This article is a way-out-of-sequence part of our Trip Report – Swiss Alps & the Tour de France.
In an article we published earlier this afternoon, we reviewed our Amex Hilton 2-card upgrade-downgrade strategy and the remarkable haul of benefits we’ve been able to collect as a result. In that article, we talked a bit about how we’ve enjoyed some of the spoils of that strategy in a recent stay at the fabulous Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace in Versailles (Waldorf Versailles).
We promised a follow-up article on what we did and how we did it, to have a fantastic stay for 4 people at the Waldorf Versailles – complete with dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Gordon Ramsay au Trianon – for next-to-nothing. We hope you enjoy this report and it inspires you to take an awesome trip of your own with your card benefits.
Using Amex Hilton Card Benefits for an Awesome Stay and Dinner in Versailles
Our stay at the Waldorf Versailles was the last night of our Switzerland-France trip in July 2019 to visit the Swiss Alps and attend a bucket-list sporting event, the Tour de France. The travel party was 4 – Philly & me, plus Middle Age Miles son and daughter-in-law Zack & Erin. Zack & Erin had booked to fly out of Paris (CDG) and would be headed from northern Switzerland to Paris on this last day anyway. And although Philly & I had originally planned return flights from Zurich, it was easy enough for us to adjust and also return from Paris, so we could take advantage of this great opportunity.
And mercy, are we glad we did!
Maximizing Our Amex Hilton Card Benefits
For starters, we had 2 Hilton Free Weekend Night certificates available, which we’d earned via our Amex Hilton co-branded credit cards back in the fall of 2018. Through some general searching out of curiosity, we found that the Waldorf Versailles was available at a standard points award rate (80,000 HH points) for this particular Friday night. That meant that we could use a Hilton Free Weekend Night certificate. And in fact, we could book 2 award rooms using our certificates.
Next, we recognized that we had 2 $250 Hilton resort credits available to us, as we were holding 2 Amex Hilton Aspire cards at the time (as we explained in the upgrade-downgrade strategy article earlier). The Waldorf Versailles is one of the properties where the resort credits may be used. In fact, we needed to use one of the resort credits quickly because our plan was to downgrade one of the Aspire cards in the near future.
In addition, we had an Amex Offer for a $100 statement credit when spending $500+ at a Hilton property in Europe.
Between the resort credits and the Amex Offer, those deals meant that if we split our bill correctly between our 2 Amex Hilton cards, we could end up with $600 in credits if we spent at least $750.
This planetary alignment of card benefits provided a perfect opportunity to have an almost-paid-for dinner at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon. As best we can recall, this was the first-ever experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant for all 4 of us. Reviewing the menu in advance, our expectation was that dinner would cost us at least $200 per person; $800+ total. Suffice to say, we never would have eaten there if we had to pay out-of-pocket. So, the card benefits provided us with a unique and memorable family experience that we would never would have had otherwise.
How Was Our Stay at the Waldorf Versailles?
Without delving into a full-blown review of the hotel at this point, we can report that our stay at the Waldorf Versailles was fabulous.
For starters, the hotel is immediately adjacent to the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. Literally, it’s just a few steps from the hotel property to the eastern “Grille de la Reine” entry gate to the Palace grounds. Each of us had been inside the Palace before, but none of us had time during our previous visits to fully explore and enjoy the grounds and gardens. And the grounds and gardens are expansive and lovely, with precise caretaking at every turn. It was quite a treat to be staying so close and get to visit the grounds twice – once on Friday afternoon when we arrived, and then again on Saturday morning before we had to depart.
At check-in, with my Hilton Diamond status (from being an Aspire cardholder), the hotel assigned both of our rooms on the top floor of the main building of the hotel, with views of the Palace. They were happy to upgrade 2 rooms even though only one person had Diamond status (both of the rooms were booked under my name). And the hotel staff was equally happy to re-assign Zack & Erin to a different room on the same floor when they discovered that the first room had only a tub and no shower.
As we’ve already alluded, our dinner at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon was unforgettable. It was far more fancy than we’re accustomed, we had to learn a lot as we went along (about how to order, how to use the different utensils, etc.), and we liked some of the courses better than others (for instance, the Bouchees a la Reine and mille feuille were much better than the pigeon). We ate on the outdoor patio, and there were even fireworks (partially obscured) on the far side of the palace grounds during our dinner. No matter how many Michelin-starred restaurants we may visit in the future (ha!), I suspect that the four of us will reminisce about our dinner at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon for the rest of our lives.
For breakfast, the hotel once again was very generous in treating all 4 of us to complimentary breakfast based on my Diamond status. Not surprisingly, the buffet-style breakfast (including made-to-order omelets and crepes) was good and extremely high-quality.
On Saturday morning, Philly and I went for a run through the Palace grounds and gardens. There was a window from 8:00 am until 9:00 am when you could enter the grounds and gardens for free (some days are completely free; others require paid admission). So, we got up early enough and took a very nice run – stopping to take a lot of pictures, fortunately for me! We had the grounds and gardens almost to ourselves, which made for an extra-special experience. As my friend, Middle Age Miles commenter HS once said – if King Louis XIV had been having breakfast in the Hall of Mirrors that morning, we could have stopped by and shared a croissant. What a great way to start a day (especially when you’re about to spend 10 hours on a plane)!
Given our afternoon flight time, we needed a slightly late checkout time, and the hotel graciously accommodated. That gave us time after our run and breakfast to explore the hotel and its grounds a bit more, and to redeem two free-drink certificates (provided by the hotel to Diamond guests) for a couple of final glasses of French wine in the hotel garden before we had to depart.
Let’s just say that Philly and I are already making plans to return to the Waldorf Versailles for a longer stay. 5 nights at 80,000 HH points per night, with the 5th night free for a total of 320,000 points, sounds very appealing to us! We can’t wait to go back and spend longer.
Running the Numbers on Our Stay and Dinner
Because we used Hilton Free Weekend Night certificates, our rooms were free. And as we mentioned, with my Diamond status from the Aspire card, breakfast was included for all of us, plus 2 free drinks for each room.
The lowest available price for the hotel for the night we stayed, using a non-public discount rate, was 311 Euros (about $351 at the time). Publicly-available rates were even higher. We feel like we got very good value for our free night certificates at this paid rate.
The only thing we had to pay for on this stay was dinner at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon. The final bill for our God-knows-how-many-courses 3-hour dinner, including wine, was about $845. After our resort credits and Amex Offer were applied, we paid only $245 out-of-pocket – about $60 each for dinner for 4.
Plus, we earned Hilton points on our charges. We’ll spare you the math, but between our earnings from the stay and our earnings from the charges to our cards, we picked up 34,231 HH points for this stay. At our baseline value of 0.5 cents per HH point, these points are worth about $171. Thus, net of our points-earning, this wonderful stay and our meals “cost” us about $74.
Needless to say, we’re ecstatic with the way we earned and used the benefits from our Amex Hilton cards to enjoy a very special stay at the Waldorf Versailles, and share the experience with family.
Have you stayed at the Waldorf Versailles? What did you think of it? Do you have your own story of great redemptions using Amex Hilton card benefits that you’d like to share? Please let us know in the Comments!
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