Category Archives: Hotels

Books, Tack on Rules, and the Bidding Traveler

Today you’re going to get a little of bit of everything.  The last couple of days I’ve read some really great blog posts and found a web site that I think will be very useful to people looking for inexpensive hotels.

I read a number of blogs every day.  I think of them as my morning newspaper.  Nearly all of them are focused on travel and financial related topics.  One of these blogs, Money and Map, had a great article about how your child can get a book for free this summer at Barnes and Noble.  The post explains exactly how to participate in the promotion.  Essentially the kids need to read 8 books and then they get to pick one book for free from a list of books at Barnes and Noble.  I suggest checking out the other posts on her site as well.  She has great information about taxes, family travel and other financial topics.

Another blog that I love is One Mile at a Time.  This blog is very well known in the travel hacking community for good reason – he knows a ton about the game and knows how to explain it so everyone can understand.  I’ve also found him to be one of the definitive sources for information on the American Airlines frequent flyer program.  And a post this week shows just how well he understands the program.  He wrote about the rules for the North American gateway city stopovers.

Finally, I’m trying to plan a weekend getaway for my husband and 2 friends.  I was searching the various options for booking a hotel room such as using points and Priceline.  While researching the Priceline option, I came across a web site called The Bidding Traveler.  You may recall that a long time ago I wrote bidding strategies for bidding for hotels on Priceline where I talk about how you can get extra bids each day by including other zones that don’t have hotels in the category that you want.  It is a very effective yet manual process.  Well, The Bidding Traveler web site seems to make the process a whole lot easier.  You give the web site the minimum and maximum you’re willing to pay and they execute the bids using the permutations I talked about on the bidding strategies post.  You can read more about the site on this FlyerTalk thread.  I haven’t used the site yet, but I expect to once I know exactly which city they want to go to.

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Sign up for the Radisson Big Night Giveaway

I don’t have any Radisson brand hotels near me or I would probably sign up for this promotion.  You can get a bunch extra of Radisson points for staying at one of their hotels.  Mommy Points has a great summary of the promotion.  And she posted that the Country Inn & Suites sign up is already open.  You must register separately for each of the brands and you can earn up to 138,000 bonus points.

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Hotel Points

This post is dedicated to my sister who has recently joined the travel hacking family.  As the Frugal Travel Guy talked about today, networking is one of the best things you can do in this game.  And I’m so happy to have another family member joining this game.  One thing that she said she wished she knew more about was how to earn and maximize use of hotel points.  I do not profess to be an expert in this arena, but it did get me thinking.

I love the Starwood Amex credit card.  I’m sure you’ve heard many travel blogger touting this card and there’s a reason why.  You get a point for every dollar you spend.  When you transfer 20,000 points to an airline program, you get an extra 5,000 points transfer, essentially making your earn rate 1.25 per dollar spent.  But the feature I like best with Starwood points is the cash and points option for hotel redemption.  For example, if you wanted to stay at one of their category 5 hotels, it would cost 12,000 – 16,000 points OR 4,800 points and $90.  The cash and points option allows you to stretch your points further which is important for those of us who don’t have as many points.

You could also get one of the other hotel credit cards if you don’t want to stay at a Starwood hotel.  The one that I like the most right now is the Chase Hyatt Visa.  It comes with 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt (you get the first one after your first purchase and the second one after you spend $1,000 on the card within 3 months).

Another option is to get a non-hotel credit card that allows you to transfer points to hotel programs.  There are many credit cards that fall into this category.  My favorite all around use card that allows this is the Chase Sapphire Visa.  It is now my go to card.  However, there is a great offer out there for the Bank of American Virgin Atlantic American Express card.  You get 20,000 miles after first purchase and another 25,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on the card within the first 3 months.  (You can also get another 5,000 miles if you add 2 authorized users to the account.)  Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 rate.  So this deal will yield you nearly 100,000 Hilton points!

Now 100,000 points means very different things in different programs.  So how do you know if 100,000 points is any good?  My suggestion would be to check out the Million Mile Secrets web site.  One of the top tabs on the site is called Miles & Points Resources.  This gives you a drop down Airline Award Charts, Airline Frequent Flyer Program Sign-up, Hotel Reward Night Charts, and Hotel Reward Program Sign-up.  It’s a quick and easy way to navigate to each program’s chart (so you don’t have to hunt and peck around each site).  In Hilton’s case, 100,000 points will get you 4 nights at a category 3 hotel, about 3 nights at a category 4 – 5 hotel or 2 nights at a category 6 – 7 hotel (you could get quite a bit more at a category 1 – 2 hotel, but personally I wouldn’t stay at a category 1 – 2 hotel).  Hilton also has a cash and money option, so you could stretch your points even further.

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Cyber Monday, Chase Ink Bold

Chase Ink Bold

According to Chase’s application, today is the last day to get the Chase Ink Bold 50,000 point sign-up bonus.  This card is a business card.  Darius from Million Mile Secrets is questioning whether the deal will really be pulled.  And he sites some good reasons for his scepticium.  If you don’t want to gamble though, you should put in your application today.  You get the points after spending $5,000 on the card within the first 3 months.  The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Cyber Monday Starwood Deal

Starwood Hotels is offering 15 – 35% off some of their hotels for reservations made today through December 2 for stays through April 30, 2012.  The hotel that is getting a lot of buzz is Westin Laungamar Ocean Resort Villas.  I saw it on the Today Show this morning and it’s also on the One Mile at a Time blog.  Lucky is saying he’s finding rooms for $11 US.  I’m sure it’s not going to last at that price.

Christmas Quote

Here’s your Christmas quote for today: “I don’t care if the turkey said the dog was a turkey! The dog is not the turkey! The turkey’s the turkey, you turkey!”

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Non-Disney Hotels on Disney Property

Man, this trip to Disney keeps getting better every day.  The last time we went to Disney, my parents were nice enough to let us stay at their timeshare about 20 minutes outside of Disney.  This time, we wanted to try staying on property.  I researched MouseSavers to find out which hotels were the best in each of the category types.  I was fairly certain we were going to stay at Coronado Springs or Fort Wilderness Lodge.  But I have a hard time paying full price (or in this case AAA prices) for a hotel.  I was talking with a friend of ours about where were planning on staying.  During the course of the conversation, he mentioned Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort.  I can’t remember why he mentioned them, but it got me thinking.

Later that night, I was searching around to see if I could find a deal for for the resort.  And low and behold, the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort is a Westin hotel and part of Starwood Hotels!  That means I could use points!  I was hoping that the cash and points option would be available, but unfortunately it’s not right now.  The hotel is listed as a category 4 hotel, so it is 10,000 points per night.  And they give you the 5th night free when you use points for the first 4.  Now I am always very reluctant to use Starwood Hotel points because they are so valuable.  But the hotel is more than $200/night.  We’re staying for 5 nights and using 40,000 points.  When you can transfer 40,000 Starwood Hotel points to an airline, Starwood gives you an extra 10,000 points in the transfer (so you get 50,000 airline miles).  I value airline miles at 2 cents per mile.  So for it to be worth it to me, I need to get at least $1,000 worth of value from 50,000.  And I would in this case, so it’s worth it to me.  You have to love not having to pay for an on-property Disney resort!

What’s great about the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort is it’s right on Disney property (near Epcot and Hollywood Studios).  And you get Extra Magic Hours with this hotel.  The only hotels, outside of Disney owned hotels, that offer Extra Magic Hours are Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort, Hilton Orlando Buena Vista (located across the street from Downtown Disney), and Shades of Green (a resort for U.S. military and Department of Defense personnel).

There are also hotels located on Disney property that are not run by Disney.  These hotels are usually less expensive than the Disney hotels.  And you can use the Disney transportation buses to get to the resort (so you don’t have to get a rental car).  The hotels are:

Check out this map I created to see where these hotels are located in comparison to the Disney Parks.
View Non-Disney Owned Hotels on Disney Property in a larger map

I’m going to continue to check hotel deals as we get closer to our travel dates, but as it stands today, we’re staying at the Disney Swan Resort.

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