Hint: Travel Hacking. This particular reward redemption was so good in fact, that I created an entire holiday around it.
I'm always on the look out for ways to spend points, after all there's no point (pun not intended) letting reward points build up just to wait for the inevitable devaluation to kick in.
As I was having a browse at redemption prices in different cities, I found this brand new hotel in midtown Manhattan for only 30k points per night:
HY36 Midtown Manhattan
I booked 5 nights for next August straight away, totaling 150k points. If you assume 1 IHG point is worth 0.5p that's around £750 which is a lot, but if you look at the price to book the same 5 nights with cash the price comes to around £1200! Unfortunately, if you try to book a reward night for this hotel now it's 50k points/night.
Wanting to keep this trip as cheap as possible, we began to look at flights. Norwegian Air fly into SWF, an airport 2 hours north of NYC for around £280 return from Dublin. However, it includes no bags, and you obviously have to include extra transport costs to/from the airport. In total flying with Norwegian worked out at about £340pp return, which isn't bad but I thought I could do better to keep the cost down, so I began looking at Avios redemptions.
Unfortunately as we were traveling during on-peak time the cost from Dublin to JFK return on Aer Lingus was 40k Avios + £160pp. Avios are worth about 0.75p per point so this cash + points redemption works out at roughly £460pp. Still, it was only £160 out of pocket per person so I was quite keen to use the Avios.
Then we had the idea of adding some extra stops onto our trip. After a lot of searching around for the best deals, we found that a one way flight from Dublin-Toronto plus a return flight from Washington DC-Dublin, was slightly cheaper at only 40k Avios + £150... Result! We booked it right away.
I later found that hotels in Toronto were extremely expensive, and the hotel reward redemptions weren't fantastic either. We decided to go with an Airbnb for 3 nights for £256 (this included a £25 referral discount - visit here if you want me to refer you for your discount. The Airbnb was in an amazing location (right by the main station), and included a rooftop pool, hot tub and we had the entire flat to ourselves.
For the hotel in Washington, after after a lot of research, I settled on the Kimpton Mason & Rook. I booked it using the American Express Travel website, saving over £80 on the next best available rate I could find. The total cost for this was £265 for 2 nights, which isn't cheap but it's a very nice hotel, and it isn't far from the White House. Airbnb's were about the same price, and were further away from the main action. It definitely pays to look at both Airbnb and hotels when looking at accommodation though, something I often forget to do.
This is the cost breakdown of the 10 day trip for two people:
|Type||Cash Cost||Points Cost|
|4* NYC Hotel||£0||150k IHG Reward Points|
|4* Washington DC Hotel||£265||0|
|Total||£821||**80k Avios, 150k IHG Rewards**|
Which means the total cost, per person for flights and accommodation for the ten day trip was: £410!!
This is the actual cost of the hotel and flights if I had paid with cash (as of writing):
|4* NYC Hotel||£1170|
|Toronto Airbnb||£256 (same as above)|
|4* Washington DC Hotel||£265 (same as above)|
Which is an incredible £2160 of savings!!
Now we probably wouldn't have paid ~£1200 for a hotel in NYC, I imagine we would have set a budget at around £500 (and probably only stayed for 3 or 4 nights, likely in something much less swanky and further from the action), but because we have the points we can experience staying right in the heart of the city for 5 nights - all for free!
How did I get all of these points you might be asking? That's what travel hacking is all about. I'll break it down in a future post, because this has gotten long enough but feel free to subscribe below for travel hacking tips and tricks.
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