How to Stay in a 5-Star Hotel for Less Than the Cost of a Motel
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Ocean-front resorts, ski-out rooms, four and five star hotels, suites, and included breakfasts may sound like hotel perks reserved for those shelling out big bucks on vacation, but the truth is that my family often stays in those hotels and with those perks without breaking the bank. We have stayed in four and five star hotels for less than the cost of a roadside motel. In fact, sometimes we don't pay any money at all for luxury accommodations.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but in the world of miles and points almost anything is not only possible, but relatively easy to attain even if your hotel point balances are currently sitting at zero. (See also: This Might Be the Best Travel Rewards Program)
Free Nights With Hotel Co-Branded Credit Cards
The quickest way to get some free nights in luxury hotels in a hurry is to obtain a hotel co-branded credit card that comes with a lucrative sign-up bonus. Most hotel chains these days have a co-branded credit card that will give you not only bonus points or free nights via the sign-up bonus, but also they will allow you to earn hotel points by using the card for your everyday spending. Of course, be careful not to overspend and start racking up interest charges, as you will come out on the losing end of that proposition. Here are a few examples of some hotel card sign-up offers that may be available to your family right now.
Hyatt Visa Signature
The Hyatt Visa Signature card awards two free nights at any Hyatt Hotel or Resort worldwide after you meet the spending requirement of $1,000 in the first three months. You can use those nights in hotels such as the family friendly oceanfront Grand Hyatt Kauai for a Hawaiian getaway, at the mountain side ski-in Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado, or for a luxury European getaway at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. All of those hotels can easily go for $400 to $800 per night if you were paying with cash, but as you can see they can be had for no out of pocket cost.
Additionally, earn more free stays with 3 points for every $1 spent at all Hyatt properties, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and at car rental agencies. You get 1 point for every $1 spent anywhere else you use your card. The card also upgrades you to Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status, which includes a 15% point bonus on eligible spend, complimentary in-room Internet access, and late check out. Finally, you get one free night at any category 1-4 property every year after your cardmember anniversary.
The annual fee is $0 for the frist year, $75 thereafter.
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers two weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within four months of account opening.
Fairmont Visa Signature
If you are really after luxury, the Fairmont Visa Signature awards two free nights with breakfast for two after you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months. You'll also earn 1 free night each anniversary year that you make $12,000 in purchases with your card. You could use those free nights to stay at one of their hotels including the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise next to the Victoria Glacier. From there you could gaze out on the glistening emerald lake in Alberta's Banff National Park.
Earn Fairmont Rewards easily by getting 5 points for every $1 spent on Fairmont stays, 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, at car rental agencies, and on transit and commuting. You get 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. The annual fee is $95.
Easy Hotel Elite Status
In addition to racking up virtually free nights at luxury properties, getting hotel co-branded credit cards can give you instant hotel elite status levels that can help you score room upgrades, free breakfasts, free Internet, bonus points, and more.
Hotel elite status was historically for those who spend many nights per year in hotels, but thanks to the influx of co-branded credit cards you can get elite hotel status just by being a cardmember. Perks for these status upgrades include complimentary breakfast, lounge access, free internet, and more. These easy to get elite status levels can make your hotel stays a little more comfortable without increasing your cost.
Hotel Deals and Discounts
While I think that leveraging hotel points to stay in amazing hotels is the most rewarding path to take, it is not the only way to get your family a luxury hotel stay for significantly less money than by paying the average daily rate.
Hotwire and Priceline can be used to get a room at a four star hotel for a fraction of the price, though you wont know the name of the exact hotel until after you have committed to the price. You can take a bit of the mystery out of the process by trying to decode the hotel you are bidding on thanks to websites like BetterBidding.
Hotel discount sites such as Travel Pony or HotelsCombined also can be good ways to search for the lowest price for any given hotel. I have personally booked a stay at a luxury Fairmont property for about half the going rate using Travel Pony and stacking some new customer and other coupon codes I found by searching online.
Best Rate Guarantees
Finally, a good way to save money on very nice hotel stays is to make good use of the Best Rate Guarantees that most hotel chains offer. Every chain is a bit different, but in general if you can find a lower rate for a specific room type than is being offered directly on the hotels website then you can not only have the chain match the lower rate, but get a discount on top of that. Those discounts can range from a 25% discount off the lowest price found when booking with Marriott or Club Carlson, to even an entire night free in the case of IHG Rewards or Choice Hotels!
Whether you get some free nights thanks to signing up for a co-branded hotel credit card or score a huge discount on your hotel stay by using a site like Priceline or Hotels Combined, there are lots of ways to get a room in a luxury hotel without anywhere close to the luxury prices!
How have you cut your lodging costs? Please share in comments!
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.