With many of us planning domestic trips for the summer while sitting on a pile of Free Night Awards from our Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, I wanted to take a look around the landscape at the best Marriott hotels in Canada for burning these free night certificates.
We’ll focus specifically on the Free Night Awards worth 35,000 Bonvoy points, which are earned as an anniversary perk on the popular Marriott Bonvoy Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business Card issued by American Express.
When Should You Redeem a Free Night Award?
When considering whether or not to redeem a Free Night Award, my priority is to ensure that I’m maximizing the points value by booking a night that would otherwise cost exactly 35,000 Bonvoy points (and no fewer).
Then, I’d also take into account the corresponding cash price on the same night, but I’m typically a little more flexible in my target valuation of 0.9 cents per point (cpp). I may decide to burn the certificate even if the cash rate falls below the “target price” of 35,000 points × 0.9cpp = $315 (CAD).
That’s because the Free Night Awards have a “use-by” date, compared to Bonvoy points themselves, which you can always keep around for a higher-value redemption at some abstract point in the future.
With this in mind, let’s kick off our list of domestic hotels that are suitable for a Free Night Award redemption. From west to east, we have…
1. Marriott Victoria Inner Harbour
While the hotel itself is looking a little dated, its location in the heart of Victoria is pretty unbeatable, so the Category 5 Marriott Victoria Inner Harbour would be a great choice to burn your free night on a trip to Vancouver Island this summer or fall.
Like most Marriott Bonvoy hotels in Canada (including many on this list), June and September appear to be priced as standard dates, whereas July and August tend to be priced as peak dates.
Category 5 hotels would require 40,000 Bonvoy points on peak dates, which are thus ineligible for a Free Night Award worth 35,000 points, so it’d be best to plan a stay in either June or September.
The good news is that the cash rates here in Victoria can get fairly high, giving you excellent value for your Free Night Award.
Besides the centrally situated Marriott hotel, Victoria’s Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort are also priced at the Category 5 level. Both are solid alternative choices for your Vancouver Island trip.
2. Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre
If you’re planning a summer or fall trip to Vancouver and wanted to stay close to the action, then you might choose to redeem your Free Night Award at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, which is the only Category 5 hotel within Downtown Vancouver.
The cash rates here are also quite reasonable at around $200/night after taxes, so you might want to weigh up whether it’s worth burning a Free Night Award. Still, if you’d rather minimize your out-of-pocket costs, then $200 is a nice chunk of your travel budget to save for meals and activities when you’re in town.
One alternative in Vancouver would be to stay in the Richmond area instead, where there are a handful of Category 5 airport hotels that also offer convenient access to the city via the SkyTrain.
You could also look out for the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, which is a Category 6 hotel but has a track record of offering PointSavers off-peak rates, during which it’s priced at 35,000 points and is therefore bookable with a Free Night Award. However, the reduced pricing usually only happens in the spring, so this may have to wait until 2022.
3. Marriott Calgary
I’ve heard very good reviews of the Calgary Marriott Hotel – its rooms appear to be refreshed since the recent renovations, and the Executive Lounge (when open) is pretty great by North American standards.
I’ve yet to stay here myself, but will probably do so the next time I’m in town, and I’ll be aiming to burn a Free Night Award at this Category 5 property.
Cash rates in June appear to be very low (as little as the $100/night region), but they’re hovering a lot higher come September, when a Free Night Award redemption would make a lot of sense.
4. JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District
Arguably the most luxurious hotel on this list, the JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District has given Edmonton’s hotel scene a major boost since it opened in 2019.
Compared to cash rates around $250, the value on paper isn’t necessarily outstanding, but the high-end allure of the JW Marriott brand should make this a very satisfying place to burn your certificate.
As a big fan of JW Marriott with an appetite to stay at as many of their properties around the world as possible, I’ll definitely be staying here the next time I pop through Alberta’s capital.
In the meantime, I’ll be looking over T.J.’s review of his stay at the JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District in anticipation of my own.
5. Delta Toronto
The rooms and suites are spacious, there’s a solid dining venue downstairs in SOCO, and best of all, they’ve got bathtubs with a commanding view of the CN Tower.
All of this can be yours for free, as the Delta Toronto is a Category 5 hotel that’s eligible for a Free Night Award redemption at the standard rate.
Like the Sheraton Vancouver, the cash prices in June aren’t too high at around $200/night either, so it’s up to you whether it’s worth burning your certificate here. And like in Calgary, the prices do get higher starting in September, so your Free Night Award redemption would fetch a higher value in the fall than in the summer.
Alternatives in Toronto might include the Marriott properties at the Rogers Centre or the Eaton Centre, both of which follow similar pricing patterns – and hey, perhaps the Blue Jays will be back in action at Rogers Centre by the fall, adding more excitement to your stay if you can snag a room with a field view.
6. Residence Inn Gravenhurst Muskoka Wharf
As a Category 5 hotel, Free Night Award redemptions are very accessible in June and September, despite cash rates going for $400+.
Not only will you be getting excellent value compared to paying cash, but the award redemption books directly into a one-bedroom or studio suite, which can accommodate a larger family too.
7. Westin Ottawa
If you’re heading to the nation’s capital, the Westin Ottawa is the only Category 5 hotel in town that would offer you an optimal use of your Free Night Award.
Similar to back in Victoria, the hotel’s interiors leave quite a bit to be desired, but its location right across the Rideau Canal from Parliament Hill means that it’s still a worthy choice for your visit.
(A trip to Ottawa for Canada Day would allow you to redeem your Free Night Award on the night of June 30, but not on July 1, as the hotel kicks into peak season for the months of July and August.)
With cash rates hovering around the $250+ mark, you’ll also be unlocking a fairly respectable return on the $120 or $150 credit card annual fee that you had paid in exchange for the Free Night Award.
8. Delta Montreal
Over in Montreal, there are no less than nine Category 5 hotels nestled within the downtown area: an AC Hotel, a Courtyard, a Delta, a Marriott, a Residence Inn, a Le Méridien, a Sheraton, a SpringHill Suites, and finally – Hotel St. Paul, a member of Design Hotels.
Personally, I’d choose the Delta Montreal, where I had enjoyed staying on a previous occasion. The location is very close to the action of Sainte-Catherine Street, but not too close to be overly busy; moreover, the hotel was more generous than it needed to be in terms of the elite treatment, offering us breakfast vouchers in the restaurant in addition to the lounge upstairs.
With no less than nine Category 5 hotels in town, though, you’re really spoiled for choice if you wanted to use your Free Night Award on a summer or fall trip to Montreal, so you could choose freely based on where in town you’d like to stay. Just be sure to compare against the cash rates to make sure your award redemption is worth it.
9. The Algonquin Resort, Autograph Collection
Finally, travel to the Atlantic provinces has been away from most of our radars thanks to the “Atlantic bubble” that has been in place since mid-2020.
However, if our vaccination curves continue to move favourably, then there may be some hope of the Atlantic bubble being relaxed by the fall of 2021 – in which case the Algonquin Resort in New Brunswick could make for a very welcome easterly getaway.
Situated in St. Andrews By-the-Sea an hour’s drive from Saint John, the Algonquin Resort is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, and a Category 5 Free Night Award redemption will surely make the occasion even more special once we’re finally allowed to visit our friends in Atlantic Canada.
Consider locking in a booking for the early fall, when standard award space is plentiful, cash rates remain reasonably high at ~$250, and the Atlantic travel bubble looks more likely to have opened up.
With the personal and business Marriott Bonvoy credit cards on both sides of the border offering some excellent bonuses over the past year or so, many of us may be sitting on a handful of Free Night Awards in our Bonvoy accounts, ready to burn them on upcoming travel plans with a vengeance.
Thankfully, even though domestic travel is looking more realistic than international journeys this summer and fall, there’s no shortage of suitable Category 5 hotels across all of Canada to redeem our certificates, and even a few options that will fetch a very handsome $400+ in value compared to the cash rates.
Until we meet again in business class or First Class en route to a long-anticipated distant holiday, don’t hesitate to burn some of those Bonvoy certificates with a summer escape closer to home.