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For the last couple of years I have been included in the SPG Amex Stars ambassador program which has allowed me to try out different SPG hotels and sometimes share some goodies with you all along the way (read to the end for details on that). I recently finished up my third and final SPG Stars trip of 2014, and I am so excited to share the details as this trip was truly one of my very favorites. For this particular experience, I was provided with airfare for two and challenged to redeem 70,000 SPG points (provided by the SPG Amex Stars Program) during the peak holiday travel season.
There are lots of great ways to redeem 70,000 SPG points for family trips. One of the ideas that jumped to the top of my list immediately was the Nights and Flights redemption where you can get 50,000 airline miles and 5 nights at a Category 4 property for 70,000 SPG points. If five nights at a Category 4 hotel is in your travel plans, it is very hard to beat that value (think Walt Disney World Swan, Westin Portland, or W San Diego). Ski properties also always get my attention this time of the year, and SPG has some very good ski properties in Colorado, Utah, California, Canada, and beyond that ring in often as Category 5 hotels for 12,000 – 16,000 points per night. Using 70,000 points to get several nights on the slopes during ski season around the holidays can be a bang-up redemption that can save a family hundreds or even thousands. In fact, that is what we did for our holiday challenge trip last year in Aspen.
However, I didn’t have five nights to spend away from home this time, there were no Category 4 hotels where we wanted to go for this trip, and we decided to hold off on a ski trip for now. Instead, I took a very different approach to this challenge and decided to build the ultimate “Holidays in New York City” trip with the points. It was a splurge in many ways, but it was so enjoyable that it was 100% worth it and absolutely perfect for us.
We decided to stay for the first time at the St. Regis New York City for 30,000 SPG points per night at Thanksgiving in order to be one block from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, take in all the holidays windows, see the tree going up at Rockefeller Plaza, and even visit Santa at Santaland at Macy’s on 34th Street the day after Thanksgiving. The going rate for the rooms at the St. Regis those nights was around $700 – $800 per night. Clearly I wouldn’t have been able to pay that amount without blowing my travel budget in an epic way, but that super high rate made spending 60,000 valuable SPG points sting a bit less. Yes, the points were given to me, but once they are in my account they are mine to spend how I choose so using them still stings!
If you want to put together a similar trip in the future, you can read my tips for seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or for visiting Santa at Macy’s on 34th Street. This post specifically is dedicated to our stay at the totally over-the-top St. Regis New York. This St. Regis is the original, built by John Jacob Astor in 1904, and opened in 1905. It was very lavish from the beginning, with furniture from France, Waterford crystal chandeliers, and a library of thousands of books. History runs pretty deep here, including at the King Cole bar where the Bloody Mary was invented in the 1930’s. However, being a historic spot does not mean that the hotel looks or feels antiquated as it is fresh off a $90 million renovation.
Check-in at the St. Regis New York:
We had spent our first night in NYC checking out the new Park Hyatt, which meant we had to pack up and head to the St. Regis on the second day of our trip. This transfer happened to occur at naptime (naturally) and on a pretty cold and rainy afternoon. Needless to say, getting my tired four year old and our stuff packed up and moved from one hotel to the other in the rain when all she wanted to do was sleep was less than pleasant. We pulled up to the St. Regis pretty on edge, kinda grumpy, and tired. All I wanted as we approached the hotel was my room key and a bed, as fast as possible. However, out entire attitude and direction for the rest of the day changed for the better within moments of entering the lobby of the St. Regis.
The doormen outside the St. Regis were dressed how you might imagine them to be, with tall hats and long coats, and they welcomed us, took our bags, and informed the front desk staff of our identity before we could even get in the building. When we did walk up into the lobby it was like we were being welcomed by old friends who knew our name (thanks doormen), were excited to see us, and were ready for our arrival.
The lobby itself looked like it was something from an iconic Christmas movie with the stuffed deer, lights, and chocolates, fruits, and hot chocolate available for the taking. Before I ever got our room key I was 100% reinvigorated and knew for sure we were staying in the right place for this holiday trip. At check-in things just got better as we were informed that we had been given a slightly larger room in order to accommodate the rollaway bed for our daughter. Wow, they actually paid attention to the notes on the reservation?!
The St. Regis New York Room:
After we were finished with our initial round of gawking in amazement at the lobby, we headed up to the room. When we arrived at the door and I started to pull out my key card to go inside the door magically opened from within.
I was a bit surprised at first, but then I saw it was the butler who had been waiting for us. As if that wasn’t insane enough, he then presented my daughter with a yellow rose and a stuffed teddy bear dressed as a butler. It was at this point that I was beyond sold. The hotel could now officially do no wrong in my book for my tired and grumpy four year old was happy and giddy. Almost every St. Regis I have visited with my daughter has given her a toy of some sort, often a themed stuffed animal. They have a “family traditions” initiative that they take very seriously and that makes this a surprisingly family-friendly chain of hotels.
The butler oriented us to our room, got my daughter a kid’s size robe, brought us extra complimentary waters, and even pointed out it is fine to move their stuff out of the mini bar to make room for our own items if we wished. I had just booked a standard room with points, but was very confused at this point as to whether we might have been upgraded to some sort of junior suite since the room was pretty big and we had a butler.
As it turns out, this is just how the St. Regis New York is – every room has access to the butlers. We weren’t upgraded to any sort of suite, the rooms are just large, especially for Manhattan, and absolutely beautiful.
After a rough night of sleep on the firm bed at the Park Hyatt, we were in Heaven in the St. Regis bed with all the fluffy covers.
The rollaway bed made for my daughter was even comfortable and inviting…not that she actually used it in the end.
The bathrooms at the St. Regis New York were pretty grand in their own right with a separate room for the toilet, a bathtub, a shower, and a TV in the mirror. My kid took a bath watching the Disney Channel in the mirror: that seriously has to be hard to top for a four year old!
St. Regis New York Room Service and Amenities:
The downside to using points at hotels like the St. Regis New York, is that pretty much everything else there that is not included with the room rate is going to be pricey. Our room service breakfast was no exception, but given the outside temperature and the daunting task of getting my daughter and I dressed just to go fetch a coffee and a bagel proved way too much to overcome, so we did order a kid’s menu breakfast and smoothie from room service one morning. It may well have been the most expensive kid’s meal and smoothie I have ever purchased, but it was served promptly, exquisitely, and we both enjoyed the heck out of it. Seriously, the fresh squeezed orange juice was so good even my daughter commented on it.
While the prices for food won’t be cheap at a place like the St. Regis New York, I was appreciative that they had a printed child’s menu with reasonable kid-friendly options listed.
Luckily for my wallet, there are some very nice built-in perks at the St. Regis that don’t require any sort of elite status. First, there was fresh fruit put into the room each day that we put to good use.
You are also allowed complimentary tea and coffee service from the butler once per day, which my mom and I enjoyed to warm up after several hours outside watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
You may also get two items pressed and shoes shined free of charge during your stay, which I was also happy to use to get my outfit for our Thanksgiving Day Dinner looking nice(r).
While we did not eat in the hotel restaurant or visit the famed King Cole Bar on this visit, I did take a chance to walk around the area during breakfast one morning and everything looked beautiful. I’ve said it before, but this hotel really looks like it walked right out of a classic Manhattan movie.
I went in with pretty high expectations for the St. Regis New York, but even those lofty expectations were blown out of the water. I cannot imagine a more perfect setting for a quintessential holiday trip to New York City. Sure, there are hundreds of hotels we could have stayed at on points in Manhattan, many for fewer points, but if you have the SPG points to spend thanks to using the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card Amex or via actual SPG stays throughout the year, I can’t imagine a better use for them in NYC around the holidays than the St. Regis New York.
The beds were comfortable, the rooms were quiet, the service was absolutely outstanding, the lobby was festive, the free hot chocolate was delicious, my kid was happy, and we felt like we were living in a fairy tale for a couple of days. Vacations don’t need to be fairy tales, but it doesn’t hurt if they sometimes are a bit magical.
I stayed on points and booked online just like anyone else would, but of course it is always possible that the hotel was somehow tipped of our upcoming stay and related review. That said, everyone I encountered at the hotel seemed to be getting the exact same personalized, and high level, of service.
Holiday Challenge Verdict and Tips:
I was challenged to use 70,000 SPG points to put together an amazing holiday trip. I didn’t choose to stretch the points as far as they could go in terms of number of days of vacation or airline mile conversions. Instead, I turned 60,000 of them into two nights of Manhattan Magic. This is the type of stay we couldn’t have without points, and I love that even though the hotel eventually sold out for the night before Thanksgiving, we were able to book a standard room with points as long as it was available for sale with cash.
As part of the SPG Amex Stars program, I am to share a couple of “Travelogisodes” that include some tips for booking trips like this on points for your family. Here are the two short videos we put together for this trip. I particularly like the first one taken shortly after check-in since my kiddo has a staring role and we shot it in the room at the St. Regis New York.
We didn’t have a chance to shoot the second video on the trip, but instead did it as a recap once we got home.
I don’t know when I will have the points to return to the St. Regis New York again, but I hope it is in our future at some point, as it was a magical stay in the heart of Manhattan.
Historically these SPG Amex Stars trips have coincided with a giveaway of SPG points to one of you. That didn’t end up happening this time around, so I don’t want to get to go on these trips and leave you with nothing but a trip report. So, in honor of the SPG Amex Holiday Challenge that I put together and went on, I want to give away $200 gift certificate to the travel provider of your choice so you can start putting together your own next amazing trip. I will happily give the winner a $200 online gift certificate to any travel provider they choose that sells gift cards online (many airlines and hotels do, though sadly not St. Regis and Starwood or that would have been my selection).
To enter to win, just leave a comment stating how you would use 70,000 SPG points to put together a holiday trip of your own by Saturday December 20th at 11:59PM Central. You can enter once per calendar day between now and December 20th. One winner will be selected at random, and that person will win the $200 gift certificate. This giveaway is not in any way sponsored by Amex, the Amex SPG Card, Starwood, or the SPG Amex Stars program. Must be 18, void where prohibited, and all that jazz.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.