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I’ve never gone and spent $450 on a hotel room, but I’m not a budget traveler either.
There are a lot of travel bloggers who travel year round and do their best to keep costs super low. I travel for work, and pleasure, but I don’t travel full time or live in hotels. I also never really put myself into a box like travel blogger, this is just my blog where I share my thoughts, experiences, and strategies with folks who find it (hopefully) useful or interesting.
Many of the full-time or nomadic types stay in hostels, backpacking around Southeast Asia to keep their costs down. Now, since they do it full-time they probably know far more about this than I do. But that’s now how I would go about it.
A dozen years ago the go-to app was Priceline. You could do 30 night bids at a time and find them often accepted in the low $30s a night in San Francisco. Grab a Hyatt stay for a month. And back then Priceline stays even counted towards Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights promotion. Earn Diamond status, have lounge access and daily housekeeping, and generate free nights as well for about $1000 a month in ‘rent’ in downtown San Francisco. That was the first time I heard of anyone living full time in hotels.
Hotel markets are far stronger than they were circa 2002, and hotel programs no longer as generous giving elite and promotional credit on Priceline stays either!
If I were looking to be more of a nomad and travel on a budget today, my key tools would probably be:
- IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks. Discounted room nights for just 5000 points. You can generate the points at a cost of $35 per night. Make bookings based on what’s being offered at PointBreaks pricing, and travel there.
- Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card. Not only can you earn 85,000 points as a signup bonus (50k at first purchase, 35k after $2500 spend within 90 days) and 40,000 more each year, and the card gives you Gold status, but you get the second night free on a two-night award stay up to 50 times per year.
- Hilton HHonors. Hilton, nudging out Club Carlson, offers the least expensive redemptions for their cheapest hotels.
I play the loyalty game and get tremendous value out of my suite upgrades and free upgrades even while keeping rates low and maximizing deals like ‘cash and points’ offers.
But loyalty programs also have a real role to play at the budget level, such as staying in Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and even Intercontinental-type properties for ~ $35 per night.
Priceline and Hotwire are still tools for the arsenal, especially when I’m helping folks that don’t already have points or need to stay in a specific neighborhood. But these programs can provide even better value than the opaque, non-refundable booking sites.. with reservations that usually remin fully cancellable.
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