Hotel

$50 Statement Credit for $300 Spend at Hyatt Place/Hyatt House

I’m a big fan of Hyatt Place and Hyatt House properties.  The rooms are like small suites with separate sitting and bed areas.  Some properties actually have suites as well.  When you’ve got three people, none of whom want to share a bed, these properties have rooms with two queens plus a pull-out sofa that make it perfect for me and my traveling buddies.

Now Hyatt is offering a $50 statement credit  when you use your Chase Hyatt Visa card to spend $300 or more at Hyatt Place/Hyatt House properties between the time you register and the end of the year.

To sign up for the promotion, check your email inbox for a link, or you can click HERE.  This will take you to a page where you can enter your email address, Hyatt Gold Passport number and your credit card number.  Once you’ve done that, you’re registered!

Don’t have a Chase Hyatt Visa?  You can apply for one HERE and a deserving blogger (not me) will get a referral credit.

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Categories: Chase, Credit Card Promos, Hotel, Hyatt | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hilton Amex 100K Sign-Up Bonus is Back!

Every so often Amex offers a spectacular bonus for signing up for the Hilton Surpass Amex Card and now is one of those times. Sign up now, spend $3000 in purchases within the first three months after approval and earn a whopping 100,000 Hilton Honors points. Plus you earn a free weekend night award on the first year of membership.

This card earns 12x points for charges at participating hotels in the Hilton Portfolio like Hilton, DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, etc. There’s also a 6x bonus on spend at grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations.

While Hilton may charge a lot of Honors points for their award rooms, one nice thing is that you can redeem points for non-standard rooms.  For example, in 2015 I redeemed a boatload of points for what was essentially a 2 BR condo in Fiji.  Many programs only allow point redemptions for standard rooms or suites with only a single bed but we were able to get a room with a king + two twins.

View from the balcony of our unit at the Hilton Fiji

Just by holding this card you get Hilton Gold status and if you spend $40,000 on the card in a year you’ll earn Diamond Status though it’s not recommended to chase Diamond status this way as the benefits aren’t that much better unless you’re staying at Hiltons a lot.

This card does come with a $75 annual fee and it does incur foreign transaction fees so it’s not great for international travel.

Remember that at the present time Amex is limiting bonuses to once per lifetime for a given product so if you’ve already received the bonus for this card, you’re not eligible for it again.

If you’d like to get this card, feel free to use my link. The link is good through October 4, 2017 and I will earn points if you are approved through this link.

Categories: American Express, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, Hilton, Hilton Surpass | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hyatt Regency New Orleans

A weekend convention I was attending was held in New Orleans recently. I was pleased to learn it was to be held at the Hyatt Regency since I have low-level status with them as a result of my Chase Hyatt credit card. I was even more pleased to learn that this is a category 4 hotel, which meant I could use the free night certificate that I earn each year simply by paying the annual fee on the card.

We arrived about 8:30 PM after the long drive from Memphis. Valet parking is $40 per night so we opted for the self-park around the corner that was $25 per night. Fortunately the self-park garage has direct access to the hotel so this made it quite convenient.

Though there wasn’t much of a check-in line, I still went to the elite line where I was the only person and once a staff member was freed up, she called me right over for assistance. She did thank me for my loyalty and confirmed I’d asked for an accessible room. When I said that I didn’t really need that (it was just what had been assigned to me when redeeming the certificate) she proactively decided to look for an upgrade. I was assigned a room on the 11th floor and even given club access. That was great because as a Discoverist, I don’t normally get free breakfast but because she’d assigned me a suite, I now had it!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Front Desk

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Lobby

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Grand Staircase

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Seating Area – one of many found throughout the first couple of floors, which are the convention areas

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Boarding Pass Print Area
This is located to the side of the front desk

Getting to the elevators from the front desk is a little bit of a trek because this is a convention hotel so while the front desk was on the ground floor, it was actually necessary to take escalators up to the third floor to be able to reach a point where we could get on the elevators.

The elevators in themselves are a bit tricky but fortunately there was a staff member on hand to assist, as there was both evenings were there while lots of folks were checking in.  (Smart move, Hyatt.) We weren’t the only ones learning how to make them work! There are two banks of elevators: A/B/C/D and E/F/G/H. Both sets go to level 3 (the main level) and level 5 (pool) but A-D are for the lower sets of floors while E-H go to the higher sets. And only F and G go to the 32nd floor where the club and gym are found.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Elevator Keypad
Scan the room key underneath for access

To access a floor, you scan your room key underneath the keypad. It will automatically light up your floor but if you want to go to a different one (like the club) then you select that button instead. Once it knows which floor you want, it will assign you to one of the elevator cars. This usually worked pretty well. The only time things were really crowded was when we were all heading downstairs to the convention at once.

The hotel is shaped a bit like an X but the “legs” of the X curve a bit more than the ones of the letter do. I followed the signs toward my quarter of the X. The entire atrium is open and you can look right down on one of the restaurants. I kept walking almost to the end of the hallway before coming to my room, 1124.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Exit the elevators and turn left down this hall

Hyatt Regency New Orleans The atrium is open from bottom to top

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Follow the hallway as it curves to the right

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Room 1124 is on the right, just beside the stairwell

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Room 1124 in the upper left quadrant of the X

Hyatt Regency New Orleans
Atrium Restaurant as viewed from the elevator

The door opened into a hallway with the closet immediately to the left, followed by the bathroom.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Hallway

At the end of the hall was the living area that featured a sectional sofa (not a sleeper, however) with a desk and a wall-mounted TV. Mine was a connecting room so to the far left, beside the desk, was the connecting door.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Sofa and Desk

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Living Area TV and Sofa

To the right was a wall with an open doorway into the bedroom. I had a king bed with two built-in side tables. Against the wall between the living area and the bedroom was a tall chest upon which the TV sat. The chest contained the mini-fridge (with 2 liter-size bottles of water – complimentary thanks to my Discoverist status) and the safe.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite King Bed

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite TV and Stand

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Fridge, Safe and Shelves

On one bedside table I found this note.  I think this is a great idea, even though I did not use either product.  This hotel is right beside some venues that could be used for concerts and noise could be an issue at times.  The hotel has implemented a quiet period in its hallways after 9 PM but we all know that can be ignored if there are intoxicated folks around.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Earplugs

You’ll notice that I did not describe any sort of chest with drawers and that’s because there wasn’t one. There was no luggage stand either, though there were a couple of stools/footrests in the living area that could have served the purpose. I’ve heard that some properties are skipping chests with drawers because people tend to leave more things behind in drawers.

There were a couple of shelves below the safe in the bedroom and inside the closet were several shelves on one side and there was the overhead shelf that ran the length of the closet. There was also a laundry hamper in the closet, not something I believe I’ve ever seen before in a hotel. The whole arrangement just struck me as strange but since I was only there for two nights it didn’t bother me too much.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Closet

The bathroom had the vanity and sink on one side (I liked the stainless features), the toilet in the center and the walk-in shower on the other side. My first complaint about the bathroom was the lighting. It was extremely dim and yellow. Yes there was a lighted makeup mirror which helped up close,  but the wall lights gave the whole bathroom a sickly glow. My other complaint is the water pressure. I thought perhaps it was a fluke on Saturday morning when there wasn’t much pressure but I had the same issue on Sunday. I like a very strong shower pulse and this just didn’t get it done, especially since the water at this hotel is EXTREMELY soft, which meant it was quite difficult to get the soap off your hands and body whether taking a shower or just washing your hands. The shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and bar of soap already occupied the shelf in the shower. It’s nice that the shelf is big enough to accommodate all that at once. But that still left me nowhere to put my razor and shave gel except on the floor. An additional shelf would be a good step up as would some sort of low shelf to prop my leg while shaving.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Bathroom Vanity

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Bathroom Toilet

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Bathroom Shower

Toiletries were KenetMD brand which I have typically associated with Hyatt Place and Hyatt House.  I liked that there was a choice of a bath bar and bath gel.  The shampoo and conditioner weren’t great but got the job done.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Toiletries

I only sat on the sofa for a little bit but in looking at it later it seems to have been well-used during its life and refreshing the seat cushions wouldn’t hurt.

The bed was quite firm but was still very comfortable. I loved that there were two easily-accessible plugs on either side of the bed!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Bedside Outlets

The desk also had easy-to-reach plugs on its side. Kudos for that!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Desk Sign

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Desk Side Outlets

The thermostat was easy to operate and thankfully could be set below 68F. I like to sleep in a cold room and that made it much easier. I was a little amused/frustrated that in the mornings when I’d turn the thermostat up, that I had to bump it up just a few degrees at a time. If I tried to jump straight from 66F to 72F, it would turn on the heat instead of just allowing the room to gradually warm.

I was thankful for the upgrade but I do think there are a few small things that could be done to improve the experience.

Pool

The pool is located on the 5th floor and you must use your keycard to gain access. From there it’s down a flight of stairs so I don’t know if it’s totally handicap accessible though there may be an entrance from a different direction. The pool deck is fairly large and from 8-10 on Saturday mornings there is some sort of free exercise class there. The deck is right amid a number of tall buildings so I don’t know how much sunlight it actually gets. But the famous New Orleans humidity was in full force, even at 8 AM.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Pool

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Pool Deck Seating

Gym

The gym is on the 32rd floor, across from the Regency Club. The room follows the curve of the building and offers views of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (home of the NFL’s Saints) and the Smoothie King Center (home of the NBA’s Pelicans). There were a number of treadmills, some elliptical machines, a few bikes, a reasonable selection of weight machines as well as hand weights and other assorted accessories. I got there just before closing time and it was empty on Friday night but each of the next two mornings there were several folks making use of it while I ate breakfast.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Gym Ellipticals

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Treadmills

Hyatt Regency New Orleans More Treadmills

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Weight Machines

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Fitness Equipment

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Hand Weights

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Gym Beverage Station

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Gym Towel Sttation

Regency Club

The Regency Club is also on the 32nd floor and offers city views in the opposite direction from the gym. I was disappointed in the selection as there was not much in the way of hot food at all. Oatmeal and grits were the only hot foods. There were about 5 kinds of cereal and a good selection of fruit, both bite-sized and whole, and a small selection of pastries and breads. Several types of juices were available as were coffee and tea, but that was it.  Breakfast is offered 5:30-9:30 AM Monday-Friday and 7:00-10:00 AM on the weekends.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Beverage Service

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Milk and Cereal

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Fresh Fruit

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Whole Fruit

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Yogurts and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Grits and Oatmeal

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Bread Station and Grits Toppings

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Oatmeal Toppings

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club More Oatmeal Toppings

They offer mid-day snacks 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM and hors d’oeuvres 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM daily but I did not visit during either of these times.  I should have gone been there during our convention’s one long break as it wasn’t long enough for a proper lunch and all the grab ‘n go places had huge lines.  Wish I’d remembered this was open!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Beer and Wine
(the liquor cabinet was above but the photo came out blurry)

Location

The Hyatt Regency New Orleans is on Loyola Avenue and is super-convenient to the Superdome and the Smoothie King Center. However there’s not a huge selection of restaurants in the area (or so I was told) and that surprised me. For the one night I had dinner, we ate at the in-house seafood restaurant, which was quite good and fairly reasonably priced (that is to say, a little more than I’d spend if I was just going out by myself for dinner here at home).

View of the Smoothie King Center and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome from the gym

If our convention selects NOLA as its site for next year, that will be fine with me and I would be happy to stay here again.

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Lodging Review: DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport

My colleagues and I left Hinckley in the late afternoon and made our way back to London so we’d be near the airport for our return flights the next day. As I have Gold status with Hilton HHonors (thanks to simply having the Hilton Surpass card by American Express) I considered the Hilton attached to Terminal 3 but it was a good bit more expensive and I was leaving from Terminal 2 anyway so I booked the DoubleTree which is located between T2 & T3 as most of my colleagues were flying Delta out of T3 so it worked for them too.

DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow
(photo courtesy DoubleTree website)

DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport Lobby

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Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

We arrived at the Hilton Castle District by taxi in the late afternoon after having walked all over the Pest side of the city.  A bellman quickly assisted us with our bags and we found the bell staff was very helpful each time we needed them.  We’d arranged for the taxi driver who brought us up the hill to take us to the airport on Monday morning.  When he didn’t show, the bell staff jumped in and got us another taxi right away.

There are several sets of entrances into the lobby.  Upon entering, the front desk is at the right side.  The lobby’s stainless steel and dark wood look combined with the rather low ceiling should make the area feel smaller than it is but I never felt like the walls were closing in.

Hilton Castle District Lobby

Hilton Castle District Lobby

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Lodging Review: Residence Inn – Palm Desert, California

I recently spent four nights at the Residence Inn in Palm Desert, California with a couple of friends. When we travel together we each like our own bed so that can sometimes be a challenge to find properties with this configuration.  It’s one reason we love Residence Inns and Hyatt Places – we know we can have the bedding we want AND free breakfast!

Residence Inn Palm Desert

My two friends had already spent a couple of days in the area at a different property before I could join them late on a Tuesday evening.  So thanks to them for taking most of the room photos you’ll see below. Continue reading

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Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Our first two nights in Prague were at the Marriott Courtyard courtesy of the free night we each earned by holding the Chase Marriott credit card.  For our last night we decided to splurge on the Boscolo Prague, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph collection.

I fully admit that we initially selected this hotel because it’s beautiful.  As  it turned out it was more convenient to Old Town and was practically across the street from the train station.

autograph-collection-boscolo-exterior

(Photo courtesy Marriott.com)

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Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

When deciding where to stay in Prague we naturally turned to our points and free night certificates.  We each have the Marriott credit card from Chase and that card comes with a free night certificate for a category 1-4 hotel.  Since the Courtyard is a category 4, it worked out perfectly for us.  We booked two free nights, each using our certificate.  We decided to splurge on the Boscolo, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, for our final night.

The front desk staff assisted us quickly.  They noted that they were completely full for the night and thus could not give us our preference of a room, which was a high floor away from the elevator.  They did say that we could have that type of room for the following night.  Knowing that we’d be spending very little time in the room, we opted to keep the same room for both nights.

We’d reserved a room with two beds and they appeared to be double beds.

prg-courtyard-beds

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Lodging Review: Hyatt Place DFW

I hadn’t planned on spending the night in Dallas.  But after the delays in flying out of Aspen, I arrived at DFW too late to make a connection to Memphis, so I had no choice.  While on the plane waiting for boarding to complete in Aspen, I used the Hyatt app to book a room near the airport.

Photo from Hyatt.com

Photo from Hyatt.com

I had spent a night at the Hyatt Regency DFW in October 2015.  I thought about booking a room at the Grand Hyatt since it’s connected to the terminal.  But since I knew I’d be paying for this stay out of pocket I opted for the Hyatt Place DFW.  It’s a fairly new property, having been open just less than a year.

In general, I love Hyatt Places because I love their consistency.  I know I’ll get a large room with a separate seating area, good wi-fi, an airport shuttle and free breakfast – things I value highly.  This hotel was no exception.

My flight landed in Terminal B and I called the hotel from baggage claim.  Their shuttle picks ups at either end of the terminal so I scooted down to the B1 end of the terminal where I found two others waiting as well.  The shuttle arrived in less than 10 minutes, which was great since I’d already had a long day.  Fortunately ours was the last pickup before heading towards the hotel.

On arrival, I was able to go directly to the check-in desk since I only had two small backpacks.  Fortunately I’d planned for the possibility I might get stuck getting out of Aspen and one backpack contained clean clothes and personal grooming items.  Yay, me!

At the front desk I was greeted by Mary, a grandmotherly-type who called me “hon” and welcomed me “home” after noting my Platinum status.  Normally being called “hon” is not on my list of favorite things but after my long day, being welcomed “home” made me feel like I really was home. Continue reading

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Lodging Review: The Stonebridge Inn, Snowmass, CO

stonebridge-inn-signI didn’t set out to stay at the Stonebridge Inn.  When I learned my ski club was doing a trip the first week of January the timing worked out well for me.  The catch was that it wasn’t on our normal Saturday-Saturday schedule since the first Saturday would have been New Year’s Eve and no doubt quite expensive.  So we were running a Monday-Sunday trip.  I noticed that there was an IHG property in the area and thought that would be a good use of the free night certificate that comes with the Chase IHG MasterCard each year.  So I booked myself a flight to get to Snowmass a day early and used the free night certificate.  Unfortunately a couple of months later I was notified that by January the property would no longer be under the IHG umbrella so my reservation was cancelled and the certificate was restored to my account.  Not wanting to part with number of SPG points required, I was able to get a room at the Stonebridge Inn for one night.  I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve and the $200 annual travel credit covered the majority of the room charge.

My flight arrived just after noon so it was no surprise that my room was not ready.  But the friendly counter folks kept watch over my luggage while I walked up to Snowmass Village for some lunch and shopping.  They gave me a call less than an hour later to let me know my room was ready.

stonebridge-inn-exterior
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