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As you likely know, I like to plan way in advance and use miles and points when cash prices for hotels and airfare are high. It’s a simple strategy that has taken us around the world. Normally this strategy works great, but it can backfire when things don’t work the way you hope. I like sharing success stories much more than unsuccessful stories, but I think there are lessons to learn in each so here is how a mess-up on my part (and a stingy hotel policy) cost us 84,000 points.
Over a year ago I put our planning ahead strategy into action when my parents and my family decided it was time to plan a return trip to the holy grounds of South Bend, Indiana. Yes, it was time to see the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame take on our ‘local’ team, the Rice Owls (a game that just happened this weekend). We were going to attend the Friday Night pep-rally, hear the trumpets play in the rotunda, line up for the Saturday morning ‘parade’, and of course cheer the team on in the stadium while praying to ‘Touchdown Jesus’ (yes, there really is a Touchdown Jesus). For those interested, we wanted Notre Dame to win, but for Rice to put on a good show.
This was also to be my kid’s first trip to South Bend (where she obviously will want to go to school in 14 years…), though not technically her first Notre Dame game. As you could probably guess, hotel rates on home game weekends are very high for the modest hotel properties that are in the area. We are talking $300 – $500 high in many cases. However, planning so far in advance allowed me to lock in award nights using Club Carlson points at the Country Inn and Suites in nearby Mishawaka.
Country Inn & Suites is not a fancy joint, but we have stayed there before, and I think it’s a good deal on Notre Dame game weekends at 28,000 Club Carlson points per night. Of course since I have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card my second award night was free. Two nights on a home game weekend for 28,000 points – yes, please! I also booked nights for my parents at 28,000 points a piece, so I was all-in for 84,000 Club Carlson points for the weekend.
However, uncertainty crept into the trip pretty early on in the planning process when Notre Dame sort of joined the ACC, and as such would potentially need to drop an already announced game in the 2014 season, and the Rice game we wanted to attend was high on the possibility list of being dropped. Months crept on and no formal decision had been made about the Rice game’s fate on the schedule. I wasn’t worried since I had nights locked in on points that I could back out of if we needed to, but I held off on booking airfare.
Life went on, more leisure and work trips got added, we never felt secure enough to buy airfare to Chicago or South Bend, and if/when a formal decision was made to keep the Rice game was announced, I missed it. By the time it was clear the game was going to happen, we were frankly just too busy to realistically be able to afford the time or money it would cost to go. It just no longer made sense and I’ve (slowly) learned not to force trips to happen when it really isn’t a good time to go as that detracts from not just that trip but all of the surrounding activities. Over-stressed and over-tired families are something to be avoided at all costs.
At some point earlier this summer when it was clear the trip wasn’t going to happen I went online to cancel the Club Carlson award reservations and the system wouldn’t let me. I was too busy at the moment to pick up the phone and call, so I decided to circle back to that task later on..
Fast forward to later in the summer and I picked up the phone to call Club Carlson to cancel the award nights. The rep on the phone had the same problem I did trying to cancel so they called the property for help. She came back with bad news. The deadline to cancel the award reservations was two months before the check-in date and that date had already passed. Two months before?! Even ski properties and most remote resorts don’t have that strict of a policy!
I didn’t give up that quickly as I thought perhaps if I contacted the property directly I could work something out. If I could reduce my losses and get some points back perhaps they could bring in more revenue by selling the room for cash. Well, there was absolutely no negotiating when I contacted the property. That made more sense once I saw Gary’s post about the hotel pulling in quite a bit for our award nights during sold out nights, which the game weekend seemed to be. Potentially even over-sold if I had to guess….
I booked the nights so long ago I don’t remember if I noticed the two month cancellation policy at the time or not. At the time of booking I didn’t think our attendance at the game was in question, but sometimes things happen, and in this case being so far removed from making the hotel booking led to my missing/forgetting the cancellation details and losing out on points. For the record, the cancellation policy was on my original email from the property, so I’m certainly not saying this is the property’s fault, though the cancellation time frame and policy is much longer and stricter than most.
Ultimately the Fighting Irish won the game, and we enjoyed it from our living room couch instead of a stadium bleacher. We had lost 84,000 Club Carlson points, but it was the right decision for our family to not go this time. Obviously we should have gone about keeping tabs on that reservation and canceling it earlier to avoid losing the points. Lesson learned – time to move on and work on identifying another better weekend to head to South Bend!
Have you lost points (or cash) in a similar way?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.