Travel hacking is a term coined for the art of collecting airline miles, hotel points, and credit card points for redemption of travel rewards. Today’s focus will be on how to travel hack hotels, more specifically, getting free hotel stays in Europe!

Before starting a bit of background on how I got into travel hacking. My wife and I were planning on a long-term trip (which ended up lasting about 16 months) which we thought would end in Europe. We went through the US, East Africa, and Latin America in more budget friendly areas, thinking we would travel hack our hotels in Europe.

Three hotel cards we ended up getting were the Marriot Card, Intercontinental Hotel Groups card, and the Club Carlson credit card. The two we ended up using the most were the Marriott Card and IHG card given the value they gave us.

While we never made it to Europe we still have points we’ll end up using next summer when we do end up visiting. We canceled the credit cards but were still able keep the points.

How do I travel hack hotels?

In the US there’s an abundance of credit cards you are able to get. The majority of large hotel groups – Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, and a few others have hotel brand credit cards. Think loyalty programs with a credit card.

There are three basic parts to the credit card game that I look at.

  1. Bonus points reward- Most credit cards will give you enough points for stays between 1-10 nights depending specific hotel (budget to luxury) you end up redeeming your points with.
  2. Minimum spending requirement- In order for you to receive the bonus points a minimum spending requirement is outlined. Typically, you will need to spend between $750-2000 to receive the bonus.
  3. Amount of time to meet the spending requirement- You will have 2-3 months (most commonly 3 months) to spend the outlined requirement to meet the bonus.

So what about that free night in any Intercontinental Europe (really in the world)

I got 60,000 points after opening up an IHG credit card. I never thought of using them for a one or two-night stay, instead focused on getting more nights at lower category hotels.

The free night at any Intercontinental Hotel in Europe (or in the world) is an anniversary gift after having your card for a year. The only “hidden” cost is the $49 annual fee you pay. The first year is waived.

Paris IHG

After doing a few quick searches of various cities in Europe you can get a free night in most Intercontinental hotels without the anniversary gift certificate. This will wipe you out of all your points but hey it’s a free night in the Intercontinental in Paris or London easily a few hundred euros a night.

London IHG

Of course you have the option to use your points in a different way. If you are flexible in what you want to do with these points I suggest you take a look at the IHG Pointbreaks. Every few months IHG comes up with a list of properties that can be redeemed for 5000 points a night. That can equate to 12 nights if you use all 60,000 points on Pointbreaks hotels.

Madrid IHG

On the current list includes Holiday Inn Paris, Holiday Inn Express Montpellier, Holiday Inn Budapest, and a few other hotels in notable cities in Europe. These are listed around 100-200 euros a night so your points can be really valuable if you use them solely for Pointbreaks reservations easily worth $1000-2000.

If you’re on a backpacking trip this is great for savings on your trip as well as for taking a break from the dorm bed. If you’re on vacation you can easily use up all your points over a few nights without worrying about breaking the bank, spending on hotel rooms. Regardless how you use these points they are sure to be of good value and worth the outlined strategy to get the points! These are just a few ways to get free nights in Europe (or anywhere in the world) and the world of travel hacking is filled with other tips and tricks, hopefully we’ve got you headed in the right direction.

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