How Hilton’s extended elite status helped my family explore destinations close to home this year

Jan 5, 2021

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In mid-2020, Hilton became one of the first major hotel brands to announce that it would extend Hilton Honors elite status for members through 2022 due to the effects of COVID-19 on its customers and the travel industry. Status typically only lasts 12 months with inactivity or falling short of the stay/point or card status requirements. But, it’s been extended up to 24 months in an effort to give Hilton Honors members the chance to use their status benefits at a future time that feels much safer to travel.

This, and other customer-friendly moves, likely accounts for why TPG readers named Hilton Honors as the winner of the Best Hotel Loyalty Program “Readers’ Choice” category in the 2020 TPG Awards.

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Many may only be comfortable with planning travel in the future. But, if you have access to these extended status benefits, there may be no better time than the present to take advantage of them to plan a safe, close-to-home staycation with Hilton. Here’s why.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Hilton Honors

Hilton’s Clean Stay Initiatives pledge to keep guests safe

In early 2020, Hilton partnered with Lysol and the Mayo Clinic to roll out the Hilton Clean Stay Initiative. That program was a pledge to guests to promote cleanliness and health safety precautions in all Hilton-owned properties. Guest and employee safety were top priorities.

Related: An inside look at how Hilton is cleaning hotel rooms between guests

Guests staying at any hotel in the Hilton family can expect to see elevated measures of cleaning from the lobby to guest rooms and all public spaces. Guest rooms have seals on the doors signifying their rooms have been sanitized and then untampered with.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

There are also increased efforts for contactless check-in and checkout, deep cleaning of high-touch areas and access to hand sanitizer around the property. Essentially, the chain is pledging to do all it can to make staying at a hotel during a pandemic look and feel as safe as possible.

As a Hilton loyalist, I felt good about the measures Hilton was taking so my family of three planned a stay. The experience further solidified my comfort level and we’ve now stayed at five Hilton hotels across the country during the pandemic.

Each experience felt completely safe, with consistency from one property to the other. Because of this, when it came time to plan a staycation in our own city of Las Vegas, we chose Hilton.

A staycation helps your local economy

Sierra Redmond Staycation
Photo by Sierra Redmond

The effects of COVID-19 shutdowns have challenged struggling tourism-dependent economies. Take Las Vegas for example. In 2019, tourism generated $58 billion and accounted for 40% of jobs within Clark County. As tourism has fallen drastically this year, the city — and many others — continue to grapple with unemployment.

Choosing to take a staycation in your city or a quick getaway to another nearby tourism-dependent city can do wonders for that local economy. So — if you’re able to do so safely — using your extended status benefits and staying at these hotels makes a world of difference. And, if you have the points to use, the trip can make even more sense. Just be sure to check cash rates since some markets have softened considerably and it could be better to pay cash for your stay.

Related: Sanity staycation in Austin — How I did it safely and affordably

Money-saving staycation advantages with elite status

Extended status benefits mean tons of money-saving advantages for your vacation. While many hotels have limited and modified services, many of those same benefits that you enjoy as an elite member still apply. Examples of these benefits are access to executive lounges and/or free breakfast. Before making a reservation, make sure to ask if the lounge is open and what sort of breakfast benefit is being offered.

In addition, Hilton Honors members are currently benefitting from some pretty suite (pun intended) savings on cost per night at many properties. The Hilton Dreams Away rate saves customers an estimated 20% on the cost of their stay. However, Hilton Honors Elite members can often save more with the Honors Dream Away rate, which usually saves a couple more dollars and waives certain fees depending on the property that you decide to stay at.

In addition, as hotels are currently operating at a reduced capacity across the United States and abroad, Honors Elite members are able to take advantage of room upgrade requests available to them at little to no additional costs.

Hilton is accelerating elite status

Beginning January 1, 2021, Hilton announced it will require only half the nights, stays and/or base points to reach elite status. That means that booking staycations that are accessible for you now can count toward helping you maintain your status beyond 2021. In addition, those 2020 nights roll over to 2021, giving you an upper hand on keeping your status as well even if you’re traveling less during the pandemic.

Of course, you can also earn status just by signing up for the right credit card, thus bypassing the need to count nights, stays and base points altogether. You’ll enjoy complimentary Diamond status just for holding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Or, score complimentary Gold status with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or Silver status with the Hilton Honors Card from American Express.

Cancellations and changes are more flexible

Hilton bookings are more flexible now than ever with its Travel Plan Flexibility Program. Guests are allowed to change their reservations free of charge or cancel within 24 hours of the arrival date. So, there is much more room for flexibility on bookings to accommodate the lockdown requirements in your city.

If for any reason you decide to cancel your staycation or decide to travel to another city with different restrictions, it’s no hassle to change your stay. When planning our spur-of-the-moment staycation, it made booking our stay less stressful.

Bottom line

If you’re a Hilton Honors member with elite status and are looking for ways to ease back into travel in 2021, now is the best time to take advantage of some of these Hilton Honors elite extended benefits and head out on a staycation. If for no other reason, staycations are a great way to explore your city in a new light and help local tourism businesses along the way. Of course, follow all local safety precautions and restrictions, be vigilant about mask-wearing and hand sanitizing and maintain social distance with anyone that resides outside of your normal “pandemic pod.”

Featured image by Sierra Redmond

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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