Over the last 3 months of traveling in Southeast Asia, from the end of June to the beginning of September, I was able to successfully book 43 free hotel nights. Now, not all were 5 star hotels, some were just quaint boutique hotels.

I’ve been playing catch up with hotel reviews of some of the hotels I stayed in, but you can find most of them here. The free hotel stays were booked in a combination of ways including hotel Best Rate Guarantees, Hotel Quickly, points earned from credit card sign up bonuses and through free night certificates. It took a bit of work up front, but was it all worth it? Yes, definitely. It enabled me to save money and travel through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan—all while staying in luxury hotels on a backpackers budget!

Saving money on 43 nights worth of accommodations was a great way to keep our budget on track and be able to not only travel longer, but get some rest after spending days traveling on slow boats and getting around on dusty roads.

Of course, Southeast Asia is known for having budget-friendly accommodations and very nice ones at that. However, in my humble opinion free is always better. I would much prefer to spend money going out and exploring the place rather than where I sleep.

What I have done is summarize each of the 43 free hotel nights I had during the entirety of my trip along with the method used to get the free night. I also added the hotel info, type of room and whether or not breakfast or club lounge access was included.

IMG_5047

Angkor Wat is only 15 minutes away from Siem Reap and a must visit!

JUNE

Bangkok, Thailand: 5 nights at the Crowne Plaza Lumpini Park (Room upgrade to Executive Club Level Room, breakfast included, Club Lounge access). Read my review.

These nights were booked during PointBreaks for 5,000 points per night, I earned the points from the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card.

Bangkok, Thailand: 2 nights at the Park Plaza Bangkok Soi 18 (Room upgrade to Executive Room). Read my review.

These nights were booked using Club Carlson points earned from the Club Carlson Visa.

Siem Reap, Cambodia: 4 nights at FrangiPani II (Breakfast included).

The 4 nights at the FrangiPani II were booked using free Hotel Quickly credits from the new customer sign-up bonus (Code RANDY for free $15 – new customer only) and referrals. If you have a link feel free to leave it in the comments below!

TOTAL: 11 FREE NIGHTS

 

jw marriott hanoi

I loved my stay at the JW Marriott Hanoi

JULY

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: 2 nights at the InterContinental Phnom Phen (Upgrade to Premium Room). Read my review.

These nights were booked using IHG’s Best Rate Guarantee.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: 1 night at the InterContinental Saigon (Breakfast Included, club lounge access). Read my review.

This night was booked using IHG’s Best Rate Guarantee.

Hanoi, Vietnam: 8 nights at JW Marriott Hanoi (Room upgrade to Executive Club Suite, breakfast & club lounge access). Read my review.

These nights were booked using Marriott points earned from the Marriott Rewards Personal and Business Credit Cards.

TOTAL: 11 FREE NIGHTS

 

intercontinental singapore

Afternoon tea at the Intercontinental Singapore Club Lounge

AUGUST

Ao Nang, Thailand: 5 nights at the Royal Nakara (used Hotel Quickly credits)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 2 nights at the Marriott Renaissance Kuala Lumpur (Room upgrade to Executive Club room, club lounge access & free breakfast).

These nights were booked using Marriott points earned from the Ritz-Carlton Credit Card.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 1 night at the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur (Breakfast included). Read my review.

This night was booked using IHG’s Best Rate Guarantee.

Singapore: 2 nights at the InterContinental Singapore (Breakfast included, club lounge access).

These nights were booked using IHG’s Best Rate Guarantee.

Singapore: 1 night at the Hilton Conrad Centennial (Room upgrade to Business Level room, breakfast included).

This night was booked using a free night certificate from my Hilton Reserve Card.

TOTAL: 11 FREE NIGHTS

 

2014-09-09 10.24.16

The Intercontinental Bali is a great place to kick back at the beach

SEPTEMBER

Bali, Indonesia: 3 nights at the InterContinental Bali (Room upgrade to Singaraja Room, breakfast included). Read my review.

These nights were booked using IHG’s Best Rate Guarantee.

Bali, Indonesia: 1 night at The Stones Hotel – Legian Bali, Autograph Collection (Room upgrade to Deluxe Pool View Room, breakfast included). Read my review.

This night was booked using a free night certificate earned through Marriott’s new member sign-up promo.

Bali, Indonesia: 3 nights at the Loft Legian Bali (used Hotel Quickly credits).

Bali, Indonesia: 1 night at the Abi Bali Resort & Villa (used Hotel Quickly credits).

Tokyo, Japan: 1 free night at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo (club lounge access).

This night was booked using the anniversary certificate from the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card.

Tokyo, Japan: 1 free night at the Hilton Conrad (Room upgrade to Tokyo Bay Room, breakfast included).

This night was booked using the anniversary certificate from the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card.

TOTAL: 10 FREE NIGHTS

 

In the combined three months, that’s a total of 43 free nights in 5 different countries. That’s more than one month of free hotels which added up to be a huge value—not to mention the average hotel was well above 3 stars.

What’s great about the free nights is that a majority of them included free breakfast as well as Club Lounge Access, which means as budget travelers we saved a considerable amount on daily food expenses—not to mention, unlimited complimentary happy hour alcohol (wine, liquor, cocktails, beer) and snacks and appetizers are always a plus! The perks offered are an added benefit thanks to some of the hotel credit cards which offer free elite status.

Anyone involved in the miles and points game knows that along with redeeming miles on flights, using hotel points for free stays is at the top of the list. Earning these points can even be easier than earning airline miles given that many hotel programs offer generous promotions. For these free nights we used a mix of credit card bonuses, referrals, and best rate guarantees—here’s a recap of what we used on our trip to book the free nights:

Hotel-Branded Credit Cards

The bread and butter for our stays on this trip was through earning hotel points via lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses. Co-branded hotel credit cards with large sign-up bonuses are a great way to earn free nights at luxury brand hotels.

Some hotel credit cards offer the potential of automatic elite status which typically come with free upgrades and free breakfast with your stay. So there you have it, sign-up for a few credit cards to earn a handful of free nights, plus have the added benefit of elite status which gets you free breakfast, room upgrades, etc.

Earn Credits from Hotel Booking Apps

We also put hotel booking apps to work on this trip. Hotel Quickly is one that mostly covers hotels in Southeast Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand. The app allows you to earn credit by inviting your friends to join. You’ll earn $1 credit when they sign-up and an additional $15 credit once they book and complete a stay.

(If you decide to sign up and want to use my code it’s always appreciated: Randy)

Obviously having a blog is a great platform to share referral links. It only takes 20 minutes to get going and it’s never too late to start!

Sharing your promo code using Facebook, Twitter or text messaging is another great way to earn referral credits that can go towards free nights. Total hotel nights we booked using Hotel Quickly: 9 nights!

If you are traveling outside of Southeast Asia, there are other last minute hotel booking apps that work similarly such as Hotel Tonight. Hotel Tonight offers last minute hotel deals all over the world including the US, South America, Europe, the UK, and Asia.

In my opinion, this app is much more flexible since you are not limited to one region, and Hotel Tonight now allows bookings for the day of and up to 7 days in advance. Currently Hotel Tonight offers new members $25 and for every friend who signs up using your code and books a stay, you will receive $25. With some lower-priced hotels this could mean a free night or two.

(If you decide to sign up and want to use my code it’s always appreciated: SAKSU2)

Best Rate Guarantee

On top of the methods I talked about above, some hotels offer a Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) that can help save money on hotel stays. Almost all major hotel programs offer BRG’s, IHG offers the most generous by awarding a free night if you can find a lower rate than what is shown on IHG.com.

The thought is that the hotel programs want you to book directly through their site to avoid paying out affiliate commissions, thus they want you to believe you are getting the lowest rate and not search anywhere else. The fact is that you can sometimes find a lower rate on third party booking sites. If this is the case, for instance with IHG, you can submit a BRG request within 24 hours of booking and if the request is valid they will honor a first night for free and match the remaining nights with the lower competitors price. For a step-by-step on how to do this you can read my post about the Basics of IHG Best Rate Guarantee.

Over the extent of my trip I was able to book 9 free nights through a BRG claim and all of them were at InterContinentals in some of the most expensive cities along my trip! The real deal maker is when you can BRG a Club Level room or Suite!

Last Thoughts

In total I stayed 43 free nights in some amazing hotels throughout Southeast Asia. This goes to show that a little planning and work beforehand could payoff huge for any size trip. Of course not everyone is planning to hit the roads for 3 months, but regardless of where you prefer to stay there are strategies to help you earn free stays—from hotels points, referrals, and BRGs.

I was actually taken a bit by surprise how easy the IHG Best Rate Guarantees were able to book for this trip. It basically involved a few days dedicated of searching, but you’ll quickly learn that the deals are either there or not. Most often if I cannot find a lower rate or a lead within 10-15 minutes, I’ll move on and check back at a later time.

The most rewarding part about these stays were that I would normally not pay to put myself up in a luxury hotel. In fact often times I prefer to stay in a local hotel or hostel. That said, everyone knows that at times traveling is exhausting so being able to unwind and relax in a plush room even for one night can be satisfying.

I won’t put a total dollar value on the 43 free nights, but it would have cost an arm and a leg. The point is that it wasn’t that much work to earn them by combining them through various methods including hotel rewards points earned through credit card sign up bonuses, Best Rate Guarantees and last minute booking apps and referrals.

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7 Comments

  • cool but you didnt disclose how many points/credits/$ were used. why the secrecy?
    thats a lot of $15 hotel quickly referrals.

    • I haven’t tallied up the total, but the Marriott and IHG stay were the largest hotel points stays—I’d guess around 150k. I think I wrote the amount per night in the reviews. For Hotel Quickly I liquidated all the credits I had, probably around 20-30 referrals and they were all used on cheaper boutique hotels. I liquidated all of them because I won’t be going back to Asia anytime soon and they expire after 3 months of earning them.

      • yeah man. i used hotel quickly credits to stay at frangipani in siem reap too. but the choice of participating hotels in siem reap is small. i paid ~$17 out of pocket + the credits.. no point.. couldve simply bought a hotel night for the same $17. just sayin.
        ..you hit those BRGs hard though

        • You’re right I think I remember something weird when redeeming credits at Frangipani. After that I could always redeem 100% with credits, I assumed that was a change with Hotel Quickly or maybe it is hotel specific?

  • This is really inspiring! It would be nice if you added links to the reviews of the hotels if you did them and, on this page, just a line saying what method you used for each hotel. (You have that in a couple of places but not for all of them.). A summary of the total points and certificates used for the 43 nights would also be interesting, along with any regrets. (Did you wish you had saved a certificate for another city as you started traveling and saw nice local hotels?). Finally, did you book all the nights up front or as you went?

    • Amy, glad you found it inspiring! I took your advice and added links to all my reviews and a snippet about how I booked the night (points, BRG, etc). Thanks!