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As a big time advance planner I love that the Starwood Preferred Guest booking window has traditionally allowed for award bookings 18 months in advance. Many, many, many times I have taken advantage of this 18 month advanced booking window to lock in some great resorts during peak travel periods when standard rooms are still readily available to secure with points. These sort of reservations are usually refundable or changeable until much closer to the travel date, so it is a virtually zero risk way to line up our big family award trips.
A few days ago I realized we are now 18 months out from the 2018 Winter Holidays and through very early 2019. Since we are in the 18 month window for 2018 holiday travel, I got very excited to hop on the computer and play with the possibilities using SPG points. We have developed a tradition of heading out of town shortly after Christmas through about New Year’s since the Christmas festivities are over, but our school is still usually out of session for at least another week. However, this is obviously a tradition shared by tons of other families, so it is a very peak travel period for many destinations. This usually means we turn to points for this sort of trip instead of even attempting to pay exorbitant cash prices during peak travel times.
When I logged on to see what our SPG points could do for us in late 2018 I didn’t know what I would want to book. Colorado ski trip? Canadian ski trip? Beach trip to Mexico? Hawaii? Caribbean? I know, tough decisions we have to make in this hobby.
Well, it turns out none of the above were options. In fact, pretty much nothing was an option. The SPG booking window still lets you pull up dates on the calendar through 18 months from now as shown below, but unlike in the past, pretty much none of the hotels have made their availability on cash or points open that far out.
For most of the properties the availability is frozen at about December 4, 2018. Some have frozen it a little before or after that date, but it seems frozen where it stands. I’ve been watching it for a few days now and it isn’t just that the availability is lagging behind the traditional 18 month target and advancing one day at a time, it is that it isn’t advancing at all at any of the properties I have checked.
This worries me for a number of reasons, but the biggest reason is that I hope we haven’t reached the end of the line in terms of how far out we can book properties using SPG points before the Marriott and SPG programs are combined. I don’t know that this is the reason for the frozen booking date, but since that is roughly the target date I have heard for the combined programs, it makes me wonder.
I’d love to hear if anyone else noticed this and how it is impacting your travel planning for next year. I’m hoping at some point the available booking dates magically just extend through the end of 2018 and this was just a weird blip, but for right this second the SPG advanced booking window is frozen.
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