Way back in 1997, I cashed in 120,000 MR points for a 7 night stay, 2 airline round trip tickets, 50% off a car rental, and headed to sunny Arizona. It was the first time that my extensive travel schedule allowed me to treat my wife and two kids to a nice vacation. Our income at the time would never have allowed for this trip if paid for totally out of pocket. The retail value of this trip exceeded $6000. I found this package deal on the Marriott sight shortly after joining Marriott Rewards in 1994. It took about 3 yrs to earn the points needed. I was excited and proud to use my extensive away from home time to do something nice. After that trip, I continued to earn points, but my travel for work was significantly reduced. By 1999, I was spending less than 10 nights a year in hotels. That trip in 1997 provided many fond memories that became once in a lifetime type stuff. (PS....when we arrived at the airport, there was something mixed up, so the airline upgraded all four of us to First Class!)
I changed professions in 2005 and my travel shot through the roof. People that spend a lot of time on the road know that this is good and bad. See new places, good....earn points for future stays, good....losing precious at home time with your family, bad, really bad. Not too long after returning to the road, I revisited the Marriott website. It was new and fresh, but inflation and changes meant that the same package deal that I used in 1997 was long gone. At least, I couldn't find anything like it at the time. I started setting some goals with my family for future trips to exciting locales. The MR points would take care of the hotel...we would need to figure out airfare. That was daunting for a family of 4-6 people. Taking the challenge, I set out to maximize those points!!
About two years ago, I was perusing the Marriott Rewards area of the web site. I landed on the Travel Packages. I looked them over, didn't quite understand the whole thing, and went on by. They were interesting, but seemed rather complicated for my feeble mind. Plus the points needed were around 300,000 or more. That amount really overwhelmed me!! From time to time I would go back and look them over. I've always tried to "stretch a buck"...I didn't see the real value in these packages....the hidden value.
Well, as often happens, someone on Marriott Insiders invested their time to assist, educate, and share with the community. This fine gentleman from Baltimore, tker, started a blog about Travel Packages. I saw his first entry and read it over. WOW!!!! This dude knew what I needed to know. Tker took his time through four very informative blog entries to layout the pros and cons of these Travel Packages. As he posted his topics, many folks asked questions, made comments, and were met with easy to understand responses from tker. He did an excellent job of clearing the haze and allowing me to see the value of these packages. We started to discuss trips at home. Most likely, with our kids now all grown up, our adventure would be for my wife and I to visit a location that was brand new.
I still hadn't decided to pull the trigger and order a Travel Package until about three weeks ago. Our old friend, tker, was back at it again. He started a thread about bonus points for USAir when transferring from Marriott Rewards. That did it!!! Great value for the trip, great locations to visits, and a 50% bonus on air miles. I just got off the phone and ordered my 7 day Category 7 certificate for the Cayman Islands. We were headed there, but had to cancel, a couple of years ago. Now we're all booked!!
I would like to thank this kind soul, tker, for his time and thoughtfulness to help myself and many other Insiders realize a dream to treat our families to these wonderful Travel Packages.