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Escape This Weekend on Points: New England

Escape This Weekend on Points: New England

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As the cicadas emerge from hibernation, so do we. While we haven’t been resting for 17 years, you’re forgiven for feeling as if you haven’t left the house since 2004. So many places to go, but how to choose? Help has arrived in the form of this series highlighting trips within a day’s drive of each region of the U.S. Other posts cover the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.

My criteria for choosing locations includes:

  • Access to water views. I know watching a sunrise or sunset over the water washes away my stress, especially in the summertime when days are long. Bonus points for balconies.
  • Value for points. I screened out locations that were priced too high to make spending your points a good idea.
  • Bonus points for properties either within a self-contained resort or that had a self-catering option. Both are effective social distancers, which may still be a criteria for some.

Lake George and Saratoga Springs, NY

Many head to the ocean for sun and fun, but New York’s Lake George region offers more budget friendly opportunities to enjoy water activities with the added benefit of mountain hikes, quaint towns and unique things to do.

Nearby Saratoga Springs has been known for over 150 years for its mineral spas and its horse races. Once a summer spot for the rich and famous, Saratoga Springs is now more of a family-friendly getaway than a cloister for the glitterati.

One activity in the region that’s both distinctive and social-distance friendly is railbiking. If you’re wondering “what is railbiking?”, you’re not alone. Simply put, railbikes are tandem vehicles made to ride on existing railroad tracks. The seven mile tour from Revolution Rail Company takes just under 3 hours and is good for all ages.

Holiday Inn Resort, Lake George

The Holiday Inn is a self-contained resort property located right on Lake George with a large outdoor pool and playground. Socially distant things to do include outdoor movies and large fire pits perfect for s’mores.

Some rooms available on points have balconies with a mountain view, allowing you to relax and enjoy the sunset over the mountains. Rooms go for 63,000 IHG points most nights in August vs. room rates over $350, making the hotel a good value on points especially if you get the fourth night free with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card*.

Residence Inn, Saratoga Springs, NY

The Residence Inn earns marks due to the full kitchens in every room and for the especially good value it is on points, especially during high season weekends. With the full kitchen you probably won’t need the free (limited) breakfast, but it’s nice to have. Studio rooms go for 25,000 to 30,000 points per night vs. rates over $300. The hotel gets high reviews for cleanliness, which is another selling point in our current climate.

Hyatt Place Saratoga/Malta, NY

This property is about 10 miles south of Saratoga Springs but is worth considering because of its spacious rooms that can sleep up to six. Hyatt Place also offers free breakfast, which is likely to be grab-and-go. At 12,000 points per night vs. rates around $130 most nights it’s an okay value on points.

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport made our list of U.S destinations with a European flavor which makes it an appealing choice for a weekend away if you’re craving a bit of culture. Newport’s architectural gems including The Breakers and Elms are open for a garden stroll or a deeper dive into the region’s opulent history. And of course, you’re on the ocean so beaches and sunrise viewing opportunities abound.

One way to get out onto the water is unique to Newport: America’s Cup Charters offers sailing trips on classic 12 meter vessels, including America’s Cup competition winners. Because of the ships’ diminutive size, the trips will be limited to small groups, which makes them a good choice for getting away from both your worries and summer crowds.

The Carriage House, Middletown, Rhode Island

The Carriage House is a member of The Ascend Collection and Choice Privileges. The hotel is located inside a renovated Victorian cottage and you’ll feel like you stepped back in time when you enter the lobby. Since Newport is all about Gilded Age history, The Carriage House seems a natural (ahem) Choice.

This hotel runs from 16,000 to 25,000 Choice points per night compared to rates in the $200 to $250 range. Choice Privileges points transfer from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, which means it’s not the best use of your Membership Rewards but it’s a good option if you just need to top up your Choice account.

Homewood Suites by Hilton, Newport Middletown, Rhode Island

This Homewood Suites features rooms with full kitchens and a separate living space, which will come in handy for self-catering. At 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night vs. August weekend rates over $300, it’s a solid value. Breakfast is included, but probably not necessary since you have everything you need to whip up some eggs in your room.

Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park, Maine

An informal poll of Forbes Advisor’s editorial staff crowned Acadia National Park a favorite for unplugging and getting away from daily stressors. Hiking trails feature views as diverse as deep forest that could be in Yosemite to rocky shore outcroppings rivaling those of Northern Ireland.

The town of Bar Harbor is the easiest gateway to Acadia and a lovely destination on its own merits. If you crave lobster Hollandaise for breakfast, lobster rolls for lunch and lobster Fra Diavolo for dinner, you’ll be in the right place.

Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor, Maine

The Holiday Inn Resort is the type of place where you could spend an entirely self-contained vacation, but you’ll probably want to venture out for seafood and shopping. The hotel is located right on Frenchman’s Bay and some rooms available on points have balconies overlooking either the water or forest. Rooms are 80,000 points per night in August, which seems sky high until compared with cash rates nearing $500 per night.

Niagara Falls, New York

If you haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet, now is the perfect time to visit as it’s a fully outside attraction that can be enjoyed at a distance from others without much effort. Even the iconic Maid of the Mist boat tour is operating daily. Note that the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is closed to U.S. tourists at this time. Fortunately a number of points hotels are on the domestic side of the border.

Doubletree by Hilton Niagara Falls

The Doubletree is located right on the Niagara River and just a few blocks from the falls. Rooms on points feature two queens and go for 41,000 to 50,000 points a night vs. room rates of $160 to $250 in August. With a park right outside your door it will be easy to commune with nature even though you’re in downtown Niagara Falls.

Hyatt Place Niagara Falls

The Hyatt Place features rooms with two queens and a sofa bed sleeping up to five, which makes it a notch above the other options in Niagara Falls. It’s even dog friendly. The hotel is a few blocks back from the Niagara River, but at 12,000 World of Hyatt points a night it’s a bargain compared to rates nearing $300 per night in August.

Poconos, Pennsylvania

The Poconos feature outdoor activities as adventurous as ziplining or as mellow as bird-watching. Most people think of the region as a ski resort, but the same mountains also make for beautiful hiking and are tailor made for distanced relaxation.

If Niagara Falls isn’t your speed, try the “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” While Bushkill Falls doesn’t rival Niagara in volume, the forest hike to get there takes you on picturesque footbridges and through a pristine forest.

The Poconos has a reputation for over-the-top romantic hotels: Heart-shaped tubs and mirrored ceilings used to be the norm. While those still exist, there are also many less elaborate lodging options that won’t lead to awkward conversations with the kids.

Staybridge Suites, Stroudsburg (East) Poconos, Pennsylvania

The Staybridge Suites is a new all-suites property that’s in a location close to Bushkill Falls and other sites along the Delaware river. Rooms have full kitchens for self-catering and breakfast is included should you be so inclined.

The hotel is an absolute bargain at 20,000 points a night vs. room rates over $200 in August. There’s a Holiday Inn and Suites in nearby White Haven at the same price, but we recommend the Staybridge for the full kitchen.

Marriott and Hilton both have properties in the Poconos, but the points value vs. cash prices make them less of a value.

Some Notes About Rewards Programs

  • Hyatt is moving to peak and off-peak pricing later this year, so if you see a property you want, book it. You can always cancel points reservations closer to the arrival date.
  • IHG has two quirks that will affect how your experience with finding properties, one good and one bad. The good news: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card* get the 4th night free on points booking, which can turn a good deal into a great one. The bad news is that IHG awards have the unhappy combination of both blackout nights and peak and off-peak pricing. That may limit your ability to find rooms that work. That said, IHG has some of the best deals out there on points, so it’s worth the extra work it might take to find available rooms.
  • Hilton offers dynamic pricing, which means that prices can vary dramatically from night to night. Hilton also gives the fifth night free on all awards bookings if you have Silver or higher Hilton Honors status, which can be achieved with some Hilton credit cards like the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express*.
  • Marriott offers fifth night free on all points bookings for any member of the Marriott Bonvoy program, which is free to join. This benefit helps the math make sense on award bookings. Since Marriott moved to a peak and off-peak pricing model it can be more challenging to find actual values, but there are definitely properties that could make for a lovely getaway at a decent price.

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