Shopping for Hotels...

I don't post a lot about hotels. When I'm traveling I'm usually out and about and I don't really want to spend much time in my room.


Now, I have friends who absolutely LOVE AirBnB, but unless I need a unique attribute of one of their properties (e.g., size, hot tub, location, or "local charm"), I HATE being an AirBnB tenant. Here's why:
  • Key pickup: I want to get off my plane – whenever it chooses to land – saunter into the city at my own pace, and be checked into my room in 5 minutes or less when I arrive. There's nothing worse than sitting on the sidewalk in pouring rain or blazing sun waiting 40 minutes for the host to show up. Or schlepping your bags in said weather an extra 9 blocks to get to a key concierge. Or (this has happened to me TWICE), the host cancels while I'm on the plane there. Or worse, cancels on you after a 6 hour drive because they don't like your race. And AirBnB expects you accept an alternate accommodation that's 20 miles away and nowhere near a subway stop. NO. 
  • Host Expectations: "no noise after 8pm", "no visitors", "please feed my cat", "oh and water my plants", and dontcha love the places where they leave you laundry instructions and cleaning supplies even when they've charged you a $50 cleaning fee? I was a host for nearly a year (my tips are here) so I have zero tolerance for selfish hosts who haven't a single hospitality bone in their bodies. 
  • Apartment mysteries: The directions to the apartment are wrong, the neighbors all think you're trying to break in, once you're inside you have no idea how anything works: "How the hell do I turn the lights on?... what's the Wi-Fi?... During what century was this mattress purchased?  I have to do WHAT to make the hot water come on? What's that horrible sound? How many remotes do I need to turn the TV on? Where is the host's apartment guide!?"
Though Bloomberg is reporting that AirBnB is rolling out a higher-end service where their staff actually visits and verifies that the accommodations are up to snuff. That might help alleviate some of these concerns, but we'll see…

For me, a Japanese business hotel like APA is kinda perfect: it has a Toto Washlet toilet in the room, a liquor vending machine and shirt presses in the hallway, a nice hot spring-style spa on the roof, and espresso and laundry machines on-site. I don't really want to pay the premium (or waste the miles) for a fancy hotel, I'd rather spend them on more air travel to new places, but alas there are no Japanese business hotels in the US... Though I do have to give a nod to the Kitano Hotel in New York for at least having a Washlet in every room!


The challenge:

So I'm heading to San Francisco in August and my husband's work is picking up the hotel tab for the weekdays but we have to pick up the cost of the weekend. Since we don't want the hassle of switching hotels, I'm pricing out our dates at the Intercontinental. (Due to the limited hotel options at each of the various places his work sends him, he can't really chase status with one brand)

This is my general workflow:

I start by looking at all their vendors are showing $260.


Then I check Amex Travel - also $260 but it comes with some perks (see pic). If I book through Amex, I'd earn 1040 Amex points (a $20 value) and zero Intercontinental points. There's almost no chance I'd use the $75 credit since most of my time in my old hometown will be spent out with friends and family. But this might be a good option if I could actually find a way to put that credit to use

Perks (click to enlarge)

Next up - check directly with the hotel website. This option saves me $34 and I'd get 4860 IHG points (also worth about $34).

Cheaper booking direct with hotel
I didn't see any option for an AARP rate, so I googled and found IHG's AARP portal. No, I'm not really "old enough" to be in the AARP, but there's no longer an age limit, and they have great benefits if you can get over your own aversion to feeling old. Unfortunately, the rates were actually higher for AARP. So much for that. (FYI it also appears you can just add the IATA 99634975 to Intercontinental's regular website to get the AARP rate)

IATA group code

Lastly, just for fun I looked at Rocketmiles. Rocketmiles lets you earn miles directly with airlines for your stay (your bookings through them aren't eligible for Hotel points). It's a great option if you're not chasing elite status with a particular hotel brand (and ergo will never have enough points for a decent redemption). But do beware – Rocketmiles prices in dollars are often not competitive and you'll pay more in dollars than the points were worth in the first place. In this case the price was competitive, but I'd only earn $30 worth of United miles (TPG values them at 1.5¢). If the math works out, it can be a good option. (My Rocketmiles referral link)



Seems like a tossup between Amex and the Intercontinental's own website... But in all honesty the smartest move financially would be for us to suck it up and be willing to move hotels, and book something much cheaper altogether. There's a cute little place down the street from our old house called The Willows that's only $160 a night. To put it another way we'd be "saving" 13,000 United miles worth of dollars by choosing this option.


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