Our recent tour of Texas was a smashing success. We enjoyed seeing all of the major cities and sampling the finest foods at half price (thanks, Groupon). In addition to the discounted foods, the short domestic flights were booked using British Airways Avios each way. And one of our immediate family members had a car nearby, which allowed us to drive between the cities at no charge. They even graciously agreed to pay for gas, since we booked everything and continue to advise them on travel rewards.
Using reward points, we stayed a total of 6 nights in hotel properties. When you book hotel rooms with points, typically you don’t pay taxes. So we paid nothing out of pocket.
Out of the hotel stays, our time was split evenly between Hyatt and Marriott properties. We chose this arrangement based on the amount of points required in each city. Some cities have far more attractive rates for properties than others, and you have to put in the research ahead of time to see which brands offer the best value in each city. You can use the free tool AwardMapper to find hotels, by chain, in the places you want to travel.
For our trip, Hyatt gets the nod over Marriott. The Hyatt properties we saw were very nice, updated and well kept. The Hyatt rooms were very spacious and nice. We had 2 large beds in the sleeping room, plus a large pullout sofa in the small sitting room that was relatively comfortable. The 42 inch TV was mounted on the wall, able to turn in all directions.
The free breakfast was excellent. Unlimited Starbucks coffee and these delicious little breakfast sandwiches made with real fried eggs, cheese, and ham. They also had amazing pastries, doughnuts, fresh fruit and yogurt, and the usual cereal and oatmeal with toppings.
The General Manager was a really nice guy. I chatted with him about vacation and his career. His friendliness alone made the Hyatt chain standout. And for this excellent experience, Hyatt charged me a whopping 5,000 points per night. What a deal!
Hyatt has their own rewards system, but there aren’t many credit card signup bonuses for Hyatt points. For this trip, I transferred Chase Ultimate reward points over on a 1:1 ratio.
We Enjoyed Marriott, Too
Marriott was mostly good, with a few cons. The hotels were clean, the staff usually friendly. They did offer breakfast, but it was quite limited compared with Hyatt. It was mostly prepackaged foods and liquid eggs.
We tried two different Townplace Suites, and one Fairfield Inn. The first Townplace outside of Houston was my least favorite. The room was small and the air conditioner was way too noisy. The next Townplace in Austin was nicer and we had a suite. There was a living room/kitchen, and two separate bedrooms with closing doors.
The Fairfield Inn was the clear winner. Very nice, newer hotel. The rooms was spacious and very well kept. The breakfast still managed to absolutely suck.
These rooms were either 7,500 points or 10,000 points per night, which is the norm for Marriott properties in big U.S. cities. They do have more expensive properties in most cities, but it’s usually in certain locations like downtown. We typically find the most value in the lower level Marriott properties.
I can’t complain about any of these properties, considering they were free.
Have you recently stayed at any hotel chains? Did you pay with points or cash?