IHG Pointbreaks 31 Oct – 31 Jan But Nothing Exciting As Usual

This quarter’s Pointbreaks list (bookable for 5000 IHG Rewards Points) is less than inspiring for birders/eco-tourists but considering that it encompasses the holiday season it may have something of interest.

Loyalty Lobby has the complete list for your perusal.  Out of all the properties, I can only personally recommend the Crowne Plaza Kathmandu-Soaltee where we stayed a couple nights back in 2011 after returning from birding the Chitwan National Park (on my list of historical trips to blog about).

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It’s not walking distance to the shopping district of Thamel but taxis & auto-rickshaws are very cheap – at least they were in 2011!img_0151

 

IHG Pointbreak Deals Released Through 31 Oct – Some Potential For Eco-tourists

Although the IHG Pointsbreaks have been less inspiring in recent years, there are usually a few that can be used for eco-tourism and birding.  At 5000 IHG Rewards per night, these are a great bargain if you can use them.  Use your airline miles to get you to the country and the only thing left to pay is the rental car or taxi hire!

FULL POINTSBREAKS LIST

Here’s my picks:

PANAMA  –  Rent a car and visit Soberania National Park
CROWNE PLAZA PANAMA

COLOMBIA  – Have your hotel book you a car & driver for the day and go to Chingaza National Park or BioAndina
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS & SUITES BOGOTA ZONA FINANCIERA

INDIA  – Jaipur is about 3 hours from Bharatpur and the Keoladeo National Park, you’ll need to spend the night there to go birding at dawn.
CROWNE PLAZA JAIPUR TONK ROAD

AUSTRALIA  – Rent a car and head up to the Blue Mountains.
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SYDNEY MACQUARIE PARK

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport

I know you aren’t supposed to take pictures in the immigration line but I couldn’t resist because of the Guayaquil Macaw on the poster!

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One of the best things about booking the Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport is that it is literally 5 minutes from the airport.  See the green neon in the photo?  We could have walked but when we got outside, the shuttle was already there.  I had mentioned which flight we were on when I booked it using 20,000 points and they showed up without us having to call!  Great service!

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The room was nice and very typical Holiday Inn.  There isn’t much in the local area but there were some fast food places a couple blocks away so we grabbed some snacks and drinks for the birding trip the next day and crashed out.

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This hotel is currently on Pointbreaks for 5000 points a night until 31 July which is a steal!  Of course this Pointbreak list was published after we left South America!

The shuttle to and from the airport is free both directions.  Even though it’s not far, it was still nice to avoid the mid-day heat.

IHG Category Increases & Decreases – Who Got Lucky?

If you’re going to Bora Bora, France or Australia – you are NOT the lucky one as the rates to their properties have skyrocketed to a whopping 60,000 points (55,000 for Sydney & Melbourne).

If you are headed to Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Panama, Papua New Guinea, South Africa or Zimbabwe then you are in luck!  Most properties in these countries will be going down 5000 points!

Complete List of Changes

HT:  Loyalty Traveler (who has several in-depth posts on this topic)

IHG’s Latest List Of Disa-Pointbreaks

I’ve gotten used to seeing uninspiring lists of hotels on IHG’s quarterly Pointbreaks (hotels offered for 5000 points a night) but I was still looking forward to this list as it’s the one that applies to my upcoming trip to Ecuador, Colombia & the Caribbean for birding.  I was hoping to see some poinbreaks in Ecuador, Colombia & Trinidad.  Once again, I was disappointed that there was nothing in Bogota especially.  Even worse, the Crowne Plaza Tequendama which has historically offered pointbreaks at this time of year is leaving the OHG chain!

Here’s the whole list if you want to have a look.

A few may be of interest to eco-travelers in Central & South America.  Belem is good for going to Parrot Island to see 1000’s of Orange-winged Amazons on an early morning cruise.  Panama has the wonderful Soberania National Park within an easy drive of the Holiday Inn.

Argentina


Brazil


Columbia


Panama

Try not to spend too much time in Jo-burg, get off to Magoebaskloof or Kruger as quickly as possible but if you do need a night between flights:

South Africa

And here’s a rare Pointbreak in Australia!  Townsville is a good jumping off point for Magnetic Island which has good birding.

Australia

This list is valid for bookings and stays from January 25, 2016 through April 30th 2016 (subject to availability).

Down To One Last Hotel Program

Although technically I have accounts with about 8 hotel chain programs, they have all fallen by the wayside as being not worth the effort.  I really hate being limited to a chain hotel’s offering in any given location and prefer being able to choose from a wide variety of hotels.  For this reason, I have been concentrating on programs like Rocketmiles & Pointshound which earn airline miles and jump on social media games that offer free points in programs such as Expedia & Orbitz.  We each gained $100 vouchers in Expedia over a mistake they made with a promo back in March, then more recently we each gained $110 in Orbucks during the August-Sept photo competition in which Orbucks were given out for uploading summer themed photos (I wish they would do this every year)!  I’ve put these to good use for next year’s trip to Ecuador, Colombia & the Caribbean.

Club Carlson ditched the bogo free award night so I ditched their program after using up all existing points for next year’s trip.  So now it’s down to one program – IHG Rewards.  The main attraction here is the benefits from the Chase IHG Rewards credit card.  The $49 annual fee gets us a free night at any IHG hotel worldwide and I have gotten some amazing usage out of this at places like Intercontinental JNB Airport, Intercontinental Moorea, and have the Intercontinental San Juan booked for next year.  There always seems to be at least one place where I can use the certificate, usually at an airport hotel so the card is excellent value!  Knock wood, I hope this benefit never goes away!

A Few Interesting IHG Pointbreaks For Eco-tourists

IHG Rewards has announced next quarter’s Pointbreaks, redeemable from 26 October to 31 January for 5000 points a night.  First I’ll embed the map that shows the worldwide Pointbreaks, then point out the ones that can work for eco-tourists.

AUSTRALASIA

A big fat zero for Australia which is par for the course.  If you’re birding West Papua or elsewhere in Indonesia you might want to chill out in Bali for a couple days although Benoa is not the best location.

PB Asia

AFRICA

Most people visiting any country in Southern Africa will be transiting JNB on either Comair or South African Airways so the Holiday Inn JNB Airport could come in handy.

PB Africa

SOUTH AMERICA

We have a couple interesting options in Brazil.  Both Manaus and Rio Branco are in good staging points for birding adventures.  Cucuta in Colombia isn’t super convenient to the Perija area but could be a stop-over.  San Jose, Costa Rica and Panama City are also good gateways to the more attractive birding hotspots in Costa Rica and Panama.

PB LatinA complete list is available so have a look and see if anything works for you!

A Couple Good IHG Pointbreaks For Eco-tourists

The latest IHG Pointbreaks list which offers specified hotels for a bargain 5000 points was less than inspiring.  Oceana & Africa missed out completely.  The complete list can be found here.  The best options are for people doing USA road trips.  This list is valid for bookings through 31 July.

Consider these possibilities if you are headed to South America.  Cuiaba is the gateway to the Pantanal.  The hotel is pretty nice although not the best location if you are going for an early start.  We did this trip in 2012 before I started this blog so I don’t have posts yet but I will be blogging my past trips as soon as I finish the current trips.

BRAZIL
HOLIDAY INN CUIABA

Although this hotel is a city property, Panama City’s small size means it’s not such a long drive to Soberania National Park.  Get yourself an award ticket to PTY, a rental car and book a few nights for a long weekend of birding!

PANAMA
CROWNE PLAZA PANAMA

Hotel Review: Accra Holiday Inn

It was good enough for POTUS Barack Obama so I figured it would be good enough for us!

The Accra Holiday Inn near Ghana’s Kotoka Airport has the best meet & greet ever – a private lounge for their guests to relax and have coffee while they wait for the shuttle!  First we passed through the immigration which didn’t take long as we had obtained tourist visas at the Ghanaian Embassy in Canberra.

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Then we made our way to the lounge.  We didn’t have to wait long until the mini-bus showed up and took us to the hotel.

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It was getting late but the spotless lobby with African decor made a great first impression.

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The room was what you expect from a Holiday Inn – clean, basic and good free wifi.  By this time it was around 11pm so all we wanted was a shower and a good night’s sleep.

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I did find the placement of the glass screen a bit awkward, you can’t move it and it makes that shell-like thing on the bathtub hard to clamber over.

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The next morning we got a better look at the hotel – still a garden-variety Holiday Inn from the outside.  This first night was only a layover as we were keen to get to Kakum National Park.

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After visiting the park, we had 2 more nights here.  We spent one morning at Shai Hills Reserve, using a taxi to get out there.  There is a car booking service in the lobby, you can negotiate them down if they aren’t busy.

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The pool is huge, great for a refreshing swim after a birding day trip or going to the craft market.

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We had a few meals in La Cabana by the pool as the food was really good and it was nice to eat outdoors.

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As you can see, we really treated ourselves!

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The breakfast buffet was excellent with a nice variety of western and Ghanian items and omelets made to order.

IMG_6234 IMG_6235 IMG_6236This is a great hotel to use points on as it goes for 20k per night whereas a paid booking will run between $250-300!  Hotels do run on the expensive side in Ghana so you really do want to have enough points to cover your stay.  This is also one of the few places in the world where you can use points for a night and have a great place for birding within an easy day trip – Shai Hills Reserve!

Any Value In Daily Getaways For Eco-Tourists?

Longtime miles & points junkies will be familiar with the annual US Daily Getaways Program.  In the golden days, it was once possible to leverage cheap Wyndham Rewards points to cheap airline miles and I must admit to taking full advantage in years past.  That all came to a halt last year when Wyndham devalued their transfer ratio and the Daily Getaways put up their price.

This year the promo will run 23 March to 24 April and the first 3 weeks have already been posted.  Since there is no longer any value in airline transfers unless you just need a couple 1000 as a top up, the best reason to buy these points is to use them for hotels.  I know all the miles/points/travel blogs will be covering the best deals in a general sense so I will only address the best deals specifically for eco-tourists who want to use points to stay cheaply some place within a day trip of a good bird watching location.

In all of the examples below, you need to determine if it represents a good value to you.  You need to check if the chain hotel is where you really want to be or would you prefer to just pay for a night in a non-chain hotel.  For myself, I have decided that I will not pay money to stay in chain hotels but I will stay in them if I get an extremely good deal from a credit card.  The only credit cards I deem useful to me are the IHG Rewards & Club Carlson Visa.  I have no interest in any other hotel chain credit cards.

Daily Getaways 1

Daily Getaways Week 1

 

WEEK 1

3 major chains have points on offer, – IHG, Club Carlson & Hilton

IHG does have some good properties in places like Accra, Ghana (day trip to Shai Hills, my review coming soon), Tahiti (between hops to Rimatara & the Marquesas), Panama (day trip to Soberania NP) & Puerto Rico (day trip to El Yunque).  Historically these points won’t sell out quickly as you can buy IHG Rewards using the book & cancel method.

Club Carlson also has a property in Puerto Rico and Panama suitable as above.  I also used the Radisson Blu to good advantage for a day trip to Birds of Eden, Tahiti on a layover and a pre-flight stay in San Jose, Costa Rica.  These points will go moderately fast as they are very useful to anyone who has the Club Carlson Visa card and gets a free night for at least one night booked on points.

The Hilton packages don’t seem to be that great of a value and I don’t see them selling out.  While we did enjoy our stay in Mauritius last year which cost 80,000 points for 2 nights, there is no way I would have spent $500 to purchase 100,000 points for those 2 nights.  We got those points by doing social media games which are no longer running for free.  If we hadn’t had the points, we would have used Pointshound to book something cheap and earn miles.

Daily Getaways 2

Daily Getaways Week 2

 

WEEK 2

Nothing here to interest eco-tourists.  The Choice points on Friday are excellent value when used in Europe but that’s out of scope for this blog.  Here is a good example of a blogger who is making excellent use of this promo for his trip to Europe.  Last year, we used 10,000 Choice Rewards to stay in Venice at a hotel that would have cost over $300!  They are the only thing I see going fast so if you want some you will have to be ready to go right at 1:00 pm ET.  (US time zone as in New York if you need a converter).

Daily Getaways 3

Daily Getaways Week 3

WEEK 3

Once again, nothing of interest to eco-tourists.  The Hyatt packages will go extremely fast because people who want to stay in luxury hotels will snap them up but Hyatt doesn’t have any properties in places that also have good birding.

WHAT AM I DOING?

Sitting out this year!  Since I am a good advance planner, I have already determined that I have enough hotel points for our needs for the next 3 years.  Most of our stays will be at independent properties, I just like them much better and I like having more choice.  Nothing worse than being stuck in a bad location because that’s where your points hotel is!