To continue my series that looks at various hotel chains to assess some of their family friendly (or non-family friendly) policies, I want to shift focus today to the Priority Club rewards program and Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG). If you want to play catch-up on previous posts in this series you can check out my looks at Hilton and Hyatt as well.
Family travelers have unique needs when it comes to hotel rooms – and one of the largest is space. Some families don’t mind sneaking kids in the back door in order to stay under the radar with the stated occupancy limits for the room (especially on award stays where the limits can be even lower). However, other families don’t want the stress or hassle of having to hide the number of people that will be in the room, so one of the main things this series focuses on is the number of people that are allowed in various hotel rooms on award stays. Outside of the US, I have found many properties across different brands that have a max occupancy limit of two or three people on award stays, and that can clearly be problematic for families who want to all try and stay in the same room.
IHG Family of Hotels:
There are seven different brands within the IHG family, and they include: Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express Hotels, InterContinental Hotels & resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo Hotels, Staybridge Suites Hotels, and Candlewood Suites & Hotels. I have found IHG Hotels to be readily available in many locations both around the US and around the world. In fact, they have over 4,400 properties in more than 100 countries. Contrast that with Hyatt who has just under 500 properties (as of June 2012).
I’ll go ahead and assume that most people are familiar with the Holiday Inn Chain, but in case some of the others aren’t household names: The InterContinental Hotels are basically the flagships of the IHG brand. I have stayed in a couple and they were “fancy”, though sometimes dated. The nicer ones I am told are extremely nice – especially some of the international properties. The Crowne Plaza Hotels can be a step “nicer” than the Holiday Inn chain, and I have attended some meetings and conference-type functions at these hotels. I personally like the Hotel Indigo brand as it is kind of boutique-ish and eclectic. Staybridge Suites is a family friendly property with suites, free breakfast, hosted receptions Tues – Thurs night, outdoor grills, etc. Candlewood Suites are similar to Staybridge in many ways, but are designed with a more extended-stay in mind. They even have laundry facilities available for free!
Priority Club Points:
One of the beautiful things about the IHG is how easy it is to earn Priority Club points. They almost fall from trees they are so easily accessible. The regular earning rate is 1o points per dollar for charges at Holiday Inns, Hotel Indigo, and Crowne Plaza. You earn 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. You earn 2,000 points for each InterContinental stay. You can get up to 80,000 points from getting the Priority Club Chase credit card. You can also stack promo code on top of promo code and earn 10,000 – 20,000+ bonus points for one short stay. You can also buy them from Priority Club for the following rates:
1,000 – 10,000 = $13.50 per 1,000 points
11,000 – 25,000 = $12.50 per 1,000 points
26,000 – 50,000 = $11.50 per 1,000 points
They often have bonuses on top of those stated prices, so you can often get them at a discounted rate. If you want to get them even cheaper than that, then google “Priority Club points for .6 cents” and you will learn the way. The unofficial route now actually costs .7 cents per point, but still a very good value. Free nights range typically from 10,000 – 50,000 points per night.
My favorite use of Priority Club points is for PointBreaks stays that come out each quarter. PointBreaks hotels are available for 5,000 points per night and can range from Holiday Inn Express Hotels all the way up to InterContinental Resorts around the world. This can be the very best value in the world of hotel points. I also like to take advantage of the cash and points reservations that are available on IHG hotels.
Just like how Priority Club points grow on trees, so does Priority Club elite status. Here are some of the basics:
15 qualified nights per year or 20,000 qualifying points
Priority Check in
10% bonus earnings on top of base points
50+ qualified nights per year or 60,000 qualifying points
Priority check in
50% bonus earnings on top of base points
Complimentary room upgrades
Guaranteed room availability
The benefits from Priority Club status are not amazing (though some properties do go above and beyond the minimum required benefits stated here), but status is very easy to get, as the points you buy from Priority Club when using the official route are elite-qualifying. You can purchase Gold status outright for $50. Additionally, if you have the Priority Club credit card, then you get automatic Platinum status. One of my best friends often stays at IHG hotels and says that her Platinum status almost always scores her an upgrade of some sort, which is greatly appreciated since she also has a toddler.
There is also a loyalty program within a program with the InterContinental Ambassador and Royal Ambassador levels. For the sake of keeping this post from becoming an epic novel, I will just link to that info here. One drawback of the Priority Club and Ambassador program is that there can be problems having elite benefits honored on award stays. Some properties do better than others on this, but it isn’t a guarantee the way it is with most other loyalty programs. It is also a definite downside to the PC elite program for families that there is no guaranteed free breakfast benefit since that can result in substantial savings with some other chains.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the real kicker for families is how many folks can stay in one room both logistically, comfortably, and according to the official rules. Here is a sampling of the rules at some various IHG properties around the world.
Many properties such as Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, and Intercontinental on the Magnificent Mile are all available on points when searching for two adults and two children. When that search changes to two adults and three children those options disappear, but you have choices like HI Express Hotel and Suites Chicago West O’Hare and Staybridge Suites Glenwood. Not exactly prime locations, but they do house a family of five in one room. Some of the hotels, including Staybridge Suites Glenwood are even available for two adults and four children.
Manhattan can be a tough city for larger families to visit because hotel rooms are generally small, and occupancy limits can be on the low side (especially for a US location). However, there are several options for families of four to stay in Manhattan on Priority Club points. I personally stayed at the Crowne Plaza Times Square on points and it allows up to a family of four in a room with two double beds for 35,000 points per night. If you are a family of five, I was not able to find a property that was bookable in Manhattan on Priority Club points. There are options in the extended area…although they are not in prime tourist spots. One option that was available for 20,000 points for two adults and three children was Holiday Inn GW Bridge-Fort Lee NYC Area, but it was for a king room so I hope they have space for some rollaways.
I actually found much better availability for families of four in London on points with Priority Club than I have with other chains. Some properties have a two or three person max per room, but there were a fair number of properties that will host a family of four in one room. The Mayfair Holiday Inn is available for two adults and two children in two double beds for 25,000 points per night (a steal in my book for a family of four in London), Crowne Plaza London – Kensington or Crowne Plaza London – The City will host a family of four in two double beds for 35,000 points per night. I didn’t see any within London that will take a family of five on points in one room.
The InterContinental Sydney has a maximum occupancy of three per room, but some other properties in Sydney can accommodate two adults and two children. For example, the Holiday Inn Old Sydney, the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour, and Crowne Plaza CooGee Beach are all available for families of four on points.
Orlando is known for being a family friendly location in terms of price and room occupancy, and this is true with Priority Club as well. There are many options for families of four or five, however even a family of six can stay on points at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations: Orlando Lake Resort for 27,500 points for a two bedroom villa.
Just like with most chains, I was able to find higher room occupancy limits at times when paying with dollars rather than points, but that is mainly because you can access non-standard rooms with dollars. For example, at the Holiday Inn Main Gate Universal in Orlando you can get a two bedroom suite that will hold up to 10 people for under $200 per night. Still, Priority Club was better than some chains in allowing a reasonable number of people to stay in many of their hotel rooms for the standard points rate. I think overall they are one of the more family friendly rewards programs simply because of their large footprint and availability of properties that will allow at least four persons in a room on an award stay.
For those families with experience traveling utilizing Priority Club benefits and points – what properties have stood out for you as being very family friendly (or unfriendly, as the case may be)?