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I’ve become an advocate for ditching hotel rooms in favor of vacation rentals, especially for families. Many hotels, especially overseas, don’t offer affordable options that sleep four or more. However, some families understandably want the reliability and consistency of staying with a big player in the hospitality market. For example, they might prefer professional cleaning and white sheets or towels as opposed to a more luck-of-the-draw approach. Or, perhaps 24/7 support, fire and safety standards, and premium bath amenities matter.

(Photo courtesy of Marriott Homes and Villas)
(Photo courtesy of Marriott Homes and Villas)

Enter Homes and Villas By Marriott

Marriott’s entry into the vacation rental market, first as a trial called Tribute Portfolio Homes, and now known officially as Homes and Villas by Marriott (HVM) could thread that needle nicely. By offering on-site service and consistent soft product items, such as high thread count sheets plus hotel-style comforts like coffee and toiletries, Marriott takes some of the fear factor out of vacation rentals.

Customers earn 5 Marriott points per dollar spent as well as elite night credits on HVM stays, which is a definite plus. If you want to redeem points for your booking, our tests showed that each Marriott points was worth 0.7 cents toward a stay. The TPG Marriott Bonvoy point valuation is currently set at 0.8 cents per point, so while this is below that threshold, it isn’t dramatically off the mark. Getting $700 in value out of a 100,000 point Marriott welcome bonus is hardly the worst thing to ever happen.

Related: The Best Credit Cards for Family Travel

(Photo courtesy of Marriott Homes and Villas)
(Photo courtesy of Marriott Homes and Villas)

Homes and Villas by Marriott lists 2,000 homes in 100 destinations, but many of the destinations I checked had no homes listed at this time. Some other properties had no prices listed and instructed you to inquire about each property individually, which is a definite disadvantage to time-efficient online shopping.

The site also doesn’t let you limit by neighborhood so searching is more difficult than it needs to be. In a city such as Charleston, most of the properties are on Folly Beach, which while lovely, is not the experience you are looking for in the historic city. HVM is definitely still a work in progress.

The site offers individually owned properties from ranging studios to four bedrooms. Each house will have a slightly different set of amenities. For instance, I was surprised at how many houses didn’t offer air conditioning. I know it’s not common in Europe, but it is commonly requested by American tourists and many Airbnb properties have added it to accommodate travelers’ requests.

For today’s test, I chose a week at random (Sept. 14–21) in each city and priced out HVM and Airbnb properties to see how they compared from a pricing standpoint. I used properties in a comparable neighborhood and with similar sizes and amenities. I even compared the photos to see if the properties looked equivalent. On Airbnb I stuck to either “Plus” homes, which are inspected by Airbnb employees, or “Superhosts” who have a record of high ratings. While this is clearly not scientific, it should give you some idea of what to expect.

London

In London I found a lovely two-bedroom apartment near Notting Hill on Homes and Villas by Marriott for $312/night or $2,320/week. (Remember to factor in cleaning fees, service fees and taxes when you compare sites, as the nightly price is not what you will ultimately pay.)

Screenshot via Marriott
Screen shot via Marriott

A similarly located and appointed “Superhost” Airbnb apartment priced like this:

Screenshot via Airbnb.
Screen shot via Airbnb.

In this case, the Airbnb property was 7% less expensive than the HVM one. That’s a small price to earn points and have Marriott service and standards as your backup.

Austin

In Austin I found a two-bedroom condo near Rainey Street on Homes and Villas by Marriott for $2,116/week.

Screenshot via Homes and Villas by Marriott
Screen shot via Homes and Villas by Marriott

A similar Superhost Airbnb was $1,760/week, or 16% less. $350 is a lot of good barbecue.

screenshot via HVM
Screen shot via HVM

Barbados

All the Marriott properties in Barbados were near Dover Beach, making comparisons easy. Or you would think. When I performed the search, eight properties popped up but when I clicked on every single one I got this message:

Screen shot via HVM

The picture tells the story.

Hilton Head Island

In Hilton Head, I found a condo in The Spa on Port Royal, a gated beachfront community, for $1,777/week.

I made an exception to the Superhost rule because I found a unit in the exact same complex as the Marriott one. The price is $942, or a staggering 47% less than the Marriott choice. You could buy designer sheets and take them with you for that price.

However, remember to factor in the points-element of this new lodging choice. If you are sitting on a pile of Marriott points and want to use them in a way that works for the whole family, then spending 60 – 70k points per night for a two-bedroom unit in Aspen or 66,000 points per night for a three-bedroom unit three blocks from the white sand in Destin might be a great choice. That’s pricier than the 35k points per night it costs to book the Four Points or Fairfield Inn in Destin but less than the 85,000 points per night a room at the St. Regis Aspen would set you back. In either case, your family might do much better in a multi-bedroom unit with a kitchen and two bathrooms, rather than a standard hotel room.

Bottom Line

Homes and Villas by Marriott prices varied widely compared to Airbnb. In London, there was a 7% difference in our test and in Austin the Marriott house was 16% more expensive. In Hilton Head, the Marriott property was almost twice the price. Perhaps most importantly, in many locations listed I couldn’t find any available properties to easily test.

In some destinations the options are in the realm of affordable ($200 – $500 per night for a multiple bedroom unit), while in other places, the rentals were $1,000 – $10,000 per night. Since the results didn’t fit a prescribed pattern (other than 0.7 cents per point), I can’t make a blanket recommendation as to whether Homes and Villas by Marriott is a good deal for you. I can recommend that you search the site if you’re considering a vacation rental in one of available destinations. You might find both a good deal on a higher end vacation rental so you can have the best of all worlds with more space, more amenities, 24/7 support and still a chance to earn and redeem Marriott points.

Here are some more travel tips for families:

Featured image courtesy of Marriott Homes and Villas

Know before you go.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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