A couple months ago I successfully booked the Singapore Suites double-bed from Los Angeles to Tokyo, and quickly shifted my attention to the next order of business – figuring out where to stay during our week-long trip to Japan. Without any allegiance to a particular hotel chain, I’m usually more than willing to stay at boutique properties, but based on my research it appeared that many of the best hotels in Japan just happened to be chain-affiliated.
However, I quickly realized that Japan is a freaking expensive hotel market, especially in the luxury arena, with rooms at the Conrad Tokyo and Park Hyatt Toyko for example going for over $400/night. And even beyond Tokyo in Kyoto, rooms at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto were going for $250/night to as high as $750/night at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto.
The Hotel Strategy
Since most of my attention is focused on accumulating airline miles, I needed to put in some serious work to achieve my hotel goals. More specifically, I wanted to book 2 nights at the Conrad Tokyo (190,000 total Hilton points) and 2 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (120,000 total Marriott points). Even though you can’t get better than “free”, I reserved 2 nights during our trip to try a Japanese Ryokan, or traditional guest house, even though I’d have to pay for it.
It’s so much easier to create a gameplan when you have tangible goals. My plan of attack? Rather than earning Hilton points, I’d apply for the Citi Hilton Reserve Card which provided 2 free weekend nights at basically any Hilton family property as the sign-up bonus. I was able to expedite those certificates by using this trick to receive the certificates on the same day my statement closed. While the $95 annual fee wasn’t waived, it was still a fantastic trade-off since I’d essentially be receiving the equivalent of 190,000 miles or nearly $1,000 in return.
Next, I applied for the 50,000 sign-up bonuses from the Chase Marriott credit card for both my wife and myself. In addition to the sign-up bonus, the annual fee for this card is waived for the 1st year, and it even comes with a free night at any category 1-4 Marriott property. With some orphan Marriott points already in our accounts, and with a couple upcoming stays switched over to Marriott, we were both able to both get up to the 60,000 thresholds to book 2 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, worth roughly $1,500.
I was fortunate in this case to have the luxury of time, since it’s always a possibility that the redemptions you want are no longer available by the time you’ve earned the necessary points. That’s happened to me many times, and if that occurs you simply need to pivot and try another approach.
From start-to-finish it took about a couple months and $95 to execute my Japan hotel strategy, which yielded nearly $2,500 in free nights. Isn’t a great feeling when all of your points and miles plans fall perfectly into place?