Best hotel strategy?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by MaryDarling, Dec 26, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. MaryDarling

    MaryDarling Silver Member

    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    113
    Status Points:
    325
    Thanks to a new contract, I know I'm going to need to fly coast-to-coast (SFO-WAS) about 10 times each year for the next two years. I also know I'll be staying in downtown DC for between 30-40 nights (at least) annually. This will be the bulk of my business travel, though some other travel may crop up.

    I have an Amex Premier Rewards Visa. I'm Marriott Silver and have the Marriott Visa. I'm Hilton Gold through 2012 but don't have the Amex (yet), and I have no status or card with Starwood (yet). All three chains have properties I can stay in near my work, so I'm now trying to figure out the best strategy for maximizing the value of my travel. I'd like to gain the most points/miles possible plus gain or build my elite status if possible. The points are all being stashed away for an eventual RTW trip I hope to make, so the main goal is to use domestic hotel stays to create free international nights.

    Should I focus on Hilton and try to make the jump to Diamond, work to move up with Marriott, or try to build a base with Starwood? I won't be able to switch hotels very often during each stay, but may be able to pull it off a few times.

    At the moment I'm thinking to focus on Hilton to benefit from the Gold point bonus and the double dip, plus make a run for Diamond status, but am I missing a bigger/better opportunity? All advice welcome!
     
  2. Steven Schwartz
    Original Member

    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

    Messages:
    1,017
    Likes Received:
    2,195
    Status Points:
    1,270
    It's a complicated question. Hilton is great for what you are doing since even Golds get free breakfast and that can certainly add up. But if your employer is paying for breakfast, not as important.

    SPG is ALWAYS a great choice. Just got back from NYC stay at the Parker Meridien on points,. There is no question that Starwood points go the furthest and with the availability sometimes of Cash and Points, they can go a long, long way.

    Marriott status never grabbed me and their rewards are not cheap - but then again, neither are Hiltons. I guess I would recommend between SPG and Hilton - Hilton for the free breakfasts and Starwood for everything else. If you choose the latter, get the SPG AMEX immediately!

    Good luck and happy trails.
     
    MaryDarling and SDFlyer like this.
  3. IkeEsq

    IkeEsq Gold Member

    Messages:
    743
    Likes Received:
    2,160
    Status Points:
    1,170
    Perhaps better to look at it in the other direction. Plot out where you are going to want to stay on the RTW trip and figure out which hotel brand cover your destinations and how many points you need to get all of the free rooms. It may be in your best interests to get a lot of points in a couple of different programs to give you more choices on your RTW trip. Also look at how to get elite status with each brand and what that will get you over the next couple of years and on your RTW trip. I would come up with a rough number of total points required and set that as your goal. Then plot out how to earn then with stays, credit cards, and transfers.

    If you decide to go with SPG, get both Personal and Business AmEx SPG cards, they reduce required stays/nights to elite status and get you 50K+ SPG points between them. I think the current offer is 25K for $5000 spend.

    If going with Hilton, get the AmEx and Citi HHonors cards, and maybe AmEx Surpass if that will work into your plans. You can also get the two Hawaiian Airlines cards and convert miles into Hilton. I think the current offers are 60K AmEx and 50K Citi. Not sure about Surpass offhand.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  4. philatravelgirl

    philatravelgirl Silver Member

    Messages:
    315
    Likes Received:
    496
    Status Points:
    545
    Agree look to see where your RTW will go and also what flexibility your employer has (do they have contracted hotels in DC you have to stay at or a price limit?). I use my Starwood Amex, spend (not stay) to Gold status and use the rewards (prefer cash/points) as no blackout dates- I have used the points throughout the world (Australia, Italy, Istanbul, South America, London, Paris, NYC, Toronto, etc) found easier than Marriott and my other programs.
    Another option if your company doesn't mandate is contacting the property Sales Mgr to negotiate agreement since most start at 40-50 min room nights -you can discount the rate and possibly add other amenities depending on the property
     
    YULtide, MaryDarling and Lighthouse like this.
  5. Lighthouse
    Original Member

    Lighthouse Gold Member

    Messages:
    3,292
    Likes Received:
    12,395
    Status Points:
    10,620
    I do not know where your work activity will be but I am very partial to the Williard Intercontinental in DC. As a platinum Royal Ambassador there are many great benefits at their hotels around the world. So depending upon your work and travel plans you might want to throw that into the mix as well.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  6. Bluto
    Original Member

    Bluto Silver Member

    Messages:
    187
    Likes Received:
    242
    Status Points:
    360
    I was looking at the willard intercontinental in DC recently. I started leaning away from it after reading mixed reviews on tripadvisor and oyster. Can you share why this is a preferred hotel for DC?
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  7. DTWBOB

    DTWBOB Silver Member

    Messages:
    748
    Likes Received:
    921
    Status Points:
    750
    One issue to think about is who will be paying for your meals -- I travel on my own nickle and have found Hiltons (particularly HGI's) to be the best value.

    At a minimum, if you're Hilton Gold or above -- you get the free breakfasts which I value at $25 per stay for two people at HGIs.

    DTWBOB
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  8. Lighthouse
    Original Member

    Lighthouse Gold Member

    Messages:
    3,292
    Likes Received:
    12,395
    Status Points:
    10,620
    Sure. It is in a very central location for much activity and work. It is both a very historic and beautiful hotel with extraordinary suites(look at the milepoint thread on the hotel). With not to much effort one can obtain platinum ambassador status (opening a Priority Club credit card for 60,000 points) and start immediately obtaining benefits. If one wants to step it up a notch one can trade up into Royal Ambassador status with many other benefits.

    There are many other nice hotels in the city but if ones work will pay the rate and is close by------ premier status and suite upgrades, free minibar, etc. will permit a very comfortable lifestyle. They also have some beautiful hotels around the world (see my thread on the most extraordinary IC hotels).
     
    MaryDarling and Bluto like this.
  9. RestlessLocationSyndrome
    Original Member

    RestlessLocationSyndrome Silver Member

    Messages:
    1,014
    Likes Received:
    1,356
    Status Points:
    925
    Given that you won't be hopping much, top tier status is not an option. As mentioned above, Hilton has one of the best second tier statuses that you can earn off your annual nights. In addition, Hilton has pretty good coverage internationally for your RTW trip.

    Now I prefer Starwood and Hyatt or maximizing bonuses/promotions personally but for your situation, I'd recommend going with Hhonors for all your stays.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  10. UA191

    UA191 Silver Member

    Messages:
    215
    Likes Received:
    213
    Status Points:
    420
    You should check out an SPG Challenge.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  11. needtoescape

    needtoescape Silver Member

    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    19
    Status Points:
    130
    I think you have received a lot of good advice already, but as the divergence of recommendations suggest, there is no one best approach, only what works best for you.

    A few things to consider:
    - It sounds like your use of points is several years down the road, so if you expect to be at a lower level of business travel after two years, you may not be able to sustain any elite status you earn now until your take your RTW trip.
    - I agree that status matches and challenges are an excellent way to maximize your current earning opportunities and improve your current travel experiences, but with some programs, they are one-time only options, so you want to make sure you consider whether you want to get status now to earn more points versus getting status in the future to maximize the benefit during your RTW trip.
    - If you can manage to hotel hop, that will help a lot, especially in terms of earning "stays" for SPG and HH status.
    - HH Amex Surpass offers the opportunity to earn Diamond status via credit card spend (regular HH Amex allows Gold), and the SPG Amex allows the opportunity to earn Gold via spend, so this may help (from your post, it seems like you may be able to put your business expenses on your personal card)
    - In terms of diversifying programs, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, since being in multiple programs allows you to maximize current bonus opportunities and have points to redeem later in multiple programs.
    - As others have said, think about where you will go on your RTW trip and see which chains have properties there.
    - Also, think about what types of accommodations you will be booking for your RTW trip (luxury, mid-level, budget) and what benefits (free breakfast, free internet, upgrades, lounge access) are valuable to you for leisure travel when you use points.
    - Also, think about the length of your stays at one property on your RTW trip. HH offers better redemption value on stays of at least four days generally. SPG offers a fifth night free on redemptions. A lot of people like Marriott's redemption value on the travel packages, but I believe these are for seven nights in a single hotel.

    Personally, I have SPG Platinum, HH Diamond, and Marriott/Club Carlson Gold status now. I earned HH Diamond with stays and got the others through status matches or challenges. I've been using my HH points over the last year since I'm no longer traveling for work and wanted to enjoy some of the high end Asia properties before my HH status ends next March. If I could keep one program at the top tier and one at the middle tier, it would be SPG and HH respectively. Marriott never wowed me (although one great feature of Marriott Rewards is that points don't expire), and I had no real interest in Club Carlson until they did their 50K points promo recently.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  12. MaryDarling

    MaryDarling Silver Member

    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    113
    Status Points:
    325
    Thanks for this -- I hadn't thought of the negotiated agreement, which might work well. Several of us will be traveling to DC at different times during the contract, so negotiating a rate makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the tip!

    I also appreciate the comment that you found SPG easier to find internationally. We don't have a specific itinerary yet -- it's under negotiation! -- but having availability will be key.
     
  13. MaryDarling

    MaryDarling Silver Member

    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    113
    Status Points:
    325
    I appreciate everyone's comments, and am reassured that the answer wasn't obvious to everyone but me! I only began getting involved with miles and points in the last year, so often miss some of the nuances.

    To clarify a few points -- yes, I pay for my own expenses, so can use any credit card; no, there are no limits on budget other than common sense; the RTW trip may occur next summer (in order to take advantage of my AA Plat status earned via challenge, as well as hotel status). In terms of the eventual RTW trip, I'll admit to having champagne tastes and a generally beer budget. As a result, I'm very fond of high-end properties and room upgrades, and will likely use the points in that way.

    At the moment, we have 225K Marriott points, which is enough for either multiple nights at a top-tier property in Europe or for one of the packages (week's accommodation at a mid-tier property plus 50K frequent flier miles) and I agree that their elite program isn't that spectacular. So I think Marriott is out of the running, but it's too bad, because the Mayflower in DC is a favorite of mine, and is now a Marriott property.

    The Hilton benefits for me are the free internet and room upgrades, plus the airlines miles that get tossed into the deal. (Free breakfast isn't of great value to me.) Since I have Gold status, it's rather nice to get the upgrades now, even as I earn the miles for my later trip, and there is a nice (if not spectacular) Hilton right downtown. My concern with Hilton is their international availability -- it seems like they have a smaller international footprint. Am I wrong about that?

    I hadn't known about the SPG challenge, which might be the right way to go if I can find a decent property in downtown DC. It's a question of swapping off immediate benefits (the points bonus and upgrades) from Hilton as I gain status with SPG, but it may make the best sense overall. My boss is interested in getting into the miles game too (though she's never going to hotel hop) so I may be able to convince her to join me in focusing on Starwood properties -- esp. if I can negotiate a good rate. Since I'm just as interested in piling up air miles, SPG offers the best flexibility.

    I've been putting all my travel expenses on my Amex Premier Rewards, but it seems like it's long past time to move to using either an SPG Amex or the Chase Sapphire. I've gotten two Chase cards in the last year (BA Visa and Marriott) so don't know if they'll allow a third. I also have two AMEX, but they're a bit older so I hope there wouldn't be a problem getting another.

    One way or another, I know my RTW trip, and the status I've earned already, is due to what I've learned from Milepoint and all those willing to help us newbies. Thank you so much for all your advice and help!
     
  14. loudnotes

    loudnotes Silver Member

    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    47
    Status Points:
    145
    I was in a similar situation in 2010, with ~10 3-4 night trips to DC for a consulting project. With so many hotels near one another, I would reconsider your aversion to hotel hopping if the promotions sufficiently incentivize you to inconvenience yourself a bit. For example, there are two Westins in downtown DC (within a mile or two from one another), and last year SPG was giving away a $100 Amazon gift card after every two Westin stays. For me, that made it possible to earn 3 of them in only 2 weeks (6 one-night stays)!

    Just to add another option, you could also consider going after Hyatt Diamond status. I believe they also have a Diamond challenge, and in general my experience with Diamond (free breakfast and confirmed suite upgrades) has been better than SPG Platinum (just my opinion). The other big reason to consider Hyatt is the Park Hyatt Washington, easily one of the best hotels in the world. Contra what I wrote above about hotel hopping, you'd be wise to find the hotel you'd most like to have as your home away from home for a full month out of the next couple years.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  15. MaryDarling

    MaryDarling Silver Member

    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    113
    Status Points:
    325
    I'm not averse to hotel hopping -- my boss is, and on trips when we're together, she's going to expect me to be in the same hotel she is. I'm just glad I can have a large say in which hotel it is!

    As for Hyatt, I can't believe I didn't think of that. Anyone else think it's a better program than SPG? I'm open to the idea -- just need to learn more about Hyatt!
     
  16. NYBanker
    Original Member

    NYBanker Gold Member

    Messages:
    32,725
    Likes Received:
    191,901
    Status Points:
    20,020
    There clearly isnt one absolutely clear answer for you on this one. To throw four other things into the mix:

    1) You can get instant spg gold if you have an Amex Platinum card. You need to call Amex to get a short code, but when you then give that code to spg, they'll upgrade your account immediately.
    2) The big drawback to the IC program to me is that they don't offer the status benefits on award stays. If your plan is to use the points you accumulate for free hotels on an rtw trip, if you go the IC route, you'll just be a regular Joe (or Jose or Georg or whatever name is appropriate for the city you're in!) when redeeming at IC properties.
    3) I'm not sure if it is still live, but there was earlier this week a website floating around which had a shortcut to get instant Hilton Gold status. I used it, and it appears to have worked.
    4) It really sounds like it will be worth it to go for top status - particularly if you go the non-IC route. You should really try to see if there is any way you do some hotel hoping in dc.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  17. MSPeconomist
    Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

    Messages:
    58,563
    Likes Received:
    98,528
    Status Points:
    20,020
    If you don't care about breakfast, SPG might be a good match for you. They have a nice collection of interesting aspirational properties and a bigger footprint than Hyatt. It's easy to get Gold or equivalent or you can challenge to get Plat right away, which is great, and doesn't seem to have the one in a lifetime limit but must be requested before you have status with them IIRC.
     
    MaryDarling likes this.
  18. mailbroad

    mailbroad Silver Member

    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    209
    Status Points:
    360
     
  19. loudnotes

    loudnotes Silver Member

    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    47
    Status Points:
    145
    I agree with MSPeconomist. While I prefer Hyatt's elite benefits, SPG has a higher number of desirable properties worldwide. It all depends a bit on where you plan to travel and which particular hotels excite you!
     
  20. MaryDarling

    MaryDarling Silver Member

    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    113
    Status Points:
    325
    Thanks to all of you, I'm now thinking of negotiating with the revenue manager at one of the Starwood properties in DC to see if we can lock in a good rate in return for our promised business. I've heard that hotels can grant elite status (i.e. SPG Gold or Plat) for special customers. Is this true? If so, I'm wondering if I can ask for that as part of the negotiation. Between all the folks who'll work on this project, we're probably talking 100 nights a year for the next two years.

    Has anyone negotiated with a revenue manager? Can they offer more than price?
     
  21. philatravelgirl

    philatravelgirl Silver Member

    Messages:
    315
    Likes Received:
    496
    Status Points:
    545
    There are different options here, some will require formal guaranteed contract for rates/room type/nights others will give you a teaser rate to track volume/revenue for the quarter and then look to put a rate in Did you check on the project to see if your client already has a rate in place you could use? You'd get all of their perks, they get volume for their agreement and everyone wins. If breakfast isn't important, I'd look to get Internet access included or preferred rooms or club rooms and definitely last room availability so you are not shut out during city wides.
    Since DC is seasonal you can request seasonal rates (prob no perks) whereas a flat rate has some wiggle room but if the Internet is lower you are stuck with the higher rate or lost room night if you deviate
    If Starwood is the winner then def get both SPG cards to build up points (personal and business), 30k spend is auto gold.
    DC has some great Kimpton options although not helpful for your RTW goal if you need other hotels while there -free wine social each night and free Internet.
    Part of my job is Corp travel manager US/UK so let me know if I can help further.
     
    YULtide and MaryDarling like this.
  22. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

    Messages:
    363
    Likes Received:
    516
    Status Points:
    595
    I am biased (like most here I guess) and I tend to remain loyal to Hilton. As a Gold member (via credit card spend), I value my free internet and free breakfast which can add up on a vacation stay. The real kicker for me is the (soon to be defunct) bmi miles accrual of 1,000 miles a night (up to 3,000). I have never boarded a bmi flight, but managed to have close to 100K miles just from Hilton stays (with some good promos they had in the past), in addition to Hilton points. I will need to reevaluate the strategy when bmi will go away.
    I always redeemed Hilton points internationally and been treated very well (both as Diamond and as Gold). It is true though that the network is spread across all level of hotels. Therefore, there will be relatively low numbers of top level hotel available.
    The changes to redemption with the introduction of co-pay and premium awards might change the balance from having Hilton a pretty good program to average one.
     

Share This Page