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Vote for the 100,000 Starpoint Prize Winner

Aug. 20, 2011
15 min read
Vote for the 100,000 Starpoint Prize Winner
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Voting is now closed. Congrats to TravelHackerr for winning!

This week I've been running a contest for readers to submit how they'd use 100,000 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Amex gave me these points to give away as part of a promotion around their 30,000 point sign-up bonus on their Starwood Preferred Guest card (which ends on Tuesday, by the way). Update: 30k bonus expired 8/22/11

When all was said and done, there were over 300 entries and most of them were very strong. In fact, some were so strong, I'm having a hard time choosing just one as the winner. So, I've narrowed the list down to 10 and I want your feedback on who should win. Read through each entry and vote for only one choice (the poll is at the end of this post).

The poll will be open until 3pm Eastern time on Sunday and whoever is in the lead when it closes, will get the 100k. However, everyone on this list will walk away with something. Once again, thanks to all for participating - I learned a lot from your submissions and I even got some great future blog post ideas (like highlighting the LANPass transfer option that so many of you referenced).

The finalists (in no particular order):

1) Cory's Family Beach and Snow Trips
Being a family guy I have to make the wife and kids happy… So If I had 100,000 SPG points…. Four days at the beach and two days in the snow!!!
- Transfer 60,000 points to LAN = 150,000 LANPASS km’s
-Redeem 96,000 LANPASS km’s for 4 round trip economy tickets from LAX to SJD on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines!
-Stay four nights at The Cat. 4 Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos using cash + points = 16,000 points + $240
-Redeem 48,000 LANPASS km’s on AS/QX again to fly 4 in economy from LAX to MMH (Mammoth Mountain)!
-Stay 2 nights at the Cat. 5 Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth = 24,000 points
Why is this an excellent redemption?
1) Utilizes the distance based mileage chart LAN uses which is outstanding for short-hop flights and cross boarder flights that normally cost lots of $ or miles. Using AS miles alone this flight redemption would have cost 200,000 miles! If I would have transferred SPG to AS it would have been 160,000 points vs the 60,000 I used!
2) Uses SPG’s Cash + points option which gives additional options for bringing down the price on expensive hotels or when you want to stay additional nights when you are short on points.
3) Everyone on the Horizon flight to MMH gets free beer!
2) KirstenE's Family Trip to Hawaii. The video literally made me laugh out loud (your daughter's moment of silence at the end was amazing)
First of all, here is a link to a video our kids made just for this contest!
We have chosen Hawaii as our next vacation destination, and we already have our airline tickets booked using points (because of this site and the British Airways promotion we learned about here). Being able to use SPG points for our hotels while we are there would be the icing on the cake! Hawaii is so expensive, and on teacher & social worker salaries....well, it would be a huge help!
Our son has Aspergers Syndrome, which often causes him to have an intense interest in a specific topic - and now it is the volcanoes of Hawaii (and building contraptions, as you can see!). We also have researched and learned that Hawaii is a great destination for many children on the autism spectrum, so we are very excited for this adventure!
This is how we would use our 100,000 points:
- 7 nights at the Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas = 56,000 + $1050
(This would save us over $2,000 and give us the convenience of having a kitchen - very helpful for my son's special dietary needs. We have been hoping that we could stay at this resort because we have spoken to other parents who have said it is extremely ASD friendly, but it is not in our budget.)
- 5 nights at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort = 40,000 (5th night is free)
(This is on the Big Island & would get us closer to our planned trip to Volcanoes National Park which is also on the Big Island. It would be so perfect because we could stay in a nice hotel before venturing into the park for a few days)
- 1 night at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani = 4,000 + $60
(We would stay here before heading back home & would also add on a few days out of pocket)
Total = 100,000 points
3) Mitch's Analytical Trip to India
I'm London-based, and here's my take on things (probably a bit different from most in the US!). Being a mathematician, I have tons of Indian colleagues. However, I've never been to India and think it would be a great trip to make. To make it even better, ANA works out great as a transfer partner for me on this one. I transfer 58K starpoints to ANA for 68K ANA Miles. (Yeah, yeah, transferring another 2K would give me 7K total ANA miles, but I have no use for the leftovers at the moment and would rather spend them on hotels.) There are lots of options for me from LHR to DEL and BOM in business class: LH via MUC, OS via VIE, and non-stop on 9W. Since I can't check 9W award inventory easily and can't combine it with *A partners on ANA, we'll assume one of the Miles & More members, as ANA tool has shown several workable options in the spring for an open jaw from LHR into DEL and back from BOM. This clocks in at just under 9K miles round trip, requiring 68K ANA miles in business class. I'd then use my remaining 42K starpoints as follows
Le Méridien New Delhi (Category 4, two nights for 20K)
ITC Mughal, Agra (Category 3, two nights for 14K)
ITC Grand Central, Mumbai (Category 4, two nights on cash+points for 8K + $120)
Intra-India travel (and a few more nights along the way) will be paid with cash.
An alternative is to take a stopover in MUC on my way to DEL, just to be on the ground for over 24 hours. I'd keep the hotels above in New Delhi and Agra, but only do one night on cash+points at ITC Grand Central in Mumbai. I'd then take one night cash+points at Le Méridien Munich (Category 4). Why would I do this? The UK Air Passenger Duty for UK-India in Business Class is £150. However, if my first stopover is in Europe, I pay APD at £24. This saves me over $200 at current exchange rates (minus $60 for the cash+points in Munich), and $140+ will go a long way toward another night of hotel in India.
4) TriciaC's Return to Japan
I would use the 100,000 SPG points for my husband and I to visit Japan and Korea during Xmas and New years. As a teenager growing up in the 80's, my family and I lived in Misawa, in case you aren't familiar, it is a small US air force base and Japanese town located in the Aomori prefecture in Japan, it is located just north of Sendai (the region that was hit hardest by the Tsunami and earthquake). The destruction that ripped through Japan was truly awful and it became personal to me as I felt an intense feeling of loss along with a sense of solidarity for the lovely people of Japan. I did not lose any family or friends that day , but I felt saddened like I was watching my happy childhood and teenage memories being swept away. I knew I had to return to the place where I had so many wonderful experiences and see how it all felt today.
So, let the planning begin!!! (Awesome contest by the way!) I have relatives that live in Seoul and it just so happens that my best friend's family resides in Sendai. She is planning a trip to visit them for the holidays and it would be great to join her! Winter can be an ideal time to visit Japan, we would hang with her and her family , do some charity work, participate in the holiday festivities, see the snow Monkeys of Sapporo ,do some skiing, visit the snow covered temples of Kyoto, see the lights and action in the big cities of Seoul and Tokyo, visit Korean relatives, karaoke, and of course, drink tons of warm/cold sake and soju! Doesn't that sounds amazing!
We live in San Diego, so here is how we would arrange the trip:
Use our British Airways miles for business class tickets on partner JAL ,taking advantage of stopover rules with one way tickets ( learned from your excellent tutorial on using BA miles...thanks TPG!!!).
Drive to L.A.
Outbound: Los Angeles-Osaka ( stop...take bullet train to/from Kyoto) -Seoul
Return: Seoul- Tokyo( own transportation to/from Sendai and Sapporo) Tokyo (stop) - Los Angeles
Drive to San Diego

Hotel Stays:
Sheraton Gateway LAX : 1 free night Cost: 3000 point
Westin Miyako Kyoto: 3 nights Cash and pts Cost:12,000 points plus $180.00
Westin Chosun Seoul: 5 free nights Cost: 40,000 points with 5th night free
2 nights Cash and pts Cost: 8000 points plus $120.00
Westin Sendai: 2 nights cash and pts Cost: 9600 points plus $180.00
Sheraton Sapporo Hotel 3 nights cash and points Cost: 8400 points plus $120.00
Westin Tokyo 2 nights cash and points Cost: 16000 points plus $300.00
Sheraton Gateway LAX : 1 free night Cost: 3000 point
(substitute Four Points Sheraton LAX if Sheraton Gateway is more than 3000 points on night of return)
TOTALS: 19 nights COST: 100,000 Starwood points plus $900.00
Sounds fun...right????-----------------------------------------------------------------5) Joey's Trip to Paris (once again, the video got me.. loved the juggling on the Great Wall!)
My 100,000 points would have the 5 redemptions
as outlined in my youtube video:
Boy it's hard to keep it to 30 seconds!-----------------------------------------------------------------6) Travelhackerr's Plan to Propose and then Honeymoon A bit presumptuous, but very creative! :-)
That's my entry:
Please don't be too critical, its my first youtube video :) Youtube shows 31 seconds, but iMovie shows only 30s. So I hope its still okay.-----------------------------------------------------------------7) Coldlimit's Foodie Tour of Asia
My wife and I just recently got married here in Chicago and she has never traveled outside North America. We are both foodies and would love to do an Asian tour and eat all the delicacies the Far East has to offer! Stop one would be Japan and I would try to book The Westin Tokyo for 4 nights Cash and Points (32000 points.) In the early morning we’ll head to the Tsukiji Fish Market and indulge in a bowlful of chutoro. At night we would scour the streets for the best Tonkatsu ramen and Takoyaki! Stop two would be Taipei where would hit up the night markets and chow on yummy street food like the infamous stinky tofu and cool down with bao bing. We would use SPG points to stay at the Sheraton Taipei with the 5th night free (40000 points). Then finally on to Malaysia where we would hit up its beautiful beaches and rainforests. We would probably make a stop at the Petronas Towers and rest our feet Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur with the 5th night free promo (28000 points). Dishes like Malaysian curry chicken, roti canai, and Laksa are my favorites and the best place to do that is Jalan Alor. Now that would be a great way to spend 100,000 Starwood points!
-----------------------------------------------------------------8 ) Heather's Tour de Points
We leave behind our poodles to travel to Europe for the Tour de France using our 100,000 Starwood points… a “Tour de Points” vacation of a lifetime!
*Here’s our video:
Milan – The Westin Palace: 3 nights @ 12,000/night = 36,000 points
Monte Carlo – Le Meridien Beach Plaza: 3 nights @ 8,000/night + $150/night = 24,000 points + $450
Paris – Le Meridien Etoile: 3 nights @ 12,000/night = 36,000 points
Red Cross donation: 4,000 points
Total: 100,000 Starwood Points + $450
(We will use our Delta miles to fly to Europe.)-----------------------------------------------------------------9) SajerGuy's Golf Trip to Macau
My philosophy: The benefit of these points for me goes well beyond the highest monetary equivalency (cpm) achievable. Rather, I looked to maximize the experiential value of using just 100k SPG to provide the most meaningful memories possible that I can carry through life. Furthermore, I agree with James M's comment above that it is important to not just talk theoretically about the points but to work through all the hurdles necessary to nail down precise dates with availability. Thus, my whole trip is available for booking online as of today.
My concept: I've been golfing for the past 30 years but have never had the opportunity to play with true professionals on a tournament quality course. I noticed that SPG Moments has auctions for special experiences and one of them is to play in a Pro-Am event (14 Sep) preceding the Macau Open next month. I travelled through Macau a couple times while in studying in China in the late 90's and have often wondered how the recent casino boom has changed the sleepy Portuguese colony that I remember. I could also practice my Chinese, which has grown very rusty during my service in the Army...can't even pass the military's Chinese test anymore so I lose out on some bonus pay. Perhaps a week's worth of practice would get me over that hump!
The details:
- Spend 60k SPG points on N&F Option 1 (5 nights at a category 3 hotel and 50,000 ANA airline miles).
- Buy 10k additional ANA miles for 10k SPG points.
- Use 14k SPG points on two additional nights at Cat 3 hotel. If more SPG points are needed to win the auction below I could utilize C&P for these two nights (2800 SPG + USD 45 per night).
- Bid last 16K SPG points on SPG Moments auction to play in Pro-Am event at Macau Open golf tournament and attend the whole tournament.
Flights: Via ANA Mileage Club purchase for 60k miles a United economy roundtrip from SFO to HKG. I found available direct flights both ways (11 Sep -> arriving 12 Sep and returning 19 Sep) for a total of 60k ANA miles.
Ferry from HKG to Macau: Arrive at HKG International on evening of 12 Sep and take ferry directly from airport (Macau Tourism Office website indicates no need to do HKG Customs and Immigration). Turbojet ferry is $30 USD each way. Taxi to hotel will be peanuts as Macau is tiny.
Hotel: The Macau Open is played at the golf course around the Westin Resort Macau (Cat 3 hotel with oceanview availability). Checkin on evening of 12 Sep and checkout on 19 Sep for a total of 7 night (5 from N&F and 2 additional). Best available rate is $216/night (including taxes).
Golf: Play in the Pro-Am on 14 Sep and watch the tournament from 15-18 Sep.
Overall, I'm sure my plan doesn't top the charts in terms of monetary value but it would allow me to book a very specific trip that I truly want to experience (and on short notice) for only 100k SPG points. Thanks for the great contest!-----------------------------------------------------------------10) David Hagin's Family Trip to Aruba
Our video for our entry is located here. Thanks for the great tip about calling for C+P availability
The way we would redeem our points is detailed below.
I would first donate 12,000 SPG points to the American Red Cross to assist with Tornado Relief in our hometown, leaving us 88,000 SPG points remaining.
I would then transfer 60,000 SPG points to AA, in order to receive 75,000 miles. With those 75,000 miles, I would buy 3 tickets to Aruba (my other child is under 2, so she wouldn’t need a ticket) during off peak times.
With the remaining 28,000 SPG points I would use Cash and Points option of 4,000 SPG + $83/night, averaging about $.039 per point, better than the $.024 if redeemed at 10,000 SPG points per night. The best thing about this, is online it doesn’t mention Cash & Points as an option at the Westin in Aruba, but if you call they can book it for you. We would stay for 5 nights, using an additional 20,000 points, with 8,000 points remaining.
I would then redeem 8,000 SPG points for $84 towards a massage via Instant Awards at the hotel for my wife because she’s a rockstar staying at home with both our kids. The ratio for Instant Awards is 950 SPG points is $10.
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