How We Used Our IHG Free Night Certificate for a Luxury Family Beach Trip

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The view from our balcony at the Holiday Inn Wrightsville Beach

My family and I spent two glorious days at Wrightsville Beach, NC this past weekend. They were glorious because of the perfect beach weather, the incredible hotel, and the fact that we didn’t pay anything for our stay. That’s right, we stayed in an ocean front room at the full service Holiday Inn Wrightsville Beach for free! We enjoyed the beach, pools, restaurants, and more, and all we paid was $7 for parking. 🙂

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My husband and daughter enjoying perfect pool weather

We were able to do this thanks to one of my favorite travel credit cards – the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard. Every year that you keep this card you will earn a free night certificate that is good for a stay at any InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) property in the world. You can use even use your free night certificate at fancy Intercontinental Hotels, such as the $600/night InterContinental Le Grand in Paris.

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Our room at the Holiday Inn Wrightsville Beach

Here’s why I like this perk of the IHG card so much: you can use your free night certificate to book any standard room that is available, including more expensive categories rooms like our ocean front room. Because of the desirable view, this room type commands a $400 price tag during peak beach season at Wrightsville Beach! But as long as it is available when you go to book, you can get this pricey room with your free night certificate.

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Morning walk on the beach

I also appreciate that the annual fee on this card is only $49. By comparison, the Marriott Rewards credit card issued by Chase has an annual fee of $85 and the free night certificate is only good at their lower category (1 through 5) hotels.

I would keep this card for its perks even without the free night certificate. It grants instant Platinum status, which gets you a welcome gift at any paid or points stay. The gift is usually a choice between an additional 500 points, a free drink at the bar, or a snack/water package. You’ll also earn double points on any paid stays at IHG properties, free room upgrades, and get a 10% rebate on any points you redeem.

Right now this card has a 60,000 point sign-on bonus after you spend at least $1,000 on the card in the first three months. This bonus isn’t bad, though sometimes it increases as high as 80,000 points (which is what I received when I opened my account).

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I plan to keep this card indefinitely, as the $49 fee is absolutely offset by the perks and free night certificate. We intend to visit the Wrightsville Beach Holiday Inn every year as a family and make it a tradition.

There is no way we could stay at this awesome hotel without the free night certificate, as we currently live on one full-time income so I can work at home and raise our daughter. This is a perfect example of how being savvy with credit cards can help you live a rich life on a tight budget! We appreciated out mini-vacation together so much, especially because we knew we were living within our means!

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Dinner at the hotel’s restaurant

And in case you are curious, here’s how I saved us money on the additional costs associated with a one-night beach getaway like this:

  • I packed us delicious Italian sub sandwiches and fruit in a cooler to eat poolside on our first day at the hotel. I also packed us some mango lemonade and $1 airplane bottles of booze for poolside cocktails. J
  • I gassed up the car at Costco right before we left.
  • I packed us breakfast food to eat in our room. We enjoyed fresh fruit, yogurt, bacon, and pastries. Delicious! I was sure to check that our room had both a fridge and microwave (to heat up the precooked bacon) before I went to this trouble. We also enjoyed the free coffee from the hotel lobby.
  • We splurged and ate at the onsite restaurant for dinner. Kids eat free there (and most Holiday Inns that I’ve stayed at) and I ordered an incredible salad for $10.25. My husband got the scallops and they were worth the $27 price tag. We still got out for around $50 including tip, so nothing too extravagant.
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Holiday Inn Wrightsville Beach lobby

So that’s how we had a fantastic and memorable weekend trip without breaking the bank. Do you have the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard? Where would you stay with a free night certificate? Please leave a comment below!


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