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Award travel enthusiasts often focus on redeeming for first-class flights and stays at five-star hotels, but sometimes the best value can be found further down the award chart. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen shares his favorite redemptions for lower-tier properties in the Hilton Honors program.
The “top” awards tend to be the most expensive, but that doesn’t mean they offer the best value. While premium flights and hotels are memorable, many travelers aren’t interested in these “aspirational” redemptions, and are instead focused on keeping cash in their pockets. Earlier this month, I kicked off a new series on these lower-category hotels with a look at SPG’s best Category 1-4 properties, and last week I added a post on Hyatt’s top Category 1-3 properties. Today, I’ll shift gears to examine the Hilton Honors program and its top Category 1-2 properties.
In compiling this list, I considered a number of factors to determine which lower-tier Hilton properties offer the “best” value:
- Typical revenue rates
- Uniqueness (amenities, location, etc.)
Additionally, you can extend the value of your award stays even further simply by holding the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card or Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, both of which offer automatic Gold status. This gives you bonus points, free breakfast and possible room upgrades, among other benefits (see my post on the value of Hilton Honors elite status for more information). Hilton Honors is also the latest program to offer all its members free Wi-Fi when booking through an official channel, which includes award stays.
Note that the values below include room rates plus all taxes and fees that are covered on an award reservation. I chose to focus on the lowest flexible rates (rather than prepaid, nonrefundable rates) for an “apples-to-apples” comparison, as award nights can also be cancelled without penalty. If you tend to book rooms with discounted advance purchase rates (or have access to other discounts such as AAA, AARP or government rates), the redemption value for each property may be slightly lower.
Of course, you likely have a different way of defining what makes a redemption valuable, so feel free to include your favorite low-tier Hilton properties in the comments below! These are my picks:
This property actually made my list of 10 awesome Hilton awards (with no restriction on category), but it’s worth mentioning again here. An absolute steal at just 10,000 points per night, the hotel is located in the heart of the Malaysian capital, just 10 minutes from the Petronas Towers, and the Ampang Park LRT metro station is a short covered walk away. Despite having 540 contemporary rooms and suites, the hotel never felt overwhelming during my stay last January. You can choose from one of five restaurants (including Makan Kitchen, where complimentary breakfast for Diamonds and Golds is served each morning), or relax in the outdoor saltwater pool. My wife and I had a terrific experience during our visit, and I am honestly surprised it’s hasn’t jumped up at least a category or two since.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring just 10,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at 507 MYR ($140.71) a night, giving you a value of 1.41 cents per point.
Egypt is home to several Category 1 properties, but one of the best value redemptions is the Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort. The hotel is located in 6th of October City, a suburb just outside of Cairo, and offers terrific views of the Pyramids of Giza, just 10 minutes from the resort. Standard rooms start at 388 square feet, and all include private balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows (many with direct views of the pyramids). On-site amenities include three golf courses (two 9-hole and one 18-hole), multiple dining options, a large pool area and a spa.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring just 5,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at $190 per night, giving you a value of at least 3.8 cents per point.
If your travels include Panama City, Panama, your Hilton Honors points will go really far at the Hampton Inn. Centrally located in the El Cangrejo area of the city, the hotel is just blocks from the metro and only 14 miles from Tocumen International Airport, giving you easy access to all that Panama City has to offer. The property includes all of the standard amenities of the Hampton brand (including complimentary breakfast), but the rooms feel decidedly “un-Hampton-like,” with painted walls and other decor that evoke a more boutique environment. You can also take advantage of the 24-hour fitness center and cool off in the rooftop swimming pool afterward.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring just 5,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at $86.90 per night, giving you a value of 1.74 cents per point.
The Kuala Lumpur location isn’t the only terrific DoubleTree in Asia; this relatively new Beijing property can also offer terrific value for your points. The hotel is located near the capital city’s business district at the west second ring road, with easy access to the Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan offices as well as the Xidan shopping area. Beijing’s main attractions, including the Forbidden City and Beihai Park, are just a short taxi ride away. The 540 rooms and suites include modern furnishings and contemporary decor along with mini-fridges, separate seating areas and the chain’s signature Sweet Dreams bed. Other on-site amenities include two restaurants, a spa and a rooftop garden for hosting parties or receptions.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 10,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at ¥908.50 ($146.46), giving you a value of 1.46 cents per point.
If you’re looking to visit the Middle East but want to avoid the glitz of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, consider a stay at the Hilton Salalah Resort in Oman. Situated on the shores of the Indian Ocean in the city known as the perfume capital of Arabia, the property offers numerous modern amenities for guests, including six bars and restaurants, a beachfront pool complex (complete with a waterslide and kid’s play area), two tennis courts and a diving center. The 147 rooms and suites offer balconies with mountain or sea views and separate seating areas and start at a whopping 452 square feet.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring 5,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at 58.50 Omani Rial ($151.97) per night, giving you a value of 3.04 cents per point.
The Hampton Inn & Suites in the center of Mexico City may just shatter all of your expectations of the brand. Just 5 miles from Mexico City Airport and near Zócalo, the city’s main square, the hotel occupies a beautifully restored 18th-century building, complete with a six-story stained-glass atrium and rooftop terrace. The 108 recently renovated rooms and suites provide the standard comforts of the Hampton brand (including free breakfast) combined with unique touches such as local artwork and decor. You can even order room service from the two restaurants adjacent to the hotel.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 10,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at $105.91 per night, giving you a value of 1.06 cents per point.
When it comes to European vacation spots, the Transylvania area of Romania is certainly off the beaten path. However, the Hilton in the medieval town of Sibiu is a great spot at which to redeem your points. The property offers a perfect blend of the traditional and contemporary, with classical decor paired with modern amenities such as three on-site restaurants, numerous recreational facilities and a spa, where all guests can enjoy the facilities free of charge (treatments are extra). All of the rooms and suites offer marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and balconies with views over the Dumbrava Forest. The city center and its historical sites are just a 10-minute car ride away.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 10,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at €97.90 ($109.12) per night, giving you a value of 1.09 cents per point.
This final property is one of just a handful of Hilton Garden Inn locations that fall in Category 1 or 2. Situated right in Hanoi’s Central Business District, the hotel is centrally located for both business and leisure pursuits. Each guest room features the brand’s standard amenities, including a mini-refrigerator, a work area with ergonomic chair and a coffee/tea maker. The on-site restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, while The Garden Bar offers cocktails and small bites in a laid-back lounge setting. Hanoi’s famous Old Quarter and many other tourist attractions are just a short stroll away.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 10,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at $88.63 per night, giving you a value of 0.89 cents per point.
The Hilton Honors program took a big hit with 2013’s massive devaluation, but there are still some deals to be had. However, you’ll notice that no North American properties made my list. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Category 1 and 2 properties in the US are relatively run-of-the-mill Hampton Inns, and while they may fit a specific need, they don’t necessarily fall into the “awesome” category of award redemptions. Still, it’s very easy to accrue Hilton points through credit cards, promotions and targeted bonuses, and the current offer on the Citi Hilton Reserve makes these award redemptions even easier to earn.
What are your favorite lower-tier Hilton properties for award redemptions? It's a stellar Cash Back card on its own, but when paired with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom's 5x Category Bonuses let you rack up Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, transferrable to partners or redeemable via the portal.
It's a stellar Cash Back card on its own, but when paired with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom's 5x Category Bonuses let you rack up Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, transferrable to partners or redeemable via the portal.