Marriott provides many opportunities to earn free category 1-5 nights. Their credit cards each offer a free cat 1-5 night per year. They frequently run “Megabonus” promotions in which two stays results in 1 free cat 1-5 night (make sure to register!). And, the best value Marriott Travel Package results in a certificate for up to 7 nights in a category 1-5 hotel (see: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages).
Marriott divides their properties into 9 ascending categories. Typically, higher categories are associated with higher cost and quality hotels. Category 5 Marriott hotels tend to be average hotels at average prices. But that correlation between category and quality is far from perfect. That’s good because there are some diamonds in the rough worth seeking out.
I scoured through Marriott’s list of category 5 properties (found here) to find the gems that were highly rated. My goal was to find hotels that appear to be good vacation destinations, so I removed the ones that appeared to be business oriented. My secondary goal was to find the properties that represented good value for your points or free night certificates, so I removed hotels that typically charge less than $150 per night. Next, based on reviews, location, and appearance, I picked what I consider to be the 5 best. Note that I have yet to visit any of these, so this collection is based entirely on internet research…
New Brunswick Canada
The best vacation destination category 5 property I could find in North America is in New Brunswick Canada (not far from Maine). This looks like a very nice spot to stay while exploring the area.
Typical summer rate: $170
Award availability: Very good
This is a Marriott Vacation Club (think timeshare) property located just four miles from Disneyland Paris. Personally, I’d far prefer to stay within the city of Paris, but I could imagine that this resort would be a great option for families with young kids. Unfortunately award availability is currently limited to Sunday night stays in the wintertime.
Typical rates: $175 winter, $575 summer
Award availability: Virtually non-existent
This new hotel in southwest Germany gets incredible reviews on TripAdvisor. According to Wikipedia, Baden-Baden is a spa town in an area that is ideal for hiking and mountain climbing, and it is a skiing destination in the winter.
Typical summer rates: $240
Award availability: Very good
This is another resort in a spa town. Wiki Voyage says this about Sopot:
Sopot is a seaside spa resort city in Poland. Sopot and two nearby cities, Gdańsk and Gdynia, are often referred as Tricity (Polish: Trójmiasto). It is a smallest of the three and the most affluent on average, attracting the rich and famous from the local area (who tend to settle there), and from Poland, Europe and elsewhere, who come over for vacations or maintain a pied-a-terre there.
Typical summer rates: $220 (much cheaper in winter)
Award availability: Excellent
Reader Kalboz told us about this great new property in Bangkok. While it’s not as expensive as other properties on this list (and so you’re not technically getting as much bang for your buck from your free certs), it looks fantastic!
Our own Nick Reyes stayed here early this year and has great things to say about this new resort (see: Marriott Cat 5 Sweet Spot: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa). Unfortunately award availability is scarce at the moment.
Typical rates: Over $400 per night
Award availability: Poor
Marriott’s stylish AC Hotels brand has quite a few highly rated category 5 properties. Most AC Hotels are in cities, so they could be great for weekend getaways. I would definitely consider using my Marriott credit card free nights for weekend getaways at one of these properties, but I wouldn’t use a 7 night stay certificate. You can find a list of AC Category 5 locations here.
- The Marriott Marquis Queens Park in Bangkok looks amazing (see this review). The only reason it didn’t make the list above is that its daily rate is under $150.
- New Paragraph Resort & Spa Shekvetili, Autograph Collection in Georgia (the country, not the state). Looks gorgeous, but room rates are cheap.
- JW Marriott Hotel Quito. Nick says that its location isn’t ideal.
- Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel. Looks like a business hotel. Recent reviews not great.
- AC Hotel Carlton Madrid. Reader Patrick reports liking the hotel, breakfast, and location.