My flirtation with amateur travel hacking started with a weekend trip to Niagara Falls. We stayed at a Hilton property and decided to join the Hilton HHonors travel reward program. With my husband traveling a great deal for work at the time, we quickly saw points start to accumulate.
In typical rookie fashion, we used our new reward point wealth for local weekend trips, spending them on free stays at Hampton Inns. When, a year later, we booked a bigger trip to France and needed a hotel in Paris we realized the error of this approach.
In our mid-West locale, Hampton Inns pretty much all run below $150 per night, sometimes significantly so. However in Paris (and most other major cities in Europe and the US) a well-located downtown property can run anywhere from $300 to well over $800 per night.
Luckily we were able to secure a 5-night reward stay at the now-defunct Paris Hilton complete with a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower and Executive Lounge access with daily breakfast and unlimited champagne pours!
Lesson Learned: Only redeem points on high-end properties!
Which brings us to the Conrad Koh Samui – our most recent and best “bang for the buck” hotel reward stay. Located on Samui Island Thailand, the Conrad is at the top of the Hilton chain. This stunning property consists of spacious, private villas nestled on a cliff over-looking the Gulf of Thailand. Each villa features a 10-meter infinity edge pool, an over-sized soaking tub, rain and multi-head shower and the latest and greatest in in-room technology. And the best part – these villas normally go for $1200 per night!
While it’s unlikely we ever would have ponied up $4800 of our own money for this stay, by budgeting our award points wisely, we were able to enjoy a luxurious and relaxing experience that was the perfect ending to a couple of weeks in Thailand.