Award Travel | Category 1, 2, & 3 Hotel Maps: Hilton, Radisson, Marriott/SPG, Hyatt

Award Travel | Category 1, 2, & 3 Hotel Maps: Hilton, Radisson, Marriott/SPG, Hyatt

We couldn't find a 2018 map of hotels broken down by their categories for award travel and point redemption, so we made our own! Look no further for a map of Hilton, Hyatt, Radisson, and SPG/Marriott category one, two, and three hotels.

Go straight to the maps!

Or, read on to see why these maps are such a valuable tool for maximizing award travel!


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Propose the idea of traveling full time and one of the first concerns to arise is, “how can you afford that?!”, and reasonably so. If you consider the average American's international vacation for 12 nights totals $3,251 then you might be shocked to learn that we traveled 12 months across Europe (23 countries and 60 cities) and spent only $16,000 for two people!

Our Answer?

In our continued pursuit of FIRE and long-term travel, to reduce travel costs we take advantage of award travel with mile/points and house sitting!

Award Travel and Budget Transportation

For transportation, we rely primarily on miles, budget airlines, and public transportation. For example, we flew from San Diego to Boston to Dublin for less than $70 each. And we traveled from Romania to Slovakia to Austria on a $20 flight and a $1.20 bus ticket each!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, budget airline travel doesn’t have to be synonymous with red-eye flights, crowded terminals, and long layovers with nowhere comfortable to sit, outlets to plugin into, and slow Wi-Fi. For us, that really wouldn’t be an option. We’re both consultants (IT and Project Management) and so remaining productive for our clients is of the upmost importance. We use our Priority Pass membership to get access to lounges all over the world and enjoy a quiet work area with comfortable seating, fast Wi-Fi, snacks, beverages and sometimes even showers and sleeping pods!

 
 

Award Travel and Budget Lodging

In the case of lodging, we’ve found many options for dramatically reducing our costs in relation to conventional hotel lodging. Our favorite method is house sitting but unfortunately, as much as we enjoy it we’re often left with unavoidable gaps between house sitting jobs. Gaps that we often fill with time at hotels.

Hotels can be expensive but with reward program points the cost can be radically lowered and often times free! Thankfully, through various credit cards, status matching, and a relatively small number of paid stays we’ve earned top level elite status with several different reward programs. Plus, the benefits of our rewards program status make our stays even more enjoyable.

Award Travel: Getting the Best Redemption Value for Your Points

There’s a spectrum of redeeming points and miles for free or heavily discounted award travel. On one extreme, you have those who use their points primarily for aspirational experiences. Think nonstop first class flights, luxury rental cars, and suites within downtown and in expensive cities. Generally, the idea is that points can always be made, and if you have them, you might as well spend them for experiences you normally couldn’t afford and before the points are ‘devalued’.

On the other hand, you have those who are primarily focused on value and budget travel. Think coach flights, economy rental cars, category one hotels, and functionality over luxury. On this side of the spectrum, the idea is to be opportunistic and always aim to get a better value for each point used, making them last longer and in turn limit the need to earn more points as often.

Like most things in life, there are no right or wrong ways to use points for award travel. They’re your points, so use them how you see fit!

We fall on the value/budget side of the award travel spectrum for redeeming our points.

Tip: We highly recommend and use AwardWallet to manage all of our travel hacking points and miles from one sleek dashboard! AwardWallet securely stores our account information, auto-updates our account balances weekly, alerts us three months before our points/miles expire, and sends us travel itinerary reminders and updates. To top it off, we can also track accounts of friends and family members with a single login.

Booking Category 1, 2, or 3 Hotels

Getting the best redemption value for our hotel reward program points is a simple math equation. Most simplistically, the fewer points we spend on a high value hotel night, the better the value we get on our points. In the award travel vernacular, this is quantified by a cent per point value.

In other words, if we spend 5,000 points on a category one hotel room with Hilton that costs $100 dollars a night if paid in cash, we received a two cent ($0.02) per point valuation on our points. This would be an amazing point redemption value considering Hilton points are generally valued at $0.006 per point.

For our travel style, the key to great hotel award redemption values is usually redeeming points for category one, two, and three hotels.

Booking Hotels with Hotel Promotions

In addition to booking with category one, two, or three hotels, we combine high point value redemptions with promotions. For example, if we book a 5,000 point hotel room with Hilton during a point promotion that gives a bonus of 4,000 points per night, plus an additional point bonus of 1,000 points per stay because we’re Hilton Honors Diamond members, then we just received a night completely free! No cash and no points!

Combine high point redemption values at Hilton category 1, 2, or 3 hotels with Hilton Honors promotions and the results can be amazing!

If this sounds too good to be true, you’re mostly right, every booking can’t be a grand slam! However, while challenging, it’s not impossible to have varying levels of success as you can see from these examples:

Sheffield, United Kingdom

We stayed five nights at the Sheffield DoubleTree by Hilton. At 5,000 points a night*, five nights cost us a total of 25,000 points. However, we booked under a Hilton Honors promotion that awarded us 5,000 bonus Hilton Honors points per night and ended up paying ZERO points for five nights!

*Sadly, Sheffield DoubleTree by Hilton was upgraded from a category one to a category two after our stay.

Budapest, Hungary and Berlin, Germany

We booked eight nights ($350 all in) with cash at category one Radisson properties during a promotion that gave us 50,000 bonus points after completing eight nights. We later used those 50,000 bonus points to book five nights at a category one property, effectively getting 13 nights for $350 (less than $27 a night!).

Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels Four Points Sheraton ran a 'book four nights, get two free' promotion. We combined this promotion with our Citi Prestige Credit Card’s fourth night free benefit and got six nights for the price of three!

Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico

At the time we visited Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico it had four category one Hilton properties. We carried out the Ultimate Mattress Run by staying at each of those four properties (for 5,000 points a night) in rotation for 41 nights. In return, thanks to a Hilton Honors promotion we netted 2,000 bonus points per stay (we checked out every day),  10,000 bonus points for every five stays, and 10,000 bonus milestone points at 40 nights. To top it off, our Hilton Honors Diamond status awarded us additional bonus points of 250 to 1,000 points (depending on the property). In the end, we got 41 nights, another year of Hilton Diamond status, and actually made 12,500 Hilton Honors points*!

*It would have cost us 2,500 Hilton Honors Points, but because of some ongoing maintenance issues, Hilton generously reimbursed us 15,000 points.

Across the Globe

On top of amazing high value point redemptions, our top level elite status in multiple reward programs has allowed us to receive suite upgrades, high speed Wi-Fi, free breakfasts, and executive lounge access at hotels around the world!

Finding Category 1, 2, and 3 Hotels in the US and Internationally

The ease of finding category one, two, and three hotels with each brand can vary wildly. Some brands post their hotel properties by category (like Radisson), while others don’t publish a list at all (like Hilton).

We often plan our travel in between house sitting jobs based on hotel redemption value and promotions, so having a visual map of hotels is ideal. Therefore, when we couldn’t find a 2018 map that included the brands and categories we were interested in, we created our own!

Note: Unfortunately, due to layer limits we had to create two maps. 

Hotel Category 1, 2, & 3 Map: Hilton, SPG/Marriott, Radisson

 
 

Hotel Category 1, 2, & 3 Map: Hyatt

 

How To Use the Map(s)

Layers

The Hotel Category Map is organized with layers and by hotel chain (SPG/Marriott, Radisson, Hilton, Hyatt) and category (Category 1-3). Click the button in the upper left corner to interact with the layers. You can choose to see all of the layers, or only what’s relevant to you.

Colors

Each hotel brand has its own color icon.

  • Blue – Hilton
  • Purple – SPG/Marriott
  • Red – Radisson
  • Green – Hyatt

Icons

Each category has a different icon.

  • Pin – Category One
  • Star – Category Two
  • Diamond – Category Three

Hotel Information

To see more information on each hotel, including the category level and the number of points needed to redeem, click on the icon or on the hotel name in the map details.

Note: Our maps almost certainly have errors! We created them based on the information given by each hotel brand at the time of creation. However, we can’t guarantee the accuracy of the maps and the information on them. We recommend using this map as a guide and corroborating all information directly with each hotel.

We know we’re not infallible! So, we’d love to hear from you if you see a mistake or have information we missed.

Final Thoughts

We truly hope this map helps the budget digital nomad and award traveler community! It seems to be a resource that’s lacking and we hope we’ve helped fill the gap. If you want to say 'thank you' and you’d like to support us with purchases you already make, we’d appreciate it to no end if you shopped through our affiliate links (Amazon and Resources, etc.).

Either way, thank you for stopping by. We truly appreciate you following us, happy travels!

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