Hotel Stats from a Year on the Road

Having recently wrapped up a year-long adventure that took us all over the country and beyond, I wanted to share some of our lodging stats from the last 12 months.

We stayed in a variety of different places, but as you may have gleaned from the title, the majority were in spent in hotels.

Thanks to years of maximizing credit card signup bonuses prior to our gap year, many of these hotel nights were subsidized with points. In addition to those award nights, we paid cash for our fair share as well.

Let’s take a look at where we spent over 1.5 million hotel points in the past year, as well as how we earned an additional 400k+ along the way without using credit cards.

Lodging by Type

First, let’s take a look at the entire year before we dive into the potentially more interesting 200+ nights spent in hotels.

LodgingNightsAverage Cost per Night
Hotels231$31 + Points
Friends & Family93$0
Cruise Ship11$245 (*included food/drink/entertainment/etc)
Camping10$26
Airbnb9$75
CampFI9$0 (*business expense or comped)
Home2$0 (*ignoring several things)
Total365~$29 + points

Ignoring hotels for now, you can see that we are very fortunate to have friends and family spaced all over the country. Just over a quarter of our nights were spent at basically zero cost thanks to our generous hosts. We always tried to at least take our hosts out for a meal or get them a small gift, but that doesn’t even compare to the money we saved.

Next up was the biggest splurge of the trip, our 11-day cruise in the western Caribbean. Amazing accommodations on an awesome ship, but very pricey compared to an average day on land.

Following that was camping, a relatively cheap but rather tedious experience.

Also, Airbnb made sense for us a couple of times along the way.

CampFI is an amazing financial independence based weekend retreat that we were fortunate enough to speak at one of the 3 events we attended this past year.

Hotel Nights by Brand

Now that we have the entire 365-day picture, let’s break down the hotel portion a little further.

Hotel Award Nights:

Hotel ChainAward NightsPoints SpentAvg. cpp of “Value”
IHG67670,0001.2
Hyatt30219,0003.7
Hilton37528,0001.0
SPG/Marriott1071,5002.2
Wyndham345,0002.0
Total1471.59 Million

We spent over 1.5 million hotel points in the past 12 months which heavily subsidized our lodging costs compared to always paying cash.

The cents per point of value should be taken with a grain of salt as I only compared the points spent to the nightly cost of the same hotel on the same nights we were there. There’s a good chance we would not have stayed at the same hotels in the same locations if we didn’t have the points, so it skews a little high.

Hotel Paid Nights:

Hotel ChainPaid NightsAvg Cost
IHG40$106
Hilton7$126
Non-chain14$73
Total61$101

Most of our paid nights were in the IHG brand of hotels for reasons you’ll see below. Half of the Hilton paid nights were at the specific hotel for an event we attended, while the other half were to take advantage of a resort credit on specific credit cards.

Most of the non-chain hotels are instances where we took advantage of the 4th night free benefit on our Citi Prestige card.

In addition to the 147 standard award nights and 61 standard paid nights, we also booked some Hyatt Cash + Points nights and used free night certificates for several brands:

  • Hyatt Cash + Points – 14 Nights – Avg cost of $66 + 4,000 points
  • Hyatt Free Nights – 5
  • IHG Free Nights – 2
  • Hilton Free Nights – 1
  • Marriott Free Nights – 1
  • Total Nights – 23

All told, we stayed 231 nights in 72 unique properties across the US and Canada.

Where Did the Points Come From?

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that we got really into travel hacking with credit cards several years back.

Most hotel credit cards come with a 50-150k point signup bonus in addition to benefits such as free nights. As you can see from the list of every card we’ve ever opened, 19 of the 70+ cards we’ve opened in the past 5 years were hotel specific.

The signup bonuses of those 19 hotel specific cards totaled up to over 1.25 million in hotel points, not to mention the regular earnings while meeting the minimum spend.

In addition to the actual hotel points we earned, some other points that we earned can be transferred into hotel points to use for award stays. More specifically, we transferred Chase UR into Hyatt several times on this trip.

Prior to this past year, we used hotel points for most of our trips (including our epic honeymoon), but we were still earning them faster than we could spend them. Therefore, we started our adventure with ~1 million points already in the bank.

Earning More Points on the Road

After our trip started, we ceased signing up for new credit cards for various reasons, but that didn’t stop us from racking up additional points along the way.

Most of these were earned the old fashioned way of paying cash for hotel nights, but we made sure to structure our nights in such a way that we maximized various hotel promotions.

The biggest earner was the quarterly IHG promotions. Each quarter, IHG has a different targeted offer for each member (2 chances for us), and several of them made sense for us to max out.

Hotel Earnings by Type and Brand:

IHGHiltonHyattSPG/Marriott
Promotions
250k18k10k
Regular Earnings56k7k5k
Point Rebate56k
Elite Status Bonus25k
Welcome Bonus18k250
Other5001500
Total406k25k15k1,750

As you can see, IHG promotions were the huge point maker for us this past year. For a total of 40 paid nights and spending of ~$4,250, we earned over 300k points from promotions and regular earnings!

If we round down the cpp in value calculated above from 1.2 down to 1 to be more conservative, that’s still a return of over $3,000 in points!

Another way of looking at it is that we spent $4,250 for $7,250 worth of hotels, or a discount of over 40% on our regular cash stays. This is how we were able to stretch our dollar further when our point balances couldn’t quite cover all of our stays.

Another unique occurrence this year is that we earned hotel status legitimately for the first time! We’ve had various hotel statuses from credit cards for a while, but never earned them the old fashioned way with nights until this year. Thanks to award stays counting towards status, we reached Spire Elite with IHG and the nice 25k point bonus that comes with it.

It’s also worth noting that none of these earnings include the points we got back via credit cards along the way. I didn’t track those numbers closely, but it’s safe to assume we earned an additional 3-10 points back on each dollar spent towards hotels (and everything else) this past year.

We Also Bought Points Directly

In addition to the point balances we started the year with and the points earned along the way, we also purchased some IHG points directly for the first time.

As I explained in detail in a separate post, it rarely makes sense for the casual traveler to buy points directly, but our unique situation of living on the road made for an exception to that rule of thumb.

We bought 100k IHG points for a flat $500 which turned out to be a good value for us. Even at the conservative ~1 cpp, it amounted to a 50% discount.

See the full post for more details:

Purchasing Points For The First Time

Anything Else?

I grabbed some of the more interesting lodging stats from our year of travel, but there are plenty more! Feel free to hit me up in the comments below if there’s something else you’re interested in hearing about.

  • 231 nights in hotels over 12 months
  • 72 unique properties
  • Over 1.5 million hotel points spent
  • Over 400k points earned

5 thoughts on “Hotel Stats from a Year on the Road

    1. Glacier and Yellowstone National Park are both on our list of places to visit in the near future! I’ve also heard Boise is an up and coming town…

      We had both already been to the Dakotas prior to our Gap Year, but we knew starting out that we would never hit “everything”. Gap Year 2.0 it is ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Currently sitting with ~180k Hilton, ~50k IHG, and another ~50k UR.

      We had gotten both the Hilton and IHG balances close to zero near the end of the year, but the Q4 IHG promo and a Hilton cc upgrade offer (Ascend -> Aspire for 150k) jumped the balances right back up as we wound down the trip. Luckily, the Hilton points might be useful for FinCon and/or a wedding we got invited later this year

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