Why I Won’t Be Vendoming or Staying In Chain Hotels On My Upcoming Trip to Europe

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family travel europe chain hotels
From the Hyatt website.

No Chains in Europe

I write a lot about hotel status and specifically how much I love my Hyatt Diamond benefits. For the record I also have some form of elite status with most of the major chains including top tier Diamond status with Hilton. In other words, I tend to get some perks when I stay in chain hotels and in some cases the perks are tremendous.

Tomorrow my family and I are leaving to Europe for a week on my deal of a lifetime British Airways business class score. (I feel bad for the people who will suffer in coach while my one year old gets her own seat in business class.) During our trip we are going to be spending a few days in Barcelona and then another few in Paris including a trip to Disneyland Paris for baby Ellie’s one year birthday.

When I am traveling with the family, I like to share the perks of elite status with them. We do enjoy breakfast, although it isn’t essential for us as we have been known to simply have something light. Lounge access is a nice perk, but again not an essential one especially considering we will be out and about in the city. Large rooms are good, but most chain hotels in Europe don’t have them. In other words, why not go local?

Our Hotel Choices in Barcelona

family travel europe chain hotels
We have two of these rooms in Barcelona. Not bad at all.

In Barcelona, I looked at some of the chain hotels. There is a reasonably priced Four Points by Sheraton, but it doesn’t have any rooms that allow four people and it is somewhat far from the center. Hilton has a number of properties, but none of them have room for four people either and the one that has a room for three people (if I wanted to try and hide the baby) is over $250 per night or 65,000 HHonors points.

One option to use in a city like Barcelona is airbnb. I was leaving our lodging options open to give us flexibility with dates, so I didn’t book through airbnb (they tend to have a high cancellation rate for close-in bookings), but I would have no problem doing it. I ultimately found a very well reviewed 3 star hotel just around the corner from the Picasso Museum for about $50 per night. They don’t have rooms for four people, so I booked two rooms. Still much less than other choices and we will have plenty of space.

Our Hotel Choices in Paris

We will be splitting our time in Paris between the city and Disneyland. Out by Disneyland there is a Radisson Blu, but they want almost 80,000 points for a family room. No thanks! The Marriott in the area is equally as overpriced. Instead, I found a very well reviewed apartment style hotel located near a mall about five minutes from Disney. It has a free shuttle and a living room with bedroom. Perfect and at 10,000 ThankYou points per night ($125) it makes a ton of sense.

family travel europe chain hotels
Where we are staying near Disneyland Paris. Looks good to me!

Not Vendoming

To give a little background, Vendoming is a term first coined by The Deal Mommy which explores people only wanting to stay in fancy hotels and not actually getting cultural experiences. While I fully support her idea, my use of the term here is literally talking about not staying in the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome.  🙂

In Paris I would love to Vendome. Unfortunately I can’t do that with four people unless I get a top level suite at the property or get two rooms. Even a Diamond Suite Upgrade wouldn’t do the trick unfortunately. For three people it is a bit easier, but four is a big NO. I even contacted Hyatt and the hotel. No go without the biggest suite. The other Hyatt properties in Paris central are similar. There is no way to get a big enough room for a reasonable price. I found it was similar with other chains as well.

There is one hotel that would work, the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile. This hotel was built in the 1970’s and is the tallest building in Paris I believe. While I could get a regular room and use a Diamond Suite Upgrade here, I am told they are finally renovating the hotel, which judging from the reviews, is something it needs. From 10am to 6pm every day the noise is supposedly unbearable. I like free breakfast and some evening appetizers as much as the next guy, but that is not worth it.

To be honest, I haven’t booked a hotel in Paris yet. It isn’t really the high season so I have some choices and I have narrowed it down. As I mentioned before, we were leaving some dates open to decide on our plans so I am just finalizing hotel bookings. I’m not worried. Most likely we will end up in a local place paid for with ThankYou points and that works well for me.

I Like Chains & Luxury

Yes I write about loyalty programs, chain hotels and luxury and love all of those things. The truth is that I simply find the value of chain hotels in Europe to be very poor. My family and I have traveled all over the continent over the past few years including a three month stint in 2013 and I have just never been impressed with the chain offerings. Sure there are some amazing hotels around, but they cost a fortune in points and/or cash. I am all about value and in Western Europe value most often is in finding a local hotel.

With all of that said, I love to splurge and will be back to my beloved Hyatt for a few other trips this year including some of their top end properties in China. What do you think? Am I missing out by not Vendoming in Paris? Do you think the lack of free breakfast, room upgrades and lounge access will get to me? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.


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49 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Shawn,

    I’m in Paris next week, and the IHG Indigo Opera is letting my group of 4 adults and a baby stay in one room on points plus 70 euro a night. The room has a sofa bed, crib, and queen bed.

  2. I was in Paris during Xmas. I stayed at the L’Hotel du Collectionneur near Champs Elysees. Even though it was rated a 5 star hotel, but the place was equivalent to a Holiday Inn in the US. Most hotels in Paris are older, I hope you are not allergic to smoke as most places smell like an ashtray.

    • Yeah Paris is tough hotel wise. I have traveled all over Europe and am familiar with the differences in hotels vs. the U.S. I find you can generally trust the reviews on Booking.com and TripAdvisor as long as there are a substantial amount. Generally I have had a lot of success eliminating properties after doing some research. It does stink to think you are going to get a 5 star experience only to find a rundown property.

  3. On a side note, I too am trying to book a hotel in Paris for the summer. I have a stash of CC points and was hoping to stay at Le Metropolitan or Le Dokhan. Turns out they turned off the booking switch yesterday as they just sold those properties to SPG. Only property left in the city center is now Champs Élysées. With only a small hotel left, booking will be tough in the future.

  4. The Etoile – is functional but not so nice and can be over crowded if an event going on. Locations sucks too. Consider an airB&B in a trendy location. I spent 2 weeks in Paris in different spots and really enjoyed it. Prices were very reasonable.

    • I did consider the Etoile, but it sounds like the long overdue renovations are incredibly disturbing to guests based on the latest reviews of the past couple of weeks. I agree staying closer to the center will be a better overall fit and value.

  5. Man!!! I really applaud you for this article. It amazes me how US travel bloggers are obsessed with American hotel chains everywhere they go and for some reason have a NEED to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris. In my opinion that is similar of going to Paris, Rome, Bangkok, etc… and eating at McDonalds. That is the pure example of being blind that there are other amazing things to try out there that are not the ones you are familiar with. There are amazing local boutique hotels in Europe that will provide you everything you need in comfort and luxury. Oh, but it is nor a suite at the Park Hyatt? Who cares!!!! I don’t go to Paris to enjoy the interior of an American hotel. I go to these places to enjoy the local culture and food. Sorry but I am tired of the BS of many bloggers that only believe life is made of SPG, Hyatt, etc…

    I am taking my family of 4 including to kids to Europe this summer and it was really difficult to find properties that would allow 4 people in the same room. We ended up booking two adjacent rooms and I will sleep with one kid and my wife with another. We only plan to use the hotels for sleeping and taking a shower so not a big deal.

  6. Shawn, I’m not sure how I feel about this. You and I coincidentally started our Diamond challenges in the same week (18 months ago???), and that has made me especially interested in the Hyatt posts you’ve made since. One big difference between us is that when in Paris it is just my wife and me, while you’ve got a family unit of 4. That being said, to be in Paris and not be at the PH Vendome seems almost criminal. We love that place, although we’re admittedly breakfast people. Doesn’t Starwood have a pretty swanky property next door to the Georges V? The prior posts about room size, smokiness and the advanced age of Parisian hotels all have me thinking no stone should be left unturned. 🙂 Having stayed in both French & US owned hotels in France, I don’t see a discernible difference when it comes to the cultural aspect. Regardless, I’m sure the 4 of you will have an incredible time.

    • It will be fun and I would love to stay at the Vendome, especially considering my wife has two free nights from the Hyatt card. It just isn’t worth the cost of a suite, but I’m sure I’ll stay there one day if only for a night. Sometimes it is best to look at overall value and not be blinded by the loyalty program. In my case, the two hotels I mentioned are far better values then their chain counterparts. With that said, if we were just 2 (or even 3) I would look at chains much closer.

      In this case, using ThankYou points turned out to be a good value for me, even at 1.25 cents each. I have a ton of them now due to reselling and the AT&T card so this is an easy way to offload points without impacting my other balances. Win win.

  7. Same here. I could not find good value in chain hotels in Italy last year. Majority of chain locations were terrible. The ones that did have a good location either had no award availability or way overpriced. I ended up doing hotwire and getting good local hotels in the city center. Once you include the cost of transportation for the bad location of chains and time spent commuting, it’s not worth it. I also value waking up and grabbing a coffee from the cafe next door or having 2 bottles of wine for dinner and stumbling back to the hotel in 5 minutes. Plus it’s a vacation I’m trying to spend the least amount of time in the room as I can. Luxury hotels are nice but I’m ok with a comfy bed, clean room, and good location. I rather be walking the streets with a beer in my hand, something you can’t do in the US.

  8. Why Disneyland of all things in France? Just curious, but even kids I think would appreciate Versailles instead, one of the greatest palaces/estates in the world.

    • Hi Stannis. In addition to traveling, I really love theme parks and my family loves Disney. With that said, we have spent a lot of time in Europe sightseeing including some time in Paris before. The baby is too little to appreciate Versailles and my son, wife and I did visit the Palace and Gardens in 2009. I agree it a spectacular place to visit and we will plan a return when the baby gets a bit older. We will also still have a couple of days for sightseeing in Paris as well on this trip.

  9. For a family of four visiting Paris during the warm months of July and August I recommend the Hilton La Defense. While not centrally located inside Paris city limits (excellent East-West Metro access however) this Hilton property gives you the opportunity to book a large, modern room with two double beds featuring one of the coldest air conditioning units in Paris (beware when a French hotel notes that the rooms have “air cooling” aka a warm, stuffy rooms in summer). The Hilton La Defense is also located across the plaza from the expansive Les Quatres Temps indoor shopping mall. For parents visiting Paris it is a constant challenge to order “kids meals or portions” in Parisian restaurants so access to LQT’s grocery stores and other child friendly food purveyors is a welcome sight after a day of wandering the city and sightseeing in the heat. Bonne chance.

    • I looked at the Hilton and it does look like a nice hotel. They only have standard rooms for my dates and it looked a little far out to me, but I’m glad that you recommend it.

  10. Shawn,
    Ill share a little secret with you. I am going to Paris in a couple weeks and I was able to book the Westin Vendome (next door to the Hyatt) for 4 nights for about $700. How many nights are you staying?
    The way I did it is using the code Z3H (buy 2 nights get one free) booking over the phone with my citi prestige concierge for the 4th night for free. In this scenario you are only paying for 2 nights. You are also getting 5x SPG points with SPG current promotions and platinum benefits (if you are platinum). If you are lucky, youll get a junior suite with view to the Rue de Rivoli and the Eiffel tower almost at a hand touch.
    Your welcome…
    PS; yes…you will need 2 rooms, although SPG says your children 12 or younger can stay in their parents room. Maybe you can get a crib or extra bed.

  11. Hah…welcome to the “family of 4” club where the miles/points game is a bit more challenging. Outside of the US and Canada, it is a heck of a lot more difficult to book a chain hotel standard room award that has an occupancy of 4 rather than 3. Some tips: even though the occupancy might say 3, look at the bedding. Usually a two-bed room in Europe or Asia has 2 twin-sized beds or sometimes singles that are larger than a twin but smaller than a full (still not good for 4). If you are lucky enough to find 2 full-size beds or 2 queen-size beds (or even a king/queen plus sofa bed), they may allow you to have 2 adults and 2 children under 12 if the occupancy says 3. But you need to have the award desk contact the hotel to obtain permission or you do it yourself – ideally get written confirmation that 2 children in the existing bedding will be allowed. During the crib phase for your little one, some hotels may allow you to sleep 2 adults and a small child in a king bed and your baby in a crib (if you’re willing to do that) – again, get confirmation. I have found over the years that Marriott properties are more likely to have rooms with two queen beds, especially in the UK and German-speaking countries. We’ve had great “family of 4” stays at the Marriott London County Hall, Marriott Vienna, and Marriott Munich to name a few. Residence Inn is opening more locations in Europe, so that is another good option. If I can’t find a points property that will be suitable, I usually end up renting an apartment through HomeAway/Tripadvisor, using a local hotel, or sometimes getting 2 rooms at a chain if it is economical (points/cash-wise) to do so.

      • A 15 y.o. would definitely make it more difficult. FWIW, we were just in Paris this past Thanksgiving and rented a nice 2 BDR apartment in the 1st near Place des Victoires from http://www.parisholidayapts.com. The owner was great and easy to work with. We were able to walk to the Louvre, Pompidou, and Notre Dame. I would certainly rent from them again. My backup plan was the Hilton LaDefense because my company has great corporate rates, but we preferred to stay in the city with more space.

  12. I have a 3 years old and most places require us to get an upgraded room. I ended up spending two nights at Prince de Galles, what a great hotel. It was very expensive though. Even with 25K points, I had to pay $300 in copay to get a suite there

  13. We are a family of 4 (2 kids <4) and I look forward to your trip reports. I've read enough Vendoming reviews to last a while already.

    • The best deal I found was for UK residents at http://www.attractiontix.co.uk/ The site is for UK residents only but I was able to use a UK address (I chose the Hyatt Churchill in London) and then pay with PayPal. For our dates I got 1 day tickets for 43GBP or about $62. Those tickets allow entry to both parks and came with a few coupons, etc. Much cheaper than the U.S. parks!

  14. VRBO or Airbnb is the only way to go in Europe. We stayed in the 5th in Paris for 55 euros a night and had a series of wonderful experiences throughout Italy, all less than $200/night for 4 adults. We got to spend time with locals as well. I love Hyatt for value in the US but it is hard to beat the VRBO/Airbnb experience in Europe in my experience.

  15. can you elaborate on how you got some many TY points via reselling and the ATT card? also how old are you? you look pretty young to have a 15 year old!

  16. Shawn, your post brings us to a ‘fundamental’ question: if one books local hotels in Europe, maybe a much derided in the points & miles community Orbitz card which gives immediate 10 cents on every hotel dollar spend and 6 cents on every air ticket dollar spend is not bad after all?

    • Yes, but the only issue with that is being locked into Orbitz for bookings. In many areas including Europe, other sites such as Booking.com have far more properties and lower prices. They have a lot more of the smaller local places too which are more likely to have room for families,etc. I also don’t like that the Orbitz card gives you cashback in the form of Orbucks.

      When searching for cash rates, I tend to use HotelsCombined to search a bunch of different sites and more often than not an international site or Booking.com will have lower rates for Orbitz if they even have the hotel listed.

  17. Totally agree. I’m in Germany for a one year job assignment and have realized that chain hotels here isn’t the best way to go.

    BTW if you are going to Wuhan China by any chance, try the Hyatt Regency. It’s managed by Hyatt but totally ancient Chinese style. I was there for a business trip and was impressed. (I grew up in China.)

  18. I’ve been playing the “house the family in Europe game” for almost 20 years and no strategy works all the time. It’s very rare to be able to put 4 people into a European chain hotel, but it happens (as your kids get older, you also probably don’t WANT to put 4 people into a European hotel room — it’s tight!). In places like Paris, I’ve been milking the BOGO Club Carlson credit card deal which made it pretty affordable to simply book 2 hotel rooms for 2 nights. But that’s obviously gone. There are also sometimes other “cheap-enough-to-book-2-rooms” point deals, but it’s unpredictable.

    Airbnb gets lots of press but should probably be the LAST place to book your family accommodations. The dirty secret is they charge significantly higher fees than other online services. I’d been using them the past few months thanks to that pre-Christmas AMEX offer where you could buy Airbnb gift cards for half price, but after those are gone, I’ll be done with Airbnb.

    I find one of the easiest ways to find accommodations for families these days is to just put your request into kayak and see what comes up. Booking.com seems to charge low enough commissions that plenty of mom-and-pop places will put large rooms and apartments onto their inventory-management system. Restrict your search to only those properties that score “excellent” and read the reviews. Four out of five times, this will be a better deal (price-wise and comfort-wise) than a conventional hotel for a family.

    In America we’re used to chain hotels and mom-and-pop places tend to be fru-fru (and expensive) B&Bs. Europe is different. The bloggers focused on using their points miss out on this, especially when you’re looking to house more than 2 people.

  19. A place in BCN for fifty a night?!
    We are heading there and would love to know where you found that deal.
    Will you be doing a hotel review?
    If not, would you mind letting us know where you are hearing?

    • Hi Emily. It is called Ciutat Barcelona and is near the Picasso Museum. It booked it through Hotel Tonight for cheap, although it was around $100 on most OTAs. We are here right now and it is nothing fancy but the rooms are comfortable and clean. I really like the location.

      • Thanks for the info!
        I have stayed at the Park Hyatt Vendome ( and Parks in Seoul and Vienna, which are also spectacular!), but we also stay in hostels like will will be in Nara, Japan this December.
        This, hotel in BCN seems like a very happy medium!

        • If you’re near Nara, check out the Hyatt Osaka. A STEAL at a Cat 2. With a DSU our room was on the top floor and over 1,000 sq. feet for $55 and 4K points!

          • We are using our annual free night from the credit card to stay at the Osaka Hyatt…it looks very nice.
            We are not Diamonds, though, so no room upgrade!

  20. Just one week ahead of you in Paris! We stayed in the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome for 3 nights. Family of three on a pricey “suite award” 48k points x 3 nights. They put us in the “attic suite” that I’ve read negative comments about. Going in my expectations for this hotel were very high and I’m happy to say expectations were EXCEEDED in every way. This is a fantastic hotel, now my benchmark for top hotel I have stayed in. Previously, my best hotel was the Kea Lani in Maui for my honeymoon, long time ago.

    The attic suite was huge. It has 4 “spaces” in a row, on the top floor of the hotel. First a living room, then a large bathroom, then a bigger bathroom, then the master bedroom, all connected in that order. Both the living room and the bedroom have hallway entry doors. Before we checked in, they had already converted the living room to a bedroom, with a nice roll-away, for my 16 year old son. In all, we felt like we had two hotel rooms, with connecting bathrooms.

    The hotel staff was wonderful. We had Diamond status (match!) so the incredible breakfasts were all free. They let us have both cook-to-order eggs and the buffet. ALL of the food at the buffet is top quality. It’s really a mix of full table service plus buffet.

    The location of the hotel was excellent as well. We ate at several bistro’s / brasserries within short walks and had memorable meals. (Le Petite Vendome & Chez Monsieur)

    The Chase UR points we used were all from sign up bonuses in 2014. Easy come, easy go, but they allowed a family of 3 to stay at the Park Hyatt Vendome.

  21. We’re also LV locals and love Disneyland! Our family of 5 splurged on a 4-night Disneyland Hotel stay at Disneyland Paris in 2014 when our kids were 4, and 20-month old twins. We got a buy 2, get 2 free deal on the UK Disneyland Paris site. In the city, the Citadines Prestige Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris accommodated all of us in a one-bedroom apartment with a sofa-bed and a view of the Seine for E370/night.

    We Vendomed in 2012 during the French Open (using 4 Chase free nights) with our now 6-year old who was 2 at the time and had the best service, especially from Sara, one of the hostesses who fell in love with my son and who my son loved back. She was so kind and loving that we felt we could have left him with her without any qualms on either side. The breakfast was unbelievable and we ate near Maria Sharapova who was kind enough to take a photo with us and who won the Open later that week! We had a nice elevator ride with Ian Somerhalder from The Vampire Diaries, but we knew him from Lost. (We also got photos with Sophia Loren in Madrid, and Grant Hill at the United Lounge in DC. It was an unbelievable trip)!

    We ended our spring break at the Park Hyatt Milan this year with connecting deluxe and standard rooms for our family of 5. My kids loved it so much, they didn’t want to come home! We’re looking to go to Japan and S Korea next spring break and the Park Hyatts are high on our list. Which is what brought me to your site in the first place. I’m looking to requalify for Diamond status as cheaply as possible and looking for any more tips you may have! Hope you enjoyed Paris and Disneyland Paris! I can’t make up my mind whether the Ratatouille ride is better than Radiator Springs Racers.

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