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Middle Age Miles

How We Used Amex Hilton Card Benefits for an Incredible Stay & Experience in Versailles

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Lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace in Versailles

This article is a way-out-of-sequence part of our Trip Report – Swiss Alps & the Tour de France.

Introduction

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

Background

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.

“La Reine” gate into the grounds of the Palace of Versailles,
right next to the Waldorf Versailles

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.

View of the Palace of Versailles, from the 5th floor
of the main building of the Waldorf Versailles

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.

A portion of the breakfast buffet spread at the Waldorf Versailles

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)!

We took a break from our run for a photo op just outside the famed Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles

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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4 thoughts on “How We Used Amex Hilton Card Benefits for an Incredible Stay & Experience in Versailles

  1. HS

    Glad it all worked out for you on the short visit and not surprised that you are planning to go back. The location is fantastic and, as you point out, when the stars align, it can be an incredibly good deal. Fortunately, with the Hilton cards and some other Waldorf-Astoria stuff, the stars tend to align often.

    Or maybe the analogy is that you can align them in a lot of different ways: great use of free Hilton weekend nights, points, Aspire credit; and I’ll add another, that room prices can be pretty reasonable, including with FHR for non-Hilton elites and one time we walked into some very good prices including via WA a $100 (or Euro?) credit per night. I think that time we used the Aspire credit to offset the cash for rooms, and the $100 night credits toward Gordon Ramsay!

    Finally, this is a place where WA having finally folded into the Hilton b’fast for Diamonds (and Golds!) is a fantastic benefit, especially when you are there for longer than an overnight…. We think that the b’fast buffet is very good, and if anything has improved across our visits. (I hope you guys tried that yellow cream cake — wish I could remember what it is called.) Plus it’s a great place to sit and linger, especially when you can snag a window table.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey HS – Great points all around. You are using the full bag of tricks to get great deals at the WA Versailles! FHR and the WA/Conrad $100 credit rate are great ideas to make this fabulous hotel even more accessible and affordable. We routinely explore both of those options when we’re assessing hotel stays. (Side note – a few months ago, I almost posted an article about using the WA/Conrad $100 credit rate and Diamond status from Aspire to spend a month or more at the WA Panama City for almost free, net of F&B credits and HH points earning. Unfortunately, the rate at the hotel has gone up a bit since then, which makes it not quite so attractive (well, in addition to the part where you’d be living in Panama City)).

      Totally agreed on lingering at breakfast. We were a bit late getting down there after our run, but we got a window table and gazed at the goats in the adjacent field, basking in the tranquility until they started breaking down the breakfast buffet for the day.

      Thanks for the great comment! ~Craig

  2. Ron

    Isn’t the Trianon a bit out of the way? Yes, Versailles is nice (I liked the grounds better than the interiors) but I’d rather make it a day trip from Paris.
    Nice job on the Amex upgrade offers – I used to play that game but it got tiresome remembering when to upgrade/downgrade to maximize everything. Now I prefer simplicity over saving a few shekels. Nor do I spend much time at chain hotels (certainly not 5 nights in one property), so those Weekend Night certs are rarely useful and I tend to trade/give them away.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Ron – Thanks for the comment. Good point, Versailles is not Paris. For those who want to be in the hustle and bustle of the City of Lights, they won’t want to make a long stay out in Versailles. Maybe one night, but not an extended stay. In our case, we’ve spent a fair bit of time in the City, and we’d be happy with a quieter place to stay combined with a couple of days taking train rides into the City. Travel style-wise, we often like to park ourselves in one place for a few days so we don’t have to re-pack every night, and then make day trips. For example, when we have a longer stay at Versailles, we might venture out for day trips to Chartres, Orleans, or maybe even all the way down into the Loire Valley.

      And I do hear you, it takes some effort to maximize the card benefits. For us, the juice is worth the squeeze, but I certainly understand it’s not for everyone! I’m sure your friends are very happy when you gift them a free Weekend Night certificate!!! ~Craig

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