Few weeks ago, I’ve mentioned the improved sign-up offer on Amex Hilton Honors Ascend card. As most of you know, it now comes with free weekend certificate after your first renewal. Of course, “free” is a bit of a misnomer since you do have to pay the annual fee of $95. Still, some top Hilton properties go for 95,000 points, so the idea of snagging one of them for a mere $95 is quite appealing for many folks. That is if you will be staying there on a weekend, within one year of receiving certificate, and only for one night.
That’s the biggest issue with these type of offers. If the stars align, great! You got one heck of a deal. Otherwise, you may find yourself planning a detour just to use up your “free” cert. Most people don’t go on one-night getaways, so they will be compelled to apply in the spouse’s name as well, just so they can double dip on this offer.
This is exactly the situation I found myself in. Last March I’ve applied for Hilton Honors Surpass (before it was re-branded) because the bonus came with a free weekend certificate upon renewal. Few months later the offer returned, so I went ahead and applied in my husband’s name, thinking we would use two certs for a weekend getaway in our state of Florida. Except, I ended up using one of them for Hilton Auckland. I was prepared to burn 47,000 points, but since our stay will fall on Friday, using the certificate seemed like a better option.
My husband’s card won’t be renewed till after our trip is over, so we will have only one certificate in our possession. And he hates driving somewhere for just one night. That means I will have to use my meager Hilton stash for a second night, and all the places I like cost around 50,000-60,000 points. Do you see how this type of deal can create an unnecessary headache?
We are fortunate to live in Florida, and have many nice Hilton properties relatively close by. Still, almost all of them require a two-hour drive, so going for one night isn’t ideal. I haven’t yet let any of my renewal hotel certificates expire, plus, I like how they give me an excuse to get away. My husband seems to be more motivated to drive somewhere when I tell him that we paid money for this voucher, and it will expire if we don’t use it by a certain date. To me, it’s a blessing in disguise.
But if you are on a budget, live in the middle of nowhere with no nice properties nearby, and rarely go on trips, think long and hard before you fall for “free weekend night” Hilton Ascend offer.
Wyndham fail: an opportunity?
Wyndham is a mess of a program when it comes to their website. I’ve found myself screaming at my computer at times, while trying to book something. But I keep on renewing our two Wyndham credit cards because I get 15,000 points in exchange for paying $69 annual fee (this offer is no longer available). I consider it a pretty good deal, despite al the headache of dealing with Wyndham.
Not long ago, I used 30,000 points from my husband’s account for a two-night stay at Wyndham Clearwater Beach Resort. For 15,000 points you can get a one-bedrorom unit and don’t have to pay resort or parking fees. I consider this place to be one of the best deals in Wyndham program, at least when it comes to family travel. During spring and holidays, the rates hover around $400 per night, though I obviously would never pay that amount. But $69 per night? That I can do.
I really wanted to go to Clearwater for three nights. However, this resort requires a two-night minimum stay, so reluctantly, I decided to use an additional 30,000 points from my account. Wyndham was being Wyndham, and I couldn’t get the unit reserved online. I tried multiple times, but no dice. I even called customer service and the lady said there is no award availability, even though I was seeing it on my end.
Frustrated, I decided to give up (for now) and try again in a few days. But then an idea dawned on me. I could use my Hilton renewal certificate at one of Hilton properties in Clearwater. There were two that stood out:
This is a fairly new hotel in a quiet part of Clearwater beach. We actually stayed in a property next door when it was still part of Wyndham chain. It’s located on a beautiful stretch of beach, reminiscent of Caribbean.
Standard rooms come with two queen beds. The resort has a nice pool, a hot tub and even a fire pit. And the beach, of course! This isn’t your typical Hampton Inn, at least by the looks of it. Breakfast is complimentary, a huge plus for families. This property costs between 40,000-50,000 points per night, depending on the time of year. Valet parking ($18 per night) is mandatory.
It looks like next year’s award inventory has just been loaded. If you are planning to redeem points here during March, I recommend doing so ASAP. You will have a ton of competition, I guarantee it. TripAdvisor reviews are mostly positive.
This is an older property, located south of Clearwater Beach area. Rooms come with two queen size beds and as a Gold Hilton member, you are entitled to free breakfast for two people. So, we would have to pay for kids, but that’s OK. There is a pool, but no hot tub. The rate hovers between 30,000-60,000 points per night. TripAdvisor reviews are pretty good.
Either property would be fine in my book, and a good use of the weekend certificate IMO.
Switching hotels with kids: is it really worth it?
I’m not sure. I will say that I would never consider it if my kids were younger. Hauling all the baby junk between two different properties is 100% not worth it. However, my kids are a bit older now and don’t require any special equipment. Since the hotels are located in the same area as Wyndham Clearwater Beach Resort, we wouldn’t even have to go out of our way.
Plus, my kids are hotel connoisseurs, and really love sampling different properties. I actually do too! It would be a mini road trip of sorts. I would use up the Hilton certificate and be done with it. Considering the fact that I will need to utilize our Hyatt and IHG renewal certificates next year, it will be one less thing to worry about. And hopefully, we will all enjoy our “bonus” hotel experience. All except my husband, that is.
Readers, what would you do?
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.