For as long as I have known about the Starwood Preferred Guest program, I have been captivated by its Nights & Flights option. For 60,000 Starpoints, you get five nights at a category three hotel a mix of Four Points, Aloft and Sheraton hotels, with some Westins and 50,000 airline miles.
For 70,000 Starpoints, you get the same deal but for a hotel in category four, which is primarily composed of Westin properties.
It can be a little difficult to rack up this many Starpoints, especially if you use them habitually for cash-plus-points hotel nights like us. Starwood credit cards come with sign-on bonuses that are lower than some others (25,000-30,000 miles) because of the high value of their points.
But this year, my husband and I were determined to use Starpoints to take a dream Christmas vacation.
Following the Stars to the Twinkling Lights of Hamburg
Long preceding my dream of using Nights & Flights for a luxurious vacation is my obsession with German Christmas markets. When I lived in Italy we had such a market in the square I would walk through on my way from my apartment into town. It served marzipan and freshly baked gingerbread and German spiced gluwein that cut through the cold, still December air and filled the streets with the scent of the holidays.
Almost 10 years ago, I took a trip to Hamburg to work on my German and spent the better part of a week wandering the city’s nearly one dozen markets, brimming with wood carvings, grilling bratwurst and hand-painted glass ornaments.
But that was a trip of counting euros, budget accommodations and nose-bleed opera seats. I couldn’t wait to go to Hamburg again, but in style. So my husband and I saved our Starpoints and combed through every hotel in Germany in category three and four to make our choices.
It was only then that I realized that I couldn’t figure out how exactly to book the Nights and Flights deal!
How to Book Your Own Starwood Nights and Flights Adventure
Between the Starwood website and all the other reading I’d done, there was very little information out there on how to book this deal, and now that I’ve done it, I can see why.
Though the Nights & Flights deal is technically booked online, you have to call Starwood Preferred Guest (which usually has a five-minute or so wait time), and then they log into your account and book it. It sounds unusual, and an unnecessary risk in today’s world of online fraud, but that’s how it works.
Start by calling Starwood Preferred Guest customer care at 1-888-625-4988 (or 1-888-625-4990 for Gold Preferred or 1-888-625-4991 for Platinum Preferred), and tell them you want to book a Nights and Flights package. In our case, the agent didn’t know how to do it, but she knew what it was, and she put us on hold while she familiarized herself with the procedure. Since this is not booked often, prepare yourself for something similar.
When she came back, she asked us to make sure we had all of our account information ready, along with the frequent flyer account for the airline we wanted to transfer the miles to.
First, she confirmed that the hotel (the stunning Le Meridien Hamburg design hotel) we wanted was available in the rate category we needed, which is technically just a normal SPG free nights booking, and then she booked that first.
Note: When you book hotel nights through Nights & Flights, changes and cancellations are a bit complicated because of the fare code they use to book it. It’s possible to cancel and get some of your points back if you need to, but its best to be very sure before you book.
The airline point transfer, which we did in this case to British Airways to use for hops around North America, is not refundable or retractable. We were planning to bank the miles for future use, but if you want to use them for a specific flight, hold the itinerary before you transfer your miles, if at all possible. It took two days for them to credit to our Avios account.
We’ve Gotten a $2,666 Value From Our 70,000 Starpoints So Far
The ways Nights & Flights breaks down for the Starwood nights is that you get a 5,000-point bonus when transferring 20,000 Starpoints to airline miles, so the miles account for 40,000 out of the 70,000 Starpoints we spent.
For the hotel nights, category four hotels usually cost 10,000 Starpoints per night, and you always get the fifth night free when booking with Starpoints, so technically, you could say that we only saved 10,000 Starpoints. But the value on this redemption is kind of mind-blowing, honestly.
Our hotel room usually runs $210 per night, so that’s $1,050 right there, or 3.5 cents a point over 30,000 Starpoints.
Since we knew 50,000 miles would only get us one round-trip to Europe, we decided to save the miles part of our Nights and Flights redemption to use for later trips. We used some flights for work to get us close enough to Hamburg to arrive by train.
So far, with our 50,000 British Airways miles, we used 18,000 to buy two round-trip flights to Montreal that would have cost $808 each through American Airlines (which is the airline were actually flying.) That’s a 9-cent-per-mile value.
And we’ve still got 32,000 miles left!