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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Citi Prestige
Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to stay at a hotel that was near the top of my “must visit” list. It’s hardly brand new and there are arguably better options much closer to home, but I had heard such great things about the north shore of Kauai — and the St. Regis Princeville in particular — that I had to book a trip. But considering that this property is a 5,000-mile trek from NYC, and that we’d only have four nights on the ground, getting a regular room just wasn’t enough.
TPG most recently stayed at the St. Regis Princeville in 2015, but even he landed in a “regular” (but still very luxurious) guest room. After some digging on various message boards, given the popularity of this hotel (particularly among top-tier Starwood elites), I knew my only shot at scoring a free suite upgrade was to use four of the 10 Suite Night Awards I earn as an SPG Platinum member each year.
Here a few pointers to keep in mind in order to maximize your chances of having an upgrade clear — at this hotel and many others:
1. Avoid peak dates — Christmas and New Year’s might work best for your schedule, but — surprise! — those are also the busiest periods for most hotels. Instead, consider visiting a week or two before Christmas or after New Year’s, instead, or in the spring or fall. Now you could get lucky and score an upgrade following a cancellation, but if you need to travel during a peak period and you really want a suite, pay the higher rate to confirm one at booking.
2. Make your request right away — If you know you’re going to want the upgrade, be sure to apply your Suite Night Awards (SNAs) when you book your stay. You do have up until 2pm the day before arrival to add them, but you’ll have a much better chance of being upgraded to a suite if they’re attached to your reservation five days before check-in, which is when SNAs begin to clear. If your upgrade doesn’t clear, your SNAs will be returned automatically. You can also cancel your upgrades (and have them redeposited) as late as 2pm the day before arrival, assuming they haven’t cleared. Or, if you’ve already been upgraded, you can get your SNAs back by canceling your reservation (up until 3pm the day before you arrive) and booking a new one — but note that cancellation penalties may apply, and you’ll need to re-book at the current rate.
3. Select multiple suite types — An executive suite may sound more appealing than a studio, but would you be okay ending up in a “classic” room with twin beds if only studios are available five days out? Also, be sure to select all versions of the suite you’d like to book. For example, the St. Regis Princeville offers both Prince Junior Suites and Accessible Junior Suites — they’re almost identical, but the latter offers handicap-accessible features. If you end up with an accessible suite but you’d rather have the non-accessible version, just call in with that request. I cleared into an accessible suite but the hotel moved me to the standard version before I checked in. Had I not selected the accessible suite as well, I almost certainly would have spent those four nights in the room I originally paid for.
4. Keep an eye out for extra perks — Some suites include more than just extra space. Better views are a given, but you might also be eligible for butler service (as in the case of the St. Regis Princeville) or other goodies, like fruit plates, sparkling wine or even car service to or from the airport.
5. Book with Citi Prestige — The Citi Prestige concierge books Starwood stays directly through the chain’s website (or over the phone), so you should have no trouble adding your Suite Night Awards after your reservation is confirmed. If you provide your SPG number at booking your reservation should show up when you sign into your Starwood account, and you can add the upgrade certificates from there. You’ll also be eligible for Citi’s 4th Night Free perk, which makes it easy to get much more value from a paid stay.
6. Don’t let Suite Night Awards expire — All good things come with an expiration date. Unfortunately that applies to Suite Night Awards as well, which expire at the end of the year after they’re issued. So if you earn Platinum status again this year, the Suite Night Awards you earn will expire at the end of 2017. If you don’t think you’ll be using your SNAs before they expire, you might want to choose another 50-night benefit, instead (see all benefits listed below).
7. Consider Hyatt Diamond status, instead — After participating in a Hyatt Diamond status match earlier this year, I’ve shifted a lot of my business to Hyatt, having already stayed 46 nights with a dozen or so more on the way. What makes Hyatt better? The confirmed Diamond Suite Upgrades — each top-tier Hyatt elite member gets four per calendar year, and I ended up with eight after the match. I’ve used mine to check out some pretty fantastic properties, including the Park Hyatt Paris, the Park Hyatt Hamburg and the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. Being able to confirm an upgrade at booking many months in advance — and get the 4th night free via Citi Prestige — makes Hyatt Diamond the most appealing hotel status in my book.
I’m sure we would have had a great stay in the Garden View Room I originally booked, but scoring a suite for the cost of the lowest category room is a tremendous perk that made our experience even more memorable. If you’re flying all the way to Hawaii, and staying only a few days, it really helps to have a larger room — and a phenomenal view — confirmed long before getting on the plane in New York. Stay tuned for the full review later this week!
How have you managed to use your Suite Night Awards?
Know before you go.
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