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.
Elite Status:
Just like how Priority Club points grow on trees, so does Priority Club elite status.  Here are some of the basics:

Gold Elite:
15 qualified nights per year or 20,000 qualifying points
Priority Check in
10% bonus earnings on top of base points

Platinum Elite:
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.

Room Occupancy:

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.

Chicago:

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.

New York:

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.

London:

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.

Sydney:

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:

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)?

Posted by Mommy Points | 19 Comments

19 Responses to “Family Friendly Hotels: IHG and Priority Club”

  1. DJP_707 says:

    Intercontinental stays are no longer limited to 2000 points per stay, they are paid at 10 points per dollar plus tier bonus.

  2. Lively says:

    I just book Intercontinental in Moscow for me, my husband and daughter with points (3 nights=90,000 points). I had to buy a few extra points to get to 90K points. It took 2 days for the points that I purchased to hit my Priority account. Also, they are charging me 1500 Rubles ($48) per day for the extra person in the room.

  3. Denise L says:

    We have had good luck in booking 2 connecting rooms in the UK. I don’t mind booking 2 rooms since the rates / point levels are usually very reasonable. Plus it gives us so much extra space.

  4. DaninSTL says:

    Nice write up. Some Intercontinental hotels are very nice and even the dated ones typically are better than average in that price range. I also like Candlewood hotels but hate the lower points earning. As a business traveler I avoid Candlewood due to that but I love to redeem points there.
    One downside I’ve found with IHG properties is the lack of ability to book certain room types. For example at many candlewoods you can redeem for a studio room on points but there is no option to redeem for a bedroom suite, even at more points or points plus cash.

  5. Jason says:

    Can’t believe you did a family friendly IHG review without mentioning the standard free breakfast at HIXpress with the kid-voted best cinnamon rolls. I sometimes have a craving for those little gut bombs.

    Seriously, I plan most of our family stays at HIX because they seem newer, clean, and many offer bonus PC points or events tickets packages that help bring down the cost. I’ve also had better luck with ‘suite’ upgrades as a Plat.

  6. CU says:

    We’re Marriott, but we deal with it by either getting adjoining rooms, or when we are lucky, staying at a Fairfield Inn & Suites or a Residence Inn where there is a couch in the living room and usually 2 beds in the bedroom. Smallest kiddo doesn’t mind the floor with sleeping bag — in fact, she likes it. We have never had a problem with number of people in the room when we tackle it that way…

  7. ed says:

    I totally agree with you about the family friendness of hotel chains. For people like me, a family of four, having no business travel expense and only taking one week vacation once or twice a year, starwood/hyatt can’t help that much compared to Hilton,IHG,Marriot or even Club Carlson. Free breakfast for non-elite or easy-to-get middle tier status is a very nice deal. since it’s much easier to have more options at hotels rather than flights, now i am more leaning on collecting miles from daily spending. I even regreted to apply spg card when united explorer offer was available.

    Since you are the only blogger focusing on family travel(that’s the main point I read you every blog), can you summarize how to book award flight tickets for each major airline,especially UA and AA? Sometimes it’s a much easier job to find one or two business class saver tickets rather than four. How to solve this issue when you want to get at least one or two flat seats to rotate within a family of four? If there is not enough miles at one person account, how to book tickets for the kids without adult accompanion even mom/dad can book another ticket on the same plane?

    Most mile/point community bloggers have no need to think about these family specific related question so you are the only source I can rely on. Thank you very much and really appreciate all your works on family travel.

  8. VR says:

    This was a big challenge for us last summer while planning trip to Europe. Traveling with toddler and a baby and having tons of Priority Club points we could not find a reasonable hotel in Paris that would let us book one room and had to skip the city. Ended up staying in Holiday Inn Mayfair in London (with two double beds), then in Sheraton Brussels (two double beds) and Westin Grand Frankfurt (king size bed) and Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel (king size). At the time spg website did not have an option to specify the number of kids on the reservation, so we didn’t. Had a bit of an issue checking in in the Frankfurt airport hotel, – concierge made an issue that there were too many of us for one room, but ended up agreeing with us, that it would not make a lot of sense to book separate room for a baby :)

  9. Jason says:

    @VR – same problem in Rome with 3 kids, even though 1 was 2 y.o. and the other two share a bed/couch. We skirt around the rules a bit here in the U.S., but they are more picky in Europe where the rooms are a bit smaller. Ended up with a VBRO apartment which was cheaper and much more spacious. Would be interesting to hear some advice and ideas on vacationing where triples/quads are very expensive or non-existent, especially in ‘name brand’ hotels.

  10. mommypoints says:

    DJP_707, thanks! I must have been pulling off some bad info.
    Lively, I didn’t check Russia, so thanks for sharing. Still sounds like a pretty good deal given the price of many things there.
    Denise, two rooms is the way to go for larger families if you can afford the rate/points. Much more comfortable.
    Dan, that is a downside for sure.
    Jason, I have never had those rolls – so my oversight. They are on my list to try now. ;) Thanks!
    CU, Marriott is on my list to review in the future. ;)
    Ed, the short answer to you question is it is tough and most airlines would frown upon (or even not allow) you to rotate folks through first class in shifts. However, there are some pointers that would help. I’ll try to post on it soon!
    VR, glad it worked our for you in most of the cities. Paris can be tough for sure.
    Jason, absolutely hotels are pickier in Europe than in US with occupancy limits.

  11. Dave M says:

    Something else to keep in mind with the IHG hotels and points…if you are a Chase Member can book through Ultimate Rewards mall for Holiday Inns for example and pick up an additional 8 ultimate rewards points per dollar….

  12. JeffISU says:

    With 1 and 3 year olds we have looked for either a single king room that can accommodate a roll-a-way and a crib which usually works okay though not ideal yo have everyone on top of each other. Better yet are the properties that are two room suites as their standard room like Embassy Suites style.

    We tried a Candlewood Suites which was a nice property with the standard items free (breakfast, internet, parking) though on points it’s just a studio king with sofa bed and baby crib. It was like a king room for space though with the extras like fridge, etc. No day to redeem for add

  13. JeffISU says:

    Sorry had someone else typing…

    Can’t redeem for a higher category room on points like a true 2BR suite which is disappointing as you can do this with Hyatt or SPG. Anyone know of a way to do this with PC? Do they allow an upgrade with points on a paid stay?

  14. JeffISU says:

    (You can merge these if you wish – sorry!)
    The aforementioned property was a Staybridge not a Candlewood.

  15. >>>>>The benefits from Priority Club status are not amazing

    I chuckled about this. You are too nice! You know I would describe the PC Platinum benefits quite differently in my “angry” blog:-)

  16. Jasper says:

    Great post. I have PC chase credit card and am planning our June 2013 trip to London, Paris and Rome (family of 4 with two boys 13 and 9). I can book reward nights in London and Rome, but don’t see any PC hotel in Paris available for reward night.
    Do you have any recommendation for Paris hotels for family of 4 which can use reward night? If not PC, other chains with better choice? My recommendation will be really appreciated

  17. [...] I have done a few posts on a few different chains on this topic. Here is one to the PC post. http://boardingarea.com/mommyp…priority-club/ __________________ [...]

  18. jamie says:

    I love this series, any chance there is a club carlson edition coming soon? I keep looking at those great properties in London and Paris wanting to stay there, but not sure what the situation is with more than two people in a room.

    • mommypoints says:

      Jamie, it’s on “the list”. Another similar post on family friendly hotels in Europe (not chain specific) coming very soon as well!

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