I Went Around the World in Total Luxury on Miles and Points — And I'm Back in Time for Happy Hour!

I Went Around the World in Total Luxury on Miles and Points — And I'm Back in Time for Happy Hour!

PART 31: One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig returns stateside for some serious sipping in NYC.

Hello again from Ben Schlappig, the full-time traveler behind One Mile at a Timeand the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible by using miles and points. In our series with Jet Set, we're going around the world in 21 days... all in five-star luxury, and booked at the very last minute.

In my last post, I was wrapping up my journey back to the U.S. after a whirlwind trip around the globe.

To finish off our trip we spent a couple of days in New York. New York has an overwhelming selection of hotels, and it’s a city where I struggle to decide what hotel to stay at. Typically I care a lot more about the quality of resorts than city hotels, given that when I’m in cities I typically spend very little time in hotel rooms, as I’m either in meetings or out and about exploring. Meanwhile at resorts I’m more likely to be spending time in my room.

So there are lots of great luxury hotels in New York City where you can redeem points, but I also find that I don’t get as much value out of them as I would at a resort.

Fortunately points can be redeemed for stays at all kinds of brand, ranging from the limited service brands that are fairly cheap when paying in points, all the way up to the top hotels offered by each major hotel chain.

New York City is also a market where you can get a lot of value out of “cash and points” redemptions. Most major hotel chains let you redeem part points and part cash for a hotel stay, rather than either paying completely in cash or completely in points. This is a great way to stretch the value you can get out of points, especially if you don’t have enough points for an outright free-night redemption.

Since we were mostly staying at Starwood hotels this trip, there’s an especially overwhelming selection of hotels. New York City has more Starwood properties than any other city in the world. On top of that, the selection is even greater since Marriott took over Starwood, given that they also have a huge presence in New York. Nowadays you can transfer points between Marriott and Starwood (at a rate of one Starpoint per three Marriott Rewards points), so you have a lot of options from which to choose.

Based on the cost and number of points required, we decided to stay at the W Union Square for this stay. I generally like the W brand, and also like the Union Square area. The W Union Square is a category six Starwood property, meaning that a free-night redemption typically costs 20,000 points per night.

W Union Square

For example, using cash and points, this hotel could be booked for $180 plus 10,000 Starpoints per night. I consider that to be a good deal, given that I value Starpoints at over two cents each.

I got a great suite upgrade at the W Union Square as an SPG Platinum member. As usual, it’s tough to beat getting a big suite in a city where space usually comes at a big premium.

Scenes from the suite

As a point of comparison in terms of cost, the St. Regis New York is a category seven property, so a free night would cost 30,000 Starpoints per night. Given how much time we’d be spending out of the room, the incremental 10,000 Starpoints didn’t seem worthwhile, in this case.

Speaking of the St. Regis, while we were in New York we couldn’t help but stop at the King Cole Bar for a bloody mary. During this trip we stayed at several St. Regis properties, and as I pointed out, each of them has their own signature bloody mary. That’s because the bloody mary was started at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis New York — they call it the “red snapper.” The bar has a fascinating history, so while the bloody marys aren’t cheap, I think the place is worth a visit for at least one drink.

King Cole bar

It goes without saying that the bloody mary at the St. Regis was exceptional, as you’d expect. However, I still love trying the local bloody marys at every St. Regis, given the huge variability in taste.

Stick around for the very last installment from this exciting (and I hope educational, too) journey!


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Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!

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