I just returned from a weekend vacation in San Diego, which was significant in that it was my first trip all year with Megan alone and not our parents. For a few days the only people who could annoy us were each other. 😉
When booking the hotel I made a point to look at Starwood properties because I am behind on my elite requalification requirements for SPG Platinum status this year. I would like to do 50 nights again in order to get the 10 Suite Night Awards. (Those who only spend 25 stays get Platinum status but not the upgrades.) It also seemed like a great opportunity to use some of the Suite Night Awards I already have. I almost always save confirmed upgrades for travel with a companion. If I’m by myself, airline upgrades are easier, hotel upgrades are largely unnecessary, and I’ll be the only one who suffers if it luck doesn’t play out.
Using a Suite Night Award was fairly easy. The option presented itself immediately after I completed my booking on the SPG website, though I could have returned to the reservation later and found the option. Strategizing the upgrade request was less easy. I’ll use Hyatt’s Diamond suite upgrade awards for comparison.
Hyatt Gold Passport offers four upgrade awards good for one stay each. Each award can be used for up to seven nights for either (1) paid stays or (2) cash and points stays. All-points stays are ineligible. The potential benefit is 28 nights, but I usually use them for stays of three to five nights. The main value of these upgrades is you can confirm them at the time of the original reservation. On the other hand, complimentary suite upgrades are not a standard Hyatt Diamond benefit, so this is your only sure path to an upgrade besides redeeming points.
Starwood Preferred Guest works a little differently. Their Platinum members are explicitly entitled to a standard suite if one is available at check-in. It therefore makes sense that the upgrade benefit seems less significant: 10 one-night awards that can only be confirmed beginning five days before arrival, and which are good for (1) paid stays, (2) cash and points stays, or (3) all points stays. Most of the time you might get the suite anyway for free, but for those times that really matter you can use these to get priority over other Platinum members. This was one of those times.
I chose to redeem three suite night awards at the US Grant in downtown San Diego. SPG made it very clear during the upgrade request process that the upgrade could be canceled under limited circumstances:
- If they were unable to confirm the upgrade by 2 PM on the day before arrival, they would return the Suite Night Awards to my account. There would still be a chance I could be upgraded if a suite later became available (e.g., a no-show guest).
- I could cancel the upgrade request myself any time until 2 PM on the day before arrival. The unused Suite Night Awards would be redeposited.
- If the Suite Night Awards had already been confirmed, I could only re-deposit the upgrade by cancelling the entire reservation (subject to its original cancellation policy) by 3 PM on the day before arrival. I would then need to book a new reservation, assuming I still wanted to stay at the hotel.
How do you know when to use a Suite Night Award? I already stated that I try to use these and other upgrades whenever I travel with a companion, especially my wife. There’s a chance I would use one even at an airport hotel if I had no other plans. Some of you may want to look into the specific type of room offered. Although we enjoyed our stay at the US Grant (review forthcoming), the Legacy Suite seemed to be very similar to their standard room type, and I don’t think we really used that extra space to our advantage.
You could also check with the hotel. The management sent us an email shortly after booking with an offer to upgrade for $75 per night. I would not have paid $75 per night given the chance of a free upgrade at check-in, but I did think that we got reasonable value from my “free” (sort of) Suite Night Awards. With any luck we’ll have more exciting trips coming up in the future to use my remaining seven Suite Night Awards.