Travel hack: Earn 3 Hotel Nights in AT Towns for Under $50 Total

The largest number of cash blown by hikers on the trail occurs at town stops. According to some figures, an average amount is well over $1000 for a typical 5-month thru.  Just for ACCOMMODATION.  That’s a lot of money! Yeah, so I don’t want to pay all that. Here’s how you can avoid that as well.

Many people like to stay at old-school, family-run hostels on the AT. It’s a great experience and definitely you should take advantage of this, both for rejuvenating oneself and getting packages sent there. But in some towns the hostels are almost as expensive as hotels, or none are available. What to do? Splitting a hotel works but still it can be a lot, $20, 30, 40 or more per person.

IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group- Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, etc) is currently running a promotion that’s cheap and actually kind of fun. You get one entry into a contest where you are guaranteed a “win” with each entry when you stay at an IHG hotel by February 15 2016. Usually this is a certain number of points that can be redeemed for hotel stays. HOWEVER, you don’t need to stay with them at all in order to win. You can just send in entries by mail for free. Well, you do have to pay for postage and supplies.

The cost to mail the maximum 94 entries by USPS is about $47. If you follow the odds this will net you at least 47,000 points, (potentially much more). There are other prizes as well such as $50 MC gift cards, free hotel nights, and even international trips.

You can read the terms and conditions, as well as the address for where to send the entries, here:
After receiving your entry, you will be emailed a link to “play”. Each turn will net you a minimum 500 points.

What can you do with these points? I made a list of all of the IHG hotels along the AT and number of points needed for a night.

Gainesville GA starting at 15,000 points (multiple hotels)
Dahlonega GA 20,000 points
Blairsville GA (Neels Gap) 15,000 points (this one is sort of far, a 30.5 mile hitch though straight shot. Not first choice)
Hiawassee GA 15,000 points
Gatlinburg TN 35,000 points
Johnson City TN (Erwin TN) 15,000 points
Greasy Creek Gap (Pikeville KY) 15,000 points
Damascus VA (Abington) 25,000 points

Troutdale VA (Roanoke North) 20,000 points
Buena Vista VA (Lexington) 25,000 points
Waynesboro VA 25,000 points
Harper’s Ferry WV (Charlestown) 25,000 points
Carlisle PA 20,000 points
Duncannon PA (Harrisburg) 25,000 points
Delaware Water Gap (East Stroudsburg) 20,000+ points (multiple hotels)
Fort Montgomery, NY (West Point) 25,000 points
West Adams MA (Berkshires) 15,000 points
Rutland VT 15,000 points
Hanover NH (White River Junction) 20,000 points

Some of these hotels are hella expensive. For instance, the Gatlinburg Holiday Inn is $239 + tax for mid-July! 35,000 points is a lot though (hint- if you win a free night at any property, redeem it for a high-points one like this one). But there are many other hotels at 15,000 points, almost all of which usually go for $100 or more a night. That’s a great savings, basically you paid an hour or two of manpower in writing entries and $14/hotel. Usually including AYCE breakfast buffet. Um, that’s awesome?

I paid $30 for my supplies (paper, pen, scissors, tape, envelopes) and postage since I’m currently in India, where it’s apparently less expensive to mail to the US than it is to mail things IN the US. Even better.

A stay in town is nice, but a stay in a nicer hotel for super cheap is even better. Enjoy!

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Comments 6

  • Turtle Tracker : Dec 14th

    The rules seem to say you have to be a MasterCard Holder. Am I missing something or is that the case?

    • Dawn : Dec 18th

      Yes, that’s true, but it can be any mastercard from any bank.

      I read that some people just got the six numbers from a card they didn’t actually own and used that. I used my actual one so can’t verify personally, but they said it worked just fine.

  • Vinny T : Dec 18th

    Thanks for posting. This is interesting. If we submit 94 envelopes, will we receive 94 separate emails inviting us to play?

    • Dawn : Jan 11th

      Yup. It’s fun, you click on the link in the email and you go to a webpage with a picture of an elevator, you select a floor for your prize.
      My entries have been slowly trickling in (undoubtedly because I sent them from Dharamsala, India) but in the 14 entries I got back so far I already won a $50 MasterCard gift card and 14,000 points. So it’s more than paid for itself.

  • Dawn : Mar 4th

    Hey I figured I’d update this. I received all my entries and the total was 56,500 points and $50. So it did work as predicted, I even made $20 back because the shipping from India was only $30! I will use the points for 3-4 hotels. Hope some others got in on this!

  • BunnyHikes : May 3rd

    sweet deal! “splitting” the room with one or more other hikers will make you money AND give the other hikers a room they would not otherwise afford.

    psst …. look for hotels with free breakfast and a pool!


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