I haven’t been in the points game as long as some, but I can say with 100% certainty that I value redeeming flexible points for premium air travel over premium hotel stays.
The way I see it, airline miles truly enhance travel when redeemed for the right route, with the right seating, on the right airline – especially in a premium cabin on long haul flights. To reach all travel destinations, most of us have to fly anyway. The people in economy class spend the same amount of time on the plane as the people in first class suites – but the experience is vastly different. In the points game, it’s possible to choose whether to be miserable or delighted. And I think most of us can agree that a 16 hour flight in economy class is not a delightful experience. Redeeming for business class can make the trip to and from your destination just as enjoyable as all the time spent in between.
On the contrary, hotel points just don’t seem to yield as much perceived value as a business class redemption. Over the past year I’ve stayed in a high end Marriott Autograph property, as well as a Starwood Westin in a major metropolitan city. Both times I left feeling like I “burned” my points – as in wasted them.
Here’s the thing: the way I travel, I value getting up close and personal with a new city, often walking 5+ miles in a single day just to explore. I’m rarely inside my hotel room beyond sleeping or a quick change of clothes before dinner. Unless of course my girlfriend needs a nap. I just can’t get enough of the thrill of the adventure.
So for people like me who are there to suck the marrow out of every new experience, the premium hotel redemption just doesn’t seem to make sense. I’m often much happier to pay for a mid-tier hotel that has a good location, a decent view and adequate amenities to meet my needs for the limited time I’ll be there. I don’t need pampering, and frankly I feel it can detract from my travel experience. Most importantly, I often feel guilty when I don’t make full use of a hotel’s amenities. I either leave feeling as if I’ve spoiled myself unnecessarily, or that I didn’t take advantage of all that I could. I’d much rather stay at a well located mid tier hotel where I can affordably pay cash and build my point balances for my next airline redemption.
And let’s be honest, hotels devalue their programs all too frequently. There hasn’t been a year yet that I haven’t heard about Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and the like “upgrading” their hotels a category or two higher on the award chart. It goes without saying this makes redemptions that much more challenging. The airlines aren’t the easiest to deal with either, but I can guarantee you these widespread devaluations do not occur with as much frequency or as great a magnitude as with the hotel mega-chains. To be honest, I’d practically call it extortion.
I recommend you spend some time considering the relative value of your point redemptions, and prioritizing where you get the most value for your hard-churned points. As for me, my next vacation will be spent flying on one of Europe’s finest business class products and staying at an AC Hotel. And I will be perfectly happy. Cheers!