How to find the cheapest hotels in the world (easily earn elite status with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott)

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Coronavirus restrictions have spurred hotel loyalty programs into some super generous promotions. It’s never been easier than this year to earn elite status. With hotels giving away bonus elite night credits to the best hotel credit cards offering automatic top-tier status (in the case of cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card), 2020 is paradoxically the year to earn elite status. The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Whether you’re a stone’s throw away from earning the best elite statuses in the game or you’re dozens of elite night credits away, here’s an easy way to find the cheapest hotels in the world so you can achieve your desired hotel status as inexpensively as possible.

Find cheap hotels in desirable locations and rack up the elite night credits! (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Easily find the cheapest hotels (great for mattress running)

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “mattress running,” it’s simply the strategy of booking hotel stays for reasons other than staying at the hotel. For example:

  • There is a fantastic promotion that will award you tens of thousands of points by completing two stays by the end of October. You’ve only completed one stay, but those points are more valuable than the price of a night at your nearby hotel, so you book the room just to get the points
  • You’re five nights away from earning elite status, so you find a cheap hotel and book five nights just to get your status.

Mattress running is how I earned top-tier Marriott status between apartment leases (I stayed at a Marriott for weeks to earn Titanium status). No matter your motive, finding the cheapest hotels around the world is an easier task than you may think. Here’s a step-by-step!

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Step 1. Enter any location on Google Hotels

Head to Google Hotels and enter a location in the search bar. It can be anywhere, it doesn’t really matter — though if you’re resolute to stay in a certain country, you can obviously enter that. I’ll just put “United States” for this example.

Step 2. Filter by hotel chain

The secret weapon of this tool is the ability to search by hotel brand. If you are in fact trying to mattress run, or if you simply want to stay at a certain chain, click on “more filters” to the left of the map, and scroll down to “Brands.”

Here, you’ll find pretty much every hotel chain ever, including the big ones with which you might be interested in earning status. For this example, I’ll go with Marriott.

Step 3. Choose your dates

Enter the specific dates you plan to stay. Because I’m in mattress run mode, I’ll go with a month-long stay from November 16 to December 15, 2020.

Step 4. Choose your price range

The sidebar to the left will reflect the hotels displayed on the map in whichever region you’re viewing. You can see the cheapest hotels simply by clicking “Sort by price” above the hotel list, but it’s also a good idea to narrow your price range with the widget at the top.

Step 5. Find a location you want to visit

Drag the map all over the world to find a location you’d like to visit. Check the box at the top labeled “Update results when map moves.” There are some real gems in great areas around the world. India, Egypt, China, and Mexico are locations notorious for five-star hotels at ridiculously low prices.

Step 6. Choose a hotel

Back to Mexico. Few places in the world are better for a mattress run. You can hover your mouse above each hotel to see an overview and a link to Google’s summary page. Find the hotel you’re interested in and click its name.

Step 6. Check the price on the official hotel website

Note that the prices shown on Google can be misleading for two reasons:

  • Google sometimes shows discounts lower than the price for booking direct. They’ve got their own discounts for many hotels
  • These prices don’t include taxes and fees

Once at Google’s hotel summary page, click “Website” to be taken to the actual hotel site. There you can see how much you’ll actually spend for this hypothetical stay. You need to book directly with the hotel to ensure you earn elite nights. Booking through an OTA like Expedia or Hotwire will likely disqualify you from earning any points or elite night credits.

Step 7. Book direct

Marriott has a feature that allows you to view your stay with taxes and fees included. It’s insane to not just include that from the beginning, in my opinion. This particular hotel is $6 more expensive per day after taxes.

The stay would cost $1,197 all-in for a month. Not bad at all!

Additional tips for finding cheap hotels and mattress running

Keep in mind these few tactics when contemplating a mattress run:

  • Be flexible with dates: If you move your travel dates by just a few days that can sometimes result in hundreds of dollars of savings
  • Use a hotel credit card to jumpstart elite status earning: Credit cards from Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott all offer ways to get closer to elite status by offering complimentary elite night credits to cardholders
  • You don’t have to go international for cheap stays: You can still find cheap hotels in your backyard, although it might take a bit more searching. For my recent mattress run, I was able to book a Marriott in South Dakota for $42 a night!
  • Award stays do count towards elite status: Using points to book a stay can work too, since award stays with Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, Marriott and more all count towards elite status qualification. You can book some Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt hotels for as little as 5,000 points per night! Just note that if cash rates are exorbitantly low, it’s probably better to use cash and save your points for when you’d have to pay much more out of pocket.

Bottom line

Whatever your reason when searching for the cheapest hotels in the world, they’re easy to find with Google Hotels. You can filter by price and hotel brand — and it’s got an interactive map to help you quickly scan desirable locations around the world.

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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