The SPG program includes a wide variety of hotels around the world categorized into nine brands which are not always consistently differentiated. A few properties do not participate in the SPG program, so that their affiliation seems to consist primarily of a centralized reservations service. Others, sometimes many, do not participate in various promotions, so be warned and check the fine print carefully. Most Starwood properties are pet friendly (welcome cats and small dogs, perhaps for a fee), but be sure to check in advance. Four of Starwood's nine brands are relatively homogeneous and can be ranked from less to more luxurious: Four Points by Sheraton are generally the cheapest Starwood hotels, although they (generally again) offer more services than limited service hotels. They are generally not in prime downtown locations. They offer basic to comfortable rooms (certainly with private en suite toilet and bath/shower facilties, towels, limited and modest toiletries, heat and air conditioning, color cable TV, daily maid service, etc.). There may be a full service restaurant with room service (not 24/7) on the premises, which may include recreation facilities such as a health club (not fancy) and a pool. The property should be safe, well managed, and clean. I think of these as limited full service hotels. Some frequent travellers use them for "mattress runs" because they are frequently the least expensive way to obtain night/stay credits. They're designed for budget-conscious families and business travelers who do not need or want to stay in city centers. Limited upgrade potential because most rooms are the same. Next up in quality are the Sheraton Hotels, usually solid three-star full service properties. They range in size from about 100 to 2000 rooms and suites. There are a few all-suite properties (no upgrades here). Many Sheratons have executive floors with lounges where continental breakfast and evening appetizers and drinks are available, frequently with a charge for alcohol in North America. Many older Sheraton properties were renovated within the last several years, These are general multi-purpose hotels or "motor hotels" intended for both business and leisure travel. Most Sheratons have complimentary lobby business centers, including free computers with internet access and black-and-white printers. Westin Hotels are generally smaller than Sheratons, about 100-400 rooms and suites, although the Atlanta Westin Peachtree Center is a huge exception to this rule. I think of Westins as a bit more business oriented and more sophisticated than Sheratons. However, IME business center usage is not free, except to print a boarding pass. Beds, bathrooms, and toiletries are fancier than at Sheratons. Some have club floors with lounges. Hotel restaurants are likely to be distinctive. Note, however, that the best Sheraton is certainly better than the worst Westin, so that there's considerable overlap between these brands. Sheratons and Westins outside of North American are generally of higher category and correspondingly more expensive. Disposable slippers are likely to be provided in Asia. St Regis is the upscale luxury brand, frequently but not always in a traditional way. Rooms and suites (roughly 100-500 range)are likely to have advanced electronic controls and luxurious bathrooms with separate bathtub and shower. Bathrobes and turn down service are provided. Luxurious upscale branded toiletries. A distinctive feature is butler service, a floor staff member who coordinates many aspects of a guest's stay (housekeeping schedule, restaurant reservations, packing/unpacking/pressing service if desired, complimentary 24 hour delivery of coffee and tea, laundry/dry cleaning/shoeshine valet services, etc.). Service is thus more elegant and more personalized than at lower tier properties. Restaurants will be distinctive/luxurious. Pool, health club, and spa facilities can be stunning. Le Meridien (LM) and Le Royal Meridien hotels have their origins in a French chain that was acquired by Starwood. They can be large or small and might or might not have lounges. Some are boutique-style or art-themed--for example, LRM Shanghai gives out free tickets to a nearby modern art museum and LM Chambers in Minneapolis has its own collection of modern art and a gallery. I think of LM as the same level as Westin but different in style. Some are more family-friendly. Luxury Collection (LC) is an eclectic group of four and five star properties, with maybe 50-400 rooms and suites. Some are located in historic buildings, such as the US Grant in San Diego. They can be either boutique or luxury properties. All are different and unique. W is a newer grouping of upscale properties (roughly 100-400 rooms and suites) with distinct style and atmosphere. They do not have lounges. They do have fashionable lobby bars (the living room), typically trendy pool scenes, creative upscale restaurants and bars, sometimes with live music. Many have very dark (black carpet and walls) hallways and elevators. Rooms have high tech features and minibars. Bathrooms (some have showers only) feature bliss products. Concierge service is called "whatever, whenever." Many guests praise or criticize the attitudes of hotel staff, referred to as "talent." US Ws offer local complimentary Acura service. aloft (a division of W) is a newer chain of trendy high-tech hotels catering to younger clients. They stress the lobby bar scene and want guest to spend time there rather than upstairs in rooms. The staff greeting is "aloha," although self-service check in using lobby computers is encouraged. Most have an arrangement with a nearby interesting restaurant (sushi, anyone?) to provide room service. Breakfast is espresso etc. plus cold packaged items (some hotels provide lobby microwaves) from a "market." Most have small heated indoor pools, in addition to health clubs. Every aloft hotel that I've seen appears to have been designed by the same architect, although the lobbies/bars differ. All rooms are the same (no closet door, shower only, good desk space, but no comfortable chair) with liquid dispensers for shampoo and bath gel. Little to no upgrade potential. Targeted customers tend toward twenty-somethings with IT leanings and environmental awareness. These hotels have been criticized as sometimes having almost a dorm-like atmosphere (but not dormitory-level prices). element is the newest brand. These are intended to be upper-tier extended stay properties with small kitchens and all suites (studio and up). So far, there are few element hotels.