Marriott’s new program will take effect one week from today, and one of the biggest decisions that many of us are trying to make is whether or not we should be booking Marriott Travel Packages. Yesterday I shared the latest update from Marriott regarding this.
I followed up with Marriott to ask if they had any further information regarding how categories will convert, and they responded by saying that “all existing certificates will convert to similarly valued categories after that date.”
For those of you not up to date, I suggest checking out these posts first:
- No, We Still Don’t Know How Marriott Will Handle Existing Travel Packages
- My Theory On How Marriott Will Handle Existing Travel Packages
- Marriott Travel Packages: I’ve Decided On A Strategy… I Think
- Marriott Provides Update On Existing Travel Packages
Over a week ago I shared what I think my strategy will be for booking Travel Packages, though I also said that I’d wait until closer to book, in the event that we received more guidance from Marriott.
Now that we’re one week from the new program being formed, and given that Marriott has shared an update, I’m guessing that we’ve now received all the information we’re going to get. So it’s time for me to make a final decision as to what I’m going to do.
What we know:
- Existing Marriott Travel Packages issued before August 18, 2018, will continue to be redeemable for hotel stays, and won’t be converted into some fixed points amount (as some people had speculated)
- Existing Marriott Travel Packages can’t be redeemed for a month following the new program being formed
What we don’t know:
- How existing Travel Packages will convert with the new program in terms of which certificates will be redeemable at which category of hotel, other than that they’ll be converted to “similarly valued categories after that date” (whatever that means)
- Historically Marriott has let you extend the certificates from Travel Packages for a year, though we don’t know if they’ll continue to allow that with the new program
What does this mean for me?
I promised I’d keep you guys updated as to my strategy, and as we learn more information, my plans also firm up a bit. So what are my thoughts based on the updates we’ve received?
- The time to get the most value is if you make bookings this year, even if you’re staying next year; that’s because Category 8, as well as peak and off-peak pricing, won’t take effect until 2019
- For many, the one month delay in being able to redeem these will somewhat limit redemption options, especially if you’re looking to redeem at the St. Regis Aspen, St. Regis Deer Valley, St. Regis Maldives, etc.; if you have a lot of Starpoints, you could always make a seven night booking at the property you’re anticipating now, and then cancel and rebook in September using a Travel Package, assuming you think you know how the categories will convert
- Based on the other restrictions Marriott is putting in place with these, I do think they’ll be generous with how categories convert
So based on what we know now, I think I’m sort of doubling down on the strategy I was leaning towards earlier. I’m thinking of booking Category 9 Travel Packages, which cost 390,000 Marriott points, or the equivalent of 130,000 Starpoints. For that I’d get 120,000 Alaska miles, plus seven nights at some sort of hotel.
I’m expecting (perhaps foolishly) that this will cover at least a Category 7 hotel under the new program, which means I could redeem at any hotel if booking in 2018 (even if staying on a subsequent date).
Since I value 120,000 Alaska miles at 288,000 Marriott points, I’m really paying just 102,000 Marriott points for seven nights stay. That would be obscenely awesome. That’s ~14,500 Marriott points per night, or under 5,000 Starpoints per night, for the best Marriott hotels.
I’m thinking of booking a few of these, and then next year maybe I’ll spend a week at the St. Regis Aspen, a week at the St. Regis Maldives, and maybe a week at Santa Marina, the Starwood Luxury Collection property in Mykonos that’s outrageously expensive in summer. Those are just a few ideas.
So at this point I’m thinking I’ll book three Category 9 Travel Packages and hope for the best. I’m expecting this will cover any hotel (aka any Category 7 hotel or below), though it’s also possible that I’m completely wrong.
It could be that a Category 7 or Category 8 certificate would also cover it, but I’d rather pay a little more and be safe. It could also be that a Tier 5 certificate is required to redeem at the new Category 7, though I don’t think that would be reasonable.
On the plus side, I think there’s a lot more upside than downside here. So you’ll have to decide for yourself how you think this will end, but that’s my strategy… I think.
What’s your Travel Packages strategy, in light of everything we know at this point?