Secured Southwest Companion Pass and 7 Night Stay. Now where should we go?

Yesterday, I called Marriott’s Platinum Elite phone line (800-399-4229) in order to book a Travel Package.  Marriott travel packages are awards in which you exchange Marriott Rewards points for airline miles plus a certificate for a 7 night stay.  You do not need to use the airline miles as part of the trip in which you book your stay.  The number of Marriott Rewards points required depends on which package you select (e.g. which type of airline miles you want), how many miles you want (50,000; 70,000; 100,000; or 120,000), and which category of hotel you plan to visit.  Complete details can be found here: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages.

Marriott 7 Night Travel Packages

Given that we have until March 31st to convert hotel points into Companion Pass qualifying Southwest points, I decided that it was time for me to make the plunge.  By redeeming Marriott Rewards points for a Hotel + Air Travel Package including 120,000 Southwest points, I will earn a Southwest Companion Pass that is valid throughout the rest of 2017 and all of 2018.  Regardless of whether I book paid or award flights on Southwest, I’ll be able to add a companion for free (after TSA fees) for the next 23 months.

My Southwest companion will undoubtedly be my wife, but Southwest allows 3 companion changes per calendar year.  So I can make up to 6 changes over the nearly two years that I’ll hold the pass.

If we use the Companion Pass a decent number of times while it is active, the travel package will have been worth the point price even if we don’t use the hotel certificate at all.  And if we end up getting good use from the hotel certificate as well, it will be a fantastic deal…

A half-hearted attempt at a 5 Night package…

Over a year ago, a reader had told me about 5 Night packages that are intended only for Marriott Vacation Club (timeshare) owners.  I then called Marriott to ask about it and was told that they would allow me to get a 5 Night package because of my elite status.  I wasn’t ready to book the package at that time, so I asked for assurance that I could book it later.  The agent I spoke with put me on hold to speak to his supervisor and then returned to the line to say yes, I would be able to book the package at any time.  I then broke the news about these packages through a blog post: Marriott 5 Night Travel Packages exist, but they’re secret.

Shorty after that post, many readers reported success in booking 5 Night packages.  But as time went on, I heard fewer and fewer success stories, and more and more failures.  I added a caution to the top of that post, as follows: “Since this post was originally written, it has become increasingly difficult for those who are not Marriott Vacation Club owners to book 5 night packages. People still report success every now and then, but most report the inability to book these.”

Based on many readers’ reported experience, I assumed that I too would be told no if I asked for a 5 Night package, but I figured that it was worth a try.  The first agent I spoke with was very clear: “No, 5 night packages are only for Vacation Club owners.”  I told her about my call from a year ago, but she wasn’t persuaded.  I asked to speak to a supervisor.  His answer was the same: No Way Jose.

I considered calling Marriott Rewards over and over, and to different call centers around the world, in the hopes of finding someone willing to let me book a 5 Night package.  But, I didn’t think that spending the day getting rejected by Marriott reps was worth my time.  The difference in price between the two packages is only 35,000 Marriott points (or, given the 1 to 3 transfer ratio from Starwood, less than 12,000 SPG points).

My real issue wasn’t the extra points, but rather a worry I had about the ability to book a 7 night stay.  Based upon previous conversations with Marriott Rewards agents, I was under the impression that you had to book all 7 nights of your 7 night certificate, even if you weren’t planning to stay all 7 nights.  This can be problematic because standard room award nights have to be available and its rare to see them available for 7 nights in a row at desirable properties.  I discussed this with the Marriott Rewards supervisor, but he assured me that I didn’t have to book all 7 nights. I could use the certificate to book 5 or 6 nights, for example.  If I did so, the certificate would not retain any residual value, but that would be far better than not using it at all.

I pointed out that the difference in price between the 5 NIght and 7 Night packages is 35,000 points and I asked the supervisor if he could extend courtesy points to me given the fact that I had been given wrong information a year ago by another agent.  He offered only 10,000 points, but I figured that was much better than nothing.  I took the deal.  I redeemed 270,000 points for the 7 night Category 1-5 package which includes 120,000 Southwest points.  The agent told me that it would take 3 days to get the points, but some people have reported a much faster turnaround.  Either way, it’s fine.

Update: the agent was right.  It took exactly 3 days for the points and the Companion Pass to appear in my Southwest account.  Here is what I found when I logged in 3 days later:

Southwest Congrats Companion Pass

Where will we go?

An easy way to find all direct flights out of any given airport is to lookup that airport on Wikipedia and then jump to the “Airlines and destinations” section.  Since the Detroit airport (DTW) is my local airport, I found the relevant Wikipedia section (here) which reports the following non-stop Southwest flights:

Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Dallas–Love, Denver, Las Vegas, Nashville, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, St. Louis
Seasonal: Orlando

With one stop, we can get to almost any airport within the continental US.  Some one-stop options for going beyond the continental US include:

I don’t know where we’ll go with our points and the Companion Pass, but I’d be happy to go to pretty much any of those destinations.  It’s especially tempting to return to Costa Rica where we recently stayed at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo resort.

Where will we stay?

We can use the 7 night certificate to stay at any Marriott or Ritz Carlton property in the world, as long as standard room awards are available.  If we stay at a property that is higher than Marriott Category 5 (which is extremely likely), we will just have to pay the difference in package price at the time of booking.

Marriott_hotelplusAir_SouthwestRapidRewards.png

We paid 270,000 points for the Category 1-5 package offering 120,000 Rapid Rewards points.  If we decide to use our 7 Night certificate at a Category 9 property, we’ll have to pay the difference in points: 390,000 – 270,000 = 120,000 Marriott Rewards points (which equals 40,000 SPG points).  Or, if we want to stay at a top tier Ritz property, it will cost us 540,000 – 270,000 = 270,000 Marriott Rewards points (which equals 90,000 SPG points).

We’ve stayed many times in the past at the Inn at Bay Harbor in northern Michigan and we’ve always enjoyed it.  It’s currently a category 7 hotel, so we would have to fork over another 60,000 Marriott points (or 20,000 SPG points) to book it.  I have no doubt we’d enjoy the stay yet again.  So, that’s a good option, but I’d also like to try something new…

The Inn at Bay Harbor:

https://youtu.be/00QfidVYCk0

Reader suggestions

Do you have suggestions for great Marriott / Ritz properties worth visiting?  Please comment below!

Here are a few that look nice, but I haven’t visited…

JW Marriott Phuket:
395,000 points

Kauai Marriott Resort:
Kauai-Marriott-Resort.jpg

Wailea Beach Marriott Resort and Spa:
wailea-beach-marriott-resort-and-spa-outside-photo

Ritz Carlton Kapalua:

ritz-carlton-kapalua

 

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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88 Comments on "Secured Southwest Companion Pass and 7 Night Stay. Now where should we go?"

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meathead
Guest

We are using our certificate in March. Will let you know if there are any hiccups on check in/check out. We are also booked 7 nights but will be leaving on day 6 (work!). In looking at Resort levels it seems 7 is the sweet spot and provides some outsized value. But your destinations may differ.

As far as direct flights on Southwest, they have a great map and you can filter by Non-Stop. Its really user friendly. Also great for eyeing up a possible repsotiion flight on another airline to get you where you need to go. i.e. SW does not fly to NYC for me. However, JetBlue does. So although its a two stop, I can get to Puerto Rico quickly. But if I tried to book from home, it would be a two stop or even three stop to get me there.

Now, to find that 75,000 Amex Platinum sign up before my trip so I have gold status. Although I’m staying at a resort, so no lounge/breakfast for me anyway. 🙁

Nathan
Guest

We booked the Renaissance Curaçao. Cat 5 Caribbean hotel. Plenty of availability. Kid friendly. Good culture n food.

Preacher
Guest

I gave my 7 nights last year to my son and daughter in law for their anniversary, and they used it for the category 5 Marriott in Barbados, and loved it!

Jon Hazeltine
Guest

I would love to hear an opinion about whether or not it’s worth transferring Chase ultimate rewards to Marriott in order to snag a companion pass.

Obviously depends on how much the pass will get used to, but …. I’d love to hear some perspective!

Dee
Guest

If it were me, I’d look at the opportunity cost of using that many Chase pts since sign-up bonuses are more difficult to get as a result of 5/24. Are you below 5/24 and can get more bonuses easily? Do you have a method of generating a lot of Chase points, e.g. MS or GC reselling? Is there another experience you’re giving up using the points for a companion pass?

The really hot deal is being able to convert 1 SPG into 3 Marriott pts.

Amy
Guest

Hey Greg. I am trying to find my best way to a companion pass. I have the Amex spg card and have 57000 points I can transfer from there. I have 21000 Marriott points but am short about 80000. What would your recommendation be to secure the companion pass before March 31. Thanks for your help!!

Kurt
Guest

U could get a Marriott card. 80k points. The business version is exempt from 5/24.

Andy
Guest

Fire up that companion pass and head back to Cost Rica. VRBO is definitely the best option in CR, but if you really want to use your Marriott, package check out the Cat. 7 JW Marriott Guanacaste.

JP
Guest

Greece? Beautiful hotel on Crete!

belinda
Guest

Hm. I got this deal 2 years ago. I just let my marriott nights expire without using! They seemed like a by-product to me. I have had a companion pass continually since 2003 when you could still buy american express membership rewards and transfer to Southwest. I would just buy it every year for around $3500, then I think I would have like 6 tickets+companion, so about $300 each for a anytime anywhere ticket plus free flights for the companion for the year. I used to do a 4 day domestic trip every other weekend. Now that they fly international, I flew to Jamaica twice and it seemed like the taxes on the companion were like $49 each way. Ugh. Seemed not really worth it. I have heard Costa Rica is nice, but I don’t really want to bother with any of their international destinations.

JL100
Guest

thanks for posting – I have no use for the category 5 hotels – so I was planning on giving it away. Now that I know you can book cat 6 or 7 and pay the difference I might be able to use 4-5 of the nights.

Lynn
Guest

My husband and I have each had companion passes (with two of our 3 kids as companions) for the last 4 years (expiring in Dec 2017). I am so bummed that it will be hard to get this for us in 2018 with the changes to no hotel transfers and 5/24. We have gotten insane value out of this, making lots of long weekends and several big trips per year, including Jamaica, Cancun and Costa Rica. We live near Baltimore so lots of direct flight options on SW. Also, my kids play travel sports and lots of flights with just one parent/one kid, and the nice part with Southwest is the sports equipment flies free and you can cancel and get your points back. We never know when the tournaments will be over because it depends on how their teams do during the weekend, so I just book alternate flights home and then cancel as we see how things are going. Love Southwest.

Shannon
Guest

I’m staying in June in Bath, Maine at a newer Residence Inn. We earned two companion passes so we’ll be able to take additional family members with us.

RNP
Guest

If you don’t worry about 35K Marriott points, then you don’t need to worry about staying 7 nights. You can stay 5 nights even though you book 7 night stay.

dan
Guest

it’s not so much about the # of stays, as Greg did point out in his post that the 7- nights booking is more difficult to find/ book than the 5’s

Nick Reyes
Editor

We stayed at the Ritz Kapalua, Andaz Maui, and Westin Ka’napali this past fall. We weren’t impressed with the Ritz. The location isn’t great – no real beach, windy spot, far away from most of what you’d want to see and do in Maui. We booked 3 rooms through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts one night and on UR points the next. As a Gold member, I wrote ahead and asked for only one to be upgraded to an ocean view (an upgrade should theoretically be automatic with FHR on availability or with Gold status). Got no ocean view, only got early check in on two rooms (despite that being another FHR benefit). Finally, I inquired about a cooking class as I’d read a mention on TripAdvisor about it and thought it might be a nice surprise for my wife & family. They wanted over $1800 for six of us to do a 3hr class to learn how to make a Hawaiian pastry

Nick Reyes
Editor

Whoops. Rest of my comment got cut off. I politely declined :-).

If the RC had great service OR a great location OR was a great value on points, I’d give it more consideration. I didn’t really find it to be a win in any of the above departments. At least, I wouldn’t go back over the other options on Maui. I’d rather have a Wailea location or I like your Kauai picks!

Looking forward to hearing about which one you pick and to seeing if I made a good pick with my certificate (only planning to stay 3 or 4 of the 7 nights, but still decided it was well worth the trade for 2 more years of the companion pass!).

H
Guest

I got the companion pass and have booked the Courtyard Isla Verde Beach Resort over Christmas using the Marriott rewards (Category 7 – used extra points I had). Reviews and pictures seemed very good!

william
Guest

We used our 7 night vacation in St Kitts which was a pretty excellent visit. Staff was great, got upgraded to a huge suite. Very nice!!

Kate
Guest

We are using ours in June at St. Petersburg at the Marriott, had to add an extra 30000, but the hotel is retailing for about $2800 during those dates. I don’t think 7 nights is too long to full appreciate the city. Plus they actually allow 3 people in the room, a huge issue for us with our teenager.

Ferry
Guest

I’m planning to take a trip to Europe, can i break down those 7 nights in few different hotels in different cities?

Nick Reyes
Editor

No. It has to be one block of consecutive nights at one hotel.

Thomas Zook
Guest

I have not had a problem booking Option 3 Hotel & Air Package for Category 5. Reservations never mentioned time share requirement. Maybe its because I’m Lifetime Platinum. Last time we did the Category 5 at the JW in Quito which was excellent (especially if you can use the Concierge Room with food from 7am to 10 pm). This year we will stay at one of the Marriott properties in Lisbon (Marriott is Category 5). Love the SW Companion pass. We use it about 8x a year. I use points; my wife uses the Companion

Matt
Guest

Two CP Questions:

1. Can you add a companion to a flight booked through UR/Chase (e.g. CSR 1.5 cpp), or does the CP only work on flights book direct with WN?
2. If I have the CP and my wife is the companion, can she use her RR points to book a flight for me only, then I add her as the companion?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Yes and yes. Anyone can pay for your flight. Just make sure you get your Rapid Rewards number attached to it and you can add your companion.

Matt
Guest

Nice! Thank for the quick reply, Nick!

PJ
Guest

Can u pay the difference in points to upgrade your Chase annual 1-5 cert free night?

GringoLoco
Guest

I’ve stayed as a paid guest at all 3 of the Hawaii properties you posted. The RC would probably be the best “value” especially if you have elite status (I did/do NOT).

* Kapalua is about as far north(west) as you can get on Maui so a car is a necessity and expect to drive to everything. I love the area and the golfing and surfing is awesome if you like that.

* Wailea is a nice property but, for me, on the “wrong” side of Maui. Much fewer dining/shopping options than the Lahaina side. Good golf and much much quieter beach scene.

* Kauai is my favorite of the three. Disclosure – in college I interned for Chris Hemmeter who did the redevelopment that became the Kauai Marriott so… I like the fact the property is in the “middle” of the island – close to dining/shopping and about equidistant to the north/south shores.

Holler if you need/want more info…

BigMac
Guest

I am working to get enough MR points to get a 7 night cat 8 package for a trip to Phuket next January which is high season there. If I was just going to use regular MR points I can pre-book at the hotel and have several months to build enough points to get the certificate to take there. Can I do the same thing if it’s the “package” or do you have to wait until you get it then book?

Nick Reyes
Editor

I can confirm that Greg’s method works. That’s exactly what I did.

Nate
Guest

I have 170K MR points, so still need another 100K MR points. Should I transfer 100K UR for the pass?

gus
Guest

Is there anyway to extend the 1 year expiration date? Upgrading package?

P
Guest

are there any good category 1-5 hotels in places where Southwest actually flies to.

Mark O
Guest

^^^^ ding ding – a post about this would be awesome!

Mike H
Guest

We’re using out 7 nights at the Renaissance St Croix in April. Been there two times on this method. Last time we did Bwi-SJU and puddle jumpers. Going Delta this time. We’ll get use of the southwest pts and CPass plenty within the next two years.

Katie
Guest

What do you think about this route to get the SW companion pass and Marriot 7 night package?
– Transfer American Express MR pts to SPG pts: 1K MR pts = 333 SPG points
– Transfer SPG points to Marriott pts: 333 SPG pts = 1K Marriott pts.

Nick Reyes
Editor

I’m sure Greg has a thoughtful analysis on this, but here are my thoughts:

120,000 SW points = ~$1800 in airfare
7-night Marriott Cat 5 = hard to value definitively

270k Amex MRs, if you have the Business Platinum card, could realistically buy you around $4500 in economy class airfare on your airline of choice (perhaps a bit less in business class because the rebate necessitates having double the final net cost). My math on this is:
270k = $2700 in airfare, get a 135k rebate
135k = $1350 in airfare, get a 67.5k rebate
67.5k = $675 in airfare, get a 33.75k rebate
33.75k = $337.50 in airfare, get a 16.875k rebate
16.875k = $168.75 in airfare, get an 8,437.5 rebate

Of course, you can also take advantage of transfer partners and potentially get even more value/flexibility. That said, if you don’t have a Business Platinum and/or you’ll kill it with the companion pass and/or make amazing use of the Marriott cert, it might work out. In my personal opinion, the Companion Pass is the best deal in domestic travel — but I wouldn’t personally trade 270k Amex MRs for it.

Jason
Guest

We’re using our certificate for a stay at the Lisbon Marriott Hotel this summer.

Gisele
Guest

I was thinking about staying at this hotel as well. 🙂

katie
Guest

Nick, thanks very much for your detailed analysis.

Jim
Guest

Hey Greg,

Great article. I did the deal myself points posted within 3 days cp posted about a week after I called Marriot. What I am a little bit unclear about is how do I pay the difference in Points to upgrade my category stay? For example I would love to use The 7 night cert for Kauai but I got the 1-5 category cert. If you can please walk me through the process a little bit. Tia!

Dilemma
Guest

Greg,

I have CP through the end of 2017.
69K SPG points plus 63K UR points will get me to 270K Marriott.
Would you do it, given I only extend CP for one more year?

Mser
Guest

Skip the Kauai Marriott “Resort”. It’s a tired dump. Honestly why it hasnt been torn down is a mystery. Smells. Physical condition is poor. Old fashioned design. Poor location – one of the first large hotels built on Kauai and it is an eyesore.

Dave
Guest

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Judy Sanderson
Guest

My 1k UR topoff to my Marriott account (269k) just came through this morning (it took three days for the transfer). When I called to book Pkg #3, I was told that the Rewards Plus system was down and I’d need to try again Monday. Hope they’re not changing the numbers on us!

debitnm
Guest

“difference in price between the 5 NIght and 7 Night packages is 35,000 points and I asked the supervisor if he could extend courtesy points to me given the fact that I had been given wrong information a year ago by another agent. He offered only 10,000 points, but I figured that was much better than nothing. I took the deal.”

Does this mean you got 10,000 Marriott points added to your Marriott account after the 270k were deducted?

trackback

[…] week I described how I used my Marriott Rewards points to secure a Southwest Companion Pass.  The trick, which will only work through March of this year, is to exchange 270,000 Marriott […]

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[…] in on this deal, you’ll have to do it soon. I wrote about my own experience with this, here: Secured Southwest Companion Pass and 7 Night Stay. Now where should we go?  To help you decide whether or not to do this deal, please see: Should you use Marriott points to […]

Ben
Guest

http://beyondhonolulu.com/southwest-airlines-to-hawaii-update/

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for 2018!

Ashish Kothari
Guest

Thanks for the great write-up. Was successful in getting a 5 night category 7 package. Haven’t decided where i will be using it yet but most definitely on a beach property.

Deb
Guest

How did you get a 5 night award…..are you a timeshare owner???

Barry
Guest

I ordered a Category 1-5 package with the 120,000 Southwest miles a few days ago. I can see the certificate in my Marriott account and the Southwest Miles and companion pass are in my Southwest account. Can somebody explain the process for using the Marriott ecertificate? Can I do it online or do I have to call the hotel that I am interested in using it at? Thanks for any help you can give.

trackback

[…] you are sitting on a stock of Marriott Rewards points and you are not considering redeeming them for a Companion Pass, a travel package that includes British Airways might be worth a look. For example, 270k Marriott […]

Popsizzle
Guest

FYI: If you want to extend the expiration date of your 7 night award certificate with marriott you can upgrade, with miles, to a higher category hotel This will result in cancellation of the initial reward certificate and issuance of a new one, with a new expiration date one year from date of last transaction. Of course, calling and asking for an extension of the exp date is also an option, but if you were going to upgrade from the 1-5 category to something higher anyway then this is an option as well.

trackback

[…] trying to earn the most United miles per dollar or redeeming for a Southwest Companion pass and a 7-night hotel certificate, the value of a Marriott flight & hotel package cannot be ignored. I recently redeemed such a […]

Joel
Guest

Can you upgrade your 7night certificate with cash instead of marriott points?

thanks

Debitnm
Guest

Was thinking about the Lisbon Marriott for the 7 night award, cat. 1-5. I was told it wasn’t in the best area for tourism. Not that it’s a bad area, just that it’s not convenient to most tourist attractions. And it isn’t the best bang for the award buck

I was also thinking about Cabo San Lucas but it’s just a category 2 Fairfield. Not the best use of the award. There is a really nice category 8 JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa which might be worth the upgrade.

trackback

[…] respect to Marriott Travel Packages, I already have one.  In January I redeemed points for a 7 Night Travel Package and 120,000 Southwest points.  The goal was to earn a Southwest Companion Pass before the opportunity closes on March 31st.  […]