Entitlement is only the start of a loyalty conversation

Sometimes travel hacking is about figuring out what you're entitled to and how to get it. It's not unusual to read blog posts about Starwood Preferred Guest elites searching for suites right up until the minute they check in, to make sure that the front desk staff give them the very best room they're entitled to.

Likewise, you're entitled to use Delta voluntary denied boarding vouchers for other passengers, as long as the person the voucher was issued to is one of the passengers on a single reservation. In practice, Delta makes that difficult, but not impossible.

Other times, what you're entitled to is just the starting point of a conversation.

Background: tour of Central Europe, 3 nights at a time

Before the June 1, 2015, Club Carlson devaluation, I booked a 9-night trip through Central Europe, with 3 nights at the Radisson Blu Beke Hotel, Budapest, 3 nights at the Park Inn Danube, Bratislava, and 2 nights at the Radisson Blu Style Hotel, Vienna.

The 3 nights at the Park Inn Danube cost 18,000 Gold Points total, for one 2-night reservation and one 1-night reservation.

The Park Inn Danube closed out from under me!

On Tuesday the manager of the Park Inn Danube e-mailed me to say:

"We hope this mail finds you well and we take this chance to wish you a fantastic start of New Year

We are happy to inform you [editor's note: I have no idea why he's "happy" to inform me of this] that our property, Park Inn Danube Bratislava, will go under full refurbishment from 1st of March 2016 until 1st of September 2016.

Due to this we are, unfortunately, not able to provide you with hotel accommodation as per your reservation...as the hotel operations will be completely ceased for the mentioned period.

We suggest you cancel your reservation trough Club Carlson in order to retrieve your Club Carlson points and we apologize for the short notice.

If you will still be interested to come to Bratislava, we strongly suggest booking the Radisson Blu Carlton that is located in the same area of Park Inn Danube."

How to turn 18,000 Gold Points into 84,000 Gold Points

When I found out my hotel had been closed, I immediately sized up the situation: I had 18,000 Gold Points locked up in my existing reservation. Bratislava doesn't have a ton of hotels in the old city, but as the general manager of the Park Inn Danube pointed out, it does have another Club Carlson property about a block away. Without the last-night-free benefit, three nights at the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel would cost 84,000 Gold Points.

When I first called the Park Inn reservations line, the best suggestion the representative came up with was to cancel my existing reservations, and use the points for a cash and points reservation at the Radisson Blu. That would have left me out 15,000 Gold Points and $300.

And in fact, that's likely all I was entitled to.

So I took off my travel hacker hat and put on my civilian hat. If a civilian had a 3-night award stay planned a year in advance, and the hotel closed out from under them, they wouldn't agree to replace 3 free nights with a $300 paid stay! Instead, I explained the situation to the phone representative again, and told her I expected Club Carlson to reaccommodate me at the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel.

She transferred me to their "Customer Care" department, and after a mere 30 minutes on hold, Club Carlson had deposited 66,000 additional Gold Points into my account and made me a 3-night reservation at the Radisson Blu:


Whenever I get a points windfall like this, I take the opportunity to think through my existing reservations to see if there's any way to optimize them for price or comfort.

For example, I could cancel the new award reservation, rebook the hotel with cash (about $300), then use 70,000 of the Gold Points for a third night at the Radisson Blu Style Hotel, Vienna. But hotels in Vienna aren't that expensive! The Park Hyatt Vienna costs just $250 in Ultimate Rewards points or $269 for a Points + Cash redemption (plus a Diamond suite upgrade, naturally).

In fact what I'm likely to do is cancel my existing 2-night reservation at the Radisson Blu Style Hotel, Vienna, upgrade our stay to a premium award redemption at the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel, and book all three nights in Vienna at the Park Hyatt.