I redeemed points for a home rental in a way you’ve probably never heard of -- Here's how
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
This may sound odd, but I never thought I'd ever be interested in renting a home for a vacation.
I love hotels and resorts, which offer many amenities, especially for families. I like knowing that if something goes wrong, there's a front desk staff readily available to help. I appreciate that shampoo and conditioner are always provided and I don't even have to worry about making the bed. Staying at hotels — especially ones where I have points and status — is simple.
And for the most part, with a plethora of points to my name, staying at a hotel is one of the few ways to vacation for 'free'.
But earlier this year, Wyndham announced a partnership with Vacasa which allows you to use your Wyndham Rewards points to book over 15,000 home rentals throughout North and Central America. In the past, any hotel program that allowed you to use their points on home rentals — such as Marriott Bonvoy — required a pretty insane number of points. But Wyndham is different.
With Wyndham's fixed award chart, there are three tiers which all properties fall into: 7,500, 15,000 or 30,000 points per bedroom per night. And fortunately, all home rentals are priced at the mid-tier point-redemption rate.
That means, regardless of the property and the price point, you'll only be charged 15,000 points per bedroom per night — an incredibly low number of points, in my opinion.
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Finding the perfect home rental on the mountain
Since the onset of the pandemic, my family has found ski mountains to be our ideal go-to vacations. We are a big ski family and there's no better place to socially distance than outside enjoying the fresh air, with our boots strapped on.
Fortunately for us, we live within a two-to-four-hour drive of some amazing resorts in the Northeast. The downside is that there aren't too many nearby hotels where you can use your points. While we did have an amazing stay at The Lodge at Spruce Peak — a Hyatt property at Stowe Mountain Resort — last year, the property costs 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night and you aren't even guaranteed a room with two beds (which is needed for my family of four). That is where Wyndham Rewards points come in quite handy.
For this upcoming winter, my family purchased the Epic ski pass, which means we will primarily ski at Vail Resorts mountains. We are particularly interested in visiting Okemo Mountain Resort during my kids' school break. To my surprise, Okemo offers many ski-on/ski-off properties that are managed by Vacasa. And since I don't need to splurge on a huge house — requiring more Wyndham Rewards points — I was able to find an awesome one-bedroom condo right on the mountain.
The best part is that the property I found is only listed as a one-bedroom, which it theoretically is, but there's also a separate alcove space on a different floor that includes additional sleeping space. This effectively gives my husband and me separate sleeping space from my kids, in addition to a kitchen and family room. I've even seen large houses that are listed as one-bedrooms, even though there's loft and basement space with beds. Regardless of the number of people the home rental can sleep, you are only charged for the exact number of bedrooms.
The benefit of a house — over most hotels — is that we can easily avoid restaurants and the lodge.
With skiing being an early morning, get-out-of-the-house activity, we can quickly eat breakfast while getting dressed and not have to worry about finding a hotel lounge or restaurant to sit down in. For lunchtime, we can also head back to the house for a midday bite and avoid the crowded lodges, which is our preference due to COVID-19.
I have since made multiple reservations with Vacasa using my Wyndham points and have been eyeing some other properties in locations around the U.S., such as Hawaii, in case our future non-ski vacation plans actually stick.
Related: How to use points to plan a backup vacation in case your first plan falls apart
And if you don't find a rental home in a location you've been eyeing, keep on checking. I've found that new properties are added quite often, so you never know when a new home will pop up.
Booking home rentals with Vacasa using Wyndham Rewards points
I am not going to lie. The booking process is not straightforward and can be irritating, but as long as you are able to put in a little bit of effort, it's not as difficult as it seems. That said, flexibility is key.
To start off, you'll want to search the Vacasa website for your desired destination. You can then filter by the number of bedrooms you are looking for and any other requirements. I always put in a maximum of one bedroom, since I am currently only traveling with my immediate family and a one-bedroom rental for just 15,000 points per night is perfect for our needs — especially if I can find a rental that is actually larger in size.
Related: Different ways to use points to book vacation home rentals
Once you find a rental that you are interested in, you'll need to call Wyndham directly at 800-441-1034 and let them know that you are looking to book a Vacasa rental with your points. You'll need to verify your account with the representative, including your two most recent account transactions.
Once your account is verified, the representative can search availability based on the home rental listing number from the Vacasa website. If you don't have a specific home rental in mind, the representative can also look up available rentals in a specific destination. Note: Making a reservation over the phone is a new process and you no longer have to email with a Wyndham Rewards Fulfillment representative to secure a rental on points.
In my experience, about half of the properties and dates I inquire about are blacked out for using points, although they all have been for peak ski dates (they are however available for a paid reservation). There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why one property is available over another. Generally speaking though, rates under $400 seemed to be more available than those over $400. I've even found that some properties are blacked out for months at a time during peak seasons.
Vacasa home rental cancellation policy
When using Wyndham Rewards points for a Vacasa home rental, the cancellation policy is extremely straightforward. If you cancel more than 30 days out, you can cancel your reservation for free and the points redeemed will be redeposited back to your account.
However, if you cancel 30 or fewer days before check-in, your points will be forfeited if you need to cancel. And since you are using points — and not using a credit card — you won't be able to take advantage of any of your credit card's trip protection insurance if you need to cancel for a covered reason.
While being locked into a reservation can be scary for some, I've found that cancellation policy more favorable than many other home rental sites.
And while losing points is never fun, it's significantly better than being out a ton of cash, if you were to have booked with a site that doesn't offer any refunds after the time of booking.
I fortunately already had a very healthy Wyndham Rewards balance as I've accrued points over the years (primarily with their many stay twice, receive a free night promotions and by purchasing points at a discount), but if you are low on points, there are many ways to earn them quickly.
Right now, with the Wyndham Rewards Earner Plus Card and Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card you can earn up to 90,000 bonus points with the current limited-time sign-up offer (60,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, and an additional 30,000 points after spending a total of $2,000 on purchases in the first six months). The bonus points alone can be redeemed for a six-night stay in a one-bedroom rental — for free.
Related: Which Wyndham credit card is best for you?
Or, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is offering 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Since Capital One miles transfer to Wyndham Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, this will effectively earn you 75,000 Wyndham Reward points, good for a four-night stay in a one-bedroom rental.
Related: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming Wyndham Rewards
I am now a big fan of using my Wyndham Rewards points on a home rental. Truthfully, my points have been sitting dormant in my account for quite some time, due to limited Wyndham properties that work right now for my family. But not anymore. In fact, I am close to depleting my account balance and I am thoroughly looking forward to my upcoming vacations — in a rental unit versus a resort property — using my Wyndham Rewards points.