I just signed up for this great site as well as the Marriott rewards Visa and have received my first free night for a category 1-4 hotel. I figured I would use it for a extended weekend jaunt someplace from NYC. Does anyone have any ideas of how best to use free night deals?
Welcome to Insiders. Go to the Marriott web site and click on Find and Book Marriott Hotels on the newer site (unfortunately Marriott has changed web sites, so there are a couple floating around out there or else I'd be more specific) or Hotel Directory Explore on the older site - but bottom line, go to the link that provides you a list of all of their hotels. Click on US, then New York. Next go to Hotel Reward Category and click on Category 4. This will provide you with a list of all of the NY state category 4s that your certificate would be good at (you can of course also do Cat. 1-3s). Take a look see what you like and then check back at this site to either read the reviews or to ask, "hey what do people think of the Residence Inn in New Rochelle etc etc.
If you're going to go as far as upstate New York, then I would suggest you consider the nation's capital, there are some terrific Cat. 4 properties in Arlington (for example the Pentagon City Residence Inn or the Capital View Residence Inn) and Alexandria Va.(SpringHill on Eisenhower Ave.) with excellent metro service into the city.
Once you pick a hotel, just reserve it on Marriott.com as if you were using points, once you select the dates and property the site will prompt you (it should be by default), telling you that you have a certificate do you wish to use that instead of points and you confirm that you do and you're on your way.
As you get more specific in where you're headed, get back and folks will share activity and restaurant ideas. Have a great time and again welcome to Insiders, be sure to share how it went after you enjoy your extended weekend.