Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes


May 15, 2013

Luxury Travel Masterclass: Cheap Luxury Hotels with IHG

So as promised, I’m starting my Luxury Travel Masterclass posts on how to get yourself free or cheap luxury hotels and have decided to start with my favourite hotel chain, IHG.  I want people to understand that the holidays that I blog about are actually all paid for by me and most of the time I’m using my points to stay at luxury hotels for free….means more money for shoes…that’s the way I roll.


^^The view from the Presidential Suite at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Fran!

I think a lot of people don’t like using a hotels within a brand as they think they’re lacking personality and the rooms are tiny…trust me this isn’t the case!  Some of my favourite hotels are part of a huge hotel chain.

What brands do IHG cover?

IHG has a great selection of hotels starting with the very basic Holiday Inn Express Hotels (great for budget travellers and your stay includes a free breakfast), Holiday Inns, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza and the very luxurious Intercontinental brand.  There are a few additional brands within the group but these are the most recognisable.

I’m very fond of the Intercontinental brand…who doesn’t want to stay in a five star hotel but I also like their Holiday Inn brand as the beds are comfy, locations are fabulous, the rooms are tidy and they’re great value for money.

What properties have I stayed at? (Putting my money where my mouth is!)

I’ve stayed at a lot including (in no particular order)…

Intercontinental Hong Kong


Intercontinental Marseille


Intercontinental London (including partaking in afternoon tea at the hotel a number of times!)…


Intercontinental Porto


Intercontinental Berlin


Intercontinental Vienna


Intercontinental Dusseldorf


…and a number of other properties!

G and I may have made it our goal to stay at all the Intercontinental properties in Germany a few years ago (we did it!) and trust me this isn’t a full listing of the hotels we’ve spent the night.

Locations of their Hotels

There are over 4,900 hotels scattered all over the world and for me the winner is that they’ve got a number of properties within the UK to stay at…making it super easy to earn free nights overseas from spending a night or two away from home on staycations.

I’ve noticed while researching for my Peru trip that IHG haven’t got a great selection of hotels in Peru but my first night in Lima is going to be spent at their Crowne Plaza property; all paid for with our points hence I’m not paying a cent!


How good is the IHG loyalty program?

The IHG loyalty program is definitely my favourite and it’s free to join!  You can join up here.  It has some great little perks like free wifi when staying plus the ability to collect points easily to use for free or cheap hotel stays at a later date.

If you stay at the Intercontinental branded hotels frequently then I would highly recommend purchasing (either with cash or using your points) the Ambassador Loyalty Membership as it gives you late check out (perfect for city break weekends!), a free welcome gift, a free movie, a free night voucher and some pretty grand upgrades.

The Levels of the IHG Loyalty Program

Club Membership

The benefits of a Club Membership include no black out dates when booking reward nights, complimentary newspaper and internet.

Gold Elite Member

This will be awarded if you have stayed a minimum of 10 nights or earned at least 10,000 points during a calendar year.

Benefits of a Gold Elite Membership include the above plus Priority Check in and a 10% bonus on base points earned during stays at an IHG property.

Platinum Elite Member

This will be awarded if you stayed a minimum of 40 nights or earned at least 40,000 points during a calendar year.  Or you can take the easy route and apply for an IHG credit card to gain instant Platinum status (more information shortly on this travel cheat).

Benefits of a Platinum Elite Membership include all of the above plus a 50% bonus on base points earned during stays at an IHG property, guaranteed room availability and upgrades subject to availability (we’ve always received an upgrade since becoming Platinum members).

Spire Elite Member

This will be awarded if you stay a minimum of 75 nights or earned at least 75,000 points during a calendar year.  I’m rather close to this level now…I can almost touch it….!  This is also just a new level that IHG have added to their loyalty program.

Benefits of a Spire Elite Membership include all of the above plus 100% bonus on base points earned during stays at an IHG property and having the ability to share some of these benefits with family and friends.

Is it easy to earn enough points for free or cheap luxury hotel nights?

Yes!  From our three nights in Hong Kong, I managed to earn 37,510 points which is a lot…I only need 50,000 points to redeem a free night at the Intercontinental Park Lane in London…so well over half way there.

50,000 points is the highest value you will pay for a hotel room and this is within an Intercontinental hotel but you can get some pretty great deals on hotel rooms paying as little as 5,000 – 10,000 points.

The points that you would earn at a Holiday Inn properties do add up quite quickly as well and IHG are always running point acceleration promotions…meaning more points and getting yourself into an Intercontinental property quicker…hello free luxury hotel room!

Other ways to earn IHG points

As we as earning points on stays; you can earn more points by applying for a IHG Premium Points Credit Card.  The credit card is through Barclays and offers instant Platinum Elite status within IHG which means you get some nifty benefits (see above).  Here is all the info you need to know about the card; including that you will earn 20,000 IHG reward points for just making a purchase.


I have this card, along with my British Airways American Express which allows me to travel in First Class with BA for only £500 (yes you read that right!).

The biggest benefit that this credit card offers is that if you spend over £10,000 within a 12 month period that you will receive a free night voucher that you can use at any of their hotels…so make sure you use this voucher at the most expensive hotel…I’ve got my eye on the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes in France…oh lala but without paying a penny!

If you treat the credit card like a debit card, you can hit the £10,000 limit quite easily…just make sure you pay it off in full each month and never get into debt just to get a free hotel room (this is Kelly speaking with her accounting hat on!).

Is it easy to redeem your points?

Yes!  Actually it’s so easy that I’ve booked a free night the morning of us arriving at a hotel once and you can do it easily on line by just picking Rewards Night as your payment option.  I’ve yet to run into a problem with booking myself a free night.

You can also pay with points and cash; handy if you don’t have enough points in your account.

Does IHG offer good upgrades?

We’ve had some great upgrades over the years including staying at the Presidential suite at The Mark Hopkins in San Fransisco…this was pre-blog just in case you were wondering!

Each hotel offers different upgrades to it’s loyal guests.  If you’re an Ambassador staying at an Intercontinental property then you can expect at least one level above what you’ve booked…some hotels (Intercontinental Dusseldorf) offered two levels above the room I’d booked.

Customer Service

For me, customer service makes or breaks a hotel – I’m not going to say that I’ve had a perfect stay every time as that’s a giant fib but overall I have to say I’ve had some pretty great customer service moments at IHG hotels over the years and I’ve always felt welcomed.

A hotel is your home away from home and for me, if I don’t feel welcomed then I feel uncomfortable in the hotel – I’ve always been greeted with big smiles on every stay and even been greeted with a glass of bubbles while checking in.


The Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna was definitely a stand out for me…an eye sore from the outside but inside the hotel is gorgeous and the customer service is impressive from the great concierge right through to the staff at breakfast who knew as soon as I gave my room number that I was gluten free and was shown around the breakfast buffet.  A customer service win and I would quite happily return to this hotel over and over again!

Social Media Prowess

On the weekend we stayed at a Holiday Inn in Ashford and received our upgrade which was the disabled room however it wasn’t the nicest and it smelled (thanks to a air conditioning unit blowing out musky air).  I tweeted my disgust (as you do rather than calling the front desk…within minutes I was chatting to the Duty Manager and offered a different room).  That’s what I call fabulous customer service via social media…the twitter team had contacted the hotel with my concerns.

Instagram is my social media crack and unfortunately I think IHG have fallen behind on Instagram as the account is slightly boring and uninspiring – I booked 3 nights at the Intercontinental Marseille after seeing a photo of Instagram a few years ago!  I would love to see the return of great photos on this account at some point in the future.

Price Guarantee

As I’ve stayed a lot at IHG properties over the years and booked directly via their website, I’ve never worried that I’m not getting the best price.  The Price Guarantee that IHG offer is the best of any hotel chain…get this…if you can find the hotel cheaper on another website within 24 hours of making your booking (with the same terms and conditions) then IHG will give you your first night free…that’s how sure they are that you’re going to get the best price on their own website!  None of this 10% or 20% discount that almost every other hotel chain offers…you get your first night free…it doesn’t matter if you’re staying one or ten nights!

So have I converted you to signing up for a free IHG membership and trying out their brand of hotels?

Since this is my first Luxury Travel Masterclass, is there any other information that you want me to add?  I hope this post will help you get some free or cheap luxury hotels for your next holiday.


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