This review is the result of a last minute road trip. In the past, I used Hotels.com to book accommodations whenever I traveled. I joined their Welcome Rewards program in June of 2010, and it took me two years to accumulate 10 nights, giving me 1 free night stay. The only problem was that I didn’t realize I had earned the free credit until almost a year later when it was about to expire.
Hotels.com sent me a reminder saying:
“Your Welcome Rewards credits and free nights are about to expire due to inactivity. Keeping them is easy, just complete a qualifying 1-night (or more!) stay or redeem a Welcome Rewards night & complete your stay by 04/28/2013.”
It turns out their calculation is based on the average of the cost of each night you spent to earn the reward, so I had a free night valued up to $291. I couldn’t figure out where to use this. At first, I thought maybe I’d book a nice hotel in town just for fun, but in the end, I booked the DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Bloomington.
The total cost was $194 for one king whirlpool suite (the most expensive room I could find). So even though I didn’t get the maximum value of my credit, I figured it was better than letting it expire. Taxes and services fees were $19.09 so that was the grand total charge on my credit card.
I wrote favorably about the suites in the Bloomington airport Holiday Inn, and the DoubleTree was a nice suite as well. Compared to the suites in the New Orleans Marriott and the Orlando Airport Hyatt (which were really just two connecting rooms), it seems like if you want a really nice hotel suite, you have to go to Bloomington, Illinois.
One other random thing. My car got a flat tire, and Brad Barker Honda charged me a total of $3.77 for the repair!
Going back to Hotels.com, while I still use the site a lot to research hotels, I often book on the hotel website now. The reason is that many times I’ve found that when I arrive at the hotel, if I booked directly through them, they can offer me an upgrade. Whenever I’ve asked about the option after booking through Hotels.com, the front desk will usually say that I booked through a third party so they can’t even see my reservation (other than the basic room data) and the total charge is fixed and can’t be upgraded.
I like the idea of a loyalty program for an online hotel site, since this combines all the different brands. Instead of trying to accumulate points with Hyatt Gold and Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest, you can benefit from free nights no matter where you stay. I don’t usually choose a specific hotel brand, I just pick the actual hotel based on location, availability, price, and other needs.
But I understand the hotels want you to book direct because they keep the most money then, so they offer unstated benefits like potential upgrades or other perks. In general, I recommend researching hotels online using any means available, then decide for yourself how you want to book. Either way, it’s always nice to get a free stay!