Hotels are a good chunk of the budget on any trip. One of the reasons we are able to travel so much for so little is because we try to make the most out of credit card signups and manage our free nights. As a family, we have 4 hotel credit cards – 2 Marriott, 1 Hyatt and 1 IHG. Once you complete the signup bonus, you will usually have thousands of points or an automatic free night or two (depending on how you allocate the points). Then the fun begins…planning your trips and maximizing on those free hotel stays.
Here’s how I manage to get free hotel stays:
1. I make a list of all the card anniversary renewal dates (meaning I have one year to use them). That will tell me how many free nights I have available. Then I start checking how many points I have in my accounts. I usually travel big in the summer, so when I get an email saying that my free night is available, I hold on to it until then.
2. Start researching the cities we are staying at and see the rates and points throughout all my 3 brands. Most of the time it will be cheaper to stay just outside the city center. I always try to do that to maximize value.
3. If I am 2-3K points away from a reward night, I will transfer some Chase points to top it off. This strategy is very easy and points usually post within one business day or automatically.
4. I also make sure that if I do need to pay for some nights, I use the hotel card so that I can maximize the
Why I chose those hotel brands:
1. They all have the ability to transfer points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card – which is very important when I’m close to a reward and am only a thousand or two away.
2. Marriott is just a trusted brand and they have hotels everywhere! I also love that many of them have free breakfast (huge savings with the family). Fairfield Inn, Springhill Suites and Residence Inn’s all have a free hotel breakfast which is perfect when we are traveling with our family and want to save money. Sometimes, we splurge too. We have stayed at a Marriott Vacation Club that is one of our favorite hotels – The Best Family Resort in Marco Island Florida.
3. Hyatt is my newest addition. I added this card because I was familiar with the brand and the annual fee was low $60. Their reward nights each year are also the best in my opinion because they don’t limit a category. Meaning if you do your research right, you can stay at a top of the line resort in the heart of the city for FREE. You can also redeem points for as low as 5,000 (which is great). Check out my stay at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point for free due to my Hyatt free night.
4. My favorite though is IHG. I was skeptical about the Holiday Inn brand to be honest because it seemed pretty basic. However, the annual fee was $49 and even though they just changed the anniversary night and added some point restrictions, I still believe it is a great value. Once I stayed at a few Holiday Inn Express hotels, I realized that they are fantastic for the cost. Basic, yes, but clean, modern and spacious rooms. Add that they have free breakfast and there are many options around the country.
For a two week road trip around the Northeast, my family used 2 free nights on Hyatt points, 2 free nights on Marriott points, 1 free night due to a Marriott card anniversary, and 4 free nights at Holiday Inn hotels. I was able to make this happen by managing my hotel and Chase Sapphire points and saving them for our summer trip.
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