Mattress Run Part I: Not a film, but has a luxury ending

In a quest to earn ever more free hotel nights I’ve educated myself about, and participated in, Mattress Runs. May it profit you to do likewise. A few years prior, the term meant nothing to me. Was it a tear in a bedding product? A slap-your-knees-funny down home community-contest? Being on the lam? Who knew? The folks at the forums  did. From there, I learned my Mattress Run (MR) trade craft. And from here I’m paying it forward. On your mark, set, let’s go!

What is a Mattress Run (MR)?

A hotel stay booked not because one has a legitimate lodging want–overnight in Napa anyone?–but to satisfy a need for points or free hotel nights through promotions. You may or may not actually sleep in the room you’ve bought. Word: for etymology nerds, the phrase likely derives from Mileage Run–the practice of constructing absurdly long Trips to Nowhere in order to fly enough miles to reach Elite Status with an airline. While Mileage Runs may have gone the way of the Dodo, Mattress Runs should very much be on your Do! Do! list.

Mattress Run Promotions

Mattress Run is a points hobbyist term. What we do to satisfy special hotel promotions. The promo themselves often have catchy names like “IHG Accelerate” (a real and lucrative quarterly promo) or  “Luxury Ho’s 2017 Q4 Satisfy Every Dream You’ve Ever Had!” (a phony, hyperbolic one constructed for comedic purpose). Promotions challenge you to perform various activities such as staying one night at Brand X by Date Y, paying for a night with a hotel-branded credit card, or booking through an app. While not an exhaustive list, it will suffice for now. We’re introducing the concept. Not trying to exhaust you.

Types of Mattress Run Treasures

Hotel promos may offer one or more of the following:

  1. Bonus points.
  2. Free nights.
  3. Both Points and free nights.

I like the IHG Accelerate promos that provide different point amounts for completing challenges off a personalized check-list. Then provide a bonus atop that–either points or free nights–for completing X out of Y challenges; typically a subset of the total challenges, but not always.

How to Run a Mattress and More Terms & Terminology
  1. Be a member of the hotel’s loyalty program. Sign-up. It’s typically free.
  2. Register for the promo using your account information! Can’t stress this enough.
  3. Evaluate the promo to see if the money and time you’re putting into it is worth the redemption value you take away.

Yes, I’m conflating promos and MRs here, but the two go hand-in-hand like Barbie and Ken, PB & J, and other notable pairings. Enough already. How is a Mattress Run operated, really? Quite simple if you make it. Suppose you have no legit need for lodging. Find the cheapest night available and book it however the promo wants you to book. Make it somewhere you can physically get to without much trouble. Next:

  1. Check-in physically at the hotel and get your key
  2. Visit your room. Tousle the sheets if you’d like to make it look slept in
  3. Leave the key on the bed and drive away. The room key, silly.


Finally, and this step is optional: the next day, phone or email the property (my preference) to say you checked out early. That’s certainly truthful, no? You just checked out within minutes and didn’t go to the desk. I like to call this a Phantom Checkout. Dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s so I don’t get charged for a second night.

Others attempt to find the cheapest property in their country or the world and attempt what’s known as a Phantom Check-in. Either getting a friend to check-in for you (good luck if they ID you) or checking-in on-line. Evidently in some cases, you don’t have to check-in at all, and may get credited for being a “no show.” I’d ignore that advice and physically check-in. To err on the bedside of caution vs. oh, you know, paying for a lousy room you didn’t want and getting no points either–insult to injury.

Stay tuned for part II of the Mattress Run series where we document the spoils (not soils) of Mattress Running. Success Stories with a real pay-off. Why you’d want to give a Mattress a Run for its money. You’ll run with the “money” (loyalty program currency) if you do things right. Oh, and one Horror Story.

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