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My daughter’s one request for her sweet 16 didn’t involve a catered party or a new car. What seemed a simple wish – to see the blazing hot Hamilton on Broadway – turned into a two-day family odyssey – even for her Point Savvy parents.
Tickets to Hamilton, unfortunately, don’t conform to the Point Savvy agenda of finding alternative ways to pay for just about everything. And don’t assume delayed gratification will work: tickets for 2017 performances are just as expensive as the shows this week – and you run the risk of cast changes.
Knowing all of this, we shelled out big bucks for two front row, first mezzanine, center section tickets, knowing we could mitigate this outlay with Point Savvy moves during the rest of our Manhattan sojourn.
We then embarked on a quest to find one more ticket without an absurd premium. We weren’t alone. It turns out, sitting in a lawn chair in front of the Richard Rodgers Theater all day seems to be a New York thing these days – even for scalpers, some holding up banners to promote their offerings.
We tried our luck with the Hamilton lottery, hoping to win one of 21 FRONT ROW seats held by the theater for every show. At 4 pm on most days, the lucky winners are notified by email that they’ve won the chance to pay just $20 per seat. The problem is, thousands of New Yorkers vie for these coveted seats each day. We, alas, were not among the victors.
With three people and two tickets, it came down to a coin-toss. In our family, we play fair: Heads I go with our daughter, tails my husband gives me his ticket. I was lucky enough to see Hamilton with our daughter.
The show didn’t disappoint. It was one of my all-time favorite musical theater experiences and my daughter was beside herself. As all parents know, making a teenager happy is a feat even more elusive than scoring cheap seats to Hamilton.
Ways to save money when theater tickets have blown your budget to bits.
Once we had made the decision to bite the bullet on theater tickets, I put on my Point Savvy cap to figure out a strategy for the rest of our trip.
Arriving in New York on a Sunday proved helpful. The Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan Chelsea offered rooms for $99 a night. In a city where an average hotel room can run upwards of $400, this was a huge score, thanks to my SPG savviness. I guessed that the rooms would be small, so I booked two. My 16-year-old didn’t have to bunk with her parents and we could all spread out.
Transportation to and from the city was our next challenge. For quick, solo trips, I generally take Amtrak. But with three, driving is by far the most frugal choice. Of course, then there’s parking. The staff at The Four Points was extremely helpful, directing us to their discounted parking just a block away, where we paid $35 per day for what typically costs $55 or more. We parked the car and brought the ticket to the desk to be stamped. Hooray — another few dollars saved. This, along with early check-in, room upgrades to a higher floor and the 4 p.m. check out are the customary perks of an SPG Platinum member.
The W New York – Times Square is one block from Hamilton.
My “M.O.” in New York is to change hotels–even if we’re there for only two nights–to maintain my SPG Platinum status. I was still looking for a deal for our second night on Monday afternoon, when I saw an incredible rate at the W New York – Times Square – with parking.
I decided to try a new strategy to upgrade. I called the hotel and asked a manager at the front desk if I’d be ensured a suite upgrade if I chose the W over another Starwood property in the city. I was living on the edge by calling at 3 p.m., but the manager confirmed that a suite was available. I walked to the hotel and booked it on the spot. What an incredible room it was: One block from the theater with sweeping views of the Great White Way. I felt a little less guilty abandoning my husband in such splendor.
Reaching SPG Platinum status has its benefits.
If you aren’t a business traveler, reaching Platinum status each year takes some fancy footwork. I am known to change hotels twice in a weekend, pick an SPG hotel that isn’t the most convenient, and find reasons to choose a hotel when I could stay with friends. Here’s why:
- Earn 3 Starpoints for every US dollar spent on eligible stays.
- Upgrade to the best available room at check-in, including a Standard Suite.
- Receive complimentary in-room high-speed internet access and in-room bottled water.
- Enjoy complimentary health-club, Club-level and Executive-level access.
- Know that your room is guaranteed when booked by 3 pm, 72+ hours prior to arrival.
- Choose a welcome amenity from the following list: Continental breakfast; 500 Starpoints (250 at Aloft, Four Points and Element), plus a local gift (e.g., wine, olive oil, or work by local artisan).
Join the SPG loyalty program and you’ll be earning 2 points per dollar spent with each hotel stay. Become an SPG junkie like me, and you are on your way to becoming a Gold or Platinum member. With this upgrade in status you’ll increase your earning to 3 points per dollar spent.
Your Gold/Platinum status gets even better when you fly Delta and can double dip with the Delta Crossover Rewards: Gold/Platinum members earn 1 Starpoint® for every dollar spent on Delta flights. You can also enjoy Delta Silver Medallions status, including priority check-in.
You can earn up to 1,900 Starpoints for Broadway Tickets by visiting SPG.com/broadway. You’ll see every show offered except for Hamilton.
You can even link your SPG and Uber accounts to earn 1-4 points per dollar. Booking your next rental car with Avis means 50 points a day. Earning Starpoints is easy and not limited to hotel stays.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express
Earning the maximum Starpoints is best done by carrying the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express, which has the highest point and mile reward rate of any hotel credit card. The card will increase your earning with an additional 2 points per dollar – for a total of 5 Starpoints per $1 on hotel stays and 1 point everywhere else. Start off with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and you’re on your way to free nights at any Starwood brand, including St. Regis, Sheraton, W, Westin, Four Points and Le Meridien.
The best perk of all is with every calendar year, you receive a credit for 2 stays plus 5 nights towards your Starwood Preferred Guest elite status when you carry the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express.
Why I love the SPG program.
I love the flexibility of Starpoints. In addition to their currency for hotel stays, they are valuable for airline loyalty programs.
- Hotel awards start at just 3,000 points per night for a Category 1 property. This low threshold for free nights can’t be beat. Category 2-4 hotels require 4,000 to 10,000 points per night – a nominal outlay for some impressive hotels.
- When you redeem Starpoints for four consecutive nights, you get the fifth night free.
- If you’re short on Starpoints or a hotel costs more than you want to spend, you can use cash and points. When I stayed at the St. Regis last Christmas the room rate was $551/night. I spent $275 combined with 15,000 Starpoints for a top-of-the-line SPG property. This was a great value as I saved $276, for a great redemption value of 2.7 cents/points. Keep in mind, with cash and points, your cash does not earn points.
- You can transfer your Starpoints to many frequent-flyer programs. The card has more than 30 airline partners, so no matter where you’re going, chances are you can get there with Starpoints. You can redeem Starpoints for airline miles – 20,000 Starpoints equal 25,000 airline miles.
Going to New York isn’t only about your SPG experience or seeing Hamilton. Here’s what to do in Chelsea.
Because the Big Apple had already taken a bite out of our wallet, we decided, on day two, to seek out inexpensive alternatives to high end shopping and dining. In Chelsea that means walking, walking, and more walking. Our first walk took us to the High Line.
This elevated park with its native plantings and views of the city and the Hudson River, runs from Gansevoort to 34th Street. The trail, atop a decommissioned freight railway, is punctuated by benches and lounge areas, so you can stop and enjoy the 210 species of plants – mostly hearty meadow grasses and flowers native to the region – as well as the sculptures and whimsical art installations along the way. If spring in the Northeast had been on schedule, I’m sure we would have enjoyed more blossoms. Even so, the weather was on our side that day, and we enjoyed the stroll.
If you want to take a break from the High Line for a bite to eat, Chelsea Market, one of the city’s most popular attractions, is fun and affordable. The food hall’s 35-plus vendors proffer a wide range of food, from cupcakes to farm fresh vegetables, coffee and donuts to wine and cheese. My daughter chose Los Tacos No. 1, where we feasted on delicious tacos for under $20. It’s easy to spot: just look for the long line.
Speaking of lines, prepare for your trip to the new Whitney Museum of American Art by purchasing timed tickets in advance. This gorgeous new building, designed by architect Renzo Piano to anchor the High Line, houses a spectacular collection of American art and hosts special exhibitions by important artists, past and present. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frank Stella and Cindy Sherman.
One more Hamilton try.
Throughout our lovely day in Chelsea, I was dogged by guilt that my husband had missed Hamilton, so we decided to give the lottery another go. We checked out of the W Hotel at 4 p.m. and loaded the car expecting to be disappointed. As we tipped the bellman, our three phones simultaneously dinged with the bad news. To me the synchronized tones sounded like a call for another trip to the Big Apple.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Terms and Conditions apply.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
- Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
- Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
- Get free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
$0 first year; then $95