If you are a frequent traveler, having hotel status can really help in making the stay more enjoyable. Hotel status can give you various perks that the ordinary traveler will not receive. Early check-in, late checkouts, suite upgrades, lounge access, and free breakfast are all generally offered perks throughout the major chains.
The value of these perks differ according to travel style but there is definitely a value associated with them. Timeshares come with its own set of perks but are generally vastly different than hotel offers. Timeshares are more of a do-it-yourself type properties that generally do not come with any perks, even to those timeshare owners or guests who have hotel status or even own at the particular property.
Hotel status generally resets itself at the end of February. You can gets status through many different channels but it is generally given by the number of nights that you stay in the hotel or the number of stays. You can also recieve hotel status through certain credit cards. I will discuss these in other posts.
Since my hotel status just ran out in February, I have been starting to map out my travel for the upcoming year. I definitely enjoy having hotel status even though I highly prefer timeshares for my travels. As I began to map out a plan for 2017, I realized that some of my crazy travel plans were simply ridiculous in my effort to obtain top tier hotel status.
For those in the hotel point world, Hyatt recently revamped its Gold Passport loyalty program and changed it to the World of Hyatt. There are a lot of things that changed in this program and some are good and some are bad.
One of the biggest changes is that suite upgrades are now given for those who acheive top tier status called Globalist. You need to stay 60 nights on paid rates or earn 100,000 base points. 100,000 base points essentally requires a spend of $20,000. $20,000 in hotel expenses is generally completely out of reach for most personal travelers. It is clear that Hyatt, like most of the other major hotel brands, are targeting business travelers. Personal travelers just do not seem to worth the effort or profitability.
Unlimited suite upgrades seems like a real awesome perk and I have some desire to achieve that status. However, the more I thought about it, the more ludicrous this endeavor seemed. A hotel suite, while nice, is basically a large room. Some may have a separate living area, some may have dining room table but almost none have a kitchen, a full size fridge, a second bedroom, a sofa sleeper or laundry facilities.
Getting a potential suite upgrade at a hotel is nice but I have held top tier status in Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton and when I travel on business for a few nights, I would occassional get a suite upgrade - exactly when it doesn't really matter since I would be traveling solo. When I travel with my family of 4, I have almost never received a suite upgrade at the time of check-in in any of these programs.
Suite upgrades is a great marketing ploy by the hotel chains. They limit specific inventory so upgrades are few and far between. Since it is only available upon check-in, the chance of getting upgraded for a week is slim since they won't upgrade you if they sold it for even one night or may sell it for a night.
Getting back to my point, most timeshares are actually better than suites. Studio units can be bigger than standard suites at most hotels. A 1 bedroom unit usually comes with a full kitchen and laundry facilities in the unit. Timeshares definitely offer most space than a hotel room.
While hotel status can give you many perks, chasing hotel status generally isn't worth it for personal travelers who do not stay in hotels more than 50 nights per year. Most personal travelers would never stay the required amount of nights as it requires more than 7 weeks in a hotel!
While most people get 2 weeks of vacation, staying an additional 5 weeks in a hotel to obtain status is almost impossible for most people.
Additionally, Marriott requires 75 nights for its top tier status, Hyatt requires 60 nights, and Hilton requires 60 nights. There are less onerous methods to get status but still require a decent amount of spending at the hotel or a decent number of actual stays with the hotel chain.
Timeshares are not perfect but I view them as being far superior than hotels in most areas. They may not have lounges, free breakfasts, mints on your pillows, turndown service or other luxurious that are nice, they generally offer high quality, luxurious condo-style units that are much more spacious and liveable than a hotel room.
If you have never stayed at a timeshare, most timeshares that are affiliated with the major chains (Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Wyndham, Four Seasons, etc.) are just as nice if not nicer than their hotel counterparts.
For business travelers who stay 50+ nights in a hotel, getting status is almost mandatory. It simplifies traveling and gives you extra perks that can be valuable and worthwhile. For those personal travelers who are striving to attain hotel status for potential suite upgrades or other "perks", think twice about the cost and effort.
My recommendation would be to test out some timeshares and see what they offer. I have discussed the use of Interval International Getaways to rent weeks in a timeshare and recently discussed how you get obtain a membership to RCI to rent Extra Vacation weeks.
There are some ridiculous deals on timeshare rentals that are significantly less than renting a hotel and come with "automatic" suite upgrades!
Signing up for an RCI Account without being a timeshare owner: Get access to cheap timeshare weeks without ownership!
While I am a big fan of timeshare ownership, owning a timeshare comes with various hassles and expenses. Timeshare ownership is definitely not for everyone but timeshare vacations can be a very economic way to travel in luxury accomodations.
Timeshares have a bad reputation but most of those complaints involve exchanging, fees, availability and various hidden costs that aren't disclosed at the purchase. Rarely do people complain about quality of the accomodations or amenities.
There are definitely timeshares that are not very nice so you should do you research but there are some great timeshares that easily surpass even some of the finest hotels.
I highly recommend staying in timeshares and reviewing the various systems before completing any timeshare purchase. One great way to do so is through Interval International Getaways which I have discussed here and RCI Extra Vacations.
In this post, we will explore RCI Extra Vacations. RCI Extra Vacations are week long rentals that you can purchase instead of exchanging your timeshare. You need to have an RCI account in order to review these opportunities.
If you do not own a timeshare, YOU CAN STILL GET AN RCI ACCOUNT. In order to do so, you can go to RCI's website and Join. You need to click the link that says you own a timeshare and the form will ask for details on the timeshare owned but there are no deeds to upload or checks confirming your ownership. You can put in any resort that you want provided that it is a RCI affiliated resort. You can search for resorts here:
I confirmed with RCI that anyone can have an RCI account even if you do not own a timeshare!
There are many benefits to depositing a timeshare but having an RCI account will allow you access to RCI Extra Vacations.
RCI Extra Vacations are exactly like Interval International Getaways where you reserve highly discounted weeks for a week long period. The size of the unit and destinations will vary but these Extra Vacations can be an extreme bargain.
There is currently a special where you can reserve a week for as little as $199 for the entire week.
Just an example, here are some current available weeks that I found that can be a great bargain.
In order to Join RCI, the initial cost for a one year membership is $99. In addition, they offer a Platinum Membership which comes with various perks, the most significant is a 10% automatic discount on RCI Extra Vacations.
A 10% discount on these highly discounted weeks can easily cover the cost of the platinum upgrade which is $69 for a year.
There are additional discounts for a longer term membership periods.
Overall, the ability to get access to RCI Extra Vacations for only $99 for a year is a complete bargain. RCI has some quality resorts in its portfolio including those from Hilton, Wyndham and Disney not to mention others.
RCI Extra Vacations is not only a great way to save money on a vacation but a great way to get introduced to the timeshare world without the upfront cost of purchasing a timeshare and the ongoing maintenance.
Maintenance fees vary across units and programs but most RCI Extra Vacation weeks are offered for less money than those units annual dues. While there are definitely perks to owning a timeshare including the ability to book in advance, RCI Extra Vacations are definitely a great deal.
I highly recommend getting a RCI account and spending some time searching the availability to get a better handle on what is offered. For only $99, it is definitely worth it!
Good luck searching!