[Editor's note: as a reminder, I'll be blogging and tweeting all day today since I'm taking a 5 hour train to Philadelphia, then another train back tonight. Thank God for whiskey.]
I read a lot of "aspirational" travel blogs, but I personally take only a few aspirational trips per year. Last year over the summer I flew to Prague on Delta's new lie-flat BusinessElite product for 100,000 Skymiles (now 125,000 Skymiles), and of course over Christmas I flew on a paid Alaska Airlines first class ticket in order to secure one last year of Platinum Medallion status before I status match to Alaska's Mileage Plan.
For me, travel hacking is about saving money on flights I would take anyway, and making money by taking trips I wouldn't be able to otherwise afford.
That's why I've been following with interest Lucky's musings on hotel living. Lucky's an aspirational kind of guy, so he's talking about bouncing around the world's most beautiful locals being waited on hand and foot.
But he got me thinking: how much would it cost to live in a hotel year-round?
Club Carlson to the Rescue
Fortunately, this is wildly easy to calculate thanks to my lovingly-crafted point density charts. The obvious candidate for a hotel chain is Club Carlson, where Category 1 hotels cost just 9,000 Gold Points per night. Using a Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa or Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa, you'll need to spend $1,800 to earn enough points for a night at a Category 1 property.
Of course, as a cardholder, you receive the last night free on all award stays of 2 or more nights, good for up to 100 free nights annually. That means you'll need to spend $1,800 on the card for every 2 nights you plan to stay — assuming you're able to book stays of exactly 2 nights.
In order to do so, you'll need a partner who also carries a Club Carlson Premier or Business Rewards Visa. You'll book alternating blocks of 2 nights each, paying a total of 135,000 Gold Points per 30 days.
That means between you and your partner you'll need to manufacture $27,000 in spend on the Club Carlson credit card each month. [Yes, there's an annual renewal bonus of 40,000 Gold Points, which takes care of 8 nights for each person, or about half a month between the two.]
Getting to $27,000
This is an almost laughably easy amount of spend to manufacture between 2 people. Here's how I'd do it, in ascending order of cost and using strictly "within the lines" techniques:
- Amazon Payments, $1,000: one partner to the second partner; free.
- TD Go, $6,000: $3,000 per person; load cost $6; liquidation cost $4.20; total cost $10.20.
- Nationwide Visa Buxx, $2,000: $1,000 per person; load cost $8; liquidation cost $1.40; total cost $9.40.
- US Bank Visa Buxx, $2,000: one partner as parent, one as teen; load cost $10; liquidation cost $1.40; total cost $11.40.
- Bluebird, $10,000: 2 Bluebirds; load cost $79; free liquidation; total cost $79.
- PayPal, $6,000: 2 personal accounts with linked PayPal Personal Debit Cards; load cost $47.40; liquidation cost $4.20; total cost $51.60.
- Club Carlson Premier Rewards annual fees: $150 ($12.50 per month).
30 days in a Category 1 Club Carlson property, with accomplice: $174.10.
But Which Hotel?
Interesting exercise? Sure. But we still have to figure out which Category 1 Club Carlson property to move into!
Fortunately Club Carlson makes it easy to find properties by Category. Here's the list of all the Category 1 properties in the world we have to consider.
Home or Abroad?
The first question you should ask is whether you want to manufacture this spend on an ongoing basis, or stockpile 1.62 million Gold Points before you move in. On the one hand, the former gives you more flexibility if Club Carlson undergoes the long-awaited devaluation of their award chart. On the other hand, it requires you to pick a property that's convenient to your manufactured spend techniques, which rules out any overseas properties.
Since Gold Points reservations are easily cancelable, you don't actually have to decide this in advance, since you can move out after literally any 2-night reservation. A lot cheaper than breaking a lease, in my experience!
I looked into all 10 US Category 1 properties [editor's note: it's a long train ride], and here's what I found:
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Saraland, AL: CVS, Walmart
- Park Inn Fresno, Fresno, CA: CVS, Walmart
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Jacksonville, FL: CVS, Walmart
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, LaGrange, GA: CVS, Walmart
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Norcross, GA: CVS, Walmart
- Country Inn & Suites Greenfield, Greenfield, IN: CVS, Walmart
- Radisson Hotel Indianapolis Airport, Indianapolis, IN: CVS, Walmart
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson Tulsa Central, Tulsa, OK: CVS, Walmart
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Cookeville, TN: CVS, Walmart
- Park Inn By Radisson Dallas Love Field, Dallas, TX: CVS, Walmart
So based on my research, I'd say these are all outstanding options, if you want a taste of Southern living (or airport-adjacent living).
As they say, read the whole thing, but a few properties jumped out at me from the list of Category 1 properties.
5 Eastern European capitals:
- Park Inn Sofia (Bulgaria)
- Park Inn Central Tallinn (Estonia)
- Park Inn Budapest (Hungary)
- Radisson Blu Beke Hotel, Budapest (Hungary)
- Park Inn by Radisson Vilnius North (Lithuania)
- Park Inn Danube, Bratislava (Slovakia)
One beachfront-ish property:
Radisson Hotel Hacienda (Cancun, Mexico)
And one place in Costa Rica. Island living!
Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, San Jose (Ciudad Cariari, Costa Rica)
Now you know everything I know. See you in Cancun?