There are about five to ten major hotel parent companies that Americans are familiar with:
They each have a loyalty or rewards program and those programs have some common elements such as points earning for hotel stays, partnerships with rental car companies and credit card affiliations.
Many of these programs are focused on business travelers as they often bring the greatest revenue. Two of these programs though have specific features that are really beneficial to honeymooners:
- Starwood’s Fifth Night Free
- Club Carlson’s Bonus Award Night (requires their credit card)
Starwood’s Fifth Night Free
This Starwood program’s name says it all – when you redeem Starpoints for a five-night award stay, the fifth night is free. This benefit is often foregone by travelers as many trips are limited in duration to four or less nights by “real-life” constraints. There have been multiple times that Patty and I have wished we could use Starpoints for a five-night stay but haven’t been able to pull that off and instead redeemed for two or three nights. There are still great redemption options in these scenarios but it always stings a bit to know that you’re sort of leaving points on the table.
On the other hand, honeymoons are usually greater than five nights in duration so this program element is likely to be relevant. Additionally, honeymooners are likely to be redeeming their points towards a high-end hotel. Let’s take for example, the Sheraton Maui, a hotel Patty and I stayed at during our honeymoon.
Off-peak redemptions for the Sheraton Maui are 20,000 points per night. You’ll need 80,000 Starpoints for a four night award stay. If this Starwood benefit didn’t exist you would of course need 100,000 points for a five night award stay. So this benefit saves you 20,000 points in this example. The beauty of this program feature is its simplicity – it is clearly represented when you’re making award bookings and it doesn’t require you to jump through hoops of any kind.
Club Carlson’s Bonus Award Night
Whereas the SPG Fifth Night Free program element doesn’t require you to meet any special conditions, Club Carlson’s Bonus Award Night program is a hybrid program element – you must be a Club Carlson member and hold their credit card, issued by US Bank.
Under this program, the last night of an award booking is free, whether the booking is for two nights, three nights, four nights or more. Clearly the greatest payoff is for two night award bookings. You’re essentially getting two nights for the cost of one. This is an incredible benefit.
The one hindrance to maximizing the payoff further is that as an individual you can’t make multiple back-to-back award bookings at the same hotel. So if you want to stay at the same hotel for three or more nights you still get the last night free but the payoff isn’t as great as it could be.
However, as a honeymooning couple you can book separate two-night award stays consecutively and get the maximum benefit, even for long stays! Patty and I did this for our four-night stay at the Radisson Blu Cape Town Waterfront, using half the points we would have otherwise. It worked great. We simply told the agent when we checked in that we had two separate reservations and we’d like them linked so that we didn’t have to switch rooms during our stay. The agent happily complied and our stay went flawlessly.
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