4 situations where booking a one-night hotel stay is worth the effort

Aug 21, 2021

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One-night hotel stays are a hassle. Even ignoring the late arrivals and early departures that often accompany these stays, I lose a lot of time on short stays. After all, getting to the hotel, checking in, unpacking and then repacking takes time.

Even so, I often find myself booking one-night hotel stays. So, today I’ll explain four times when I book one-night hotel stays.

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In This Post

Staying near an airport

TWA hotel room
Airport hotels often have AvGeek-friendly views. (Photo by Brendan Dorsey/The Points Guy)

When I recently visited Walt Disney World on a budget, TPG director of travel content Summer Hull suggested I stay at an airport hotel on my last night to maximize my last day at Disney. I ended up taking a late-night flight instead, but a one-night stay near an airport can often save you money. After all, hotels near airports often require fewer points or cash to book than hotels in more popular areas.

Booking a hotel near an airport often makes a late-night arrival or early-morning departure easier too. For example, when I visited Monrovia, Liberia for Peace Jam in 2019, the conference coordinator highly recommended staying at an airport hotel before my early-morning departure to avoid heavy, unpredictable traffic.

Additionally, I’ve lived as a location-independent digital nomad for more than four years. And since I continue to chase airline elite status and often can’t resist booking flight deals, I frequently book back-to-back trips. However, I’ve learned to allow 24 to 36 hours between separate tickets to avoid headaches and potential misconnections. As such, I often spend one night at an airport hotel between tickets.

Related: Pre-pandemic to now: 8 ways I’m booking travel differently

Maximizing perks

The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa in Malaysia
Whether you need to work or want to enjoy the property, the guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout provided to Marriott Platinum and Titanium elites is extremely valuable. (Photo of the Westin Langkawi by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Some hotel elite perks, such as breakfast, are given on a per-night basis. But other elite benefits, such as upgrades, are easier to snag on shorter stays. And some benefits, such as a welcome amenity or guaranteed late check-out, are only given once per stay.

I wouldn’t book a one-night stay solely to have better upgrade changes or earn extra welcome amenities. But I have booked a one-night stay at a Marriott Bonvoy hotel as a Platinum Elite at the end of a trip primarily to utilize the guaranteed 4 p.m. check-out perk.

And I sometimes book a one-night stay at the beginning or end of my time at a destination through Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts  (FHR) program or Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection (LHRC). I have access to the Amex FHR program as a cardholder of The Platinum Card® from American Express. And various Chase credit cards offer access to the LHRC program.

These programs offer some excellent perks that you can maximize on one-night stays. For example, if I have an early morning arrival into a city, I love booking a one-night stay through Amex FHR to get noon check-in if it’s available. Plus, Amex FHR bookings also give me the following perks:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available at check-in
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Experience credit valued at $100 or more (usually consisting of a property, dining or spa credit)

Whether I stay for one night or 10 nights, I can only use the late checkout and experience credit once. And in some cases, the value you’ll get from breakfast and the experience credit on a one-night stay can justify a slightly higher room rate than you’d typically book — especially if you have the new Amex Platinum prepaid hotel credit to use. For example, I once got $160 of food and drink included on a $153 Amex FHR stay in Chicago.

Related: How the Amex Platinum card easily saved me $200 on a one-night hotel stay

Redeeming free night certificates

St. Regis Osaka
St. Regis Osaka (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Many hotel credit cards come with an annual free night. And you can earn extra free night certificates in some hotel loyalty programs through promotions, such as Hyatt’s brand explorer promotion and IHG’s recent InterContinental Ambassador promotion.

These hotel free night certificates can be extremely valuable. For example, based on TPG’s valuations, an up to 50,000-point Marriott free night award is worth up to $400. And Hilton’s free weekend night certificates are valid at almost every Hilton property worldwide. So, as a cost-conscious traveler, an extra night at a hotel where I’d use these certificates would usually cost more points or cash than I’m willing to spend.

Related: From Paris to Bogota: How I’m using 17 expiring hotel free night certificates this year

Of course, sometimes my husband and I have two or more certificates we can use to book a stay of more than one night. But, over the last few years, we’ve redeemed free night certificates for one-night stays at the following hotels:

Each of these stays was memorable, despite only staying one night. Best of all, elite status provided us late checkout on most of these stays. So, in some cases, we stretched our stay to be about 24 hours long.

Related: Free night certificates: Why haven’t hotel loyalty programs removed expiration dates?

Maximizing hotel promotions

Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park
The Ridgeline Hotel-Estes Park, Ascend Hotel Collection, in Estes Park, Colorado is bookable through Choice. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Finally, travelers can maximize some hotel promotions by staying in one-night increments. For example, my husband and I recently booked an inexpensive one-night stay at the InterContinental Athenaeum Athens to earn an up to 40,000-point free night certificate through the recent InterContinental Ambassador promotion. However, for this particular stay, we redeemed points on adjacent nights and asked the hotel to keep us in the same room for the entire stay.

But, Choice Privileges frequently offers a promotion where you can earn at least 8,000 points after every two stays. So, I’ve stayed in a different Choice hotel each night on several trips to New York City. In each case, I took my luggage to work with me each day and earned a little over 16,000 points across four nights.

There are several current hotel promotions you could maximize with one-night stays. For example, you can get a $20 Best Western gift card each night you stay at a U.S., Canada or Caribbean property (limit five gift cards) when you register and stay by Sept. 6, 2021. And targeted members can currently earn 1,000 bonus American Airlines miles per eligible Hyatt night.

But, many programs have wised up to one-night maximizers and now require stays of two nights or more for promotions.

Related: How I saved 50,000 points and $400 in fees with this ongoing hotel promotion

Bottom line

One-night hotel stays can also be great for staycations. After all, especially as the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit travel for some, a staycation can let you rest and recharge (or provide a quiet place away from family and roommates). However, I haven’t needed a staycation as I’ve spent much of the pandemic traveling full-time in an RV. But, now that I’m spending less time in the RV and more time traveling internationally, my one-night hotel bookings are increasing.

Featured image of the Hyatt Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

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