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What are Starwood Friends and Family Rates?
Starwood Hotels & Resorts offers employees’ friends and family members discounted rates for non-business leisure travel at properties around the world. Now that Starwood and Marriott are merging, we thought it was time to see what’s changed since our last post about Starwood friends and family rates and we’ll also try a dummy booking to see how much money you can save by using these rates.
The Explore rate…
Explore rates can only be used by Starwood or Marriott associates (employees) and their immediate family members. Whereas in the past, immediate family members included spouse, domestic partner, children, sibling, parents or parents-in-law, they now also include the parents of a domestic partner.
Explore rates are just $49, $69 or $89, depending on the property or dates. An Explore reservation can only be booked by the employee, by logging onto ‘Bridge‘, so you’ll need your employee username and password. By booking the hotel this way, an automatic signature is generated by the HR Service Center, so no more waiting in person for HR to complete a request.
You can still check the cost of a stay at this rate here on the Explore program page before logging onto Bridge, which is especially useful for family members to check themselves before the employee then books the stay.
The Explore Friends rate…
Explore Friends rates can only be used at participating hotels by associates’ friends and extended family members, so relatives who are not already eligible for the usual Explore rates.
An Explore Friends reservation can be made on the program page which you can find here, so it doesn’t have to be booked by the employee. Friends and family members using this rate must present an approved ‘Explore Reservation Authorization Form’ when checking in. This forms needs to be completed in advance by the referring Starwood associate; without this, you may well be charged the best available rate of the day instead.
How much can I save with Starwood Friends and Family Rates?
To compare the Explore rates with the Best Flexible Rate for your hotel booking, you can first search your destination and dates on the Starwood site. You can also just use either the Explore or Explore Friends program page to search as both of these display the alternative rates too.
We selected the Westin St Louis for our dummy booking, but it couldn’t find any available dates at either Explore rate, so we tried the Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel St. Louis and no luck there either. However, the SPG Category 2 Four Points by Sheraton St. Louis Fairview Heights worked and came out at $129 for the non-member Flexible Rate and $126 for the Starwood Preferred Guest member Flexible Rate:
The same hotel booking using the Explore rate was $74 plus taxes, so $84 total, which is $42 cheaper than the SPG member Flexible Rate, saving you 33%. The same booking with the Explore Friends rate was $103 plus taxes, so $117 total, which is $9 cheaper than the SPG member Flexible Rate, saving you 7%.
As Explore rates are said to be $49, $69 or $89, it may seem odd that our rate was $74 pre-tax or $84 including tax, but the rate includes a $5 donation to the Starwood Associate Relief Fund.
What else do I need to know about Starwood Friends and Family Rates?
While using either the Explore rate or the Explore Friends rate will always save you money on your Starwood hotel booking, the two rates are clearly stated as only to be used by full or part-time Starwood or Marriott associates or friends or family of Starwood or Marriott associates.
If you are an SPG member, you may not earn points or stay credit or receive elite benefits by using these rates, so you should always weigh up the monetary saving with any potential loss before booking.