For the last 9 months I have traveled without ever coming home to an apartment. I have lived out of 100+ hotels during that time and have found the world to be an even more amazing place than what I thought. So here they are:
My TOP 5 learnings living out of hotels for 9 months
A) Luxury is overvalued
While a great hotel can make or break an all important vacation – if you live out of hotels the basics (cleanliness, fast Internet, space, location) outweigh the luxury (pools, gyms, restaurants, views). Get a good hotel for 7 days instead of a great hotel for 2.
B) There is a huge difference between a bad, average and well managed hotel
Each brand has a strong influence but still each property does differently. There are old, tired hotels that were still on my Top 5 because of the staff. But there are newish hotels that I would never return to because of consistently incompetent staff.
C) Fast Internet isn't just a gimmick
My work is mostly spent online – a fast Internet makes my day so much more efficient – alas few hotels recognize how easy and cheap it is to provide fast Internet (I'm happy to pay $20 for it!). I NEVER return to hotels with slow Internet.
D) Hotel Elite status pays mostly outside the US
Being Hilton Diamond and Starwood Platinum sounds great but most hotels in the US won't give you much. The picture changes outside of the US – especially in Asia with high quality breakfast and suite upgrades
E) Location, Location, Location
Being in a great neighborhood allows you to find food and drinks for small amounts. A hotel in a remote area of town requires you to pay for transportation and steals you time.
Top 5 ways to stay in a hotel with Mighty Savings
This promotion gets you hotel rooms for 5,000 points a night. IHG RewardsClub points can be bought for $35 for 5,000 or earned through a number of promotions IHG is running. Right now the major promotion is the Big Win promotion. You never know which location will be on sale but if you are flexible that's fine enough.
Expedia gives you $50 travel vouchers if you find a lower priced room. For most non-US hotels it's almost impossible to NOT to find a lower priced room since a minor (currency) difference is enough to successfully invoke the guarantee.
3) Marriott and Starwood Best Rate Guarantee
Both chains runs fair Best Rate Guarantee programs I highlighted the Starwood BRG here and the Marriott BRG process here. Using the BRG allows me to bring the room rate into my target zone for many properties. I often find 50-60% in savings per night.
Additionally Marriott also runs the MegaBonus or the Marriott Rewards® Welcome Back promotion. These promotions give you free nights after just a few stays.
4) Use points for Low Category Hotels
I frequently stay in the San Francisco Bay Area where room rates for a run-of-the-mill Courtyard or Holiday Inn Express run $350 each and every week day. However many of the same hotels are in the low categories of their respective award chart. I.e. 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points get you a $350 room. The same is true for Hyatt hotels in the area.
5) Use cash wisely
I compare rates across major search engines (kayak.com and trivago.com) carefully. For most places I can find a good 4star+ property around $100 per night which is what I'm happy to pay. To my surprise I only used AirBnB once as it is more complicated and usually more expensive than the rates I'm able to find for hotels.