Activate 2022 4th Quarter Bonus Categories

It’s the 15th of the 4th month of the quarter so it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses for next quarter.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $1500 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment for TV/Internet/Streaming Services and Cell Phones.  You must register your card before December 15th to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank or visit this link.  I’m choosing Home Utilities again as 5x categories and will try out Ground Transportation as I will need to use airport shuttles for my upcoming ski trips.   I’ll continue with Grocery Stores for 2x.

 

 

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2022.  For Q4 the categories are:

To activate the bonus, simply log into your Discover account and click on the Activate Now button.

Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom’s Q4 categories are Walmart and PayPal.  Note that you cannot double-dip by using PayPal at Walmart!

To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button.

In the end

Always register for the bonus categories even if you don’t think you’re going to use them.  You’ll never know when they might come in handy!

Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns and Suites, Chicago O’Hare

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

After driving literally all day, we made it back to Chicago and pulled into the Fairfield Inns & Suites Chicago O’Hare about 10 PM. We’d booked a room here anticipating that our Chicago-based friend would drop off my LA-based friend and me so she wouldn’t have to drive us back out to the airport the next day for our flights. But my LA-based friend decided to stay an extra few days visiting another friend so I had the room to myself. Once again we’d use an expiring free night certificate for our room, booking a room with two queen beds. Shortly before we departed on the road trip we called to see if we could switch to a 1 King room but they said the hotel was nearly sold out so they couldn’t make the change. We didn’t ask about it again at check-in as it really didn’t matter at that point.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Chicago O’Hare
photo from marriott.com

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Categories: Fairfield Inn, Hotel, Illinois, Lodging Review, Marriott, North America, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

We drove about 30 minutes east of Theodore Roosevelt National Park to the town of Dickinson, ND where we had booked a room at the TownePlace Suites Dickinson, which is a Marriott property. With pre-paid rates as low as $113 plus tax this was by no means an exceptional value for the free night certificate we used. But the certificate would expire within the next month or so and with no other plans for it the choice to use it instead of letting it go to waste was easy.

The hotel was easy to find, not far off I-94. The colorful exterior of TownePlace Suites makes it stand out and those bright colors are continued inside.

TownePlace Suites Dickinson Exterior

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Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, North America, North Dakota, TownePlace Suites, United States | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

After a lunch break in the small town of Custer, which is right outside the Custer State Park, we continued our loop toward Mount Rushmore. By early afternoon the the sky had darkened and the wind had picked up but it wasn’t too cold. But that would change in the 40 minute drive to Mount Rushmore.

The route to Mount Rushmore from Custer is primarily on a two-lane road that goes up and over some of the Black Hills in the region. Though I knew that the presidents’ faces were carved high up on a mountain I just assumed that the only way to view them was to actually enter the National Monument area. It hadn’t occurred to me that there may be other vantage points from which the faces could be seen. Taking the route we did, we happened upon one of those points. There was a small parking lot along with trail indicators. Walking to the end of the short trail there’s actually a very nice view of Mount Rushmore. Again I wished I’d already upgraded my phone just to get better photos!

Mount Rushmore from afar

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Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

We had one full day in the Rapid City area and we packed it pretty full. Fortunately the summer crush had not yet begun so we didn’t have issues with traffic or overcrowding. That also meant summer weather wasn’t in full effect. There was a wind advisory in effect until 2:30 PM on the day of our visit, something that wasn’t an issue early in the day but became one as the day progressed.

Crazy Horse Memorial

We started the day at the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is the world’s largest mountain carving and was about an hour away from our hotel. In 1939, Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief enlisted the help of Korczak Ziolkowski (who had assisted Gutzon Borglum at Mount Rushmore) to begin the process of carving famed Lakota warrior Crazy Horse on his horse into Thunderhead Mountain, land considered sacred to the Lakota. There are no known photographs of Crazy Horse, who resisted having his photo taken. Work began in 1948 and is still underway. Ziolkowski twice turned down multi-million dollar government grants to ensure there was no interference with the vision he and Standing Bear had. The project is funded solely on admission fees, gift shop purchases and private donations.

One of the best views of memorial – without paying extra to take the shuttle down closer – is from the upper parking lot. We were fortunate that even though it was windy, the temperature was warm enough that a light fleece jacket was all that was needed that morning.

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Categories: Attraction Review, Historical Site, North America, South Dakota, Trip Report, United States | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

We arrived in the Rapid City, SD area on a sunny, windy afternoon. The temperature was quite pleasant with only a light jacket required. The Home2 Suites is located on the south side of I-94 in an area with four other similar hotels. The Home2 Suites, La Quinta Inns & Suites and Fairfield Inn are all connected to the WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort. There’s also a Residence Inn next door so it’s obviously a popular area for tourists like us. To reach the entrance of the Home2 Suites you take the road past the Fairfield Inn, take a side road that runs between the Residence Inn and the La Quinta and drive past the side of the Home2 Suites before turning right towards the main entrance.

Home2 Suites Rapid City Exterior

I’m very familiar with the Home2 Suites brand as I often stay at the one in the Bellevue area of Nashville when I visit my parents so I had a good idea what to expect and by and large the hotel met my expectations. Home2 Suites’ color scheme involves a lot of neon yellow both on the building’s exterior and in the guest rooms. One of my companions found it garish but I must admit it doesn’t really faze me anymore as I’ve become accustomed to it. We were met by a couple of friendly reps at the desk who checked us in quickly and let us know that we wouldn’t receive housekeeping except by request or complimentary after the fourth day. That was fine by us as we were only staying two nights. Continue reading

Categories: Hilton, Home2Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review, North America, South Dakota, United States | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains: Introduction

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

Due to not taking my usual two-week international vacation in the fall of 2021, I found myself with some extra vacation days to use before my company’s fiscal year ended. My two travel pals and I had not all been together since our trip to New Zealand and Australia in the fall of 2019 so we were all glad to get to be together again. In the past we’d discussed domestic trips we’d like to do but had just never gotten around to so this seemed a good time of year to explore the Dakotas a bit.

Despite doing a road trip around the Southeastern US about a year ago, I’m not a huge fan of road trips. I’d rather fly and get a car. Flights into Rapid City, SD aren’t exactly cheap and my friend from Chicago said she’d be driving anyway, so we decided my LA-based friend and I would fly to Chicago and we’d all spend a little quality time together on the way out and back.

Driving there and back was an all-day affair each way. With a very early morning start we drove from the WSW suburbs of Chicago to Rapid City, SD with a sit-down lunch break and a few gas stops and arrived around 4 PM. On our return, we left Dickinson, ND just after 7 AM and arrived at an O’Hare-area hotel right at 10 PM with only a brief stop to grab-and-go some lunch and a few more gas stops. Rapid City and Dickinson are both on Mountain Time so while we gained an hour going there, we lost an hour coming back.

We save our points to use on vacation so even if this wasn’t the best use of points or certificates we got to stay free which was most important to us. We stayed at a Home2 Suites by Hilton in Rapid City on points, a TownePlace Suites in Dickinson and the Fairfield Inn & Suites O’Hare, both using Marriott free-night certificates that otherwise would have gone unused.

In between we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Our weather ran the gamut from sunny and pleasant to windy with sleet/snow.

As the whole trip was less than a week and we really only had two days on the ground, it’s a pretty quick trip report.

Categories: Fairfield Inn, Hilton, Historical Site, Home2Suites, Illinois, Marriott, North America, North Dakota, Road Trip, South Dakota, TownePlace Suites, Trip Report, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 2022 3rd Quarter Bonus Categories

It’s the 15th of the 3rd month of the quarter so it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses for next quarter.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $1500 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment for TV/Internet/Streaming Services and Cell Phones.  You must register your card before September 15th to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank or visit this link.  I’m choosing Home Utilities again as 5x categories but I hadn’t really paid attention that the TV/Internet category also includes Streaming Services.  I use an annual plan for BritBox and it comes due in September so we’ll see if that counts.  I won’t be losing out on Fast Food 5x as I’ll be able to get that with my Discover card.  I’ll continue with Grocery Stores for 2x.

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2022.  For Q3 the categories are:

To activate the bonus, simply log into your Discover account and click on the Activate Now button.  Restaurants is a good one for me.

Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom’s Q2 categories are Amazon and select streaming services.  Only these streaming services qualify: Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube TV, HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock, and Showtime.  If you have the Amex Platinum card and Peacock you’re still better off billing the service to the Platinum card as they will reimburse you for the charge.

To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button.

In the end

Always register for the bonus categories even if you don’t think you’re going to use them.  You’ll never know when they might come in handy!

Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: San Moritz Condos #K202, Crested Butte, Colorado

In February I spent a long weekend with my cousin and her family at Crested Butte ski resort in Colorado. Though Crested Butte is not far from Aspen/Snowmass as the crow flies, it’s a 4-5 hour drive away during winter and 3.5-4 hours in the summer. My cousin reserved an Air BnB in the San Moritz condo complex, unit K202. There are three buildings in this complex, each on situated above the other and ours was the building in the middle.

San Moritz Condos, Crested Butte, CO

Location

As you look at the Crested Butte trail map, the San Moritz condos are at the far right near the West Wall lift. The complex is ski-in/ski-out though not every unit is. Fortunately our unit was second from the end near the ski hill so it was a very short walk to the end of the parking lot. From there we could put on our skis and ski down to the West Wall lift. Coming home at the end of the ski day, it was not a simple thing to ski back to the same spot. It was easy enough to get back to the base of the West Wall lift but from there it was uphill to reach the parking lot of our building. It may be different in years when there was more snow but for less experienced skiers I’d recommend just walking back up the hill to the condos vs. trying to navigate down from the top. For true beginning skiers I’d recommend taking the complimentary shuttle to and from the base. The San Moritz staff can provide the details on that. Continue reading

Categories: Colorado, Condos, Crested Butte, Lodging Review, North America, United States | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: King Accessible Tub Studio Suite, Homewood Suites, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs

Since I stayed at this property just two years ago, this review will be brief. I’ll only highlight the differences in the room. During my previous stay I was in a King Bed One Bedroom Suite but on this trip I had stayed in a King Accessible Tub Studio Suite, normally meant for those who need accessible amenities. Since I’d already reviewed this property, I’d planned to stay at the Hampton Inn in downtown Steamboat. But on Thanksgiving weekend I received an email stating that the hotel would be closing permanently as of December 1 (I think that was the date). As the email did not come from someone with a hilton.com or hamptoninn.com email address I was a bit skeptical but decided I should go ahead and move my reservation since there are very few properties in Steamboat that are available on points or by using a free night certificate (which I did). Thank goodness I swapped reservations quickly as I got one of the last available rooms and that’s why I ended up with an accessible room. I later learned the Hampton and a Fairfield Inn were being converted to employee housing.

The room was at the end of the hall. The door opened directly into the kitchen. The kitchen counter and appliances were all on the right and a door connected to the adjacent room was on the left.

Homewood Suites Steamboat Accessible Suite Entry

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Categories: Colorado, Hilton, Homewood Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review, North America, United States | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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