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Last week my family came back from a vacation in North Carolina mountains. I would love to say that I was super excited to go but alas, it was more of a consolation prize. After all, we only went there because it was within driving distance and because we canceled my highly anticipated trip to Japan. I also booked and then canceled a trip to Yosemite because my husband didn’t feel comfortable with flying since one of our kids isn’t yet vaccinated.
So, my SIL found a big cabin in Franklin last minute and booked it before someone else had a chance to grab it. It didn’t look all that special on the photos, and didn’t appear to have a view. Since we got to NC at night, we went right to sleep. So imagine my surprise when I woke up and found this glorious view from the deck:
Honestly, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea. It was so enjoyable to have my coffee on the patio, watching the clouds roll by and listening to the birds sing. In the evening the kids had fun tracking fireflies. Coming from Florida, we all really appreciated the cool mountain air. In short, this vacation was no consolation prize, but a prize, period. And the view had a lot to do with it.
It made me think how many times I didn’t pay a premium for a better view and basically considered it a waste of money. I think growing up in USSR and seeing my family struggle to afford basic necessities made it difficult for me to justify “wasting” cash on such a frivolous expense.
For many years I would pick the cheapest possible lodging option wherever we went, often to my own detriment. Nine out of ten times the view was, naturally, of a dumpster. I can’t say that any of my vacations were ruined since I tend to see things as “glass half full” when I travel and roll with the punches. But still.
It took some time for me to allow myself to splurge, and collecting points certainly made it easier to justify paying extra cash here and there. After all, I get most of my trips for “free”, so why not? These days I look for value, and having a nicer view is worth it 99% of the time. Of course, it’s still my goal to pay as little as possible in order to obtain it.
Some ways to get a better room view for free ( or cheap) when using points
1) Reach out to hotel directly and arrange a paid upgrade ahead of time, or accept an offer on the spot
With most hotel properties you get the most basic room (with the view of the parking lot) via points, and that’s that. There are exceptions, and I’ll get to them in a minute. But for the most part, there is no way to redeem points on a better room or even if there is, the premium is prohibitive. Hilton program is usually the worst offender in this area. A basic room may cost 50k points, and one with the view 150k.
Nobody in their right mind would drop an extra 100k points in this case. I sure wouldn’t. Fortunately, you can usually negotiate a better deal by reaching out to a manager. That’s what I did for our epic anniversary getaway to the South Pacific. In 2018 my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by visiting French Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia. I looked forward to Tahiti portion the most, so overcame my natural cheapness and paid for some nicer views.
For example, I redeemed 80k points for one night in a garden bungalow in Hilton Moorea. I then reached out to the property and arranged an upgrade to a lagoon bungalow for an extra $120. To me it was 100% worth it to have a beautiful ocean view and go snorkeling from our own deck. After all, it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip with my special guy.
I was also lucky to find award availability at Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora for two nights, the nicest hotel we’ve ever stayed at. Here we were already booked into an overwater bungalow. That was good enough, so I didn’t mess with perfection. However, when we were checking in, the concierge has offered an upgrade to a view of Mount Otemanu for an extra $140 per night ($280 total).
This one gave me pause, but I decided what the hey! As it turned out, my husband was really hoping I would accept the offer, but didn’t want to say anything because it’s a lot of dough. This was a great decision, and we still talk about that amazing view, not to mention extra privacy our bungalow has provided for our two glorious nights in Bora Bora. With the original option, we would be facing our neighbors.
So, if you are going to an exotic destination and are celebrating a special anniversary, I recommend splurging on a better view as long as you can afford it. You can see data points by typing in the name of the property+Flyertalk. That way you can see how much folks have paid for upgrades and whether they were worth it. Of course, the latter is in the eye of the beholder.
2) “Pray” to elite status gods and travel during off season
I don’t always arrange an upgrade, especially when staying in properties in our state of Florida. However, I do try to leverage status whenever possible. For example, my husband will be Hilton Diamond until April of 2022.
Not too long ago we visited a Hilton resort in Key Largo that we really enjoyed. So, when planning a repeat stay, I absolutely wanted to go while we still had his Diamond status. That way we would have the best shot at a suite upgrade. I’m definitely not counting on it, and if we end up with the originally booked mini-suite and a view of the parking lot, so be it. But if you have a dilemma of applying for Surpass vs. Aspire card, it’s something to consider. The latter will give you a Diamond status and a better shot at upgrades, especially during off season.
I’m absolutely not a status chaser, and don’t believe that most of the time the juice is worth the squeeze unless the employer is footing the bill. Fortunately, most hotel credit cards provide you with a shortcut. We’ve gotten many upgrades with IHG, Hyatt and Hilton. Not on every trip, but still. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time!
3) Search out properties where all rooms have a great view
Yes, they do exist. One example of the top of my head is Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront (Melbourne, Fl) where my family stayed a few times. All suites face the ocean, and the view is truly glorious.
This property isn’t perfect, so make sure to read recent reviews on TripAdvisor. Still, if you value having a suite with an ocean view for your family vacation, it’s tough to beat. Right now this place runs at 44k points per night, but will go up to 60k points tomorrow.
Speaking of Melbourne, there is also a Doubletree Suites Melbourne Beach Oceanfront where you can pay standard award rates for suites that face the ocean. I’m hoping to check it out one of these days.
Another option is using your Wyndham points on a Vacasa where you book individual properties. That way you will have a chance to see what rentals are available and pick the one with the best view.
Having a beautiful room view while on vacation is certainly not a must. I absolutely would not make it a requirement because the upcharge can be a dealbreaker or that free status upgrade you count on may not materialize. As long as I’m with my family, I will find ways to be happy even if the room is less than ideal.
That said, I highly recommend proactively arranging an upgrade when it’s a special trip. You will be glad you did.
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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.