Best top-tier hotel elite status for your family — from free breakfast to confirmed suites
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Once you have kids, the prism through which you view life changes. That extends to travel: While everyone enjoys being pampered, families have many different requirements and priorities from their hotel loyalty programmes than single business travellers. For example, a suite upgrade is nice for all travellers, but that separate room makes all the difference when you have a napping toddler.
To help those who travel with a crew, TPG is breaking down top-tier hotel loyalty programmes through the lens of the benefits that appeal most to families. The four programmes that most families will probably utilise with the greatest frequency are: IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt.
World of Hyatt Globalist status
The top-tier elite status in the World of Hyatt programme is Globalist status, which is earned after 60 eligible nights or 100,000 base points in the programme in a calendar year.
Hyatt Globalist is the most clear-cut upgrade from mid-tier hotel status in the four programmes we’re looking at today. Hyatt loyalists tend to be #hyatt4ever because once you’re a Globalist, it’s hard to go back.
Hyatt Globalist status strengths
As a Hyatt Globalist you’ll receive unlimited lounge access, upgrades (including four confirmable suite upgrades each good for up to a seven-night stay), waived resort fees on both award and paid stays and waived parking fees on award stays. You can also share your Hyatt perks with others via the Guest of Honor programme. Additionally, Hyatt has partnerships with M life and American Airlines, allowing you to earn points and potentially leverage elite status.
Hyatt Globalist status limitations
Hyatt is growing pretty rapidly, but has a more limited footprint than some other programmes.
If you only stay at Hyatt brands, you may miss some swaths of the globe. Another quibble with Hyatt Globalist status is that many of the Hyatt properties that families utilize will be either Hyatt Place or Hyatt House — hotels where having status almost doesn’t matter as both brands offer free breakfast to all who book direct and suite upgrades are limited.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum and Titanium Elite status
The top elite status tiers in the Marriott Bonvoy programme are technically Titanium Elite that is earned after 75 nights and Titanium Elite with Ambassador, earned after 100 nights. However, many of the day-to-day perks, such as space-available upgrades and free breakfast options, are unlocked at the Platinum status achievable after 50 nights.
You can earn 15 night credits toward status with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.
The free breakfast benefit that starts at Platinum status is a bit of a mixed bag at Marriott properties: With 29 chains, each seems to have its own breakfast policy, and some, notably Ritz-Carlton and Edition, have no guaranteed breakfast benefit option at all.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum and Titanium status strengths
Many (though not all) Marriott brands make free breakfast a Platinum option at check-in. Some hotels are more generous with this policy than others, but we’ve generally experienced a trend toward this getting more generous, not less.
Space-available upgrades to suites can technically happen at check-in and Platinums and above also get club lounge access. At some Marriott properties, Titaniums will get even better treatment. The distinction between Platinum and Titanium status is somewhat nebulous and could vary widely, depending on which property you visit. For instance, at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista I got free parking and a waived resort fee as a Titanium member, even though neither is an official Bonvoy-listed benefit.
One big pro in the Bonvoy Titanium column has little to do with Marriott. The RewardsPlus partnership lives on with the Marriott Bonvoy programme, so as a Titanium or Ambassador traveller, you’ll be able to link your Marriott account with your United MileagePlus account and enjoy automatic United Premier Silver status. Silver status comes with Economy Plus seats for two at check-in and the ability to see more award space.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum and Titanium status limitations
Marriott Suite Night Awards (SNA) are available as elite bonus options starting at the Platinum level. That sounds great as you could theoretically confirm a suite in advance. However, in practice, they can be much more difficult to redeem than a Hyatt confirmed suite upgrade.
Hilton Diamond status
The top-tier elite status in the Hilton Honors programme is Diamond status, which is typically earned after 30 stays, 60 nights or by earning 120,000 Hilton base points in a calendar year (which equates to $12,000 in spending).
Hilton Diamond status strengths
While both Hilton Gold and Diamond offer breakfast, only Diamond status guarantees lounge access. Both Gold and Diamond are also eligible for room upgrades, but my experience is that many Hilton properties roll out the red carpet for Diamond in a way they don’t for Gold.
Hilton Diamond status limitations
If you don’t want to worry about Diamond status, know that Hilton Gold is very easy to earn via a variety of methods. Hilton Gold Status comes as a benefit of The Platinum Card from American Express. Considering it is just a mid-tier status, Hilton Gold is robust, offering free breakfast and upgrades on its own, and may be sufficient for many families.
IHG Spire Elite status
The top-tier elite status within the IHG Rewards Club is Spire Elite status, which is earned after 75 qualifying nights or 75,000 elite-qualifying points in a calendar year. With IHG’s earning rates at 10x per dollar at most chains, you will likely earn 75,000 points before 75 nights.
The bottom line with IHG Spire Elite: It’s probably the least valuable of the top-tier programmes, especially for families.
IHG Spire status strengths
The 100% bonus on points means you can earn points at a very quick rate, especially when you factor in promotions. Spire Elites also might have a better shot at upgrades, although this is more anecdotal than spelt out. Hertz Five Star Status comes as an IHG Spire perk, which could score you some upgrades if you don’t already have car rental status through a premium credit card.
IHG Spire status limitations
IHG lacks a basic breakfast benefit, even at the Spire Elite level. Other benefits, such as potential upgrades and late checkout, don’t differ substantially from Platinum and Spire Elite, so while IHG has some pretty cool properties in its lineup (especially the Kimpton brand), we probably wouldn’t go out of our way to earn these status levels.
If you are already planning family trips to areas where full-service Hyatt properties are available, Hyatt Globalist status truly can’t be beat. But that’s a relatively big if, even with all the recent expansions into other brands.
My experience with Hilton Diamond has been nothing but positive.
Marriott Bonvoy’s top elite status tiers have to be dinged a bit because of the lack of benefit consistency across brands and the limitations of the Suite Night Awards.
In the end, the hotel elite status programme that makes the most sense for your family will be the one that most closely matches your travel patterns. I don’t recommend picking your destination because of your hotel status — choose where you want to go and then work backwards from there.
Summer Hull contributed to this post.
Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.
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