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Several times in the last few years we have made a trip to New York City with our first daughter, and now both daughters, around the Christmas holidays. From the Radio City Rockettes, to the Rockefeller Tree, to ice skating, to impressive window displays, to Santa and Santaland at Macy’s on 34th Street, there is just so much magic to be head from late November to late December in Manhattan.
While it may be one of the most magical places, New York City is also one of the very priciest cities to visit in the United States. This means it is a city where points, especially hotel points, can be essential to keeping a trip doable on budget.
New York is a city where I pretty much always use free nights, hotel points, or similar to secure our lodging. Only on very rare occasion have I found a reasonable paid rate in Manhattan. Last year I earned two IHG award nights via a “Into the Nights” promotion for less than $200 total out-of-pocket with NYC in mind.
Those nights are only worth what I redeemed them for, so I went big and redeemed them for two nights in NYC at the Intercontinental Times Square. I had actually stayed at this hotel once before, so I knew the beds were seriously amazing and the location was actually not bad for the holiday happenings we had planned, even though Times Square isn’t typically my ideal NYC destination.
Rates during our stay were around $400/night for a room at the Intercontinental Times Square, and yet our out-of-pocket cost when redeeming the awards for a room with two double beds (and a crib) was exactly $0. That’s my kind of bill!
As I often do, I asked the hotel both in advance and again at check-in about upgraded rooms or suites that may be available for a discounted co-pay so we could spread out a bit. In this case, there were no upgrades that were anywhere close to being in our budget, so we went where many families have gone before and put all four of us into one room.
That wouldn’t have been so bad as the room is actually pretty spacious for a standard room in NYC, except the baby doesn’t yet sleep through the night, and on some nights you can expect to spend a few hours up with her when you wish you were sleeping. That is hard enough as a tag-team at home, but when everyone’s sleep is potentially impacted at the same time, it is a recipe for trouble.
Indeed on the first night I was up for several hours with Baby S, but luckily everyone else slept pretty soundly through it all since she was content as long as she was held. We also had ear plugs for Little C, which she used with mixed success. The second night everyone was so tired that we all slept soundly until this happened starting just after 7AM.
For those that don’t want to listen, essentially jack hammers started doing construction at that time and basically the whole room shook for the rest of the day.
The hotel was not the one doing this construction, but instead they said it was an ongoing project from the city, but since we were a low floor against the exterior of the building we were likely some of the worst impacted. Needless to say, no one slept once that started up.
Since space is at a high premium in NYC, we got creative with our baby gear and supplies. We stored the stroller in the bathroom since it wouldn’t fit in the room and still maintain a walkway for us. Then, under the TV we set-up a changing station using a bathroom towel.
We had to keep everyone’s bags, coats, shoes, etc. much more organized than normal using the closet and space under the tables/chairs, but it actually worked out pretty well considering the tight quarters for four people. I’m glad that our stay was a short one as I don’t enjoy being that cramped on “vacation”, but since we weren’t in the room much beyond during the overnight hours it was workable.
The bathroom at the Intercontinental Times Square is actually quite nice and spacious for NYC with soft towels and a bathtub/shower combo that had great water pressure and temperature.
For the baby’s bath we just laid a towel at the bottom of the tub to make it softer and less easy for her to slide around, and then filled a couple of inches worth of water to get her all clean. Had she been a tiny baby we could have probably used the sink, but in our case the tub worked just fine for both girls.
One nice thing about staying at a hotel like the Times Square Intercontinental is there is always someone at the door to help you catch a cab. In the days of Uber it isn’t really that hard to catch a ride in NYC, but it is still nice to have someone else help with that process when you have kids along for the adventure.
Aside from the jack hammer issue, I actually really like the Intercontinental Times Square. I’m not a huge fan of it’s 44th Street and 8th Avenue location, but it is undeniably in a good spot if you want to do some of the touristy type things in Manhattan. It is also a stone’s throw from the subway and tons of fast food type restaurants that may work well for families. I found the elevators much, much easier to use than on my last visit and I’m thrilled to report that this hotel has standard award rooms for a family of four that really are workable.
You Can Do it Too:
As is common in Manhattan, this hotel is usually in the $300 – $400 range for a room (though I have seen it in on discount sites like TravelPony for $200+ per night). That’s a ton of cash, but there is a better way to do it on points/free nights. This hotel seems to be the perfect use of the annual free night you get by having the IHG Rewards Chase Credit Card you can use at any IHG property. If you are new to IHG, you can also pretty easily earn two award nights you can use at any property via the Accelerate promo that runs through the end of the year.
Alternatively, you can redeem 50,000 IHG points per night to stay here, and that will include a decent variety of room options (including the rooms with two double beds) all for the same points price. Since this is NYC, I recommend booking in advance for improved availability whenever possible.
If you have the IHG credit card you get 10% of your redeemed points back each year, so that makes the hotel more like 45,000 points per night. You can also choose to buy IHG points with up to a 100% bonus on purchased points through the end of today (12/11/15). To add in one more option, you could even choose to do this if you wished.
There are many ways to bring the cost of a couple of nights at the Intercontinental Times Square within reach and I imagine we will visit this hotel again on a future trip to the Big City!