Tag Archives: Amsterdam

The Mistake that Cost me a $690 Hotel Room

In this post I will describe the mistake that cost me a free stay at a posh hotel worth over $690.  More importantly, I’ll explain how you can avoid making this mistake!  It was a dumb mistake but I had never been warned about it, so I learned the hard way.

Oh well, sometimes the hard way is the best way to learn something.  But who says is has to be your hard way?  Read on to learn from mine. . .




My plan

The year was 2014.  I had just gotten my feet wet with my first ever points redemption and I was planning my next big trip.  Up to that point I didn’t have any experience with hotel programs; only frequent flier and miscellaneous points programs.  I only had one hotel credit card, the Citi Hilton Reserve.

I was in the middle of secretly planning the surprise European vacation for Nicoleen’s and my 10 year anniversary.  The flights were booked and all I had left to do was reserve a hotel room for the last night of the trip.  We would be flying out of Amsterdam but only spending one night in The Netherlands so I wanted to make it a memorable one.

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam Goldfinch Brasserie

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam Goldfinch Brasserie. CC Image courtesy of currystrumpet on Flickr.

What better way to make a one night hotel stay memorable than to book one of the fanciest hotels in the city, right?  (Ah, the fun things you can do when you use value tactics!)  I had my eyes on the new Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam.  The hotel is in the heart of the city and consists of six 17th century palaces, previously owned by the who’s who of the time, including two mayors.

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, by David van der Mark, Flickr

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam.  CC Image courtesy of David van der Mark on Flickr.

I planned on using one of my free weekend night certificates from the sign-up bonus on my Citi Hilton Reserve card.  I had already finished the minimum spend for the bonus and was just waiting for the certificates to show up in the mail.

hiltonhhonors

In those ancient days the certificates still came in the physical mail.  What I didn’t know, however, was that the free nights were credited to your account 1-2 weeks before the paper certificates showed up . . .

What actually happened

In my recent post about another trip where I used the same kind of Hilton free nights, I touched on how to find available rooms on the Hilton website. In a nutshell, to use the certificate the room has to be available at the “standard” reward rate.  The standard rate is always a nice round number of points.  In the Waldorf’s case, it’s 95,000 points.

WAA

I knew the room wouldn’t be available forever.  In-demand Hilton properties have a very limited number of rooms available at the standard rate.  I was booking 7 months in advance but it was for July, right in the middle of vacation season in Europe.

Every day I checked the website and every day I still saw the room available I got more and more nervous.  The free night certificates had to be coming soon!

The moment of truth

Finally the certificates arrived in the mail!  This was going to blow Nicoleen away!  Staying at this ridiculously elegant Waldorf Astoria for free would really lock in the first class status of our trip!

That day I didn’t check the Hilton website.  I had just checked the night before.  What were the chances someone booked that particular room on that particular night, and that it was the very last one left at that rate?  I picked up the phone and called the Hilton HHonors booking line.  I told the rep the hotel location, the dates, and the payment method.

“I’m sorry.  That property is not available for that date.”

What??  How??  Sure enough, someone had booked the last room left at the standard rate, 7 months in advance, less than 24 hours before I called to reserve it!




What I should have done

The worst part about the whole deal was that the free nights had been credited to my account for two weeks before I got the certificates.  I could have reserved the room any time during those two weeks and it would have worked.  But no one ever told me about the delay.

According to the Flyertalk wiki the certificates now come via e-mail, and they come as soon as the free nights are credited on your account.  So the particular scenario that I screwed up isn’t a worry anymore.  However, there’s a broader lesson here. . .

The broader lesson for you

The take-away from my mistake isn’t actually about the timing of free night certificates.  It’s about the scarcity of hotel and flight award bookings.

This wasn’t the first time during this trip’s planning phase that I had to settle for my second choice.  When booking our first class transatlantic flight, I had planned flying business class.  For virtually the same seat and service, the business class seats were 50k miles, versus the 62.5k required for first class.  Days before I booked the award flight, all the business class options disappeared.

If the hotel or flight award booking is easily refundable/changeable, lock in your reservation right away!  Desirable award flights and hotel rooms are hot commodities, and they disappear all the time.  Don’t trust them to still be there after you get all your other plans lined up. If you end up changing your mind, most programs allow a quick and convenient way to have your points refunded.

A missed opportunity, but not a disaster

It all worked out in the end for Nicoleen and me.  We ended up staying at my second choice hotel, the Hilton Amsterdam I recently wrote a review of this awesome hotel.  It was not quite as blown out as the Waldorf Astoria, but we still enjoyed it and it served our purpose nicely.

Nicoleen walking down a typical street in Amsterdam, packed with bikes.

We had a great (but short) time in Amsterdam, despite staying in our second choice hotel.  The Hilton Amsterdam is definitely a worthwhile use of a free night certificate!

Some images in this post made available through a Creative Commons license.  Click here for info.

Hotel Review: Hilton Amsterdam

Our free stay at the Hilton Amsterdam was a nice little bonus at the tail end of our anniversary vacation.  I wanted to get our return flight out of Frankfurt but there was nothing available in our date range.  I expanded the flight search to nearby airports and found a flight out of Amsterdam.  The flight left around noon so I figured a hotel stay nearby would make getting to the airport less problematic.  We didn’t want to risk missing the flight due to last minute ground transportation problems.

I had two free nights at any Hilton that I earned with my Citi Hilton Reserve card, so the extra night of lodging wouldn’t cost us anything.  As a bonus, we would get to experience a new city and add another country to our trip!

Hotel Overview
The Room
Executive Lounge
Dining
Cost and Value
Overall Thoughts

This post is part of a series reviewing our 2015 Anniversary trip to Europe.  For a full list of the posts in this series, and for an overview of the trip, check out the index page.

Hotel Overview

The Hilton Amsterdam was the first international hotel built in The Netherlands.  It’s an 11 story V-shaped building in a quiet part of the city, away from all the tourist traps.  The hotel has some interesting history; notably it was the site of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Bed-In” for peace in 1969.  For more general info on the Hilton Amsterdam check out the hotel’s heritage page or its Wikipedia page.

The Hilton Amsterdam is currently rated 4.5 out of 5.0 on Tripadvisor and is ranked #42 of 364 hotels in Amsterdam.

The Room

Due to my Gold status with Hilton HHonors from my Citi Hilton Reserve card, we got a free room upgrade at check-in.  Our room was an “Executive King Room” on the 8th floor, which was dedicated to executive rooms.  Our room key also granted us access to the 10th floor, which is entirely taken up by the rooftop executive lounge.  More on that later . . .

Our room was impeccably clean.  It looked like it was recently renovated as well.  A clean, newly renovated room will get a great review from me every time!  Our executive king room at the Hilton Amsterdam was large enough for our needs and had a convenient lay-out.  The view of the city was fantastic.  Overall we were very pleased with the room.

Hilton Amsterdam room

Hilton Amsterdam bathroom

The top shelf was the only usable space for personal items in the minibar fridge. The other items were automatically charged to the room upon removal. Be careful!

The top shelf was the only usable space for personal items in the minibar fridge. The other items were automatically charged to the room upon removal. Be careful!

The complimentary bottles of water we got as a Gold Status perk. The Hilton pen that was by the note pad was the nicest hotel pen I have ever pilfered (until the Grand Wailea, that is).

The complimentary bottles of water we got as a Gold Status perk. The Hilton pen that was by the note pad was the nicest hotel pen I have ever pilfered (until the Grand Wailea, that is).

Executive Lounge

One of the reasons I chose the Hilton Amsterdam among the other Hilton properties in the city was the executive lounge.  Gold status gets you access to these lounges at any Hilton that has one.

After getting settled in our room we headed up to the rooftop floor.  The executive lounge is the only thing on the top floor, and only executive floor room keys will get the elevator to stop there.  The lounge was open from 6:00-9:00 in the evening, daily.  We arrived right at 6:00 so we got the first pick at the assortment of complimentary food and beverages.

ams-exec1

Poor Nicoleen was 7 months pregnant, so she couldn't take advantage of all the complimentary beer and wine that were available in parts of our trip. Pictured here, she finds solace in a carrot chip.

Poor Nicoleen was 7 months pregnant, so she couldn’t take advantage of all the complimentary beer and wine that were available in parts of our trip. Pictured here, she finds solace in a carrot chip.

Besides the food and drink, there were newspapers available.  The views of the city were beautiful, and overall the place had a very relaxing ambiance.  Most of the other guests appeared to be traveling on business.  I guess that fits the “executive” part.

The view of the business center of Amsterdam from the executive lounge at the city Hilton.

The view of the business center of Amsterdam from the executive lounge at the city Hilton.

I would have been happy to fill up on the free beer and hors d’oeuvres, but Nicoleen wanted to get a flavor of the city, so we headed out for supper.

Dining

The Amsterdam Hilton has three restaurants, a bar, and a fitness center.  The restaurants looked top notch, but we had other plans for dinner.  The one evening was the only chance we had to soak up some Dutch culture so we wanted to find out where the locals ate.

Nicoleen walking down a typical street in Amsterdam, packed with bikes.

Nicoleen walking down a typical street in Amsterdam, packed with bikes.

The great thing about the Hilton’s location is that it’s far from the tourist-trap center of the city.  A short walk from the hotel and we were surrounded by locals.  We found a small French café and ate a light dinner, which was enough after we had partially filled up on appetizers in the executive lounge.

Breakfast Buffet

Our gold Hilton status got us free breakfast at the buffet.  This was normally $30 per person so it was quite a good value!  The host seated us at a table and took our drink orders.  Thirty dollars for a hotel breakfast seemed a bit steep until we saw the wondrous cornucopia that awaited us!

The spread at the Hilton Amsterdam was probably the most extensive breakfast buffet I have ever seen.  It had anything you can think of from multiple cuisines.  There was the full European spread: multiple breads, meats, and cheeses; müsli, sweet bakery goods, and boiled eggs.  British specialties like veal sausage, tomatoes, and mushrooms were on hand as well.  There were French crepes and omelettes made to order.  The whole American breakfast experience was available too: bacon, sausage links, scrambled eggs, fruit, cereal, biscuits and gravy, etc.  There were even African and Asian dishes that I didn’t recognize at all.

It was like having several breakfast buffets from multiple continents, all combined into one!

On the way out, there was a table with to-go options.  That’s rare at a buffet!  There were little paper cartons you could fill with tiny muffins or fruit, and to-go coffee cups as well.  That’s awesome service right there!

The to-go goodies I grabbed on the way out of the buffet. "Have a nice day". . . don't mind if I do!

The to-go goodies I grabbed on the way out of the buffet. “Have a nice day”. . . don’t mind if I do!

Cost and Value

Our executive level room at the Hilton Amsterdam was a steal at $0.00!  I used one of my two free weekend night certificates on this hotel stay.  My gold Hilton status and the free night certificates are some of the perks of the Citi Hilton Reserve card, which I had opened a few months prior to planning the trip.

Had we paid cash for the same room at the time of booking, it would have cost $385.48.  I wrote above that the buffet breakfast was $30 per person.  But if we would have added the breakfast onto our booking as a package, it would have been an extra $20.47.  That brings the total value of our free stay to $405.95.  Not a bad deal for half of a credit card sign-up bonus!



Overall Thoughts

Our one night stay in Amsterdam could have been purely functional; it served the purpose of getting us close to our departure airport.  The Hilton turned our 16 hours in The Netherlands into much more than that.  It was a fun and refreshing finale to our anniversary trip!

All the staff at the Hilton were extremely courteous and professional.  I don’t know how much of it was due to our gold status, but we received white glove service throughout our short stay.  (No, really . . . the doorman was wearing a tail coat and white gloves!)  Like everyone else in Holland, the hotel staff all spoke perfect English.  The concierge helped arrange a taxi for us to get to the airport in the morning and everything went smoothly.

There were plenty of other hotel choices in the city.  Had we been paying cash for the room we would have probably chosen something cheaper and closer to the airport, but I don’t think the Hilton is overpriced for the service and room quality they offer.  It’s a clean, beautiful hotel in a beautiful, vibrant city.

🙂 Thanks for reading my review! 🙂

executive_loungerBW(This was actually my second choice for using my Hilton free night in Amsterdam, but that’s another story for another blog post. . .  )