UPDATE: 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.
I recently wrote up a comparison between Marriott’s Travel Packages and SPG’s Nights & Flights packages. I found that both types of packages offer good value in specific circumstances. One quibble I had with Marriott’s packages, though, was that they were 7 nights long. I wrote “My family rarely spends more than 5 nights in one location, so the [5 night] SPG packages have a significant advantage based on our travel style.”
Well, well, well… It turns out that Marriott 5 night travel packages exist, but they’re secret.
In a related post, a reader named Rik commented that he called to redeem points for a Marriott Travel package and was asked whether he wanted a 7 night or 5 night package. That was the first I’d heard of 5 night Marriott Travel packages, so I Googled it. I found that 5 night packages do exist, but that they are intended for Marriott Vacation Club (timeshare) owners. Was the commenter a timeshare owner?
I called Marriott to learn more. I said that I was interested in Travel Packages and that a friend told me that he was offered his choice of 5 or 7 night packages (Rik: we’re friends now, just FYI). “Are 5 night packages really available?” I asked.
The Marriott rep put me on hold for a minute. When he returned, he told me that the 5 night packages are intended for Vacation Club owners, but since I have Platinum elite status, I can book them. I said that I wasn’t ready to book right now, but I wanted to know the package prices for planning purposes. He confirmed that the rates were not available online, but he was willing to read them to me. Here they are…
Marriott 5 Night Travel Packages
With these Marriott Travel Packages, you can redeem Marriott points for a certificate good for 5 nights at a Marriott property (subject to availability) plus a set number of airline miles. The certificate is valid for a year, but you can call towards the end of the year and ask for an extension. The miles go to your loyalty account and can be used at any time for any purpose. It is the airline miles, that make Marriott Travel Packages valuable.
The number of Marriott points required depends on your desired hotel category. In general, it’s a good idea to book the cheapest category (1-5) since you can later upgrade to a higher level category when you’re ready to use the certificate.
The sweet spot in this table is at the top, right. Get 120,000 miles (or 132,000 United miles) plus a 5 night stay for 235,000 Marriott points:
|United||5 Nights + 55K miles||5 Nights + 77K miles||5 Nights + 110K miles||5 Nights + 132K miles|
|AA, Delta, Southwest, …||5 Nights + 50K miles||5 Nights + 70K miles||5 Nights + 100K miles||5 Nights + 120K miles|
The following airline miles are available for the same rates as AA, Delta, and Southwest: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Frontier Airlines, GOL/Varig, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Virgin Atlantic.
With a number of foreign programs (ANA, Lufthansa, JAL, etc.) as well as JetBlue and Virgin America, you’ll earn fewer miles than shown in the chart above. I don’t recommend Marriott Travel Packages for those programs.
7 Night Packages
Full details of Marriott’s 7 night packages can be found on Marriott’s website. For convenience, though, here’s the 7 night chart in the same format as the 5 night chart:
|United||7 Nights + 55K miles||7 Nights + 77K miles||7 Nights + 110K miles||7 Nights + 132K miles|
|AA, Delta, Southwest, …||7 Nights + 50K miles||7 Nights + 70K miles||7 Nights + 100K miles||7 Nights + 120K miles|
Who is eligible
Possibly everyone is eligible. I asked the Marriott Rewards representative if people without Platinum status and without vacation ownership would be able to book 5 night packages. He said yes. He said that they if someone calls and wants to book a 5 night package, they won’t be turned away. I can’t guarantee that all (or even most) Marriott reps would agree with this, though. So, the answer is that you probably can book a 5 night package, but you might run into reps that wont allow it. If so, hang up (politely) and call again.
When you redeem Marriott points for a Travel Package, a certificate for the stay is added to your Marriott Rewards account, and a fixed number of miles are transferred to your frequent flyer account. Note these additional details:
- Airline miles are not transferred instantly. The rep I spoke with listed the expected transfer times for a number of airlines:
- 3 Business Days. British Airways, Delta, JetBlue, United, Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic
- 1 to 2 Weeks: American Airlines, Hawaiian, JAL, Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air France, and Alaska
- 2 weeks or longer: Frontier, Lufthansa, Air China.
- Airline miles cannot be returned.
- Airline miles do not have to be used for the same trip as your Marriott stay.
- The Marriott property must have nights available to book with points in order to book with a Travel Package certificate.
- If you want to stay in a higher category property, you can pay the difference in points to upgrade your Travel Package certificate.
- If you want to stay in a lower category property, Marriott can refund the difference in points to downgrade your Travel Package certificate.
- If you do not use your certificate at all, you can return it for points. However, since you cannot return the airline miles, the points returned will be far less than those spent. The rep I spoke with said that they would refund 75,000 points for the category 1-5 7 night + 50K miles package (original price: 200,000 Marriott points). He did not know the return values for 5 night packages.
Why 5 Night Packages are Important
Obviously, 5 night packages are better than 7 night packages if you only need a 5 night stay. Also, since award nights need to be available for your stay, it should be much easier to find 5 nights available than 7.
Even if you’re not interested in staying at a Marriott hotel at all, the 5 night packages might be of interest to you as a relatively efficient way to convert Marriott points to airline miles. This can be particularly lucrative if your goal is to earn a Southwest Companion Pass. I’ll expand on this and other similar concepts in future posts.