Shhhh! Help Me Surprise My Wife. Where Would You Pick? (PART 1)

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This past Friday, TSA saw approximately 350,000 travelers pass through TSA checkpoints for Memorial Day weekend, which is nearly double the amount of travelers that were screened by TSA just 72 hours prior.

Despite the continued rise in domestic coronavirus cases, I think it’s safe to say that travelers are beginning to feel more comfortable with air travel.

Personally, I’m not ready to travel (yet) but I had a great idea. Once I do feel comfortable with the direction of this pandemic, I want to surprise my wife and take her on a relaxing vacation. However, I have a dilemma.


In 2016, Marriott International purchased Starwood (SPG) Hotels and Resorts – the company known for the Sheraton, St. Regis, W, and Westin brands, among many others – making Marriott one of the largest hotel chains in the world.

For SPG loyalists, the writing was on the wall. When programs are acquired, rarely do they become better programs.

One of the amazing aspects of the SPG program was having the ability to purchase “hotel + air travel packages.” We won’t go into details because those days are long gone, but travel packages were extremely lucrative as you could purchase the two most expensive parts of travel – hotel and air – with SPG points.

Although Marriott had purchased SPG, the two programs continued to run separate loyalty programs for two years. However, in the summer of 2018, Marriott completed the acquisition and SPG was no longer.

Before the final days of SPG, there was a rush to buy these valuable travel packages before Marriott devalued them.


I purchased a travel package. Generally, you have one year to redeem the “hotel + air travel package” but because of the some generous extensions and current pandemic, the expiration date of my package has been extended to 31 January 2021.

For simplicity, the package includes miles to fly on any airline and 7 days at any Category 5 Marriott hotel in the world.

It’s worth noting that you can only redeem the 7 nights at one (1) hotel. In other words, you can stay up to 7 nights for free at any Category 5 Marriott hotel in the world but you can’t, say, redeem 3 nights at one hotel, and then redeem 4 nights at another hotel.

To be completely candid, I don’t enjoy spending more than 3 days in any city. However, I want to maximize this package and stay all 7 days, but I don’t know where to go.


Marriott has 7,827 properties in the world (sans any closures from COVID-19). However, when narrowed down solely to Category 5’s (i.e. no Category 4’s or 3’s etc.) there are only 1,132 — 746 are in the US and 386 abroad.

I’m particularly interested in redeeming my package abroad. This is where I need your help.

Where would you go? Where would you stay?


I’ve narrowed it down to a “Top 12” (with pictures); 6 properties in Part 1 and 6 properties in Part 2. I am also only highlighting 2 pictures for each property, so it’s not overwhelming. In no particular order, let’s dive in…

Australia & Pacific

Hotel: Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection
Location: Sydney, Australia
Thoughts: Neither of us have been to Australia. This hotel is located in the Sydney Harbor and I can picture us having breakfast on the balcony overlooking the harbor. 🤪

Hotel: Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay
Location: Nadi, Fiji
Thoughts: My wife has mentioned she wants to visit Fiji. You may recall that I’ve been to Fiji and stayed at the Marriott Momi Bay. This is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in (read my MOMI BAY REVIEW), but should I surprise her and stay at a hotel I’ve already visited?


Hotel: Myconian Kyma, a Member of Design Hotels
Location: Mykonos, Greece
Thoughts: Look at that view of the Mediterranean!

Hotel: HUUS Hotel, Gstaad, a Member of Design Hotels
Location: Gstaad, Switzerland
Thoughts: Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited and this hotel is located in the Swiss Alps. With soaring mountains and cable cars connecting ski areas, I love this!

Middle East

Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Thoughts: I love the Middle East and these photos warrant a position in the TOP 12.

Hotel: W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Thoughts: This is a second property in Abu Dhabi that looks amazing. An additional perk to visiting Abu Dhabi is Dubai is only located an hour away. Therefore, we could make a day trip to Dubai and/or plan to depart from Dubai and review Emirates business class on the return flight.


This was only Part 1. I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow.

If you’re interested in seeing which Marriott hotels are available in any country, you can do so ON THIS INTERACTIVE MARRIOTT MAP. In fact, you can filter your results by Country, Hotel Category, Brand, or even properties that offer free breakfast.

Again, these first 6 properties seem interesting. If you have experience at any of these hotels, I welcome your review. If you have had an amazing experience at a Marriott hotel (regardless of category, domestic or abroad) and want to recommend it, I can be swayed.

What hotel would you choose from above? If none, which country would you pick to visit? Is there a hotel that interests you in that country?


  1. 7 days in one place would be hard for me too. I would pick Switzerland because it’s easy to take day trips by train and it’s a super beautiful place. Mykonos would be second choice because you may be able to island hop on short, cheap flights and get back to your base. I would opt to go in September since I here it’s poppin’ before everything shuts down for winter. Very sweet of you to do this for her!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. @Merdice I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that finds 7 days to be rough. Thank you for your words and thoughtful approach. Stay tuned for ‘Part 2’ coming tomorrow. I’m interested to see if you change the ranking.


  3. Wow! Amazing deal. My first would be Switzerland because you can take day trips to neighboring countries. Switzerland is first on my international trips once I start traveling again. My second option would be Greece! Day trips as well and they’re allowing tourism once you’re ready to go.

    Liked by 1 person

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