Hotel Points Eclipsed Cash in Asheville, NC: Club Carlson to the Rescue!

Two prescient friends of ours booked hotels with cash a year before the total solar eclipse. Friends don’t let friends pay cash (for hotels or flights)–but we’re working on them with the hotel points thing. The prescience was, being astronomy nerds, they suspected prices would grow more outlandish as media hype intensified. Booking by phone many moons prior, a puzzled local hotel manager asked why they were making reservations so early. “The eclipse,” they responded. “Huh,” must have been the response. #RevenueManagementFail.

Fast forward to weeks before the eclipse. Nearly all hotels were either sold out or had stratospheric prices. This made them even more gleeful (personal prediction, not schadenfreude). For the one science nerd reading this, yes, I know. They weren’t in the Line of Totality; but they were 99% of the way there, with plans to view from the summit of Mt Mitchell.

Amanda and Kris had known about the total solar eclipse for years. And being the awesome dear friends they are, invited us to share in the event–with plenty of time to get Great Rates. Well. We Don’t Pay for hotels–except when we do (that subject is worthy of a full blog post). But we do stay on points. And while Mandy and I are science-literate and could appreciate a total solar eclipse, their pitch sadly fell on muted ears. However, we appreciated the gesture!

Fast forward to a few weeks before the Event. They asked if we’d like to hang out with them in Asheville the weekend before the eclipse. “Are they nuts?” I asked my wife. Of course we’d like to see them. They’re dear friends! Living in Orlando, FL while we live in the Raleigh, NC area. We don’t get a chance to see them nearly as often as they’d like. However, the eclipse was coming. And both the public and hotel managers knew it. Supply, I was to learn, had nearly outstripped demand.

Total eclipse of the heart (attack!)

So I searched. Crazy prices for crap hotels. No surprise there. Or good quality points hotels with availability; but having points currencies we reserve for trips to Europe, Asia, Hawaii, etc where the hotel points redemption value is highest; that is to say, almost anywhere but in our own home state. Still, we wanted to see our friends. Not at any cost, but a reasonable one.

Fortunately, the first pet-friendly hotel we ever stayed in, the Country Inn & Suites Asheville Westgate, had availability. It’s a nice property with a free, reliable shuttle to both downtown Asheville. As well as being a 5 minute free shuttle ride away from Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory-esque campus of New Belgium Brewery–hands down, best suds I’ve had so far in a town fast becoming the Napa Valley of Beer.

Back to the Attack… the rate for that one Saturday night was around $300! And it’s truly a terrific hotel in its Carlson Hotel tier. But I’d be damning myself if I’d spend $300 on a Revenue Room in semi-small town North Carolina. Personal hotel points pride. Not paying 3X or more of what the room would ordinarily cost in the absence of… lunacy! 🙂

Pointing to a solution… Hotel Points to the rescue!

“Well hun, we do have some Club Carlson points left.” The Carlson Hotel chain is an odd duck with not much to quack about, good or bad. They have some lackluster brands–Country Inn & Suites is clean, well-kept, and perfectly adequate. A property I’d pay for during domestic family and friends travel. But not a luxury property. The U.S. version of Radisson? Stayed at real some stinkers and one gorgeous one near Cape Canaveral.

I can’t speak to the whole chain. But when you’re looking at hotel points Redemption Value, the idea–for us anyway–is to earn points for low cost and redeem at expensive properties; or points hotels in areas where there typically aren’t any. Seems that in some Scandinavia countries, even in large cities, you don’t see points hotels like Hiltons, Hyatts, and Starwoods. Use Use a few hotel points mapping tools to see what I mean. Enter Raddison Blu. Not a typo. Raddison Blu is a Carlson luxury brand one typically sees in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and other parts of Europe where the hotel points brands we in the U.S. are accustomed to seem to fear to build. We’d been saving Club Carlson points Just In Case we visited one of those countries. But since we’d already used Club Carlson to stay at this same property before to tour local breweries, we figured we’d go for broke and use the remaining hotel points we had with this loyalty program. Club Carlson has a credit card that has historically offered as much as 85K Club Carlson points for meeting the Minimum Required Spend. It’s been years since we’ve had that card, so we’ll likely both be re-applying.

We paid the standard (for that property) 38K for the night, plus a small pet fee. No taxes. Roscoe the Dog acted like he owned the place. But he was a good boy. See for yourself:

Roscoe staying free at Country Inn & Suites Asheville Westgate, acting like he owns the place
Roscoe staying free at Country Inn & Suites Asheville Westgate, acting like he owns the place

All were happy. It was a tail-waggingly good time. More about that Asheville-as-the-Napa-Valley-of-Beer thing in another post.

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