This article has been a long time coming and with the end of the Q3 upon us, we thought it best to go ahead and get it out there. I have stayed at hotels almost 200 nights so far this year (out of 247 days total) and Exec has about the same. Our travel has taken us to all 50 states and has made more than a fair share of sample to grab from and judge. In this article, I am going to go through the hotel chains (big 3) and point out some major differences, but I will also provide you with the best brands within those behemoths that offer trustworthy, clean and affordable service.
The reason TOSR has chosen Hilton as our number 1 provider is simple. They have a vast offering of locations and hotel choices that are almost always under our $150 hotel limit, they have superior service upon arrival and their points system. We love their points system for a few reasons. We have found that it is the least expensive award travel when buying rooms for points. Most nights you can find a downtown hotel for 25,000-35,000 points, equal to roughly 10 nights of stay without any status. (Only 5 nights if Diamond status).
The Diamond status also only requires 75 nights a year which is a steal for all the perks you get. But the biggest reason we like the Hilton Honors Rewards – – seamless integration into Amazon.com! The conversion here is 500 points = $1 or each point is .2 cents. This has paid for most of my Christmas gifts, wedding presents, on-the-road deliveries and much much more.
Plus Hilton is constantly running all kinds of promos. Right now I am currently eligible for the following:
- 100% Diamond Bonus
- 12x points for American Express Aspire Hilton Card
- Double Points through September 8th
- 20,000 points every 10 nights
Curio by Hilton, a Collection of Unique Hotels
These hotels can be found sparingly throughout the US and have been acquired over the years by Hilton. Most of them start out as historical landmarks and were founded on principles of high wealth and class. I have found that these are typically inexpensive on Mondays and Wednesday evenings, as are most hotels, though these usually come with high valet charges. The food at all of these is spectacular and I always sleep best on their beautiful down bed covers.
I also will not judge for stealing the catalog that shows you all of these hotels in the US. It makes for a nice living room piece. Not saying I did or anything…
Of the several that I have been to, I can highly recommend the following.
DoubleTree’s are another brand that you can sometimes find in the several hundreds or sometimes find for $135 off of a highway. I am always a big fan of these and particularly like the LAX airport, Indianapolis I-75 and Denver Downtown locations. The delicious cookie at the front desk was not taken into account when making this review…
We chose HGI as our top 3 finisher for Hilton as these are just a little bit more upscale and a little bit high quality decor and food, than the Hampton Inn brand, which don’t get me wrong, is amazing. I like the HGI because it is still affordable around $145 a night, but offers a little bit more elegance.
Marriott was where I started my travels, living in a Residence Inn for 3 months at a time in several different cities. I wasn’t accumulating as many points as I am now, but this is the reason that I earned Platinum Elite so fast, and that has made all the difference. I am a big fan of Marriott, mostly because there is nothing more fun than going through their Rewards Shop and picking something out that I need. It is almost as universal as Amazon, though it does limit you to buying certain things. Sometimes you can find deals on there like this Apple iPad that I just got last week. The earnings for 150,000 points was only about 12 nights, but this iPad is worth $415 or 207,000 Hilton Honors points. You can’t always find deals, but if you stay on that page, they will show.
This is a similar brand to the Curio hotels, except a lot of these are newer and presently renovated. I love these hotels just as much though there are not as many as the Curio line, so I haven’t stayed in quite all of them in my area. Of the ones I have stayed at, I have found excellent restaurants and bars located inside, great room accommodations and magazine ready bathrooms.
I can highly recommend the following:
Courtyards have seem to become kind of hit or miss. I feel like they updated ALL of them in 2010 and haven’t touched most of them since then. I really like them and they are trustworthy, but occasionally I feel like I am at an old Holiday Inn or Motel 8. (Sorry IHG). You can usually find a great location for the Courtyards, as they have a TON of them in downtown spots. But they need to add standing showers, new decor and some nice waterfall lobbies for me to move them up.
I will say I am partial here because the last two Westin’s I have stayed in absolutely blew me away – those being Chicago Northwest and Downtown Los Angeles locations. But I do think that Westin has a great thing going for them with this Marriott merger and this will likely attract unreachable business that SPG wasn’t getting before. We shall see.
Hyatt isn’t new to this game whatsoever, but in the past they have targeted a high class, VIP type profile that they didn’t seem to quite reach with so few locations, a total of 558 in the US. In the last few years they have added and you can see here they are serious about competing with the aforementioned brands. I have only stayed at a handful of locations and those sometimes being vacation destinations so I don’t have a great grasp on the ~average~ Hyatt, but I do want to highlight them still.
I also do not have a Globalist status here so I can’t give you personal experiences with their rewards, however it would seem that they follow a much lower multiple for points, averaging about 500 points per stay and $1,000 being worth 120,000 points (500,000 and 420,000 for Hilton and Marriott, respectively). The status does only require 60 nights which beats Marriott and Hilton.
Grand Hyatt locations offer exquisite room orientations, usually enormous in size, and grandeur bathrooms. I have found them to be in excellent locations, though I have only stayed at a few of them:
I do believe that these hotels can rival both the Ritz Carlton and Waldorf Astoria locations, though they do not have the city by city reputation that those do.
The Hyatt Regency boasts around 150 locations in the United States, so you can believe that they are in most large cities. I think that Regency is where Hyatt will be able to take a large stake of corporate business from Courtyard and DoubleTree, as they are typically similar in price and have a higher baseline for service and attractiveness in their hotels. However, with only this many locations, and a lackluster reward program, I do not see that coming anytime soon.
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