Maximize Timeshare Ownership
The ultimate resource to understand, maximize and leverage timeshare ownership to travel in luxury accommodations on a reasonable budget.
The ultimate resource to understand, maximize and leverage timeshare ownership to travel in luxury accommodations on a reasonable budget.
As I explained in this post, this past year I attempted and succeeded at earning Hyatt Globalist status almost solely to take advantage of the various perks offered for our trip to Maui during Christmas.
Once we checked into the Andaz Maui property, our confirmed suite upgrade that we were promised disappeared and was put in a standard room overlooking a concrete wall.
As I detailed in this post, that stay broke my loyalty to Hyatt and will not likely achieve Globalist status this year.
While I was disheartened by that experience as a "top tier" member of Hyatt, I still have Globalist status for the entire 2018 year. There are definitely some perks associated with this status including getting suite upgrades upon check-in. Of course, you are not guaranteed a suite as it will be entirely up to availability and the front desk representatives desire to actually give you a suite upgrade.
While I am not going out of my way to stay at Hyatt properties, I still enjoy them and I might as well get some perks out of my status while I have it.
I was recently in Santa Rosa, California and had the opportunity to stay at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa. I was there on business so there was not much time to do any fun wine tours or explore the hotel so I have not done a review of that hotel. The hotel is undergoing renovations at the moment so breakfast was very poor and served in a conference room and there were areas of the hotel that were closed. While the hotel can be nice, my initial reaction was not overwhelmingly positive and it seemed more of a business hotel.
I reserved a standard room and was upgraded to an Executive King room. The Executive King room was not the largest or highest tier suite but one of the top rooms available.
Here are some photos of the room:
As you can see, the room was definitely more spacious that a typical hotel room and had a nice couch and sitting area. However, your bed was directly in the same room which doesn't make it very conducive to entertaining with other people if that was something that you wanted to do.
Additionally, the couch was not a sleeper sofa so this "suite" would be a disaster for traveling with a family of four.
I have stated this before but the most frustrating thing with getting "free" upgrades at hotels is that they almost NEVER occur when I want them (traveling with family) and generally only happen while traveling alone on business. When I travel on business, having a suite is fine but I would be perfectly comfortable in a standard room without a view.
When I travel with my family, I want as much space as possible so that we can spread out and all get a good nights rest, ideally in our own beds!
Comparison to the Hyatt Wild Oak 2 Bedroom Suite
As I wrote about here, we recently stayed at the Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch in San Antonio Texas. We received a free two night stay in a 2 bedroom suite in their newest building, Cedar Elm.
I thought it would be interesting to compare my suite upgrade at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek and Spa to my 2 bedroom suite at Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch.
An important point in this comparison is that the suite at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek and Spa was not confirmed as it was completely subject to availability while my reservation at the Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch was for a 2 bedroom unit.
It is an important distinction because as I have said before, you simply cannot rely on a suite upgrade when staying at a hotel unless you book it directly and booking a suite directly can be ridiculously expensive. Therefore, you have to just hope that get a suite or pay a expensive premium to reserve one prior to check in.
Many times, even though it appears that suites are available at check-in, in my experience, the front desk agent claims that they are not in order to save those suites for more important guests (higher tier members or other guests who may have paid a higher rate) or simply wants to save those suites for last minute bookings for those people who do not mind paying those rates for suites.
The 2 Bedroom Suite
Here are some photos of the 2 bedroom suite. As you can see, the 2 bedroom suite comes with 2 bedrooms, one bedroom with a King size bed and one bedroom with 2 full beds. The suite also comes with 2 full bathrooms, both with tubs and showers, and has a full size kitchen, living room and dining area, large outdoor patio and a washer and dryer.
As you can see, the 2 bedroom unit is absolutely massive especially when compared to the "suite" at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek and Spa.
I should note that even if this was a one bedroom unit, the layout is generally the same with the only exception being that the second bedroom and second bathroom would not be available. The other amenities, living room, dining room, patio, kitchen, laundry facilities, etc. would still be part of the one bedroom.
In my opinion, the difference between a timeshare unit and a hotel suite is astronomical with the timeshare unit being far superior. The amount of space in a timeshare unit compared to a hotel suite is drastically different. There are other items to consider when comparing timeshares vs hotels but when you only consider space, timeshares seem to be a clear winner.
What are your thoughts on timeshares vs. hotels?
The stay that broke my loyalty to Hyatt - Andaz Maui: Confirmed Suite Upgrade Disappeared Upon Check-In
In this previous post, I explained some of the tremendous valuable benefits that I would be receiving as a Globalist member in the World of Hyatt program at our stay at the Andaz Maui over Christmas / New Years.
One of the most important benefits that I was looking forward to was our complimentary upgrade to an Ocean View Suite for 5 out of our 10 nights. A suite, while still not as spacious as most timeshares, can be quite luxurious and with a family of four, we needed the space in order to all receive good sleep.
In my previous post, I did not go into the various details on why I had to only get a suite for 5 nights. Before I get into what transpired, I will go into a few of these details so that readers can better understand what happened, how to make sure it does not happen to you and get a better understanding of how the Andaz Maui uses various mechanisms to prevent most (maybe all) World of Hyatt members from getting a confirmed suite upgrade.
As a Globalist World of Hyatt member, you are given 4 complimentary suite upgrade certificates that you can apply to your reservation. Each certificate is good for 7 nights. In order to use them, a standard suite must be available for the nights that you intend to use them. Fortunately, these suite upgrades can be used on paid nights or award nights.
As I explained in my previous post, I made this particular reservation for the Andaz Maui a full year in advance. The Andaz Maui is known for being quite stringent with its award nights and only allows bookings into their garden room views. There are very few of these rooms, hence very little availability.
Since I was traveling during Christmas / New Year, I knew that I had to book as early as possible to secure the availability. The hotel plays a little game during this timeframe and only allows you to book a minimum of 10 nights with points. I tried to book 7 nights and they tell you that there is no availability but rooms open up when you try to book 10 nights.
In my case, I booked 10 nights under one reservation since I could not book anything else due to their capacity controls. There are no such capacity controls for paid night stays.
Again, as I explained my other post, once I booked this stay, I began to map out our entire year of travel. Due to the various perks that would come with this stay, I decided to try to achieve Globalist status. Since I mainly travel for personal and not business, getting 60+ nights is quite an achievement as most people generally only get 2 weeks vacation time per year.
The free breakfast, free parking and waived resort fee easily would save us approximately $280 per night.
Despite staying in various timeshares and other brand hotels throughout the year, I hit Globalist (60 nights in a year) in early November.
Complimentary Suite Upgrade
While complimentary suite upgrades became available under the new World of Hyatt program (subject to availability at check-in), you will receive 4 confirmed suite upgrades upon the date that you achieve Globalist. These confirmed suite upgrades allow you to confirm you suite before arriving provided that they are available to pay cash.
Since I was traveling during the highest demand time, I knew that a complimentary suite upgrade at check-in would likely not be doable. Rack rates during this time exceed $1600 per night for a standard room so people that can afford these rates likely would splurge for upgraded rooms and suites.
Searching for Availability
Knowing this, I checked Hyatt's website constantly as soon as those 4 confirmed suite upgrades hit my account in the beginning of November. While I searched, no suites came up for the entire 10 night stay but I did find an Ocean View Suite available to pay cash for the first 5 nights of the trip.
When I called Hyatt, they indicated that since it was not available for the entire stay, I could not use one of my suite upgrade certificates. When I asked them to split the reservation into two, they claimed that they could not since there were no availability for award nights.
As I explained above, this strategy that the Andaz Maui uses is that they require a minimum of 10 nights to use points even though there is no minimum amount of nights to use cash.
In my situation, while I had 10 nights reserved, they could not split my reservation into two 5 night stays with points since there system blocked any reservation on points for less than 10 nights. The Andaz Maui has been called out for this practice many times as well as some other "shady" practices that limits award availability.
Since I already had 10 nights reserved and simply wanted to use one of my suite upgrades for part of the stay since the standard suite was available, Hyatt was able to call the hotel and they agreed to block the suite for us for the first 5 nights. If it was booked or unavailable for the other 5 nights, we would have to move rooms.
While moving rooms would be a pain (especially with children on their stuff), it was something that I was willing to do in order to have the space and a view. The on-site representative confirmed our suite but did warn us that a move was likely. When I asked for confirmation for this, she said that it was booked internally and she assured me that everything was handled accordingly.
I pressed her on some type of confirmation but due to the way that she had to book it, she said it was not possible but reassured me multiple times that she had it under control. I had no reason to doubt her and she was a supervisor, was confident in the way that she booked it and knew what had to be done internally to make it happen.
This was a tremendous mistake on my part. Next time, I will make sure to get written confirmation and I encourage all my readers to make sure to get written evidence for anything that is offered!
My Suite Disappeared
We arrived at the hotel around 10pm. My wife was feeling ill and my son had been throwing up on the flight over. It was a long day.
When I checked in, they indicated that they had us in a garden room, no upgrades were available (not even the same room with a view) and put us in a garden room looking out to a cement wall and with the elevator right next door. This was not the Ocean View Suite that was promised. Arguably, it was one of their worst rooms in the hotel. This was not something that I expected as a "Globalist".
The front desk supervisor, while pleasant, indicated that there was nothing to do at the moment but would look further into it the next morning. I was not happy especially since we traveled 60+ nights in a Hyatt solely for this stay and was promised a spacious suite for a family of 4.
The next morning came around and despite promising to contact me, no one called or attempted to contact me. I reached out to My Hyatt Concierge and the Hyatt twitter team and later that afternoon, one of the front desk supervisors spoke to me and apologized for this situation. She reviewed the reservation and basically indicated that there were no notes, no suite confirmation, or anything else to verify my story.
She seemed to imply that I was making it up despite being well versed in the various games that the Andaz Maui plays with their room allocation and going into the various details explained above on why the reservation was done differently than the normal procedure.
No Suite for You!
Since it was Christmas week, there were no suites available and apparently the hotel was completely booked. I do not dispute this as this was a very busy week. There was not much that they could do to move us so we stayed in our "Garden View" Room. aka cement wall view with constant elevator noise. She did offer to give us 25,000 World of Hyatt points as an gesture of goodwill which we took although I am still waiting on these to get into my account.
Due to the way that the Andaz Maui books rooms and allocates award nights, they were not accommodating to revise my reservation and use the suite upgrade certificate. As they stated, they would block it internally and take my suite upgrade certificate upon check-in. I have done this before at other hotels and have not had a problem.
Since this was Christmas week and the room rates were sky high, there were plenty of people at the hotel who probably wanted a suite and would pay for that luxury. We met a few people who paid $2,000 per night for a suite.
My guess is that the hotel knew this and simply removed the suite from our reservation in order to accommodate a paying guest. At $2,000 per night, while making me and my family unhappy, they received $10,000 in additional revenue. An understandable but short-sighted business decision.
Hotel "loyalty" is an interesting item. Hotels want you to be loyal to their brand, stay at their hotels, eat at their restaurants and spend money at their outlets. In exchange, hotel loyalty programs give you points, perks and amenities that encourages this behavior.
From my previous post, you can see that there is some real value in achieving hotel status.
However, I tend to find that hotel loyalty is really a one way street. The hotels offer these "perks" when it is easy for them to do. Most of these perks are "subject to availability" so whenever there is someone willing to pay for it or the hotel doesn't want to give away something, they simply say that they are booked or nothing is available. There is little that you can do to verify inventory.
Additionally, many of these "perks" do not cost the hotel much if anything. It is a way for them to claim "value" while not hurting their bottom line.
I have held top tier status in various different programs and while I may be upgraded on various 1-2 night business hotels, I almost never have been upgraded at resorts when I travel with my family. This has been consistent through many different hotel brands (Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, etc.) If I am traveling alone, getting a suite, while nice, does not make much of a difference to me. When I have 4 people with me, a suite becomes a necessity.
This is one of most important reasons why timeshares became the preferred way of travel!
Getting Status in 2018??
After this stay, I was extremely disappointed with the Andaz Maui as well as Hyatt. I was promised something and they simply reneged on the promise since it benefited the hotel and Hyatt. Since I was crazy enough to achieve Globalist status SOLELY for this stay, their failed promise was hurtful.
During 2017, I stayed at Hyatt hotels when they were more expensive, less convenient, paid cash instead of used points, encouraged family to stay at Hyatt's when we "needed" to stay at Hyatt's and traveled at times when we simply could have stayed at home simply to get a few extra night credits.
Will I do the same thing in 2018? Almost certainly not. While there is no doubt that there is value with achieving hotel status, I did and still highly prefer staying in timeshares. If I book a 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom unit, these are almost ALWAYS larger than the hotel suites. While getting free breakfast is nice, stuffing myself every morning for 10 nights actually got old. The Andaz Maui breakfast is one of the best breakfasts around but eating it everyday for 10 nights definitely became overkill.
I am generally very happy having kitchen facilities to cook a few eggs and toast which probably costs only a few dollars a day. The Andaz Maui breakfast costs $47 per person!
My Plan for 2018
2017 was a great year! My family and I were able to travel extensively for a fraction of the cost of the rack rates by using timeshares, hotel points and other travel tools. For those of you that missed this post, I highly encourage this read to get a good idea of the various travel tools that I use throughout the year.
We easily traveled over 90 nights throughout 2017.
2018 will still be chock full of travel but after a year of chasing Hyatt status, I doubt that I will endeavor to do same thing. Timeshares / condos are much more conducive to traveling with a family. The kids are getting a bit older / bigger to be able to comfortable share a bed. I much prefer to have everyone in their own bed so we can all rest comfortably.
Additionally, timeshares can easily be just as luxurious as hotels if not more so!
The Stay that Broke my Hyatt Loyalty
Despite this disappointment, the Andaz Maui is a phenomenal resort. I will do a full review of the property shortly but in short, it is worth a stay, especially on points!
However, this stay broke my loyalty to Hyatt but thats okay. Hotel loyalty has its perks but can be overrated. I prefer and will continue to prefer the "perks" of timeshares / condos over hotels any day.
By their actions, the Andaz Maui confirmed this and will focus my upcoming year of travel on the quality of the resort rather than the brand. I do still like the various Hyatt brands, but I will not simply choose a Hyatt because it is a Hyatt in my effort to gain status! Thank you Andaz Maui for making my 2018 travel plans simpler!
What do you think of hotel status? Does hotel status and the various perks encourage you to stay in a hotel rather than a timeshare? Leave you comments below!
Hyatt Elite Status: Perks of being a Globalist - A look at some very valuable perks on a upcoming stay to Andaz Maui
In my previous post, I explained what "perks" you would receive or rather, what "perks" you would not receive when having hotel status and staying at Marriott Vacation Club Properties.
As I stated in that post, while I do think that hotel status can be very worthwhile, you generally should not expect any such "perks" when staying at timeshare properties.
In this post, I wanted to share my details on an upcoming trip and explain how, by achieving Hyatt's Globalist status (top tier status), is going to save me a ton of money on an upcoming trip.
Before I get to the details, I wanted to take a moment to re-explain a timeshare strategy that everybody should use. In that post, I explained why hotel points are very valuable for timeshare planning.
Instead of going through all the details again, my point (no pun intended) was to explain that you need to have hotel points in order to book hotels very early, solidify your airfare so that you can reserve the cheapest flights and put in an ongoing search for a timeshare at that destination. By using this strategy, you can solidify your vacation plans while still being flexible for your accommodations.
Generally, I book a hotel using hotel points or at a reasonable rate with a generous cancellation policy, book non-refundable airfare or use frequent flyer miles and then put in a request for a timeshare at that destination.
If I get the timeshare, things work out great. If not, I hopefully either have a "free" hotel stay or at least a reasonable priced hotel stay while being able to to book cheap airfare or use frequent flyer miles.
With all that being said, I attempted to use this particular strategy this past year. This strategy FAILED ME!
It didn't work out exactly as planned but this is now the "worst case" scenario which is not bad at all!
As I discussed, last year around this time, I was able to book the Andaz Maui resort using points for ten nights over the Christmas holiday. This cost 25,000 points per night so this cost me 250,000 Hyatt points. This is a ton of points and truthfully did not want to spend this amount of points but was prepared to do so if needed. Hyatt points are very valuable and spending this much at one time was not that desirable.
By booking this early, I was able to reserve flights for my family of four using frequent flyer miles. In another post, I will explain the strategy that I used to get great flights to and from Hawaii and even used a great trick to get a free flight to Cancun!
Once I had this hotel reservation, I also put in a request first with Interval International to try to reserve Christmas week in Maui at either the Marriott or Westin property. Here is a recent post on how to use the Request First function.
There are other timeshare properties in Maui but I wanted to get the higher end properties. The Marriott Maui Ocean Club and the brand new Westin Nanea are two top tier properties.
As an aside, if you read this blog, you know that I am an avid Hyatt fan and own with the Hyatt Residence Club. Hyatt recently built the Hyatt Ka'anapali Beach club which is supposed to be spectacular and likely on par or better than the Marriott and Westin properties.
I can explain this in more detail in another post, but it is actually more expensive for me, points wise, as a Hyatt owner, to get into the Hyatt Ka'anapali Beach Club than getting into the Marriott or Westin properties. The reason for this is the amount of points required for Hyatt owners as opposed to the beneficial exchange rates in Interval International.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post on why, as a Hyatt owner, choosing the Marriott or Westin property could be more beneficial.
It ended up that my request first never came through. Getting Christmas week is generally very hard and getting a top tier property in Maui during Christmas week is extremely difficult. As you can see, even The Timeshare Guru does not always get the most desirable weeks despite planning far in advance.
My New Plan
Since I had a reservation at a very nice property and I was able to book early enough to use frequent flyer points for free flights, we decided to keep our plans for Maui and spend the 250,000 points for a 10 night stay. It is a ton of points but the room rates for this period of time are actually $1600 PER NIGHT - absolutely astronomical.
While I would never pay these types of rates, by using hotel points, I am getting just about 6.5 cents per point out of this redemption at a Hyatt property. While this was not exactly how I preferred to spend my points, this is still a great deal. Now, I need to explain some other strategies on how to refill these Hyatt points.
Going back to the original premise of this post, I wanted to explain how having hotel status can be extremely beneficial.
This year, we have been doing a lot of travel, in both timeshares and hotels. We specifically have tried to stay at Hyatt properties almost solely due to this upcoming stay at the Andaz Maui during Christmas. I like Hyatt properties a lot but they revised their program in 2017 and it now requires 60 nights at Hyatt properties to receive top tier status called "Globalist". It is a horrendous name.
Somehow, through all of our travels, we were able to achieve this status and have currently stayed 61 nights in Hyatt properties this year. This required a lot of effort and money but the reason that we did this was to make sure that we received the various perks at the Andaz Maui.
Globalist status with Hyatt comes with various perks. In other posts, I may go through all of them but in this post, I wanted to explain how we are maximizing the most valuable perks and how much this will essentially save us.
Resort Fees are absolutely horrendous and they should be illegal and never be charged. I hate them with a passion and it is the most infuriatingly thing to spend hundreds of dollars a night on a hotel, only then be charged a mandatory resort fee in order to use a pool or get a bottle of water.
I absolutely despise resort fees and I know that a lot of people feel the same way. Despite this, hotels continue to charge them and there are fewer and fewer ways to get around them. Like most hotels, Hyatt has jumped on board the resort fee train and charges $40 a night at the Andaz Maui. This is IN ADDITION to the going rates of $1,600 per night (RIDICULOUS).
Hyatt members (all tiers) do not pay resort fees on award nights but only Globalist members do not pay resort fees on paid nights. In this situation, since I used points, even if I was not a Globalist member, I would not have to pay their absurd $40 a night resort fee.
Savings: $400 ($40 x 10 nights).
You would think that $1,600 nightly room rates would get you free parking. However, you would be wrong. Despite crazy expensive nightly rates, the hotel charges a parking fee of $35 per night.
Fortunately, Globalists now receive free parking at hotels and resorts that can be charged to a guest's room. I am almost 100% sure that you can charge parking to your room at the Andaz Maui so this is a nice perk and significant savings. Having a car on Maui is essential if you want to be able to explore the island.
Savings: $350 ($35 x 10 nights).
When I travel with my family and with my two young children, breakfast is by far the most important meal of the day. They wake up hungry and getting food immediately is necessary. Some hotel breakfasts have a lot to be desired. We have stayed at the Andaz Maui once before and their breakfast is phenomenal.
As you may recall, we spent 16 nights at the Andaz Papagayo resort in Costa Rica this summer and their breakfast was excellent.
When we stayed there, we all compared the breakfast to the Andaz Maui and my family was unanimous in chosing the Andaz Maui breakfast as the winner (the Andaz Papagayo breakfast is still awesome though). The food is spectacular and they a fresh juice station where you can request anything you want. They also have a good selection of Asian breakfast cuisine which is different and enjoyable. Stay tuned for a detailed post on their breakfast spread!
The worst part about the Andaz Maui's breakfast is the cost. They charge $47 per person, per day. Globalist members get free breakfast! (up to 2 adults and 2 children staying in the same room).
Savings: $1,880 ($47 x 4 people = $188 per day, $188 x 10 nights)
I would never spend almost $2,000 on breakfast for ten nights but it is the going rate. Even if you only eat it once, I would recommend it as a splurge.
As a Globalist member, you do receive 4 suite upgrade awards. You can reserve a standard room and if there is a suite available, you can reserve it in advance by using one of your upgrade awards. Each suite upgrade certificate is valid for 7 nights.
The suite upgrade awards are only given when you achieve Globalist status so ours did not get into our account until mid November. By then, availability was slim for any suite upgrades during Christmas week. Like timeshares, if you want a suite upgrade, you need to book extremely early.
Despite this time limitation and despite the hotel and reservations telling me no, I found a suite available for booking with cash during a portion of our stay and was able to convince them to apply a suite upgrade to 5 out our 10 nights. We will have to change rooms which is a pain but we now are staying in an Ocean View Suite for the first portion of our trip.
Hopefully, we will be able to stay in the same room for the entire stay but they have already downplayed this option.
I'll post details on this once we are there but the Ocean View Suite is twice as large as a standard room and has a separate living room space.
The hotel is basically sold out for this time frame so I cannot see the difference in price but I think it is fair to say that this is at least a $200 per night perk.
Savings: $1,000 ($200 x 5 nights).
One of the main reasons that we tried and did achieve Globalist status this year was due to this upcoming stay at the the Andaz Maui. I knew that there would be some very valuable perks that would make our stay more enjoyable and save us a ton of money. Even though I still actually prefer to stay in a timeshare, we are all very exciting about this stay. A post will definitely follow that will review this property.
As you can see, we are saving a ton of money on resort fees, parking, suites and breakfast.
All in all, I would say that we are conservatively saving just over $3,600 for our ten night stay based on the perks of being a Globalist.
If we add up the going rate for the hotel, the cash cost for this upcoming stay is close to $20,000. By using 250,000 Hyatt points, we are getting it for FREE!
We still haven't decided whether we will try to achieve Globalist status again next year as it did take quite a bit of effort, money and travel to do so. However, a lot will likely depend on how we get treated during our stays at Hyatt properties during this upcoming year. I generally get treated well at Hyatt properties so I will see the "difference", if any, of now being a Globalist member.
Hyatt's loyalty program has significantly changed this year and they just replaced the main person that leads the loyalty program. During each stay, we will continually assess whether these benefits are truly worth it or whether to focus on simply trying to stay at timeshares or focus specifically on cost and quality of the resorts instead of brands.
However, as you can see, there are some significant and real benefits associated with achieving Hyatt's Globalist tier level so having hotel tier status is not insignificant if you stay at hotel properties.
While I still truthfully would have preferred to stay in a timeshare property, this should be a great trip and demonstrates why elite status can be very important and why you need multiple travel strategies to travel well, often and affordably.
My timeshare strategy failed for this trip but as you can see, I still ended up planning a spectacular trip that essentially is FREE!
Have you stayed at this property? What are some of your most spectacular hotel redemption?