I'm having a hard time figuring out if we can book hotel rooms through the housing portal using hotel loyalty program points. Does anyone know if this is possible? Thanks!
As far as I know, there's no way to do that. If you want to book with reward points, you have to book out of block.
As far as I have seen, since GenCon uses a 3rd party to administer the housing situation, they don't offer the ability to book on points. Most of the hotels say that the only way to redeem brand specific points is to book directly through their websites. If rooms aren't available to be purchased on points, it typically means they are not available to be redeemed via rewards points, or they have already all been booked.
You can call a hotel location directly to see if rooms are available to book via their reward program.
The other posters are correct, you cannot use points if you are booking through the housing portal.
TBH, I would imagine most, if not all, rooms reserved out-of-block for rewards nights have been booked by now for downtown properties. You would most likely have to call and make as much of a fuss as possible to try and get booked with points. However, there are still rewards nights available at hotels outside of downtown.
I signed up for Hilton Honors because of their program, specifically to get reward rooms for Origins and Gencon. I have been able to get an out of block downtown room, for every year since the timing lotto started (4 yrs ago).
The "normal" rates for room rewards are 20,000-40,000 points per night. You can get these same reward priced rooms at Airport hotels. The current Downtown available rooms for Gencon (as of 2/3/20) are 50,000 (HGI/Home2) to 70,000 (Conrad) per night.
Note that if you use points, the fifth night is free. So, even at the increased rate, its 200,000 points for 5 nights, or 120,000-160,000 for four nights. This is why I book Tuesday-Saturday now.
The cash prices for the downtown rooms are upwards of $400. (Conrad is $431, HGI $404, and Home 2 Suites $451) The cash price of the Airport hotels are over $200 a night, such as the Hampton Inn ($226) and HGI ($245).
Thus, for out of block purposes....
1) As of today, staying downtown (HGI/Home2) for cash is the worst deal. I managed to get a similar room earlier at a bit over $300 a night. That will be more than the block, but not so much more, and If I dont get a great lotto time, so be it. At the time I booked, the cash price was lower but the points rate was still 50,000. So cash was a better deal then.
2) Staying at the Airport and paying cash is a bad deal. You will probably be able to get an airport room at a Hilton property for an in-block price, if you have any reasonable lotto time. Staying at the Airport for cash (if in block) would be a good deal, assuming there is a significant price difference.
3) Staying at the Airport with points is a meh deal. You really dont pay more or less then you normally would, and if you stay 5 nights, the fifth is free. This is the baseline I use to determine booking with cash/points.
4) Staying Downtown (in block) would be a good deal. (Duh). The problem is the lotto.
5) Staying Downtown with points (but not the Conrad*) really is a great deal. Currently, the points (50,000) offer better value then the cash price ($400+). This does require taking advantage of the fifth night free option though.
*If you must stay downtown, and do *not* have a Hilton Honors account, then take 5 minutes, sign up, and book an out of block room at the Conrad. Then hope for the lotto. You still are getting a "better" deal paying in cash for the Conrad then using points (70,000) and the room rate is actually cheaper then the rate currently at the Home 2 Suites, even though the Conrad is closer and a higher value property.
I am a Hilton HHonors junkie too, and I always book a room at the Embassy Suites in September to make sure I have something. This year, the Embassy Suites was charging $999/night in September, and when I called to ask what was going on the reservation agent stated (incorrectly, as it turns out) that the prices being shown were accurate. So I booked the Conrad out of desperation, which I imagine is its usual function for Gen-Con, but it cannot be stressed enough how nice it is to join Hilton HHonors and know you can get a downtown room if you are willing to pay for it.
(I actually ended up switching to the Homewood Suites when noticing it was $125 cheaper per night and basically the same distance [not to mention a straight shot down Georgia Street at that], but the Conrad still would have beat our last-minute suburban accommodations in 2003, nice though they were)
Yeah. I forgot to add that, though the prices did eventually drop (I am pretty sure it would actually be illegal to charge $999/night?), they were about the same as the Conrad, $450-499ish. Still obviously not worth it, since there were still rooms available at the Homewood Suites in December for about $300.
If you collect points throughout the year with an eye on securing a hotel for Gencon or want to up your chances for booking outside the block, Marriott actually has the most properties in downtown Indy within one mile of the ICC (10). Hilton has seven, IHG has four, and the other six hotels are split between four other brands. Theoretically if you joined the Marriott Bonvoy program, and especially if you get the credit card, you have more to choose from within that group. Marriott isn't my main brand so I don't have the credit card, but getting their mid-tier credit card may also be worth it for the free anniversary night, which should enable you to stay a night at any of the properties except Le Meridien and JW basically for the cost of the $95 annual fee.
I would pick one brand and run everything through the credit card. Really helps to gain points that way.
Just for fun I looked at the IHG and Marriott websites around Gencon weekend and apparently enough people have canceled their rooms due to the current uncertainties that out-of-block connected and downtown rooms are available again. The current rate of $1034/night at the Westin makes the $485/night at the Crowne Plaza look like a steal! ｡･ﾟﾟ*(>д<)*ﾟﾟ･｡
The silver lining is that if you got the Marriott credit card and used it to pay that egregious rate should Gencon 2020 occur, that might just give you enough points to cover your room for 2021.
$1034 a night? Growing up, the Holiday Inn Express was the "nice" hotel...I'm quietly grumbling about my $1200 dollar total hotel bill for 5 nights. $1000 bucks for a hotel room...plus 17% tax...so...that room is roughly $1200 after taxes, and a total 5 night stay for the low price of $6,000. Even if one has the extra cash lying around, why would you ever pay that? I guess I'm too broke to understand that one.