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How I Traveled for Free: A Week in Germany on a Marriott Hotel and Air Package

Jan. 4, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Reward Optimization, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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Caroline Lupini had an unused seven-night hotel certificate from a package deal with Marriott. So she flipped through some hotel options and found the perfect place for a week’s stay in Baden-Baden, Germany.

The cardholder

Name: Caroline Lupini
Age: 26
Occupation: Freelance writer
Home: Boulder, Colorado

The stay

Hotel: Roomers in Baden-Baden, Germany
Dates of stay: Sept. 5 – 12, 2018
What kind of room? Select Room

Q: What amenities did you take advantage of?

A: Free breakfast and free candy (I felt like a 5-year-old.)

Q: Did you travel alone or with someone?

A: I traveled with my boyfriend. We both work remotely, so we try to travel as often as possible. We spent August and September this year in Europe, mainly enjoying outdoor activities. We had some time to go explore another place before meeting up with our family, so we decided to go to Baden-Baden, Germany, mainly because of how great this hotel looked.

The card and loyalty program

Q: What loyalty program did you use to get a free stay?

A: I used a Marriott Hotel + Air Package (old Category 1-5) to redeem seven nights at this property.

Q: How long were you a member at that time?

A: I’ve been a Marriott member for around eight years.

Q: How long were you planning/saving for this stay?

A: I didn’t specifically save for this stay. I had initially redeemed the Hotel + Air package to get Southwest Rapid Rewards points and then needed to decide what to do with the hotel certificate.

Q: What’s your favorite perk of this card/program?

A: I loved the Hotel + Air packages before the Marriott and SPG programs merged. Unfortunately, their current offerings aren’t as helpful to me anymore, but there are still great hotel redemptions to be had with the new program.

Redemption and booking

Q: Did you take advantage of promotions while earning points for this trip?

A: I earned the points to redeem the Hotel + Air package mainly through credit cards. I have both the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card and the Marriott Rewards® Premier Business credit card and the sign-up bonuses for those two cards went a long way toward earning the points I needed for the package redemption.

Q: How did you book?

A: I booked the stay online.

Q: How many points did this cost?

A: The Hotel + Air package cost 270,000 Marriott points.

Q: Did you book in conjunction with a promotion or deal?

A: I used a Marriott Hotel + Air Package to get a seven-night hotel stay and airline miles. The exact details of these packages are a little different (and not as good) now, but when I redeemed I was able to get the week-long hotel stay and 120,000 Southwest points for only 270,000 Marriott points.

Q: Any surprises? Hassles? Any bonus upgrades?

I actually wasn’t supposed to have breakfast included with this hotel stay because I only have Gold status with Marriott. In the old program, Gold was enough for free breakfast, but in the new program, Platinum status is required. I emailed the manager ahead of the stay and asked if he would honor the breakfast benefit since I booked before the change was even announced and he did.

What’s next?

This was the second time that I spent a week at a nice and relaxing hotel, and I would like to do the same thing next year. I’m planning to pick somewhere in South America to stay.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
5 things you should know about the Marriott-SPG merger
How I flew for free: Round trip NYC to India using Chase Ultimate Rewards
This strategy is how I started earning major travel rewards

About the author