Several hotel credit cards give you a free night at one of their establishments every year when you pay the annual fee. The cool thing is this free night benefit is often is worth more than the cost of keeping the credit card, doesn’t require you to spend a certain amount of money on the card, and doesn’t require you to have any points in your account. It’s simply a totally a free night, including tax.
It makes sense to try to get the most value out of the free night and I’ve read articles listing the places around the world where you can get the most expensive room. I decided instead of that approach, I’d look at a place many people travel to each year. Walt Disney World (WDW). If you can stretch your vacation one more day by using a free night, that could be very valuable to you and your family.
Here are the Marriott hotels in the WDW area where you can use your free night:
If you have the MARRIOTT REWARDS® PREMIER VISA ($85 Annual fee) or the MARRIOTT REWARDS® PREMIER BUSINESS VISA ($99 Annual Fee) credit cards from Chase, you’ll get a free night in a category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary.
There’s no shortage of Marriotts all around the WDW property but none of them are on Disney property. It makes the most sense to get your own transportation if you’re going to stay at one of these hotels, unless you want to use their respective shuttle bus systems.
EAST OF DISNEY WORLD (DISNEY SPRINGS AREA)
Most of the Marriott hotels where you can use your free night are in this general area. Three of the hotels are located just off Interstate 4 at exit 68, in a complex called “Marriott Village at Lake Buena Vista” that was built in the year 2000. This area is a 5-10 minute drive to Disney Springs and about a 10-20 minute drive to the Disney Theme Parks (that’s about as close as you’ll get staying off of Disney property).
In this complex there’s a SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn and Suites and a Courtyard. All of these hotels are Category 5. The hotel complex charges a $10 parking fee that I believe you have to pay even if you’re staying on a free night. There’s nowhere else to park here so you’re kinda stuck. Each hotel in the complex has its own swimming pool but don’t get too excited – this isn’t a resort property. You’re located right off the Interstate (The Courtyard is the furthest from the freeway) in a very busy area. Traffic here can be horrendous at times, so be aware.
If you stay at Marriott Village at Lake Buena Vista, you’d have plenty of choices of where to eat, ranging from BJ’s Brewhouse to Bahama Breeze to Golden Corral to Landry’s Seafood House to Lone Star Steakhouse, all of which are walking distance. There are also Wendy’s, Panera Bread and Carrabba’s Italian just a short drive away. You’re also just down the road from the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, if shopping is your thing.
Just a little bit up the road, there are three more hotels where you can use your free night certificates. The Delta Hotels Orlando Lake Buena Vista, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Lake Buena Vista and the Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista at Vista Centre. The Delta and Fairfield are Category 5 properties, while the Courtyard is a Category 4.
The Delta Hotels are a new member of the Marriott family and this hotel opened in 2016 as their first property in the U.S. However, this 241 room hotel has a long history, as it opened back in the late 90’s as a Doubletree Club. It went downhill over the years, lost the Doubletree branding and, after a while, was renamed the Orlando Vista Hotel. Languishing in a state of disrepair, it eventually closed. Then, all of a sudden, a sign was put up saying the hotel was becoming a Crowne Plaza, which was a huge improvement from what the hotel has become. Renovations progressed for months but then the Crowne Plaza sign disappeared and the work stopped. It turned out the owner was arrested for Federal fraud charges and after that the hotel was sold, the renovations were completed and the hotel was opened by Marriott, with much fanfare, as the first Delta hotel in the United States.
If you’re staying here, parking will cost you $15 a night. Now, this is one of the closest hotels to Disney property so it isn’t a bad choice. It’s isolated from the area around it so there aren’t many places to eat next door, just an IHOP and a Chinese Buffet. Across the street there’s a Olive Garden and then there are many places to choose from in the Crossroads Shopping Plaza. I’d be very careful if I was walking though, as people driving in this area are often lost and make lane changes at will. This hotel is a solid choice, as it has just been remodeled and is close to Disney. It’d be a better choice if parking wasn’t so expensive.
The Fairfield Lake Buena Vista property has 170 rooms and opened in 1998 as a Country Inn and Suites. The property was totally redone in 2011 when the branding changed to Fairfield Inn. It’s important to know that this hotel is located in the parking lot of a large strip mall. The hotel does have a swimming pool but it isn’t themed in any way; just enough to make you feel like you aren’t swimming in a parking lot. A positive here is parking is free, but can be limited if the hotel is nearing capacity.
There are places to eat in the strip mall if you’re in a pinch and there’s a Chili’s and Romano’s Macaroni Grill across the street. I’d walk to the corner to cross as this is a busy street at all hours of the day. If you stay here, just go in knowing that nothing about this property says Disney World.
The Courtyard Lake Buena Vista at Vista Centre is a 308 room hotel built in 1989 and last renovated in 2010. This could explain why it’s only a Category 4 while all the other Marriotts in the area are Category 5. This hotel does have complimentary parking. It’s a bit out of the way from the other hotels and even from the pictures on their own website, it looks like it could use another refresh. I think I hear the 80’s calling to say that they want their porte cochere back.
SOUTH OF DISNEY WORLD (CELEBRATION/OLD TOWN)
There’s one Marriott where you can use your free night in this area, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Kissimmee/Celebration.
This is a brand new 150 room hotel completed in 2016 and is a Category 5 hotel. I drive past this hotel on my way to work and it’s really pretty to look at from the road. Now, this hotel is located on Hwy. 192, not the most scenic place to stay. Honestly, you’d be staying right off of a major 6 lane highway with lots of restaurants, hotels, outlet malls and gas stations. However, it’s a good location from where you can get to any place on Disney property (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, The Studios, Disney Springs or Epcot) in about the same amount of time. The scenery in the local area isn’t too much to admire, unless the skycoaster from Fun Spot down the road is what you like to look at. If all you’re looking for is a new hotel in a good location, this just might fit the bill. There are any number of places to eat in the area and you’re close enough to drive to visit some of our favorite off property restaurants like Columbia in Celebration, or 4Rivers Smokehouse.
There are definitely fancier places where you could use your free night. In the off season, many of these hotels go for $90-$120 a night and for a bit more in the summer. However, since the annual fee for the Marriott cards cost $85-$99, it would be hard to find a room that will put you less than breaking even. Hotels like the Delta and the Fairfield Kissimmee are brand new or newly renovated and provide a nice room at a location just outside Disney World. I could easily see us staying at one of these hotels, except now we live 15 minutes away.
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