Hotel Search Tools: a few of my favorite travel hacking things

Whiskers on kittens. Warm woolen mittens. Confess. You know the rest, right? If you don’t, you have no soul. If you do, you have no shame. But did you know about hotel search and other travel hacking tools unadvertised by TV and Film? Of course you don’t unless you’ve been in the frequent flyer miles and points Hobby. Let’s remedy that, shall we? Within, we’ll go round the travel search tool world and observe a few of my favorite ones. Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night; I mean ride. 🙂

AwardMapper

Award Mapper interface with Paris, France selected
Award Mapper interface with Paris, France selected

You have hotel points. You have one or more cities in mind to visit. AwardMapper is a fantastic exploratory hotel search tool to see where you can use those points. It’s been my go-to site when I’m dreaming up new free trips (aka Award Travel trips). Simple to use. Quick response-time. Here are some highlights:

1. Note the Map Legend on the left. By default, all Hotel Chains are enabled. The result can be one fine visual mess. To see hotels for specific chains only–for example, hotel chains you’ve got points for or expect to earn points with–leave only chains of interest checked. In this example, we’ve got Hyatt and InterContinental selected. Points Nerd Note: what’s shown as InterContinental is officially now known as IHG–the InterContinental Hotel Group. It has sub-brands from Holiday Inn to InterContinental. And its loyalty program is now known as IHG Rewards (not Priority Club as you may see in some of the listings).

2. Note the search box where we’ve entered an obvious travel favorite: Paris, France. Not Paris, Las Vegas (although there may be search results aplenty in Sin City). A large swath of the city appears initially. We’ve zoomed into an area of interest.

3. Note the hotel results sidebar to the far right. No, not that far right. Nor The Left. We’ve zoomed in on Paris’ so-called Right Bank. This sidebar lists points properties available for the selected chains. Each property’s name, Category, and number of points required per night is listed.

4. Note that we’ve hovered over the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome; a travel hacking “aspirational” property. Many points bloggers claim to have stayed here; or rather aim to stay here, because room availability can be tight. Anyway, the max number of points required per night are listed–these may be out of date. Hotels and airlines devalue their Loyalty Program Currencies over time just as countries do with their cash. Always check with the hotel’s web site for current info. But it gives you an idea. Click on the rectangular hotel box and it should bring you to the hotel’s official web site.

Hovering also enlarges the icon for that property on the map, adding a large star to it. You can hover rapidly down the hotel result list and see where in the city the property is. Perhaps you want to stay near the Louvre, etc. On the other hand, merely being in Paris just about anywhere in the chief arrondisements is a joy. They do have an excellent Metro system you know. Fantastique!

The verdict: I love this site for initial exploratory mile and points trips research and heartily recommend it. He said heartily, yuck yuck. Viva La France and onward!



Hotel Hustle – hotel search engine extraordinaire!

Hotel hustle is a newer (at least newer-to-me) points hotel search engine. While its aesthetics are wanting compared with AwardMapper, its capabilities are sweet. Really something special. For this exercise, we’ll choose the same part of Paris and the same hotel chains. The genius of this site is that it:

  • Allows you to plug-in real hotel check-in and check-out dates
  • Shows you actual costs per night in dollars, as well as costs in points
  • Provides a star ranking system advising whether it’s a better deal to redeem points or use cash for a given stay. Some of us do pay for rooms when it’s “cheaper” than using points; even if we’ve hoarded more points than Scrooge McDuck hoards gold.

Hotel Hustle has become my go-to site after I identify what cities and properties I’d like to stay in. Consider:

Hotel Hustle interface showing differences between it and Award Mapper
Hotel Hustle interface showing differences between it and Award Mapper

So, we’ve got the same Hotel Chains selected (note the correct verbiage of “IHG Rewards” vs. AwardMapper’s “InterContinental”). But we’ve got an actual check-in, check-out date. Spring Time in Paris anyone? Your search may be slow, but that’s because Hotel Hustle is grabbing real-world rates that apply to actual stay dates.

What’s more, you’ll see the hotel list on the right with the following:

  1. The star rating. More stars? Better value for booking with points. Less stars? Consider saving your points and book with cash. While it’s quantitative, there’s always the qualitative. Just a starting point–a friendly mathematical suggestion.
  2. The “cpp”–if I’m not mistaken, that’s Cost Per Point; a measure of hotel point redemption value. The higher the cpp, the better the deal on booking with points.
  3. The number of points required per night for the single night stay we’ve selected. Zut alors! 🙁



Hotel Hustle considers a points stay at the Crowne Plaza Paris Neuilly–with its cash per night cost of $493.91 and points cost of 30K IHG points–a 5 star value; better than the 3 star value it attributes to the Holiday Inn Paris Porte de Clichy, having a cash per night cost of $174.52, but a points cost of 25K! A Crowne Plaza is high up the IHG brand chain–only InterContinental is higher. And Holiday Inns are the low property on IHG’s brand totem poll. So it’s saying, if you want to use points, you may have a better, more luxurious experience staying at the former property rather than the latter. Again, a cool way to quantify things. You may know that I enjoy myself some luxury if it’s free or nearly so.

What we don’t see–as you’ll note in the following screenshot–is the beloved-by-bloggers Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. Park Hyatt is the Top Tier in Hyatt’s brand portfolio. So they’re often sought ought for point and free night certificate redemptions. When we scroll down a bit on the right hand side hotel results list, please note the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome has:

Hotel Hustle interface showing differences between it and Award Mapper
Hotel Hustle interface showing differences between it and Award Mapper
  1. No stars at all
  2. A Not Available notation (N/A)

Unsurprising given the property’s popularity with bloggers. It does, however, offer hope: Cash & Points Create Alert options. Occasionally, hotel room inventory will open up when either people cancel or conferences drop blocks of reserved rooms. Hat tip and shout out to my bud Amanda K for that blockage bit! So it could pay to set-up an alert here. I’d walk you through it, but:

  1. I’ve not done this before
  2. It’s probably easy and…
  3. Yo, I don’t believe the hype about this hotel

And there you have it. Not all who wander may be lost. But all who are lost may like to meander around these hotel search tools. I may not look like the Trivago dude–and we didn’t even feature “his” site. But I trust you’ll find looks don’t matter here. And that the material provided was more lucrative than the ads. Deal?

In a future blog post, we’ll discuss other notable travel hacking tools. Carpe Carp y’all–grab the fish? Eh, enjoy your day. 🙂

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