Maximizing IHG Rewards Club for family travel

Mar 6, 2020

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The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has more than 5,000 properties sprawled across 100 countries. The IHG universe includes the luxury InterContinental Hotels and many other brands: Kimpton, Regent, Voco, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, Hualuxe, Avid Hotels, EVEN Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Resorts, Holiday Inn Express and Holiday Inn Club Vacations.

Whether it’s a luxury vacation or a comfortable stay near the grandparents, you can almost always find a family-friendly IHG property and you can reap good benefits by belonging to the IHG Rewards Club. 

Earn 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening with the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card.

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Here are some of the ways you can benefit from stays with IHG Rewards.  

Advantages of IHG Rewards Club for families

Kids stay and eat free at Holiday Inns

Children, up to age 11, enjoy a free meal at Holiday Inn restaurants worldwide (12 and under in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and Greater China), and they can stay for free in their parents’ room (up to two kids, ages 18 and younger in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean and South America). Although few properties in the U.S. charge extra for children, it happens all the time in Europe so this is a valuable perk.

Related: How to get free hotel breakfast

Stay at Holiday Inn Kidsuites

Many Holiday Inn properties offer Kidsuites, which can be as simple as a small partitioned area with a television and Xbox for the kids, or as elaborate as a separate, themed bedroom — sometimes with bunk beds.

Bunk beds in one of the Kidsuites at Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista. (Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn)
Bunk beds in one of the Kidsuites at Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista. (Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn)

Look for Holiday Inn Resorts with family activities

Of all the IHG brands, Holiday Inn Resorts seem to be the most family-friendly. Many include waterparks, activities such as cooking classes, arts and crafts, and kids clubs. Some especially popular resorts include:

  • Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  • Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites – Waterpark
  • Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay All-Inclusive
  • Holiday Inn Resort Aruba-Beach Resort & Casino
  • Holiday Inn Resort Cayman Islands
Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites (Photo courtesy of IHG)
Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites (Photo courtesy of IHG)

Kimpton offers family-friendly amenities

Kimpton greets kids with a welcome gift and offers rooms with bunk beds, a Kids Happy Hour or Hula-Hoops in the fitness center. Other amenities (some complimentary) include kayaks, bikes and pools.

Parents can request a child safety kit to “childproof” the room. (Here are some tips for babyproofing hotel rooms.) Hotel restaurants offer booster seats and high chairs and the hotel can also help you find a babysitter for a parent’s night out.

Bikes to borrow at Kimpton Ink48. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Bikes to borrow at Kimpton Ink48. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Complimentary breakfast at select brands

Unfortunately, status with IHG doesn’t come with as many perks as you’ll find with other programs (such as club lounge access, late checkout, welcome gifts or breakfast). But, many of IHG’s low-tier properties include complimentary breakfast daily to all guests included in the nightly rate. No status needed.

  • Holiday Inn Express: At Express Start Breakfast, families can enjoy fresh eggs, egg white omelets, bacon and sausage, yogurt, cinnamon rolls and make-your-own pancakes.
  • Staybridge Suites: Hot breakfast buffet with all your favorites, including fresh and healthy items.
  • Avid Hotels: This relatively new brand within the IHG chain offers on-the-go breakfast items: hard-boiled eggs and egg sandwiches, breakfast bars and yogurt, and many other items. Coffee is available to guests 24 hours a day.

You can purchase points cheaply

Although I never suggest speculatively purchasing points, the IHG Rewards Club program runs promotions throughout the year when you can purchase points with a whopping 100% bonus. When this promotion pops up, you are purchasing points at a low 0.5 cents per point. This means you can stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora for a fixed $350 per night (even less depending on how many nights you stay and if you are an IHG cardholder). (Beach bungalows at the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora price out at 70,000 points per night. If you buy miles at 5 cents each and redeem those points for a bungalow, you’re paying the equivalent of $350.)

Beach bungalow at the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

IHG also allows you to book Point + Cash reservations if you do not have enough points for a full award redemption. This allows you to purchase the remaining points at a rate of 0.6 to 0.8 cents per point. IHG sometimes even runs promotions on the cash portion. These promotions sometimes allow you to “buy” points for less than a half-cent per point.

Accelerate promotions

The IHG Rewards Club program usually has a promotion where you can earn bonus points on your stay. Generally referred to as the Accelerate promotion, members receive different offers and “tasks” to complete to maximize the number of points earned. Depending on your offer and your upcoming travel plans, these promotions can provide great value for families. The offer may be the chance to earn double points on every stay, or complete two weekend stays and receive a certain number of bonus points.

Hotels as low as 10,000 points per night, always

IHG Rewards Club offers a straightforward rewards program. There are 13 categories with hotels requiring anywhere from 10,000 to 70,000 points for a free night stay. The 40,000-point hotels are typically the “sweet spots” in the award chart since the reward night certificate that comes with the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is capped at hotels pricing 40,000 points or less.

Families have many opportunities to redeem points. Either redeem as you earn, or save up for that amazing resort that would have otherwise been unobtainable with cash.

Earning status is easy but not beneficial

Earning status is easy through the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card (automatic Platinum status), via a status match or simply by staying at IHG properties. However, benefits of status aren’t nearly as good as some of the other hotel chains (no guaranteed advance upgrades, club lounge access or complimentary breakfast). However, some status is better than no status at all.

Platinum Elite status, for example, will grant your family the following benefits:

  • Bonus points: On paid stays, you’ll receive a 50% bonus on all points earned. Or, if you are using points for a free night stay, any incidentals you charge to the room will also earn the bonus.
  • Room upgrades: Upon check-in, you should be given a complimentary room upgrade, although suites are excluded. Unfortunately, award stays are also excluded from this benefit. I wouldn’t walk into an IHG property and expect an upgrade, but as I mentioned before, your chances of getting upgraded are higher with Platinum status, so it is better than nothing.
  • Late checkout: Although Platinum members get late checkout, there is no rule about the extra time. It is up to the discretion of the hotel, so I suggest asking at check-in. Paying with that “Platinum card” also will not hurt.

Note: In previous years, we would have touted IHG’s PointBreaks promotions, which reduced the number of points per night required for a free night to just 5,000. The list of properties rotated quarterly. However, PointBreaks is not currently active.

Top kid-friendly IHG properties

Here are a few IHG hotels for your next family vacation.

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orlando at Orange Lake Resort

IHG also has a ton of Holiday Inn Club Vacations where you can use your points for an upgraded suite with a kitchen. The Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orlando At Orange Lake Resort falls into that category where you can book a 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom villa that sleeps eight (with a washer/dryer) — all from just 40,000 points a night. Staying here will allow you to enjoy a 1,450-acre resort and visit Mickey at nearby Walt Disney World. You’ll also have a fully equipped kitchen and a washer/dryer.

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orlando at Orange Lake Resort (Photo courtesy of the property)

Among the recreational facilities are seven pools, four waterslides and a lazy river, tennis, racquetball, basketball or golf, including mini-golf for the kids.

If you signed up for the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and earned 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, you’d have more than enough points for a three-night stay at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orlando at Orange Lake Resort.

Related: Guide to visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World

Holiday Inn Buena Park-Near Knott’s

If you prefer to visit Mickey on the other coast, you can stay at the Holiday Inn Buena Park-Near Knott’s. Although there are many IHG properties in Anaheim, if you are open to staying a few miles away, you can enjoy this property from 25,000 IHG points a night. (All of the other nearby properties are at least an additional 10k points a night.)

If you’re running numbers based on IHG’s current 125k welcome-point bonus, you’d be able to book six nights at this property. (Five nights paying with points and cardholders receive the fourth night free on all award stays.)

Although you will not be within walking distance of Disneyland while staying at this hotel, you are only six miles away and the property provides a complimentary shuttle, saving you money on parking. And if you have kids, Knott’s Berry Farm is right down the street. This property offers the largest outdoor heated pool in Buena Park, perfect if you decide to take a day to relax by the pool.

Related: How to plan a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm

Image courtesy of Disneyland
Image courtesy of Disneyland

Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman

At 25,000 points a night, the Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman is a total steal. You can get more than 1 cent per point in value many times of the year by redeeming at this tropical resort.

Panorama of Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman island (Getty Images)
Panorama of Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman island (Photo by Getty Images)

It’s not the fanciest option on Grand Cayman and awards aren’t available every night, but it will get you sun, sand and pool time in a double queen-bed room that sleeps four. Even better, ocean-view rooms show up as an option you can book on points. Grand Cayman is a Southwest Airlines destination with nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore-BW and Houston-Hobby, so you’ve got a Caribbean getaway on the cheap if you have a Companion Pass or Rapid Rewards points burning a hole in your pocket. If you make the trip, here are some of our favorite things for families to do in Grand Cayman.

Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay All-Inclusive, Jamaica

If you’re looking for a no-stress getaway, check out the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay. The all-inclusive 50,000-per-night points rate includes two adults and two kids under 12. (Extra people 13 and older are charged $80 per night, collected at the hotel.) With rates easily topping $350 per night, the resort is a solid value. Although “Holiday Inn” and “luxury vacation” may not be in the same sentence very often, the resort’s location on a private island gets great reviews from guests. Montego Bay is also a Southwest Airlines destination if that helps bring the trip closer to reality.

Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay. Photo Courtesy of Holiday Inn Hotels.
Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay (Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Hotels)

Holiday Inn Resort Aruba

The Holiday Inn Resort Aruba is one of my favorite IHG properties to visit with points. This hotel is right in the middle of Palm Beach where you’ll find many other high-end hotels, but the other properties require significantly more points — even though they are all on the exact same beach. At this Holiday Inn property, rooms cost just 40,000 IHG points for a one-night stay.

Hotel Indigo San Diego-Del Mar

The Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar is in a quaint beach community that would make for a relaxing family getaway. The hotel prides itself on being dog- and kid-friendly. The rooms feature two queen beds and some offer an ocean view. The hotel reviews mention friendly staff and a super-convenient location. Cost is from 30,000 IHG points per night (room rates in this location at peak season are about $300 per night).

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, Montreal Centre-Ville Ouest

Montreal is a terrific long-weekend destination and IHG points properties offer solid values throughout the city. The best option is the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Montreal Centre-ville Ouest as it costs an affordable 30,000 IHG points a night versus cash rates of $200 or more throughout most of the year.

Photo by Steven_Kriemadis/Getty Images
(Photo by Steven_Kriemadis / Getty Images)

Holiday Inn & Suites Clearwater Beach S-Harbourside

Florida beach destinations can be a perfect fit for families who want to get away without leaving the mainland. Flights to Florida from other US gateways are typically less expensive and more plentiful than flying to the Caribbean. This makes the Holiday Inn & Suites Clearwater Beach S-Harbourside the perfect destination to consider with IHG points.

At just 30,000 IHG points a night, you are at a hotel right on the water and a trolley ride away from Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach. Plus, this property is right next door to the brand-new Splash Harbour Water Park. Parking is complimentary and there are no resort fees.

Best Domestic Beach Destinations in Winter
Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by John Coletti / Getty Images)

Kimpton Hotel Palomar Washington, D.C.

You can redeem your IHG points at Kimpton properties, which brings more funky and upscale options to the table. Kimpton properties are primarily in major cities such as New York, Austin and Denver, although there are few outliers (such as the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa in Grand Cayman, Kimpton Shorebreak Resort in Huntington Beach, California, and the Kimpton Taconic in Manchester, Vermont).

If you are looking for a family-friendly city destination, Washington, D.C., there are almost a dozen Kimpton properties, such as the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Washington, D.C. This property costs 50,000 IHG points per night and puts you right in Dupont Circle, where you can take the Metro or walk to the zoo in Woodley Park, the National Mall and the many museums away from the mall. After a long day of exploring, there is an indoor pool waiting for your family.

How the IHG credit card enhances family travel

The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of those cards that has ongoing benefits year after year (versus ones that provide limited value after the first year). And, right now you can earn 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

With just an $89 annual fee, the yearly benefits are worth way more:

Reward night certificate every year

One of the best benefits of this card is that you’ll receive a reward-night certificate on every anniversary year — redeemable for properties that cost up to 40,000 points a night. If you can take advantage of this certificate every year, this benefit alone is valued at $200. If both you and your significant other hold this card, that can give you two complimentary nights a year (read: weekend getaway). You can think of this perk as paying for the annual fee and then all of the other benefits you receive are pure add-ons.

(Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Resort Aruba - Beach Resort & Casino)
Use your reward-night certificate at the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba. (Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Resort Aruba – Beach Resort & Casino)

Fourth night reward on award stays

My second favorite benefit of this card is that when booking award stays, you receive your fourth-night reward. This applies to every fourth night of a single reservation. So if you have an eight-night stay, you’ll receive the reward night twice. Although a few other hotel chains give you a free night when using points, it typically applies to your fifth night free.

Complimentary Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

If you or your family don’t have Global Entry, this card offers an up to $100 statement credit. All you have to do is pay the $100 Global Entry application fee and you’ll receive a $100 statement credit. And the best part is that the names do not need to match, so if you already have Global Entry, you can use it to pay for your child’s application. If your family is traveling internationally (including most of the Caribbean), zipping through customs by using the Global Entry kiosk is huge. There is nothing worse than standing in a long line after getting off a long flight with young kids. All children need to have Global Entry to go through the Global Entry line, regardless of age.

(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Global Entry is valid for five years. You can also use the statement credit on TSA PreCheck but with Global Entry, you automatically receive TSA PreCheck, so you might as well get Global Entry.

Platinum Elite status

IHG is probably one of the weaker hotel loyalty programs when it comes to status, but walking into a hotel with some status is better than no status at all. Many families will also parlay their IHG Platinum status to complete a status match or status challenge with another hotel chain. This includes earning Hilton Honors statusMarriott Bonvoy statusWyndham Rewards statusChoice Privileges status and Radisson Rewards status. And yes, having Platinum status simply from the credit card will qualify.

I also love that IHG points will never expire if you have status. Without it, points expire if there is no activity in the account for 12 months. Having status (even if it is just by being a cardholder) will ensure you never have to worry about losing your points.

Bottom line

Whether you are looking for a weekend or a week away for your family, there are many hotel options to choose from within the IHG program. There are also plenty of ways to maximize your reward opportunities within the IHG Rewards Club program by using the Point + Cash and PointBreaks redemptions as well as with the fourth-night-free and free-night certificates from the co-branded credit card.

One word of caution when searching for IHG properties: Many times, even when an IHG property offers rooms with one king bed or two double/queen beds, the two-bed option is not always available on points. Additionally, IHG is one of the few programs that implement capacity-control awards. This can be a huge disadvantage for families and means you’ll need to be flexible and diligent with your search. You’ll also want to book well ahead during peak travel times.

Related video:

Featured image courtesy of the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba – Beach Resort & Casino.

With additional reporting by Jennifer Yellin

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