Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express Holiday Challenge
Anyone who has braved the friendly skies over Thanksgiving and Christmas knows that the holidays are the busiest travel season of the year. Sadly, traveling for Thanksgiving is a nonnegotiable part of some of our lives, including me. This year, I rose to meet the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (SPG Amex) Holiday Challenge. This meant that SPG Amex challenged me to spend 70,000 Starpoints deposited in my account, for Thanksgiving or Christmas travel. Happily, I met that challenge, with points to spare!
In past years, my family and I have traveled to both upstate New York, and NYC over Thanksgiving. Now, the holidays in New York City are as magical, and as popular and crowded, as you’ve heard. We love it. Really, we do. NYC hotels over Thanksgiving have been a real treat for my family and me. But 70,000 Starpoints go fast in a New York City hotel! We book one room, with a pull-out sofa bed for the kids, and after a couple of nights we’ve already gone over 70k SPG Amex Starpoints. The value of Starpoints really goes up when same those hotel points are cashed in, but in a less popular travel destination.
This past year, my family and I traveled to one of my favorite cities in the United States: Portland, Oregon. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live there so my mother-in-law came along with us for Thanksgiving in Portland. While she stayed with my in-laws, my spouse, daughters and I stayed at the Westin Portland. And this time, we didn’t run out of Starpoints. We booked two separate but adjoining rooms at the Westin, and used only 60,000 SPG Amex Starpoints to do so — no more pull-out sofa bed for my kids. After dealing with NYC holiday prices for so many years, this seemed like a real bargain. Those extra 10,000 Starpoints didn’t go to waste, though — we promptly used them as part of our Christmas vacation airline tickets fee. Thanks, SPG Amex, that provided a nice little financial buffer.
The Westin Portland
The Westin Portland is right smack dab in the middle of Downtown Portland, across the street from a bunch of food trucks and just three minutes away from Pioneer Courthouse Square. What we loved the most about the Westin Portland is that its location and staff really capture the ethos of Portland. You’ve heard of Portlandia, the TV show which gently ribs Portland’s hippie, hipster culture, right? It’s based in truth, culturally speaking. Portland is also the friendliest small city I’ve ever been to in the United States, and in a genuine way too; none of those sugary sweet smiles that disappear the moment you turn away. Portland is dog-friendly, bike-friendly, art-friendly, and basically, friendly in general. The Westin Portland staff are, too, with that Portland vibe (such as the valet with the giant mustache, and the bellhop with the Game of Thrones tattoo).
We were all impressed with the breakfast room service, as well; the Westin Portland was fully booked, but room service took only 20 minutes each morning, even on Thanksgiving Day itself. Portland’s openness to all forms of art is reflected in the Westin Portland’s original paintings and lithographs. This includes a Picasso original drawing, and other “big names” in the art world.
Something that we absolutely didn’t expect was how much we’d miss our annual pilgrimage to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. Imagine our surprise when we accidentally timed it right to see Portland’s miniature (by comparison) Thanksgiving Day Parade that proceeded right in from of the Westin Portland! We ended up watching the NYC version on television as well, though; nothing quite compares.
One downside to this Downtown Portland hotel is that street noise filtered its way up to our rooms late at night; double-paned noise-proofing windows should be a consideration for the next hotel refurbishment. This is especially true considering that the area fills with nighttime revelers on weekend nights. Also, parking was much more expensive that we’d expected; at $40 a night, perhaps we should have seen if our our extra SPG Amex Starpoints would have been accepted as a form of payment. I can’t speak to the ease of availability of street parking in this neighborhood, since it was very crowded for the holiday. However, the wifi in the room was free (which is, by the way, one of the newer CardMembers benefits of the SPG Amex cards). And, as always, the Westin Heavenly bedding was remarkably comfortable for hotel mattresses and pillows.
Saving money though cashing in accrued SPG Amex Starpoints is a peak CardMember benefit during this busiest travel season; traveling to Portland instead of NYC over Thanksgiving saved us even more. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express Holiday challenge to use 70,000 Starpoints for a holiday hotel stay was met easily and happily in Portland, Oregon. How fitting, of course, since my family has always had an easy and happy time spending our holidays together.
Disclosure: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express paid for this Thanksgiving trip because I’m one of the “SPG AmEx Stars,” and receive travel and compensation as a result.