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Imagine this scenario. You are a family with two kids and a somewhat limited travel budget, but you have managed to get cards like the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex and now have enough SPG points to book your much anticipated vacation without having hotel costs send your head into the sand. You enter two adults and two kids into the SPG website search box in order to book the hotel you want on SPG points and you get an error message that reads something like you are limited to two guests in the room on award stays.
Say what? Was the whole “points for families” thing a scam!? Mommy Points is full of %$#@! Okay, so hopefully that last part is a bit of an exaggeration, but many families who have tried to reserve a room using Starwood Preferred Guest points have run into this error message when making an award booking for themselves and their children:
SPG Free Night Awards booked online are limited to 2 guests per room. Call SPG Customer Care for additional availability.
With some regularity I am asked if this means that only two people can be in the room on an SPG award night? I also see this question asked on online message boards with some frequency. Of course for families this would all but rule this program off of the consideration list, since we frequently need to have two adults plus a couple of children in the same room. Fortunately, that is not at all what it means. It just means the computer system is less than ideal. In fact, here is a very recent quote from an SPG rep on Flyertalk regarding this issue:
The system does not currently support adding children as free extras to award reservations. Hopefully, that will cleared up later this year.
Until then, you can call/chat with the customer contact center to add children according to the child policy of the hotel in question and the limitation of the number of people allowed in the room you selected.
So how do you get around this problem? One obvious answer is to do what the error message and SPG rep instructs and call or chat online with SPG for additional availability. In most cases I think that is not necessary at the time of booking, and adds an extra step in the process for busy parents where there doesn’t need to be one. Instead, this is what I personally do.
Put in the necessary number of adults and children for the search and ignore the award availability for the time being. Instead, focus on the options for paid rooms that come up for that number of occupants.
As an example I put in two adults and two children for the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel (a Westin). For that number of occupants I have many room choices, including the Traditional Room with two queen beds. This room is one of the two types of rooms (the other being the traditional king bed) at that hotel that are available for the base point redemption level. I know that from doing an award search for two adults.
So, since I now know that the traditional queen room is approved for two adults and two children, I can go ahead and just book the room for two adults and leave it at that knowing the room is okay for the four of you. You can choose to then later let the hotel know later to amend the reservation to also include two children. There is always the (slight) risk that you will be given a different type of room that the one you reserved, so making sure you have the correct number of occupants on the reservation is helpful.
On the flip side, if I put in two adults and three children in a search at the Swan I do not come up with any rooms available – even on paid rates. Some other SPG Orlando hotels (including the neighboring Dolphin) did have availability online for a family of five in suites or other types of rooms, but this hotel does not show any rooms for five people online. Assuming you want to play within the rules and not sneak kids in the back door, this is when you need to pick up the phone and see if there are any options available which are not shown online. Almost certainly it will mean that a standard room will not be available at the base points redemption level, but there might be a different type of room available that will meet your family’s needs that can be secured for points. Or, you may determine that two rooms or an entirely different hotel are the best options.
Within the US, families with two or fewer children will rarely have a problem with true room occupancy limits, but families with three or more children that want to all stay in the same room will sometimes have to pick up the phone and explore the options. When traveling outside of the US, even families with one or two children will run into this issue. Some hotels in Europe, Asia, etc. won’t allow two children and two adults to stay in the same standard room even on paid rates.
What do other SPG families do when it comes time to use points for award nights for more than two room occupants? Do you call in each time or do you use an alternate method? Or do you just sneak ’em in the back door?
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