A Little Bit of Everything Travel
Real-life road tripping, the Hotels.com credit card and bottomless cups of coffee
Real-Life Road Tripping…the Non-Instagrammable Version
But for real…a good time was had by all. All the truly Instagrammable can be found over @amycolon.
As I write today, I’m sitting in my Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel room in Clarksville, Indiana, that I booked on Hotels.com. I’m a sucker for a comfy hotel room with high thread count sheets and good coffee. This one doesn’t disappoint, and I would 100% stay here again. The family is out for the morning, and I’m drinking a third cup of coffee while trying to get some writing done. Today’s agenda? Catching up with you while taking some much-needed introvert time as our six-state, great American road trip nears its end.
As many of you know, I have not only been traveling in the US during the last few weeks, but I’ve simultaneously been planning to explore Central Europe in the very near future. Why? Big Story Living is taking our first curated journey to central Europe in March 2023. Woohoo! (Shout out to the amazing group of ladies who bravely jumped into this adventure with me!) Guiding a group like this has been my dream for a long time, but I hesitated until now, not sure anyone would want to join. Wow, did you all prove me wrong! I’ve been over the moon since the first trip actually filled with a waiting list in one short week! Watch this space. More journeys to come!
Due to all of this travel happening around me, my organizational brain has kicked into high gear. I’ve found myself challenged once again to research and discover new ways of making lodging around the US and world pleasantly experienced on a budget. Sometimes it’s easier said that done. That's why I decided my first experiment should be to press a little deeper into the Hotels.com game right before this summer getaway by applying for a Hotels.com credit card.
My Personal Experiment and Opinion of the Hotels.com Credit Card
I have written in the past about why I always choose to book my hotels around the world through Hotels.com. They aren’t magical. But in my experience, Hotels.com is reliable, AND if used as my go-to booking site, I gain the benefit of free hotel stays quite quickly and with very little effort by simply having a free account with them. To me, that’s worth a lot.
But when it comes to credit cards, my focus has always been on gathering airline miles, not hotel stays. I’ve never considered Marriott Bonvoy or any of those other hotel cards because I prefer to gain airline miles with my daily spending, instead. I also don’t like the idea of being limited to hotels in particular locations. When I travel internationally I want to stay in local hotels instead of US hotel chains. That’s just me. Hotels.com represents thousands of local and chain lodging options all over the world. Because of this, the Hotels.com credit card seemed to make sense to me for dipping my toes into the hotel credit card world.
My caveat to the experiment is this…the card has no annual fee. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the leap. For me, this was a no-brainer trial because I wasn’t losing a penny, and in the end I would be gaining 2+ free nights to use on my next adventure.
So…I have used this card for one month, and here are my thoughts so far.
Hotels.com Has a Decent Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus
For no annual fee and only $1000 in spending, I was gifted 2 nights of lodging for free. Each stay can cost up to $125, and if the hotel price is above $125, I just have to pay the difference. That’s a no-brainer bonus I’ll take any day.
None of the Other Credit Card Perks are Great
Travel Protection, cell phone protection, no foreign currency conversion fees…these perks are all pretty standard on most travel cards, so I’m personally not wooed by them. I do appreciate the zero annual fee, though.
Beyond the Bonus, the Hotels.com Loyalty Program Works Kind of Like Gathering Loyalty Points at Starbucks or Chick-fil-A
Hotels.com, apart from the credit card, works much like restaurant rewards programs. For every stay booked through Hotels.com, you get a point. Once you accumulate 10 points (or 10 stays) you receive a free night equal to the average cost of those 10 stays. But you get this simply by having a Hotels.com account and booking through them. No need to have a credit card. The pro to the credit card, beyond the bonus, is that every time you spend $500 on the Hotels.com card you also accumulate a point towards the 10 AND you get a point towards to 10 every time you book with this card. I suppose it adds up, but I’d absolutely rather gain 500 airline miles for my $500 than one or two points out of 10 towards a free hotel night.
Overall, I Say Grab the Bonus and Run!
In my opinion, this is not a card with extreme value beyond the sign-up bonus. I’m glad I applied for it. With no annual fee, I can keep it forever, thus increasing my credit score. I now have two free nights to use in Europe where I can stay somewhere pretty nice and not have to pay any extra. All good. But I probably won’t be using this card anymore.
So Far, I’d Still Rather Use Credit Cards That Accumulate Airline Miles vs. the Hotel Credit Cards
I’m primarily focused on traveling internationally. It’s so much easier to find cheaper lodging overseas, but airline tickets can be outrageous. That’s the bottom line of why I prefer my spending efforts to go towards frequent flyer miles, and the Hotels.com card has not done anything to convince me otherwise. If I were planning on more US travel in the near future I would most likely venture into Marriott Bonvoy world or keep playing around with the Hotels.com card. But Central Europe is on my mind today, so I’ll stick with my AA Citi card for now.
A Few More Thoughts on Budget Lodging
There is No Such Thing as Budget Lodging in America Unless Motel 6 is Your Cup of Tea…Every Place Worth Staying is EXPENSIVE
Would someone please prove me wrong? I don’t want this to be true. But in recent years I have traveled internationally WAY more than within the US and this trip has shocked me. I can’t find a deal to save my life.
I have to tell ya, hotels, Airbnb’s and even hostels are generally good internationally. Yes, there are terrible ones, but they can easily be avoided. You can usually count on an honest online review to provide a reputable stay, and rarely does it ever have to cost over $100USD. Honestly, I’m not sure I have ever spent $100 per night for a stay in Europe or Asia other than Edinburgh, and I have stayed in some phenomenal places. So America…your hotel game stinks. Spending $194, plus tax, to stay in a 2-star hotel in the middle of a field in Kansas for 15 hours is just a hard reality for this frugal-minded gal to swallow…rant over… :)
Hotels Aren’t Always the Way to Go
Airbnb, Hostels, Camping, Couchsurfing?…don’t knock ‘em til you’ve tried ‘em…ESPECIALLY if you’re traveling abroad. These can be cheap, cheap, cheap outside of the US, and typically a very pleasant stay.
After two weeks of America road-tripping, I feel more confident than ever sharing with you my belief that travel abroad is the cheaper way to go. Yes, you have to be wise about it. Yes, traveling with a family is always going to be more expensive no matter where you go, and a posh holiday is a posh holiday anywhere. But because of road travel and expensive hotels, the US just simply does not offer the opportunity to cut costs like so many other destinations throughout the world.
Travel with us and you’ll see what I mean.
Keep your eyes open for upcoming registration opportunities to explore Europe with Big Story Living. Experience two to three countries plus airfare for 8-10 days for under $1500USD.
What I’m Consuming this Week
@AnnaKloots on Instagram
Do you follow Anna Kloots on Instagram? I don’t know her, but I like her. She is a New York City girl now living her life in Paris. Anna has a Parisian boyfriend whom she just brought to NYC and Ohio for the first time this week, and her Instagram stories have been so cute as she has recorded him experiencing all the American “firsts.” My favorite has been the bottomless cup of coffee. Free Refills for ALL! Okay, so maybe America doesn’t get EVERYTHING wrong.
The Earful Tower
Oliver and Lina Gee’s Paris Countdown podcast series on the Earful Tower has been fantastic! Have you ever wondered why Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements and what can be found in each one? Oliver and Lina live in the 7th but have spent the last months being tourists for a day in each district and reporting on everything from restaurants to museums, must-sees and why-bothers. I think you’ll enjoy this podcast a lot if you have ever dreamed of traveling to Paris or long to return. I know I do!
Volunteer. Donate. Support. Help the people of Ukraine.
Somerset Grand Hanoi
Remembering my favorite hotel in Hanoi and longing to return
Sa House, Bac Ha, Vietnam
Just for fun, I Googled my good friend Sa’s house in Bac Ha, Vietnam. He and his wife, Thuy, own a homestay where our family has stayed many times. I never dreamed I would discover it on Hotels.com. But here it is! Now this is a truly LOCAL stay and possibly the best deal on the planet at $22 per night. Thuy’s food alone is worth the visit.
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