Last October my husband and I were supposed to go to Aruba. That trip didn’t materialize on account of us missing the flight. It was my own fault, really. We had just enough time to make it to the airport IF nothing happened on the way. In addition, I decided to hit drive-thru at McDonald’s. And then, boom, there was an accident on I-4, and the rest is history (recorded in my blog post).
Anyway, later this week we are supposed to fly to Jamaica with our two kids if my health doesn’t go downhill. The flight is set to leave early in the morning. We absolutely can NOT miss it, the whining from our children will be unbearable. So, I’ve reluctantly decided to spend a night in Orlando vicinity. For most normal people selecting a hotel would be a simple decision. Look for the right price, check the reviews and book it. But I am no simple person. So let me walk you through my reasoning process and hopefully, it will benefit someone.
Kill two birds with one stone?
I started thinking that if we are going to spend a night in Orlando, why not try out a resort bookable on points. The kids definitely won’t mind, and we won’t have to make a separate trip to stay in that particular hotel. I narrowed it down to two options:
It’s a resort I’ve booked few months ago, but ended up dumping it for Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa. Since it’s only one night, maybe we could splurge 15,000 Ultimate Rewards on a transfer to Hyatt Gold Passport. Plus, since my husband will have Explorist status in March, he will receive 4 Club Lounge certificates. That will sweeten the deal considerably, thanks to free dinner and breakfast.
There were two issues. One, I couldn’t make the reservation and later apply the certificate. It would have to be done at the same time. Second, there is a parking fee that comes out to extra $20 per night. Hmm, even with free food, this hotel is looking mighty expensive.
After all, due to having Chase Sapphire Reserve card I can use 15,000 UR points on any hotel room that costs $225, and the parking fee is another $20, for a grand total of $245. Gasp! That food would have to be out of this world to justify that kind of a price. Plus, we would have to share a basic room. No more suites for us (weeps).
If I’m going to pay that kind of money, I want to have a late checkout, so we could enjoy the facilities a bit longer. The property looks very nice, but I’m cheap.
This is a place I’ve been wanting to try because I know my kids will go crazy for it. It’s a fomer Nickelodeon property. The hotel looks downright psychedelic, this is definitely no classy Hyatt.
Photo courtesy of ihg.com
I’m getting a headache just by looking at this picture. But so what? There are pools, a waterpark and various activities to entertain little ones. Plus, who am I kidding? We are not a classy family.
The rooms are mini-suites (fit 6) and have a king bed and a set of bunks for kids. This is a perfect set-up for a family of four and I wish all hotels would have a few rooms with that type of floor plan. It’s a nice compromise for those who prefer condos (which describes most families).
The cost is 25,000 points per night, and as an IHG cardholder, I would receive 10% back. I’ve previously acquired 22,500 points for around $75 via various promos. There is a parking fee of $13, so the total would be $88. The resort fee is apparently waived when you are staying on points.
There were a few issues, however. My husband would have to take off half a day to make sure we could utilize the waterpark which closes at 6 PM. And of course we would want to do that. That’s why we are staying here in the first place. Unfortunately, my husband’s job is unpredictable. If an IT system crashes, he will have to stay at work till it’s fixed.
Also, something my husband has brought up and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself. If the kids really end up loving that Holiday Inn resort, they will not want to leave after just one night. Then we will feel like idiots driving to the airport and flying to Jamaica when we could have just saved the points/cash and stayed at that psychedelic hotel instead.
I went ahead and just reserved two nights during the summer, so the kids could play to their heart’s content. We live in Florida, so making an extra weekend trip to Orlando isn’t a big deal. I used my remaining IHG points for this reservation, but it looks like a decent redemption. Paid rate in the summer is $135 per night, not including parking and resort fees that add up to an additional $38. Accumulating points via promos has allowed us to stay here for half the price.
Verdict: Pass (for now)
Let’s just stick to airport hotels
I decided to keep it simple and find a place near Orlando airport. I wouldn’t feel like we need to get our money’s worth and use every amenity on premises. We could also relax in the morning without worrying a potential traffic jam. As always, I wanted to find a hotel with decent reviews, yet affordable via points. I narrowed it down to three choices:
The rate was dirt cheap, you couldn’t ask for anything better. Go Fast option was only $28, plus 3,000 points. And they even offer free (mediocre, no doubt) breakfast. Unfortunately, there was one problem:
The overall rating is missing two stars. In general, I try to stick to places that have four out of five stars, or at least three and a half. Anything below three, and you are asking for problems. I really don’t want to start our vacation in a fleabag motel. Obviously, some people have unrealistic expectations, but when so many hate the place, it’s prudent to listen to them.
Club Carlson properties in US get a bad rep. Sure, some hotels are tired and in desperate need of refurbishment. But I’ve been overall satisfied with their quality. Some Country Inn and Suites hotels are amazing. If you are passing through Florida and have some leftover Club Carlson points, consider staying at Country Inn and Suites Lake City Super clean rooms and breakfast is very good. Plus, it has a heated indoor pool.
Anyway, the property near Orlando airport costs 15,000 points per night, but you can book a suite for 22,500 points. I would go with the latter. The rate is $120 per night, so it’s definitely a spectacular redemption, considering the fact that it’s Club Carlson currency. This is probably the least valuable hotel point on the planet, but I still speculatively value it at 0.2 cents, which is why I decided to renew their co-branded credit card. By that logic, I would be paying $45 per night for a suite.
The reviews looked pretty good, but I was bothered by a recurring theme. Several people, including one of my relatives, mentioned a weird smell in rooms. Funky hotel smell is my kryptonite. I’ll deal with it, but I ain’t gonna like it. Apparently, the hotel has experienced flooding last year, but they didn’t change the carpets. Yep, that will do it. Sweet smell of mold is not my thing.
Verdict: Pass (reluctantly)
The suites in this hotel are spacious, breakfast looks top-notch, and TripAdvisor reviews are great. The best part? It costs 5,000 Hyatt points per night which I can transfer on 1:1 basis from Ultimate Rewards. Sure, due to having Chase Sapphire Reserve, I would be foregoing a $75 room at another hotel. Well, yeah, but this amount would only pay for Days Inn property I’ve mentioned earlier. And I don’t want to stay there.
I don’t really have any specific plans for my leftover UR stash, and I can cash out 5,000 points for only $50. Looking at it that way, this Hyatt is a bargain, especially considering the fact that it runs at $170 per night.
Verdict: We have a winner!
What about various promos?
I’ve mentioned many times that using points doesn’t always make sense. See my post How to minimize choice overload when it comes to lodging options Occasionally, you will be better off paying cash. Few instances that come to mind:
1) Juicy promotion on Rocketmiles.com It’s not unusual to get 5,000 points or miles for just a one night stay.
2) Various hotel promos like new IHG Accelerate If you need to complete a certain task in order to get a boatload of points, it can make sense to pay a little more than you otherwise would. Incremental rate difference will allow you to collect a windfall that you can leverage for your next vacation. I decided to pass on this promotion, plus, IHG hotels near Orlando airport where quite expensive when I did my search.
3) When you are chasing a top-tier status with a hotel chain and only need a few nights to re-qualify. Some programs will count award stays, others won’t. Speaking of, check out this post on TheDealMommy on why she decided to accept Marriott Platinum challenge. If you happen to have Amex Platinum card, you should definitely read her analysis.
4) Promos from various shopping portals. Southwest has just partnered with Booking.com, and you can now earn Rapid Rewards for reserving hotels (hat tip to DDG). See details here The payout will vary, and in my case, the juice is certainly not worth the squeeze.
But you should always check anyway. Just remember, if you are trying to complete tasks on Accelerate, the hotels have to be booked via IHG.com But you can still click through a shopping portal after checking Cashbackmonitor
Honestly, this decision didn’t need to be so complicated. Any normal person in the hobby would see a Hyatt for 5,000 points and immediately book it without hesitation. But once again, I’m not normal. I have zero loyalty to any chain and simply look for best deal on points or otherwise.
I have no problem with Country Inn and Suites brand and encourage you to consider it IF the reviews don’t mention funky smell and IF the price is right. The same goes for Wyndham hotels. I didn’t pass on that property because it’s a Days Inn. I decided to skip it due to bad reviews.
While I always try to use flexible points last, in this case it made sense to part with my precious UR stash. It’s not just about getting a dirt cheap hotel, it’s about getting a dirt cheap hotel that isn’t dirty.
P.S. There won’t be any new blog posts till Monday. I’m not sure if I’ll have internet while on the road, so may not be able to reply to your emails till I get back. Sorry!
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.