The only hack for hotel discounts that still works right now

The Hilton Orlando, as seen from the Aquatica tower in the International Drive area, Orlando, Florida, July 1, 2019. (Dreamstime/TNS)
The Hilton Orlando, as seen from the Aquatica tower in the International Drive area, Orlando, Florida, July 1, 2019. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Whether you buy early, shop last minute, are traveling far away or keeping it close to home, there's one truism to travel right now: It's crazy expensive.

So it may be counterintuitive that the best way to snag a deal these days is to stay somewhere brand-spanking new.

"New hotels sometimes underprice themselves when they first open," explained Becky Pokora, travel rewards staff writer at Forbes Advisor.

"It's part of an effort to attract more attention and to determine what customers are willing to pay," she continued.

Take the brand-new 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay in Hawaii. Its opening discount was 30 percent off -- plus $100 to $500 in resort credits, depending on length of stay.

The strategy works whether you're paying with cash or points, but the savings can be more profound with the latter. For one thing, points are an opaque currency, which means that hotels can manipulate them without reputational risk. Points pricing can also be adjusted without affecting industry benchmarking figures like average nightly rates.

It's not just that points discounts can be steeper. They can last longer, too.

World of Hyatt, for instance, charges fixed-point values depending on what category level a hotel falls into, and it reevaluates those designations on an annual basis. That means that if a new opening gets placed at a lower level while it finds its footing, consumers will get a decent amount of time to cash in. The rates you see published in dollars online, meanwhile, can fluctuate in real time, according to demand.

Other programs, such as Hilton Honors and IHG One Rewards, have dynamic rewards pricing that keeps points rates closely aligned with the dollar cost. Here, the advantage of using points is that you can stack promotions. In recent months for instance, American Express has offered as much as a 50 percent point bonus on sums transferred to Hilton Honors, extending discounts that much further.

As spring and summer plans come into focus, it can be worthwhile to look for exciting openings wherever you're headed. Here are a few examples of especially good deals at new hotels we've found lately -- all bookable through popular loyalty programs and in prime destinations.

Andaz Mexico City Condesa

Loyalty program: World of Hyatt.

Opened: January 2023.

How much it'll cost you: As little as 12,000 points.

Many of Hyatt's design-focused Andaz hotels, including the Andaz Mayakoba near Cancun, Mexico, start at 21,000 points per night or more, but this funky Mexico City opening--with a dog-friendly "wooftop" co-working space and neon purple escalators--is currently charging only about half as much. It's set in an historic building with art deco details whose ground level is shared with the adjacent Mondrian hotel, smack-dab in the center of the leafy, artsy Condesa neighborhood. Right outside, you'll find a large array of parks, shops and galleries. The rooftop Cabuya restaurant is fast becoming a local hotspot for its fresh Mexican seafood, a good sign that buzz is growing--as will the rates.

Waldorf Astoria Cancun

Loyalty program: Hilton Honors.

Opened: November 2022.

How much it'll cost you: Roughly 95,000 points.

Sitting on 100 mangrove-filled, beachfront acres just south of the international airport, the Waldorf Astoria Cancun is an oasis for travelers who want the quick convenience of Cancun without the party vibes of its busy hotel zone about 20 miles north. Tranquility here takes the shape of two zigzag-shaped pools, a spa with 21 treatment rooms and pristine white lounge chairs on the sand, where staffers arrive at the touch of a button to take your drink order. That's comparable to what you'd get at Maui's fiercely popular Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort where a redemption night can go for around 500,000 points.

Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa

Loyalty program: Marriott Bonvoy.

Opened: September 2021.

How much it'll cost you: Around 49,000 points.

Most Maldivian resorts, including this one, have knockout overwater bungalows. But no other hotel on the archipelago has a hydroponic farm as large as the one at Le Méridien Maldives. The 4,600-square-foot greenhouse supplies half a dozen restaurants at the resort and is even large enough to host private dinners. A kids' club and separated family pool offer high-design amenities for the non-honeymoon set, which can be hard to come by here. An outdoor movie theater and "Marine Hub," at which you can learn about turtle and manta ray conservation, are geared toward all ages. Add an overwater, ayurvedic spa and you find just as many bells and whistles as at Le Méridien's sibling properties that use Marriott's Bonvoy points, the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli, JW Marriott Maldives and Ritz-Carlton Maldives Fari Islands -- all of which command twice as many points per night.

The Madrid Edition

Loyalty program: Marriott Bonvoy.

Opened: April 2022.

How much it'll cost you: Roughly 76,000 points.

Ian Schrager's influence on this Marriott brand has catapulted it to the top of the design scene. Wherever an Edition opens, influencers are quick to follow. The Madrid location is no exception. The brand's signature white-on-white aesthetic provides an antidote to the peak-tourist location right near the city's "golden triangle" art museums and bustling Gran Via. Its rooftop pool, the largest in the city, is a destination unto itself in summer months, as is the greenhouse-like Oroya restaurant overlooking Madrid. Nonetheless, spring and summer nights are going for around 76,000 points. That pales in comparison to Editions in London and Miami Beach, which both go for around 106,000 points. (While those are more expensive markets, geography plays only one part in explaining the steep price difference.)

Thompson Madrid

Loyalty program: World of Hyatt.

Opened: September 2022.

How much it'll cost you: As little as 12,000 points.

Not far away is World of Hyatt's answer to the Edition: Thompson Madrid. Although many Thompsons, like those in Dallas, New York, and Zihuatanejo, Mexico, are listed as Category 6 hotels under Hyatt's eight-category designation system, this one is almost inexplicably listed as a Category 4. Even if the hotel didn't have such a scene-oriented rooftop pool and floor-to-ceiling windows in character-packed rooms occupying two heritage buildings on central Calle de la Montera, this would constitute an incredible deal. Once travelers to Madrid discover the property's charms, its rates are sure to rise.

Kimpton St Honoré Paris

Loyalty program: IHG One Rewards.

Opened: August 2021.

How much it'll cost you: Roughly 77,000 points.

The Kimpton St Honoré, which occupies a former luxury-brands-only outpost of the reinvented Samaritaine department store, now has 149 luxe guest rooms behind its art nouveau façade. It competes with a plethora of top-shelf hotels in the City of Lights with rooms that take in the Eiffel Tower's sparkling lights and the world-famous Paris Opera House. It has the architectural bones of a palace hotel, but comes with funkier design and standard rooms that rarely climb above three digits. (Not always the case with other fine Parisian properties.)

Here, "new" is relative. Since it opened amid the Covid-19 pandemic, IHG fans have needed time to discover this French gem, so points prices are lower than at sibling hotels nearby. Many guests will love it for the perks that it offers just by being a Kimpton hotel. Brandwide features include an especially generous "Forgot it? We've got it" program that doles out everything from tweezers and apparel tape to humidifiers, deodorant and phone chargers; every visitor has access to in-room yoga mats and cute bikes on which to hit the town.

The Leta Hotel

Santa Barbara

Loyalty program: Hilton Honors.

Opened: A while ago ... but rebranded in August 2022.

How much it'll cost you: Roughly 65,000 points.

Here's a unique exception to the "new" rule: The Leta Hotel in so-hot-right-now Santa Barbara has been around for some time; it's a former Kimpton hotel but has recently rebranded as part of Hilton's Tapestry Collection. Such rebrands may as well be new when it comes to points redemptions: At the very least, Hilton will treat (and price) it as such.

The Leta's surf-inspired décor and such in-room amenities as Frette bed linens and Atelier Bloem toiletries are clear markers of a luxury hotel, as are the in-room turntables and vinyl collections. Yet it's typically priced lower than its sibling hotels nearby. Rates here are currently hovering around 60,000 points, depending on the season; that's 10 percent to 30 percent less than the nearby Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort.