Marriott Travel Packages represent one of the most extremely outsized value redemptions one can attain with their hotel points these days. As I discussed in a previous article, by combining the ease with which you can earn Starpoints with the tremendous value of Marriott Travel Packages, you can book some truly incredible trips.
The specific award chart that’s used for Travel Packages is shown below. To recap, for a certain number of Marriott Rewards points, you get 120,000 airline miles in a frequent flyer program of your choosing (such as Aeroplan, Avios, or Alaska Mileage Plan), and on top of that you get a 7-night certificate to use at Marriott hotels. Since you can always upgrade Category 1–5 certificates to any of the higher categories at a later date by paying the difference in points, it always makes sense to redeem for the Category 1–5 certificates if you don’t already have a particularly hotel redemption in mind.
Note that 270,000 Marriott Rewards points is equal to 90,000 Starpoints, and if you just transferred those 90,000 Starpoints directly to an airline through SPG, you’d only be getting 110,000 airline miles (since every 20,000 Starpoints transferred nets you a bonus of 5,000 points).
So by getting 120,000 airline miles via Marriott Travel Packages, you’re already coming out ahead, and the hotel nights can almost be thought of as a “freebie” – and a particularly juicy one at that.
Where Should You Use the 7 Hotel Nights?
In my opinion, this award redemption sweet spot is so compelling that it’s totally worth planning your vacation around it. However, one of the most commonly heard frustrations about this redemption opportunity is that people don’t know where to use their 7-night certificates. After all, you can’t break up the certificate into shorter stays, and any nights that you don’t use end up going to waste.
Granted, it’s still great value to use the certificate for just a 4- or 5-night stay, but no one likes to leave value on the table.
That’s why I’ve examined Marriott’s global Category 5 footprint and compiled this list of hotels that would make for amazing 7-night redemptions.
If you have the points to spare and are willing to upgrade your certificate to Categories 6–9, then you don’t need my guidance. The world is your oyster, and you can have your pick of Marriott’s top hotels.
But for those of you who’ve finally scraped together 90,000 Starpoints and are looking to use this amazing sweet spot to book an unforgettable trip, I hope this hand-picked list provides you with some inspiration. Of course, keep in mind that the list is subjective – if you regularly visit family in a small town where there's a Category 1–5 SpringHill Suites, that could be the ideal use of the certificate for you.
In selecting the best candidates, I’ve taken into account three factors:
- Value: The typical cash rates at the hotel; a measure of how much you'd save by using your 7-night certificate
- Quality: The usual factors we look at in a hotel, such as location, comfort, and decor
- Desirability: Are there enough exciting things to do in the area to justify an extended stay? After all, for many travellers, 7 nights is a long time to spend in one place, so you want to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth in terms of opportunities for sightseeing and local experiences
Without further ado, let’s take a look at my top choices for redeeming your 7-night Category 1–5 certificates. We’ll kick things off close to home, and work our way around the globe.
1. JW Marriott Houston
Value: Outstanding. Cash rates at this hotel are typically in the range of $250–300 a night. For there to even be a Category 5 JW Marriott in a major North American metropolis came as a surprise to me. Perhaps it’s because the JW Marriott Houston Downtown – a Category 7 hotel not be confused with this one – also recently opened.
Quality: Very good. Based on my observation, the JW Marriott brand as a whole seems to be undergoing a long-overdue revitalization, with the decor of some JW hotels stuck in the era of panelled wood and patterned carpets, while others having made the leap to metal, glass, and other modern accents. This hotel falls into the latter category, with bright, modern rooms, a colourful lobby, and an outdoor pool.
Desirability: Very good. You know that a city is an up-and-coming travel hotspot when you start seeing it featured in things like elevator TV screens and in-flight magazines. That’s the feeling I get about Houston these days. I’ve heard great things about the restaurant scene in Texas’s largest city, and I’m sure the JW Marriott Houston will be one of my top choices when I do visit.
2. Marriott Mexico City Reforma Hotel
Value: Great. Cash rates at this hotel are in the range of $250 a night.
Quality: Good. The hotel’s rooms look more than comfortable albeit a little dated, as do some of the public areas. However, a major positive of this hotel is its central location, right on Paseo de la Reforma, a major avenue that cuts across the heart of Mexico City. It’s a fantastic base from which to explore the rest of Mexico’s sprawling capital.
Desirability: Outstanding. North America’s largest city has so much to offer its visitors, whether you’re looking for food, culture, history, or the arts. From the capital, it’s also possible to do day trips to some of Mexico’s most significant indigenous sites, such as the Aztec ruins at Teotihuacán and the cultural hub of Toluca. I’ll be visiting the Distrito Federal on a long layover later this year, and you can bet that I wish I had time for a 7-night stay.
3. Renaissance Santiago
Value: Very good. Nightly rates are typically in the range of $200-$250 a night.
Quality: Outstanding. For me, the Renaissance brand evokes images of lofted ceilings, neutral-to-warm colour palettes, and well-appointed hotel rooms with an added touch of style and swagger to them. The Renaissance Santiago ticks all these boxes, making it a compelling choice for any stay in the Las Condes, one of the city’s more affluent areas. And of course, since this is Santiago, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the mountains that surround the city from any of the hotel’s rooms.
Desirability: Great. Santiago, and Chile in general, has been on my bucket list for a long time. A beacon of the emerging economies of Latin America, it’s a place where I’d love to stay for an extended period of time. And if the city’s endless parks, museums, and restaurants don’t hold your attention enough for a 7-night stay, you can always make a day trip out to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar on the Pacific coast!
4. Protea Hotel Cape Town North Wharf
Value: Very good. Rates are typically in the range of $200-250 a night.
Quality: Good. The decor is a little bland for my taste, but the rooms look decently appointed otherwise. Importantly, the rooms at this hotel are marketed as "apartments", meaning that they tend to be quite spacious. The hotel boasts a first-rate location in the heart of the city, close to all the major attractions, as well as a rooftop pool from which to behold Cape Town's majestic shoreline. You can also look at the Cape Town Marriott Crystal Towers if you'd like to trade the Protea North Wharf's ideal location for some slightly more luxurious surroundings.
Desirability: Outstanding. One of the world's great cities that's unfortunately undergoing a bit of a thirsty spell right now, Cape Town holds a special place in many travellers' hearts. Home to the awe-inspiring Table Mountain, mesmerizing beaches, and a bustling waterfront, it's one of those places where even a 7-night stay might not even be enough!
5. Hotel Nassau Breda
Value: Good. Average nightly rates are about $200 a night.
Quality: Outstanding. I'm kind of awestruck by this hotel, to be honest. A part of Marriott's Autograph Collection, the Hotel Nassau sits in a storied historical building in Breda, Netherlands. Yet, the interior of the hotel couldn't look more sleek and modern, while retaining design elements that are in keeping with local influences. The hotel looks absolutely captivating, and is probably the one I'm most likely to try to actively plan a trip around, out of all the hotels on this list.
Desirability: Outstanding. Breda is a vibrant city in the south of the Netherlands of about 200,000 residents, which looks like an interesting place to visit. However, you can take advantage of Breda's central location within the Benelux region to really maximize your sightseeing during a 7-night stay. Rent a car and explore any of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Antwerp, and Brussels on day trips – all within an hour's drive.
6. Gewandhaus Hotel Dresden
Value: Decent. Cash rates are usually in the range of $150-$200 a night.
Quality: Outstanding. Another member of the Autograph Collection, the Gewandhaus Hotel has all the markings of timeless European luxury. Raised ceilings, polished dark wood, and calming neutral tones make this hotel a plush and comfortable base from which to explore the Saxony region. Picture yourself enjoying your morning espresso overlooking the central courtyard from your window – can't you just hear the classical music playing in the background already?
Desirability: Great. The region that comprises the former East Germany is undergoing something of a renaissance when it comes to travel, with tourist numbers on the rise every year. As the capital of Saxony and established as a city in 1206, a visit to Dresden affords a comparison of the area's centuries-old history with the dereliction of the 20th century. Day trips to Leipzig and Prague are possible, as are visits to the hundreds of medieval castles sitting amidst the dense woodland in this part of Europe.
7. Paragraph Resort & Spa Shekvetili
Value: Decent. Nightly rates are usually in the range of $150-$200 a night.
Quality: Outstanding. This new hotel, opening April 2018, caught me by surprise to say the least. A vast luxury resort on the coast of the Black Sea in Georgia, this hotel seems perfect for anyone looking for a relaxing beach-type vacation peppered with an exotic international touch. The rooms look absolutely gorgeous, and you can tell from the flavourful design elements that this is no ordinary resort. For a new property of this size, I'd expect nothing less – the only surprise is that it's only Category 5!
Desirability: Good. Georgia isn't a place that I hear many travellers clamouring to visit, but by all accounts it seems like a place worth visiting. Nevertheless, there's not too much to do outside of the resort here in Shekvetili, a place which primarily serves as a popular beach vacation spot for Georgians and people from nearby countries. Consider incorporating a getaway here at the luxurious Paragraph Resort to help you unwind in the middle of a larger trip to the Caucasus region.
8. Marriott Petra
Value: Average. You can usually book a room here for $150 a night if paying cash.
Quality: Great. Overlooking the legendary rock city, the Marriott Petra blends seamlessly into the desert landscape. The hotel's rooms are looking a little bit dated, but what really gets me excited is the idea of dining on the restaurant's balcony or sipping tea in the hotel's very own Bedouin tent, while watching the sun set over the ancient desert. As far as I'm concerned, the uniqueness of this hotel makes it a standout choice among Marriott's Category 5 properties worldwide.
Desirability: Great. Many travellers stop in Petra for a day or two, take a peek at the famed Al-Khazneh temple, and carry on along the road to either Wadi Rum or Amman. In my opinion, though, it's well worth exploring the ancient Nabataean capital at a leisurely pace, given the sheer intricacy of the rock-cut ruins. Plus, you'd do well to base yourself in Petra if you want to see some more of Jordan, since you can always visit Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea as day trips.
9. JW Marriott Shanghai Tomorrow Square
Value: Great. Cash rates can typically be found in the $250-$300 range.
Quality: Very good. Remember the worldwide JW Marriott transformation I was discussing? The Shanghai property is lagging a little bit behind in that respect, although it's not as dated as some other properties I had a look at. However, the truth is you can really substitute this #9 entry with any JW Marriott or Renaissance hotel in China, India, or South East Asia – there are a lot of them, and many of them look super modern and also tend to be Category 5 or lower. Having said that, I specifically chose Shanghai because...
Desirability: Outstanding. Shanghai is awesome. It's to New York City as Beijing is to Washington, DC; that is to say, it has everything you want out of a big city – arts, fashion, food, shopping, nightlife, you name it. From the views from the Oriental Pearl Tower to the rooftop bars along The Bund, you'll be in for an entrancing time in Mainland China's largest and – by a large stretch – most cosmopolitan city.
Two JWs, a Renaissance, two Marriotts, and three picks from the Autograph Collection. As you can see, there's no shortage of attractive hotels around the world where you can drop that 7-night certificate and treat yourself and your family to a memorable vacation. And remember that at many of these properties, you can get even more value by gaining club lounge access and free breakfast using Marriott Gold Elite status, which can be earned simply by signing up for the Platinum Card or the Business Platinum Card. Happy trip planning!
photos courtesy of Marriott Hotels & Resorts