Living in Hotels
Since we did our quick radio interview on living location independent we have been asked by a lot of people the ‘how’ of what we are actually doing. As in ‘how can you live in a hotel all the time, isn’t it expensive?’. We have been explaining all of our tricks and tips so decided to share them here.
We can break down our basic accommodation over the last year into four categories: Hotels, Timeshare, Air BnB and Family/Friends. While in Canada our stays have been mostly hotels and while in the US a mixture of hotels and timeshare. We have been fortunate and happy to stay with friends a few times in Vancouver and family while in Winnipeg but we never overstay our welcome. Our only Air BnB experiences were a 3 night stay in Nanaimo (which we did not enjoy) and our long stay furnished rental apartment in Yaletown this summer (which we loved)! We also try to get, at minimum, a large room with a sofa area or a mini-suite so that we have space to sit that is not also where we sleep. That is a whole other blog about ear plugs and eye masks :).
The key to all of it has been planning and taking advantage non-peak times, longer stays and loyalty programs.
We knew that we needed to commit to one, maybe two, hotel loyalty programs to get the most advantages. The more points you accumulate the more points you can accumulate. For example:
When you are a new customer in a hotel loyalty program you get points based on the $ you spend. When you hit the first level (usually 10 or 15 nights in the same calendar year) you get the same points per $ but you get a bonus 10% or 15%. The next level (20 or 30 nights) give you a higher bonus percentage (20% or 30%). After committing to two hotel chains (Marriott and Holiday Inn) for more than a year we are now at the highest level of each (50+ nights) and get double the points on every stay. So what this really means is for about every 6 to 8 nights we get one free.
All hotel chains also have rewards periods, bonus programs, bonus hotels etc. so yes you have to be open to receiving the barrage of emails coming at you from these chains. But if you take advantage of the offers you get to the free room nights even faster.
It is also surprising how many brands actually fall under the main hotel chain making it easy to find a hotel just about anywhere that counts towards your rewards program. Marriott, which is also linked to Starwood which is also Westin encompasses 30 different hotel brands. Holiday Inn which is actually InterContinental also includes Kimpton and CrownPlaza and encompasses 12 hotel brands total. So when booking we always use the booking website of the ‘mothership’ brand to see what is available.
After some research and of course trial and error we have also found out that the non-peak times vary hotel by hotel and city by city. In Calgary for example, the rate at Marriott Downtown is significantly less on Friday and Saturday nights than during the week. The price for parking is also 1/2 on weekends. But in San Antonio for example, the rate on the weekend is much higher than during the week (unless there is a conference). So we have learned to do our traveling and staying at roadside hotels (Fairfield, Residence Inn, Holiday Inn Express etc) or in small communities when the downtown hotel rates are highest and taking advantage of the downtowns when the price is lower.
Note: In our case unlimited WIFI is key to all of this – so that all this hotel research can be done while on long drives (except in the mountains of course when there is no damn signal!)
Using Free Nights
We also are very careful how we use our free nights. We always pick the more expensive cities (like Nashville) or when we cannot avoid a peak time to use our free nights. This way you get the most value out of them. Last year we spent four free nights in San Diego over a long weekend. This year we have already booked four nights in downtown Nashville and three in Oceanside California using points.
So that is enough about hotel rewards. For those that have a timeshare another blog is to come.
We, Jeff and Tara Ciecko of CK Golf write two blogs, one is our 19th Hole Blog where we share personal experiences and the other an Industry Blog where we comment on general business and internet marketing best practices, sales strategies and give golf industry related opinions. We have owned CK Golf for 9 years and provide marketing, social media and business services to the golf and other industries. As of August 2016 our life and our business is ‘location independent’. Our 19th Hole Blog is about the places we visit and the things we do. If you have any questions or comments, or happen to be in the same location as us please reach out and contact us anytime.