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How it is to be elite in the hotel programs

We already discussed airline programs in an earlier post, let’s now have a look at the hotel programs.

Just as is the case with airline programs, hotel programs tend to offer 3 elite levels.  The advantages that come with each elite level tend to vary from program to program but here again, as is the case with the airline programs, you will see that there are similarities.  The same is true for the requirements to earn the different elite levels.  Let’s have a look a the first elite level that is usually achieved after 10 nights.  (Hilton Honors offers this after 10 nights or 4 stays).

One benefit that is common to all programs are bonus points in the form of a percentage on top of your base earning.  The bonus percentage you get will varies a lot from program to program.  Here are the bonus points granted with the first elite level in a few example programs :

– Accor Hotels (still the biggest chain across Europe) offers its Silver Elite member of the ‘Le Club’ program a 50 percent bonus.

Accor hotels

Accor hotels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– Marriott Rewards offers it’s Silver members a 20 percent bonus
– Hilton Honors gives a 15 percent bonus to Silver Members
– Choice Privileges (Choice Hotels) gives only a mere 10 percent bonus to Gold Members (the first level as well but only differently named)

Bonus points are a nice perk if you are mainly interested in free nights.  Extra points means you will faster earn your free night.

Other perks for elite status are room upgrades. Usually they come with small print to indicate that these upgrades will only be granted if space is available.  Upgrades are usually offered as of the second elite level.  In our example programs the exception is Choice Privileges that only offers upgrades for their top tier members.  Upgrades are a perk that is often discussed amongst frequent travelers.  Success rates vary a lot as well as the “type” of upgrades.  Is a room with a better view an upgrade?  Upgrades to suites are excluded in some programs (like Marriott) but some travelers receive them anyway.  It’s still a nice perk if you don’t set your expectations too high and let yourself be surprised.

Welcome gifts are one more perk.  You can receive anything from a bottle of water to a bottle of wine, snacks or a voucher.  It depends on the brand you stay with and the goodwill of the hotel.  The latter at least for the lower elite levels.  As of a certain elite level the welcome gift is guaranteed.  The level varies by program  (top-tier for Marriott, 2nd tier for Hilton & Accor, no welcome gifts in the Choice Privileges program).

Without going into further detail I will list some other perks that can be found in these programs:
Ultimate Reservation Guarantee : You’re guaranteed to get a room untill X-hours upfront your stay.  The number of hours varies by program and sometimes elite level as well.  Mostly interesting for business travelers although it turned out to be very usefull when we stranded in Hartsfield Jackson Airport Atlanta during a storm and lot’s of people could not find a hotel. (but we did :-))

Free Internet : Interestingly some hotels still do not offer free internet to everybody.  Marriott Rewards and Hilton Hhonors offer this as a perk to their 2nd tier level elites in all their properties.  (both have brands where everybody receives free internet)

Late checkout : Another benefit that is offered with small-print (space available).  A nice benefit that could come-in handy if your departure flight is somewhere in the afternoon and you want to grab a quick shower before you head out to the airport.

A picture of the Courtyard of the beautiful Marriott Costa Rica - San Jose

A picture of the Courtyard of the beautiful Marriott Costa Rica – San Jose

Hotel programs are different from airline programs in the sense that you will be able to get status for free.  No status or spending with the hotels are required.  This is not true for all programs but is the case for Marriott and Hilton.  Marriott offers credit cards that give you Silver status.  Hilton has several credit cards that grant you Silver or Gold status.  (the cards are not free but are relatively cheap if you plan on benefiting from the status you will enjoy)

Note that there are many more hotel loyalty programs ( Starwoord Preferred Guest, Club Carlson, Wyndham rewards, ….) but I just picked out a few of them to give you some examples.  Why I picked these?  Le Club Accor is the biggest chain in Europe and Hilton and Marriott have a very good coverage in the United States and to a certain level the rest of the World.  All three of them include a good selection of brands from basic hotels to very luxurious.  They have something for everyone.  Choice hotels is a program that includes 11 different brands as well but is mostly focused to the budget-wise traveler.  I included them as they offer very good options for budget-wise travelers although their coverage worldwide is less attractive.

We will go into further detail, comparing programs head 2 head, in later posts.

Big Apple here I come

My first upcoming trip will be in the beginning of June.I will be spending a week in fascinating NYC at the Fordham University  for my MBA studies.

Fordham University

It’s always a joy to go to NYC.  If I remember well this will be my 8th trip to the big apple, there’s always something new and always a lot going on.

Off course NYC can be an expensive city for lodging but there are a few tips that can save you quite some money on your lodging.  I’m paying 96USD/night for the Fairfield Inn NY Long Island (just outside Manhattan but fast access to Manhattan with the subway)

NY is pretty big so you can’t pick a hotel close to all attractions.  I will probably loose 20 minutes in the morning and the evening with this hotel but I don’t mind as I have seen all major attractions already.  I found discounts for hotels in Manhattan as well but I opted for the cheapest of them all.

Here’s how I got to this rate:

Most Hotel Programs have a “Best Rate” guarantee.  Small print of the various programs will probably be slightly different for each of them so if you’re planning on using this tip I would advise to quickly scan through the T&C to make sure you’re doing it right.

Here’s the direct link for Marriott’s program: Marriott Look No Further Best Rate GuaranteeWhat’s important:

– You need to have a reservation for the hotel arranged using any Marriott channel
– Your claim needs to be filed within 24 hours of your original reservation with Marriott- It must not be a prepaid rate or a rate with a voucher

What’s the best part:  If you file such a claim and it get’s approved Marriott will offer an additional 25% discount!

Off course it all starts by finding a cheaper rate for your hotel.  There’s no magic approach to achieve this.  Following tips will however help you.
1) There’s a friendly community of fellow travellers out there that can help you.  People share their success of finding a LNF rate and maybe you find hotels that would match your needs by scrolling/searching this forum.

2) Google Hotel Finder comes to help as well.  Type in your destination and dates and Google will add a note to the hotels that are cheaper than usual.  This is a good indication for a claim.

GoogleHotelFinder

I hope this post will help you in relieving the budget for your accommodation needs.  Although I referred to the Marriott program other chains have similar programs, their website will inform you about the details.

I will be back with more information later.

The first post

Let me introduce myself.

I’m a passionate traveler.  I’ve got the passion from my parents who took me around the world as a child and I never stopped traveling since then.  I’m a smart traveler.  I travel on a budget but I still want to enjoy some luxury along the way.  After a long and tiring day to explore the area I like to relax in a comfortable environment.  I pick my accommodation accordingly.

My parents used to arrange most of their travels through travel agencies but since I started traveling with friends and my family we started organizing things on our own.  My experience with travel agencies is substandard.  I regret these agencies seem unable to cope with personal preferences and demands.  I prefer to spend a few hours online to search for a good flight with my preferred alliance instead of picking the first thing that pops-up on the search engine of a travel a

Marriott Executive Appartment

gency.  Off course I know not everybody has time or wants to spend his time browsing all travel sites on the internet.  For those just picking out a few sites can already save you some euros/dollars.

Most of my travel these days is for leisure.  It started different and as such I got to know and appreciate the frequent flyer programs.  At the start of my career I got to spend 6 weeks in Budapest and we stayed in the Marriott Executive Appartments.  A few weeks after the stay I received my Marriott Rewards card in the mail.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover the benefits it gave me and to see the number of points I had collected over those 6 weeks.  What struck me most however was the fact that I could now stay a few nights for free!

So, thanks Marriott for opening my eyes.  I started looking around and registered myself for all frequent flyer programs of airlines, hotels and rental cars I used.  Off course those points you earn do expire and it doesn’t help you much to earn few points in many programs.  As most programs are free it doesn’t hurt you either.

Over the years I refined my approach and focused on a few programs.  More about this in the posts that follow.

I live in Belgium, Europe.  Frequent Flyer programs are covered a lot in US but seem somewhat less known and used in Europe.  Programs are somewhat less attractive as well but still offer nice benefits if you use them smart enough.

This blog will share my travel experiences, my tips on frequent flyer programs and my further ambitions in the travel industry.  I’m currently not yet active in the travel industry but if I can realize my ambitions this might change in the future.

Hope you enjoyed this first post and will be back for my next posts.

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