Author Archives: 2btravel

About 2btravel

I love traveling and go where I can when I can. I prefer to use points & miles as payment! This site will concentrate on trip reports and how I used points to accomplish it. Happy to help others 2B Traveling with points too!

Lodging Review: Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs, Colorado

For my second ski trip this year I visited Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My group was arriving on Saturday and since I was the assistant trip leader I wanted to be sure I arrived before or at least with the group. To be certain of this I flew out Friday night and spent one at the Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs.

Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs

I arrived on a group shuttle from the airport sometime after 10 PM so things were fairly quiet at that point. (Side note: due to the hotel’s location, it’s very possible you’ll be the last stop on a shared shuttle ride.) I was assisted promptly, my Diamond status was recognized, and I was directed to a room on the third floor. The hotel has two elevators, one on each side of the lobby and I was helpfully shown the one that would be closest to my room. The hotel is laid out in a gentle V shape with the lobby, bar and breakfast area in the center. A free parking area is in the back of the hotel. There’s a small market with snacks available next to the front desk.

Lobby area

The hotel is relatively new; this is only its second ski season. As such almost everything is still in very good shape and the decor looks modern. My room was only a short walk from the elevator.

Guest Floor Hallway

Continue reading

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

Lodging Review: Hyatt Place Denver Airport

To wrap up my ski trip to Copper Mountain that included a couple of nights at the Hyatt Place Keystone and a week at the Village Square Condos, I spent the last night of the trip at the Hyatt Place Denver Airport. I’d hoped to be able to ride back to the airport with my ski club but my flight was much earlier than theirs. There were no shared shuttles leaving Copper in the wee hours of the morning so I’d already decided to use my free night certificate at this hotel. It turned out to be a good move because there was another snow storm due to arrive the day of my flight and it turned out some friends with a car were driving back to Denver that night too so it all worked out well.

Continue reading

Categories: Hotel, Hyatt, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Village Square Condos, Copper Mountain, CO

I stayed here for a week this winter as my ski club visited Copper Mountain. I don’t believe there is any true ski-in/ski-out lodging at Copper Mountain but there are several buildings of condos located in Center Village that are just a short walk away. There are also several restaurants and shops in Center Village, making this a nice convenient place to stay, especially if you don’t have a car.

Check In

Check in takes place about a quarter mile away from Center Village in the building that houses the Athletic Club and the spa. If you’ve booked through the main Copper Mountain reservations, you’re entitled to use the athletic club at no charge. The spa offers massages, saunas and hot tubs within the locker rooms.

Main Check-in and Athletic Club

I arrived well before the official check in time as I was coming over from skiing at Keystone the day before. I was able to leave my bags at the bell stand in this main building and walk around Center Village while waiting for my group to arrive. Once our condo was ready the bell staff brought my skis bag and my giant clothes bag all the way up to my room for me. Continue reading

Categories: Condos, Copper Mountain, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hyatt Place Keystone

I stayed here for a couple of nights on a ski weekend. The hotel has a great location, right on Highway 6 and there are a couple of easy ways to get to the slopes.  The hotel is on the ski shuttle route and it’s only one stop to the River Run base area. If you have gear for several people, grab one of the red wagons to help cart your stuff around. Ingenious idea! When returning to the hotel you may find it more convenient to choose the stop across the highway from the hotel then use the crosswalk. That’s certainly faster but depending on your ski party that may or may not be the best option. If you stay on the shuttle it is probably another 10 minutes or so before it circles back around to Hyatt’s side of the street.

Hyatt Place Keystone

Note that you don’t have to take the shuttle to reach the slopes. There is access to the area with the Argentine and Peru Express lifts that’s just a little bit of a walk away. But I was set to meet folks who were driving up from Denver and parking at River Run so taking the shuttle made more sense in my situation. Continue reading

Categories: Hotel, Hyatt, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 2020 2nd 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+

Even though TV, Internet & Streaming Services are shown as new below, though it’s been available for several quarters now.  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.  You must register your card before June 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 Q2 the categories are:

If you’re a wholesale club member or can get Visa gift cards at gas stations, this quarter could earn you a lot of cash back.

 

Chase Freedom

If you don’t have a Chase Ink card that earns 5x points on internet/cable/phone already and don’t want to use one of your US Bank categories, this is the quarter to use your Chase Freedom card on those bills.  Otherwise use this card for your gas purchases (and gift cards, if sold there) and on any streaming services you may use.

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

 

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

Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

It was time for our flight back to the US. As I mentioned in the intro to this trip report, this was the leg I booked first, simply because we found 3 business class tickets on the same flight. And I got to give the birthday girl the present of a business class flight when she usually chooses to fly economy.

Our bird for this flight

Qantas 15 BNE-LAX
Boeing 787-9
Seat: 7A (Business Class, Window)
Scheduled Departure: 1010 (Actual: 1019)
Scheduled Arrival: 0545 (Actual: 0535)
Scheduled Duration: 12h 50m

Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Flight Review, OneWorld, Qantas | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

After spending a few days on the Sunshine Coast we needed an overnight stay in Brisbane so that we didn’t have to leave Mooloolaba at a very early hour to be at the airport by 8 AM. I had an unused Marriott category 1-5 certificate from my credit card (either the Chase Marriott Visa or the Amex Marriott Bonvoy) so we booked the Marriott Brisbane. We knew that with three adults in a room with only two beds someone was going to be uncomfortable but since it was for only one night we weren’t concerned.

The hotel does not have a large footprint but is about 25 stories high. In front there’s only a place to drop off/pick up passengers so if you need to park, circle behind the building where the valet can help you.

Brisbane Marriott

We arrived in the early afternoon and our room was not quite ready though we had only a very short wait until we could check in. Continue reading

Categories: Australia, Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, Oceania | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Time on the Sunshine Coast

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Though we weren’t nearly as tired as we expected to be after 1.5 weeks of travel, it was still nice to get to the beach town of Mooloolaba to relax. As it turned out, late October was a wonderful time to visit the Sunshine Coast. The weather was warm – upper 70s to low 80s for the high – but not hot.

The day we arrived we enjoyed just walking along the beach south of our condo. We kept on the beach as long as we could and on the way back we walked along the path above the beach. There were lots of folks running and walking for exercise and there were picnic spots in several places.

These rocks were just across the esplanade from our condo. Bad for swimming but cool for looks!

Lots of beautiful beaches in the area. Be sure to swim between the flags only!

The next day we spent time at the beach and in the water. The ocean was cool but warm enough to swim in, even if it was a bit bumpy, I assume as a result of a thunderstorm the night before. We spent the rest of the day cruising the shops along the Esplanade and sampling the cuisine.

Australia Zoo

The next day I took an Uber to see Australia Zoo, home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. I loved the original shows and had been at the Great Barrier Reef just a couple of months before Irwin’s untimely death. I’d kind of lost track of what all was going on with the family until seeing that his daughter Bindi got engaged over the summer of 2019. It was hard for me to believe how the kids had grown up so quickly. My travel companions didn’t care anything about coming so I left them to do their own adventure while I took an Uber to the zoo.

One of my first impressions was that if you didn’t know Steve Irwin was dead, you’d expect him to pop out at any moment. His likeness is everywhere and the big monitor at the Crocoseum (the arena where the crocodile demonstrations are held) constantly plays videos of his shows and interviews. In my reading since returning I’ve learned that he and his wife Terri had set up a 10-year plan before he died and they’ve been diligently working on that ever since. The zoo is truly impressive and I had a blast spending the day there. I considered taking one of the behind-the-scenes tours but was concerned I wouldn’t get to spend enough time at exhibits that I wanted to see. However, if I ever get back that’s something I will definitely do. All money from the tours and animal encounters goes to the non-profit Wildlife Warriors fund which directly impacts wildlife and does not go for overhead costs at all. There are several wildlife reserves supported by these funds as well as the Wildlife Animal Hospital located on the zoo grounds. To date the hospital has treated over 90,000 patients and with the recent wildfires in the country, more animals than ever are being sent to the hospital for rehabilitation. It’s a great work they do there and I’m thankful there are facilities like this.

Here are a few of the animals I saw on my visit.

Rhinoceros Iguanas enjoying brunch

American Alligators are less aggressive than their saltwater crocodile cousins

An Aldabran Tortise. Tortoises have more block-like feet while turtles have feet more like flippers. Aldabrans can live over 100 years and grow up to one meter tall.

A blue-tongued skink

One of the staff with a wedge-tailed hawk

River otters sunning for just a moment

A Perentie goanna, one of the largest monitor lizards

Binturongs have prehensile tails but are carnivores.

Brolgas love to dance as part of their mating ritual.

An Emu blending in quite well with the foliage

A koala takes a nap. They can sleep for up to 20 hours a day!

Roo Heaven is an open area where kangaroos and wallabies run freely and guests can pet and feed them.

Mick giving Mossman some food. Mossman is 12.8 feet long and 1100 pounds!

Toby’s turn to feed Mossman

Mossman comes out of the water for food

One of the laughing kookaburras

Bubbles and Cuddles the macaws

One of the ring-tailed lemurs in a rare quiet moment

A meerkat plays sentry in their exhibit

Little lizards run wild in the zoo!

One of the Sumatran Tigers in the Tiger Temple exhibit

Rhino mom Caballe with her baby Carrie

One of the wombats, possibly Poa, takes a nap

Spartacus and Lucas, the Zebras

The giraffe family

There’s no cheetah exhibit but the zoo has several boys who walk around for meet ‘n greets.

Camel rides are available for an extra cost. This camel waits in the shade for his turn to give a ride.

In the end

Mooloolaba was a great ending to the main portion of our trip. It’s definitely a resort town but late October was a great time to visit as it wasn’t crowded at all yet was perfect weather. If you stay here and plan to return to the US from Brisbane you’ll either need to head there VERY early in the morning or, as we did, go the night before. If you’re returning from Sydney to LAX, all the flights seem to be in the 11 AM – 12 PM hour so you’d need one of the early morning flights out of the Sunshine Coast (MCY) airport there too. If you’re flying from Sydney to San Francisco, Vancouver or Dallas/Ft. Worth you’ll have a little more time. Even though we were spending the night in Brisbane, we were able to take a shuttle bus from our condo to the Brisbane airport and from there we took an Uber to our hotel. I loved visiting the Sunshine Coast and hope to return again one day.

Categories: Australia, Award Travel, Oceania | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

We flew to the Sunshine Coast airport (MCY) from Auckland via Sydney. There is a non-stop on Air New Zealand but we arrived much earlier in the day on a Virgin Australia connecting flight. From there we took a shuttle to Oceans Mooloolaba, which is about a 15-20 minute drive. Although the address is the Mooloolaba Esplanade, you’re much better off entering from the First Avenue side as there will be no stairs to deal with and the street is much less busy than the Esplanade.

The first order of business is learning how to pronounce Mooloolaba. When discussing our trip ahead of time we guessed that the pronunciation was moo-loo-LA-bah but we were wrong. It’s actually muh-LOO-luh-buh. I had to keep drilling that into my head each time I saw the word printed.

The Area

At any rate, this is a resort town with lots of condos, many overlooking the water. They’re mostly individually owned but are managed by resort groups. These complexes are stacked one after the other on the Esplanade, which runs along the beach. The benefit of this is that the ground floors of each of these buildings is filled with retail shops and restaurants so you never have to venture too far away for anything you might need. Though the grocery store isn’t on the Esplanade itself, if you go out the First Avenue entrance of Oceans you can see the grocery’s parking garage from there so it’s an easy walk.

Oceans Mooloolaba Exterior
photo credit: sunshinecoast.com

Continue reading

Categories: Australia, Condos, Lodging Review, Oceania | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Time in Auckland

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

I feel like we didn’t get to fully enjoy Auckland due to poor planning on our part. When we began planning this trip, we hadn’t fully decided how to spend our time in New Zealand when the Qantas award space opened up. As detailed earlier we ultimately decided to start with Christchurch and Queenstown before ending up in Auckland and heading to Australia. We (I) also got confused as to which airport we’d be flying into for the Australia portion of our trip and all of that led to us having less time to explore Auckland than it deserves.

If I had to do it over again we’d have flown Qantas through Sydney and directly to Christchurch before moving on to Queenstown and Auckland. That would have given us another day in the most populous city.  We had only a day and a half in Auckland. The day we arrived it was extremely windy and rained off and on so we stuck close to the hotel. Before leaving home we’d booked a day tour that took us outside the city for biking, hiking and beach viewing. While we’d received confirmation from Viator we never got confirmation from the tour operator. Only the persistence of the concierge at the Hilton Queenstown enabled us to learn that the tour operator had gone out of business. To their credit, Viator did refund our booking promptly but we were dismayed to learn the tour was still being offered on their site!

So, we had a day on our own in overcast Auckland. We decided just to walk around the CBD to see what we could see. We stepped out for breakfast near the Sky Tower. Built in the mid-1990s, this is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere at 1076 feet tall. Though it has a bungee-type jump (with cables to prevent you from smashing into the tower itself) we decided not to take advantage of that.

Auckland’s Sky Tower

Continue reading

Categories: New Zealand, Oceania | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.