4 reasons it took a pandemic for me to redeem 100,000 Marriott points

Jun 19, 2020

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Like most of you, my travel over the last three months slowed to nothing. I’ve canceled all future bookings, returning points to my accounts and bonus points from increased card offers continue to roll in. With the addition of free night certificates from credit cards and elite status, I’ve found myself stockpiling hotel points and free nights to a level that goes against my longstanding “earn and burn” mentality.

While too many points is a good problem to have, I’ve continued to have a problem redeeming my Marriott Bonvoy points. When I am looking at a destination, time and time again, it’s a far better value to use Hyatt or Hilton points. I finally found a great redemption option with my Bonvoy points this week that let me get both a safe change of scenery during COVID-19 and great value for a truly free stay.

I redeemed 112,500 points for a two-bedroom villa at Marriott’s Harbour Lake in Orlando. The Marriott Vacation Club is open with the majority of its activities also operating. Let’s take a look at why it took a pandemic for me to redeem a large amount of my Bonvoy points.

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Photo courtesy of Marriott.
Photo courtesy of Marriott

Space for a family

I have two kids and having a bit of extra space during hotel stays makes for a much more enjoyable experience for my wife and I. My young kids still go to bed relatively early, meaning a standard hotel room would also end my night at their early bedtime.

When looking for space on award nights, my Hyatt Globalist status and suite night upgrade certificates usually let me confirm a sizable room in advance. If Hyatt doesn’t have availability at a destination, Hilton will let you redeem Honors points for any available room at the property. Simply paying more points per night means I can get my family a spacious set up.

With Marriott, there is comparatively a much larger barrier to getting suites or larger rooms when using points. There simply is no easy avenue to getting the space we need. Sometimes properties let you use a combination of points and cash or points upgrades to get larger rooms, but often they’re a poor value or not available. This time when searching for a socially distanced space, the Marriott Vacation Club Harbour Lake in Orlando presented itself as a great option for a relatively low amount of points.

Related: How to use points to save money at Universal Orlando

Two bedroom villa at Harbour Lake. Photo courtesy author.
Two-bedroom villa at Harbour Lake. (Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

Thanks to the new off-peak award night pricing promo from Marriott, we paid 37,500 points per night for a two-bedroom condo with full kitchen, porch, two bathrooms and our own washer/dryer.

Full kitchen to cook our meals and stay away from restaurants. Photo courtesy author.
Full kitchen to cook our meals and stay away from restaurants. (Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is closed and other spacious options in Orlando are either still closed, their amenities are closed or cost too many points per night. Marriott finally won the space battle when redeeming points and we are comfortable during our stay.

No resort fees

Marriott still charges you resort fees when redeeming points for a night while Hyatt and Hilton do not. We’ve covered this before and it’s always top of mind when looking for a family or exotic destination with Marriott. A “free” stay can still end up being hundreds of dollars (don’t forget the resort fee is taxed as if it were the room rate) and very often leads me to quickly shy away from redeeming Marriott points at properties with a destination/resort/urban fee.

(Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

To my surprise, Marriott Harbour Lake with all of its robust amenities (I’ll cover below) does not charge a resort fee. This means our stay at a resort has the potential to truly be free — as long as we don’t encounter the next fee I’ll discuss below.

Related: How to avoid resort fees

No parking fees

When I saw Harbour Lake has gated entry, and since many properties and attractions in Orlando charge for parking (including now Disney hotels and resorts), I thought for sure we’d be tagged for parking. Sure enough, there is no parking fee here at the Marriott Vacation Club. When I called the front desk before booking to confirm no resort fee, or amenity fee or parking fee, she cackled and said, “We only charge the room rate and local taxes here at Harbour Lake.”

No parking for my Hertz rental car at Harbour Lake. Photo courtesy author.
No parking for my Hertz rental car at Harbour Lake. (Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

Hyatt Globalist receive free parking when redeeming points for any award night and in Orlando (or any beach stay) where a rental car is a great asset to have, parking can be a hefty expense for a week’s stay. This usually leaves me to redeem Hyatt points if I know the family will have a car. It was great to find a Marriott resort that doesn’t charge parking.

The right amenities

When traveling with kids in a socially distant environment, the property we are going to stay at needs to have fun things to do, and plenty of them to allow spacing. When searching Orlando for a place to stay that had space and amenities, many properties were still closed and open properties had many of their activities closed, including pools.

(Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

Harbour Lake has a kids pool with an interactive pirate ship water feature, a full-on splash park called Florida Falls, a rather legitimate waterslide, putt-putt golf course, basketball courts, pool tables, Ping-Pong and other outdoor recreation activities. For my kids, this means Harbour Lake is a gold mine of fun, all contained within the resort walls. With all of these included amenities, I am shocked the property hasn’t snuck in a resort fee.

(Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

Bottom Line

The stars finally aligned this week where I could use my Marriott points to get a great-sized space, no resort fee, no parking fee and tremendous amenities for a much-needed few nights away. This isn’t to say it’s hard for everyone to get value out of Marriott points — just that for my typical needs, Hyatt or Hilton points usually present a much better option. I typically transfer Marriott points to airlines to get outsized value, but Marriott Harbour Lake will surely remain top of my list for the next needed family getaway and my next Marriott points redemption.

Featured image courtesy Marriott.

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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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