Lodging Review: Storm Meadows Club A, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

In late February/early March I visited Steamboat Ski Resort with my ski club and we stayed in the Storm Meadows complex. We wanted ski-in/ski-out condos and technically that’s what we got though beginners shouldn’t even think about trying to ski in or out of these units.

Check-in

Check-in takes place at the Mountain Resorts main office which is technically located on Resort Drive but is visible from Mt. Werner Road, which is the main road to the ski resort when coming from Lincoln Ave/Hwy 40. There is a city bus stop right outside the office. (Note: Steamboat has a wonderful and free city bus system! As of my visit masks were required on city buses.)

I arrived before my condo was ready but I was able to hang out in the office until it was available. They have free guest wi-fi in the lobby but I found that the router was on the back side of the fireplace and when I was relaxing in the comfy chairs in front of the fireplace I had trouble getting the signal. The lobby also has restrooms with showers which is very nice. If you have a late flight and want to ski in the morning after checking out but before your flight, you can clean up before heading to the airport.

Once my room was ready, the office called for a shuttle to take me and my bags up to the Storm Meadows Club Condos which is about a 1.7 mile drive up the hill. There are three Club buildings and my group had units in both Club B and Club A, where my unit was.

Our group typically pays for porterage, which usually means our bags will be delivered to our room. I don’t know if we didn’t pay for it this time or if there was a difference in the definition of “porterage” or what but my bags and I were dropped at the front door of our building with no offer of assistance to get my bags to my room. I will say there was a shortage of drivers during my stay. The airport shuttle companies were slammed with business and not enough drivers to go around. The local taxi service did not run in town during the day as they were too busy with airport transfers. So that could be a part of it.

Storm Meadows Club A Condos

The Club A building is actually the middle of the three Club buildings. The main entrance is in the center on the second floor. On the lower level is the ski locker room, the coin laundry and, in winter, a small hot tub that will hold about 4-6 people. At one end of the first floor is the exit to the slopes which I’ll discuss below. Condos are on all four floors.

Storm Meadows Club A
(photo from stormmeadows.com)

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Categories: Colorado, Condos, Lodging Review, North America, Steamboat, United States | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 2022 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 $1500 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment for TV/Internet/Streaming Services and Cell Phones.  You must register your card before 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 but am switching to Fast Food as my other 5x category.  I’ll continue with Grocery Stores for 2x.

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2022.  For Q2 the categories are:

To activate the bonus, simply log into your Discover account and click on the Activate Now button.

Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom’s Q2 categories are Amazon and select streaming services.  Only these streaming services qualify: Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube TV, HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock, and Showtime.  If you have the Amex Platinum card and Peacock you’re still better off billing the service to the Platinum card as they will reimburse you for the charge.  I hope this list will continue to grow over the years as I have BritBox and no credit cards cover it or give bonus points for it yet.

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

In the end

Always register for the bonus categories even if you don’t think you’re going to use them.  You’ll never know when they might come in handy!

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

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

Categories: Award Travel, Hotel, Hyatt, Lodging Review, North America, Texas, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Colorado, Hotel, IHG, Lodging Review, North America, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2021: The Year in Travel

Like a lot of folks my travel came to a screeching halt during the pandemic.  After returning home from my last ski trip on March 7, 2020 the only times I left the Memphis area for the remainder of that year were to visit family in Nashville.  I’d planned to go skiing at the end of January this year but as COVID rates started increasing and vaccines were not yet a reality I ended up canceling that trip.  As a result 2021 will close out without me getting on a plane. I believe this is the first time since the mid-1990s that has happened.

After being double-vaccinated my friend and I met in Nashville in May and took off on a 10-day roadtrip around the Southeastern US.  Part of our plan was to use up some of the free night certificates we’d accumulated.  It was great to enjoy the warm (but not hot yet!) sunshine, walk on the beach, see some minor-league baseball as well as visiting the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

Instead of a flight map of my travels, this year I have a road map:

I’m not usually a fan of road trips but was so glad to get away that the mode of transportation didn’t even matter.

Have a safe and healthy 2022, please get vaccinated (and boosted!) and let’s put this whole miserable pandemic behind us.

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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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Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, North America, SpringHill Suites, Tennessee, United States | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 2022 1st 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 $1500 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment for TV/Internet/Streaming Services and Cell Phones.  You must register your card before March 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 2022.  For Q1 the categories are: To activate the bonus, simply log into your Discover account and click on the Activate Now button.

Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom’s Q4 categories are grocery stores (excluding Target and Wal-Mart) and eBay.
To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button.

In the end

Always register for the bonus categories even if you don’t think you’re going to use them.  You’ll never know when they might come in handy!
Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 2021 4th Quarter Bonus Categories

It’s the 15th of the 3rd month of the quarter so it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses for next quarter.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $2000 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment for TV/Internet/Streaming Services and Cell Phones.  You must register your card before December 25th to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank or visit this link.  I’m choosing Home Utilities (as usual) and Gyms (as usual).

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2021.  For Q4 the categories are:

2020-11-19 Discover 2021 Q4 Bonuses

To activate the bonus, simply log into your Discover account and click on the Activate Now button.

Chase Freedom, Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom’s Q4 categories are Walmart and PayPal.  Note that if you use PayPal at Walmart you’ll still only receive 5x points – no double-dipping!

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

In the end

Always register for the bonus categories even if you don’t think you’re going to use them.  You’ll never know when they might come in handy!

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

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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Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, North America, North Carolina, Radisson, United States | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Categories: Condos, Hilton, Hilton Vacation Club, Lodging Review, Myrtle Beach, North America, South Carolina, United States | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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