I’m a hotel guy. I always have been and probably always will be.
But hotels are not perfect, so lately, I’ve started dipping more into the world of home rentals.
First, it was a few pre-pandemic trips with a very large group of friends and their kids. Then, as schools and offices closed due to the pandemic, it was family escapes from our Manhattan apartment that allowed us to enjoy more space.
While I’m still not sold on home rentals in cities, for small groups or even at beachfront resorts, I am more open to reserving them now than I was several years ago.
So, when I booked a last-minute ski getaway with four friends to Vail, Colorado, I searched for both hotels and condo rentals before opting for a rental with easy access to the slopes and plenty of room to stretch out. Here’s what the experience was like — and why my loyalty accounts are thanking me for the decision.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
In This Post
Choosing the right property
We were a group of longtime friends, all in our 40s. Wives and kids were staying behind at home, but we still wanted space and the privacy of separate bedrooms at this stage in our lives.
When we found most of the good hotels in town sold out, we broadened our search to include condo rentals.
That’s when I stumbled upon a four-bedroom penthouse condo with its own private rooftop hot tub on Homes & Villas by Marriott. I’d rented a home on Cape Cod with the company during the spring of 2020 and had a good experience.
Plus, with Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite status and a double points promotion, I knew I could earn lots of points to apply toward a future vacation.
So, I decided to rent through Marriott again.
The company doesn’t actually own or manage any of its rentals but instead contracts with third-party management companies to offer a curated list of high-end properties. While I was able to track down the same rental via Triumph Mountain Properties for about $300 less for our five-night stay, the more generous cancellation policy, the lure of points and the ability to earn five elite-qualifying nights toward status swayed me to book via Marriott.
Let me be clear: This was not a cheap rental.
Skiing during peak season is expensive. My friends and I wanted to be comfortable during this trip, so we knew we’d need to splurge.
In total, our five-night stay came to $15,347.13 after taxes, cleaning fees and other charges. If we had 2.6 million Bonvoy points, we could have redeemed them for this condo, but at 0.8 cents a point, that wouldn’t have been a good deal.
The condo itself was terrific. It was a short walk to the slopes and came with linens, a welcome bottle of Prosecco, housekeeping after three nights and essential toiletries like soap and shampoo.
Our property manager met us at the garage, helped with our luggage and skis and gave us a brief tour of the unit before we settled in.
Sure, the decor was a bit dated, but it was still a very comfortable spot for our ski getaway. Plus, after a long day on the slopes, it was great to have our own private hot tub overlooking the mountains.
Earning Bonvoy points
Just like staying at a Marriott hotel, guests earn points off a home’s “base rate,” which is the nightly room rate, excluding any taxes or fees.
However, the Homes & Villas by Marriott site did not do a great job of detailing what the base rate, taxes and various fees were when I started the booking process. It wasn’t until I talked to the company’s public relations team later on that I received a full breakdown for my stay.
What was almost perfect, though, was the estimate about how many points I would earn.
While the Marriott site listed my base booking at $14,211.55, it turns out that the eligible base rate was actually $11,025. (More on that in a moment.)
So, all told, I earned 152,594 Bonvoy points, plus five elite-qualifying nights. My points total came out as follows:
TPG currently values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents each, meaning I earned $1,220.75 worth of points for the stay — well worth the extra $300 or so in cost for booking via Marriott.
I already have a five-night stay booked for later this summer at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. That trip cost me 230,000 points, so it will be nice to replenish part of my account.
For those considering making a booking, Marriott Homes & Villas is once again running a double base points promotion on all stays of three nights or more booked by March 31 and completed by April 30.
Speaking of base points: Like I noted above, the Marriott site listed a base price of $14,211.55, but in reality, that base was $11,025. Apparently, Marriott includes a lot of the extra fees and commissions paid to the third-party property managers in the public-facing base price, so don’t expect the listed base price to be accurate.
“Some fees charged by property managers are included in the base price, however, future technology enhancements will provide more comprehensive fee information,” a Marriott spokesperson told TPG via email.
At least the point estimate was only off by 1,000 points. I just wish there had been a bit more clarity in what counts as the base rate up front.
One final thing to note: The $11,025 base price counted toward the $20,000 in annual spending needed to hit Marriott’s top-tier Ambassador Elite status. I’m still far, far off from reaching that membership level’s spending requirement (not to mention, the 100 nights needed with it). But, the year is young.
Adding on a shopping portal bonus
Now, of course at TPG, we always look to maximize our travel, so there is more to this tale.
We always suggest checking online shopping portals before making a purchase. I did so for this booking knowing that Homes & Villas by Marriott happened to be on several portals.
Since I’m looking to get status on American Airlines through its new Loyalty Points program and remembered that the Marriott home rental program is on American’s shopping portal, I went through that platform to make my reservation.
I accrued 1 mile and 1 Loyalty Point for every dollar I spent on this home rental. Well, every base dollar, anyway.
It takes 200,000 Loyalty Points to hit top-tier AAdvantage Executive Platinum status. Because this one rental netted me 11,025 miles, it brought me 5.5% of the way toward my elite status goal. Not bad for one purchase.
If I wasn’t chasing American status, I probably would have used Rakuten, which was offering 1.5% cash back or 1.5 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar spent.
Using the right credit card
Normally, I would have put this charge on my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card to earn 6 Bonvoy points per dollar spent, which would have netted me 92,083 more Bonvoy points for this booking.
However, given the upcoming changes in the Bonvoy program to dynamic pricing, I decided that I shouldn’t go out of my way to earn that many more Marriott Bonvoy points.
So, I put the charge on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel (or a total of 46,041 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, in this case).
I forgot, though, that I had an Amex Offer for $200 back on my Bonvoy card. I’m not sure if that would have changed my calculus for this trip, but chances are it probably would have swayed me.
This was my second home rental via Marriott, and I was very impressed with the customer service and quality of the property.
Call me picky, but I really like having somebody vet a rental for me.
The points and elite qualifying nights I earned were nice bonuses, though they were not worth going out of my way to receive.
For me, the less generous cancellation policy available with the property management company made it worth spending a little more for a better policy with Marriott that would provide added peace of mind.
And the double points bonus and shopping portal bonus were what really sealed the deal for me, as they put my earnings over the edge.
Now, I just need to figure out where to go next.
Featured photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy.