I need to plan eight stays over the next two months to reach SPG Platinum for 2012. I outlined why I want to requalify for SPG Platinum in my earlier post, Differences in my stays as SPG Platinum and Gold elite.
This post shares how I plan out hotel hopping for stays when I want to find the cheapest rates for my stays, but also try and stay in the best hotels I can find without busting my budget. I will be paying for my own travel so finding lower rates is important to me.
From where I live in Monterey I could go to a city like Pleasanton, California about 105 miles from my home and bounce back and forth between the Four Points and Sheraton each night for really low cost on Cash & Points nights at 1,600 points and $30 or paid rates under $100.
Eight hotel stays could cost as low as 12,800 points and $240. I can buy 13,000 Starpoints for $364 during the current 20% discount sale on Starpoints through November 30.
I have done that kind of hotel hopping before. My preference though is to take advantage of low rates during holiday periods like Thanksgiving and plan travel to places where I can have a better vacation destination than the suburbs in Pleasanton, California.
Given the choice of spending $600 and staying a week in the suburbs or going to a place like San Diego and spending $800 while staying in Starwood Hotels that are new experiences for me is the preferable plan.
The strategy for finding low Starwood Hotel rates is similar regardless of where I actually choose to stay.
Finding Low Starwood Hotel rates for quickly earning several SPG elite qualifying stays.
I picked several places to check out for my cheap stays. I searched hotel rates for all Starwood Hotels in California. I also checked out Las Vegas, Miami and Denver which are locations I have travel planned before the end of the year.
This post will show how I checked California and set up a spreadsheet to track rates.
Spreadsheet example for tracking Starwood Hotel rates.
This portion of my spreadsheet is set up for the hotels in the San Francisco Bay Area over Thanksgiving week when rates are low.
The spreadsheet allows me to quickly compare rates here to any changes as these dates approach. These dates are still almost three weeks away and as hotel rates change the probability of a Best Rate Guarantee claim improves.
Rates I highlighted are the lowest rates I want to watch closely.
Step 1: List all the hotels I want to track. My spreadsheet places all the San Francisco Bay Area hotels together and all the rest of California Hotels together.
I get a list of all Starwood Hotels in California by my initial search on SPG.com where I search only California without a city listed. 70 hotels appear on this list, with three new Starwood Hotels not yet open (all in San Jose).
70 Starwood Hotels listed in California. I have set up the Starwood search to show SPG Cash & Points, AAA and AARP rates.
2. Narrow your Starwood search to specific rates.
A default search on SPG.com shows detail view of each Starwood Hotel and only three rates:
- Lowest Standard Rate
- SPG Free Nights
- SPG Cash & Points
SPG.com Detail View.
Step 3. Select “Compare Rates” tab
Compare rates reformats the page to show more rate options in a condensed page format.
Default “Compare Rates” page shows:
- Lowest Standard Rate
- SPG Free Nights
- SPG Cash & Points
- Breakfast Package
Step 4: Select “Compare New Rates”
You can only choose three rates. I want to see AAA rates and AARP rates since I qualify for both of these discounts. I do not want the Breakfast Package. I also need to eliminate one more rate and I take out the SPG Free Nights. SPG free night availability will almost always be available. I want to know SPG Cash & Points availability which is less frequently available.
Step 5: Select three rates to compare
You may have a corporate code instead if you are not eligible for AARP or AAA.
Step 6: Now my list of Starwood Hotel rates is shown in this format.
Lowest Standard Rate (usually a prepaid nonrefundable rate), SPG Cash & Points, AAA and AARP rates are side by side for easy comparison.
I see Westin St. Francis Cash & Points is not available for Friday, Nov 23.
SPG.com allows the use of Flexible Dates to find which dates have Cash & Points availability.
Step 7: How to find Cash & Points dates.
Select $152 AAA rate for Westin St. Francis
Select “Flexible Dates” tab.
On the right side under Rate Preferences, check SPG Cash & Points and uncheck AAA rates, then click update.
Now the calendar shows 17 dates offering SPG Cash & Points.
One of the dates shown is November 23 and the original search showed no Cash & Points availability for November 23. Turns out you need a 2-night stay for Friday and Saturday to get Westin St. Francis Nov 23 on Cash & Points.
Step 8: Check Starwood Hotel rates for travel dates and chart on spreadsheet. My sample spreadsheet still needs lots of rates to be added.
Step 9: Compare rates to Kayak.com for potential Starwood Best Rate Guarantee claims.
Each day I can quickly check rates on SPG to look for changes. I can also check Kayak.com for San Francisco and compare for lower rates and possible Starwood Best Rate Guarantee claims for either 2,000 bonus Starpoints or a 10% discount on the lower rate.
Compare SPG.com rates to Kayak.com.
Filter Kayak.com results by typing “Starwood” in Hotel Name box.
Sort Kayak.com for Starwood Hotels.
Le Meridien shows $189 on SPG.com and $179 on Kayak.com for Thanksgiving night November 22.
Potential Starwood Best Rate Guarantee claim. I think this BRG for Le Meridien would be approved if I filed it today.
While $200 per night is more than I would want to spend for my Starwood stays, the 2,000 bonus Starpoints is like getting the room at a $56 discount (based on the current price to buy Starpoints at $56 for 2,000 points) compared to the $17.90 discount with 10% off the lower rate.
This is basically how I set up trips where I want multiple Starwood Hotel stays. Typically I also find several Best Rate Guarantee claims when I watch hotel rates closely for a week or two.
This post shows how I found a BRG claim in real time for Le Meridien San Francisco as I searched these rates while writing this post.
With a little luck I might pull in 10,000 bonus points through BRG claims as I find 8 hotel stays over the next two months. Along with the 250 points for a Four Square check-in while at the Starwood Hotel and the 500 points booking bonus for iPhone reservations and 5,000 Aeroplan miles in addition to the SPG double points promotion, I think I can bring in 15,000 to 20,000 points as I pursue SPG Platinum with another 8 stays in 2012.
That seems worth a $600 to $800 investment for SPG Platinum elite status to me.
Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.