As I read through the postings of the fine folks on here, I realize that most of you (us) spend way too much time in hotels. The general public has no idea.
I, like you, prefer the Marriott brand over all others. I also fly USAir as my preferred airline. That choice is much more territorial. Living in the Philly area, USAir is the major carrier best servicing PHL.
There are times when a Marriott property is not available to where my work takes me. I need second choices for my 30 or so nights per year this situation develops. I joined, and maintained status in Hilton, IHG (Holiday Inn), Starwood, Choice, and a little bit of Hyatt. In 2009, I decided to exclusively, where possible, use IHG as my backup. I did this for two reasons. First, IHG seems to have some lower brands available in some of the remote towns that Marriott doesn't service. Secondly, until recently, Marriott had no properties in Ocean City, MD. This is a weekend getaway town that both me and my wife enjoy. This town has many IHG properties. I figured if I maxed out my non Marriott stays with IHG, I could score a few free stays in OC. I considered Hilton as my backup, but they seem to mirror the same location map as Marriott. My double secret probation backup is Choice. They put hotels in towns that have one or less traffic lights. Sometimes, my work takes me there. Beware, these hotels are often friendly but lack anything more than a bed and a bolted down box TV.
For airline backup, I use American. I barely fly enough to maintain Silver with USAir, so my backup here was not done with any real thought.
I'd love to hear the rationale for your backups. Please share, I tend to learn more from you nice people than most other groups.
thanks for the dose of reality! as I have stated before, I almost never stay at less than full service hotels and sometimes lose sight that there are 10 less-than-full-service hotels to every one full service property. I can only speak to full service choices, and for those, you can put a blindfold on and several have the same feel. In my opinion, A Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Westin, Sheraton, and Hilton all are virtually the same. I chose to build points in one and Marriott is that choice. For a second choice, any off the others is fine. I choose not to deviate much, so any 'status' (other than gratis matching) would be minimal, so that does not factor in my decision.
by the way, those of you that spend the large # of nights in smaller properties are the true 'road warriors'. I did that for my first 10 years of road travel and would rather never do it again.....
Like you, US is my airline of choice, as CLT is my home airport. I use them all the time, even if i have to change planes, due to the free 1st class upgrades. I find the hassle worth it.
For hotels, Hyatt is my #2 choice. I chose them primarily for vacations (BTW, there is a gorgeous resort just outside OC in Cambridge, MD). Their benefits are excellent - breakfast 7 days a week even at resorts, for example. I do not care for Hyatt Place, but Summerfield Suite is an excellent alternative to Residence Inn. (and you get full points, not 1/2 as Marriott does), and stays at most Hyatt Vacation Clubs earn points and nights. Hyatt counts stays AND nights...so I can maintain top tier for just 25 nights. When 12 -14 are vacation....it isn't hard to hit the other 13-14. Biggest detriment(s)? They can be pricey ( it is important to search for good rates), they do not have the number of locations as Marriott, and just recently the promotions haven't been that great. Credit card bennies are not as good, either.
Hilton is my 3rd choice. I think Hilton Garden Inns are far superior to Courtyards, (and breakfast is included if you choose that option) as long as you are at least Gold. I love Homewood Suites, and again, they do not cut the points in half as Marriott does with Res Inn. Hilton also counts stays and nights, so I can keep Gold with just 16 nights. I agree with you about their footprint overall matching Marriott .... but there is a Hampton in Wells, ME - and Marriott has zip. (we love Maine!) Waldorf Astoria is a solid high end choice - not that we use them much. Detriment(s)? FS Marriott's are more consistent than FS Hilton, footprint as mentioned, and they have REALLY devalued their program. (Many of those complaining about Marriott, on this site would do well to read up on Hilton!!!). They have 4 tiers, and I keep the 3rd highest, not the top.
I no longer have to do 75 nights to maintain Plat, so I have considered IHG...but just too much work to learn another chain & program!
There are 2 other travel sites which you might find of interest...flyertalk.com, and milepoint.com. Both cover ALL programs - air, hotel, car, etc....with lots of discussion on all aspects of travel.
As I have said before, I have felt that the Marriott's Service (Lack of) over the last year has resulted in me using other hotel chains more often. I am now members of Hyatt, Hilton, Best Western, Priority Club, Club Carlson, and SPG - All reciprocating to a higher elite level..When I have stayed at these other chains, they have all tried hard to earn my business, unlike the Marriott Lately. Hyatt, Hilton, SPG and Priority Club have all upgraded me to suites in my recent stays unlike the Marriott who seems to have forgot how to treat their most loyal customers..What a shame...I was hoping to see Marriott improvement in 2012 but based on Profs recent stay in Chicago at the Magnificent Mile Marriott has not enticed me to expect better treatment in 2012. We shall see.
I always travel Continental/United as I am a lifetime Gold Elite Member with them and rarely travel on a different airline!!!
Continental is my carrier of choice and Southwest is the backup. Although I may be changing that now that Southwest has changed their system. I think American is about to get my business.
As far as a second choice hotel....... I love Omni. When in a remote area....... I go with a Hilton.
For airlines, I have no backup for Delta. I will fly through any amount of cities to go on Delta or Skyteam and keep my Platinum Elite Plus status. The only airlines I have taken in the past 20 years that were not Skyteam were in-country airlines (Turkish Air and Egyptair).
For hotels, as a backup I either use IHG because it has more worldwide properties than many of the other groups, or I book through Orbitz or Expedia to get a nice hotel where there are not major hotel groups. When I'm in France, which has almost no Marriotts outside of Paris or the Riviera, I frequently stay in Best Westerns or boutique hotels.
Since I saw that you frequently stay in Best Westerns, you may already have Diamond status, but if you don't, you do know that they (and most other chains) have a match status plan, right? Best Western will give Diamond status for Platinum Marriott members. Not sure if that gets you much abroad in your travels or not. It would be nice to hear if you are Diamond status, and if that helps much, in your opinion. Thanks
Yes, I sent that in about a month ago and didn't hear, but today when I decided I wanted to stay in very central Istanbul in two weeks, I made a reservation at one of their premium hotels and it listed me as Diamond. So they're following through even if you don't hear from them!
For 589 euros, I am getting 5 nights BW Premier Regency Suites Hotel Spa, right next to the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, a queen junior site with free wifi and breakfast, free Turkish bath and sauna, and free transportation to/from the airport. The Renaissance Polat would have cost me about a thousand euros and the Istanbul Edition (the closest to downtown other than the Ritz) well over that.
Can't beat that!
I am Marriott all the way and will drive 45 minutes or more to find one. If there really isn't a property within that distance, I will look for a Hilton or Hampton Inn. The new Hampton Inns are very nice (see Hampton Inn Geneseo, NY) , better than all mid tier Marriott properties, but I try to keep all the points in one place. Luckily, the majority of my travel is to major cities.
For airlines, I have been loyal to Continental (CLE-based), but since the merger with United, I am just about fed up with them. I hate connecting through Chicago and they have changed their miles program so many times it's ridiculous. My next option is probably Delta, I'm starting to migrate into Delta as much as possible.