Monthly Archives: September 2020

Review: Home2Suites by Hilton Nashville Bellevue

Home2Suites Nashville Bellevue

After spending four months in a hotel this year already, staying in another one was not necessarily at the top of my list. After all, I needed to get my house back together after the fire. But I have mostly accomplished that and after having to cancel my fall vacation to Hawaii I really wanted to go somewhere. I normally would have been to Nashville in May and June for Mothers Day and Fathers Day but was told by my parents not to visit then. But now, as things are starting to get better in our part of the country, we all felt it was fine for me to come up for a long weekend. I decided to stay long enough to visit my ski club friends at the monthly membership meeting on Tuesday night. (Side note: the Nashville Ski Club generally meets the first Tuesday of each month. Check out the website if you’re interested!)

When I’d last visited my family at Christmas I’d tried to stay at the Home2Suites in the Bellevue area of town, which is the southwestern part of the city. However, despite having made reservations, when I was double-checking as the time approached I saw the hotel wasn’t going to be open in time. Hilton never notified me and I just wonder how many people arrived to find they had nowhere to stay. The hotel did eventually open in February, just in time for the pandemic to arrive.

Since I was going to be working all day Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday morning, I was hoping the the Home2Suites would be better suited for this than the Hampton Inn. While the Hampton was fine, I had tried to work there once and found the desk chair was completely unsuited for extensive time at the desk and I had wi-fi issues then too, even though I’d not noticed them on previous visits.

Home2Suites is one of Hilton’s limited service brands. Breakfast is provided each day though there is no restaurant. The rooms have a kitchenette though it does not include a cooktop like the Homewood Suites does. But it has enough plates and silverware to last several days along with a microwave and full-sized refrigerator so it makes staying here several weeks a viable option, especially if there’s no Homewood Suites in the area. In this part of town there are only three hotels total (the Microtel Suites is the other one) so if you’re looking to use or accumulate points and you’re going to stay awhile, I can recommend the Home2Suites.

I chose to pay for this stay using a combination of points and cash, assuming I’d earn points for the portion of the stay I paid for.  Well, I did get points for the charge on my credit card but I did not earn points otherwise.  Next time I do something like this I’ll make two separate reservations to be sure I earn points!

Location

The hotel is located in One Bellevue Place, a large shopping area, so it’s not the most scenic location. But that means there are lots of shops and restaurants in walking distance as well as couple of grocery stores. The Ford Ice Center is located here as well though it would be a fairly long walk, especially if you were carrying ice skating or hockey gear.

There is a small covered area to park while checking in and unloading your bags. There are a few spots in front of and across from the hotel but there are many more spots behind the hotel. All parking in the area is free.

Lobby

The lobby is a bright and inviting area with seating on each side that would normally be used during breakfast. While I didn’t see signs prohibiting eating or congregating in the lobby, breakfast was advertised as grab-n-go so it was clear they preferred it if you’d eat in your room.

The front desk is directly ahead upon entering and each of the three check-in stations had large plexiglass partitions in front of them. In addition, a long, narrow table had been pushed in front of the desk to keep you an extra couple of feet back. Associates all wore masks and most of them at least knew how to wear them properly though if the lobby was empty it was not uncommon to see a couple of them talking behind the desks with their masks pulled down. In general they’d pull them back up to speak with guests. With so much space and a plexiglass barrier between us it was not really an issue but with all the extra signage that has been added to ensure social distancing you’d think they’d realize that the masks need to be on all the time. That being said I must confess that the first day I walked down to breakfast without my mask. Just totally forgot it and left it in the room. I left it sitting by my car keys and had I been leaving the building I would have remembered it but since all I needed was my room key I just totally goofed up. I was horrified when I reached the lobby and realized what I’d done. There were no recriminations and they offered me a free mask right away. I sure didn’t forget again!

I was welcomed warmly by Lloyd, who seemed to be one of the more senior members of the team. He thanked me for my Diamond status (earned the hard way this year) and got me checked in quickly. I was given a room on the fourth (top) floor near the end of the hall.

There was never an issue of having to ride the elevator with anyone else while I was there. Signs in the elevator lobby encourage folks to ride separately with only the folks in your own room.

Fourth Floor Elevator Lobby

The hotel retains a bit of the “new hotel smell” and the decor is all fresh-looking, as it should be with a 6-month-old hotel.

Fourth Floor Hallway

Guest Room

I had read about the seals that Hilton puts on guest room doors to let you know that no one has been in the room since it was serviced and was told that if the seal was not on my door or if it was broken I should notify the front desk. The seal was intact on my room and it was fairly easy to remove the sticker. While I suspect it would not be impossible to remove and reattach the sticker, mine did not seem to have been tampered with.

Guest Room Door with Seal

I entered my room to find it was quite chilly. Apparently someone in Hilton management had been reading my complaints that some hotels did not allow the a/c to be turned down low enough so they pre-set my room to 65F! While it was appreciated, it was not necessary. While I do like to sleep in a very cool room, I prefer it a more normal 72F-74F during the day. Fortunately the thermostat was easy to locate and operate.

The room is a slightly modified version of a standard hotel room layout: a small entry hall with the bathroom on one side and the bed area beyond. But in this case the kitchenette is directly opposite the bathroom. The closet is at the far end of the room across from the bed. The desk and sofa are situated between the kitchenette/bathroom area and the bed area.

Bedroom Area

The comfortable king-sized bed is located at the far end of the room and can be somewhat partitioned off by a large curtain (seen in green in the photo). While this obviously doesn’t help with noise from the TV it would at least keep that area dark if one person was up and the other was in bed.  This room had a nightstand on one side and a table on the other.  The night stand had both electrical outlets and USB ports right on the front side, which was great. The night stand itself could stand to be a little larger as if you try to put both your tablet and your phone on it you’re going to have to put one on top of the other and the tablet will extend past the edge of the night stand, making it easy to accidentally hit when turning over or getting in/out of bed.  The table on the far side did not have any built-in outlets.  There was an outlet on the wall which the lamp used so that did mean one outlet was available but you had to reach behind the table to access it.  Not a big deal for me as I wasn’t sharing the room but might be annoying if there are two folks trying to charge two devices each.

Directly across from the bed was counter space with an area below it that I found handy for placing my empty suitcase as well as a cabinet that held some of the linens for the sleeper sofa. The closet, which had a sort of heavy-duty curtain as a door, was against the far wall. The HVAC unit was directly under the window though the thermostat was located in the entry area. My room was on the same side as the main entrance and faced the shops on the other side of the drive.

Living Area

The sleeper sofa is on the same wall as the bed and it reminded me very much of the one from the Homewood Suites. My main complaint about these sofas is that they only have a double bed so they’re not very wide. That means it’s uncomfortable to try to lay on the sofa unless you’re quite short. The ottoman is large but it would still mean you’d have to sit up on the sofa to stretch your legs out on it. Maybe I’m just weird in that I prefer to stretch out all the way.

The large flat-screen TV could be swiveled so that it could be viewed from either the bed or the sofa. It sat atop a cabinet with shelves on one side and drawers on the other. I think if this cabinet was installed in other hotels the side with shelves might be used for the mini-fridge.

The drawers were not particularly large but for my short stay they were more than adequate.

I was glad to see the cleaning process extended to the TV remote. Often when I’m in hotels I never even turn on the TV but I did use it during this visit. However I do wish the channels were more like the ones at the Homewood Suites in Steamboat and included Animal Planet and ION Television. Pro sports were still fairly limited during my visit but I didn’t see an option for the regional FOX Sports channels that would allow guests to watch Predators hockey and Grizzlies basketball.

Beside the TV cabinet was where I spent most of my non-sleeping time in the room and I was impressed by the thought that went into this design.

As you can see the counter stretches from the TV cabinet towards the kitchen. However that counter is too high to be used as a desk. Instead this oval table on wheels is tucked beneath it. The table doesn’t slide fully under the counter but that’s OK. I had brought my wireless keyboard and mouse along with my laptop so I was able to put the laptop on the counter – making it essentially a monitor at eye level – and have the mouse and keyboard on the table. (I didn’t have the table pulled out as far as it is in the photo.) And I was very pleased to see a proper desk chair. It had good lower back support and its height could be adjusted. All of this made it easy for me to work from this area for a couple of days.

The one thing that puzzled me was this: the desk chair was the only chair in the room. The room could sleep four people if you put two in the sleeper sofa. Where were the other folks supposed to sit while eating at the table? I guess the ottoman could be used for that purpose and maybe two small children could sit there. As I was the room’s only occupant it wasn’t an issue for me, I just found it strange.

Kitchenette

I refer to this area as “kitchenette” instead of “kitchen” because there’s no cooktop. There is a note saying that a portable cooktop is available if needed. I guess it depends on how much actual stove-top cooking you normally do. I lasted 4 months in the Homewood Suites without ever using the cooktop that was provided.

There’s a full-sized refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom.

Fridge on the top (left) and Freezer on the bottom

In the center is the sink with the microwave above it. There are open storage areas for cups and glasses on one side and plates and bowls on the other.

I counted six place servings but when I checked the silverware drawer one of the basic utensils had only 5 items though I can’t recall if it was spoons, forks or knives. Still, for a single person that’s not really an issue. There were also a few baking/casserole-type dishes which might be good for reheating things in the microwave.

Bathroom

The bathroom is not overly large but doesn’t feel like tight quarters.  There’s only one sink though there’s plenty of counter space on either side.  The shelf beneath the sink holds the linens.  Above the toilet are hooks for hanging up the bath towels.  The bathroom has a pocket door which made the room feel larger, I think, since you didn’t have to slide down by the toilet to open or close it.

I liked how wide the drawers were.  At both my stays in Homewood Suites this year the drawers were too narrow to easily accommodate the hair dryer.  This drawer had no such issues.  As a bonus, the drawers were also wide enough to put my dopp kit in it without it being squished on the sides.  That may be the first time I’ve ever stayed anywhere with a drawer that wide.

The toiletries were all by Neutrogena.  At the sink was a bar of soap.

And as you can see there were wall-mounted toiletries provided in the shower.  These were also Neutrogena products, like what was provided at Homewood Suites.  After just two showers I was reminded why I’d ended up buying my own body wash when living there – this shower gel will dry your skin like crazy.  The shampoo was fine but no conditioner was provided.  When I return over the holidays I will be sure to bring some with me. 

The shower has the one small shelf in the corner by the toiletries and, wonder of wonders, not one but TWO well-placed shelves in the back corner!  I had been excited when some hotels began putting a small shelf in the lower back corner of shower stalls as it makes shaving your legs so much easier.  But the problem was there was nowhere to put the razor (except the shower floor) while putting shave gel on your leg and once your leg was covered, there was nowhere to set the can of shave gel while you were shaving.  This shower had a higher shelf just for that purpose and it was greatly appreciated!  (Really, I know guys have no idea how big a deal this is but it’s groundbreaking.)  Kudos to the design team for getting this right.

Other Amenities

Spin2Cycle

Spin2Cycle is the name given to the area that contains both the self-serve laundry and the gym.  It’s just off the lobby and opposite the elevators.  Stepping inside there are a couple of chairs, presumably for use by those waiting on their laundry.  Two sets of washers and dryers are available.  It felt just like home, er, the Homewood Suites where I lived for four months, when I saw that one of the units was out of service.

The gym is not large but has a recumbent bike, a couple of treadmills and an elliptical trainer for cardio.  There’s also a small universal machine and a bench with a large selection of hand weights. A selection of medicine balls, a fit ball and several mats were available as well.  I don’t believe I ever saw anyone using the gym but I intend to try it out on my next visit.  I’ve resisted going back to my own gym so far just because I don’t want to wear a mask while working out and am not comfortable being among that many folks without wearing a mask but if I was the only one in the place I’d feel perfectly fine doing that.

Patio

On the back side of the building is a patio with a number of tables and chairs and two large grills.  I assume they’re available for all guests.  It would be nice to eat breakfast out here on pretty mornings.  There were also seating areas just outside the front door but they were currently not in use due to COVID-19.

Pool

The hotel has a covered saltwater pool though it was closed due to the pandemic.  This photo was taken through the door.

Pandemic Protections

As mentioned above, all employees wore face masks and generally wore them properly when dealing with guests.  Breakfast was reduced to grab-n-go with only one hot item available each day. (I was really surprised there was no orange juice.) There is no full housekeeping every day though there are signs posted indicating what types of cleaning you can expect for your room.  Since I was only staying three nights and was working during the day, I opted to have them skip my room entirely.  There are signs posted everywhere about wearing masks and keeping six feet apart.  There is a laundry cart in each floor’s elevator lobby if you have dirty towels you’d like to turn in.  While the cart is a little unsightly it’s better than towels sitting on the floor outside a room.

Going Green

The hotel did provide separate trash and recycling bins in the room, which I always appreciate.  They’re very proud of the eco-friendly portions of the hotel and have this large poster in the elevator to brag on themselves a bit.  (Nothing wrong with that.)

In the end

I really enjoyed my stay at the Home2Suites.  It was nice to be able to be within walking distance of so many restaurants at lunch time.  It was a good place to “work from home” while not at home.  I plan to return at Thanksgiving but it was so much more expensive at Christmas that I’ll be at the Hampton instead – at least as of now.  I’ve learned to keep checking on prices as travel dates approach and you may get a better deal!

 

Categories: Hilton, Home2Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 2020 4th 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 $2000 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 25th 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 (as usual) and Gyms (as usual).

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2020.  For Q4 the categories are:

Pretty good categories for your holiday shopping.

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom’s Q4 categories are Walmart and PayPal.  I expect this to be very popular for holiday shopping.

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

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

Upgrades to the Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited (CFU) is already a pretty great card. It has no annual fee and offers 1.5 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on each purchase. Those URs can be exchanged for 1 cent per point (cpp) on your credit card statement or, if you have one of Chase’s premium UR-earning cards, the Sapphire Preferred (CSP) or the Sapphire Reserve (CSR), the UR points can be transferred to one of Chase’s hotel or airline partners or redeemed for travel purchases through the Chase portal at the rate of 1.25 cpp (CSP) or 1.5 cpp (CSR).

Starting Sunday, September 13th the earning rate gets even better.

When you purchase travel products through the Chase portal and pay with your CFU card you’ll now receive 5x UR points! This is a fantastic rate though you’ll need to be aware of two things. First, the CFU *does* impose foreign transaction fees of 3% so you’d only want to use this card for purchases on US-based airlines. Second, your purchase will be made through Expedia, on online travel agency, so that’s another layer between you and the airline should your travel plans change. Hopefully that will never be an issue but I always want to point that out.

Next, the CFU will now earn 3x UR points for Dining, which includes not only restaurants but take out delivery services. In addition, you’ll get complimentary 3 months of DashPass which is DoorDash’s subscription service that offers $0 delivery fee on orders over $12. After your 3 months are up you’re automatically enrolled in DashPass for the remaining 9 months at 50% off.

The third upgraded category is drugstores where you’ll now earn 3x UR points per purchase.

Additionally if you use your CFU for Lyft you’ll earn 5x UR points on Lyft rides through March 2022.

If you don’t have the Freedom Unlimited the current signup offer is an easy one to meet. Once you’re approved and spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months after approval you’ll earn 20,000 UR points (equivalent to $200 cash back). If you are approved via this link I will also earn a small commission.

More to Come?

The Dining category on this free card is now better than the $95-per-year Sapphire Preferred and equivalent to the $550-per-year Sapphire Reserve so the general consensus is that there will be upgrades coming to those cards soon.  Personally I use the Discover Card and the Chase Freedom card during quarters they offer 5%/5x points and the American Express Gold Card which offers 4x points on Dining but as a fall back I’ve used the CSR.  It would be great to see upgrades to the points categories for the CSP and CSR soon.

Categories: Chase, Credit Cards, Freedom Unlimiited | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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