I’m an advocate for ditching hotel rooms in favor of vacation rentals — especially for families.
Many hotels, especially those overseas, don’t offer affordable accommodations that sleep four or more. But many travelers understandably want the reliability and consistency of staying with a big player in the hospitality market.
Marriott’s entry into the vacation rental market, first as a trial called Tribute Portfolio Homes, and now known officially as Homes and Villas by Marriott (HVM) can thread that needle nicely. By offering on-site service and consistent soft product items, such as high thread count sheets and hotel-style comforts like coffee and toiletries, Marriott eliminates some of the uncertainty of vacation rentals.
This may be especially important to travelers now. Home rentals make it easier to social distance in general, and these properties are professionally cleaned and managed. There are strict cleanliness standards and disinfection protocols, and you can expect consistency in these standards from one HVM property to the next.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Customers also earn 5 Marriott points per dollar spent as well as elite night credits on HVM stays, which is a definite plus. If you want to redeem points for your booking, our tests showed that each Marriott points was worth 0.7 cents toward a stay. The TPG Marriott Bonvoy point valuation is currently set at 0.8 cents per point, so while this is below that threshold, it isn’t dramatically off the mark. Getting $700 in value out of a 100,000-point Marriott welcome bonus is hardly the worst thing to ever happen.
Plus, starting May 18, bookings made through the Homes and Villas by Marriott program will be discounted by 10%, improving the value of your stay. The Anniversary Flash Sale applies to cash and redemption reservations, and there are no blackout dates or length-of-stay restrictions. A few properties are not included in the sale, however, and the discount will only last 48 hours — so be prepared to jump on the deal.
Unlike many home rental reservations made directly with owners, bookings made through Marriott may also offer more cancellation and rebooking flexibility right now. For reservations made after May 6, with arrival dates on or before Aug. 31, you’re eligible for a full refund to the original form of payment, minus a $75 credit card processing fee, until 10 days before arrival. (This does not apply to redemption bookings.) This policy is valid for properties that normally have 14- and 30- or 60-day cancellation policies. Homes with 90-day cancellation policies are excluded.
Comparing vacation rental properties
Homes and Villas by Marriott launched last spring with 2,000 homes in 100 destinations, compared to the 5 million listings across nearly 200 countries available through Airbnb. Some HVM properties also require you to inquire about the price — so there are some clear disadvantages.
The site also doesn’t let you limit your search by neighborhood, which can make finding a property in a specific location more difficult than it needs to be. In a city such as Charleston, most of the properties are on Folly Beach which, while lovely, is not necessarily the experience you’re looking for in the historic city. HVM definitely remains a work in progress.
Homes and Villas offers individually owned properties ranging from studio apartments to 24-bedroom estates. Each house will have a slightly different set of amenities. For instance, I was surprised at how many houses didn’t offer air conditioning. I know it’s not as popular in Europe, but it’s commonly requested by American tourists, and many Airbnb properties have added it to accommodate travelers’ requests.
For this test, I chose a week at random (Sept. 14 to 21) in each city and priced out HVM and Airbnb properties to see how they compared from a pricing standpoint. I used properties in a comparable neighborhood and with similar sizes and amenities. I even compared the photos to see if the properties looked equivalent. On Airbnb, I stuck with “Plus” homes, which are inspected by Airbnb employees, or “Superhost” properties that have a record of high ratings. While this is clearly not scientific, it should give you some idea of what to expect.
In London, I found a lovely two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment near Kensington on Homes and Villas by Marriott from 240 pounds ($290) per night. Factoring in the cleaning fee and security deposit, travelers would need to pay about 2,095 pounds ($2,536) up-front.
Around the corner, there’s a comparable Superhost Airbnb Plus flat — also with two bedrooms and two bathrooms — from $270 per night. This one, however, has bunk beds and can accommodate up to seven guests. For the week, it costs $2,483 (not including a 10% discount offer).
In this case, the Airbnb property was only 2.1% less expensive than the HVM one. That’s a very small price to pay to also earn points and have Marriott service and standards as your backup.
Palm Springs, California
It’s easy to find midcentury modern vacation rental properties in Palm Springs. On Homes and Villas, I found this four-bedroom, three-bathroom villa with a swimming pool and hot tub for $686 per night. The weekly total, after taxes and fees, came to $5,876.
A very similar Airbnb Plus property — four bedrooms, four bathrooms and both a hot tub and a swimming pool — in Old Las Palmas is available for $592 per night. After taxes and fees, the total comes to $5,488, thanks to an automatic 20% weekly price discount.
The HVM property is about 7% more expensive than the comparable Airbnb property.
In downtown Austin, there’s a two-bedroom penthouse with two full bathrooms, one half-bath and a deck overlooking the city. During our test dates, this property averages $360 per night, or $3,146 for the week after taxes and fees.
Also in downtown Texas is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium with a roof deck. The nightly rate was $352, and with a 5% weekly price discount, the total stay would be $3,139.
Here, the difference in price is almost negligible.
Related: Fun things to do in Austin with kids
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
In Hilton Head, I found a two-bedroom property with two full bathrooms and one half-bath in the gated community of Shipyard Plantation at The Greens from $166 per night in September, or $1,553 for the week.
There are a number of Airbnbs in this community, one of which is a two-bedroom Airbnb Plus property, also with two full bathrooms and one half-bath, that costs $179 per night, or $1,730 total with a 10% weekly discount. There’s also a Superhost property of the exact same size for $125 per night, or $1,232 for the week.
The more affordable Airbnb is 26% less than the HVM property (over $300). You could buy designer sheets and take them with you for that price. But the HVM property is also more affordable than the Airbnb Plus.
Also, remember to factor in the points element of this new lodging choice.
If you’re sitting on a pile of Marriott points and want to use them in a way that works for the whole family, then spending approximately 40,000 points per night for a two-bedroom vacation rental in Hilton Head might be a great choice. That’s what you’d need to stay at the Category 5 Marriott Hilton Head Resort & Spa on peak nights. And your family might do much better in a multi-bedroom unit with a kitchen and backyard deck with a grill, rather than a standard hotel room.
Homes and Villas by Marriott prices and availability varied widely. In London and Austin, there was very little difference in cost in our test. The HVM property in Palm Springs was about 7% more expensive than the Airbnb, and in Hilton Head, Airbnb had more affordable and more expensive properties in the exact same community.
Perhaps most importantly, many destinations don’t have inventory from Homes and Villas. In some destinations, the HVM properties are comparable to what you’ll find on Airbnb in terms of both product and price. In some places, not so much.
In Newport, Rhode Island, for example, the most affordable HVM property on those dates was a $501 per night one-bedroom property — and there were only 16 available homes. On Airbnb, there were over 150 Superhost properties, seven of which were available for under $150 (even with two bedrooms). Airbnb Plus properties started at $276 a night — offering savings up to 81% even at the high-end of the inventory.
Since the results don’t fit a prescribed pattern (other than 0.7 cents per point), it’s impossible to make a blanket recommendation as to whether Homes and Villas by Marriott is a good deal for you. I can recommend that you search the site if you’re considering a vacation rental in one of the available destinations. You just might find a surprisingly affordable high-end vacation property that offers the best of both worlds with more space, more amenities, 24/7 support and, of course, the chance to earn and redeem Marriott points.
Here are some more travel tips for families:
- Are vacation rentals by Choice Hotels a good deal for families?
- How to rent a condo for less than a hotel room with timeshare rentals
- Hilton Head for Families: What to See and Where to Stay
- Points-friendly London hotels for families of 4
- 8 posh family-friendly London hotels
Additional reporting by Melanie Lieberman.
Featured image courtesy of Marriott Homes and Villas