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How to Travel Cheap as a Family and Score at Least One Free Hotel Stay Every Year

As a family, traveling can be quite expensive. However, there are ways to save money and even score a free hotel stay every year. In this article, we will discuss the steps you can take to do so.

Firstly, it’s important to note that this article will focus on the Hilton Honors Program. However, similar methods can be used with other loyalty programs.

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Have you ever dreamed of a luxurious hotel stay without breaking the bank? Forget about the same old money-saving tips that ask you to give up your daily caffeine fix. I’ve got something better for you! Let me share how I recently spent five unforgettable days at a downtown Montreal hotel without paying a single dime. That’s right – I’m talking about a 100% free stay that cost me only 140,000 points. Want to learn how you can do it too? Keep reading!

Did you know that with Hilton Honors points, you can score a free night’s stay after booking five nights with all points? That’s right, you can stay for five nights and only pay for four! And the best part is that this trick works with plenty of other loyalty programs as well. For instance, I’m a loyal Hilton customer, so I’ll use their program as an example. The hotel I chose cost 35,000 points per night, but thanks to the 5th night free promotion, I was able to enjoy a luxurious five-day stay in downtown Montreal for 140,000 points.

How to Get 140,000 Points

Earning points through credit card sign-up bonuses is a great way to quickly accumulate points for hotel stays. Let’s dive deeper into this concept with some detailed examples.

For instance, let’s say you’re interested in getting a Hilton Honors credit card to earn points for your next hotel stay. Hilton Honors has several different credit card options, each with its own sign-up bonus and benefits. One example is the Hilton Honors American Express Card, which has a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account.

Assuming you meet the spending requirement and receive the bonus points, you can use those 80,000 points for two free nights at a Hilton hotel that requires 40,000 points per night. But if you wait to apply for the card during a special promotion, you could earn even more points. For instance, during some promotions, Hilton Honors has offered a sign-up bonus of 150,000 points for their Hilton Honors Aspire Card after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. With that many points, you could stay at a luxurious Hilton hotel for an entire week, or even longer depending on the hotel’s point requirements.

Of course, it’s important to carefully read the terms and conditions of any sign-up bonus offer. Some credit card companies require you to spend a certain amount of money within a certain timeframe to receive the bonus points. Make sure you understand these requirements before you sign up for a credit card to avoid any disappointment or confusion later on.

Overall, earning points through credit card sign-up bonuses can be an excellent way to accumulate the points necessary for a free hotel stay. Just make sure to choose the right credit card, apply at the right time, and understand the terms and conditions of the sign-up bonus offer.

Choosing the Right Card

The Hilton Honors AmEx is recommended because there’s no annual fee. However, the right card depends on your spending and credit levels. Calculate the break-even point on the Hilton Honors Ascend ($95 annual fee) or Hilton Honors Aspire ($450 annual fee) to help you decide where your Hilton Honors point value is best.

For instance, if you get the American Express Hilton Honors card, you can earn a $100 statement credit after your first purchase within your first three months during some promotions. Plus, you can earn 100,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $1000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of Card Membership.

Hilton Credit Cards & Rewards Structure

Here’s a chart to help you figure it out, remember these terms may change depending on when you apply, always pay close attention to the terms of the offers available and how they might work for your unique situation.

American Express Hilton HonorsHH AmEx AscendHH AmEx AspireHH AmEx Business
No Annual Fee$95 AF$450 AF$95
Spend $1000 in first 3 months, get 80,000 bonus points.Spend $2000 in first 3 months, get 130,000 bonus points.Spend $4000 in first 3 months, get 150,000 bonus points.   *Plus annual free weekend night rewardSpend $3000 in first 3 months, get 130,000 bonus points.
Hilton Hotel stays earns 7X per $1Hilton Hotel stays earns 12X per $1Hilton Hotel stays earns 14X per $1Hilton Hotel stays earns 12X per $1
Purchases at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations earn   5X per $1Purchases at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations earn   6X per $1Purchases at U.S. restaurants earn   7X per $1 *also for flights booked through AmEx Travel, and car rentals booked directPurchases at U.S. restaurants and gas stations earn   6X per $1 *also for flights booked through AmEx Travel, and car rentals booked direct, wireless phone service, and business shipping
Complimentary HH Status – Silver   *Upgraded to Gold when you spend $20,000 in a calendar yearComplimentary HH Status – Gold   *Upgraded to Diamond when you spend $40,000 in a calendar yearComplimentary HH Status – DiamondComplimentary HH Status – Gold   *Upgraded to Diamond when you spend $40,000 in a calendar year

(as found on American Express Hilton card comparisons)

Earning Points

You can earn points by paying bills that can be paid by credit card without a fee, such as utilities, cell phone bills, and others. You can also earn points by spending on groceries and gas.

For instance, if you get the no annual fee card and spend $335 per month for the first three months, you will have 75,000 points that didn’t cost you anything extra to get. Continue for another nine months, and by the end of the year, you should have an additional 15,075 points (335 for groceries and gas X 5 points for every $1 for nine months).

Importantly, pay off that amount each month because it’s the same money you would’ve already been using at the grocery store and on gas anyway. This way, you make your money work harder in your favor.

Easy ways to rack up more points:

Hilton Honors has made it easy to earn points that can be used to redeem a stay at one of their many hotels. From their iconic flagship brand Hilton to their luxury brand Waldorf Astoria, there are over 15 different hotel brands that fall under the Hilton portfolio. And with the Hilton Honors Dining program, you can earn bonus points at select restaurants, ranging from 2x to 8x points per $1 spent, depending on your membership level.

But the earning potential doesn’t stop there! You can also refer your friends and family to join Hilton Honors, and both of you can earn points. For each successful referral, you’ll get 20,000 points, and your friend will get a whopping 100,000 points to start off their Hilton Honors journey. And if you’re planning on getting an American Express Card, make sure to use a referral link from your friend, because if you’re approved, you’ll both get rewarded!

But wait, there’s more! Hilton Honors also rewards you for shopping at certain places. You’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and 3 points per $1 spent on regular purchases. These points can add up quickly and can be used towards a future hotel stay.

So, whether you’re a frequent traveler or just looking to earn some extra points for a weekend getaway, Hilton Honors has multiple ways to earn points that can help you achieve your travel goals. Start earning today and soon enough, you’ll be checking into your next Hilton hotel for free!

Shop to earn mall programs are a fantastic way to earn points or cash back for purchases you’re already planning to make. These programs allow you to earn points for shopping at your favorite stores, either online or in-person. The specific rewards offered vary depending on the program and the stores you shop at, but they can include everything from cash back to gift cards to airline miles.

For example, the Hilton Honors program offers a Shop to Earn Mall that allows members to earn bonus points for shopping at over 1,000 popular retailers, including Macy’s, Target, and Best Buy. Simply log in to your Hilton Honors account, click through to the retailer you want to shop at, and start shopping as you normally would. You’ll earn bonus points on every dollar you spend, which can add up quickly and help you earn free hotel stays.

Planning a wedding reception, conference, or meeting at a hotel? Earn 1 point per $1 for that too.

Hilton Diamond Member Match Chart

More Perks per Level

Bonus – Once you hit a certain level, you may be able to get your status matched at other hotels, car rental companies, or even cruise lines.  I was able to get a status match at Best Western, Wyndham, and MSC.  To see more possibilities for status matching, check out the Status Matcher.

The Proof is in the Pudding (or the Stays)

In the last 3-4 years, we’ve earned free stays at the following hotels:

Clearwater Beach, Courtyard Dallas, Doubletree Dallas, Embassy Suites Walnut Creek, Sand Key Sheraton, Doubletree Montreal, Ritz Carlton New Orleans, Waldorf Orlando (twice), Waldorf New Orleans, Courtyard Tampa Downtown, Doubletree Key West, Hilton Wolburn MA, Embassy Suites Napa Valley, Townplace Suites San Mateo, Embassy Suites Chicago, Embassy Suites O’hare (Chicago), Embassy Suites Miami Airport, Versailles Waldorf Astoria, Embassy Suites Jacksonville Baymeadows, Waterline Marina Bay Resort, Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Grand Bohemian Orlando, & Doubletree Asheville.

Have you ever had loyalty program points that you let slip through your fingers, only to realize that they expired right before your next trip? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Well, we used to be in the same boat until we realized the value of our loyalty points.

As travel enthusiasts, my partner and I have accrued points across various loyalty programs over the years. But we always assumed that we didn’t travel enough to ever use them, so we let them accumulate without much thought. It wasn’t until we started using our points for hotel stays that we realized how valuable they can be.

Now, we are loyal to certain hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott, but we understand that we may not get to use all of our points before they expire. That’s where transfer options come in handy. Many loyalty programs allow you to transfer your points to other programs, which can extend the life of your points and provide more options for redemption.

So don’t let your loyalty points go to waste. With a little research and planning, you can make the most of them and enjoy some fantastic travel experiences without breaking the bank.

Use them for free magazine subscriptions or even donate them to charity, just don’t let them expire. Track, exchange, and redeem them through apps like Loyalty Wallet or Award Wallet.

Remember that peak time still matters when you’re booking, you use less points during off peak, so your points go further. Use the availability calendar on Hilton’s site to see when the best time to use your points is.  Cheap travel means you always must be flexible.

Now, you know how to grab a free vacay once a year or at least a free weekend stay. Don’t be discouraged though if you have some credit challenges.  It’s never too late to start improving your credit and working your way to a free night.  Here’s some helpful tips that can get you on your way.

  1. Check your credit, know what you have on it and what you need to improve. Try Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Annual Credit Report for free.
  2. Pay bills on time, prepare a budget and stick to it. It’s just like a diet, plan a splurge every now and then so you don’t let yourself down in the end.
  3. We’re here to talk about travel so we’re not going too talk much about credit but there are some great resources out there that can help you improve your credit. Get a healthy obsession for fixing it and you will.

Credit Boards Forums

How to Improve Your Score

How to Raise Your Credit Score 100 Points

Traveling as a family can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be. By following these steps, you can save money and even score a free hotel stay every year. Just remember to choose the right credit card, understand the terms, and pay off your bills each month.

I’d love to hear about your success in getting some free nights so please come back and share.

You can also use points for experiences, concerts, foodie events, and more. 

Happy Wandering – with a free hotel stay!

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