Greg’s Travel Package Advice

With Marriott and SPG set to merge in August, I get questions every day regarding Travel Packages.  Should you book now or wait until later? And if you do book now, which package should you get?

Marriott’s Travel Packages let you exchange Marriott Rewards points for a 7 night stay certificate plus a bunch of airline miles.  The best value packages are always the ones that return the most miles.  These offer such good value that it can make sense to buy a Travel Package for the miles, even if you throw away the stay certificate (but don’t do that!).  Similarly, if you intend to book a 7 night award stay, it makes sense to pay extra in order to get airline miles as well.  The airline miles and hotel stay certificate do not need to be used together.  They’re separate things that you get when you purchase a Travel Package.

Miles-centric View

Suppose you simply want to exchange points for miles at the best possible rate.  Here are the conversion ratios if you don’t value the stay certificate at all (but you don’t refund the certificate):

This table shows the conversion ratio of Starpoints to miles using various methods. All numbers are in 1,000s, other than the Miles per Starpoint ratio.

In the near future, “Starpoints” will no longer exist.  Currently 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott Rewards points.  In August, all of your Starpoints will be tripled into rewards points.  For now, though, I find it convenient to look at conversion ratios in terms of Starpoints because many of us are used to the current transfer ratio where 20K Starpoints becomes 25K airline miles (e.g. 1.25 miles per Starpoint).

As you can see in the chart above, you can currently use travel packages to convert Starpoints to United miles at 1.47 miles per Starpoint, and the 7 night certificate is simply a bonus.  The next best option is to pick Travel Package 1 or 3 (Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, GOL/Varig, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic).  Next best is to simply convert Starpoints directly to miles.  The ratio stays the same in August so there’s no rush to do that one.

Hotel Stay View

Another reason to book a vacation package is if you plan to book a 7 night award stay anyway.  In that case, the travel package gives you a way to additionally convert Marriott points to airline miles at a much better than usual rate:

This table shows the conversion ratio of Starpoints to miles when purchasing a Travel Package, with the assumption that you would have booked the 7 night stay anyway.  In other words, we compare the number of extra Starpoints you need to pay for the package to the miles earned from the package.  All numbers are in 1,000s, other than the Miles per Starpoint ratio.

As you can see above, even the new travel packages that debut in August will have value for those who planned to book a 7 night award stay anyway (even 1.43 miles per Starpoint is better than the standard 1.25 ratio), but the value will be far far less than today.

Final Answer

Should you book now? Yes, book before August.

Which package should I get?  See below.

Additional Q & A

Q: Tell me 12 things I should know about travel packages
A: Happy to!  Read this: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages

Q: I don’t have enough Marriott points. Is there a way to buy them at a discount?
A: Yes, through July 20th: 35% off Starpoints is back

Q: I want to buy a Travel Package but don’t know which miles to get. Can you help?
A: Yep: Which airlines are best for Marriott Travel Packages?

Q: I want to buy a Travel Package but don’t know which hotel category to get. Can you help?
A: This might help: Marriott Travel Package Arbitrage

Q: What will happen to current stay certificates when the programs merge in August?
A:
We don’t know yet, but read this: Potential huge win with Marriott Travel Packages before August

Q: Should I wait until we know the above answer before buying a travel package?
A: Maybe, but it’s possible that they won’t announce it at all beforehand, or that they’ll stop selling the certificates during the transition.

Q: What does Nick think about the new Travel Packages?
A: Glad you asked! See: New Marriott Travel Packages: a first glance

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Sam
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Sam

Greg- Which Category or Tier Package is the best to get TODAY especially if you are sitting on 7 figure starpoints? What would you do with this many starpoints today? Thanks!

Nick Reyes
Editor

The best package to get is hard to say. Check out this question from the bottom of Greg’s post for some ideas:

Q: I want to buy a Travel Package but don’t know which hotel category to get. Can you help?
A: This might help: Marriott Travel Package Arbitrage
(here’s the link again: https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2018/04/27/marriott-travel-package-arbitrage/)

Personally, if I had a 7-figure Starpoints balance, I’d probably be redeeming for a couple of packages as the airline miles are more valuable and a better transfer ration than you’re going to get from your Starpoints in the future. Which airline totally depends on your travel plans. See the post Greg links to in the questions about which airline to choose for some ideas there.

Rick
Guest
Rick

I wish I had your problem. If you have over a million starpoints, I suspect you will need to book quite a few 7-night packages at the highest tier possible (miles). That said, I’m not sure that you can book any further out than a year? And will Marriott let you kick the can down the road to bump your package further out after August? Maybe transfer a whole lot of starpoints to mileage with numerous partners would be better. You could make multiple transfers to Alaska’s program and fly a few times on Emirates, which has good FC availability.

Nick Reyes
Editor

It’s also worth noting that you don’t need to make a run on the bank with those Starpoints. They will still transfer to airline miles at the same ratio in the new program — so you can still transfer the equivalent of 20K Starpoints (60K Marriott) to 25K airline miles after the programs merge.

Travel packages are the best value. They have historically let you upgrade or downgrade and extend the life of the certs for another year — but they could stop doing that. I wouldn’t want to be in for 5 weeks of Marriott stays only to find out that none can be extended (unless I knew I could get away for 5 weeks).

If they refund the points as in the post linked above (Potential huge wins…), then you’ll come out smelling like roses on the packages. With a Starpoint balance in the millions, I’d make that gamble on at least 2 7-night packages I think. But I wouldn’t necessarily dump them all.

Nick Reyes
Editor

Maybe I’ll revise that — I’d gamble on at least 3-4 packages with that many Starpoints. You might be a higher roller than me….no judgments if you do more :-).

Sam
Guest
Sam

Thanks! I may gamble but still not sure on which Category or Tier and which miles to get.

Rik
Guest
Rik

So I just redeemed points for a travel package. How can I book the hotels online? Sorry for the newbie question

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

you have to call

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

To find out availability, you do a search of the property making sure the radio button for “Use rewards points” is checked. If you find 7 consecutive nts available, you can book with room with points, ignoring anything that says you don’t have enough points.

Then you have to call in to attach your certificate to your booking.

ETA: This only applies to Marriott properties at the moment. If you’re looking at a SPG property you can’t do this now and will have to wait until Aug 1.

Nick Reyes
Editor

Treesha has got it.

shashi
Guest
shashi

Can we use 7 night certificate used for separate stays? Like 4 night one stay and 3 night one stay?

Peter
Guest
Peter

Nope

Nick Reyes
Editor

Peter is correct. You can only use it for a 7-night stay.

shashi
Guest
shashi

thank you

Rene
Guest
Rene

Thank you for this nice summary. I still can’t decide between AA and United, there are so many variables, but this is a big help either way.

John
Guest
John

Greg, I am planning to stay at the Singapore Westin in February for 7 nights with a travel package. Marriott says it will be a category 6 in the new scheme. What travel package would you suggest I buy now for this stay?

Nick
Guest
Nick

Even if we don’t have a specific use for the certificate yet, still in our best interest to redeem for the package now and book the certificate sometime post-Aug correct?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Yes. If you value airline miles more than Marriott points (most people would), it makes sense to redeem for a package now even if you don’t know where/when you’ll use the 7-night stay.

RIck
Guest
RIck

Definitely, buy it now anyway you can.

Buddy M.
Guest
Buddy M.

I want to try and use my 320k+ marriott points to snag one of the High-end SPG properties in either Bora Bora or the Maldives for anytime next year. If I booked the highest-tier Marriott travel package with miles would I be able to use it to try and book those properties after the August transition? I don’t want lose out on the great deal right now for the travel packages but also would like to snag the St. Regis at either Maldives or Bora Bora if there’s a half decent chance to reserve one of them.

Nick Reyes
Editor

We don’t know which package would convert to that in the future program, but suffice it to say you do not have enough points for whichever package that is. If you have 320K points right now, that’s only enough for a current Category 6. Those hotels only charge 30K points per night — half the cost of those top-tier properties in the new program. Your 7-night cert won’t convert to a 7-night cert there.

300K points is enough for 6 nights at that top tier when the new program launches (they will be 60K per night and the 6th night is free). If you want to stay at the St. Regis in the Maldives or Bora Bora, you’d need to hang on to your points to do something like that unless you only want to stay 1 night (in which case, you could use 270K for a current Cat 1-5 cert and have 50K Marriott points left over — almost enough for a single night at one of those properties).

It’s also *possible* (though not necessarily likely) that Marriott will return enough points to cover the cost of 7 nights at your chosen category. For example, if you used 300K Marriott points right now to book a current Cat 6 package, some people speculate that Marriott will cancel that certificate out and give you 180K points back in August if you haven’t booked something with it yet. That’s not a likely outcome, but if you’re a gambler, you could gamble on getting enough points back for 3 nights at the top-tier places instead of your 7-night certificate. Again, don’t bank on this.

Finally, I should also note this: availability at those top-tier properties (especially Bora Bora and the Maldives) is likely going to be extremely tight. If you choose to hold onto your points to score one of those places, keep in mind that it is far from given that you will find availability when you want to go. I’m assuming there will only a couple of standard rooms at each property and you’ll be competing with everyone on earth for those rooms (some of which have probably already been booked by people with huge Starpoint balances who are hoping to convert to the new price when the new program launches). I’m holding onto some points in the hopes of booking places like that, too — but I understand that I’m doing so at the risk of not finding availability, and I’ll be just as happy to use my points for stays at other properties. Just something to keep in mind.

Buddy M.
Guest
Buddy M.

Sorry I forgot to mention I also have 300k+ UR points that I wouldn’t hesitate to transfer to Marriott if I needed to. Just wondering if it is likely that the highest tier travel certificate would convert to the highest category in the “new” marriott award table. That way, if I after the August transition couldn’t find availability at Bora Bora or Maldives then I could still use it somewhere else at the old travel package rate. I also would take the Le Meridien Bora Bora and W Maldives if there was availability. I don’t know if that increases my odds much or not. I am also wondering if Marriott will still let you extend a travel certificate a few months? That would be great!

Nick Reyes
Editor

We really just don’t know for sure, but you’ll want to read these posts to aid you in deciding how to gamble:

https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2018/06/20/potential-huge-win-with-marriott-travel-packages-before-august/
https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2018/04/27/marriott-travel-package-arbitrage/

As for whether or not they will still let you extend a certificate, we expect they will, but the fact that they will extend it has never been written policy, it’s just what they’ve always done. There is always the chance that could change in the future, but they have given us no reason to believe it will.

Of course, see the two posts above — because as the first one outlines, not only do we not know how they might map the old category certs to new ones, we do not know if they will even do it or if they will instead cash those in for points.

Helmholtz
Guest
Helmholtz

Buddy, don’t transfer the UR to Marriott. At the very least, buy the Starpoints and then redeem the UR as cash. It pains me to think of it.

Benny
Guest
Benny

Is it still possible to do a 5 day certificate? Seven consecutive nights is a lot.

Nick Reyes
Editor

Recent data points indicate people have had success in the last week or two. That said, there are a couple of data points of people having their accounts audited and certificates canceled if they do not qualify for the five night packages. Ymmv. Personally, I haven’t seen as many shutdown stories as I would expect for the number of people who I imagine redeemed for the five night packages recently. But consider yourself warned.

Justin
Guest
Justin

Thanks for the great post. My spouse and I have a combined 74,000 points, which means that I need to purchase 16k points to get to 90,000. Does it matter if I purchase the points first or transfer my spouse’s points first? I know there is a 30,000 SPG transfer/purchase limit but not clear on how strict it is. Thanks.

Nick Reyes
Editor

The limit is strict. That said, see this post for how to get around it:

https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2018/02/26/buy-30k-spg-points/

Justin
Guest
Justin

Thanks. I ended up first transferring my spouse’s 32k points to me, then I bought another 15k points, and then I transferred all to Marriott. No issues.

Frank
Guest
Frank

You could just havee your wife buy the points and then transfer all hers to you.

5150d
Guest
5150d

Hey Nick or Greg:
2 questions:
1. Is there a difference between “attaching” a travel certificate or letting it be a “floater”? Your Advice?
2. If you want to stay 7 nights in a hotel next year that is going down in category after August is it better to attach a certificate now or wait until after August?
Thanks!

Nick Reyes
Editor

1) Not sure. Leaving mine as a floater for right now hoping that Marriott intends to make an announcement before August 1st that will help me decide what to do.

2) in that case, I would just wait. You can make a reservation so you know you have it, but not attach the certificate.

Carlo
Guest
Carlo

Do stay/nights with a travel packages count towards your status?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Yes.

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[…] concur with Frequent Miler that there are two perspectives to look at this from.  That of someone who does place value on the […]

Justin
Guest
Justin

Is there a specific date that we have to buy travel packages in the current program? All the articles here say “before August.” Does that mean we can buy on July 31st?

Nick Reyes
Editor

We don’t know. Marriott hasn’t said. If you asked me a month ago, I’d have said not to worry and that I thought Marriott would give us advance notice of an end date. Getting to be this late in the game, I’m starting to wonder whether or not they will give us advance notice.

Marriott had been saying the new program would launch August 1st, but then they backed off that and just started saying “in August”, indicating that they don’t expect the new program to kick in exactly on August 1st. It’s hard to say. If you have the points and want a travel package, I don’t think there is a good enough reason to wait – I’d book it sooner rather than later at this point just in case. I don’t have any reason to think that Marriott won’t give us some advance warning except for the fact that there are only but so many days left before we are officially “in August”.

Justin
Guest
Justin

Thanks for the feedback. I’ll book the package now.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

is it still possible to get a 5 night stay package? if so, whats the best course of action to get it?

side note, did marriott always allow award reservations without actually taking out the points first? i made a reservation for fun for ncaa finals next year in msp cuz i thought it was a glitch showing 0 points required. now it says i need to attach an e certificate and its way past the free cancellation date. so far i haven’t been charged any points or cash to hold the room but i def dont plan on spending 30k points for the room nor paying for the e-cert. any advice? thank you very much!

apparently there is a 16.98 holding fee for the room that never hit my cc. hopefully if i cancel they will only penalize my for $17 for the one night in which case i’ll gladly pay it

Nick Reyes
Editor

There have been recent reports of success, but then there were reports of account audits / shutdowns (not a lot of reports last I checked, but some anyway) for people who booked it and weren’t supposed to be able to do so. It’s a YMMV, do it at your own risk kinda thing.

And yes, Marriott has always allowed you to make a reservation without the points. When you are booking, it tells you when you need to have the points in your account (usually a week or two before arrival). If you are past the cancellation deadling, I honestly don’t know what happens. Shouldn’t be any holding fee…I’ve made plenty of reservations without the points and never been charged for it.

Frank
Guest
Frank

My month-end for my SPG credit card account is around 5th of the month. If I spend now, say $20,000 on the card, will it convert at the rate of 3x or 2x early next month – do you know?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Edited

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

does anyone have any further clarity into how the current travel package hotel certs will map over to the new program? or what the refunded points might be?
thinking about pulling the trigger tomorrow to buy some more starpoints at the sale price before the end of it. thanks!

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[…] my opinion, is to buy enough points to be able to purchase a Marriott Travel Package. See: “Greg’s Travel Package Advice” for complete coverage of this […]

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[…] but this continues to be a burning topic.  I just may have convinced a number of readers to jump on the last opportunity to buy these travel packages at great rates, and that there’s maybe a 60% chance that the result will be way better than […]