Posts Tagged With: Hilton

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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Review: Homewood Suites Southwind Hacks Cross (Memphis)

I hadn’t planned to stay at this hotel just a few miles from my home. My clothes dryer had other ideas. Fortunately I was home the night it decided to catch fire and I was able to call the fire department before things got too far out of hand. Though the fire damage was mostly confined to the hallway where my laundry closet is, the smoke and soot went everywhere so I spent nearly four months living elsewhere. Except for a couple of weeks where I was on vacation skiing, I was living in the Homewood Suites.

Homewood Suites Exterior
(photo credit: hilton.com)

If you’re not familiar with Homewood Suites, it’s Hilton’s mid-range all-suites brand. All the rooms have small kitchenettes with a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full-sized refrigerator. Most of the rooms are one bedroom (king) suites meaning that the remainder of the space is one large room with a bed at one end and the sofa at the other and a TV that can be swiveled between the two areas. The room I had was a one bedroom (king) studio suite. The difference in this and the studio suite is that the bedroom has a door that can be closed and there are two TVs, one in each room. Both of these room types have a sleeper sofa that looks to be a double bed. There’s also one suite with two king beds and a few rooms for the mobility-challenged that have two queen beds.

I received a friendly welcome when I arrived and over my time there got friendly with a lot of the staff. The managers, especially Brandon, took great care of me during my stay. I was initially assigned a room on the ground floor which was nice, considering how much stuff I ended up moving into the room. While I had to check out the one week I was on vacation, I was able to reserve the room next door for my return where I stayed the rest of time.

Homewood Suites Lobby
(photo credit: hilton.com)

Homewood Suites are generally considered three-star properties and that’s probably fair. This HS is not far from our local soccer complex and as such can be very busy on weekends when there are tournaments in town. Of course once the COVID lockdowns began in mid-March the number of guests dropped dramatically and it was much quieter.

This property is showing its age a bit. The kitchen and entry area have a laminate floor while the rest of the room (except the bathroom) has carpet. The edge between the laminate and the carpet was quite worn, resulting in cracked flooring and frayed carpet. Around the window were spots of rust, the kind I’d never have noticed if this were a short-term stay because I’d never have looked behind the curtains but some days in the spring I’d open the windows to let in some fresh air and thus noticed these spots.

Even before COVID I was only having housekeeping come in once a week but once the lockdown began housekeeping was no longer allowed to enter rooms where people were checked in. So I changed my own sheets and borrowed their cleaning supplies to do what I could. Still, by the time I checked out the room clearly needed a deep clean. Looking back, in mid-April I should have asked to switch rooms again just to keep my room from getting so stale. Hopefully I don’t have to stay in a hotel this long ever again but if so, lesson learned.

One Bedroom Suite

As this is an older property, the room felt a tiny bit smaller than the Homewood Suites in Steamboat, Colorado where I spent one night in February. Upon entering the room the floor is a hardwood laminate and extends to one side into your galley kitchen. Take two steps and you’re in the carpeted area that includes the living area and the bedroom The sleeper sofa is directly in front and the TV and entertainment center are opposite. Go through the door beside the TV and enter the bedroom where you’ll find a king bed and the bathroom.

Kitchen

The galley kitchen is quite narrow but has a two-burner stove, a microwave, toaster, coffee maker and a full-size refrigerator/freezer.

Homewood Suites Kitchen

I think there are supposed to be four sets of silverware but I believe I had only two knives and three spoons or something like that. I also noticed that I had different kitchen knives between the two rooms I occupied. I asked housekeeping about it once and they didn’t seem to think those inconsistencies were anything to be concerned with, that it was probably just something that happened over years as people in different rooms may have gotten together and exchanged the cutlery among them. All of that to say that if you’re planning to be cooking a good bit you may want to bring your own cutlery or verify what’s available before you begin cooking.

I’m not a coffee drinker so didn’t use what was provided but I did note that one guy across the hall bought his own coffee maker so I guess what was provided wasn’t great. Or maybe he’s a coffee snob.

The kitchen design had the counter on the outer (hall) wall of unit with the fridge against the far wall but facing the counter. This caused an issue when trying to open the dishwasher. The kitchen is so narrow that the dishwasher door cannot be full laid flat which means you can’t really put anything in the back of the lower rack unless you have long arms or are a contortionist. This was never an issue for me as I don’t cook and could easily just use the top rack and the front of the lower rack. It was good to see in newer Homewood Suites (like the one in Steamboat) that the dishwasher was placed at the other end of the counter so there was no interference with its door.

Across from the kitchen counter, beside the fridge was a small table with two chairs. As there’s no desk in this unit the table could double for that – but only if it happens to suit you. I found it too tall to comfortably type all day so I ended up only using it for its original purpose.

Living Area

The living area consists of a sleeper sofa with a table and lamp on one side and a floor lamp on the other, an arm chair and a 6-drawer chest with the TV on top. There’s also a rectangle ottoman and an unique coffee table that sits over it like an arch. These pieces detach from each other so you can use the ottoman as a footstool or as additional seating.  I apparently failed to take photos of this area so here is a photo from the Hilton website.  This photo appears to be from a 2-bedroom unit as mine did not have this opening into the bedroom and the TV stand was flush against the left wall.

Homewood Suites Living Area
(photo credit: hilton.com)

Bedroom

The king bed dominates the bedroom. There are night stands with lamps on either side and one side has an alarm clock. The lamps have both electric and USB outlets for charging your devices, which is very nice.

Homewood Suites King Bed

Across from the bed, on the wall with the door that backs on to the living room is another 6-drawer chest with a TV on top. Although there were approximately 50 channels available, I was disappointed by the selection. The local Fox Sports affiliates were not available which meant I couldn’t watch Memphis Grizzlies basketball or Nashville Predators hockey – although live games were shut down in mid-March, re-runs of exciting past games were aired and I’d have liked to have been able to watch them. There was also no Animal Planet or ION television, to my disappointment. I ended up rarely turning on the TV.

Homewood Suites Bedroom

Bathroom

The bathroom area has a tiled floor. The sink area is open to the room and has decent counter space on either side of the sink. On each side underneath the sink is a small drawer and a narrow cabinet. The drawer is so narrow that the hair dryer only barely fit and had to be set inside “just right” so that the drawer would close. I loved the fluorescent light built into the mirror.  For someone as near-sighted as I am it was a great to be able to see clearly up close.

Homewood Suites Bathroom

Toiletries were by Neutrogena and I wasn’t crazy about their perfume-y smell.  I ended up buying my own full-sized toiletries since I’d need them eventually anyway.

Homewood Suites Neutrogena Toiletries. I’m not a great fan.

Against the back wall was the closet. It has double sliding doors but really, only one was needed. Even then, the doors did not slide completely past the closet’s opening. This made it very difficult to reach anything that was in the farthest corner. I realize for most folks this is not an issue but as someone living there, it became a real pain.

Homewood Suites Closet
This is as far as the sliding door opened

The toilet and tub/shower are in a room with its own door across from the sink. Water pressure was decent and I never ran out of hot water.

Homewood Suites Tub and Toilet

Amenities

Dining

Pre-COVID this property offered a hot breakfast every day. Cereal and fruit were also available. Monday thru Thursday evenings a light meal was also offered that included limited adult beverages. After mid-March the food area shut down completely and had not resumed when I left in late May. But if it has started back, be sure to make friends with Ms. Betty in the mornings and Ms. Linda in the evenings and they will take very good care of you.

Homewood Suites Dining Area
(photo credit: hilton.com)

At the time I checked in snacks and sundries were available in a small store next to the front desk. In April all items from the store were removed and the front desk no longer had cash.

Laundry

The laundry room is located on the second floor at the opposite end of the building from the front desk. There are two washers and two dryers. When I arrived the two washers worked but only one of the dryers worked. They all looked old and were removed the first week of March in anticipation of new ones arriving. However the new ones didn’t arrive right away and it was either late April or early May before the new units finally arrived. And even then, one of the dryers didn’t work. Since it was in the same spot as the previous dryer that didn’t work, I think there’s something wrong with the wiring or the outlet there.

Homewood Suites Laundry Room – these units were replaced with newer models this spring

Gym

There is also a tiny gym on the first floor, directly under the laundry room.  I never used it because shortly after my arrival it was shut down due to COVID.  This is unfortunate because it’s small enough that allowing people reserve it and allow for cleanings between uses is certainly do-able.

Homewood Suites Gym

Homewood Suites Gym

Outdoor amenities

The hotel does have a pool though of course it was too cool to use during most of my stay and then COVID. There’s also a basketball court and after the weather warmed up it was not unusual to see young men playing. I’m not sure they were guests but as this was during the most restrictive period of the COVID lockdown I was surprised management allowed them to stay and play. I had heard of other hotels removing their basketball rims to prevent this type of quarantine violation.

In the end

This is not a fancy hotel but it’s nice if you’re going to be somewhere for an extended amount of time. If kids’ soccer is not your thing you might want to check to be sure there’s no tournament in the area before booking. I would not hesitate to have family stay here on future visits.

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Lodging Review: Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs, Colorado

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

Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs

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

Lobby area

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

Guest Floor Hallway

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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

Edited 04/22/20: added photos

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.

It’s hard to take a good photo of the front of the hotel as it faces the water

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.

Main Entrance

Front Desk

Lobby Seating

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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Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under

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

Each year my friends and I try to take a two week vacation in the fall. We have a system that whoever had the birthday ending in 5 or 0 that year gets to pick the location. That’s served us well and covers 6 years out of any decade. This year the birthday girl decided on spending most of our time exploring New Zealand with a few days on the end on the beaches of Australia.

That decision was made late in 2018 so our first task was finding business class award space on the longhaul segments for two of us (one doesn’t mind flying coach). We were fine buying our positioning flights as long as we could lock in business class for those 14 hour flights!

I was looking for award space on American, Qantas and United as well as keeping an eye out for space on Air New Zealand. I knew that American was pretty stingy on longhaul award space in premium cabins but they look positively generous compared to what Air New Zealand typically opens up. As luck would have it I found three business class award seats from Brisbane (near the Australian beaches we wanted to visit) back to Los Angeles for the last Wednesday in October. That was perfect so we snagged those even though we didn’t have our outbound tickets yet. I used my miles for the birthday girl’s return ticket which cost 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $81.83 for each ticket. However, thanks to my Citibank AAdvantage MasterCard I get a rebate of up to 10,000 miles each year so the net cost was 150K miles. I considered using 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles per ticket instead but our friend who lives in Chicago was using her AA miles to get one of the tickets and I know that sometimes Alaska has access to one less award ticket than oneworld alliance airlines and I just wanted to make things easier by having the two of us on a single PNR. I bought a United domestic flight from LA to Denver to Memphis for my return flight and my Chicago friend bought a United ticket home as well. However, when United made the fall schedule adjustments, I would land in Denver too late to catch the afternoon flight back to Memphis so they re-routed me through Chicago. While I was stuck on a one-cabin plane for the Chicago-Memphis leg, at least I got to fly back with my friend as far as Chicago.

After buying the return flights we sweated for a couple of weeks until Qantas opened up two business class seats on their 747 from San Francisco to Sydney. The seats were available two weeks and one day before the return flight. That couldn’t have worked out any better for us. My friend from Chicago and I were even able to include positioning flights with the cost of our tickets: 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $28.20 in fees

Long haul flights: the green line indicates my outbound flight while the blue is my return flight.

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Categories: Award Travel, Hilton, Hotel, IHG, New Zealand, Oceania, OneWorld, Other Hotels, Qantas | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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New Hilton Promo – Earn Up To 7500 Bonus Points in Two Stays

Hilton has a new promotion that will give you 7500 points after two stays. While Hilton points are usually valued somewhere in the .4 cents range, every little bit certainly counts. And don’t forget that you can pool Hilton points with up to ten friends and family members which help them stretch even farther.

The Scoop

After you register, earn 2500 bonus points after your first stay. After your second stay you’ll earn 5000 bonus points.

Your stays must be completed between the time you register and January 31, 2020. Note that this excludes stays that are otherwise ineligible to accrue Hilton points. That includes some third-party bookings, like many online travel agencies including Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc. Corporate travel agency bookings are allowed.

Since these are bonus points they won’t count toward your qualification for elite status. But with Hilton, the best way to achieve status is by owning their credit card. Hilton offers three card through American Express and right now all three have great signup offers.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

This no-fee card currently has a signup bonus of 90,000 Hilton points once you spend $2000 on the card within the first three months after approval. This signup bonus ends August 28, 2019. You’ll earn 7x points at hotels in the Hilton portfolio, 5x points at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations and 3x points everywhere else. This card is one of the few no-fee cards that does not have foreign transaction fees. You’ll get Silver status just for holding the card and you’ll be upgraded to Gold status each year you spend $20,000 on the card.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

With a $95 annual fee, this is one of the best deals in travel. Not only does this card have a great signup bonus of 130,000 points after spending $4000 within the first four months after approval, you automatically earn Gold status just for owning the card. Gold status is enough to get you free breakfast and premium internet and is generally considered to be the best mid-level hotel status out there. Last year I scored an upgrade to a 2-room suite in Germany because the hotel was at capacity and having Gold status earned me the bump up. Spend $40,000 on the card and get upgraded to Diamond status through the end of the following calendar year. The signup bonus ends August 28, 2019. With the Surpass card you’ll earn 12x points at Hilton properties, 6x points at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations and 3x points everywhere else.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

This is a premium card with a $450 annual fee and a signup bonus of 150,000 points after spending $4000 in the first three months after approval. It also gives the cardholder Diamond status, Hilton’s top level. Enjoy one weekend night reward each year after renewal and an additional night for each $60,000 in spend. You also get a $250 statement credit each year of card membership good for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts. With the Aspire card you’ll earn 14x points at Hilton properties, 7x points on purchases made directly with airlines or hotels and US restaurants and 3x points everywhere else.

If one of these cards looks right for you I’ll be happy to refer you. Just drop me a line at 2BTraveling@gmail.com.

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

Review: Hilton Munich Airport

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

Let me say right off the top that this is not going to be the most comprehensive hotel review I’ve ever done. We arrived in the evening and had an early morning flight out so our priority was sleep.

We took the train to the airport from the main train station and from there followed the signs to the Hilton. It’s well-marked but be aware that it is a bit of a hike and you will be going outdoors at some point. If you have a lot of luggage you may want to use a baggage cart to make your journey go faster.

Hilton Munich Airport
(photo courtesy Hilton Munich website)

As we followed the airport signs we were eventually directed to this hallway. Lit up like this it’s kinda hard to miss, right? At this point you’re still outside.

From the Munich Airport Terminal follow this hall to the Hilton’s elevators

We walked through the doors at the end of this hall and the elevators to the Hilton’s main floor were on the right.

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

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

The genesis of this trip was a friend telling me about a group tour of Iceland that several friends were going on and asking if I wanted to go or not. Of course the tour wanted to sell us airfare and options using points and miles aren’t all that plentiful, especially if fixed dates are involved.

The group tour was only a week and since October is when we we usually take a two-week vacation anyway, my travel companion and I decided to use our miles to get to Europe, enjoy a few days there, then buy tickets to Iceland, do the tour and then fly to another city in Europe where our miles could get us back to the US in business class. Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Iberia, Iceland, Icelandair, IHG, Marriott, Netherlands, OneWorld, Radisson, Starwood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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