SPG is my favorite program for low category hotel redemptions. They have the most such properties that are interesting throughout the world – even in Western Europe, as you’ll see below. Here I list my top 10 – all in category 1 or 2 (2,000 – 4,000 points per night). For reference, here’s the SPG award chart:
The only difference between weekday and weekend is in category 1 and 2, where it’s 1,000 points cheaper on weekends.
As I mentioned in my top 10 list for Hilton, the hotels on this list are based on 2 criteria:
- Good value (cents per point), well above the average value of the program. For SPG, I shoot for a minimum of 2.5 CPP, though the ones on this list all get 3+ CPP in high season.
- Interesting location (the region or the neighborhood) and/or outstanding facility. Location generally takes precedence, though sometimes the facility is so good that it’s worth going for the “pampering”.
Keep in mind the 2018 category changes take place on March 6, 2018. It’s crucial that you book at least one day before then, because the deadline has been based on local time historically. I include both current and future sweet spots with annotation. With that, let’s get right to it.
1. Sheraton Fuschlsee-Salzburg, Hotel Jagdhof || Austria (category 2 starting March 6, 2018)
I had to quadruple check the SPG category change list to make sure this wasn’t a mistake. A $200-250/night four-star hotel in a beautiful part of Western Europe with rave reviews, is dropping to category 2? Thank you, SPG! This hotel is 20 minute drive from Salzburg (on the way to Halstatt) and equal distance to skiing. It looks like a winter wonderland. I was in the area during the summer and while it gets crowded, it’s beautiful nonetheless. So, it’s a year-round destination. I would LOVE to be here in the winter, and indeed any time.
Most guests seem to drive, though there’s reportedly a bus stop in front of the hotel as well.
2. Four Points by Sheraton Mexico City, Colonia Roma || Mexico (category 1 increasing to cat 2 on March 6, 2018)
Universally agreed as a great location for food. The increase from category 1 to 2 isn’t a big deal – it only goes up by 1,000 points, so it’s still a sweet spot as a category 2. On the other hand, an increase from cat 2 to 3 is a deathblow for me, as it doubles in points.
3. Metropol Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel || Belgrade, Serbia (category 2)
Highly rated five star hotel in Belgrade. Not enticed? They also offer free 25min massage to Gold members!
4. Le Méridien Angkor || Siem Reap, Cambodia (category 2)
Amazing value, good location. Angkor Wat is of course on everyone’s bucket list. While many LMs in Asia have gone up categories, this one has remained cat2 for a while. I hope they keep it that way, as I unquestionably loved the 2 LMs in Thailand.
5. Le Méridien N’Fis || Marrakech, Morocco (category 1)
Nice hotel with a garden, it’s a 30 minute walk to the Medina, where you can find snake charmers.
6. Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa || Indonesia (category 1)
Yogyakarta is one of the most interesting places in Indonesia, famed for ancient Buddhist stupas and Hindu temples. The Sheraton looks lovely, though not in a convenient location.
7. Four Points by Sheraton Bolzano || Italy (category 2)
The city looks nice enough – historic and surrounded by hills. But it’s really what you can do around it that brings it to the list. It’s a good base for exploring the soul-stirring Dolomites (Italian Alps). Hotel doesn’t look shabby, either.
8. Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort || Sichuan, China (category 1)
Jiuzhaigou (JZG) holds a special place in my heart – it was my very first love from travel. And it’s unquestionably one of the most beautiful places in the world. This Sheraton is 20min walk to the JZG park entrance. Unfortunately, the 2017 earthquake significantly damaged the sites. According to the Strait Times, it will reopen March 8, 2018 – but with capacity control and only tour groups are allowed (no individual visitors). It’s likely far from recovered, so you are likely to see something very different right now. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery.
9. Four Points by Sheraton Ljubljana Mons || Slovenia (category 1 increasing to category 2 on March 6, 2018)
I’ve long been fascinated by the landscape of Slovenia. This Four Points is located by the highway to Lake Bled and Triglav National Park. When I checked in 2017, there was a $6 flat rate taxi to Ljubljana city center.
10. Four Points by Sheraton San Diego || USA (category 2 starting March 6, 2018)
There aren’t many low-level US hotel redemptions, period. This is one of the better options; although the rating is below average, it’s in one of the most beautiful cities. The more time I spend in San Diego, the more I love it. This Four Points is located near the Asian food district (Convoy St). You won’t be hungry unless you hate Asian food. San Diego traffic is pretty nonexistent on weekends (excluding holidays perhaps), so it’s easy to get to the beaches, Balboa Park, etc even if you’re based inland.
- Four Points by Sheraton Penang || Malaysia (category 1) – there’s also a 10k Hilton (Hampton Inn).
- Four Points by Sheraton Medellin || Colombia (category 1) – there’s also a 10k Hilton (DoubleTree).
- Four Points by Sheraton Taipei, Zhonghe || Taiwan (category 2) – there’s also an Aloft becoming cat2 this year.
- Sheraton Qingyuan Lion Lake Resort || Guangdong, China (category 1 increasing to category 2 on March 6,2018)
- There are more in China, but most (like this one) aren’t in places I actually want to go to.
- Sheraton Soma Bay Resort || Hurghada Red Sea, Egypt (category 2)
- Four Points by Sheraton Brussels || Belgium (category 2)
- Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove || USA (category 2) – good for Chicago Seminars!
- Sheraton Mendoza Hotel || Argentina (category 2)
In a Nutshell
I’m a big fan of SPG category 1 and 2. There are just so many gems here, and even though SPG Gold doesn’t get you much, most of these properties are in inexpensive places where you can have a nice meal for $5 or less. Remember to book the hotels that are going up in category one day before March 6, 2018.
Any experience with these hotels, and any other sweet spots to share?