Each new year is hopefully an exciting time filled with optimism; I have already summarized my 2016 in travel, now I’d like to look at some 2017 travel resolutions.
Lifetime Starwood Platinum, for a year?
Earning SPG Lifetime Platinum status:
I am on my ninth year of Starwood Platinum status, and 20 nights away from the 500 night threshold. Once I reach the SPG platinum threshold, my status should update to Lifetime Platinum. That will mean no more worrying about SPG elite status, which will be great. Of course, despite ‘lifetime’ in the name, in 2018 when the SPG program merges into Marriott Rewards, I haven’t seen any guarantee that lifetime status will convert to an equivalent status in the Marriott program. Information on the Marriott site is pretty ambiguous:
I hope for the best, but I wish it was a little more clear. Once I reach lifetime SPG platinum status, I certainly hope it lasts longer than the year or less when the SPG program goes away. As a reminder, the Marriott lifetime program is a higher standard to reach. Marriott Lifetime Platinum is achieved after 750 nights and a minimum of 2 million points earned. What will happen once the programs merge and there are others like me holding lifetime status, that doesn’t meet the standard in the surviving position. Good luck Marriott, there is a high likelihood of annoying a bunch of customers when announcing decisions like this.
Clearing Upgrades in the Air
Much of my travel is for business. I must book the lowest available fare, and always economy. This is why elite status matters so much to me. It is also why I made the switch to flying American vs. United. I often revisit that decision, but my upgrades on American the last 2 years have been much better than they were when I was a United regular.
This year, American upgrade priority is changing. At some point in 2017, Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) spend in the last year will be the tiebreaker within a status window. In other words, the Executive Platinum with a higher EQD will rank higher in upgrade priority than an EXP with a lower EQD. Currently, time of request is the tiebreaker. Once that program is implemented, we’ll see how it affects upgrades.
I also don’t have United 1K status to fall back on, so I’ll only have systemwide upgrades on American to have a chance of upgrading any of my international travels for work. My first trip is later this week, so keep your fingers crossed!
Upgrades in Hotels
Starwood’s upgrades are a little more flexible, and are valid on any type of stay. For longer stays, they get used up more quickly. Unfortunately, these only have the possibility of clearing starting 5 days out, and I often have ended up burning them for mediocre properties late in the year rather than letting them go to waste.
For Hyatt, the best value is for longer stays since they are valid for up to 7 nights each. Unfortunately DSU are not eligible on free nights redemptions. It is a little be tough to use them for vacation trips, since I often am redeeming points. At least points and cash is an option for using DSU.
More Stamps in the Passport
I have an ongoing goal to visit a few new countries each year. I’ve been to 51 countries, so there is a long way to go by whatever accounting method used to count countries. This year, I hope to visit a few more new places. Last year, I got to a few new places on family trips, both in Europe and in the Caribbean.
Returning to an Old Favorite: New Zealand
Another goal for 2017 is to return to New Zealand. My wife and I visited there a few years back, and we’ve been itching to get back. It will be a new adventure with our daughter, but somehow we hope to make this happen this year.
Keep Burning Points
I’ve tried to do a better job of using my points as opposed to just sitting on them. I will continue to do that. I burned down my United and American balances in the last year, and did the same with several hotel programs. Transferable points are the way to go, and I still should work to get those balances down too. If you are asking for advice, I’d definitely recommend to use the points you have unless you have a particular trip you are planning. Even then, it is very risky to invest in these programs. Use your points!