How to Book Starwood Award Nights For More Than Two People

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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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Comments

  1. I almost always simply book the room, I have 3 kids and have never had an issue. I even request a roll away upon arrival and again haven’t had an issue. I used to “worry” that the front desk would be looking at the # of people but they simply haven’t cared and haven’t had to “sneak” someone into the room. On rare occasion a roll away hasn’t been available and we simply get extra bedding and set something up on the floor, it’s been fine.

  2. Thanks for timely posting on the subject. I too travel with 2 kids and we don’t have any issues in US. However overseas, I got lucky so far in Asia thanks to HGP Diamond, SPG Platinum and HH Diamond statuses. I was upgraded to a room which was able to accommodate roll-way bed where basic room couldn’t. However in upcoming Austria and Switzerland trip, I had to reserve two rooms at hotels that had occupancy limit due to fire code.

    P.S. Since my kids are getting older, I better get used to reserving 2 rooms (yeah, it will put more pressure on collecting additional points)

  3. Wow, what a coincidence… I’m staying at the swan in May, I ran into that problem trying to book 4 kids so I just left it at 1 person and chose 2 queens…maybe I should call like you indicated, I don’t want them to change the room type. Thanks a lot.

  4. Thank YOU for this! I have nearly a million SPG points and 2 young teenage girls. I’m trying to book rooms for a trip to Spain and you have inspired me. W Barcelona and King Alphonso in Seville – here we come!!

  5. I know things are different in the US. But last week I stayed at the W Hotel in St Petersburg, Russia on points. We had 2 adults and 1 child in our room. The hotel emailed me and required that I upgraded to the “Spectacular” Room (because the standard room could not fit the roll away bed). I had to pay an extra 1,500 points and 2,000 RUB per night for the extra person plus VAT. We loved the hotel.

  6. Since there are 5 of us, I often need to book two rooms, and I always call the hotel ahead of arrival to for any special request, such as connecting rooms (as sometimes one room is reserved under my name and the other is under my husbands); or connecting two separate reservation (tricks to avoid high rates in one reservation) so I don’t have to switch rooms during my stay. Sometimes I book a one bedroom knowing there is a king and a pullout, but I would bring either a sleeping bag or blowup mattress for the little one, and I would tell everyone else wait elsewhere when I check in at the front desk. 😉

  7. This is an uncovered topic in the travel blogs: having >2 people in a room. I’ve found that Hyatt and Hilton are sometimes doable online, but SPG will work with you by emailing the hotel directly. For SPG, I like finding value in upgrade redemptions (1500-2750 pts per night extra for a Club or Junior Suite) which work better for 3 people, especially if you’ve lost Platinum status. Also, it’s always nice to be able to confirm an upgrade.

  8. We just returned from 12 days in China with our 13 year old daughter. For every night but one,we booked king rooms and the hotels, mostly SPG, allow 3 in the room. We really dislike paying 50-70 or more dollars per night for a rollaway. So we carry an extra small suitcase with an inflatable mattress, air pump with battery and bedding. On this recent trip, we never used the inflatable at all because every place gave us a rollaway for free eventually. But they certainly wouldn’t tell us that ahead of time! My husband is SPG gold and our beautiful daughter was adopted from China, so those both may have been factors.

    The Conrad in Macau even upgraded us to a gigantic suite with a separate media room.

    Maybe Hilton is nicer. We had a free rollaway over Christmas in Barcelona also atthemoment Hilton Diagonal.

    It is definitely worth asking politely, especially if there is status with the hotel. We are Hilton gold, but only because of the Reserve card.

    Thanks for writing about this topic!

    Would love to see the hotels cater to families more. I understand it takes some time to set up the bed. What I don’t understand is why there is the same high charge per night no matter if you are staying one night or five.

  9. Can someone explain why hotels restrict number of guests? We are a family of four. We try to get double beds and are usually comfortable. In some cases, we get stuck with a king, and just sleep snugly together.

    Why does the hotel care? It’s not costing them any more. In one example, the Park Hyatt said we couldn’t have 3 in a king bed.

  10. Good info here!
    .
    Ive just put in two adults two double beds and not even bother mentioning our 5&7 yr olds. We all show up and here we are! In fact im in westin cayman as i type this and we were gifted the spg award so that even works. (Im up early cuz I often do so for that one moment of peace before our kidos and all the rest of the population wakes up- and so I could score one of those resort beach umbrella spots by putting some towels and toys around one before everyone gets up lol)

  11. Great post. I ran into just this situation the other day trying to book two award rooms for one night with SPG for two adults and four teenagers total (one adult and two kids per room). It’s good to know it’s an online booking issue, and that I really will be able to do this with my points.

  12. We book spg all the time for 4 and I never worry about it. We have never had a problem stateside and have never even been asked about number of occupants. Half the time I don’t even change it from 1 to 2 adults.

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