My big trip is now officially underway, and unfortunately I really slacked with planning it due to life getting in the way. I didn’t end up booking most of my hotels till last night, actually.
On my return journey in a couple of weeks, after getting off my Air New Zealand flight from London, I’ll need to stay near LAX for a night. I looked at options, and given that it’s a weekday, hotels were all fairly expensive – mostly $120+, which is a bit on the steep side for an airport hotel. Now that I’m a Starwood Platinum I was looking at Starwood properties, and I noticed that the Sheraton Gateway LAX hotel was only 1,600 points plus $30 through Starwood’s “cash and points program” [update: this rate is no longer available]. Now, it’s not the ideal circumstance, given that I won’t be earning stay credits, but it seems like an unbeatable deal, especially since the hotel seems to take good care of Platinum members with suite upgrades and free breakfast.
My point isn’t this specific instance, but rather what makes Starwood different than other hotel loyalty programs. At Starwood, high end hotels are priced disproportionately high, making “dream” stays expensive. On the other hand, mid-range hotels are real bargains when redeeming points, especially through their “cash and points” option.
So that’s what makes Starwood different than virtually any other hotel loyalty program. At Hyatt, Hilton, and to a large extent Priority Club, I wouldn’t under normal circumstances redeem points for a stay at an airport hotel. At Starwood, on the other hand, I have a hard time imagining that I’d be redeeming points for a hotel that competes with the Park Hyatt Paris, Conrad Maldives, etc.
I think my “luxury limit” at Starwood is a cash and points redemption at a category six hotel, like the St. Regis Singapore. At $150 plus 8,000 points (now $250 plus 30,000 Marriott points), it’s about as much as I’ll pay for a stay with them, and actually a pretty good bargain. The challenge is, however, that cash and points redemptions are capacity controlled, unlike outright award redemptions, which make them tough to come by for many destinations.
Anyway, just some random musings from someone that’s new to Starwood…