Great Deal: Using My Renewal IHG Certificates on Onsen Resort in Japan

As some of you probably know, I’m eagerly anticipating our  upcoming summer trip to Japan. Fingers crossed, it actually happens this time. I’ve been tinkering with our itinerary  and basically driving myself crazy. I know I need to be more “go with the flow” type of gal, but that ain’t my style.

Anyway, originally, I planned to split our stay between Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo. But I felt like something was missing. My itinerary focused primarily on big cities, and I really wanted to explore some small towns. Specifically, those known for onsen (hot springs) resorts. It just seems like a quintessential Japanese activity that can not be fully appreciated unless you stay overnight.

So, despite our already hectic schedule, I’ve decided to reduce our stay in Tokyo, and spend our last two nights in Hakone (1.5 hours from Tokyo). I was planning to book a private day tour to Hakone/Mount Fuji anyway, so I figured we would simply stay there instead of trekking back to Tokyo.

I will have to book a separate  transfer to Tokyo Haneda  airport, which will cost a substantial amount. But I would rather spend more money than have regrets after the trip is over.

Wait, there is Indigo hotel in Hakone?

I knew there was a Hyatt Regency in Hakone, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Not to mention, paying 42k Hyatt points per night for two rooms is a bit steep. So, I started looking at onsen resorts in Hakone via Booking.com

To my surprise, I came across Hotel Indigo Hakone/Gora and it looked amazing. Every room in the hotel comes with a small private onsen, and some have beautiful views of the river. The location is fairly central, plus, the hotel offers free shuttle to the main train station.

The biggest selling factor was the fact that the main onsen requires bathing suits. I realize it’s not very authentic, but to me being naked while surrounded by a bunch of strangers is the opposite of relaxation.

Plus, this will allow me to enjoy the onsen baths with my husband. The “naked” kind is usually (but not always) separated by gender. Even though I grew up in a culture where  public gender segregated bathing (called “banya” in Russian) is normal, I have since become Americanized.

This resort is exactly what I was looking for. The paid rate was $250 per night for double occupancy, not terrible all things considered. But would it be bookable via IHG points? It sure was, for 41k points per night. I was a bit bummed since I would not be able to use our renewal certs from the old version of IHG credit card. Still, 41k points for this room isn’t bad at all:

My MIL had some IHG points, so we used her account to book one room. The maximum occupancy was 2 people, so I reached out to this hotel via email to see how much it would cost us to upgrade the reservation that fits three persons.

I got a reply the next day telling me it would run an extra 10k yen per night, an equivalent of $75. I was actually surprised by this amount since the difference on the website was only $20. But the hotel rep told me that it’s only if we used existing bedding. This is a weird quirk in Japanese hotels, where you have to pay extra to use the sofa bed that is already in the room.

But it is what it is. I agreed to the upgrade, and our reservation has a note attached to it. Even if I booked via different website, I would still be stuck with $55 up-charge for using the sofa bed. So, burning IHG points was a no-brainer. For the second room I used my SIL’s stash. She told me I could have them as a “thank you” for rebooking my MIL’s award tickets with my points. This was a super generous gesture, and I reluctantly agreed.

The rate drops to 40k points per night 

We’ve mentioned it before, but Nancy and I recommend “babysitting” your reservations for multiple reasons. In my case, the rate drop meant being able to use renewal IHG certificates that are capped at 40k points per night.

I actually had an extra cert this year and wasn’t sure where I would end up burning it.  This new development has solved the issue brilliantly. I can’t believe me and my husband will get to stay in a room with a private onsen for only $49 per night. These are the moments when I’m so happy I got into  kooky world of miles and points. It’s a beautiful thing when you can use cheap certs for a place where you would otherwise spend actual cash.

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