Hotel

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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Lodging Review: Hyatt House Dallas/Las Colinas (DFW Airport)

On a recent ski trip I experienced more travel interruptions than I think I’ve ever had on any trip. My original plan was to fly from Memphis to Steamboat Springs, Colorado (HDN) via DFW on American (AA) on a Friday late in February. Things changed late the Wednesday before I was scheduled to leave when AA canceled the first leg of my trip and re-booked me for Sunday. Not wanting to miss out on my vacation, I managed to get the MEM-DFW leg rescheduled for Thursday night where I’d spend the night in the DFW Airport area and then take the second leg of my flight as scheduled on Friday.

I had a free night certificate from my World of Hyatt card that was good for a category 1-4 hotel. While I did not receive any exceptional value by using this certificate, I have a number of similar certificates from various credit cards so I was happy to be able to use it. I did look into staying at the Grand Hyatt DFW, which is accessible from the inter-terminal train (SkyLink) but they did not have any rooms available on points and that property is a category 5, so I couldn’t have used my free night certificate anyway.

Hyatt House Dallas/Las Colinas (photo from hyatt.com)

I’d previously stayed at the Hyatt Place DFW and had absolutely no complaints so this time I thought I’d try the Hyatt House in the area since I knew both limited-service properties included breakfast. What I hadn’t considered until after I’d booked is that for the Hyatt House, at least, the complimentary shuttle, originally shut down due to COVID, had not yet been restarted. As the hotel is only 8 miles from the airport I didn’t think it would be difficult to get a ride. Continue reading

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Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Express, Gunnison, Colorado

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison

I stayed here on two separate nights on either side of a ski trip to Crested Butte Resort, which is about 35-40 minutes away.

Airport Shuttle

I had called two days prior to my arrival (a Monday) to ensure the hotel had an airport shuttle. They asked for my name and flight info and I provided that. However when I arrived on Wednesday and called after collecting my bag, the message had not made it to the proper folks. There are only three people who are allowed to drive the shuttle and fortunately one of them was available to come pick me up but I did have to wait.

Before checking out I made sure to go ahead and schedule the shuttle for the following Monday morning. There is no local taxi service and only one Lyft driver in the Gunnison area so if you don’t have other transportation you’re out of luck.

Side note 1: the Gunnison airport is still a major construction zone as of February 2022 and will be for several more months. The only food & drink available is from vending machines so plan accordingly.

Lobby

I arrived in the early afternoon and was welcomed right away. The lobby is large with a couple of seating areas and a faux fireplace. The business center is off to one side.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Lobby

Behind the fireplace is the breakfast area. There were a few skiers there on the one morning I ate breakfast at the hotel but it was by no means crowded. Though I didn’t get photos of the breakfast buffet there were several hot items, three types of cereal, some just-add-water containers of oatmeal, pastries and fresh fruit along with juices, coffee and tea.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Breakfast Dining Area

Just beside the front desk is a mini-mart with packaged food and drinks for sale.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Mini-Mart

Side note 2: in general, masks are not a “thing” in Gunnison in February 2022. I can count on one hand the number of people I saw wearing masks in town, including wait staff.

Guest Room

The room I had for my first stay was on the ground floor, immediately behind the front desk. This was actually quite nice as the main bag I had with me was my skis bag and I’d packed it quite full. So not having to drag it very far was a win for me.

The hotel seems new and the hallway seemed fresh with decorative carpeting and matching walls.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Hallway

My room’s layout was standard: a short entryway with the bathroom on the right and the living area behind that.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Guest Room Entry

The king bed was quite high off the floor and might be difficult to get into if you’re someone who is very short or has mobility issues. But it was very comfortable. I liked that each side of the bed had two pillows and they were even labeled as “soft” or “firm” so I didn’t have to guess which one I’d prefer. Each side of the bed had a night stand with two electrical outlets as well as a USB charger, which is fantastic.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison King Bed

In the corner beside the bed was a chaise with a side table. I used this to eat a fast food lunch and it was adequate though not ideal.  While the room has an under-the-window HVAC unit, at least it has an actual thermostat where you can set a temperature and put it on “auto” as well as selecting heat vs. cold. I hate it at some hotels when you turn the thermostat down a few degrees in the winter and the A/C automatically comes on rather than just letting the room cool down naturally.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Chaise Longue and HVAC

Across from the bed was a furniture piece that consisted of the wardrobe, a low shelf with hooks above it and a section with three drawers and the TV mounted above them. Since I only had a coat to hang I didn’t bother with the wardrobe but used the hook for my jacket. I put my carry-on luggage on this shelf, which I found very handy. Another chair was between this furniture and the outside wall.

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The bathroom had a counter that stretched the length of the room with a sink in the center. If you didn’t want to turn on the fan, the only light was the one around the mirror. That light was great but the room was lit up much better with the overhead light on. I just wish I could have turned that light on without the noisy fan. There was no under-cabinet storage so all your toiletries had to go on the counter. The hair dryer was in a bag that was hung either on the back of the door or on one of the towel pegs.  This room had only a standard shower stall, no tub. The shower head could be adjusted both for location and for type of spray. However even in its most concentrated form it did not spray as hard as I’d have liked. But at least the water was hot and I never ran out of it!

For toiletries, two bars of Oasis hand soap were provided. The shampoo, conditioner and bath gel were all in wall-mounted bottles in the shower. They’re JR Watkins brand and I liked their smell just fine. There was also a tiny bottle of JR Watkins lotion (not pictured) that I really liked and took with me.

 

Just beside the bathroom was an area with a microwave, a Keurig and a mini-fridge (empty).

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Guest Room Appliances

Across from that was a corner shelf with the ice bucked and some cups and the wall-mounted mirror.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Mirror & Ice Bucket

My second night’s stay

The second room I was assigned was on the second floor, located above the pool. Having the pool below means the room stays warmer but it also means that when there are folks in the pool at night you can hear them, not clearly but muffled voices, when you’re trying to sleep as the pool doesn’t close until 11 PM. Next time I will specifically ask not to be right above the pool, especially if I have an early flight.

This second room also differed from the first in that there was a desk positioned between the drawers and the outside wall (forgot to take a photo of that). In the bathroom there was very little counter space and the toilet was positioned beside the sink instead of on the wall between the sink and shower. The shower also had a small seat along its back wall and a grab bar. I didn’t manage to photograph that either.

Holiday Inn Express Gunnison Alternate Bathroom

Gym

The gym is quite small but surprisingly well-equipped. There’s a treadmill, an elliptical and a recumbent bike for cardio, a weight bench and dumbbells as well as some fit balls, medicine balls and a BOSU trainer. Elastic bands and yoga mats are also available. You can also get free disposable ear buds at the front desk if you want to plug into one of the machines. The gym is open 24 hours and those 15 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Pool

The pool is open 7 AM – 11 PM and those age 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult. It appears to have a hot tub built in and pool towels are available on site.

Location

The hotel is located at one end of town on US 50 and is next to two fast food chains and Western Colorado University. As there’s no lunch or dinner service at the hotel, it’s about a 6-block (some very short blocks) walk to the nearest restaurants. To get more to the center of town (where US 50 and CO 135 intersect) is about another 5 blocks. It was quite cold during my stay (below zero overnight) but with no wind and bundled up properly I really did not get all that cold walking to and from dinner. As mentioned above there is no local taxi service and only one Lyft driver (who doesn’t work all the time) so either bring/rent your own vehicle or be prepared to walk.

In the end

There are limited hotels in the Gunnison area where points can be used for stays. I used an IHG free night certificate for one night and points for the other. With a free airport shuttle and free breakfast this was a good place for me even if it’s not the most convenient to other parts of town.

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Lodging Review: SpringHill Suites Franklin Cool Springs, Tennessee

As the end of 2021 approached I had several hotel free night certificates to spend. As I was not doing much in the way of traveling, I decided to use some of them on my trip home to the Nashville area for Thanksgiving. While I normally stay in the Bellevue area, which is the southwest part of town, there are currently only two Hilton properties and an independent hotel there. A Fairfield Inn property in Bellevue is due to start construction soon but not soon enough for me to use the two expiring certificates I had.

So I decided to stay near my sister in Franklin, which is directly south of Nashville. There are several properties there in the general area of the Cool Springs Mall and I selected the SpringHill Suites as I knew it would come with free breakfast.

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Franklin Cool Springs
(photo from Marriott.com)

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Lodging Review: Country Inns & Suites Asheville Outlet Mall, NC

Southeastern US Road Trip
Andaz Savannah
Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District
Anderson Ocean Club and Spa
Country Inn & Suites Asheville Outlet Mall

The final stop on our road trip was built around a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. This was also the only opportunity we had to utilize the two free night certificates I’d earned via spending on my US Bank Radisson Rewards credit card.

Country Inns and Suites by Radisson Asheville, Asheville Outlet Mall, NC (photo from Trip Advisor)

Location

The hotel is on Brevard Road which is a very busy divided highway. The Asheville Outlet Mall is just across the street and there are numerous similar hotels nearby. Its main attraction for us was that it was close to the interstate and just 6.6 miles away from the Biltmore. Right next door to the hotel is a grocery and a gas station and there are numerous restaurants in the area.

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Lodging Review: Anderson Ocean Club and Spa, Myrtle Beach, SC

Southeastern US Road Trip
Andaz Savannah
Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District
Anderson Ocean Club and Spa
Country Inn & Suites Asheville Outlet Mall

It had been several years since I last visited Myrtle Beach but I found it hadn’t changed all that much. It was still very touristy with high-rise after high-rise along Ocean Boulevard along the beach. Compared to the historical sites we’d seen in Savannah and Charleston, Myrtle Beach can be a step down culturally but we enjoyed great weather and had a lot of fun walking on the beach, playing mini-golf and just relaxing.

As mentioned in the intro to this series the primary reason for our visit was to fulfill a Hilton Vacation Club timeshare presentation in exchange for a few nights of lodging. Originally that presentation was going to be in Hawaii but after the pandemic struck I just wanted to get that obligation fulfilled as quickly as possible. So this fit in well as a stop on our road trip.

Anderson Ocean Club and Spa. The mini-golf you see here is free to guests.

We arrived at the mustard-yellow building in the afternoon. The loading/unloading area is a half-circle ramp that leads to the back of the building. While valet parking is available, you can self-park for free in the same garage (albeit on higher floors) and it’s only a block away.

Check in was quite simple and we were given wrist bands to wear that would allow us certain privileges. The only thing we used them for was the free mini-golf across the street.

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Lodging Review: Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District

Southeastern US Road Trip
Andaz Savannah
Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District
Anderson Ocean Club and Spa
Country Inn & Suites Asheville Outlet Mall

The next stop on our road trip was the Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District in Charleston, SC. We arrived in the early afternoon on a rainy day and didn’t have to wait too long to pull under the covered area where we were met by the valet. We had taken our time on the drive up from Savannah but had still reached Charleston well before check-in time. However the valet proactively offered to check to see if our room was ready and, to our delight, it was. Not only that but as our bags were being unloaded from the car, someone from the front desk actually brought out our room keys to us. I can only assume my Diamond status played a part in that.

There is no free parking anywhere in the area. The valet service is $35 per day and the cars are parked right across the side street. There is a parking garage next to the valet lot that is the same price or slightly higher. The hotel does mention another garage that’s a dollar or two cheaper per day but the bottom line is that you’re going to pay a pretty penny for parking here. We used the valet the first day as it was raining and we were still getting our bearings but the second night we parked in the nearby garage. When we checked out we found the valet charge had automatically been extended to the second night but I mentioned we had not used the valet the second day and was assured the charge would be removed. I did have to follow up a day or two later, but the charge was eventually credited back.

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Lodging Review: Andaz Savannah

Southeastern US Road Trip
Andaz Savannah
Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District
Anderson Ocean Club and Spa
Country Inn & Suites Asheville Outlet Mall

Our road trip was planned with the idea of using as many of our free-night certificates as possible. I only had one Hyatt certificate as I earn new ones in December and I’d already spent the 2019 certificate at the Hyatt Place Denver Airport in early 2020. But I have plenty of Chase Ultimate Rewards points so I transferred enough to my Hyatt account and we booked the Andaz Savannah using one night on points and one night with the free certificate earned from renewing my Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Hyatt Andaz Savannah

The hotel has a great location in the heart of the historic district. This also means there’s no free parking. The hotel offers valet service but there’s a garage practically next door so for us the valet service wasn’t worth the extra money ($37/day). I will say that despite the fact that we didn’t use the valet service, the valets were always super-nice, opening doors for everyone and ensuring our stay was a good one. They also helped us load our luggage on to a cart before parking the car.

The front desk is located just inside the lobby and the associates were always very friendly. She thanked me for being a Discoverist and we were given a room on the fifth floor. She pointed out that the mini-bars were empty but if we needed any of the complimentary items usually found there (water, soft drinks) that we could just ask at the front desk. She also told us of our welcome amenity of a free beer or champagne (or soft drink for me) and we took advantage of that. Though I wasn’t sure I’d need it, she gave me a complimentary 2 PM checkout time as well.

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Southeastern US Road Trip

Southeastern US Road Trip
Andaz Savannah
Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District
Anderson Ocean Club and Spa
Country Inn & Suites Asheville Outlet Mall

In 2020 a couple of friends and I had planned to go to Hawaii. This decision had been based on attending a Hilton timeshare presentation on the big island but we got 5 nights there for free along with an included rental car. Of course that got cancelled. But I still had to sit through a timeshare presentation somewhere. Rather than push it out any further, my friends and I decided on a Southeastern US road trip and I’d attend the presentation in Myrtle Beach, SC.

In addition, I had a number of free night certificates I’d received from my various hotel credit cards so we set out to use as many of those as we could. We both had Marriott 25K certificates but once we’d settled on the cities we wanted to visit, we found that none of these cities had Marriotts where we could use our certs, which was quite disappointing. In all we spent 9 nights on the road and used free night certificates for 5 of those nights. The three nights in Myrtle Beach were part of the Hilton timeshare presentation package.

In three of our destination cities we only stayed two nights each; in Myrtle Beach we spent three nights. As such I won’t be doing detailed descriptions of our activities but will mention a few items below.

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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!) Continue reading

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