Marriott Annual Hotel Category Changes For 2020

Marriott’s annual hotel category changes have been announced, and it’s important to take action now if you have Marriott Points and were planning to visit one of the many destinations affected, at least if you are in a position to book future travel in advance.

For those who don’t yet have Marriott Points, read why you really should.

For those who do have Marriott Points, I’ll remind you that in March, we’ll be launching our new travel rewards points section with an Ultimate Guide To The Marriott Bonvoy Program. You’ll learn amazing tips to get a lot more points and then get a lot more value out of your points.


 

For now, here’s everything you need to know about Marriott’s 2020 category changes.

 

Basics Of Annual Category Changes

The recently announced category changes are significant, and you might want to act quickly if you haven’t used all your points yet and were planning to use your points later for one of the specific hotels in the list below.

There are still plenty of great options to redeem for maximum value (and even new options now too), but I’ll cover those soon. Today, I will focus solely on the hotels that you need to book before the category changes take effect, and explaining the annual changes.

Some people who definitely don’t maximize their rewards will say, “oh, variable-value points aren’t worth it because some hotels go up in price every year.” 

That’s nonsense, at least if you want more free travel. The simpler fixed-value points lose value each year, too, by the way; it’s called inflation. They keep their fixed-value, but the price of everything you can buy with them goes up. It’s the same thing.

Most importantly, you can still get outsized value with Marriott Points (like nearly $1,000 with just one card’s Welcome Bonus), or get a free night very quickly with your regular spending. 

You can’t ever get anything close to that with simple fixed-value cashback-type points. Those are definitely simpler, but they’re also always worth very little, so no, it’s not better, at least not if you want to get as much free travel as you can.

And Flytrippers’ other co-founder Kevin just used the annual free night certificate that we all get each year by keeping the Marriott Bonvoy Card, and he got a C$1,100/night overwater bungalow in Fiji, completely free.  

Now do you believe us when we say canceling the Marriott card makes no sense and the free night certificate MORE than compensates for the $120 fee every year, just like the Welcome Bonus more than compensates the first year? If you already have a certificate, check the list below too, in case your Category 5 hotel is moving up.

(By the way, that Fiji resort is staying in Category 5, so you can use your certificates there too if you want. Even if you probably won’t get the bungalow, it’s still a good deal. Detailed post on the topic coming soon.)

The point is cards that earn fixed-value points simply don’t give you anything like that: no outsized value. 

As a reminder, it’s important to understand that, yes, Marriott Points are variable-value points, meaning how much free travel they give you is entirely dependent on how well you use them.

The 3 best tips to get more free hotel nights for the same amount of Marriott points are:

  • location: hotels in more affordable destinations (Cat. 1 or Cat. 2)
  • period: traveling on off-peak dates or at least standard dates (not peak)
  • Stay for 5, Pay for 4 (5th night free): staying for 5 consecutive nights

The first one is by far the most important.  All Marriott hotels are assigned a Category that determines the number of points required for a free night.

So every year, some hotels go up in Category, and some hotels go down. This is exactly like your dollars being worth less every year; inflation is normal. Every hotel chain has to do this.

That’s why we always say you should not waste any time: get more actively into travel rewards points as fast as possible, so you can earn as many points as possible and use them for free travel as fast as possible. Our free course launching in March will tell you how, including how to earn a lot more Marriott points.

This year, it’s true that there are more category changes than usual for Marriott. It is pretty harsh, that’s for sure. Exceptionally more changes than in past years, based on the number of hotels affected. But 2019 was the first year of the combined Marriott-SPG program after the merger, and it’s safe to say that the newness of it all might be responsible for the need to make more adjustments than usual, and not the new normal for future years.

We’ll give you the complete breakdown of the changes, with a list of which key hotels are moving up and a useful Excel document with all hotels to download for free, but first, what matters most is what your required action is.

 

What You Need To Do Now

Category changes will take effect on March 4th, in about 10 days. That means it is vital that you take a look at the hotels that are moving up in category and book them before March 4th.

You can book stays up to one year ahead and lock in the current lower prices, but you need to book it before March 4th. I just booked a dozen just in case. I will probably not use more than 1 or 2…

There is absolutely no risk in booking proactively; you can cancel any booking made with points for free and get your points back if you change your mind or can’t make it to the hotel on those dates—just see the cancelation policy for the specific hotel; usually, you have until 2 days before check-in, but a few hotels require canceling 7 days before.

For the hotels that are moving down, you should wait until after March 4th to book them at the lower price.

In short, what you need to do:

  • Check the list of hotels going up
  • Try to decide on specific dates to travel
  • Book before March 4th
  • Cancel for free if you can’t make it

 

Marriott 2020 Category Changes Overview

You can skip to the full list in the next section if you are not interested in the overview.

Overall, the changes are steep this year as I mentioned, much more so than in previous years. Out of Marriott’s 7,000+ hotels:

  • 71% of hotels are staying in the same category
  • 22% are moving up
  • 7% are moving down

In 2019, only 6% of hotels changed, so like I said, 2020 is exceptional compared to past years as mentioned.

In the lists below, I’ll focus on Category 1 and Category 2 hotels since these are really the best options to maximize your number of free nights. 

I travel a lot personally: I stayed 60 nights in Marriott hotels in 2019, 53 of which were on points (over $5,000 in free hotels in 2019 alone—amazing, right?) and almost all (49 of the 53) were in Category 1 and 2 hotels in Spain, Southern Africa, the US, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. The other 4 were Category 3 hotels that were expensive in cash (so still a good use compared to cash based on our Flytrippers valuation), like during Christmas in Miami.

I had plenty of points. So I easily could’ve used my points for the 7 Marriott nights I paid in cash, and I could have easily used my points for the 50+ nights I spent traveling in non-Marriott hotels in 2019. But I keep my points for Category 1s and 2s to maximize the number of free nights.

I also could have used my points for the most luxurious properties in the world (and not take Marriott Categories into account when choosing a destination)… but instead of getting 53 free nights in 2019, I would have gotten as little as 6 nights with the same number of points. Yes, 6 instead of 53…

My point is that it’s worth planning your trips around these hotels, especially Category 1 hotels, to get more free nights. If you want to travel more. For example, as you probably know, you can get 8 free nights just with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card’s Welcome Bonus of 50,000 points, or even 17 if you and your travel buddy both have the card.

If you value those 17 hotel nights at C$100 with taxes included (since you don’t need to pay taxes for points redemptions), that’s C$1,700 in value from the Welcome Bonuses from each of your cards, which is insanely good! Even if used for Category 2 hotels, you still get 4 to 5 free nights per card’s Welcome Bonus, which is still amazing: hundreds of dollars with just one card.

Now the bad and good news.

Here is the overview of the bad news (hotels going up):

  • Category 1 to Category 2: 185 hotels
  • Category 2 to Category 3: 558 hotels

And the overview of the good news (hotels going down):

  • Category 2 to Category 1: 44 hotels
  • Category 3 to Category 2: 140 hotels 

The most negative change is in Spain, which was, up until now, one of the best destinations to visit to max out the value of your points. Many Category 1 hotels in Spain are moving to Category 2, so you might want to plan that Spain trip right away if you haven’t already.

Also, if you are someone who doesn’t care about maximizing your return, who isn’t flexible, who doesn’t travel much internationally, or who just wants to use points without checking if it’s a good redemption, the changes are obviously very negative for you, due to the amount of hotels going up.

On the other hand, the most positive change is that there are now new countries added to the possibilities with Category 1, which is good if you really want to max out the number of free nights but want more countries where you can do so. That’s definitely my case. We’ll cover these in the coming weeks.

Another upside I noticed is that a few full-service hotels are moving to Category 1, which is great news for those who have Elite Status like me (thanks to the American Express Platinum Card, only recommended for very frequent travelers). But this might not be relevant if you don’t (or if you only have the basic Silver Elite Status the Marriott Card gives you).

 

List Of Hotels To Book Before March 4th

To make things simple for you, here is the curated list of the Category 1 and Category 2 hotels you should book now since this is what is the most urgent.  For those who have a trip planned and wanted to use your points whether it’s a good use or not, check the two below options to see if a Marriott hotel where you’re going is moving up a category. Same for those who have a Category 5 annual certificate and want to see which options will soon disappear.

We’ve made a sortable Excel file with all 1,000+ Marriott hotels affected and their old/new category, which you can sort by change status for 2020, by category, by country, and by brand (and you can search it with Ctrl+F of course). You can download it here for free.

Alternatively, you can see Marriott’s official 2020 changes page, but you’ll only be able to see 300 hotels at a time, so it might not be as easy to navigate as our file.

 

Category 1 Hotels

Since Category 1 hotels are the best value and there aren’t as many of them, I’ll list them country by country.

Spain

There are currently 21 Category 1 hotels, but 10 are moving to Category 2, unfortunately. The ones left are still a great deal, but they are in smaller towns or less popular locations. 

It’s another way to have a more authentic trip, to live like locals in those places, and there’s still great value with the remaining Category 1 hotels.

Spain’s 10 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

AC Hotel Alcala de Henares AC Hotel
AC Hotel Almeria AC Hotel
AC Hotel Aravaca AC Hotel
AC Hotel Burgos AC Hotel
AC Hotel General Alava AC Hotel
AC Hotel Huelva AC Hotel
AC Hotel La Rioja AC Hotel
AC Hotel Leon San Antonio AC Hotel
AC Hotel San Sebastian de los Reyes AC Hotel
AC Hotel Valencia AC Hotel

I’ve stayed at both the Almeria and Huelva hotels. While the latter was useful as a stop on my short roadtrip to Portugal, the Almeria location is fantastic, in the middle of the old town, with national parks and beaches in the area too.

South Africa

What was the second-best destination for Marriott points (and arguably the best now) is South Africa. Out of the 41 Category 1 hotels, 15 are moving up, and there’s a new one too, for a total of 27 Category 1 options remaining.

Some of our favorites from our separate recent trips there are still Category 1s, so you still have plenty of options.

South Africa’s 15 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Protea Hotel Bloemfontein Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Bloemfontein Willow Lake Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Cape Town Mowbray Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Durban Edward Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Durban Umhlanga Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Durban Umhlanga Ridge Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Pretoria Menlyn Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel George King George Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel George Outeniqua Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Harrismith Montrose Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Karridene Beach Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Mossel Bay Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel O.R. Tambo Airport Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Port Elizabeth Marine Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay Protea Hotel

These are mostly all very nice hotels, so depending on which itinerary you want to follow in South Africa, you have great hotels to book before March 4th.

Zambia

On my trip to South Africa, I also went to Zambia (flew there and came back on an epic 30-hour train journey) to visit the majestic Victoria Falls, where I got to swim on the edge at the top

I stayed 6 nights in the beautiful Protea Livingstone Hotel, a 10-minute ride to the national park. It is now moving up to Category 2.

Zambia’s 2 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Protea Hotel Livingstone Protea Hotel
Protea Hotel Ndola Protea Hotel

Colombia

Colombia was an amazing option in 2019, although lodging costs there are so cheap that you weren’t necessarily “saving” as much money with your free nights. 

Unfortunately, all 5 Category 1 in the country are moving to Category 2, so if you had this destination in mind, start planning quickly.

Colombia’s 5 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

AC Hotel Bogota Zona T AC Hotel
Aloft Bogota Airport Aloft
Courtyard by Marriott Bogota Airport Courtyard
Four Points by Sheraton Barranquilla Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Bogota Four Points

I was hoping to get the chance to visit this country to take advantage of these, as Kevin spent 6 weeks in Colombia and loved the country. Although he hasn’t had the chance to try any of these properties (again: other options were so cheap, he paid under $10 a night for lodging), they look good, and the Bogota Four Points has a great location.

Ecuador

In neighboring Ecuador, there were 2 Category 1 hotels, but the best one is moving up.

Ecuador’s 1 Category 1 hotel to book before the increase:

Courtyard Guayaquil Courtyard

It is a great option if you want to go to the Galapagos Islands as Kevin did.

United Arab Emirates

This Middle Eastern country had a Category 1 hotel, a unique desert hotel that was on my bucket list. It is going up to Category 2.

The UAE’s 1 Category 1 hotel to book before the increase:

Aloft Al Ain Aloft

It really looks unique and was quite a steal as a Category 1! It’ll likely still be a good deal as a Category 2, like many others on this list.

Czechia

There was only one Category 1 hotel in Czechia, but it has a great location in the middle of the beautiful city of Pilsen, the birthplace of Pilsner-style beer, located 90 kilometers from Prague. It is moving to Category 2, so if you have a Eurotrip planned and want 5 nights in a nice spot for about 30,000 points, now is the time to book.

Czechia’s 1 Category 1 hotel to book before the increase:

Courtyard Pilsen Courtyard

Suriname

I had a trip booked to this little-known South American nation in 2019 to stay at its lone Category 1 hotel (and visit 2 new countries in my quest to visit them all). I canceled it (that story—with a great tip on getting full refunds for flights—will follow soon), and now I won’t be able to take advantage of the hotel since it’s moving up.

Suriname’s 1 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Courtyard Paramaribo Courtyard

Indonesia

A country I can’t wait to go back to, Indonesia is one of your best bets for luxury Category 1 hotels. Only 2 of the 6 Category 1 hotels are moving up, and 4 are moving down, so it’s a net win for Indonesia. So you’ll still have plenty of great options.

Indonesia’s 2 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Four Points by Sheraton Surabaya Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Surabaya, Pakuwon Indah Four Points

I haven’t been to any of these, but like most options in this country, they look wonderful.

Mexico

Mexico has 27 Category 1 hotels, of course, they aren’t in the touristy places that are very expensive. A total of 9 of them are moving up a category.

Mexico’s 9 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

AC Hotel Queretaro Antea AC Hotel
Courtyard Monterrey Airport Courtyard
Courtyard Saltillo Courtyard
Courtyard San Luis Potosi Courtyard
Courtyard San Luis Potosi, Los Lagos Courtyard
Fairfield Inn & Suites San Luis Potosi Fairfield
Four Points by Sheraton Galerias Monterrey Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Monterrey Airport Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Monterrey Linda Vista Four Points

Panama

Panama City had 2 Category 1 hotels, and Kevin spent 14 nights there for just 68,000 Points thanks to Off-Peak nights and the 5th night free. He stayed at the one that isn’t moving up.

Panama’s 1 Category 1 hotel to book before the increase:

Courtyard Panama Metromall Courtyard

India

The South Asian nation is one of the best spots for Category 1 hotels and still is. Only 7 of the 29 Category 1 hotels are moving up, so you have plenty of options. I’m considering spending a few days in the country as part of my trip to Sri Lanka in a month. There will be 4 joining Category 1 to compensate, including the first Luxury Collection-branded hotel in Category 1!

India’s 7 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park Aloft
Courtyard Bengaluru Hebbal Courtyard
Courtyard Bhopal Courtyard
Courtyard Pune Hinjewadi Courtyard
Fairfield by Marriott Bengaluru Outer Ring Road Fairfield
Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort & Convention Center Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Srinagar Four Points

The resort looks nice, as do the others.

China

China is not a very popular destination right now because of the virus that has killed about 2,000 people (compared to 500,000 deaths from the flu each year, for perspective), but when things get back to normal, it’s one of the best spots to go for Category 1 hotels. 

Just 4 of the 38 Category 1 hotels in China are moving up and need to be booked now, in case you want to go within the next year. The good news is 10 more will be joining Category 1.

China’s 4 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Aloft Guangzhou University Park Aloft
Courtyard Suzhou Mudu Courtyard
Four Points by Sheraton Chengdu, Pujiang Resort Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Hefei, Shushan Four Points

I loved my 2-week trip to China, but I didn’t stay in Marriott hotels as I was there solo, and it was a lot cheaper in hostels. But many of these hotels look incredible. 

Russia

Russia had 4 category 1s and is losing 1 and gaining 2 new ones.

Russia’s 1 Category 1 hotel to book before the increase:

Courtyard Kazan Kremlin Courtyard

USA

The US is definitely not the best place to use Marriott points, being a very expensive country, and where most Marriott members travel to.

Most Category 1s there are only worth it if you have a car, so if you’re going on a roadtrip, you can check out the 113 hotels moving to Category 2, including the 2 near New Orleans. Only 9 are moving into Category 1, so it’s the hardest-hit country, which is to be expected since a vast majority of Marriott hotels are there.

The US’ 113 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Courtyard Bridgeport Clarksburg Courtyard
Courtyard Chicago Elgin/West Dundee Courtyard
Courtyard Harlingen Courtyard
Courtyard Houma Courtyard
Courtyard Houston Hobby Airport Courtyard
Courtyard Houston Northwest Courtyard
Courtyard Huntsville University Drive Courtyard
Courtyard Jacksonville Courtyard
Courtyard Killeen Courtyard
Courtyard Lafayette Airport Courtyard
Courtyard Little Rock West Courtyard
Courtyard Lufkin Courtyard
Courtyard McAllen Airport Courtyard
Courtyard Montgomery Courtyard
Courtyard New Orleans Covington/Mandeville Courtyard
Courtyard Russellville Courtyard
Courtyard San Angelo Courtyard
Courtyard Tulsa Central Courtyard
Courtyard Victoria Courtyard
Courtyard Winchester Medical Center Courtyard
Fairfield Inn & Suites Albany East Greenbush Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Atmore Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Bartlesville Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Beaumont Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Bismarck North Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Bismarck South Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Burlington Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Cambridge Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Chillicothe, OH Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Cleveland Streetsboro Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Conway Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Cuero Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Cut Off-Galliano Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Douglas Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Enterprise Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Fairmont Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Fremont Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Gadsden Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Hobbs Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Houma Southeast Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Houston Channelview Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Hutchinson Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Jacksonville Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Jamestown Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Killeen Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Lafayette I-10 Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Lawton Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Liberal Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Marietta Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Medina Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Muskogee Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Oklahoma City Quail Springs/South Edmond Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Pleasanton Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites San Angelo Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Sidney Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Towanda Wysox Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Tulsa Central Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Weatherford Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Weatherford Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Wichita East Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Winchester Fairfield
Fairfield Inn Albuquerque University Area Fairfield
Fairfield Inn Forsyth Decatur Fairfield
Fairfield Inn Huntsville Fairfield
Fairfield Inn Owensboro Fairfield
Fairfield Inn Princeton Fairfield
Four Points by Sheraton Cleveland Airport Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Fargo Medical Center Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Huntsville Airport Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Little Rock Midtown Four Points
Four Points by Sheraton Williston Four Points
Residence Inn Decatur Forsyth Residence Inn
Residence Inn Jackson Ridgeland Residence Inn
Residence Inn Killeen Residence Inn
Residence Inn Lafayette Airport Residence Inn
Residence Inn McAllen Residence Inn
Residence Inn New Orleans Covington/North Shore Residence Inn
Residence Inn Oklahoma City South Residence Inn
Residence Inn San Angelo Residence Inn
Residence Inn Texarkana Residence Inn
Residence Inn Tulsa South Residence Inn
SpringHill Suites Baton Rouge North/Airport SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites Bridgeport Clarksburg SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites Enid SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites Houston Northwest SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites Houston Rosenberg SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites McAllen Convention Center SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites Oklahoma City Quail Springs SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites San Angelo SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites Tulsa at Tulsa Hills SpringHill Suites
SpringHill Suites Vernal SpringHill Suites
TownePlace Suites Albuquerque Airport TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Beaumont Port Arthur TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Bridgeport Clarksburg TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Chicago Elgin/West Dundee TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Cleveland Airport TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Cleveland Streetsboro TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Dickinson TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Dodge City TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Eagle Pass TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Gillette TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Goldsboro TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Hobbs TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Huntsville TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Huntsville West/Redstone Gateway TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Jacksonville TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Killeen TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites McAllen Edinburg TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Tulsa Broken Arrow TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Tulsa North/Owasso TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Vernal TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Wichita East TownePlace Suites
TownePlace Suites Winchester TownePlace Suites

Canada

Same thing for Canada, not the best place for good uses. We only had 5 Category 1s, all located in Alberta, and 4 are moving up (but 3 are moving down to Category 1 too).

Canada’s 4 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Courtyard Calgary South Courtyard
Fairfield Inn & Suites Edmonton North Fairfield
Fairfield Inn & Suites Lethbridge Fairfield
TownePlace Suites Red Deer TownePlace Suites

Italy

There are 2 Category 1s that aren’t very well-located, and they are both moving up.

Italy’s 2 Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

AC Hotel Brescia AC Hotel
AC Hotel Vicenza AC Hotel

Germany

There was only 1 in Germany, it’s moving up.

Germany’s 1 Category 1 hotel to book before the increase:

Courtyard Wiesbaden-Nordenstadt Courtyard

Other African countries (Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Nigeria)

I’ve combined these here, as they aren’t the most popular destinations.

5 other African Category 1 hotels to book before the increase:

Malawi Protea Hotel Blantyre Ryalls
Nigeria Protea Hotel Benin City Select Emotan
Tanzania Protea Hotel Dar es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzania Protea Hotel Dar es Salaam Oyster Bay
Uganda Protea Hotel Entebbe

 

Category 2 Hotels

There are a lot more Category 2 hotels, so a lot more are changing too. I can’t go over all of them, so use our sortable Excel file or the Marriott website if you want the full list.

But I do want to share a few great ones, especially those that are full-service (more upscale) properties, or in popular destinations. It’s just a portion of those I think are worth booking proactively in case you can make it, especially the one I visited last spring.

 

Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort in the Dutch Caribbean

Last May, I spent a week on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire with my girlfriend. I redeemed 75,000 Points for 7 nights at the Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort. I hate all-inclusives and resorts and “vacations,” and to be very clear, if that’s your type of trip, this is not a hotel for you. It’s beautiful, but it’s not that type of resort; it’s pretty small, and it’s not all-inclusive.

But if like me you want to visit a new destination and actually visit things and places, or if you are into diving, you should book this one before it goes up. The hotel offered a free shuttle to the small “capital” city of Kralendijk and to the nearby beach (each 5 minutes away), and I rented a car for a day to drive around the island too.

Bonaire is still a bit off-the-beaten-path, not one of the touristy places I personally despise. It is a lovely island, and I found the Dutch-influenced culture to be unique. You’ll find pink flamingos like in neighboring Aruba (without the hordes of tourists), beautiful pink salt lakes, desert landscapes, mangroves where you can go kayaking, and of course, great diving and snorkeling.

Apart from being one of the only Category 1 or 2 hotel in the Caribbean, it’s especially interesting for divers. I know packaged diving trips can be super expensive (my in-laws have been on a few of them), so as is almost always the case in the world of travel, it can be a lot cheaper if you organize it yourself. 

This is especially true if you get 5 or more free nights at a hotel with a dive center located directly on the premises. Bonaire is often recognized as one of the best diving destinations in the world, and definitely among the best for shore diving. You can park anywhere and go dive right there.

So getting a week in this hotel with your card’s Welcome Bonus alone is an awesome deal—one that was too amazing and will now be going up in price.

I’ll have a detailed review of my Bonaire trip, and the hotel stay up next week to help you decide.

Of course, being a small, less popular island, flights to Bonaire are pretty expensive, so take that into account too. 

I was in Miami so I paid 10,000 Avios + C$8 in taxes (transferred from my AMEX Points) for the one-way from there to Bonaire on American Airlines. And for the return, I paid 20,000 Aeroplan Miles + C$45 in taxes (also transferred from AMEX) from Bonaire to Quebec City on United.

Not the greatest flight redemption, but not bad either: cash prices were very high, and getting the 7 free nights was worth the splurge. We saved nearly $600 each on the flights, giving me more than our Flytrippers valuation for Avios and Aeroplan points.

3 Full-Service Delta Hotels in Canada

Not very exotic, but close to home. First is another one I stayed at this year, the Delta Saguenay, if you want to visit the Saguenay fjord, an impressive spectacle of nature. The others are the Delta Saint John (NB) and the Delta Calgary South (AB).

Courtyard Dunn Loring near Washington, DC

There are so many in the US, I’ll let you take a look for yourself. But I wanted to mention the Courtyard Dunn Loring because I visited it in 2019, and for a cheap getaway to a wonderful city, it’s great. It is a walking distance from a Metro station and then a 20-minute or so ride to central DC, meaning with the cheap flights we often spot to the city, you can go on an affordable long weekend getaway thanks to this Category 2 hotel. 

Sure I could have spent more points for a central location, but then I would’ve had to limit myself to traveling just 2-3 times a year like most people do, instead of being able to go on 12 international trips in 2019. This hotel is a great compromise for a weekend getaway, which are one of the best ways to travel more if you are like the many who think they don’t have more time to travel more.

It is a Courtyard, so it’s a limited-service hotel, but it’s very nice and very modern. And Washington was awesome: it has so much history and free things to do. Ironically, I had visited 46 of the 50 states, and I had never been to the capital before last year—it was worth the wait!

3 Autograph Collection Properties in South Africa

As we mentioned, you have many Category 1 hotels in South Africa to choose from, but if you want to splurge on luxury properties, these 3 are going up:

And while not part of the Autograph Collection high-end brand, the Protea Cape Town Waterfront is another nice one.

Ermita, Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel in Colombia

I haven’t been here, but the only Tribute Portfolio property I’ve visited was very nice, and Ermita, Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel seems nice too. In case you go to Colombia to take advantage of the Category 1 hotels, you can splurge on this one too. Another Colombian full-service hotel is going up, the Sheraton Bogota.

2 Airport Hotels in Madrid

In case you are going to Spain for Category 1s, there are 2 airport hotels near Madrid airport that are moving up to Category 3. I personally stayed at the Marriott Auditorium Madrid Airport the day before flying back to Canada, and it was very nice.

Courtyard Montpellier in France

If you are among the many who travel to France, the Courtyard Montpellier was one of the few Category 2 options in this expensive country, and it’s moving up to Category 3.

Four Points in Mexico City

Mexico City is a very popular destination, and one we often spot in our flight deals. The Four Points Colonia Roma Mexico is moving to Category 3.

JW Marriott Surabaya in Indonesia

JW Marriott is one of Marriott’s most upscale brands, and the JW in Surabaya is going up, as are 2 other Indonesian full-service hotels, in case you want to take advantage of the many Category 1s there too.

2 Luxury Collection Properties in India

Another of the very upscale brands is the Luxury Collection. The ones in Kolkata and Agra are moving up, as are 2 other full-service Marriotts in India.

3 Full-Service Hotels in Egypt

Egypt is great for nice cheap hotels: I loved seeing the sun rise over the Pyramids from my hotel, Le MERIDIEN Pyramids. That one is staying put, but 3 other full-service Egypt Marriotts are moving up, like the Le MERIDIEN Heriopolis.

1 hotel in Slovenia

The Four Points by Sheraton Ljubljana Mons is a great place to rest on your way from Venice to the beautiful Lake Bled.

2 Full-Service Hotels in the Caucasus

I wanted to visit these two, as one is a beautiful mountain resort in Armenia and the other in Baku looks very luxurious, maybe the most luxurious Category 2 hotel I’ve stumbled upon even.

4 Full-Service Hotels in Central and Eastern Europe

In Poland, the Sheraton Poznan is going up, as is the very well-located Marriott in Skopje, North Macedonia (we almost stayed there but opted for a unique boutique hotel with a view of the city). In Belarus, there’s the Minsk Marriott, and in Russia, the Renaissance Moscow Monarch Centre.

15 Full-Service Hotels in China

For those who are planning a China trip, the JW Marriott Zhengzhou is going to go up. As are 9 Sheratons, 3 Westins, and 2 Marriotts.

 

Summary

Those are the negative changes for 2020, so make sure to book them before March 4th if you are interested—there’s no risk. Don’t miss the next part with the new Category 1 and 2 hotel options!

 

Have any questions about Marriott’s category changes, or the Marriott program as a whole? Ask us in the comments below!

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 59/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tiffany

    When do my sign up bonus points become available to book with? Is it after my first three statements due to having to spend 1500$ in the first 3 months? I signed up in November and still don’t see them on my account and want to book soon due to all these changes!
    Thanks!

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi Tiffany, usually the welcome bonus points post on the statement where you actually hit the $1,500. Did you get that one yet?

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