Greg’s Travel Package Advice

51

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

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