The Points Guy Team's Best Hotel Redemptions of 2016
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While we spend our days at The Points Guy writing up miles news and thinking up creative ways to help readers maximize their points, we also like to practice what we preach and put our own tips to use from time to time. After all, we talk about points and miles all the time, but what’s the good in that if we don’t actually get out in the world and see where they get us?
As we near the end of 2016, I asked the rest of Team TPG about their best frequent flyer and hotel points redemptions of the year. What they came back with was an eclectic mix of overwater bungalows, city suites, airport overnights and more. Here’s a round-up of some of our best hotel points redemptions for the year.
1. Magical Maldives, Brian Kelly, The Points Guy: Let’s start out with the best hotel redemption made by The Points Guy himself. Because it’s pretty awesome. Back when the St. Regis Maldives was nearing completion and began taking reservations in August, there was a screaming deal where you could reserve most room and villa categories at the hotel using points. The real steal, however, was the fact that you could score an Overwater Villa for just 32,500 points per night. But by redeeming 130,000 points for four nights, you automatically got a fifth night free per SPG award redemption policy, bringing the per-night redemption down to a mere 26,000 points. Instead of paying for a villa whose opening rate was $2,011 per night. That’s right, those points were worth over $10,000, and brought TPG’s per-point redemption value to a phenomenal 7.7 cents apiece. And the kicker was that he'll be staying at one of the most highly anticipated resorts to open in the past year.
Stay tuned for TPG’s review of the place, but he’s bound to enjoy the 1,959-square-foot villa with its own pool, private sun deck, ocean views, St. Regis butler service and more.
2. The Pleasure of Paris, Kaeli Conforti, Senior Editor: Kaeli took a solo trip to Europe earlier this year, which she found to be the perfect time to put some newly earned Chase Ultimate Rewards points to use. Here’s what she did.
"As a special treat to myself during a recent solo trip to Europe, I decided to redeem some of the points I'd earned from my Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonuses for a stay at the Hyatt Paris Madeleine. The five-star luxury hotel is within walking distance of the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre and several major Metro stations, so I had easy access to pretty much everything in the city I wanted to see. At the time, rooms were going for 25,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points or $280 per night. It might not have been the most high-valued points redemption option in the world, but it was a great option for me, given that I'd be in the center of all the action and could save even more money by taking the Metro to and from the airport instead of having to deal with traffic headaches and expensive cab fares. It was my first-ever stay at a Hyatt and certainly won't be my last now that I've gotten in on the points game!"
3. Airport Upgrade, Richard Kerr, Senior Points & Miles Contributor: Points magic can happen even in the most mundane of places. Richard booked a Points + Cash rate at the Hyatt Place at Dallas DFW. The hotel is a Category 2 property, so his rate was 4,000 points + $55 for the night for a standard King room. Only when he showed up, he was assigned a 780-square-foot suite instead of the standard room he had booked, which would have cost $80 more if he'd been paying. Talk about stretching your points even further.
4. Monkeying Around Costa Rica, Jason Steele, Senior Points & Miles Contributor: One of Jason’s favorite points properties from the past year is also one held in high esteem by TPG himself, the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica. Not only is the hotel a gorgeous cliff-top resort overlooking Culebra Bay, but it’s also a tremendous points value. Because it’s a Category 4 property, Jason needed just 15,000 points per night instead of paying room rates north of $500. The monkeys swinging from the trees outside his room were just an added bonus.
5. A Bed in Borneo, Lori Zaino, International Contributor: Lori is based in Madrid, but travels extensively throughout the year. One of her most memorable trips in 2016 was to Borneo, where she also put her points to use for a hotel stay that topped her list of redemptions. I’ll let her explain for herself how it came about.
"This summer, my partner Jorge and I traveled to Borneo during a two-month backpacking adventure in Southeast Asia. We spent three nights in the Borneo jungle, sleeping in an open-air cabin on stilts over a swamp shared with four other people (and one giant snake, which we found one night), no AC in the 100-degree heat and no shower. (A bucket of river water doesn’t count!) We couldn’t bathe in the river itself because of… crocodiles. While there, we trekked and went out by boat to see orangutans along with monkeys, snakes and birds."
"After three days of sweaty jungle adventures, we headed back to the town of Sandakan with no hotel booked. I was in desperate need of a hot shower and a bed. I had just under 7,000 Starpoints, not really enough to do anything exciting with, but just enough to get me two nights at the Four Points Sheraton Sandakan (Category 1). Instead of paying $160, I used 6,000 Starpoints for a two-night stay. While some might scoff at a Category 1 Sheraton as my top points redemption of the year, it was just what I needed when I needed it. The bed was comfortable, there was a hot shower, and even a rooftop infinity pool. It was heaven after roughing it for a few days.”
If you ask me, Lori’s is a perfect case study both in the off-the-beaten-path places your points can take you and the fact that you can get great value from them even on low-level redemptions.
6. Found in Translation in Tokyo, Becca Denenberg, Marketing and Events Manager: Becca is new to the TPG team, but she’s already well versed in the world of miles and points. Her best hotel redemption came back in September when she and her boyfriend stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo (where TPG also stayed earlier this year). Becca redeemed the two free nights she got as a sign-up bonus from the Hyatt Credit Card for her stay there instead of paying $600 per night. That’s nearly $1,200 in value from a single sign-up bonus. Among her favorite elements? "The staff were incredibly hospitable," she says. "They even had fresh flowers and a handwritten note waiting for me when I checked in. They also helped make a reservation at Sushi Iwa for us, which is a Michelin-starred restaurant with just eight seats in the whole place."
7. Fit for a King in Queenstown, Adam Kotkin, Chief of Staff: Adam has just come back from a trip to Australia and New Zealand with his husband that included a stay at the Hilton Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. Right on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the property must be one of the most scenic in Hilton’s portfolio. For his three-night stay, Adam decided to use 252,132 points. Why so many, you might ask? While it’s true that the hotel is a Category 7 property where rates start as low as 30,000 points, this was high season, so standard rooms were going for 50,000-270,000 points (yes, you read that right).
Additionally, Adam decided to book a higher-category King Hilton Deluxe Lakeview Room, which costs $40-$80 more per night, to have more space and to guarantee a lake view. Was it a splurge? Yes, but worth every point, Adam told me. Especially because all those points came from a few strategic credit card sign-up bonuses. You see, Adam got in on the 100,000-point offer on the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express that was available earlier this year, and 75,000-point offers on both the Hilton Honors Card from American Express and the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card that were also available a couple of different times this year. All told, he ended up with 250,000 bonus points and several thousand more based on spending, all of which covered his stay.
8. Mother’s Day Mitzvah, Nick Ellis, Assistant Editor: Nick is putting the rest of us to shame and winning next year’s "best son" award. Not only is he taking his mother to Paris for Mother’s Day in 2017 (I’m counting it as this year because he’s already made the redemption), but he also redeemed the two free night certificates from his Hyatt Credit Card sign-up bonus for two nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme plus 60,000 Hyatt points (it’s a Category 7 property) for an additional two so that he can treat his mom to a luxurious four-night stay in the City of Lights. That equates to over $3,250 in value based on rates at the hotel over that weekend… and years worth of bragging rights for his mom.
9. Santa Fe Suite, Eric Rosen, Special Contributor: I’ll wrap this post up with my one of my own best hotel redemptions of the year, when I used Starpoints to stay at the dreamy Posada de Santa Fe in New Mexico before a friend’s wedding this summer. I was there over a weekend during the Santa Fe Opera season. Room rates all over town were exorbitant, including at the Posada, where they were starting at about $550. It’s a Starwood Category 4 property, so award nights start at 10,000 points. Unfortunately, the hotel’s website was showing no awards available for the night I needed. However, I called Starwood Preferred Guest and was told I could book a higher-category Deluxe Room with either points or points and cash. The room would have been over $600 per night. But instead, I used just 11,000 Starpoints, which I thought was more than worth it. Especially because the room I ended up with was palatial, with a fireplace and a separate living room and work area. Not only that, but it was also in the center of town and there were extra treats like an SPG member wine tasting, live music in the evening and even shuttle service to and from the Opera for a fee.
Those were just a few of Team TPG’s hotel happenings from the past year. But we want to hear about yours. Share the tales of your own best hotel redemptions of 2016, and where you plan to redeem your point in 2017 in the comments section below!