If you have your heart set on visiting a city, but it just seems too expensive for you, there may still be hope. Purchasing hotel points, while not always a good idea, is a sort of semi-hidden trick that if used properly, can save you crazy amounts of money. New York City is a prime location to test out this theory. This is the story of how I was able to visit during a very expensive time for a fraction of what most people would pay.
The Back Story:
October is one of my favorite times of year to visit New York City. The summer heat is gone, and it can be much more pleasant to explore the city. If us Yankee fans are lucky the Yankees will still be playing into October, and Halloween weekend is always a fun time to people watch around Times Square.
I was thinking of heading up from Tampa, hoping the Yankees would get past the Astros and there would be a few World Series games at Yankee Stadium the last week of the month. Unfortunately they lost the American League Championship Series and their season was over, but I decided to still see if I could put together a long weekend in NY on short notice with miles and points.
My preferred hotel chain these days is Hilton, because of Diamond status and decent points promos, but in New York City the cash rates can very often be quite high, and there are, in my opinion, no good points options. When cash rates are high in Manhattan, as they were for the days I was looking at, I’ve found that the best option can be Choice Priveleges points.
Because Choice is lacking in what would be considered aspirational properties, they don’t get much coverage in the miles and points blogosphere, but I’ve found amazing value with them in the last few years, especially in New York.
I tend to focus on 3 of the Choice properties that I find to be quite nice. The Paul Hotel – NYC Chelsea on 29th St, and either of the two Cambria Hotels, the one in Chelsea on 28th St, or the one near Times Square on 46th St. I’ve stayed at all three and have had very good experiences each time. The two hotels in Chelsea are just a block away from each other and are in a much quieter area of the city than the Cambria Times Square, if you’re looking to avoid the chaos.
Each of these three hotels is 30,000 Choice points per night, and usually has good availability.
Choice points are fairly easy to come by even if you don’t stay in Choice Hotels much. Points are always for sale at a rate of $11 per 1000 points (not a good deal), but they occasionally have sales where you can get them for around $7.50 per 1000 points.
The real deal has happened in the spring each of the last several years when Choice points have been available for around $5.00 per 1000 points during the U.S. Travel Association’s Daily Getaways promotion.
On the dates I was looking at in Midtown Manhattan the cash rate for the cheapest Hilton property was over $300 per night. With taxes and the ridiculous Destination Fees at many of them, the total cost per night would be approaching $400. That is well above the point where I’m a buyer, and with most of the Hiltons at 70,000 points plus for an award night, using Hilton Honors points wasn’t an option either.
The 3 Choice properties I had my eye on were all around $290-300 per night as well, but one of them, the Cambria Suites Chelsea on 28th St was available on points for all of the 5 nights I was looking at. I have a pretty big stash of Choice points from buying during the Daily Getaways sale the last couple years which I had bought for around a half cent each, which meant I was essentially paying $150 all in for each night, since there are no additional taxes or fees when you are redeeming points. Below are screen shots for 4 nights next weekend with prices actually a little lower than they were when I went last week.
Buying points during the current sale could get you a night for around $225, which can be a good deal in NY when cash rates are very high.
After I checked to make sure I could get from Tampa to NY on JetBlue for a reasonable number of TrueBlue points, I booked the Cambria Hotel and Suites Chelsea for 5 nights for a total of 150,000 points and $0 cash.
So, on Monday I had put together a flight and 5 nights in NYC starting 3 days later on Thursday, all with miles and points.
I would have never paid the going cash rates for this flight and the 5 hotel nights, but someone that did would have paid well over $2000. The flexibility that miles and points provides, especially when you are diversified across several different programs, can sometimes be hard to believe, and it allowed me to enjoy a short notice trip to NYC that most people would never even know was possible.
The Wrap Up:
It never ceases to amaze me at the sheer volume of tourists around Midtown Manhattan, and it makes me wonder how that many people could be paying the astronomical hotel rates in the city. When even a Hampton Inn or Hilton Garden Inn is $350 + tax per night, just a 2 night weekend stay would be over $800. And really how much time do you spend in the room?
If you’re turned off by the outrageous hotel rates, and you’re having a hard time finding value in New York City with the major hotel currencies, Choice Priveleges could be the answer. If you have Choice points, or can get them cheaply, check out some of their properties, and you might be surprised at what you find.
My stay at the Cambria Hotel and Suites Chelsea was wonderful. The staff was friendly, the room was clean and fresh, and big by NYC standards, and it’s in an area of Manhattan that is very centrally located to explore the rest of the city. In my opinion, a solid deal at 30,000 points per night.