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We learned earlier this week that the SPG program is making some changes to their award program in the near term. As they do every year, they will be moving some properties up or down the award chart effective on March 6, 2018, but there is another big change that will take place even sooner.
Beginning very soon (as in tomorrow), February 11, 2018, Starwood will change their booking window from up to 550 days to just 350 days to align with the Marriott Rewards booking calendar. Right now the SPG booking window goes through mid-August 2019, but after this change takes place it will only extend a little under 12 months, currently until January 2019. For advance planners and those who like to get a jump on securing popular places at popular times, this is a big blow.
This coming change means that today is your last chance (ever) to book the properties that will be increasing in category at their current award rates for President’s Day Weekend 2019, Spring Break 2019, Summer Break 2019, and all times in-between. After today you won’t be able to make reservations that far in advance, and thus the category changes that take effect on March 6th will arrive before you will again be able to book those dates. Even if the SPG hotel you have in mind for those timeframes isn’t increasing in category, it is still a good idea to go ahead and book today, as you risk it being unavailable by the time those booking windows come back around.
For example, we are booking a couple nights in Hawaii using SPG points today for early summer 2019 travel even though none of the Hawaii properties are going up the award chart, just so that we are sure we can secure what we want. Check the cancellation rules for the property you have in mind, but normally you can cancel and refund your points until very close to the travel date if your plans change.
Only you know your travel plans, but I’ll outline nine possible SPG fueled trips you may want to book today for 2019 before it is too late.
Ski Trips for Winter 2019
One of my favorites, The Westin Whistler is going from as few as 12,000 points per night to as many as 25,000 points per night, so this is your last chance to lock in a winter 2019 ski trip at the current award rates. If you book five nights then the fifth award night is free, dropping your per night rate to just 9,600 SPG points per night. This is what we did on our trip this winter to Canada this year, and it was a ton of fun and a tremendous deal given winter paid rates of $500 – $1,000 per night.
I’m not currently seeing any availability for a standard room for the Christmas – New Year’s holiday week, but I do see availability during most of the 2018 – 2019 ski season outside of that week.
If the Swiss Alps are on your ski season 2019 travel wish list, then you might want to lock in a few nights at The Cambrian, Adelboden, a Member of Design Hotels, in Switzerland. Like the Westin Whistler, this property is going from a Category 5 to 6, but right now you can book peak 2019 winter dates for just 12,000 SPG points per night.
Explore Europe in 2019
While we are on the topic of Europe, the Great Northern Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel at London King’s Cross is also going from a Category 5 to a Category 6 hotel. This means going from 12,000 to 20,000 SPG points per night on most nights. This is currently one of the few London SPG properties not already at the 20k per night level. Rooms here are quite small, so not good for a while family, but you can secure a room with a double bed for just 12,000 points per night on most nights through August 2019.
Two more of my European favorite SPG properties, the Westin Dublin and Westin Palace Madrid are also making the huge leap from a Category 5 to Category 6. Both of these properties are well located, gorgeous properties that are solid deals at just 12,000 points per night. You can lock in dates at both hotels through late summer 2019. The Westin Dublin also has cash + points nights available many dates into 2019 for just 6,000 SPG points + $110 if you want to stretch the points you have to work with.
2019 Family Spring Break Trips
Very unfortunately, the Walt Disney World Dolphin will be going from a Category 4 to a 5, which takes it out of contention for Nights and Flights packages on five night stays. For those not familiar, for 70,000 SPG points you can get five award nights at a Category 4 property + 50,000 airline miles to use as you wish. This works out very well at this property since many people visit the Disney area for five nights. This would make for a great 2019 spring break destination, but the bad news is that, at least online, it is currently only booking out 12 months in advance. However, the Christmas/New Year’s Week for 2018 – 2019 is still available if you wanted to lock that in for as low as 8,000 points per night on a five night stay.
If you want to explore Puerto Rico, you can book the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino until late summer 2019 for just 7,000 points per night. When the category changes hit it will go to 10,000 points per night. They have availability in rooms for up to four people, and if you wanted to stay five nights, your per night price drops to just 5,600 points.
Also on the mainland, the historic St. Anthony, a Luxury Collection Hotel in San Antonio is heading up the award chart from a Category 4 to a 5. They have availability into late summer 2019 in a room with either a king bed or two queen beds. They also have some cash and points availability for 5,000 points per night + $75.
Summer 2019 Family Vacations
Perhaps the biggest hit on this list of award chart changes (other than the Disney Dolphin) is the Westin Grand Cayman going from a Category 5 to a Category 6. Our trip to this resort is coming up in a month, and I am beyond excited to stay with my family on what looks like a perfect beach. On a five night stay, you can pay just 9,600 points per night if you lock it in right now. Right now their booking calendar has availability over the Christmas/New Year’s week if you stay a full week, and then there is no availability for a few months. However, availability opens up again beginning in June 2019, so you can lock in a summer 2019 beach vacation if you hurry.
Obviously, you need to act very quickly to lock these properties in before the booking window shortens. If you don’t already have enough points from SPG stays and using your Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card then remember you can transfer SPG points from Marriott at 3:1 ratio or purchase up to 30,000 SPG points per year – right now with a 35% discount on a purchase of 5,000 points per greater.
You can transfer SPG points to another member of your household for free, but those transfers are not instant, so it won’t help you by tomorrow. You can also transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Marriott and then on to Starwood, but that usually isn’t a good idea because of the transfer ratio from Marriott to Starwood.
I’d love to hear about which SPG properties you are locking in for your 2019 travels before the booking calendar shortens!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.