Travel isn’t free. Sorry, Drew! It can certainly be almost free or deeply discounted. But it’s never totally 100% free. Not only do you incur very real costs like tours, dining and so forth, you forego using your miles and points in a possibly more favorable way. In other words, you have an opportunity cost, even if you got them via sign-up bonuses.
Of course, miles and points are meant to be enjoyed. In fact, I’m trying to be less rational in the way I approach this whole topic. I’m a math freak and a logical person (too logical), so it’s very hard for me to relax.
And really, there is a reason why that Comfort Inn by the highway costs 8,000 points, while a resort at the beach costs 25,000 points. I may or may not be speaking from experience here…
Still, I encourage you to consider alternatives when booking your lodging for a family of 4 or more. Nowhere is this more true than when you plan a trip to Europe. Why? Because many places simply won’t allow 4 people to stay in one room. And don’t think you can sneak in a kid because they register your passports.
Of course, if you are staying for 1 or 2 nights, hotel rooms will probably be your only option, since most rentals require at least a 3-nights booking. And some chains, like Club Carlson, could be a great fit in Europe, especially if you have their co-branded credit card. It lets you redeem every second night free.
Additionally, Club Carlson has premium rooms that can usually fit 4 and don’t cost that much more in points. Some even include breakfast, which would save a considerable amount of money. Otherwise, if you have to redeem points for 2 rooms every single night, your opportunity cost will be significant, unless it’s the lowest category property.
Let’s take Hyatt Vendome in Paris. No controversy this time, I promise! As you may know, you can get 2 nights after signing up for Chase Hyatt Visa. Those certificates can be used at any high-end property. If you are heading to Paris, why not redeem them at the fanciest and priciest hotel in Hyatt brand portfolio? Plus, it’s not like you are burning valuable Ultimate Rewards points that transfer to Hyatt program.
Well, it’s not quite so simple if you have a family of four or more. That’s because you can only fit 3 in the room, so you would have to use 2 certificates per night. If both spouses get the card, you would get 2 nights in Paris. Most people are going to stay longer, so you would need to switch hotels and find another place, a hassle if you have kids.
Also, reportedly, you can use those certificates at one of all-inclusive resorts, like Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos and Hyatt Rose Hall in Jamaica, and fit 4 (including 2 kids) in one room. You would get 4 nights, meals and some activities included. Suddenly, that Hyatt Vendome doesn’t sound quite so “hot,” does it? Of course, if you really want it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. But perhaps…
Consider non-chain hotels and vacation rentals
For travel to Europe with your family or as a couple, I highly recommend Rick Steves Europe website and his guidebooks. They are invaluable. This man knows his stuff, and the advice is almost always spot on. The hotels he recommends are in central, safe locations, locally-owned and usually include breakfast. Some can fit 4 in one room.
Location is very important when you are in Europe. Your time is valuable, and you want to be close to all the sights, especially if staying in a big city. Time is money, so be willing to spend money to save time.
But what if you like to have privacy and prefer an apartment with a separate bedroom and a kitchen? You should look into VRBO, Greatrentals.com or Booking.com Dia from The Deal Mommy suggested adding SkyAuction and Endlessvacationrentals I concur! Most owners speak English, and you can usually pay with a credit card.
Not too shabby of a location, wouldn’t you agree? I haven’t been to Paris, but the neighborhood is Rick Steves approved. The cost is 164 euros per night, or around $200, depending on the exchange rate. The cleaning fee is 70 euros, but if you stay a week, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Sure, it’s a lot of money, but you are getting an amazing location and a fully-equipped apartment with a kitchen, so you can save on meals. Eating out in Europe can be a budget buster for a family, trust me.
You won’t get a turndown service or valet, but you will get more interaction with locals and Parisian culture. There are cheaper rental options, of course. However, if the place looks nice but costs much less than comparable apartments, you are settling for a poor location. In other words, you get what you pay for. C’est la Vie.
Rental options for a large family
Sometimes it’s hard to find what you are looking for even on VRBO or similar sites. That’s the challenge my sister-in-law faced recently when trying to accommodate 9 of us in Italy and Germany. She handles paid options, while I manage miles and points. As you can imagine, rentals made much more sense than hotel rooms in our case. It wasn’t easy, but she found just what we needed.
I had to check with her on the whole booking process, and she told me that she first looked on VRBO and other places. When nothing turned up, she checked Tripadvisor, which led her to other obscure sites.
For Germany, she found a 7-bedroom rental with the view of the mountains. We don’t really need that much space, but it’s the one that made the most sense. It was listed on
www.tourist-paradise.com The cost was 280 euros per night. She had to wire a 1-night deposit from her bank account, a bit of a hassle.
The biggest challenge was finding a place in Sorrento. Everything is very expensive in the summer. There is actually a decent option through Choice program, called Comfort Inn Gardenia. It costs 10,000 Choice points. So if you purchased them through Daily Getaways (hopefully coming back next summer), the cost per room would only be $37 per night. Even with 4 rooms, it’s a steal.
This is a place where it can actually make sense to purchase points at a full cost of 1.1 cents, which would make it a $110 per night, not a bad deal for Italy. The room that fits four costs 209 euros per night, including breakfast, and can be booked with points. However, you can only reserve 60 days ahead for international locations, and for my sister-in-law, it was a deal breaker. So instead, she found a place on this website:
www.feelingitaly.com The cost was 321 euros per night, and the place accepted credit cards. Obviously, not cheap, but remember, we have 9 people who require 4 bedrooms. That’s an equivalent of 80 euros per room, a great deal for Sorrento. And it even has a pool!
Well, there you have it! I hope we survive this adventure. Nine people, all full of chutzpah is a tough one, isn’t it?
Readers, has anyone had experience with vacation rentals in Europe?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.