New Year's Vacation in Maui — Reader Success Story
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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.
I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you're interested in sharing your own story, email it to email@example.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!
Recently, I posted a success story from Jared, who used an online shopping portal to earn a ton of bonus miles. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Andy, who was able to book a holiday hotel stay thanks to a new hotel partnership. Here's what he had to say:
Thanks to TPG (and the Starwood/Marriott merger), my newlywed wife and I celebrated a very happy New Year in Hawaii to kick off 2017. We were in Maui for five nights during the most expensive time of the year, including New Year's Eve!
When we first started trying to book a trip for that time of year, we didn't count on quite how much lodging would cost. Every hotel we looked at was extremely expensive; most decent hotels were going for $1,000 per night or more, which was way over our budget. Thankfully, we were able to find award availability and book with points.
I read your post about the Starwood/Marriott merger the day it was announced, and that's where I learned about the 1:3 transfer ratio from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott Rewards. My wife has had a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express for years, and she has accumulated a lot of points by using it for all her expenses. We were able to immediately link her accounts and transfer enough points to book five nights in at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
The cash price of our room for five nights would have been over $5,000! Instead of paying that, I transferred 54,000 Starpoints to Marriott, which gave me 162,000 Marriott points. The room was 40,000 points per night through Marriott Rewards, but we were able to take advantage of the 5th Night Free benefit, so the total was 160,000 points.
Our out-of-pocket costs for the hotel were $75 per night that we decided to pay for an upgrade to an Ocean View room, plus $30 per night in resort fees (which you have to pay even when you don't use points). That means we got about $4,625 worth for those 54,000 points, which works out to a redemption value of over 8.5 cents per point. I'd call that a good return!
The hotel recently completed a major renovation in December, so we were among the first guests to experience the transformed property. We had a great time soaking up the sun in Hawaii and ringing in the New Year, and it wouldn't have been possible without your guidance. We're extremely grateful!
The award travel game is always changing. Sometimes it changes for the worse, as redemption options disappear or benefits are eliminated. However, those negative changes are countered by new opportunities like the Starwood-Marriott partnership. As Andy's experience suggests, you can get excellent value by transferring Starpoints to Marriott Rewards (or in some cases by transferring in the other direction). You might not get 8.5 cents per point regularly, but the new connection definitely makes both programs more useful.
If you're traveling to a popular destination during peak season, finding award availability can be challenging. You'll generally have more options when you book further in advance, but thanks to schedule changes and cancellations, you can sometimes find availability on short notice — even for a hotel room in Times Square on New Year's Eve. For more ideas, check out Richard Kerr's tips for planning a vacation at the last minute.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Andy for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.
Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
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