To save big, book hotels with points

Would you rather have free flights or free hotel rooms for the rest of your life? As someone who spends a lot of time criss-crossing the United States with family and friends, my first instinct is to say flights. I rarely spend more than a few nights a year in a hotel, as I’m usually with friends, staying in a large vacation rental, or traveling with my family of six who don’t fit in a hotel room.

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But after a little more thought, there might be a good reason why I don’t spend much time in hotels these days — it’s expensive! Not only is accommodation an expense that comes up every night, but it’s also an expense that can lead to additional costs that you haven’t budgeted for.

And budgeting is what this hypothetical question boils down to. He asks me to prioritize which travel expenses I want to save on and how I should redeem my points.

There are several reasons why booking hotels is the best way to use points for travel. Find out how this thought could change your travel rewards strategy.

Why hotel takeovers are a smart money move

Hotels are the biggest travel expense

Numbers-wise, travelers spend more money on hotels than on airfare. According to the 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spent an average of $318 per year on out-of-town housing. That’s almost double the average $160 spent on airfare.

One of the reasons hotels are so expensive is that it is a recurring cost. The longer your vacation, the more you will spend on room, parking, resort fees and more. Even for a one night stay, a $150 room rate and $70 overnight parking fee is more than your $120 round trip flight and the $60 it will cost to check in your bag.

Redeeming points for hotel stays will save you the most money and can be a good way to avoid fees and other budget constraints. For example:

  • Two hotel loyalty programs, Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt, waive resort fees when you book a hotel with points.
  • Marriott Bonvoy is offering a fifth night free to anyone who pays the first four nights in points.
  • Some travel credit cards offer a fourth night free on award stays.

Hotels could offer additional savings in other parts of your travel budget

Using travel rewards on hotels can help you save money beyond accommodation costs.

Our travel writer, Sally French, documented the cost of his trip to Walt Disney World and how she saved $700 on her hotel stay by booking with points. During this time, she used a companion pass and an airline expense credit on her credit card to help offset the cost of airfare for herself and her boyfriend; his savings totaled a respectable $438.

Still, her hotel savings of $700 were greater, and her accommodations included built-in perks that saved her money in other areas of her budget. She got free transportation to the parks with the hotel shuttle and saved money on food with the hotel’s free breakfast.

Hotels generally offer more freebies than airlines. You’ll get at least a travel-sized bottle of shampoo and conditioner, whereas a seat on a plane might not even net you a bag of pretzels.

There is more variability in hotels

The flights are essentially all the same. Whether you’re flying in a luxurious stretch seat or a standard seat next to the bathroom in the back of the plane, the only real difference is the amount of legroom and recline. Otherwise, the product itself is quite similar.

Hotels, on the other hand, can really vary. They might be old, shabby, and far from the places you really want to see. Or they could be more opulent, practical, and a destination themselves.

Using your points for hotel stays gives you more choices and more control over the quality of your travel experience. You can use your Hotel Points on any part of the price range, whether you want to stay in a better location or get the amenities you love.

Hotel reward charts make it easy to plan high-value buyouts

These days, few airlines or hotels use reward charts to price award travel; nevertheless, hotels prevail as at least a few major chains continue to publish ratings. Notably, Hyatt, Wyndham and Radisson still publish charts, as does Marriott. (Note that Marriott is moving to dynamic pricing in March 2022; however, after the change and until the end of the year, prices will only fluctuate between peak and off-peak rates in its rewards chart. .)

Hotel price tables and their categories allow you to effectively redeem your points more easily. You can more confidently predict how many points you’ll need for a stay, which makes earning strategy and applying for co-branding much easier hotel credit cards to help cover costs. Once you’ve determined which category your hotel of choice is in, you’ll know how many points you’ll need for a reward night.

Meanwhile, it’s often hard to guess how many miles you’ll need for a flight. Even if the airline has an award chart, you may need to familiarize yourself with regions and seasonality to be able to read it correctly.

Another benefit of reward charts, in general, is that you’re more likely to find positives. If a hotel still costs 15,000 points per night — regardless of the dollar cost — you might find a really good deal on a high-priced room.

The bottom line

You might hear stories of people saving hundreds or thousands of dollars with their travel rewards. If you want to save the most money, you should redeem points for hotel nights instead of flights, at least once in a while.

Spending your points on hotel nights comes with other potential perks, like the ability to stay longer with free night rewards, or the ability to save on food and transportation with airport shuttles. hotel and free breakfast. And, of course, there’s that ultimate luxury: slipping into one of those comfy hotel beds.

The article Ask a Travel Nerd: To Save Big, Book Hotels With Points originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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