Lodging Review

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.

Check-in Process

I took a group shuttle from Denver and arrived with a large clothes bag and a skis bag. While there is a ramp, it’s a switchback so I found it easier to drag my wheeled bags up the main stairs (6-8 steps) rather than try to negotiate that ramp. Immediately upon entering the front desk is on the left, there’s a double-sided seating area in the center and the elevators are on the right. The seating area does have a number of electrical outlets but not all of them were working when I was there.

Hyatt Place Keystone Front Desk elevators are directly across from the front desk

I was checked in by a friendly associate and given directions to my room on the 5th floor.

Hyatt Place Keystone Elevator Lobby

There was no bell staff so I took my bags upstairs and took a left in the hallway where my room was just a few doors down.

Hyatt Place Keystone Guest Floor Hallway

The Hyatt Place Keystone is a Category 4 hotel, which means award nights cost 15,000 points each. I used the free night certificate from my Chase Hyatt Visa card and 15,000 points for this two night booking. While I booked a regular King room, I was given an upgrade to a King Suite though the folks at the front desk did not tell me this. I’ll guess my low-level Discoverist status had something to do with this though I’m not sure.

King Suite

The suite is 600 square feet (double the size of a normal king room), the bedroom has a door and its own bath and there’s a separate bath in the living area. This makes sense because I can see, for example, two couples (or a couple and a single/kids) splitting the room with one sleeping on the pull-out sofa and the other in the king bed.

The entry hall is quite long and has the closet along the interior wall followed by a bathroom.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Entry Hall

The closet is between the door and the bathroom.  It’s fairly large but also inconvenient for folks sleeping in the bedroom.

The suite then opens up into the living room with the large, comfortable sofa and standard giant ottoman. I love that big ottoman because I use it as a luggage stand and it makes it easy to get into my luggage from various angles.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Sofa

There’s also a chest with 4 drawers which would be handy if you’re staying for a number of days.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Living Area

Off to the side is a small table (not large enough for 4 to sit at the same time) and a small counter with cabinets above and below. The coffee and tea-related items sit on this small counter. There’s a mini-fridge in the lower cabinet but there’s no microwave and there’s nothing in the upper cabinet.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Dining Area

The bedroom has a large, comfortable king bed with night stands and wall-mounted lights on either side.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite King Bed

In the base of each of the wall-mounted lights were a couple of electrical outlets.

One side of the bed (the one without the phone) also had a couple of USB ports. Well done, Hyatt, for giving us so many options to charge our electronics at night!

Across from the bed was another 4-drawer chest with a TV on top. There were separate thermostats for each room, which I thought was a great idea though that does mean a large wall unit in each room.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Master Bedroom

There’s a short hallway in the bedroom that leads to the bathroom and extends even beyond that, almost like they could put a separate door out to the hallway there – but there is no door. Across from the bathroom door was a set of double doors that were locked.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Bedroom Hallway

While I’ll just review the master bath in detail, the bath in the hall was identical. It’s rather large for a hotel bathroom and has a walk-in shower, a toilet and a wide counter with space for toiletries on either side of the sink. The lighted mirror is a nice touch and there’s a lot of light in general in this room, which is nice.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Master Sink

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Toilet

Toiletries were the standard for Hyatt Place, Kenet MD.

Hyatt Place Keystone Toiletries

The shower earns points for having the little corner shelf in the back that makes it easier for women to prop their legs up when shaving. It also earns points for having plenty of hot water but loses a few points for a spray that’s probably very water efficient but is not very strong.

Things That Puzzle Me

This room can sleep 4 people with its existing bedding. The bedroom comes with 4 pillows and there was one extra one in the closet. If there’s another person on the sofa, what are they supposed to use?

The coffee maker had only two cups. Again, if there are 4 adults it looks like 2 of them will have to go down to the breakfast area for their coffee. There were no other glasses that I could find.

In the bedroom, there’s a door that looks like a closet but is locked. In the entry hall there’s a very large closet that I suppose is for all parties but, wow, that’s inconvenient for those sleeping in the bedroom if there are also folks sleeping on the sofa. Less of an impact for families I guess but still something that made me scratch my head.

Dining

Past the front desk/elevator area the ground floor opens up with a couple of other seating areas to the left and the bar straight ahead to the right. There’s more seating to the right of the bar and in the mornings this is where the complimentary (if you’re a World of Hyatt member) breakfast is served. I was up early the mornings and was a little surprised to find that breakfast did not begin until 7 AM. The buffet had a few hot dishes along with cereal, waffles, pastries, fruit, yogurt, etc. Plenty to fuel you up for a day on the slopes. The kitchen is open 24/7 though the bar closes at 10 and you’ll need to order room service after that.

Hyatt Place Keystone Bar

Hyatt Place Keystone Bar Seating

Hyatt Place Keystone Bar Seating

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Other Amenities

Just beside the front desk is a small area with snacks and beverages for purchase. In this same area is a locker where skis can be stored overnight. Much easier to put them there than lug them upstairs, especially if you have little ones with you. Since I was only skiing one day I did not use that option.

Hyatt Place Keystone Mini-Shop

There are a couple of other seating areas in the lobby.  This one is in front of the fireplace and has board games.

Hyatt Place Keystone Fireplace Area Seating

Just past that is a table with an Oxygen Bar

Hyatt Place Keystone Oxygen Bar

There’s also a table that serves as the business center – and can be additional seating for the bar or at breakfast.

Hyatt Place Keystone Business Center

Down the hallway past the front desk is the fitness center. It’s not large but is definitely larger than some I’ve seen at similar properties.

Hyatt Place Keystone Gym

Hyatt Place Keystone Gym

Hyatt Place Keystone Gym

There’s no pool at Hyatt Place Keystone but there are three hot tubs scattered around. I’ll assume they all look like this one on the 5th floor: outdoors, overlooking the slopes.

Hyatt Place Keystone Hot Tub

Hyatt Place Keystone Hot Tub View

Keystone loves families and their kids area is called Kidtopia.  There are things to do every day with your kids as illustrated by this display in the lobby.

This 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.

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 and parking at River Run so that made more sense for me.

In the end

As far as I’m aware this is the only points-based hotel available in the area and it’s actually in a really good location. Breakfast is free, you can eat dinner in the hotel or walk across the street to one of several restaurants. I would be happy to come back here and either earn or burn points!

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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

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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

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Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, 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

When searching for somewhere to stay in Auckland, we once again struggled to find a place that allowed us to use points and also had 3 beds. We eventually decided to pay cash for a stay at the Avani Metropolis Hotel in the CBD but I redeemed Barclays ArrivalPlus points to erase the charge.

The hotel is about a 30-minute drive from the airport – during times when there’s no traffic. It was probably around 2:30 PM when we arrived and our room wasn’t quite ready yet but we only had to wait about a half-hour (or less) before it was ready for us.

The hotel seems to be more apartment-style lodging than a “regular” hotel. We were given our card keys but were warned that if we lost one it was an $80 charge to replace it. I’ve never run into that before! The lobby is all marble (whether real or fake, I don’t know) with a carpet runner down the center. Staff members were friendly and recommended the Italian restaurant that’s on one of the lower floors of the building but is not affiliated with the hotel.

We took the very fast elevators up to our 2 bedroom unit. Seriously, we were on the 29th floor and the elevators were extremely quick! From the elevator lobby we were just a couple of doors down the hall.  We stepped through the door into a fairly long entry hall.

Entry Hall. The second bathroom is on the right. I believe on the left is a utility closet but it was locked.

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Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, New Zealand, Oceania, Other Hotels | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa

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

When looking for accommodations in Queenstown, there aren’t a whole lot of choices with hotel points. There are hotels in the Novotel/Sofitel chain and a couple of Hiltons. And of the Hiltons, only the Queenstown Resort & Spa had rooms with three beds, so that was our obvious choice.

The hotel is just a short ride from the airport but is across the lake from Queenstown proper. There’s a water taxi that runs about once an hour for $5 NZD each way. Or you can always take a regular taxi or car service around the lake.

Our airport shuttle dropped us off at the covered entrance. Since it was still before noon, we weren’t surprised our room wasn’t ready. The bell captain took our bags and after a quick bite at the coffee shop we took the water taxi into Queenstown for the rest of the day. The front desk staff did a great job keeping me apprised when our room was available and our luggage was taken our room for us.

The hotel is comprised of two buildings. The main one, where the front desk is located, contains regular hotel rooms and suites as well as conference rooms and the primary restaurant. The coffee shop is in that building but is accessed via an external entrance.

Our room, which was basically a 2 BR condo, was in the building next door, known as the Lakeside Residences. It’s worth pointing out that all the rooms in both buildings have views of Lake Wakatipu and mountains on the other side. I didn’t learn until halfway through our stay that there’s a tunnel connecting the two buildings. That was very convenient when going to breakfast each day.

Due to the hilly nature of the terrain where the hotel is located, the main entrance to the Lakeside Residences is actually on the 3rd floor. That was great for us as it was also the location of our room, which was the next-to-last residence on the left end of the hall. The terrain was actually quite steep in places and might be hard for mobility-challenged folks to get around. Continue reading

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Lodging Review: Hampton Inn Bellevue/I-40 West

I went home to Nashville for both Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as a weekend in between when a family member was in the hospital. On each occasion I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Bellevue which is right off I-40. It’s a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence winner and it’s easy to see why.

Hampton Inn Bellevue/I-40 West, Nashville, Tennessee

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Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch

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 left Auckland just a day after landing, flying Air New Zealand to Christchurch.  Wow, domestic travel in NZ is so much like it used to be in the US.  Nobody checked my ID.  I checked my bag myself. I did go through security but it was much less intrusive.  It was so nice!  The flight is blocked at 1h 24m but it seemed to arrive much more quickly.  The plane was a single-cabin A320 and as cheap as tickets were, this seems to be a very common way to jump between cities in NZ.

The biggest challenge I face when booking travel with two friends is that we prefer to use points for travel and we each want our own bed. I tried everything I know of to find a points-friendly hotel where we could have three beds and it just wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to find in the US and much tougher abroad. Even suites – which would have enough room for a third bed – seem to provide only a king bed and not one that can be split apart. We could have booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) portal, the Amex Membership Rewards portal or the Citi ThankYou Points portal or even redeemed points against my Barclays ArrivalPlus but in the end we decided to use cash. That would allow the birthday girl to pay and earn UR points from her Sapphire Preferred card which would help to offset the points she used buying her plane ticket to New Zealand.  The room was less than $200/night USD all in so with each of us effectively paying for a night, the price wasn’t bad at all.

I used Trip Advisor as a starting point and narrowed the list down to about 8-10 places that fit our criteria. I then started weeding places out based on reviews before presenting a list of about 4-5 places to my friends. The birthday girl ended up choosing The Pavilions. I was a little skeptical of how this would work but things turned out quite well.

Pavilions Hotel
(photo courtesy pavilionshotel.co.nz)

The hotel is family-owned and has been around quite awhile. It was raining the day we arrived and our room was in a building behind the main one. Fortunately a staff member helped us with our bags and guided us through the correct wing of the main building to make our dash across the parking lot as short as possible.

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Categories: Award Travel, Hotel, Lodging Review, New Zealand, Oceania, Other Hotels | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport

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 had booked our trips from the US to New Zealand and back from Australia before we had worked out our exact plans for what to do in between those dates. As it turned out we’d have been better served to go straight to Christchurch but since we had our flights into Auckland, we didn’t want to immediately jump on a flight to Christchurch in case one of our bags went missing or there were other travel delays. So I looked for an airport-area hotel for us for one night.

I tried and failed to find us a hotel room near the airport that had three beds. But since I had a free night with my IHG credit card and would get a second one a few months before we left, I was able to book two rooms at no charge.

I don’t think of Auckland as particularly tropical yet the area near the airport had palm trees and the hotel grounds were quite lush. The yellow shuttle bus (more on that below) dropped us off right at the front door.

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Front Entrance

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Main Entry

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Review: Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Airport

At the end of my business trip my LOT Airlines flight arrived in Chicago too late to catch the last flight back to Memphis on a Friday evening so I booked a stay at the Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Airport. The hotel has a free shuttle that runs every half hour. As I have a friend in the area I did not take the shuttle to the hotel but did take it back to the airport in the morning.

One thing I like about Hyatt Places is the consistency and this hotel did not disappoint in that respect. The check-in desk is just inside the front door and I was greeted promptly and thanked for my loyalty as a Discoverist (gained by holding the Chase Hyatt Visa) and offered a free bottle of water. Check-in was quick and I was assigned a room on the second floor.

The lobby seemed a bit larger than I recall at other Hyatt Places, or perhaps it’s just because the hotel is shaped a little differently. I later realized there were several conference rooms which I don’t believe is something I normally see at Hyatt Places, so perhaps that’s why there was more seating.

Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Lobby Seating

Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Conference Room Lobby

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Review: Hilton Vienna (am Stadtpark)

On a recent business trip to Vienna we looked at staying close to my company’s office, which was near the airport. There are a couple of hotels in the vicinity but the only real options for dining that didn’t involve a cab or train ride were restaurants in the airport itself. The CAT (City Airport Train) was a great option for transiting back and forth between the airport area and the city center. It’s a non-stop train that takes about 16 minutes and runs every half-hour. The Hilton Vienna is right across the street from the train station and that made its selection a no-brainer. When exiting the CAT part of the train station, turn left, exit the building and the Hilton is across the street and slightly to the right. The signage in the train station is not great as there’s just one small sign and when I first arrived I couldn’t see it due to a display set up in the middle of the station.

Lobby

There are two entrances to the hotel. I arrived via the door near the restaurant; the other entrance faces the park. The check-in desk is quite obvious and will either be straight ahead or immediately on your right upon entry.

The lobby looked fresh with lots of light-colored wood and a large seating area.

Hilton Vienna Lobby

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

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