While in pre-pandemic days I did my share of mileage runs to maintain top-level status with either American Airlines or Delta (depending on the time period), I never engaged in a mattress run, that is until now.
For the uninitiated, a mileage or mattress run is what frequent travelers can do if they are short on status miles, points, nights, or stays, for the purpose of maintaining or increasing their elite status for the coming year. Before airlines made significant changes to their frequent-flyer programs, one had only to book an inexpensive flight to accrue the necessary miles. With hotels, however, one need only book several reservations at different nearby hotels in the same chain to accrue the necessary stays.
Going on a mattress run (the hotel equivalent to a mileage run) is a good way to get last minute nights in. Because most hotel chains make their tier eligibility dependent upon nights stayed in a year, maintaining one’s status can sometimes be a question of one or two additional stays or nights.
A mattress run can be one of two things. Travelers can check into a local hotel (they need not even sleep in the room) – or they can change hotels frequently, even one day after another, during longer stays with hotel chains that count each stay, regardless of their duration, towards status. It is not unheard of for travelers to even check into multiple hotels on the same night, if they are in that great a need for nights.
WHY STATUS WITH HOTEL GROUPS MATTERS
In recent years, it’s been easier to obtain hotel elite status from the various hotel credit cards that offer it as a perk. Hilton Honors American Express cards offer complimentary Silver status with the free Hilton Honors card and the Hilton Honors Surpass card offers complimentary Gold status. In addition, many hotel groups have slashed qualification requirements for status starting in the early days of the pandemic.
My Gold status with Hilton was extended twice during the pandemic, even though I only had one Hilton stay over a period of more than two years – yet I continue to value the benefits that come with Gold status and it seemed that a mattress run would be a fast and easy way to maintain it without having to add yet another credit or charge card to my wallet.
All Hilton Honors members – even those without status – get free Wi-Fi and starting with Silver elite status, all elites get free bottled water upon arrival, a free fifth night for any stay, and spa discounts. Gold and Diamond elites, however, get an 80% point earning bonus on stays, space-available room upgrades, a daily food-and-beverage credit or a continental breakfast (this varies by property) and milestone bonuses.
Even the rooms I didn’t sleep in were upgraded to a better and quieter location and a higher floor, and in one case, I had a really nice corner room. The mattress stays were all at Hilton properties at the lower end of the chain’s offerings, while I typically stay at Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy hotels, Hilton Hotels, and the occasional Waldorf Astoria. It’s at these properties where the benefits of Gold elite status tend to shine. At Conrad and Waldorf Astoria properties, I get a daily $25 credit per guest, hence $50 for two guests per day, while at Canopy and Hilton Hotels I get $15 per day per guest. I’ve never failed to end up with an amazing room at any of these hotels and I must note that I do not disclose my magazine affiliation when making my reservation or when checking in.
MY SPECIAL OFFER
In early January, Hilton Honors, the guest loyalty program of Hilton Worldwide, announced the Tier Last Call promotion, a program that gives certain Honors members a streamlined opportunity to maintain their current elite status.
The member was asked to complete between one and three stays, a figure Hilton would not disclose. Hilton said that the program was only being offered to “select members.”
“You are so close to maintaining elite status – and we just made it even easier,” Hilton said in an e-mail message I received.
Hilton even reminded me after I had completed one of three stays: “Stay Elite with Just 2 Stays,” the e-mail read.
MY MATTRESS RUN
My plans for a mattress run began to unfold after I realized I needed a dayroom in New Jersey in mid-January, while Snickers the Wonderdog was to undergo minor surgery at his veterinarian in Lake Hopatcong. The closest Hilton property was the somewhat unremarkable Hampton Inn and Suites in Parsippany. It suffered from a small cleanliness issue in the W.C. but the mattress was sufficient for a nap and the working desk allowed me to get some work done until I had to head back to the clinic to pick up the Wonderdog.
In planning the mattress run, I kept in mind that stays and nights in a chain’s lower-priced hotels typically count towards status in the same manner as more expensive properties would so plan accordingly.
That, incidentally, was the only hotel I actually slept in (albeit for only two hours) for my mattress run.
Now that I had 33% of my requirement met, I searched for ridiculously cheap rates for any Hiltons within 62 miles (100 km) or so that didn’t require paying $30 or more in tolls to cross the East and Hudson rivers.
I settled on the Hilton Garden Inn near MacArthur Airport in Islip on Long Island, which turned out to be just 12 minutes away from the Whole Foods I shop at in Jericho. The room rate: $101 for the night of March 12, a Sunday. I did my shopping and stopped by the property, using my digital key to enter by a side entrance, and proceeded directly to my room, where I found two complimentary bottles of water that had been left for me as a kind of welcome amenity. I spent what seemed like an eternity but it was only 12 minutes at the property and headed home.
I liked the MacArthur Airport property so much I returned to it two Sundays later, also for $101.
While I received e-mail confirmation of having signed up for the Tier Last Call promotion and I also received an e-mail after my first stay under the promotion reminding me I only needed two more to maintain my Gold elite status, I – somewhat surprisingly – did not get any notification after completing the third stay. In addition, my Hilton Honors app continues to indicate I haven’t yet retained my status .
“You need 37 Nights to remain Gold” the “Account” tab of the app continues to say, over ten days after hitting the milestone.
I decided to call and spoke to a very nice representative named Jay who suggested something I should have thought of, namely to look at the browser, where I did see that my status ran through all of 2023 and through the end of March 2024. The call went very well until the end, which greatly cheapened the elevated experience.
Jay told me that I was eligible for 500 additional Hilton Honors points.
“Before you go, we are showing here that your account may be eligible to receive 500 Hilton Honors points, may I connect you now so you can receive them?”
After replying in the affirmative (what harm could possibly come from this?), I suddenly found myself connected to Ken, a salesman at Hilton Grand Vacations, which is a timeshare company that is a completely separate entity from Hilton Worldwide. Without identifying that there was an ownership aspect to any of these trips, Ken mentioned several very appealing destinations and, when I told him I’m the editor of a travel magazine and that my idea of a vacation is staying home, he ended the call without saying a single additional word.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t even validated the 500-point credit for the three minutes I wasted on the call and when I went back to the Hilton Honors app to call and ask via the “Request a Call” tab, clicking “Request a Call” button failed to function, saying “We’re sorry, something went wrong. For help, please give us a call…”
The number in the error message, 888 446-6677, wasn’t even clickable, much to my annoyance. But call I did, and I spoke with a very nice Hilton Honors rep named Fay. I told her I had been connected to the special 500-point offer and I wanted just to know if I had been credited with the points. She said I had not.
When I mentioned how scammy the call with Ken sounded and that I felt it was wrong to connect people to a timeshare salesman at a separate company without providing more details up front, she told me she completely agreed and would discuss the script with her supervisor. She also added 2,500 as a “Service Center Adjustment” apology, which I appreciated.
Doing a mattress run and staying at two nearby Hilton properties that had extrenekt low rates was simple and almost a no-brainer in terms of maintaining my Gold elite status, which is something I do value.
All I have to do now is start taking advantage of the benefits that are forthcoming thanks to the status as we all move a bit out of pandemic stay-at-home mode and back into travel mode.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)