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When the Lowest Hotel Award Rate isn’t Actually the Cheapest

In the world of miles and points, things aren’t always what they appear. This could go in so many directions, but for today, we’ll focus on hotel redemptions. Let me show you an example. I mentioned a while back that both my husband and I got approved for US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa.

I  don’t think I’ve been this excited about  a card in quite some time. Mostly, because this is a long-term relationship since I don’t plan to cancel it. So, like a kid in a candy store, I started playing with various hotel redemptions.

I plan to take my kids to Sea World next year, so I looked at some possible Club Carlson options. Since our stay will be 2 nights, we’ll get a second night free due to having a co-branded credit card, the perk that makes it a keeper.

I’ve mentioned earlier that you’ll get the best bang for your buck/point when redeeming during peak times and holidays. I put in a stay from December 30th-January 1st of the following year.  Let me show you some options I’ve found:

club carlson orlando hotels

Clearly, Park Inn Orlando is the winner for cheapskates, right? Not so fast! Let me show you why this may not be the best option for a family of 4. In fact, a better choice might be Country Inn and Suites Orlando Universal, the hotel listed just above Park Inn. How so?

Well, first of all, Park Inn has a resort fee of $15 per day, the other hotel doesn’t. That’s $30 extra for 2 days, and according to the website, they do charge it on award redemptions. Also,  Country Inn includes a free breakfast, Park Inn does not. Even if you eat at McDonald’s, you’ll easily spend $20 for 4 people for a decent breakfast that includes hot items. That’s another $40 for 2 days we’ll have to add to the totals.

Also, Country Inn offers a free shuttle to Sea World, Park Inn does not. But let’s ignore this benefit and assume that you are going to Disney instead. Both properties offer a free shuttle there. So, taking into consideration the resort fees and breakfast benefit, you would spend $70 extra if staying at Park Inn. The difference in award rate is 13,000 points, since we get every second night free.

For some, that amount is worth $70 (0.54 cents a piece), but not to me. Why not? Because Club Carlson sells these points for 0.35 cents on occasion (half price). As a rule of thumb, I never value  miles and points at more than the loyalty program will sell them to me.

Also, don’t forget that you earn 5 points per dollar on everything when using a Club Carlson credit card. Taking into account the fact that we forego earning 2% cash back, we would effectively be buying  points for 0.4 cents each.

There is an interesting twist, though: If you have 5 in the family, Park Inn is  a better choice. That’s because Country Inn and Suites Universal does not give a room option for that many people, but Park Inn does.

Why it may not matter

If you have  a lot of points, just go with the property you like and don’t worry about CPP value. I know I tend to obsess about these things in my blog.  It doesn’t mean you need to. If you value Trip Advisor reviews, your option should clearly be Radisson Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista. It goes for 38,000 points, and you would get your second night free. It also fits 5, though, doesn’t include breakfast.

Bottom line

Always compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges, mangoes to mangoes, etc. when researching your hotel options. Also, consider applying for US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa. Even though their footprint isn’t that great in small towns in America, most popular locations, including Orlando, usually have several options.

If both spouses apply for it, you can potentially get 4 nights near Disney for only 30,000 points (when booked back-to-back). Heck, even at 56,000 points, it’s a bargain. I don’t make any referral on this card, so it has to be good for me to keep pushing it, right?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and 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.

4 thoughts on “When the Lowest Hotel Award Rate isn’t Actually the Cheapest

  1. I am planning on going to sea world in January with my 4 year old. Wheren’t did you end up making reservations? I think I am going to ho with a Hiltin. I don’t have Holiday Inn points. I do have club carlson and spg and 53000 membership rewards though.
    Just going two days and two days in Tampa. Also probably at a Hilton…there is one right across from Busch Gardens where we want to go.
    Have to go to Tucson for 5-7 days in the summer too.

    • Hi, Hilary! Well, it looks like we will be going to Sea World for a day and stay in Melbourne, Fl. It’s about 1 hour away. I plan to take my parents there and they prefer to stay at the beach. I change my mind 5 times before I settle on a plan!
      I recommend you pick a place you like and don’t worry too much about cost in points. With a 4-year old, convenience is important. Check Trip Avisor ratings and go from there. I do know SPG has a Category 2 property not far from Sea World. I think it’s called Sheraton Studio City. That could be an option. Of course, it does depend on how many points you have in each program. For me personally, I would try to burn Club Carlson currency first. But it does come down to what you like. You want to be happy on vacation.:)

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