It’s definitely worth choosing these specific destinations and planning trips around them if you want to travel for less: Canadian travelers can get 17 completely free hotel nights in these 5 countries (or 8 nights if you don’t have a travel buddy) for just $120 total per person. And the best thing is that these spots are pretty amazing—and the hotels are beautiful too!
Here are the 5 best countries where you can easily get 8 free nights with the points from the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s welcome bonus (one bonus for you and one for your travel buddy gives you 17 nights total — yes, more than 16).
(If you already have the card — as literally thousands of you now do — and you want more free hotel nights, you can get the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex Card because having a business is not required to get an Amex “business” card… but only Amex allows this, not other banks!)
If you want even more destination options, you can also instead get 10 free nights (5 nights if you don’t have a travel buddy) in 1,000+ hotels in 50 countries: you can see the 26 amazing destinations where you can easily get 10 free hotel nights.
And you can read the section at the end of this post that explains the deal… and why we only list 5 countries. But in short, these hotels used to be Marriott’s category 1 and are still at this price on most dates (or if you’re not flexible, you can still use your points, but you just might get 15 nights instead of 17 for example… which is still a pretty amazing deal).
The heavenly island of Bali is extremely popular—and for good reason. But there are plenty of luxurious options on 6 different Indonesian islands.
You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 14 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Indonesia:
You can soon see a detailed post about Marriott hotels in Indonesia (coming soon). A detailed itinerary for a cheap trip to Indonesia thanks to this deal will be one of the next posts we publish.
We loved our trip to the country. And these hotels are mostly well-located and they pretty much all look beautiful and luxurious (standards are high in Asia). If you want to get away from everything after this past year, Bali is the ideal place to go spend many free nights with its 2 beautiful eligible hotels.
In addition to the Four Points by Sheraton Bali Ungasan in the lush tropical greenery (on this post’s cover image above), the other one is a lot closer to the action and the beach in Kuta: the Fairfield Bali Legian.
To give just one other example, the Fairfield Belitung is a waterfront hotel on an island that seems very tempting.
In case you want to check them all out, here are the other Indonesia hotel options in order of how popular the destinations seem to be: Sheraton Lampung, Four Points by Sheraton Manado, Aloft Jakarta Wahid Hasyim, Moxy Bandung, Fairfield by Marriott Surabaya, Four Points by Sheraton Balikpapan, Four Points by Sheraton Makassar, Four Points by Sheraton Medan, Four Points by Sheraton Jakarta Thamrin, Four Points by Sheraton Surabaya, Four Points by Sheraton Surabaya Pakuwon Indah
If you prefer a Malaysian island, Penang looks very nice (it is just south of the Thai border). Also, I can tell you the Kuala Lumpur metropolis is so much fun.
You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 7 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Malaysia (and flights to Indonesia are ≈ $50 if you want to experience both):
- Kuala Lumpur
- George Town
- South Penang
You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in Malaysia (coming soon).
If you are more of an urban adventurer, Kuala Lumpur is also literally one of the cheapest cities I’ve ever been to. Check out this epic view from the Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur Chinatown (and we stayed at the other one in the Puchong neighborhood, it was also very nice).
While we haven’t been to Penang Island, we’ve heard only positive things. The Courtyard Penang is the one I’ll showcase since it’s brand new and within walking distance of a UNESCO World Heritage site and not too far from nice beaches (but the other option, the AC Hotel Penang, might be in a quieter spot).
3. South Africa
The best country for luxury hotels could very well be South Africa, with many options near natural attractions… including some with their own private game reserve on location!
You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 22 Marriott category 1 hotel options in South Africa:
- Cape Town suburbs
- and many others
You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in South Africa (coming soon).
We both visited South Africa specifically to take advantage of these well-located and often luxurious hotels (and there are some in neighboring Namibia and Zambia too). It’s a wonderful and exotic destination.
The Protea Hotel Polokwane Ranch Resort above brings the safari to you: you can see 25 species of antelope and 200 species of birds at the hotel, which is in the Limpopo natural reserve.
You can also stay in a traditional rondavel-style room at the Protea Hotel Oudtshoorn Riempie Estate.
If you are roadtripping like I was, or if you want a quiet mountain getaway, the Protea Hotel Clarens might have been the most beautiful category 1 hotel I’ve ever stayed at. It’s in a pretty little artsy town.
India is a huge country, and you can explore many parts of it with many hotels that are well located in interesting cities.
You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 34 Marriott category 1 hotel options in India:
- and many others
You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in India (coming soon).
Everyone who has been to India says that the country is unlike anywhere else in the world. You can explore the less touristy places with hotels in many cities that look cool, with temples, historical sites, and even beaches.
India is home to the only Marriott category 1 hotel that is part of the Luxury Collection brand (one of the most luxurious of the 30 Marriott hotel brands), the 5-star ITC Kakatiya Luxury Collection Hyderabad.
In the southern city of Kochi, there is also a rare Le Méridien-branded hotel in category 1 (the Le Méridien Kochi).
It’s true that most options in Spain are in smaller less-touristy towns (typical for a more expensive and popular country), but they are quite nice and are centrally located in the cities and it will make for a more authentic trip and a typically Spanish experience—and it’s one of our readers’ favorite countries too.
You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 10 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Spain:
- La Línea (near Gibraltar)
- A Coruña
- and many others
You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in Spain (coming soon).
España is beautiful and there is no shortage of reasons to visit. But its abundance of Marriott hotels in lower categories is why I spent over 2 weeks there with my girlfriend in 2019, and we loved it. Some of these hotels are also great bases to explore the outdoors.
A nice one is the AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana in Valladolid, a historic luxury 5-star hotel built on the site of an 18th-century convent, north of Madrid. From here you can even day-trip to popular sites like Segovia, Salamanca, or Ávila.
If you’re more of a city-slicker, the AC Hotel Murcia is in one of Spain’s 10 largest cities, although it’s a little further from the center than the other options.
Bonus: Türkiye and more
Since we like giving you more for your money here at Flytrippers, we sometimes add bonuses to our lists.
So Türkiye has a lot fewer options, but it’s a great example of what we mean in the following section—and it’s one of our favorite countries in the world too (after visiting over 65 in my case).
You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 4 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Türkiye:
You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in Türkiye (coming soon).
We’ve visited both of those cities ourselves and had a great time (we’ll have a lot more content about Türkiye soon) but these are definitely not the very top spots in Türkiye. So maybe you’d want to combine these with a stay in Istanbul and in Cappadocia (instead of in the 5 above countries, where you can just stick to Marriott category 1 hotels only and pay $0 out of pocket).
The 5-star Sheraton Grand Samsun Hotel is located on the Black Sea and we enjoyed our very luxurious stay in November 2020. In the summer, it must be very nice, with the beach just next to it.
And we loved İzmir in the Aegean region (a great base for daytrips to Ephesus or the beaches facing the Greek islands). The Four Points by Sheraton Izmir is modern and close enough to the city center (a quick train ride).
And in other countries, the hotels are even better and in ever better locations in even better destinations, but sometimes…
- There is just one hotel in the country (like the Aloft in downtown Panama City, Panama)
- There are not many well-located hotels in the country (like the AC Hotel on the waterfront in Veracruz, Mexico)
- The destinations are more off-the-beaten-path (like the Renaissance 5-star waterfront hotel in Kazakhstan)
- Or a combination of all those factors (like the Four Points chalet-style mountain resort in Montenegro)
Other highlights that didn’t quite make the cut include:
- A beautiful Four Points in the Dubai area
- A Sheraton resort in Argentina
- A brand-new Courtyard in beautiful Uzbekistan
- A unique city-center Courtyard in a major Russian city
Why we’ve narrowed it to just these best countries
You can obviously combine any of the 274 hotels in the list of all Marriott hotels that used to be in category 1 any way you like; this post is just to give you concrete examples of the top spots where you can go for your epic trip without having to spend a dime on lodging at all.
In other words, places:
- With many eligible hotel options in the same country
- Where the hotels are luxurious enough
- Where the hotels are well-located in cool destinations that many travelers enjoy
But there are many more Marriott category 1 options if you want to:
- Discover authentic cities (for example, if you want to experience China there are plenty of options there in less popular cities)
- Stay longer in just one place (regular travelers might not want to stay in Paraguay, but long-term travelers might)
- Combine them with non-Marriott hotels/hostels (booked with Hotels.com to get 10% back), or Airbnbs in other cool destinations nearby
- Combine them with some of the many Marriott category 2 hotels (if you don’t mind getting a bit fewer nights for your points to get more destination options)
How to take advantage of these 17 free nights
As a reminder of the basics, unlocking the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s welcome bonus will give you 53,000 Marriott points. That’s 106,000 Marriott points if your travel buddy also gets one.
That’s enough for a whopping 17 completely free nights in over 250 hotels around the world: Marriott hotels formerly called category 1 hotels.
That’s as easy and great a deal as you’ll ever find! It’s one of the best in Canada—if not the best. We’ve taken advantage of it ourselves and it really works.
And if the minimum spending requirement is too hard to reach twice (once on each card) despite our tips…
Even if you just get 1 card now and get the 2nd one later, you’ll still be able to get almost as many free nights (or easily make up the difference with what you earn with your spending after the welcome bonus).
Have a question? Ask me here.
Want to get more content to maximize this deal?
These 5 countries are the best options to get 17 free hotel nights, at least for most travelers. The welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex Card is a great opportunity to travel for less if you plan your trips around these Marriott category 1 hotels.
What would you like to know about these destinations? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Four Points by Sheraton Bali Ungasan (photo credit: Marriott)