Would you like to stay in a nice suite hotel with a kitchen, breakfast included, with a pool and gym, using a handful of hotel loyalty points? With the relatively new Element by Westin eco-focused brand, you can do just that.
Many loyalty point gurus will tell you that hotel programs give you a much better bang for your redemption than airline programs. Although there’s not a one-to-one relationship between airline miles and hotel points, you can generally get a whole lot more dollar value out of 25,000 hotel points than you can out of 25,000 airline miles.
Where you really see the payoff is in the lower tiers. Intercontinental Hotel Group frequently puts a whole slew of properties on sale for only 5,000 points in their Priority Club program. Nice for a Holiday Inn Express, even better for a Crown Plaza or Intercontinental. I’ve taken advantage of this multiple times.
I recently scored what felt like the deal of a lifetime though when I cashed in just 4,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points (now Marriott Bonvoy points) to stay at a brand new Element Hotel near the Miami airport. I got a suite so nice I found myself thinking about where I’d put my stuff if I just moved in. It was a huge step up from any “extended stay” hotel I’d experienced in the past. It was comfortable, liveable, chic, and very well designed.
Suites here have a full-sized fridge, most of what you’d need to cook in the kitchen, and lots of storage space off the foyer for your clothing. The comfy couch turns into a bed if you’re with a child or two and faces a big flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. The desk has an ergonomic chair so you can work for hours and be productive.
The bedroom has another closet, electronic safe, very comfortable bed and linens, a music dock on the alarm, and good reading lights. This one gets a good bit of landing airplanes noise since they’re coming down so close, but that’s what you get in an airport hotel. Wireless internet works well and is included in the rates.
There’s a sizable outdoor pool complex and a gym that performs above its weight class for a hotel often going for under $150 per night. The spacious and comfortable lobby area has a variety of sofas by TVs, sofas in quiet areas, tables for talking, and tables with outlets for working. The included breakfast is one of the healthiest you’ll find in a chain hotel, with things like egg white omelettes and low-fat turkey sausage on the buffet when I was there.
Element presents itself as a more green, healty, and eco-friendly hotel than most. While some of that is more marketing than action, they do go well beyond the “hang up your towel so we don’t have to wash it” placards their competitors stop at. I did feel a little healthier and a little less wasteful here. One thing I didn’t waste is many Starwood points. Getting a suite like this for just 4,000 points was sweet indeed. I’ll gladly do it again in other Element hotels in the future. Right now there are 17, with 7 more on the way. Here’s a guide to where they’re located.
Editor Tim Leffel runs the Al Centro Media group of travel websites and is author of the book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune: The Contrarian Traveler’s Guide to Getting More for Less.