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I’m a huge fan of vacation rentals. From the ability to eat in the rental and save on eating out, to having two TVs, to that all-important closing bedroom door, it’s hard for me to feel like a trip is luxurious in a regular hotel room when I’m traveling with my family of four (including a teen and tween).
I’m really excited to see hotel companies enter the vacation rental space. It’s the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of points: You put your loyalty program in my vacation rental. No, you put a vacation rental in my loyalty program!
Enter Vacation Rentals by Choice Hotels
Choice Hotels has entered the fray with a selection of more than 20,000 professionally managed properties in 35 US destinations. Choice has the cliché destinations covered: Orlando, Branson, Myrtle Beach, Gatlinburg. However, it’s also present in unexpected locations: the Colorado Rockies, the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Maui among them. That said, almost a quarter of its affiliated properties are in Florida.
Another aspect makes the Choice vacation rental really compelling. In addition to condo rentals, Choice offers vacation homes that could easy house multiple generations for an extended family gathering. In the Outer Banks, for example, there are 10-bedroom mega-mansions that sleep up to 24 guests. Near Orlando, it has a 22-bedroom property that sleeps 48! Forty-eight people is more like a small college than a family reunion. But for the right group, the $1,150 per night price tag could be a steal.
Are Choice Vacation Rentals a Good Deal With Cash?
My research says yes. I compared a number of dates and properties with similar ones on Airbnb and found very little difference in rates. Here’s an example in Orlando of four-bedroom townhouses during Easter Week in the same subdivision.
In this case, the Airbnb rental was $38 cheaper but would have only earned 1,341 Delta SkyMiles. The Choice vacation rental earns 6,125 Choice Privileges points. Of course each rental will vary, but these results were a good representation of what I found.
Are Choice Vacation Rentals a Good Deal Service-Wise?
I really like the Choice model: They partner with local management companies so guests have a 24/7 point of contact and backup by the brand if anything goes wrong. The No. 1 reason I hear when travelers prefer traditional hotels over vacation rentals is lack of consistency. While hotel stays can and do go south, vacation rental naysayers point out that they have recourse with corporate. Choice is threading that needle nicely.
In the townhome example above, another advantage of going through Vacation Rentals by Choice is that the townhouse is professionally managed as opposed to dealing with an individual. That $38 may be worth it for the peace of mind alone.
Are Choice Privileges Points a Good Deal on Choice Vacation Rentals?
The ability to earn and redeem Choice Privileges points is a benefit over other types of vacation rentals. Other chains, such as Marriott, are dabbling in this space, but Choice has a large partnership that allows you to earn hotel points for vacation rental stays (for those trips when all you need is a hotel room). Here’s where the Choice vacation rentals model excels — and falls flat.
Vacation Rentals by Choice offer 5 to 10 points per dollar on stays. Considering none of the other rental companies (besides Delta on Airbnb) offer loyalty points, the Choice program is a clear winner. You can see at checkout exactly how many points to expect.
Wyndham allows you to redeem points on rentals but not earn them, except in limited circumstances. Wyndham charges 15,000 points per bedroom for redemptions, which could be a terrible value on larger properties.
Falls Flat: Redeeming
If you wanted to redeem points for rentals, values range from a third of a cent to a half-cent each. TPG values Choice Privileges at 0.6 cents, but I can often get 1.5 to 2 cents per Choice Privileges point on hotels. The gold standard of Choice redemptions for families is for Atlantis wristbands in the Bahamas, but I get great value out of them on Oblications (family trips you have to take to Small Town, USA). Choice is a chain that shines in smaller markets, near national parks and by the interstate. Choice points are also decent in Europe and Japan, so file that info away for an international adventure. Choice hotels are typically not glamorous, but come in handy when you need a place to lay your head after a long drive, or are somewhere there aren’t a ton of other options.
Vacation Rentals by Choice Hotels are a solid addition to your points and miles toolkit. Using Choice allows you to have the flexibility to rent professionally serviced homes while still earning hotel points. The strategic move is to earn points via Choice Vacation Rentals, but redeem them at Choice Hotels. If you need to top off your Choice Privileges points, consider American Express Membership Rewards as Choice is a transfer partner or try to purchase them when the annual Daily Getaway offers roll around. If you do rent, here are some of the best credit cards to use for vacation home rentals.
Featured image by Paul Bradbury / Getty Images
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