Get creative for the holidays with once-in-a-lifetime experiences – all from loyalty programs
by Ramsey Qubein
As our shopping and to-do lists fuse to reach critical mass ahead of the holidays, there are some inventive solutions for what to get the person that seemingly has everything. This year, experiences are becoming more popular than ever thanks to hotel loyalty programs getting creative with point redemptions.
Especially for younger travelers, hard-to-replicate, individually designed experiences are more appealing than following suggestions from a guidebook. These could include everything from red carpet tickets to the Emmy Awards to backstage passes to popular concerts or Broadway shows. Here are some of the most popular programs for redeeming your points for out-of-this-world travel opportunities.
Marriott Bonvoy Moments One of the pioneers in experience redemptions, Marriott has a team with expertise in event planning that creates hundreds of auction-based “moments” on a regular basis. They have proven exceptionally popular with members bidding anywhere from a few thousand points to millions for some of the most extraordinary opportunities. In addition to auctions, there are special flat-rate packages that members can use points to purchase.
One of the most popular was a stay in a bespoke stadium suite the night before the Super Bowl in partnership with Courtyard by Marriott. Another was a luxury home rental at Austin City Limits, VIP access to the special events, and creating special in-villa menus for the winning member and guests with Bravo Channel’s first female Top Chef and James Beard Foundation Award Winner, Stephanie Izard.
Fashionistas showed plenty of interest in the VIP Kleinfeld experience from TLC’s [ital] Say Yes to the Dress. [end ital] Another foodie-themed prize involved a personal cooking class with Michelin-starred Chef David Bouley in Grand Cayman. Sports fans can bid on special packages with Manchester United for up-close-and-personal access to team events. These are no ordinary trips since they often come with special access making them far more highly prized than your run-of-the-mill points award.
FIND Experiences from World of Hyatt World of Hyatt has bolstered its own efforts in the field with its FIND platform designed to let members redeem points for curated experiences designed around three pillars: Feel, Fuel and Function.” Awarded either through an auction or via flat packages, these redemptions go beyond entertainment and culinary experiences, to put a special focus on well-being in and around World of Hyatt properties.
According to Hyatt, this allows travelers to explore places more deeply. For example, in Cambodia, members can redeem points on culinary tours through various cities while in India, there are surprising options ranging from calligraphy writing classes to vineyard tours. Wine and food pairings in Mexico, horseback riding in the Emirati desert, and California surf lessons with celebrity chefs are all packages that people can reserve with points for themselves or others.
There’s even an overnight sailing package around California’s Catalina Islands in partnership with National Geographic Venture and Lindblad Expeditions, World of Hyatt’s new expedition cruise partner (hint: you can also earn and redeem points for any of its global adventure sailings).
Elite Experiences from Accor and Hilton Honors Experiences offer similar redemptions depending upon which points currency you favor.
If you’re looking to win the holiday gift battle among family and friends, consider these unique alternatives for the most personalized gift of all (and save some cash along the way).