One of the biggest challenges for big families is to utilize hotel points in an efficient manner. When you have to get two or three rooms per night, very often it’s simply cost prohibitive to do so. Sure, when you are doing a road trip, you may not have e choice. Otherwise, condos and vacation rentals are much more preferable.
It’s a challenge I can very much relate to because very often we travel with our in-laws and need two or three rooms. In fact, next year we are doing a trip together visiting New York, Niagara Falls, and now we’ve decided to add Washington DC. Can you believe that this plan has started out as a three-night getaway to New York? We can never do anything on a small scale in this family (rolls eyes).
Anyway, we’ve decided to forego Amtrak option which I wrote about earlier. In fact, the plan is for my in-laws to drive the minivan, take the kids along, and my husband and I would fly to DC (technically Baltimore). Then, after our whirlwind tour is over, we will be flying home from Buffalo, NY and my in-laws will go to Michigan to do some more sightseeing. Our plane fares will be booked via Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
Obviously, a lot can change in one year, but I love trip planning. So, let me share our tentative plans and some gems I’ve discovered along the way. Maybe it will give you some ideas for this summer vacation.
This one was a no-brainer to me. Intercontinental Willard It was built in 1850, and is way too fancy and classy for our clan. Which makes me want it even more! Rooms bookable on points have two queen beds.
But wait, it’s 55,000 points per night! Oh, we are not burning points here, no way. I hope we’ll be able to use our free night renewal certificates that come with Chase IHG credit card (read about it). Technically, you do have to pay $49 annual fee after the first year, but the card provides several other perks, like 10% rebate on redemptions, plus complimentary Platinum status. So, in this case, the word “free” is almost justified. IHG card is da bomb, in a good way.
We’ll be using four certificates on a two-night stay. It will be a bit cramped to fit seven of us in two rooms, but we’ll survive. Certainly better than burning 110,000 IHG points on a third room. I won’t be able to book anything till December because that’s when several of our cards will be renewed. If for some reason Willard hotel isn’t available (it better be), we’ll use our certs on one of nearby IHG properties. The beauty of this chain is that you can find their hotels almost anywhere, and big cities usually have many options.
After two nights in DC, we’ll drive to New York. Notice I didn’t say New York City. Why? Because the cost of hotels via points there is extremely high. We’ll be spending three nights in the area, and prefer to have three rooms. So, the hotel has to cost a reasonable amount.
Fortunately, there is a property that appears to be a good fit. It’s not technically in New York, but rather New Jersey. Introducing Holiday Inn Express and Suites Meadowlands Area
It’s located only 10 miles from Times Square, and there is a bus stop near hotel, with plenty of departures throughout the day. My in-laws drove in NYC once and said they will never do it again, so this is a perfect solution.
Since we only plan to go to New York City for one day, this hotel is a great option. And it even comes with mediocre breakfast, always appreciated when you are traveling with small kids. After some sightseeing in the area, we plan to head to Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
This IMO is a terrific option if you can convince yourself to part with your super valuable SPG stash: Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls Fallsview It costs 4,000 SPG points per night, 3,000 on weekends. That’s very reasonable, considering the fact that rates here run at 200 CAD during the summer. We’ll be there for three nights, two of them on a weekend, so the total cost will average out to 10,000 SPG points per night for three rooms. It’s a great deal, no?
In fact, I think it’s so good, I went ahead and redeemed my points right now. SPG program will let you book more than a year ahead, a plus for OCD planners like myself. I know approximately when this trip will occur, so went ahead and got the rooms all taken care of. There is no penalty for canceling award reservations, so no risk involved. And in case SPG program decides to quietly raise SPG rate on this hotel (it happens more often than you think), we’ll be protected.
This to me is the beauty of hotel points. They may not always make sense for large families, but flexibility and ability to plan ahead are definitely worth something. Read my post for more on this subject.
Well, those are my tentative plans. Did I inspire anyone?
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