Here’s how I plan to use my 2 Hilton free-night certificates this year
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The coronavirus pandemic caused travel companies across the industry to extend member benefits and elite-status perks and to reduce elite-qualification thresholds this year, since most people spent have been grounded since March of 2020.
In the hotel space, one particularly noteworthy perk that’s rolled over to this year is free-night certificates that come with certain credit cards. I hold the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which typically comes with an annual free weekend night certificate.
Because of the pandemic, I was unable to use my certificate last year. But, Hilton and American Express extended the validity of these certificates. Any certificate issued prior to May 1, 2020, is now valid through Aug. 31, 2021; any certificate issued between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, is valid for 24 months from the date of issuance; and all newly issued Free Weekend Night Reward certificates will be valid through Dec. 31, 2022.
And, Hilton and Amex are now allowing you to use them on any night of the week you wish, instead of just weekend nights. Since my card anniversary is coming up at the end of February, I’ll have two free-night certificates to use at almost any Hilton property around the world (there are a handful of all-inclusive or distinctive properties excluded) on any night of the week on which there’s “saver” award availability until Aug. 31 of this year.
So, where do I plan to use my two certificates this year?
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I’ve built great Hilton stays around these certificates in the past, at properties including the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort in Maui, Hawaii and the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills in California.
Of course, my mind immediately jumped to planning a luxurious escape at the Conrad Maldives or Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi. If I were looking to extract the most in value from my certificates, I’d pick either one of these resorts — they’re luxurious properties (with room rates often above $1,000 per night) in one of the world’s most exclusive destinations. But, they’re far from the U.S., and I don’t have enough points saved up to extend my trip enough to make it worth the journey.
But, this year, my goal is simply to get away from it all — and I’m not picky about the destination. Having been based in the Miami area for the last several weeks, I have my eyes set on the Caribbean, thanks to the plentiful flights from Miami International Airport (MIA) and close proximity to the U.S. in the event that something goes wrong.
Luckily, Hilton has a resort in the region that I think will be a great use of my certificates during a long-weekend trip: Zemi Beach House, LXR Resorts and Hotels, in Anguilla.
I’ve never been to Anguilla, but it looks like just the place to kick back and relax for a few days — there are quiet, beautiful beaches, high-end resorts and not too many people around (the island has a full-time population of under 20,000, according to a July 2020 estimate). Visitors to the island must submit a negative COVID-19 test three to five days before arrival and will be tested again upon arrival, and they must complete a pre-arrival application.
Above all, I’ve never experienced the LXR brand. It’s a new one in Hilton’s family, with just a few properties around the world as of now. But it’s expanding, having just opened its first U.S. hotel in Santa Monica, California.
Zemi Beach House was acquired by Hilton and brought into the Honors program in 2019, and I’ve been curious about it since. It has just 76 rooms and suites (some of them beachfront accommodations) — a nice change of pace from resorts in other Caribbean hotspots that have hundreds, if not thousands, of rooms. And, rooms often go for around $900 a night, which means I’d still get great value from my certificates.
It looks like a perfect place to unwind, sip a few tropical cocktails and enjoy some quality downtime. Anguilla is a bit of a hike to get to, as its airport doesn’t have many direct connections to the U.S., but it’s just a short ferry ride away from St. Martin, which itself is connected to Miami with daily nonstop flights.
I don’t want to make the trek for just two nights though, so I’ll find three nights in a row available at the saver award rate (at this property, it’s 95,000 Honors points) and then call Hilton to use my certificates for the first two. Then, I’ll use my stash of Honors points (I have just over 100,000 right now) to reserve the third night at the 95,000-point level.
Once I make the reservation, it gets even better. The Hilton Aspire card also comes with top-tier Diamond elite status in the Hilton Honors program, so once I check in I’ll be entitled to a number of benefits, such as space-available room upgrades, complimentary breakfast for myself and a travel companion (which saves a ton of money when staying at high-end resorts) and a welcome amenity that could include free drinks or snacks, to which I’ll never say no.
Despite not being able to travel much at all last year, I am very pleased that I’ll have two Hilton free-night certificates to use this year. Zemi Beach House looks simultaneously not-too-far, yet away from it all; at once luxurious but not over-the-top; and quiet, but not at all boring.
If I can find three nights in a row with low-level availability (I’m determined to do so), I’ll combine my certificates with the points already in my account and have the perfect long weekend on the books to look forward to.
Featured photo courtesy of Zemi Beach House
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