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What’s the best hotel chain? The one that has rooms where you want to go, for the number of points that you have, of course! 😀 Sometimes though it can be tricky to know which chains have hotels where you’re wanting to go, and how many points they’ll cost. I mean it would be nice if the different chains standardized the number of points needed to redeem a free night, but that will happen… oh… never. 6,000 points will get you the bottom Category at La Quinta, but it will get you a pretty nice hotel with Starwood. 25,000 points gets you a middle of the road hotel with Hilton, but will get you 1 free night at the Park Hyatt Chicago.
If you’re like me, and you have a lot of points in a lot of different chains’ reward programs, it can be challenging to figure out what’s the best use of your time. One of the best sites that I’ve found for finding award hotel stays is a tool called Award Mapper.
The way I like to use it is for upcoming stays. If you’ll remember from when we talked about Demand Schedules, we want to take a trip to Indianapolis next month. So on the right hand side, I put in Indianapolis. You can also scroll and pan around like Google Maps.
There are 2 basic filters. The first one is on the left for hotel chains. I have the most points to burn in Hilton and Best Western, so I’ll pick them. I also have some points in Club Carlson and Starwood, so I’ll keep them selected, and de-select everything else. The other filter is on top that allows you to filter by how many points you want. When you’re comparing across different chains, this is not as useful, since as I mentioned earlier, different amounts mean different things at different chains. I find that useful when I know I want to use a particular chain and have an idea in mind for how many points I have – then I can put that in, and see what locations might work. But for this particular example, I’ll leave that filter alone.
On the right, it sorts the hotel results by chain, and within each chain, by category.
We’re looking to go to the Children’s Museum mostly, which is about 5 miles north of due downtown. Location is not as important to us, since we’re driving there and we’ll have our van. Still, ideally we’d be near there or on the east side, since we’re driving from Cincinnati.
Some options present themselves
- Best Western Crossroads, which costs 12,000 points and is on the east side of town
- Country Inn and Suites Greenfield, which is about 20 miles east of Indianapolis. A little far away, and I hate to spend only 1 night in a Club Carlson, since I have the Club Carlson Visa, which gives your 2nd night free on all award stays. Still it’s only 9000 points (Category 1).
- Hampton Inn Indianapolis East (30,000 HHonors points)
- Hilton Indianapolis North (20,000 HHonors points)
- Homewood Suites Northwest (30,000 HHonors points)
- Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre (7000 SPG points)
Every thing but potentially the Homewood Suites will require 2 rooms for the 8 of us, so double the points I listed. If we take the Homewood Suites, then we can try the same trick I did last time, counting on my Gold status to upgrade us to a 2BR suite. If we’re there on a Thursday, that could also mean free dinner there as well.
The Best Western is intriguing since I won’t have a lot of need to visit those in the future. It is only continental breakfast though, as opposed to the Hilton brands. The Sheraton is nice, but probably not a great spending of 7000 SPG points (since those points are pretty valuable).
I also want to try taking advantage of the Hilton MiniBreaks, to see if we can get that 2nd room for 50% off – so I think that will be my first try. We may actually look at (gasp!) paying for a hotel if there’s a good deal to take advantage of the IHG promotions
Let’s try a quick example of the other way to use Award Mapper – having a certain number of points in mind. So let’s say I want to find where are the Category 1 Starwood hotels, which only cost 2,000 points on weekends. So set the filter to just Starwood, number of points to 2000 and scroll out. It usually takes awhile to get the results, but here we are
Nothing near me unfortunately, but if we were planning a longer vacation, this could give us an idea of where we might want to go.
But no matter how you use it, Award Mapper definitely makes your award hotel stays a lot easier to find!