Sunday, February 10, 2013

Le Meridien Chiang Mai

Hotel Stay Details
Hotel: Le Méridien Chiang Mai
Dates: February 6-10, 2013
Rate Paid: 1,600 SPG Points + $30 / night*
Regular Rate: $200 / night (incl. taxes)
Total $ Savings: $540*
Point Redemption Value: 8.7* cents/pt

As you probably guessed, we stayed at a Starwoods Hotel while in Chiang Rai, Thailand. They have a lot of hotels all over the country and excellent SPG point redemption opportunities that can really save a family a lot of money.

Last time my father was in Thailand in 2008, he did the whole backpacker thing:  sweaty t-shirts, long bus rides, Lonely Planet and guesthouses.

Guesthouses in Southeast Asia function like bed & breakfasts, but are are more visually comparable to motels in the United States, but without the ugly stigma of being a rendezvous place for cheap inter-marital affairs nor the cheap carpeting and antiquated CRT television sets.

They're pretty well maintained (seen here) as they offer a very affordable way for many travelers to have a safe, clean place to sleep at night.  They're very similar to hostels, except you can get a private room for about $30/person (note:  they charge by the person and not by the room).

So we could have stayed at a guesthouse for about $50-60 / night (for 2 adults), but because of my father's stash of SPG Points, we were able to stay at a nice 4 star full service hotel for even less cash out of pocket at only $30 night!

For those who are unfamiliar with Starwood Hotels SPG program, you can basically use SPG points to book rooms in 2 ways.  First, you can use points for a Free Night Award (ranging from 2,000-20,000 SPG points per night).  If the hotel has a standard room available for cash, then you can book it for SPG Points.  No blackouts dates.

Second, you can use Cash & Points to book for about half the SPG points plus a reasonable cash co-pay.  However, unlike Free Night Awards, not all dates are available for Starwood Cash & Points redemptions.  Just the nights that the hotel thinks it will have a lot of room availability and won't be able to get a cash reservation.

My father booked this back in November right after he found out he'd have free time away from work. But even 3 months out, they only had  2 nights available (Feb 6-8) for Cash & Points and no standard room availability for Feb 8-10 (so no Free Night Awards).

So for Feb 8-10, he had to book a cash rate of about $200 USD / night for a Club Room (higher than a standard room, but it gave access to the Club Lounge for free evening drinks/apps and breakfasts).  Note:  Later we realized that because it was Chinese New Year, the hotel was going to be completely booked this weekend and most of next week full of tourists from mainland China.  Hordes of old Asians wearing neon and wide brimmed sum hats.  Just great...

Unable to book the entire 4 night stay on Cash & Points, he got creative.

Reservation 1
  • Feb 6:  1,600 SPG Points + $30
  • Feb 7:  1,600 SPG Points + $30
Reservation 2
  • Feb 8:  $200
  • Feb 9:  $200
But then later on, availability opened up to use all SPG Points for a standard room on Feb 8, so he booked a room for 3,000 SPG points, saving himself $200.  Then he just called the hotel to adjust his check-in date for Reservation 2.

Reservation 1
  • Feb 6:  1,600 SPG Points + $30
  • Feb 7:  1,600 SPG Points + $30
Reservation 3 (NEW)
  • Feb 8:  3,000 SPG Points
Reservation 2
  • Feb 9:  $200
* So to recap, for 4 nights, my parents paid roughly $260 USD or about $65 / night to stay at Le Meridien Chiang Mai.  This would have been about the same cash price for a modest guest house. Those 6,200 SPG points redeemed saved him about $540 ($600 for 3 free nights less $60 of co-pays), implying 8.7 cents/pt of redemption value.  Remember anything above 3.0 cents/pt is good value, especially considering you can earn SPG points for free just by signing up to the program.

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