Staying at Walt Disney World isn’t cheap and one way to lower your costs is to use the Marriott Free Nights Certificate that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy co-brand credit cards issued by Chase and American Express. 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 free night, including tax.
It makes sense to try to get the most value out of the free night. If you can stretch your vacation one more day, that could be very valuable to you and your family.
If you have any of the following cards:
- Chase MARRIOTT BONVOY BOUNDLESS ($95 Annual fee),
- Chase MARRIOTT BONVOY PREMIER PLUS BUSINESS VISA ($99 Annual Fee) (discontinued)
- MARRIOTT BONVOY AMERICAN EXPRESS (formerly SPG AMEX) ($95 Annual Fee) (discontinued)
- MARRIOTT BONVOY BUSINESS AMERICAN EXPRESS ($125 Annual Fee)
You get a free night (in a hotel that charges 35,000 points or less a night) every year after your account anniversary.
None of the Marriott hotels on Disney property are bookable with the 35,000 points free night certificate. However, there are several hotels right outside Disney World that are. It makes the most sense to rent a car when staying at any of these hotels, unless you plan on taking an UBER/Lyft everywhere you go. While many of the hotels have park shuttles, using them can restrict your schedule.
Category Five Hotels
There are a few 35,000 point category 5 hotels nearby. The massive 1,400+ room Gaylord Palms and the 2,000+ room Orlando World Center Marriott mega-resort are both located literally just 1-2 minutes outside of Walt Disney World property. However, I can’t recommend either of them as somewhere to use your free night certificate.
The Gaylord Palms charges $26 a night for self-parking and a $30 a night resort fee. The World Center Marriott charges $24 per night for self-park and a $30 a night resort fee (going up to $35 on 1/1/21.) Using a “free” night at either of these hotels would cost you $55 to $65 per night. Marriott does charge the resort fee, even on free nights as they state on their website.
The Card Member may be responsible for payment of additional mandatory resort fees at properties where resort fees are applicable, and is responsible for all incidental charges.
While both of these hotels offer amenities that other hotels in the area don’t, I don’t think it’s worth an extra $30 a day since you don’t come to Orlando to sit at your hotel.
A better option is located in nearby Celebration, FL.
The 115 room Bohemian Hotel is an Autograph Collection property. It’s a more refined stay away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. There’s no shortage of restaurants around, including one of our favorite off-theme park property places to eat in Central Florida, Columbia.
The hotel doesn’t charge any resort fee and self-parking is only $10 a day, which is reasonable for Orlando.
The Bohemian isn’t the style for everyone. It’s definitely a more laid back vibe and that’s not what most people are thinking about when they come to Orlando. They want to get to the theme parks. There are many more hotels to fill that need.
Category Four Hotels
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,” which 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 are SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn and Suites and Courtyard properties. All of these hotels currently cost 25,000 points for a standard award night. The hotel complex charges a $17 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 kind of 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, but heads up that there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay for parking there, too.
There are three more hotels where you can use your free night certificates just a little bit up the road. The Delta Hotels Orlando Lake Buena Vista, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Lake Buena Vista and the Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista at Vista Centre.
Delta Hotels are a newer 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 ’90s as a Doubletree Club. It went downhill over the years, lost the Doubletree branding, and was renamed the Orlando Vista Hotel after a while. Languishing in a state of disrepair, it eventually closed. After several stops and starts, it’s great to see this property open again.
If you’re staying here, parking will cost you $15 a night. 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 an Olive Garden and then there are many places to choose from in the Crossroads Shopping Plaza. I’d be cautious if I were walking anywhere, 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 weren’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 a large strip mall’s parking lot. 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 free parking but it 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 that received a much-needed renovation in 2019. I’m glad to see they finally listened to the calls from the ’80s asking if they could have their porte-cochere back.
Parking at this hotel used to be free but now they charge $14 per night and they still don’t charge a resort fee. This hotel is a little more secluded from the road, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I’m glad to see they finally updated the property as it looks again to be a solid choice instead of somewhere only suited for value-conscious travelers.
There is one more hotel in the area, the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista but they charge a $23.95 per day resort fee and $21 per day for parking. Pass.
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 newer 150 room hotel, completed in 2016, located on Hwy. 192, which is 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, Disney Studios, Disney Springs or Epcot) in about the same amount of time. The local area’s scenery isn’t too much to admire unless the sky coaster 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 many places to eat in the area and you’re close enough to drive to visit some of our favorite off-property restaurants like 4Rivers Smokehouse.
Parking is free at this hotel and there’s no resort fee.
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 a bit more in the summer. However, since the Marriott cards’ annual fee cost $95-$125, it would be hard to find a room that will put you less than breaking even. Hotels like the Delta, Courtyard Lake Buena Vista 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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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary