SXSW Music 2015: book reward nights now!

(Source: SXSW)

(Source: SXSW)

I just booked our reward nights at Holiday Inn Austin – Town Lake for the music portion of SXSW (March 17 – 22, 2015). Badges go on sale in the next week or so, if the schedule stays the same as previous years. Once that happens, there will be nothing left. So if you want to save some serious bucks and avoid couch surfing, this is your chance!

Holiday Inn Austin – Town Lake (20 North Ih-35) has reward nights available for the entire music portion of the festival at this time.  We really liked using this hotel as a home base last year, because it’s just on the edge of the craziness of downtown but steps away from the Rainey Street venues and awesome food trucks.  Reward nights are a reasonable 25,000 IHG reward points per night (or 15,000 + $70/night).  Don’t have enough points?  You can always do the (not so) secret workaround.

If don’t mind a short hike, Hampton Inn & Suites Austin @ The University/Capitol (1701 Lavaca Street) also has rooms available for the entire conference/festival at 50,000 HHonors points per night.  This is about the same distance from the action as the Holiday Inn, just in the opposite direction and a up a slight incline from Sixth Street.

The rest of the hotels at the edge of downtown are already sold out of award nights, as many didn’t offer them in the first place because of demand. That being said, there are many other hotels available outside downtown on various shuttle routes. I would still book as soon as possible if you have the points available.

I must say, if you can score a hotel through SXSW Housing right when badges go on sale, they do offer decent rates.  Last year I was able to grab the Holiday Inn Austin – Town Lake and I think it was about $210/night.  I ended up cancelling because I decided to use my pre-booked award nights to save extra money.

Good luck, and see you in Austin!

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!

Bumbershoot: a gem of a festival in the Emerald City

Music under the Needle.  Photo credit: cntraveler.com

Music under the Needle. Photo credit: cntraveler.com

Seattle closes down the summer festival season with a huge party every Labor Day Weekend, with the eclectic Bumbershoot Festival.  Dubbed the largest arts festival in the United States, Bumbershoot sees up to 100,000 or so attendees over the long weekend.  You may be thinking, “what kind of weird-ass name is Bumbershoot”? Well, it’s a synonym for umbrella, which makes sense considering Seattle’s drizzly weather.

While the 2014 line-up has not been announced yet, Bumbershoot crosses many music genres, often sporting well-known festival headliners, the cream of the indie crop, and a slew of homegrown Seattle artists.  This year should be no exception.

The festival setting is the Seattle Center grounds (think: Space Needle), which is just north of downtown and Belltown.  The area is well-served by transit, including by bus, ferry, and monorail (which takes you to Westlake Center, where you can pick up the light rail system).   Some of the newest and least expensive hotels just happen to be within walking distance, with ritzier hotels just a short walk or monorail ride uphill to downtown.

Seattle Center provides the perfect setting for the festival, with large open spaces for sunny days and a number of exhibition buildings for rainy days.  The main stage is indoors at Key Arena, which has decent acoustics and provides a reprieve from the weather and a (fairly) comfy seat.  In addition to a talent-packed music line-up, pass holders also get into comedy shows, dance performances, and a number of exhibits celebrating the Great Northleft, as they like to put it.

As it is still early in the year, there are several hotels nearby available on award nights.

All of the above hotels are within a few blocks walk of the Seattle Center and have availability from August 29 to September 2.  There are even more hotels in the downtown area, often for higher points.  Downtown hotels tend to be highrises, so they may stay available with points even longer.

While Seattle Center provides for many food options right on the grounds, the Belltown neighborhood is just a few short blocks away.  Belltown is home to many up-and-coming restaurants, gastropubs, and even my favorite hole-in-the-wall bar, the Five Point Cafe.

So enjoy one of the most laid back urban festivals in North America, and don’t forget your bumbershoot!

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!

Few hotel award nights still available for Coachella

Although the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival sold out in just a few hours (!) on Friday, there are still a few hotels available on award nights for those lucky enough to have available points.  Not surprisingly, there are fewer hotel rooms available for Weekend 1 than Weekend 2, so those with passes for the former better get crackin’.  There really are no hotels within walking distance of the Empire Polo Club, where the festival is held, so you will either need to drive or take one of Coachella’s shuttles from the hotel.

Weekend 1: April 11 to April 14 Availability

Weekend 2: April 18 to April 21 Availability

Good luck, and let me know how your Coachella adventure goes!