EXPERIENCED TRAVELERS: How to maximize awards for a 68-day hotel stay
March 4, 2012 10:59 AM   Subscribe

EXPERIENCED TRAVELERS. I need to stay for 68 days at a hotel in the Hanover/Odenton/Serven area of Maryland. How can I maximize this in terms of an awards or mileage program?

I really don't know much about these programs, or how to take best advantage of them.

If it helps, I have an Alaska Airlines mileage plan, and I'm enrolled in the Marriott Rewards program.

I'd appreciate whatever guidance anyone can give me!
posted by Alaska Jack to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh, I'm also enrolled in Best Western rewards, if that helps!
posted by Alaska Jack at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2012

When I worked for Hilton, most of the people that wanted to stay such a long time were more interested in deeply discounted rates which were not eligible for HHonors or airline points. Some rates will qualify for miles, but deep discounts may not. Also, many rates reserved from places like Priceline or special deals from Expedia, etc will not be eligible for earning points. I'm familiar with Hilton, Marriott and Starwood programs. I know the Marriott you have to pick to earn awards with them OR airline miles when you signed up and those points are given based on the room rate (before taxes, etc). So the more you spend, the more you earn.

As an EXPERIENCED TRAVELER (who has been on the road a lot but usually never more than 10 nights in the same place at a time), I'd speak to someone at the hotel (GM at smaller properties, Director of Rooms at larger ones) to get the best rates and inquire there about the eligibility of earning rewards. You have to speak to someone at the hotel because they have better control of their inventory and many central reservations numbers may not allow such a long stay to be booked. There also might be days within that 68 day period the hotel is sold out (or there's a block on room that at the property they can see if they can squeeze you in). You can use online tools to shop around before you call and to gauge availability and be able to discuss the rates with the onsite person. The people you'll want to talk to at the bigger properties work generally the 8-5 M-F hours. At other hours you may only talk to the front desk or reservations agent that are empowered to do pretty much what the people at the reservations center can do (read the computer screen). If they need a manager override the people that will do that will be there during the workday.

Or consider getting the lowest rate and paying for it with a credit card that earns miles/points/cash back.
posted by birdherder at 12:24 PM on March 4, 2012

In my opinion, the best programs are either Hyatt or Starwood. There are more *wood options near where you are staying. I'd also suggest getting the Starwood Amex card.
posted by Lame_username at 4:04 PM on March 4, 2012

If you choose a Marriott, don't stay at a Residence Inn if getting the most points is your goal. They are more comfortable for a longer stay (more like a studio/1 BR apartment than a hotel room), but you accrue points at a lower rate than their regular (not extended-stay) hotels.

I think this is true for most chains/brands with extended stay hotels.
posted by jshort at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2012

A couple of questions:
a) Do you like Marriott Rewards, and if so, do you already have any status with them?
b) Do you have cost considerations?

If the answer to "a" is yes and no, and the answer to "b" is "no" or "maybe", then pick a full-service Marriott or Renaissance near where you want to be. Do not make the booking on the web or by calling the 800 number (even if you are an elite). Call the hotel, and ask to speak to the manager. Explain that you're looking for a place to stay for 68 nights, and what can he/she do for you regarding rates, internet access, and concierge access. I've found that staying at full-service Marriott's for over a week is made more pleasant by having access to the lounge. Full-service Marriott's charge for internet access if you're not an elite.

If the answer to "b" is "yes", then choose a Courtyard, and have the same conversation but this time regarding rates and see if they'll throw in breakfast.

Also, apply for the Marriott credit card and use it for all expenses at the hotel. You'll compound your points earned.

If the answer to "a" is "no", then pick one of the other hotel chains and do the same thing.

Personally, my preference in chains is Marriott>Hyatt>Starwood>anyone else>Hilton. At the low end, I've been quite pleasantly surprised by Comfort Suites recently.

Staying at hotels for mileage is a bad idea. You'll do better accruing hotel points at hotels and air points with airlines. Cross-accrual generally screws the consumer.
posted by Runes at 5:59 PM on March 4, 2012

Marriott is the most stingy program in terms of reward and status qualifying. You need 75 nights to attain Platinum status in Marriott Rewards, but only 50 to obtain Platinum in Starwood Preferred Guest or Diamond at Hyatt. You'll get suite upgrades at the top tier in Starwood or Hyatt (or Hilton) whereas suites are specifically excluded by Marriott. Starwood is actually the best, because you get suites pretty much every time one is available, whereas Hyatt is theoretically limited to 4 stays a year although I find they put me in a suite 90% of the time. Similarly, you will find that the rewards for free stays come much faster in any program other than Marriott. Hyatt and Starwood also guarantee late checkout for top tier elites, whereas Marriott does not. Hyatt runs more frequent promotions where you earn bonus points, but Starwood has a ton more locations. On the other hand, Hyatts are usually higher quality.

Furthermore, Marriott has significant capacity controls on their reward redemption, where Starwood has none. I also found that free nights at hotels I was interested in cost me 75% more in base spend at Marriott. Its very difficult to compare apples to apples on that point, because you may value different rewards than I do.

I've been top tier elite in all four major programs and currently have Diamond in Hyatt's Gold Passport and Platinum in Starwood. I'm also Gold in Hilton, which is the middle tier. I never stay in Marriott any more because its a bad bargain and I don't think you will find very many people on flyertalk who would suggest Marriott. The only upside to Marriott is for people whose corporate travel folks are extremely cheap and/or who stay in very tiny towns where you have no hope of finding a Starwood or Hyatt. To be honest, even there I'd rather stay in a Hampton Inn or a Hilton Garden Inn and earn with Hilton.

Whichever program you choose, the affinity credit card is probably a good deal, if only for the sign-up bonus.
posted by Lame_username at 7:05 PM on March 4, 2012

If you choose a Marriott, don't stay at a Residence Inn if getting the most points is your goal. They are more comfortable for a longer stay (more like a studio/1 BR apartment than a hotel room), but you accrue points at a lower rate than their regular (not extended-stay) hotels.

I think this is true for most chains/brands with extended stay hotels.
Actually, Hilton's Homewood Suites earn at the same rate as any other Hilton. Starwood's Elements earn at the same rate as any of their brands (although they are damned hard to find). Hyatt's Summerfield Suites also earn at the same rate as any other Hyatt brand. Its just Marriott.
posted by Lame_username at 7:15 PM on March 4, 2012

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