, and it is serviceable, but not overly special most of the time. The basic breakfast does the job prior to us getting back on the road. Here and there, Hampton properties are great for extended stays. One of our favorites is the Hampton Inn Outer Banks in Corolla, NC, albeit at a much higher point rate.
#2. Hilton Garden Inn
I’ve previously described why Hilton Garden Inn is my favorite hotel line. Their point rates are mostly reasonable, although they can get out of hand based on the time of year and location. While we previously found great availability in the 20k to mid-20k range, I increasingly see rates creep into the 30 to 40k range (and above). While not as widely available as Hampton Inns, I’m mostly satisfied with their wide footprint domestically.
We consider Hilton Garden Inns for quick, overnight stays and extended stays, as well. Sometimes we pay a bit more in points for a Hilton Garden Inn than a Hampton Inn. Why? Breakfast! The cooked to order breakfast, complimentary for all Gold members and above, hits the spot for us every time. In my opinion, HGI’s thread the needle of being a bit more refined without becoming stuffy. Their designs are consistent, and locations can have a bit of local flare, as well. And there are some gems out there. A few of our favorite Hilton Garden Inns are in oceanfront locations on the East Coast as well as city centers.
#3. Holiday Inn Express
The IHG version of a Hampton Inn from my perspective, we most reliably get a valuable return on IHG point stays with Holiday Inn Express. Notably, we’ve been upgraded to bigger rooms at HIE’s based on our mid-tier IHG Platinum status (obtained through the legacy IHG Select Mastercard). We easily redeem no more than 20k points per night with HIE’s, and often well under that amount. We’ll stay in HIE’s primarily on overnight road trip stays and multi-night stays when visiting extended family. I’m also a sucker for their cinnamon rolls. Quite often, we find ourselves in the position of Hampton Inn and HIE in the same area. Most of the time, we pick the property that is the better cents per point redemption if the properties seem largely similar.
#4. Hyatt House and Place
We love the value from Hyatt redemptions across all properties, but particularly in categories 1 and 2, which are 5k and 8k points per night, respectively. Plenty of Hyatt House and Place properties are located in these two tiers, and they perfectly match our current travel lifestyle requiring family-friendly hotels. While both hotel lines provide spacious rooms, I prefer Hyatt House for their larger suites, superior breakfasts, and the comfier-overall feeling. I’ve also had some terrible Hyatt Place breakfast experiences.
I end up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area often, and my go-to property there is the Hyatt House Dallas/Las Colinas. Perhaps a garden-style apartment or condo community in its previous life, the suite sizes are on the generous side. I loved staying here when it was a category 1 property, but it’s still a great deal at the category 2 level, in my opinion. On the Hyatt Place side, I’ve stayed at the Hyatt Place Phoenix North during multiple trips to MLB Spring Training. It’s the definition of cookie-cutter Hyatt Place design, but its value (first category 1, now category 2) during our high-season trips has been undeniable.
My Favorite Hotel Award Redemptions – Honorable Mentions
The above are my primary options for award redemptions, but there are certainly solid values with other brands. Here are just a few:
We’ve had surprisingly pleasant experiences with high value reward stays at Choice Hotels, primarily at Comfort Inns and Comfort Suites. I do much more homework on these properties prior to booking, as quality can vary. We enjoy the more-spacious Comfort Suites, and the breakfasts are on par with Hampton Inn from what we’ve experienced. Importantly, nights at these properties can be obtained at Choice’s lower- and mid-tier point levels. Unfortunately, reward stays can only be booked up to 100 days in advance.
Country Inn & Suites
Radisson’s Country Inn & Suites properties have been largely available to us during our recent domestic travel. Some are comfy and great value while others seem to be erratic, forgotten properties which were rebranded as Country Inn & Suites. As with Choice, we do our homework prior to booking these award stays. But with the homework can come great discoveries with solid value. While we’ve been shut down by US Bank, Radisson cardholders can easily build up substantial point balances. However, the downside of Country Inn redemptions is that members give up stays at Radisson properties, particularly at the nicer international locations. But if almost-free domestic travel is your current goal (as it is for us), Country Inn redemptions are worth consideration.
The Wyndham Rewards Grab Bag
Perhaps holding the widest quality deviation of all hotel properties, Wyndham Rewards locations can be a huge hit or a big miss. As always, it’s on us to dig deep with Wyndham to find good values for pleasant stays. Other than Wyndham and Wyndham Grand properties, I approach all other hotel lines with zero expectations. I then do my homework on any specific hotel prior to redeeming. Consequently, we’ve had serviceable, if not memory-filled, stays at other properties. I tend to have reliably satisfactory experiences at the La Quinta properties I select. When Disney World unexpectedly cancelled our Fort Wilderness Cabins stay soon after Hurricane Irma in 2017, I booked the Hawthorn Suites Lake Buena Vista as I desperately sought to save our vacation. This property pleasantly surprised me with its everyday quality.
On the low end, we’ve had satisfactory experiences at certain Days Inn properties, primarily on road trips. I recall the beautiful sunrise as we walked out of our room at the Days Inn in Staunton, Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. I love the periodic motel stay, getting to relive the family travel of my youth in a small but memorable way.
My Favorite Hotel Award Redemptions – Conclusion
We all have different goals for why, where, when, and how we travel. I constantly strive to make my points and miles go farther, literally and figuratively. To that end, the above redemptions continue to deliver. I’m always looking for a new redemption or reward that I haven’t considered. What are your favorite high-value reward stays at the low- and mid-tier hotel levels?