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Amazing Redemption Value on Hilton Points in Krakow, Plus My View on Visiting Auschwitz

Few months ago I wrote a post on redeeming 90K Club Carlson points for my nephew’s trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. Everything was set and then my mom changed her mind. She is very much like me in that respect. So, she reached out via Skype and asked if I can find her something in Poland instead. She said she was planning to visit her friend there and was hoping to add  a vacation detour, aka kill two birds with one stone. Yet another trait I got from her. I mean, how can you not add a stopover in Tahiti on your way to New Zealand, right?

About 13 years ago, we vacationed with my family in Krakow and everyone enjoyed it, so that seemed like a logical choice. My mom told me she really wanted to show the city to my nephew. Unfortunately, Club Carlson doesn’t currently have any bargains in Krakow. There is Park Inn by Radisson hotel that costs 28K points per night. It looks OK and the location is central, but the rate doesn’t even include breakfast.

I had about 162K Club Carlson points, factoring in refund from St. Petersburg award, so  I could cover 5 nights at this hotel. And using up mediocre Club Carlson points  sure beats paying $90 per night. But then I remembered my newly acquired bonus from Amex Hilton Surpass. Let’s check it out.

Bingo! Hampton by Hilton Krakow, you are exactly the bargain I’ve been hoping for. And breakfast is included, hooray. Sure, it’s not exactly in the center, but this is what the website says:

Plaza Shopping Mall is situated just opposite the hotel, offering lots of retail and dining options and an IMAX theater. Enjoy easy access to the city center, just 10 minutes away or visit popular Krakow attractions like Wawel Royal Castle and Kazimierz – a part of city that, together with the Old Town, is the hub of culture and entertainment in Krakow.”

My mom loves shopping, one of the traits that I thankfully did NOT inherit from her. She was thrilled with this hotel option, so I redeemed the points. But it gets better. Since I have Gold Hilton status (comes complimentary with Amex Surpass), I could get the 5th night free. So, 20K points took care of it.

And then I started thinking. This hotel is dirt cheap, maybe my sister could take time off work and join my mom. That way my other nephew could get in on the action. That’s what I did last year by redeeming Club Carlson points on two rooms at Category 1 (9,000 points per night) property in Klaipeda, Lithuania.  She agreed, so I went ahead and burned an additional  20K points.

They will have two separate rooms/bathrooms and free breakfast in the morning for 5 nights, all for only 40K Hilton points total. And Krakow isn’t some backwater town in the middle of nowhere, but rather one of the most popular cities in Europe.

Few notes on Krakow and surrounding area

Here is the scoop. While I enjoyed Krakow, I do think it’s a bit overrated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful historic city, it’s just that there are many others like it in Europe. I think one of the reasons I wasn’t wowed by it was due to the fact that we came here right after visiting Prague. If it was the other way around, maybe I would have been more impressed. But very few cities in Europe can compare to Prague, so maybe that’s the problem.

That being said, there is a lot to do in the area and prices are somewhat reasonable compared to Western Europe. I usually recommend staying in the center, but if you are looking to burn Hilton points, the hotel I’ve highlighted isn’t a bad option. Do keep in mind that rooms have double occupancy, but for 5K Hilton points per night, who cares?

Taxis are fairly cheap, so you can get where you need to go with relative ease. And of course, there is public transportation if you are brave enough to figure it out. Hint: it’s not that hard and most young people speak some English.

Few places worth visiting:

Wawel royal castle, built in 14th century. 

Wieliczka salt mines, 900 years old. Don’t be fooled by the name. It’s a UNESCO heritage  site, and worth the visit. Everything is made of salt, with sculptures and wall reliefs carved by bored miners of long ago.  See  an article on it here

For truly adventurous (crazy?), there is an option to take a day trip to Zakopane via cheap local bus. It’s located about 2 hours away, so probably out of the question for most folks. But it was the highlight of out trip to Poland. In fact, my husband is still talking about going there and spending a week or longer.

A place we decided to skip: the site of Auschwitz concentration camp 

Whether you should go or not is a personal decision, but this sort of thing isn’t for me. I realize it probably sounds controversial to say that, but hear me out. I grew up in a country that lost a quarter of its population and obviously, those of Jewish descent suffered a much greater loss.

Growing up, I’ve heard all kinds of war stories, including one on how my grandmother almost got captured in the woods by the Nazis. Daily I walked through a neighborhood that used to primarily consist of Jewish residents. I got a sinking feeling realizing that almost all of them were killed after being taken to Auschwitz. Half of my city wiped out, just like that. Many of my own faith lost their lives in concentration camps  as well.

In other words, I don’t really need a reminder of how awful Holocaust and World War II were. And I definitely don’t want to experience such a horrible place while on vacation. I would never, ever take my kids there either. I realize it makes me sound like a sheltered tourist, but those are my two cents. However, I would never discourage someone from going, and for a different perspective, read Reflections on Auschwitz, 2 years late.

What about using Hilton points in good ole’ USA?

On a lighter note… Obviously, most of you  are interested in using Hilton points in US. Well, the good news is, there are bargains to be had, but they are few and far in between. Since Hilton no longer publishes an award chart, it will be a bit difficult to find them. I recommend sites like HotelHustle and Pointimize.

Hilton points can be very useful for road trips and overnight stays in small towns where AirBnB is not an option. The chain’s footprint in US  is terrific, so it’s likely that you’ll find a Hampton Inn where you need to be at. LoyaltyLobby blog has complied a list of all Category 1  (only one hotel in USA) and Category 2 Hilton properties in the world. Those cost 5,000 and 10,000 points respectively. Award rates change, and occasionally hotel programs raise them without warning, so the lists may not be 100% accurate as of now.

I consider any Hilton hotel that costs 10K points per night or less to be a bargain. Stay five nights, and you’ll squeeze even more value out of your points. Occasionally, I see folks  on Facebook say that they often stay in Hilton hotels and how they wish they could get free breakfast. I want to yell: Just get Hilton Honors Surpass Credit Card from American Express! Done. Well, when it comes to majority of their properties. Gold status in Hilton can be quite valuable, and all you need to do is pay $75 annual fee on Amex Surpass in order to keep it year after year. Obviously, think about your future plans when deciding on whether to renew the card or not.

A reminder: you can still apply for 100K points bonus on Amex Surpass. You can do it before 7/27/2017 via my personal referral link   Thanks in advance if you choose to use it!

Do keep in mind that the affiliate  offer on Chase IHG card has been recently increased to 85K points. Some have received a targeted  offer of 105K points and reportedly, Chase has been matching it. As of now, IHG card is not subject to 5/24 rule. So, if you can only pick one, I would go with that offer instead. Otherwise, Amex Hilton Surpass is worth considering for some families, though there are many other good deals on the market. Only you can determine what’s right for you.

If you are heading to Krakow, the hotel I’ve mentioned is as good of a deal as IHG PointBreaks. Better, actually.

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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.

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10 thoughts on “Amazing Redemption Value on Hilton Points in Krakow, Plus My View on Visiting Auschwitz

  1. We loved Zakopane! Our youngest son earned a master’s degree at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and 2 extended trips there were immensely enjoyable; we stayed at the Wentzl Hotel on the square and loved it. The old windows, 6 feet plus tall open at night allowed us to hear the kids running around the square all night. Granted not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. Your opinion on Auschwitz spot on; it’s a choice one must make. I’ve visited twice, but I thought it important enough for my wife to see, so I hired a local driver/guide to take us there. Both times I hired a guide to provide more in depth information on the camps: one was Jewish, one was Polish–and both tours were completely different in emphasis. I never knew about the million plus Poles who died there. I also think people need to appreciate the massive scale of the two camps–they’re huge. The sheer size of the camps and what that implied drove home the “numbers” and graphically anchored my conception of the number of people murdered there. Simply overwhelming to see the hut chimneys extend to the horizon.

    • Russ, I enjoyed Zakopane much more than I thought I would! We made a last-minute decision to do a day trip there from Krakow and it was fantastic. My husband was like : “Why didn’t we stay here instead of Krakow?” I’ve heard it has become more touristy in the last decade, but I’m sure it’s still relatively quaint, especially compared to Switzerland and Italy.
      On Auschwitz, this is a tough one… I felt like we somehow SHOULD visit it, but it just wasn’t a good enough reason to do it. I don’t know. I can totally understand why someone would want to go, especially if they lost a family member there.
      But the whole thing is just depressing, one of the lowest points of humanity. It’s not that I think people should forget that it happened, and preserving the site is definitely important. But going there is not something I want to do, not even after discovering my Jewish heritage. But perhaps I’ll change my mind as I get older.

  2. What a great deal on that Hampton Inn! I didn’t realize you could find Hilton hotels for 5000 points.

    I think I would go to Auschwitz with my kids. I feel like my kids are getting to be too entitled and spoiled. I don’t feel like they care or appreciate history, or understand how most of the world lives. Maybe they’re too young to understand a place like Auschwitz now.

    • @Nancy That is a pretty good deal, for sure! I was shocked to discover it, especially in a popular destination like Krakow. And yes, Category 1 Hilton properties do exist. In fact, there are some all-inclusive hotels in Egypt for only 5,000 points per night. But I won’t be going there anytime soon.

      On wanting to take your kids to Auschwitz… I completely understand. In fact, if mine asked me to take them there, I for sure would. For now, I prefer they learn about that part of history in school. But I may reconsider in the future, who knows. Never say never, though I did say it in the post!

  3. I have the complete opposite view on your Prague vs. Krakow perspective. Ten years ago we visited Prague then Krakow at the beginning of our “Eastern Europe” trip. Prague felt like a tourist trap and it seemed like no local would be caught dead shopping or dining in the old city center. Lots of places selling the same low quality t-shirts, knick-knacks, etc. at inflated prices and restaurants slinging bad food (but pouring cheap good beer). In contrast, Krakow felt relatively undiscovered and the city center mix was balanced with equal focus on locals and tourists (except for the weekend when stag/hen parties invaded, but this phenomenon is not uncommon for other cities in Europe). Perhaps things have changed – I hope not!

    On Auschwitz – I have no personal connection to the place, but felt it was important to visit. As Russ stated, it is the scale of the site that really drives home the depth of the horrible crimes (especially if you have previously visited Dachau outside of Munich, which was something like a prototype for future concentration camps. Auschwitz-Birkenau shows how it was scaled up like an engineering exercise gone mad). When you walk through the rooms and see the mounds of personal effects, especially those of children, you cannot help feeling deeply moved and angry as a human being. When my kids are teenagers, I intend to take them so they have a tangible understanding of evil. I think it’s just difficult to comprehend the enormity of what happened on the same level from simply watching documentaries, movies, etc. Human atrocities still happen across the world every day; perhaps if people had a deeper level of understanding about horrific crimes then they would be more motivated to do something about it.

  4. @Erik I understand what you are saying about Prague vs. Krakow. The former is more popular with travelers, so it turned into a bit of a tourist trap. And I’m sure it’s much worse now. Krakow did feel more authentic.
    We were in Prague for only one day, so just walked around the city and hit major spots. It was very crowded, but the city just had this magic to it. It’s like something you would see in a fairly tale. I can’t believe it survived World War II unscathed. I didn’t try the beer, but I’ve heard it’s really good! To me Krakow just felt kind of blah, but obviously, many people disagree.

    I completely understand why you decided to visit Auschwitz. I suspect most people go there for that very reason. If we are ever in that area, and when my kids are much older, I will definitely give them an option of visiting it as well.
    To me, the whole thing is disturbing beyond words, even when looking at it on the internet. I’m afraid it would be too overwhelming to go there and see in person the evidence of all the horrific atrocities that took place not so long ago.
    It’s hard to comprehend and wrap your head around it. And you are right, awful things are still happening in the world as we speak. In this country KKK is coming out of its shadows and grooming new recruits, denying Holocaust even took place. That’s one of the many reasons to preserve the site. Hard to argue with physical evidence.

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  6. I agree with you regarding Auschwitz. Back in Kiev we used to live very close to Babi Yar and I think we might have lost some distant family there, I do want any reminders of that. Neither would I want my nephews visit those horrible places.

    • @Boris That’s how I feel, too. It makes me feel sick to my stomach just looking at the photos of the place. If we are in the area and my kids decide to visit it, I will take them. But I won’t be suggesting the idea. I do understand why it’s important to preserve these sites, however.

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