The Southwest Companion pass is one of the best values in points and miles. This will be my 6th year in a row having it, and we have gone to numerous domestic and international destinations on it. In order to get it for 2017/2018 I used 270k Marriott points for an air and hotel package that gave me 120k southwest points and a free 7 night certificate good for 1 year at a single Marriott category 1-5 hotel. (more and how I did that later.)
At first glance 7 nights in a category 5 Marriott hotel sounds great. But have you ever looked at the category 5 hotels? There are not many properties that are noteworthy. I am also not a person that typically stays in a hotel longer than 4-5 nights. With all the deals such as 4th night free using a Citi prestige card, or 5th night free at Hilton’s when using points, we have just gotten accustomed to shorter hotel stays and staying at multiple places. While I could have used more points to upgrade to a higher category, I would have had to upgrade for all 7 nights as well so that’s a horrible value to upgrade for nights you aren’t even going to use.
Also, if we are going to go somewhere for 7 nights, its going to be with the kids. For that time, I would really want a larger sized room, and not some city hotel room with 2 double beds. While a small room is just fine for a weekend trip, it gets cramped for a full week sharing 300sqft with a 7 and 9 year old. I can only stand (or smell) so many fart jokes.
My certificate was expiring at the end of March. While there are reports on Flyertalk of being able to extend it for a year, I am not really sure what would have changed in the next year to use it at some amazing place. We knew we wanted to go skiing so I started looking at hotels close to ski destinations. While there are numerous Marriott’s within a mile of some of the US top ski destinations, they are either cat 7 or above, or they don’t have availability for 4 people using points during ski season. I was starting to begin to think that I was never going to be able to use my free 7 nights.
Last year we skid at Park City and stayed at the DoubleTree in Park City. I realized that SLC is very close to Park City and there are numerous other ski resorts in that area. You can also easily stay in SLC and be within 30 minutes to about 6+ ski resorts.
Not knowing exactly where we were going to ski, (we needed up skiing at Brighton, which was awesome. Details here) we wanted to stay at a easy access suite on the west side of SLC. We found the perfect Residence Inn in Sandy Utah. Bedroom, plus sitting room with sofa bed, and a full kitchen. It was like our own condo for 5 days. It was close to the Mountains, close to restaurants and malls, and close to several ski shops.Plus they had a pool, basketball hoop, hot tub, free breakfast, and snacks and drinks on some evenings.
We ended up arriving late on a Thursday night, and then staying till late on Monday. Our flight on Monday wasn’t until 830pm, so it was a benefit to be able to get back to the hotel at 4pm, shower and eat while not having to worry about a late checkout.
The posted rate for our stay was about $169 a night after taxes. So for our 5 nights we got a value of $845. While we could have found some place to go and get a hotel room that was $300 a night and gotten closer to $2,000 in redemption value, sometimes you have to remember its not about the list price but more about the vacation itself. The best points are the ones you have redeemed.
So how did I get this certificate? Well I signed up for a Marriott Personal and Business card a few years ago back when they were about 80k and 100k bonus. Then I had about 90k points from stays over a few years. Marriott participates with several different airlines all for about the same package, but mine specifically was 270k Marriott points redeemed for 120k southwest points and a free 7 night certificate at a category 1-5. Now back in March 2017, this counted for the Companion pass as well. However that is no longer the case.
While this certificate redemption worked out just fine, I will not be using points for another package anytime soon. If you are thinking about it, just make sure you have a specific hotel in mind and that they often have award availability.
I am starting to plan my ski vacation for next year. While it would have been nicer to be slope slide, the value and ease of staying in a place like a Residence Inn can far outweigh the cost of staying close. We will see where we end up next year!