Around the middle of last week, I was prepping for our first big road trip since having a baby. We were looking to split a 14-hour drive to Georgia over two days, stopping somewhere along the way for a quick overnight. I planned to use the Chase Travel Portal to book a hotel for our overnight stay on the way down, but I couldn’t book a last-minute stay with Chase.
Needed a basic road trip overnight
Looking at the map mid-week last week, my best guestimation was that we would end up stopping for the night somewhere around Harrisonburg, Virginia. We just needed a clean place to lay our heads for the night. Preferably, it would come with free breakfast, though in the back of my mind I knew that I wouldn’t be too sorry if we had to stop at Waffle House instead (we all have our guilty travel pleasures, and mine is a sausage-and-cheese Texas Melt with my hash browns smothered, covered, diced and peppered).
In preparation, I took a look at Hotel Hustle to see what our best options might be for booking a stay on points.
While I do have both Hilton and Choice points, and there was also a Holiday Inn Express for 25K, I wasn’t particularly excited about my options. Admittedly, my problem was more mental than anything else: I was having trouble with the psychological aspect of redeeming 30,000 points for a stay that was just going to be a place to sleep for a few hours (and hopefully get breakfast in the morning). The DoubleTree tempted me with its warm chocolate chip cookies, but then good sense prevailed and I looked at the Chase Travel Portal.
With my wife’s Chase Sapphire Reserve card, our Ultimate Rewards points can be used at a value of 1.5 cents per point towards travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal. Since Chase allows you to combine points with one member of your household, we have access to a decent stock of Chase Ultimate Rewards points between the two of us. While we prefer to transfer Ultimate Rewards to airline partners and redeem for better than 1.5cpp in value, we have enough of a stash of Chase points that it wouldn’t sting too much to part with a few thousand this way.
As it turned out, there were plenty of options for around 8,000 to 9,000 points that would include free breakfast:
Those weren’t the cheapest options, but they were places that looked to fit the bill: likely a clean bed and free breakfast for all at the Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, or Hampton Inn. Pyschologically, it was easier for me to part with 8,000-9,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points than 30K Hilton points or 25K IHG points even though I know the value is pretty comparable. By booking through the Chase Travel Portal, I would be forgoing elite status and benefits, but neither was particularly important since I’m not on a quest to qualify via stays and breakfast is free for everyone at the proprties I was considering.
Planned to wing it
Having never traveled in the car for longer than an hour with our 2-month-old son, I felt like it was presumptuous to book something in advance. How many times would we have to stop for feedings/diaper changes/epic meltdowns? Would he sleep like a baby in the car, or get sick of that and
scream his lungs out serenade us the entire way? I felt good that we had a number of options for around 8-9K Ultimate Rewards points in and around Harrisonburg and other cities on the route, so we hit the road planning to make a decision a couple of hours before stopping for the night.
Except we couldn’t with Chase
As it turned out, the drive went pretty well. A couple of hours before we got to Harrisonburg, I decided that it was safe to look for a place and book it. I didn’t think to take a screen shot at the time, so I just ran a search this morning (the morning of 3/27/18) for a one-night stay — checking in tonight and out tomorrow:
Whoops. Apparently, Chase requires travel bookings to be made at least 1 day in advance. This is true for both hotels and flights. That surprised me. After all, the Chase Travel Portal otherwise works similarly to other Online Travel Agencies like Priceline, Expedia, etc. However, while you can book a last-minute same-day arrival or flight with most Online Travel Agencies, you can’t with the Chase online travel portal. While that limitation surely doesn’t affect the majority of travel bookings, I was bummed to find that I couldn’t make a reservation for same-day arrival. I’ve often used OTAs to book as late as just before midnight on the day of arrival and assumed that Chase would be no different.
Hyatt and the Q1 promotion to the rescue
In the end, we decided to continue on to Roanoke, Virginia. I saw that the Sheraton Roanoke had a Club Lounge and so I nearly booked it for 3,000 Starpoints since my SPG Business Card would get me lounge access, but then I read our own Stephen Pepper’s review and realized lounge access wasn’t much of a benefit. We ended up at the Hyatt Place Roanoke Airport / Valley View Mall. That turned out to be a great option since it’s a Category 1 Hyatt — costing only 5,000 points for a free night — and I got 500 points back with the 1st-quarter Hyatt promotion, for a net cost of 4,500 points (See: New Hyatt Promo: 500/1000 Points Per Night Including Award Stays).
We had plenty of space to set up a pack-and-play and assorted baby paraphenalia and we got at least half a plate of breakfast before the Morning Meltdown began and we retreated to the room to pack up. Alas, no Waffle House for me.
Online Chase Travel Portal bookings can not be made for travel on the current calendar day, which is something I’d never tried to do and thus hadn’t realized was impossible. I’ve since looked at a number of guides to booking via the Chase Travel Portal online and didn’t see a mention of this key restriction. While most award redemption plans are probably made well in advance, I do often end up making an on-the-fly booking for road trips so that I don’t overcommit as to how far we’ll make it before stopping. Unfortunately, I learned that I when I do this, I can’t book through the Chase site. That’s not the end of the world, but something I’ll keep in mind when we’re planning our route back home from this trip.