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Family holidays: apartment rental or hotel?

To the point

It's a debate we will try to add to by identifying the advantages and disadvantages of both solutions!

Quite a difficult decision: is it better to rent an apartment or to stay in a hotel, especially when travelling with children? With our two young children, this is a question I am asking myself more and more.

The debate: apartment rental or hotel

Our new reality: family life with 2 children

I shared with you late last year my annual credit card application game plan… and why I put it together the way I did.

(…) as the children grew up, they must now each have a plane ticket in their name, whereas until their 2nd birthday, only a supplement of 50 to 100$ was necessary for Aeroplan flight rewards: this great deal will soon end, as our youngest is about to turn 2. So I have to diversify our points & miles portfolio to keep up with this new reality!

Before I had kids, it was pretty easy to get miles for air travel, even in business or first class, through various point earning techniques.

Now, with 2 kids, it takes twice as many miles as it used to… which makes it a little more complicated… but not impossible!

And there is an argument that struck a chord in my ear among the comments in the Facebook group of milesopedia:

A hotel room can be shared by 4 people… but an airplane seat cannot! Thus, earning 200,000 Marriott points to afford 10-20 nights in hotels for 2 adults and 2 children… will be much more lucrative than earning the equivalent amount of miles with Aeroplan… to afford only one plane ticket!

So, this year, I decided to take an even greater interest in earning hotel points to fulfill our need for hotel nights for future trips. But from there a question arose: does the hotel life still fit us?

Hotel room as a family

We are used to staying in hotels. And since the birth of our 2 children, we can easily see the advantages and disadvantages of staying at the hotel with them.

The Benefits

Complimentary Breakfast

As my friend Jean-Francois likes to remind me,

Kids eat! Especially when they are teenagers! We’re really glad to have breakfast buffets in the hotels!

When you get a status with Marriott (Platinum) or Hilton (Gold – thanks to the American Express Platinum Card), you can get free breakfast at many hotels. And believe me: it’s a great advantage not to have to worry about the morning meal, even with “2 little bellies”!

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The Westin Jekyll Island – Breakfast

Accessories in the room

Often, hotels will be able to provide you with useful accessories for you and your children, including… a folding bed (or real crib). This is rarely the case in apartment rentals!

Here is the crib we got in our JW Marriott Hanoi hotel room.

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JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi – Room

It is also possible to ask the reception for some other accessories such as a baby bottle warmer, a microwave, travel adapters, board games, DVDs…

Cleaning the room

When you travel with two children, especially young ones, we are very happy to have someone take care of the cleaning of the bathroom, the beds… All those little things that are chores around the house!

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The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco – Room

This way, we have more time to have fun with the kids!

The hotel services

The hotels we stay in often have a swimming pool, a gym…

even spaces for children only!

This is the case, for example, of many Westin or Marriott hotels with the “Family Kids Club”.

Checking in… whenever you want!

With a hotel, we are hardly dependent on a set arrival time:

  • if you arrive earlier, they will keep your luggage for you (or even give you a room depending on availability)
  • if you arrive very late, there will always be someone to welcome you.
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JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa – Reception

So some apartments work with code systems… but often we will be dependent on the owner and his availability!

A reward system

When you stay at a hotel and pay for your stay, you’ll often earn points… which will get you free nights! And the longer you stay at a hotel chain, the higher you climb the ladder of different statuses… the more you’ll be rewarded!

marriott titanium statuts

A big advantage over renting apartments!

Cards to get free hotel nights

In Canada, there are 2 loyalty programs offering credit cards:

bonvoy aec2

mbna best western rewards card

I explain in this article how to easily get points via the welcome bonuses offered by these cards.

And on these two pages, you will find a presentation of the two cards:

The disadvantages

A cramped room

Unless you get a suite upgrade, a hotel room will often be smaller than an apartment.

This is not really a concern for destinations where you don’t stay in a room (New York, New Orleans, Paris…).

For example, our room at the Q&C HotelBar New Orleans, Autograph Collection which we booked with Marriott Bonvoy points: small for a family of 4.

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Q&C HotelBar New Orleans – Autograph Collection

However, this can be more problematic when it comes to a long stay in a seaside resort with frequent trips to the room.

Here, at the Springhill Suites by Marriott Pensacola Beach, we appreciate the large room size, right next to the pool and beach.

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SpringHill Suites by Marriott Pensacola Beach

The absence of important accessories

Sometimes hotel rooms will not have important accessories, especially when you are travelling with small children: like a microwave or a refrigerator.

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SpringHill Suites by Marriott Pensacola Beach – Must-have item: microwave

If the microwave can perhaps be obtained on request at the reception, it will be more complicated for a refrigerator! And let’s not even talk about a hotplate!

Costs not always easy to understand

Some hotels charge a “resort fee”, a “destination fee”… in short, so many elements that can be added to the starting price of the room. This is not the case with an apartment.

Renting an apartment with your family

The Benefits

The space

The great thing about renting an apartment is the space. Apartments with 1-2-3 bedrooms can be chosen without the associated cost becoming gigantic.

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Sonder Apartment – New Orleans

Renting an apartment often becomes a no brainer when there are more than 4 of us traveling. With 5 people, this often requires an extra room in a hotel, or additional bed costs.

Just like at home

Renting an apartment is like being at home with a kitchen, a large bathroom, often a washer and dryer.

So many things that are difficult to find in a hotel (except for residence hotels like Residence Inn).

The location

Location

With all the existing platforms, and the best known of all, Airbnb, it is easy to choose the precise area in which we would like to stay.

soho new york airbnb

Very often, when travelling, we try to live like a local, and we would like to do like them: stay near small shops, near a neighbourhood life.

Cards to apply points to apartment rentals

The disadvantages

No service

An apartment is like home: you have to make your beds, take care of cleaning, etc.

Often, when we go on vacation, it’s to leave these “chores” of our daily lives… to someone else!

So we appreciate coming back to a clean room, a bottle of water on the bedside table with a small square of chocolate!

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JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa – Room

Breakfast and meals

Hotels will often offer you this service… something you won’t get in an apartment.

Of course, you can always go out for breakfast – or go grocery shopping to have everything in the apartment! And it is often the freedom that one appreciates in an apartment, especially with children.

So it’s up to you to judge whether it’s an advantage or a disadvantage!

Cards to reduce the cost of renting an apartment

Just because you rent an apartment doesn’t mean you’re completely out of the loyalty programs!

In fact, many credit cards allow you to apply points to travel expenses… like Airbnb!

This is the case for the Scotia Rewards program with the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card

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…or the American Express Membership Rewards program with a card like the American Express Cobalt™ Card.

american express cobalt card

Here, to offset the $454.41 Airbnb expense, I would need to use 45,441 American Express Membership Rewards offered by the American Express Cobalt™ Card.

airbnb points privileges

Check out this page to learn why the American Express Cobalt card is the travel hacker’s favourite credit card !

Via our referral link, you could get a cash credit for your first booking on Airbnb!

Conclusion

In my opinion, it is difficult to declare a real winner between a hotel and an apartment rental. Traveling with 4 people, it is still possible to stay in hotels… with 5 people, it would be more complicated!

So I would continue to use my Marriott points to stay at Marriott hotels when the cash rate is very expensive, especially with the current value of the Canadian dollar (like in big cities such as New York). And I’ll try to maximize my points by staying 5 nights,with the option of 4 nights purchased with points = 1 night free.

On the other hand, for longer stays – beyond 5 nights – I will look more closely at the apartment options, as was the case recently in New Orleans in a Sonder apartment! and I will still be able to redeem my travel points for the expense!

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