Using Marriott points for family-friendly Category 4 hotels in NYC
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new award category rates. It was last published on Nov. 13, 2018.
The Big Apple is on many families' lists of dream destinations, and while there are plenty of fancier hotels sitting at the higher end of the hotel award charts in Manhattan, there are also family-friendly deals hidden here and there.
If you have Marriott points, it just got tougher to use them for Category 4 hotels in New York City. That's because the company's Mar. 4 award chart change cut out a handful of hotels that went from Category 4 status to Category 5. So, your choices in this category just got pretty slim. We'll talk about specific hotel options below.
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Things to consider before booking a NYC Marriott stay
Planning a trip to New York City with a family can be a complicated endeavor that depends on what part of town is your focus and what attractions are most important for your family to experience. Here are some things to ponder before booking your trip.
Are you traveling peak or off-peak?
If you are traveling in an off-peak period, you might want to consider saving your certificate as the rates go down to 20,000 points per night. Conversely, you will be out of luck if you want to stay peak-season as the rates rise above the value of the certificate and are currently no category three options in New York City. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules about what dates are considered peak or off-peak, so you'll have to do your research. Consider also that the dates change monthly. Here are some guidelines to use when considering Marriott Bonvoy peak and off-peak dates.
Are you staying five nights?
If you have both certificates and points to burn, you may want to save your certificate and book five nights using points as then the fifth night would be free. If you need more points to get you to the necessary amount, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Marriott Rewards account.
Beware of taxes and fees
The daily hotel tax rate is comprised of several different taxes and totals a whopping 14.75% plus $1.50 each day. Award rates aren't taxed, which could make a big difference between paying cash and using an award. However, there is an increasing (and nasty) trend for some properties to charge "destination fees," which are essentially resort fees by another name. These fees will be charged even on award stays.
Small rooms are the norm
New York City hotel rooms are small, even at many of the luxury hotels. At a Category 4 property, you'll be lucky to find rooms larger than 250 square feet. I give bonus points for two queens over two doubles, but in New York City, they're the exception rather than the rule.
My family's criteria for booking a NYC hotel
Here are the things that are important to me when booking a stay for my family in the Big Apple.
Rooms that sleep four
My No. 1 criteria for any family trip to NYC is finding rooms that sleep four. Many rooms with two double beds, and even two queen beds, are still only listed for two or three people. I know families that regularly "sneak" their kids into rooms that are not technically rated for four people, but it's not a practice I recommend. The one time you get caught could cost you thousands in last-minute hotel fees or worse: no place to stay. If you've got more than two kids, check out these tips for booking hotel rooms for large families.
Location, location, location
While staying in an outer borough could make for a fun trip, I'm sticking to Manhattan for shorter NYC trips as most of the attractions on my family's wish list are there. Currently, all but one of Marriott's Manhattan Category 4 hotels are in Lower Manhattan, which is a reasonable distance to the World Trade Center, 9/11 Memorial (the museum may not be appropriate for small children), South Street Seaport and more. I weigh subway proximity very heavily into my calculations, so if nothing in Lower Manhattan appeals to you, you might want to consider another booking strategy. If you don't yet know which NYC attractions to put on your to-do list, read about these affordable and family-friendly activities.
I see a lot of this when I search Marriott.com for New York properties rated for four people:
With that in mind, I'm only recommending properties that show a reasonable amount of bookable dates open in the next six months. You'll notice when you see the list that no Starwood properties are included in my rankings. There are a couple listed, but I couldn't find available dates where an award could be redeemed.
I also give a few bonus points for free breakfast, but not too many, as bagels and coffee are cheap and plentiful in NYC.
Marriott's Category 4 NYC hotels
Here are the Category 4 Marriott properties in NYC. (Note that these are properties that are Category 4 according to Marriott's 2020 award chart changes, which go into effect on Mar. 4, 2020.)
AC Hotel New York Downtown
AC is a Spanish limited-service chain recently acquired by Marriott that's slowly expanding into the U.S. They're like a more stylish Courtyard by Marriott. This AC Hotel location, in the Seaport District, is close to the Fulton Street subway stop. While the hotel is brand-new, it would be my last choice of the Manhattan Category 4 properties because rooms only feature double beds.
Opening May 2020
Residence Inn New York Downtown Manhattan/Financial District and Courtyard New York Downtown Manhattan Financial District
This pair of hotels will share a location at 215 Pearl Street and are as-of-now listed at Category 4. My experience is that new hotels are often under-categorized for a short period of time after opening, so watch these two. TPG will revisit this story in May once these two properties open.
I'd love to hear if your family has a favorite Category 4 Marriott hotel in New York City. If so, please share your experiences.