A Potential Point Redemption Trap to Avoid

Next weekend, my wife and I will be headed to Florida, mainly to embark on our Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser adventure. But, before we board the Halcyon on Tuesday, we’re spending a few nights in the general Walt Disney World area. So, after some consideration about where the best place to stay would be, I decided to look at what Hilton had available since I have a surplus of Honors points following the cancelation of my FinCon trip last year. As I was looking, I noticed some pretty interesting things — including something that I think could almost be a trap for some customers. Let me explain.

Given the size and popularity of Walt Disney World — not to mention the footprint and brand variety under the Hilton corporation — there are plenty of Hilton properties to choose from in the area. However, a few that stuck out to me were these three:

  • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace: $412 per night
  • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista: $279 per night
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista: $237

Confusing naming aside, if I were to pick one of those to stay at normally, I’d probably go with the Embassy Suites (although $237 still seems high to me). What’s interesting, though, is that all three of these properties are available to book with points at the same rate, with each costing 50,000 points per night. If you’re like me, you may be wondering why a $237 room and a $412 room cost the same number of points — and why on Earth wouldn’t I just go with the $412 room then? Well, I eventually did, but only after some additional research.

It occured to me that, while the Palace might have been the best “value” for my points on paper, the fees associated with hotel stays in the modern area can change the math quickly. Namely, there are resort fees to take into account. On top of that, since we’ll be driving to Orlando, we have the pleasure of paying for parking.

The good news is that Hilton’s app is quite forthcoming with its resort fees. This revealed that, indeed, the Palace does have a higher resort fee than the Embassy Suites — but not by too much. For my selected dates, the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace and Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista showed resort fees of $35 a night (plus tax) while the Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista had a $24.95 resort fee, not including tax. In this case, the $10 a night difference is worth it to me to try the Palace.

(UPDATE: Turns out that Hilton waives resort fees when you book with points so I ended up not having to worry about this! Of course, that might not be the case with other hotel chains so my point stands. Plus, there’s still this next matter to consider.)

But what about parking? After all, I’ve stayed at some hotels where parking costs more than some nights I’ve spent elsewhere! Here, the bad news is that parking at the Palace will cost us $22 a night — but that matches the rate at the other Hilton. Meanwhile, again, Embassy is less at $14 (although I swear it was more when I checked it earlier this week). Sure, $22 isn’t cheap, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Although it kind of sucks that our “free” stay will end up costing us $57 a night plus taxes, I realize that it definitely could have been worse. Had I impulsively opted for the most expensive hotel in a bid to maximize value without doing my research, I might have ended up spending far more out of pocket than I would have if we selected a “lesser property” in the same point tier. As for whether the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace is worth it, you’ll have to stay tuned for my post trip review in the coming weeks.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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