August 18th is only a few days away and that means the Marriott and Starwood loyalty programs are soon to be one. While I’ve covered extensively how the point structure will change and that you want to book points NOW for hotels that are going up in price, one thing that is still unknown is how they are going to deal with travel package certificates that have already been redeemed with points but not yet book. These flight + hotel packages allow you to redeem a fixed number of Marriott points for a 7-night Marriott/Starwood stay + a certain amount of miles (you can choice from many airline programs). There are many different options based on the number of miles you desire and the category hotel you are looking to stay at. Come August 18th, the travel package redemptions will not be nearly as generous as they have been in the past, so this is definitely one of the better options for using your Marriott points.
Since the entire award chart is being revamped, today’s category 5, for instance, will hold a different value for a category 5 property in the future. And since the travel packages are currently tied to category redemptions, we are not yet sure how they will map to the new award chart post August 18th. Marriott representatives have already suggested tying them to a reservation now, but have not yet divulged the future of where they will map with the new chart. Via View from the Wing, Marriott has stated that they are still working on the technology that will support them so nothing is yet set in stone. They have also stated that you will NOT be able to book (or change) already purchased travel packages between August 18 through September 18.
Many folks are speculating how these travel packages will map over if not yet attached to a hotel reservation. Will they become more valuable? Less valuable? Or essentially stay the same? You still can “purchase” a travel package with your points so some folks are hedging their bets to purchase these packages and hoping for the best. This definitely is one of the best ways to transfer your points to miles as well, if you prefer airline miles over hotel points.
Some things to keep in mind with these travel packages:
- While the miles transfer to your account almost immediately (there could be a few day lag), the 7-night certificate has a 1 year expiration date. In the past, folks have been able to get these expiration dates extended another year, but there is no telling whether or not Marriott will still be lenient with these expiration dates.
- The 7-nights all have to be used at the same hotel in consecutive nights. You cannot split up the 7 nights, but it has to be a single reservation including 7 nights. Although, even if you only want to stay 5 or 6 nights at the property, they still could provide value and you can just “waste” the last night or two and have an empty hotel room.
- You can still purchase these certificates for the next few days and attach them to a Marriott hotel, but you’ll have to wait until September 19th to attach them to a Starwood hotel
Dan’s Deals and Frequent Miler have both put together some incredibly comprehensive post with their thoughts on how the travel packages might map to the new award chart once the programs are fully aligned. Of course this is their best guess but they’ve included a ton of information and there are many reader comments if you’d like to join in on the guessing game.
I assume these travel packages will map in a very fare manner. I assume some travel package categories will be slightly more favorable while others will be slightly less favorable, but for the most part a pretty even playing field. I have an extremely healthy amount of Marriott and Starwood points, but have actually never redeemed for a travel package. For whatever reason, I have never redeemed points at a Marriott hotel for more then two consecutive nights. But I am definitely toying with the idea to purchase one of these packages, I am just trying to figure out the right package to purchase. Now that I have two little kids, we are starting to stay at resort properties for an extended period of time. The big question is if I should redeem for a category 6 or category 8 package. If I had to put my money on it, I’d say that a category 6 property will map to the new category 5 and a category 8 will map to a new category 6. There are definitely properties in both the new categories that could fit my needs, but will I definitely be staying there in the next year? That I am not 100% sure. I do not love the concept of speculatively purchasing something with an expiration date, so that is I guess why I am still up in the air.
If I decide to go for it, I will personally either redeem for the United or Alaska Airline travel package. With United you’ll earn the most amount of miles due to their partnership, so that is definitely enticing. But earning Alaska Airline miles are hard to earn without actually flying them and there are times when their award chart is very favorable. A category 6 package will cost me 300,000 Marriott points but will yield me 132,000 United points or 120,000 Alaska Airline. Where a category 8 package will cost me an additional 60,000 points. These are definitely amazing redemption values so I do not want to miss out on the opportunity. For example, the Marriott in Aruba will be a category 6 in the new award chart so a 7 night stay would cost 30,000 points. For just 360,000 points with the Travel Package (assuming my best guess is correct), I can get a 7 night stay at this property PLUS 132,000/120,000 miles. I’d gladly transfer my Marriott points to airline miles at a 1:2 ratio! I’ll probably sit on it for 48 hours or so and then make a decision.
What are you doing? Purchasing a travel package for a specific need or a speculative hotel stay? Or sitting this one out and holding onto your points to redeem with the new award chart?