Update: Hotel award nights still available for Lollapalooza

Note: This is an update to a post I wrote in January.  Now that the incredible line-up has been released, the mad dash is on to score hotels near Grant Park.

One of the best things about music festivals in large cities is that there are so many hotels for concertgoers, you can get away with booking award nights a bit later than in small markets.  Chicago, for example, is used to hosting huge conventions and has a booming tourist trade.  So not surprisingly, there are still a few hotel award options left for you music fans within a few blocks of the venue, even with up to 300,000 attendees expected this year.

Lollapalooza takes place this year from August 1 to August 3 in Grant Park, and passes go on sale in the spring.  Line-ups are typically announced shortly before the sale date.  So what if you don’t like the line-up?  Well, that’s the beauty of award stays.  Just cancel your reservation and you get all those points back, with no fees or penalties (as long as you cancel before the date your stay begins).  And in the meantime, you can feel secure spending the dough on the festival passes (which aren’t cheap!) knowing you have a free hotel room at least.

So what are your remaining award stay options within a few blocks of Grant Park?  Here you go.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel (221 North Columbus Drive)
Located just a few blocks north of Grant Park, this hotel has beautiful views of the lake, the parks, and even north toward the river.  The hotel imposes restrictions over the Lollapalooza weekend, stating that customers need to wear hotel issued wristbands (thereby restricting friends from coming up to party in the rooms). I stayed in the hotel in spring 2013, and absolutely loved the location and hotel design.  Award stays are available through Club Carlson for 50,000 75,000 points per night (the top of the scale, for a luxury room and extra amenities).  Those of you who have a Club Carlson Signature Visa enjoy additional award discounts, getting your last night free (after at least two consecutive award nights).  Note: unlike some other hotel chains, Club Carlson considers this weekend ‘special’ and may not refund points if you cancel your reservation (so be careful).

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park.

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park on a stormy April day.

Best Western Grant Park Hotel (1100 South Michigan Avenue)
Also on Michigan Avenue, and located at the southwest corner of Grant Park, the Best Western Grant Park is one of the best-placed locations for the south stage area.  Just a block from the gates, it’s about as close as you can get without sleeping on a park bench.  Want to book Lollapalooza weekend?  It’s 28,000 Best Western Rewards points per night.

W Chicago – City Center (172 West Adams Street)
Surprisingly, availability has opened up for W Hotel Chicago that wasn’t there in January.  And even better, it’s a reasonable 12,000 SPG points per night.  This is one of the closest hotels to the main entrance in the middle of Grant Park.

Westin Chicago River – North (320 North Dearborn Street)
Located just north of the river, the Westin is within walking distance of the north side of Grant Park.  This could be a good pick if the closer W Hotel sells out of award nights, as it is also 12,000 SPG points.

Chicago has some amazing transit options, and the further away from the festival you get, the better the availability (and lower the points).  So consider taking transit to the festival to save even more!  A reminder: with 300,000 attendees, transit systems will be crowded.  So plan accordingly and have a great time!

Have any tips about staying in Chicago during Lollapalooza?  Please share!

Iceland Airwaves: the best deal for an international festival?

The Flaming Lips are known for their over-the-top shows!

The Flaming Lips are known for their over-the-top shows!

Every autumn, Reykjavik rocks out as the Iceland Airwaves festival takes over the city.  The festival takes place over a long weekend (November 5 – 9 in 2014) across many venues in this compact city.  The festival, a favorite among festival aficionados, is a great way to get acquainted with up and coming talent from Iceland, Europe and beyond.  This year, one of the headliners are Flaming Lips, a festival favorite.

Iceland Airwaves started humbly in an airline hangar in 1999 and has quickly grown to be a citywide event.  Sponsors include the City of Reykjavik, and most importantly to the rest of us, Icelandair.  Why is that important?  Because Icelandair has put together amazing packages for the festival at super cheap prices.  Icelandair’s packages give you your flight (with all fees/taxes), a hotel for the length of your stay, and festival passes, all for what it would normally cost to fly from North America to many cities in Europe. (In fact, in the few cases I’ve checked, its cheaper!)

Less than $825/person for flight, hotel (w/breakfast) and festival passes? Stupendous!

Less than $825/person for flight, hotel (w/breakfast) and festival passes? Stupendous!

If you decide to get one of the packages, you may want to consider using the Club Carlson (Park Inn or Radisson Blu) hotels or the Hilton, in case the rates will allow for points accumulation.  Some sample packages, each include festival passes:

  • Boston departure, 4 nights hotel @ Park Inn Island (w/breakfast): $823/person
  • Seattle departure, 5 nights hotel @ Radisson Blu Saga: $1,136/person
  • Edmonton departure, 8 nighs hotel @ Park Inn Island (w/breakfast): $1,023/person

If you do choose a Club Carlson hotel, and you have status with any other major hotel chain, consider trying to get a status match to earn even more points (or possibly upgrades).  All you need to do is take a screenshot of your elite status with another brand and send it to with your Club Carlson number to: clubcarlson@carlsonrezidor.com.

Don’t forget to sign up for Icelandair’s Saga Club, their frequent flyer program.  Even if you never fly with Icelandair again, you can always convert your points to another airline via Points.com, donate your points to charity, or redeem the points for gift cards.

There is so much to do in and around Reykjavik, you may even want to stay a few more days to take a bus out to the Blue Lagoon, check out the Strokkur geyser, or soak up the culture and history of the city.  With the Icelandair package it’s so cheap to stay an extra few nights, why not?

Award night hotels for New Orleans Jazz Fest

This year the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is celebrating its 45th anniversary with an all-star lineup.  One of the longest running festivals, it is also one of the most diverse in terms of music (despite the moniker).  This year the festival is being held over two long weekends, from April 25 to May 4.

The festival is held about 10 minutes north(ish) of the French Quarter in a residential area  and next to one of the iconic New Orleans cemeteries.  There really aren’t any options (other than one B&B) within walking distance, so the festival partners with Gray Line Tours for continuous shuttle service between three different stops near downtown and the French Quarter.  The shuttle gets preferential access to the site (meaning less traffic lineups), and is really a good deal.

Jazz Fest attendees are really lucky this year because there are still a few good hotels left on award nights within walking distance of the shuttle stops, and right smack in the middle of the French Quarter action.

Some of the fun from 2013! (Source: New Orleans Jazz Fest)

Weekend 1 & 2 Availability

Availability for the first weekend is pretty slim by now.  But there are a couple of options.

Country Inn & Suites New Orleans (315 Magazine Street) – 44,000 points/night
This hotel is closer to the convention center than the heart of the French Quarter, but not horribly far from a shuttle stop.  Not super close though for those that can’t walk 10 or 15 minutes.  For those that have a Club Carlson credit card, read up on award nights as you can save lots of points and a get an extra night free.

Wyndham Riverfront New Orleans (701 Convention Center Blvd) – 30,000 points/night
The Wyndham Riverfront, as the address suggests, is also right by the convention center. At 30,000 points/night, this is a good deal consider you would have to pay about $350/night to stay during the festival.

Weekend 2 Availability

IHG has a few more hotels available for the second weekend, in great locations.

Crowne Plaza New Orleans French Quarter (739 Canal Street) – 40,000 points/night
You can’t beat this location for fun, fun, fun in the French Quarter, and it’s just a few blocks to the shuttle stop in front of the Sheraton.

Intercontinental Hotel New Orleans (444 St. Charles Ave) – 50,000 points/night
The Intercontinental is a ritzy place also in the heart of the action, and also just a few blocks walk to the Sheraton shuttle stop.  It’s a bit more spendy, but this is a lovely hotel and a good deal for the points as well.

Have fun jazzing it up with these free stays in the Big Easy!

Hotel award nights still available for Lollapalooza

One of the best things about music festivals in large cities is that there are so many hotels for concertgoers, you can get away with booking award nights a bit later than in small markets.  Chicago, for example, is used to hosting huge conventions and has a booming tourist trade.  So not surprisingly, there are still a few hotel award options left for you music fans within a few blocks of the venue, even with up to 300,000 attendees expected this year.

Lollapalooza takes place this year from August 1 to August 3 in Grant Park, and passes go on sale in the spring.  Line-ups are typically announced shortly before the sale date.  So what if you don’t like the line-up?  Well, that’s the beauty of award stays.  Just cancel your reservation and you get all those points back, with no fees or penalties (as long as you cancel before the date your stay begins).  And in the meantime, you can feel secure spending the dough on the festival passes (which aren’t cheap!) knowing you have a free hotel room at least.

So what are your remaining award stay options within a few blocks of Grant Park?  Here you go.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel (221 North Columbus Drive)
Located just a few blocks north of Grant Park, this hotel has beautiful views of the lake, the parks, and even north toward the river.  The hotel imposes restrictions over the Lollapalooza weekend, stating that customers need to wear hotel issued wristbands (thereby restricting friends from coming up to party in the rooms). I stayed in the hotel in spring 2013, and absolutely loved the location and hotel design.  Award stays are available through Club Carlson for 50,000 points per night (the top of the scale).  Those of you who have a Club Carlson Signature Visa enjoy additional award discounts, getting your last night free (after at least two consecutive award nights).

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park.

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park on a stormy April day.

Comfort Suites (320 North Michigan Avenue)
Also just a few blocks to the northwest of Grant Park, this hotel’s right in the thick of Chicago attractions on Michigan Avenue, just south of the Chicago River.  One of the more affordable options by way of points, you can book this hotel for 30,000 Choice Privileges points per night.

Best Western Grant Park Hotel (1100 South Michigan Avenue)
Also on Michigan Avenue, and located at the southwest corner of Grant Park, the Best Western Grant Park is one of the best-placed locations for the south stage area.  Just a block from the gates, it’s about as close as you can get without sleeping on a park bench.  Want to book Lollapalooza weekend?  It’s 28,000 Best Western Rewards points per night.

Hilton Chicago (720 South Michigan Avenue)
Just across the street from the main entrance, this iconic luxury hotel is toward the top of the HHonors Points scale at Category 7, but is probably the best located hotel for Lollapalooza (along with the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, which has no award night availability).  Literally just a block from the park up Balbo, you can also get some amazing views of the festival from any of the east-facing rooms and the sun deck. (Note: Hilton’s Palmer House no longer has award availability, so this is your best option using HHonors Points within walking distance, even at 50,000 per night.)

A map of the hotels can be found at this link.

Chicago has some amazing transit options, and the further away from the festival you get, the better the availability (and lower the points).  So consider taking transit to the festival to save even more!  A reminder: with 300,000 attendees, transit systems will be crowded.  So plan accordingly and have a great time!

Have any tips about staying in Chicago during Lollapalooza?  Please share!