Using SPG Points…For a Parking Spot

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Yesterday I was lucky enough to go to an American League Divisional Series game between the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals.  For those who aren’t baseball fans, this is a best of five games playoff series in which the winner advances to the American League Championship Series.  The winner of that series then goes on to play in the World Series.  It may be relatively early in the postseason since there are still two more rounds to go, but it is a position the Astros have not been in since before I had kids or even met my husband.  In other words, it is no surprise that Houstonians are pretty excited about the Astros return to the post-season after a decade long drought!

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When the game was announced to be a noon game this meant a few things including that my husband could no longer join us thanks to having to work, and we were now contending not only with the traffic that comes with close to 40,000 people descending on the ball field for the game, but also the regular downtown weekday traffic.  This made me worry quite a bit about the logistics of bringing my baby with me since she does not like car rides and will almost certainly scream incessantly if we are stuck in traffic.  This meant I not only needed to leave downtown no later than about 3:30PM regardless of when the game ended to avoid the after work rush hour traffic, but I also needed to get a parking spot that was pretty close to the stadium since I would be leaving early by myself with Baby S while the rest of the crew stayed to finish watching the game.

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I asked friends on Facebook for parking suggestions, went on Stubhub, and other online sites looking for parking passes and eventually came up pretty empty handed.  The parking that was available online for this playoff game was literally either $100 – $200 per spot (and we needed two) or it wasn’t particularly close to the stadium anyway.

Then, like a lightbulb, I remember that the Westin Houston Downtown is located literally across the street from Minute Maid Park.  In fact, this hotel used to be called The Inn at the Ballpark until it re-branded as a Westin in 2013.  I didn’t particularly need a room, but I sure would love a parking spot right across from the stadium.

Baby S and I in our commuting position!

Baby S and I in our commuting position!

I pulled up rates for the night of the game and found they were going to be over $300/night with taxes and such, so that was a little out of my league, but there was also award and cash + points availability, and that was more my speed.  The hotel was a Category 5 property and it was charging a peak night price of 16,000 SPG points for the night of the game or a cash and points rate of 6,000 points + $110 which was a better deal given how I value my SPG points.

I called the hotel and asked about their parking situation on game days and was told that parking is valet only and is only for registered hotel guests.  I asked if a room could have two cars park on game days and I was told that would be fine.  Sold.

I booked a room using cash and points faster than you could say “play ball”.  This parking solution would not be free by any stretch since I had to get not only the room but also pay the valet parking fee ($28), but it was a much better use of money than spending close to that amount and just ending up with a couple of parking spots that weren’t as close or convenient to the stadium anyway.

Using points and cash in this manner would have been worth it to me right now just to save my brain some stress leading up to the game, but it was worth it for more than just some sanity saving.  On game day we got to pull right up to the hotel which is literally across from the stadium as seen in this shot from the doors of the Westin.  Our cars were whisked away by valet and we could have headed straight into the stadium.

View of Minute Maid from Westin Downtown Houston

View of Minute Maid from Westin Downtown Houston

However, after the drive into Houston we all needed a “pit stop”, my baby was ready to eat, and she was more than ready for a diaper change.  Those are all things we could have done in the stadium, but it was infinitely more comfortable to do them all in our own room then head into the stadium clean, full, and ready for some baseball fun.

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Grandma prepping Baby S for the game

Then, when I left the game with the baby I was able to go back to the room to do all those same things again in comfort before calling down for valet to have my car ready out front so I could load the baby and get outta town before traffic hit.  As for the hotel itself, it was pretty much what you would expect from a Westin, which is to say it was quite nice.  I would love to have an actual stay there after a game at some point in the future!

This was certainly a “splurge” of a way to spend points and cash since I didn’t actually need a place to stay that night, but it worked out perfectly.  It made taking a baby to a busy playoff ballgame in downtown so much easier and more enjoyable than if I had to stress about where to park and where to feed and change her as soon as we arrived.  If I had stayed for the end of the game I would have simply gone back to the hotel room to chill for an hour or two until traffic subsided, but as it was my departure was perfectly timed as the Astros were winning 6-2 when I left after the 7th inning.  I, apparently along with the Governor of Texas, thought we had the game won.  Then, the eight and ninth inning happened and the all-but-assured win turned into a loss, but the seven innings I saw were spectacular.

Sometimes the way we use points isn’t what we had imagined as we were earning them, and that’s okay.  As long as your points made your life better, your wallet fatter, or your stress level lower, they were well spent in my book.  I would have never imagined I’d spend SPG points primarily to secure awesome parking spots and a place for my baby to eat and get changed, but I’m so glad I did.

Have you ever used points in a way that you would have never expected?

 

 

Comments

    • I’m sure it could have been cheaper, but we still would have had to find a spot to park somewhere in downtown (which would have been “cheap”) and then Uber from there and back, probably with surge pricing. If I wasn’t hauling an infant it might have made sense, but with her I wanted as simple as possible. From our actual house it would have been a fortune since we don’t live in Houston.

  1. Sounds like a very stress-free solution. I’m guessing Uber would’ve been on surge pricing – plus the whole car seat hassle. Easier to have your own car.

    And I seem to recall your husband being a Royals fan. Was it just as well he couldn’t make the game?

    • Stacy, yes it was a very low stress solution. Correct on Uber + we live about 40 miles from downtown so using it to/from house wouldn’t have been viable solution.

      Since husband is a Royals fan I totally agree it was a bit of divine intervention he couldn’t make it. Ha!

  2. Brilliant!!! Thanks for the inspiration to think creatively – especially with a baby in tow. I’m doing something similar for our trip to Maui in May when we will have a 3 1/2 month old. Given that our flight doesn’t leave till 10:30pm on our last day and we would normally have to check out of our room at 11am, I used points for an extra night so we can have use of the room for the full day. Normally, I wouldn’t spend points this way, but it makes my life easier and less stressful to do so, even though we won’t be sleeping in the room that night.

    • Many of the Maui resorts have hospitality rooms for guests to use to take showers and change clothes on day of check-out. This allows you to use the pool, beach, etc. all day and then have a place to clean up before your flight. it might be worth contacting your resort to see if they offer this.

  3. And a stay credit!

    I don’t think people realize how valuable a staycation can be sometimes — just getting out of your home environment and to be pampered a bit is invaluable, especially when the Parent-0-Meter is hitting in the red.

    Kudos to think outside the box on this one.

    And as a Royals fan, really hoping Cueto comes through in Game 5

  4. Why not just take a nap in the room after the game and then leave in the evening…you could see the whole thing…or spend the night?

  5. Why didn’t you park by the medical center or Relaint Stadium and then just take the light rail which drops you off right in front of the Astros stadium?

  6. I lost power at home in a snow storm one weekend last year. I could have waited it out, but in my area it’s been know to be down for a day or two (boring). I used Club Carlson points (and the old second night free card feature) to stay at a Country Inn about a half hour away. They upgraded me to a suite and I was quite comfortable and worry-free looking out at the snow (and football games). And Longhorn Steak House was right across the parking lot.

    As a side note… between Club Carlson point rate increases and the loss of the second night free that two nights would now be 52K points rather than 16K points, so I don’t know that I would do the same now.

  7. Clever use of points! And as a life-long Red Sox fan, particularly during the dreary 1970s and 1980s, I know not to count my victories until they hatch. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.)

  8. Sounds like an excellent use of points! Great creative thinking. My quick analysis of it is that the prices for buying a parking spot and doing cash + points were roughly equal, while the cash + points option was waaaay more convenient. Easy answer to me. And yes, all of those alternative suggestions sound good, if you don’t have a tiny baby in tow. Simplicity still wins for us these days, and our “babies” are well past the tiny stage.

  9. Love this article! From Houston and went to the game as well. I had to park 1 1/2 miles away and walk to the stadium(it was a much worse walking back…)

    I totally thought the same thing once I passed the Westin! I needed a couple more stays to reach my next elite level, so the reason I did not think of this before is beyond me. So smart and Go Astors tonight!

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