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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?