I've been reflecting about why I have felt so strongly about Marriott's changes, and it turns out to be fairly simple for me. Until I was about 25, I had probably stayed in about 3 hotels in my whole life, 1 with my parents on New Year's Eve in NYC (not a very nice one), and twice with my first husband (honeymoon in the Poconos and a trip to Montréal). When I started college, I was completely broke and only got more so when I got divorced. Since Mass General (where I worked) was paying most of my Harvard tuition (really!), trips were pretty much out of the question plus I had no time to do anything but work and study. That's what I'd call stage I of my hotel experiences, which continued through my first several years of grad school (including in Paris, where I lived in an apartment in the 13th arrondissement with my second husband) and beyond, when I worked three jobs, one of which was usually teaching. I taught at several different great schools in the US in the post Ph.D. period, but was $80,000 in debt for college loans.
Stage II started with getting the tenure-track job at Colby. I took an immediate hit because I couldn't work more than one job in central Maine. But then I started to get college and outside grants. Stage IIa was fleabag hotels in Paris and Rome. I'd lived in Paris for two years, so I was able to do much better in terms of negotiating cheap accommodations that weren't awful. But when I went first to Rome (and stayed near Termini) it was nearly tragic, and almost cost me the experience of returning of Rome. Fortunately, those two years of living in Paris did wonders for me esp. in the 80s. You learn an attitude and you get savvy. Although my Rome hotel was only three blocks from Termini, I'd mapped it out in my mind (I knew no Italian then). That was the time (if oldtimer MRIs remember) that I got accosted by the man with the dog trick. They did spirals around me till we reached my hotel street. I had my computer over my shoulder and my carry-on roller behind me. The man said in English (my first indication of how I figured out the Venice gigolo attempt on me later that year) that a bird had done its business on the back of my black dress. But being now more or less learned in the ways of not nice people, and savvier, I said, thank you very much, I will get it taken care of it at my hotel and kept going. When I got to the hotel wearing my black dress, I turned around to as the desk manager and the guy had used a plastic gun to spray paint the back of my dress with white ice cream which looked like bird droppings. The manager apologized and said these people were all around.
Skip to Stage III where I started doing lots of conference talks in the US, Canada and abroad, and used Hilton (mostly lower level) as my hotel choice. I'd already by then been Delta for many years. Hampton Inns and their lower kin were my places of stay in North America, and I upgraded not on Hilton but to hotels in (mostly) France that had private bathrooms. A big step indeed! In the early 2000s I was doing most of my research in US libraries, and spending 2 wks and more at some. Hampton Inns were satisfying till I changed to Marriott and found esp. Residence Inns (where I was, places near Marquette in Wisconsin, etc.). That's when I first became a Marriott member and eventually earned at one point Platinum status on points alone plus. Mostly since then I have not actually earned it, since Marriott counts stays. I really wish they would introduce an alternative like Delta where what you pay for your stays counts as an either/or for status. Plus I got lucky a couple of times with double stay awards.
Stage IV happened after tenure, after full Professor, and significant raises in salaries till (unfortunately) my mother died and I paid off all my student loans and bills. Then I could start staying, happily with the advent of major medical arthritic problems, at hotels more to my liking. That's when I rediscovered Venice and Rome. Florence, Tuscany and Umbria kept me busy but were paid for by my alumni college tours organized by Colby. I went to Paris on college grants. Sometimes I got other grants, though if you're a medievalist, there are not many. So I pay for the majority of my trips personally. But this stage, which I owe entirely to my education (and alas, my mother's death), suddenly awakened me to the joy of travel. Even when it wasn't really fun to be in Paris in 1985-7 (still very Gaullist and chauvinistic) I knew I had wanderlust. My second husband, with whom I lived most of the time in Paris, didn't want to accompany to my ancestral Switzerland (Bern, etc) or Germany, so I went alone and never felt at all awkward. My high school German sufficed and I came back to Paris in those days with an attitude that won respect. Still in the early 2000s my trips were limited.
Stage V was when I realized thanks to all of you (as well as my medical problems) that I was doing my bucket list. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I did have a sabbatical and lots of frequent flyer miles and Marriott points. So three years ago I did Greece (later x 4 soon to be 5), Turkey (later x 2), Egypt (can't wait to get back), Israel and the West Bank, Andalusia Spain, etc. I am not even including most of my trips to France and Italy, most of my research spots, because they just come normally now.
What has changed is where I stayed. Fleabags were fine in the beginning, then ok minor level franchise hotels, then Hilton lower levels, then Marriotts of all levels, and now I have come to the stage (with the Marriott changes) where I will only assuredly stay at certain Marriotts -- like two weeks from yesterday when I return to the Athens Ledra. Aside from that, I am now a boutique hotel person or someone who looks for the best rate for the most benefits at the most spectacular hotel I can possibly afford.
When I retire in 6-10 years, I expect it will change again. Maybe, if Venice still exists and if affordable properties are around, I could do like some of my Italian Ren colleagues in N. Amer. have done and try to buy a floor of a building on the lagoon or the Grand Canal. It has become my favorite city, since I am a water person through and through.
What are the stages of your hotel lives?
Having stayed in questionable places during my working career here and abroad I have only had two stages: First stage was to be virtually invisible, to be at a non tourist place that was just above hostel level, and keep to myself.
After becoming a person of interest no more I graduated to hotels, mostly Marriott hotels domestically and Four Seasons overseas, where if the price was within per diem I'd stay and enjoy myself. We were not supposed to be members of airline frequent flier programs, and had to fly certain carriers, so my ubiquitous travel schedule netter very few miles but lots of perks from several airlines.
Ironically I think Stage one brought my life into focus more, since I never had to worry about earning points or elite nights, just getting the job done.
Hotel stages. Hmmm.
1) It began with the VOQ's when traveling for work or occasionally on leave when I was in the military.
2) I married, and it progressed to - tents! We did a lot of family camping. It was what we could afford. And it was great fun!
3) My second husband introduced me to a new concept. Getaway weekends, family vacations and road trips (yes, the guy who won't go to Europe with me!), for which I was and still am eternally grateful. As we began doing more and more road trips, the budget and economy stays entered the picture. No particular brand, except to say they were not Marriotts, Hiltons, Hyatts or the like. More like Days Inn, Ramada and Econolodge.
4) The kids becoming grown up one by one, busy in high school and/or off to college, my husband taking an early retirement to pursue other interests, and suddenly I began to need an outlet of my own. About the same time, my parents bought into MVCI, got the rest of us on board with Marriott, incomes improved and - voilà! Travel and Marriott suddenly became "All in the Family." There was a short period there for a while when we did the motorhome thing. I named our motorhome "Happy Jack," after one of our "sausage" dogs, because he was so happy that he could now travel with us, something not possible when "hoteling it." My husband and son called it "The Man Box." (It really was.) When it became apparent that higher gas prices were here to stay, we got rid of it.
5) Now I'm traveling all over (but not often enough!) with the fam. Marriott has played a significant role.
6. With reward program cuts, it's hard to say what the future will hold. I imagine that I will try some different lodging options. I doubt that switching brands will make much difference. Boutique properties hold an interest for me. I'll probably explore that a bit. Especially in Europe. There are also many worthy places to visit that don't have Marriotts. I hope to travel more with my husband when I retire. It would be more ground, less air travel with him, which is fine. There's also part of me that would love to just give up hotels all together and go live in a hut with tribal people somewhere, digging wells, planting seeds, acquiring books and basic medicines, making micro loans, and learning how to make life better for about 2 billion people, just a few or even one at a time, and then coming back and teaching others how to do the same - change the world one person at a time. I know that sounds very, very naive, but there you go. It beats griping about category increases and points devaluations (which I'm guilty of!)
Thank you for starting this interesting thread, profchiara! It was wonderful to read of your hotel/life stages, as well as anadyr's and pluto77's.
My Stage I was as a child going to a "dude ranch" for almost a week and to a "Dirty Dancing" type of resort with my girlfriend and her family. I was bitten by the travel bug at an early age and even then I knew I could learn a lot just from travel. It was amazing! Wonderful! Interesting! Fun! Lifeguards! Different food!
Stage II was going to sleep-away camps. I loved it so much that I would beg my parents to let me stay for another week or two (they could not, as finances were especially tight for us and I was lucky to get to go at all). New friends! Stories! Shared experiences! Fun! Different food! Can't wait for next summer!
Stage III was during high school. I was not allowed to go on overnight school trips due to my over-protective parents' worries. Not to let anything get in the way of travel, I saved some of my work earnings and paid for a school ski trip to Canada. I then went on it without telling my parents. After an APB being put out on me, things smoothed over somewhat and it was the most amazing weekend of my life up until that point. Another country! Skiing! Friends! No restrictions on what they put on their TV channels! Poutine!
Stage IV was during college. Frequent ski trips on weekends (when I could afford them) turned into running ski trips so I could get comped for my efforts. Sometimes I went camping with a boyfriend and it was okay when it didn't rain. Boys! Food! Beverages! Skiing! France! Austria! Italy! Germany! The food!
Stage V was working a lot so that I could look forward to those hard-earned vacations. Vacation time was so precious. Thanksgiving turned into a long weekend of thanks in Puerto Rico each year. Easter was now an excellent opportunity to travel via plane to somewhere warm. Some of the work travel consisted of visiting different locales to talk up my ski resort employer -- a tough job but someone had to do it. Some vacation days were squirreled away to make long weekends of snowmobiling last that much longer (it's such a short season you know). Days off! Reading! New cultures! English breakfasts! Warm beaches in the off season! Local wines are fantastic! Honeymoon in Ireland! Marriott Rewards membership is great!
Stage VI is now. I am still passionate about traveling but funds are tight. There are so many places to go, and so little time or money. Always trying to get the best bang for the buck. And with elderly parents it's difficult to plan what free time we have. We make a list of places we want to visit at the beginning of the calendar year. We know some are out of reach but it's fun to dream and plan, isn't it? Marriott Rewards! SeaWorld! Hockey season! SkyAuction! World Cup Dressage in Las Vegas! Disney! Legoland! Lacrosse season! Adventures!
Someone asked me the other day if I ever went camping. I said yes, I had in the past, but now I camp at the Marriott.