Category Archives: Hotel Loyalty Cards

The IHG Credit Card, Reward Club and Benefits

I know that in a previous post I had written about how I am a Hyatt gal and why I am.  To add to that, I am also an IHG gal.  IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group and it includes other than the Intercontinental Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn and Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood, Staybridge, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and a few more.  It seems that wherever I want to go, there is always a hotel that is affiliated with IHG.

When Blogger Hubby and I were in Aruba this past February, we stayed at the Hyatt since I had the two free night certificates but just passed the Hyatt was the Holiday Inn.  Of course, we walked around and thought this would be a hotel we could stay at if we returned to Aruba.  It was very nice from the outside and the limited view we had of the inside.

When we stayed in Amiens, France, we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in a great location by the train station and it was the only chain hotel that I saw. during that same trip, we also stayed for two nights in Brugges in a Crowne Plaza in one ofd the most perfect locations for Brugges and since I had their credit card, we were upgraded to a corner suite – and we were using points.  Finally, while we were in Prague we stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in the Old Town, along the river and were upgrade to a junior suite because we were gold as a result of the status we received from having the IHG credit card by Chase.

My son travels to and from Montana for the past three years for his masters degree and I am able to book his hotel rooms on his way there and back from points from IHG.  There is always a Holiday Inn wherever we travel.

The IHG credit card has been a staple in my wallet for many years now.  There is a $49 a year fee yet I never call and ask for a fee waiver since the fee does give me a free night during the year.  I think that is reasonable and I don’t want to argue with something that I think is reasonable.

IHG also has 4 times a year what they call PointBreaks.  They list hotels all around the world where an award night is only 5,000.  I’ve have not yet booked a Point Break night but hope to do so.

Another reason that I like the IHG Rewards Club is that they are always having promotion where I can earn extra points.  Over a year ago I sent in 97 entry cards to receive at a minimum 500 points and many times more than that.  They always have a big fall promotion where you get extra points for doing things like booking a weekend stay, making a reservation through their app, booking 5 nights within 3 months.  Blogger Hubby and I have been known to make the reservation at the least expensive hotel we can find, check in and not even stay there just so we can earn the extra 30,000 points that completing that requirement would give us.

Currently the IHG credit card will give you 80,000 points when you spend $1000 over three months.  In addition, this card has no foreign transaction fees, earning 5 x points when used at one of their hotels, platinum elite status and a free night.  I do not earn any money or credit by letting you know about this card and I do think this is one that you should consider adding to your wallet.  I know that I am looking forward to my next stay with them at the Crowne Plaza in Santiago, Chile.  If you are interested in this card, follow this link.

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Getting to Paris via TGV and our Hotel, Le Metropolitan, a Tribute Hotel from SPG

Yes, can you believe that I had never been to Paris before this trip?  I was anxiously looking forward to our four days in the City of Lights.  I had my list of places I would like to go, and things that I wanted to see.  I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it all so I gave myself permission to deviate from the schedule I set up.  Of course I had to save some things to see and do for my second trip to Paris.

For our hotel stay I made our reservations at the Radisson Metropolitan in the 16th Arrondissement using my Club Carlson points more than a year before our trip. Previously with Club Carlson if you booked a reward stay, your last night was free.  In other words, they didn’t even charge you points.  Consequently I booked two nights under my name (remember one of those nights was free) and two nights under Blogger Hubby’s account.  We would spend four nights at the hotel in total but only paying points for two nights.

Before we went to Paris I found out that SPG purchased our hotel and it would be in their luxury collections.  I was concerned that they wouldn’t honor our reservation but they assured me they would.

A month before we left the United States I had made train reservations and purchased our TGV (fast train) tickets to go from Lyon to Paris.  I again turned to The Man in Seat 61 to explain the differences between the trains.  He had recommended purchasing our tickets through the Captain train website which I did.  The Captain Train website has since been taken over by Train Line but it is the same format and I had no problems purchasing and printing out my tickets.  If you plan to go to Europe, for many routes it is much less expensive if you purchase your tickets 60 or 90 days in advance.  For other smaller, local trains it didn’t seem to matter and we would purchase them at the train station either at the kiosk or at the ticket counter once we knew definitively what our plans were. Track information is not posted until 20 minutes prior to the train’s arrival so no sense in asking people which track you’ll be departing from.  Also, since we departed Lyon from Part-Dieu station there was assistance for those with mobility problem as as was the case with our traveling companions.  Her husband went into the office, told them where we were waiting and an attendant came out with a wheel chair and took her to the correct track and helped them on.  If you need help and it is available, take full advantage of it.

For those who are unfamiliar with train travel in Europe, once you have your ticket, you need to validate it prior to boarding at the machine on the platform.  Conductors will still come by and check your ticket to see if it has been validated and if it hasn’t, there is a huge fine to pay.  p1070049

On the Train Line website, which is in English,  you can choose which type of seating you wanted and which class.  We traveled first class (wouldn’t do it again), sat in the upper deck for better viewing and chose single seats facing each other.  Across the aisle were two seats together either facing forward or facing each other like we were.  We had a small table between us with a small lamp.

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I emailed the concierge at our hotel asking for ways to get to the hotel from the Gard Lyon, the train station that we would be arriving in. Obviously the options were to hire a driver, taxi, subway or bus.  He gave us the prices for these options.  We chose to take the bus as it would drop us off about 2 blocks from the hotel and would be inexpensive. We bought a book of ten bus/subway passes called a caret.  If you plan on using public transportation, I would recommend buying a caret as it will save you time.  For us taking a bus was easy as we only had carry-on luggage (me) and a slightly larger case for Blogger Hubby as we allowed room for souvenirs in his suitcase.  The ride took a lot longer than I thought, about an hour, but while we were traversing Paris we got a good orientation to the city and I got my first glimpses of the Eiffel Tower.  Blogger Hubby is always a little nervous about making sure we know that we are on the correct bus/train, that we are going in the right direction and that we know where to get off. Fortunately I have no qualms about asking people.  I found if you have a smile, and ask if they speak “English” people are willing to help you as much as they can.  I’ll tell you this now – we did not get lost once nor did we get on the wrong train or bus or miss our stop.

We got off the bus and headed for our hotel, now called Le Metropolitan, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel.  The hotel is shaped like a triangular between two streets.   I knew that European hotels were small but when they took us to our room, I couldn’t believe how small it was. Both of us could not be up and walking around at the same time.  There was a small chair in the corner but immediately behind it was a floor lamp and if you sat down the back of your head hit the floor lamp.  You couldn’t pull the chair out because there was only about a foot’s length between the chair and the corner of the bed.   When we asked if there was another room they told us no and that we should be happy as this was an upgrade.

I did not know how we would be able to spend 4 nights in this room. That night I sent a tweet out to @SPG assist, sent them the pictures and told them how uncomfortable it was.  Next morning there was a knock on our door and they moved us across the hallway.  This room even had a couch in it – certainly not luxurious but a much nicer room.  I would stay away from room 226 and instead ask for room 230.

There is a wall about 12 inches from the other side of the bed. If I sat in the chair, you couldn't get past my legs and feet.
There is a wall about 12 inches from the other side of the bed. If I sat in the chair, you couldn’t get past my legs and feet.
If we pulled the bench out to sit on it, so one could get by as we would be blocking the narrow passage
If we pulled the bench out to sit on it, no one could get by

 

There is a restaurant on the first floor and it looked nice though we didn’t try it.  I believe the breakfasts there are about $30 each. img_1655 Instead we would go to a pastierrie and purchase our freshly made French pastries.  Around the corner and down the street from the hotel was a Casino – which is a French supermarket.  That’s where we purchased our yogurts, sliced meats, cheeses and wine.

For being branded a “luxury hotel” it did not feel very luxurious to us with the awful royal purple rippled carpeting in the hallway, elevators that didn’t work half the time, the lounge area that had tables where we played cards sometimes and looks better in these pictures than it did in real life.  The lobby is very nice and the staff is friendly and helpful and they met all our needs particularly when we asked for numerous directions, which subway stop to use or how to get to train stations.img_1654

We would walk down two flights of stairs to go down and everyday we had to walk around the housekeeping cart right by the stairs and the elevator. A little awkward.
We would walk down two flights of stairs to go down and everyday we had to walk around the housekeeping cart right by the stairs and the elevator. A little awkward.

As you walk out the door and basically walk straight you will see the Eiffel Tower.  I gasped when I saw it all lit up in the evening.  This is the view as we were about 50 meters from the hotel.img_1649

Nevertheless we are very thankful that we had the points to stay here and that we booked it while we were still able to get one night free through the Club Carlson program.

Next post will be our sightseeing adventures and how we saved some money.

Flights and Preparing for our Trip to Marseille and Provence

Excitement was building in our home as we finalized all of our preparations for our AMA Waterways River cruise up the Rhone River.  As some of you know, I always invite friends to travel with us so we are in essence “a group” and are entitled to group rates.  It was no exception on our AMA Waterways cruise on the Rhone.

Some in my group were doing the pre cruise in Barcelona with AMA while others joined us in Marseille for our own pre cruise.  Ito be honest, I wasn’t overly confident about our stay in Marseille and we were only going there for two reasons.  Since we weren’t doing the pre cruise, this was the closet airport to Arles where we would board our ship and secondly, we were able to use our Club Carlson points to reserve a room at the Radisson Blu on  the Waterfront.  I had booked this hotel before their devaluation of points in May 2015.  I booked 2 nights under my name and in essence paid for only one night with points with the other night being “free”.  We thought that this would be a good opportunity to explore Provence a little with some tours from Marseille.

With that in mind, I began searching through Trip Advisor for tour guides.  Being frugal is always our traveling motto though we do not want to miss a unique opportunity for our frugality – it’ s a fine balancing act that we walk.  As we were going to be in Marseille with another couple we wanted to do things that all of us could enjoy and do.  The husband of the other couple enjoys bike riding as does Blogger Hubby.  I knew that they would enjoy going on an E-bike tour while the wife and I would do the HoHo bus around town.  My friend has some mobility issues so we didn’t want to be walking all around town.  The other two tours we booked were with Provence Xplorer to go to Aix en Provence on market day and spend part of the afternoon in Cassis.  The next day we were booked with One Day in Provence to go into the small villages, a winery, St. Remy and what ever our tour guide suggested.  For the Provence Xplorer, the 4 of us would be doing a shared excursion, joining others and for the One Day in Provence, the 4 of us would be doing a private tour.  More about those later.

We flew Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic into Heathrow and then British Airways to Marseille.  A concern we had was that we would have to pick up our luggage in Heathrow and then check them in to British Airways for the flight to Marseille.  Luckily when we asked the Virgin Atlantic ticket agent at departure if they could Interline them.  He said ” yes” and put a luggage tag on them requesting them to be transferred over to BA.  Nevertheless, I took a photo of our bags just in case they should get lost.  According to him, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic don’t like to play nice with each other but we had no problem.

I was not overly impressed with the Virgin flight although the flight attendants were very nice, friendly and helpful.  The cabin seemed crowded and very little room to move around and, to me, seemed like there wasn’t much storage in our pod.  The food, for airplanes, was fairly decent.  I had a steak and I actually ate most of it.

With the entertainment system along the wall to my left, I had to pull it out and swivel it to be in front of me.  With the food tray fully engaged, if made if very difficult getting in and out of my seat.  I also thought the cabin was warm and was glad I wore a tee shirt under my top.

Would I fly VA again?  Probably not.  It was okay but not the experience I was looking for.  I’m not sure what I am looking for and it may not exist on a transatlantic flight or if it does, perhaps I’m too frugal to spend too many extra points for it.  Nevertheless, it was fine.

The short flight to Marseille was no different than a domestic flight in the U.S.  Once again we were business class but what that means is that you are in a row with 3 seats and they put a tray over the middle seat so you do not have someone sitting next to you   To reserve your seats ahead of time, you need to pay $49 per ticket.  I did not do that.  If you go online 24 hours prior to your flight, you can reserve your seats for free.  When I went on, they had the two of us together and in good seats.  I made no changes.  It was interesting to me that a flight as short as this one we were still able to be served a hot lunch.  Why can foreign airlines do this but American Airlines can not?  As we were closer to Marseille we could see the Rhone River out the window and then closer to landing, we could view the cliffs and the calanque (a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestone, dolomite, or other carbonate strata and found along the Mediterranean coast).

approaching Marseille
approaching Marseille

To get to our hotel we could either take a taxi which would cost about 52€ or we could take the city shuttle bus from the curb outside the airport to the central train station for about 8€ each and then either take a cab to the hotel or a bus.  The shuttle was perfect and saved us a lot of money.  We opted for the cab once we got to the train station since it was very hot and we were tired. The taxi which was about 22€ to go to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Waterfront in Marseille.

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As we rounded the bend and got our first view of the waterfront, we were taken back at how beautiful it was.  This was not the grimy port city that I was expecting; instead there were hundreds of sailboats of all sizes around this rectangular shaped harbor. Our hotel faced this harbor.  After we settled in, we went exploring.  Along all 3 sides of the harbor there were restaurants, pubs and shops.  Along the harbor, it was an expanded sidewalk that was well lit with dark sky approved lights.  I felt very safe.  There is even a ferry that crosses the harbor for 1 €.

Ferry across the harbor
Ferry across the harbor

One of Blogger Hubby’s concerns in traveling to France is that neither of us speaks French.  For that matter we don’t speak any other foreign language but his lack of French bothered him.  Our first restaurant we had to pull out the English-French-English dictionary but as time went on, we were able to read about half of the menu.  Most French people that we met spoke a little English but to me they spoke quite a bit.

The hotel, in addition to the beautiful view, was very nice with a restaurant attached that had good reviews on TripAdvisor.  Nevertheless, we didn’t eat any meals there.  For breakfast, we were on our own because when we booked the hotel on points it did not include a breakfast.  As usual, Blogger Hubby offered to go out  early and find a bakery to bring back some delicious just made pastries.  Our room overlooked the secluded pool area,and the harbor.

view from our room at the Radisson Blu Waterfront
view from our room at the Radisson Blu Waterfront

We went to bed a little early so we could catch up on our sleep and be ready to explore Marseille and Provence.

Sunset in Marseille
Sunset in Marseille

Hope you enjoyed our photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMTRAK’s South West Chief

We were finally on the last leg of our three part train trek around parts of America.  We enjoyed almost all aspects of the trip so far, perhaps with the exception of one of us having to climb into the upper, narrow bunk bed and the train whistles at night when going pass a crossing.  The South West Chief was originally  operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway until AMTRAK took over passenger rail service in 1971.

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Los Angeles, along with Chicago, has a lounge of first class passengers and we took full advantage of it.  When you enter the front of Union Station, walk straight back and near the rear, turn right and then go up the escalator.  There are chairs, a few tables and chips and soft drinks as well as coffee. There is an attendant sitting at the desk to help us with any questions you might have.

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As lounges go, or at least as compared to airline lounges, this wasn’t too much but it was a nice place to hang out and eat the few snacks that they had.  Because of the way that the station and tracks are laid out, when it was time to go to the track to board our train, we were driven there in multi-row golf carts.  If we had chosen to walk, we would have had a long way to go including going under a tunnel to get to the other side of the tracks.

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We weren’t sure if we would get dinner since we weren’t scheduled to leave Los Angeles till 6:15.  As we boarded we found out that we would get dinner and as the attendant came around, we signed up for one of the first sittings at 7:00.  Same menu that we had on both the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight.  Blogger Hubby was quick to let our table mates know how good he thought the seafood cakes were, which he had again!

We went to bed early because one of the stops in Arizona, early in the morning around 5:45 AM was Winslow, Arizona.  It seemed like I was humming the Eagles song” standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” all night while I was trying to sleep.  Unfortunately, I woke up about 5 minutes after we passed it.  At breakfast we met a couple who had just gotten on the train.  The did the option of going to the Grand Canyon through the Grand Canyon Railroad.  Although they had a good time, they were exhausted because they had to leave their hotel at 3:  AM to be at the train station at 4:00 AM – unfortunately, the train was late and they had to wait about an hour for the South West Chief to come by.  Although they loved the canyon, they wouldn’t recommend going by train other than the convenience of being very close to the rim.

For us, we enjoyed seeing the change in scenery across America.  Here are a few scenes that we passed on our last day on our train trek.

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IMG_1042As I mentioned, our train, unbeknownst to us, was running late but what we found out on every line is that they build time into the schedule so they very rarely arrive late at the station at the end of the line.

Our final stop was Albuquerque.  Our train trek was over but now our New Mexico part was beginning.  It was 11:00 in the morning, the sun was shining and we were excited.  We gathered our bags, left the train and walked out front to get a taxi to the airport to get our rental car.  Problem was – there were no cabs.  I tried calling one cab company but no answer.  I tried Uber but it was surge pricing very high.  Finally got a cab company who would send a cab out to the train station in 10-15 minutes but no guarantee that we would get it.  After half an hour, one came but there was a little disagreement on how got to ride.  The other couple and us came to an agreement that we would share it since we were both going to a car rental at the airport.IMG_1047

We closely examined the car, loaded our bags and headed north to Santa Fe.

Would we do this again – yes!  We’d like to do the California Zephyr route which is San Francisco to Chicago traveling through scenic Colorado and the Rockies.

This entire train trip took 65,000 of my Ultimate Reward points that I had transferred over to AMTRAK (no longer available to do it) and remember, traveling first class included all of our meals.  I used points to stay at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Chicago the night before our train trip, also for the Weston Bayshore in Vancouver, points for our night at the Hilton Doubletree Checkers hotel in Los Angeles.  We paid for our night at the Seattle Grand Hyatt and used a Diamond upgrade for our Emerald Suite.

Up next, Land of Enchantment – exploring Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque and its environs.

REMINDER: I’m getting together a group for a cruise around the southern tip of South America.Come join us on March 5, 2018 (that’s right – 2018) on Holland America’s Zaandam, a vessel with about 1450 passengers as we board in Valparaiso, Chile as we cruise among the fjords, through the Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, visiting the southernmost town in the world, Montevideo, Paraguay and disembarking in Buenos Aires, he home of fine leather and the tango.  With a group, basically in name only, we received the lowest rates and amenities. .  Leave a comment and I’ll respond privately to you about this cruise or contact my travel agent, Michelle, at michelle@mccabeworld.com and tell her you are in Jane’s group!

Daily Getaways are Back Starting Today!

An event that we look forward to every year is the Daily Giveaways for four weeks sponsored by the US Travel Association. Each workday for two weeks, beginning today April 4th promptly at 1:00 EDT,  you have the opportunity to  (attempt) to purchase one of their daily specials.  Some days are better than others but there is usually something for everyone during this four week period. To purchase, click on this link.

I have purchased points from Club Carlson, IHG as well as a few other vacation goodies to bump up my point totals when I had plans to use them.

What I like about the first week of daily getaways is that they are family friendly. You can be one of the few to buy points from IHG (Holiday Inn, etc), Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn and a few more.  Want to go to Busch Gardens with discounted tickets or planning a trip to Vegas.  You might try getting a great deal through the Daily Getaways.  Here is what is planned for next week:

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There will be more goodies the following week and that is the end till next year.

Looking at what is offered for this coming week I might consider the Busch Garden tickets since our daughter lives fairly close to one of the Busch Gardens – or I might just get them and give to her. They like to go when it is Howl-o-ween at Busch Gardens.  They took their 2 year old this fall and he loved it!  I might consider some of the IHG points since I have just used up a couple of hundred booking our trip in New Mexico/France and Belgium.

Remember, it begins at 1:00 Eastern time and they are very limited so if there is something you want, get the correct time and jump on it as soon as you can.  Some daily giveaways have more opportunities to purchase than others.   Post here if you are able to purchase anything so we can all congratulate you!

Good Luck

New Rules for Chase Credit Cards

I receive no compensation of any type from JP Chase – in fact, they probably don’t know anything about me.  The views below are mine entirely.

Chase is tightening up their rules for obtaining one of their credit cards.  This past summer/fall, they began implementing the 5/24 rule.  If you opened 5 credit cards from any bank within twenty four months, you would most likely be declined for any of Chase’s own credit cards.  This was exclusive to their own credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom card and any of their cards that are not co-branded with another company such as Marriott.

 

If you are new to credit card churning, then I would suggest before you get to the 5 card you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, one of my favorites of all time.  I do not have an affiliate link as I do not have a business relationship with them but if you are thinking of getting their card, I would receive 5,000 Ultimate Reward points if I refer you.  If interested, just drop me an email and I’ll begin a dialogue with you.  If not, I still HIGHLY recommend this credit card because of its flexible Ultimate Reward points.

Now Chase is changing the rules AGAIN!  Their co-branded cards will follow the same 5/24 rule sometime in April.  If you are on the fence or thinking about applying for one of their co-branded cards, my advise is to do it within the next month to six weeks.  In fact, I would do it sooner than later. Some of their co-branded cards include British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz Carlton,  Disney, Southwest Airlines and United Explorer.

I have been thinking about getting both the Hyatt card and the Marriott card but my problem is that you can only have five personal credit cards from Chase.  Which card to close is my dilemma.  I already have the United Mileage Plus Select card (a co-branded card) which is my oldest credit card dating back to the early 1990’s.  It is a card that is no longer available and for those of us that have it, it makes it worthwhile to keep it.  I certainly do not want to close that card out since I have had it as long as I do – always keep your oldest card!

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I also have the IHG card ( a co-branded card) which gives me Aspire elite status with IHG (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, etc) and I do participate a few times a year with their promotions and there ALWAYS is a step that has you paying with your IHG credit card.  Also, this card gives me one free night a year and the annual fee is only $49.  I have only had the card about ten months now and do not mind paying the $49 for the one free night, which we will use in Brussels.

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I currently have the Freedom (one of Chase’s cards, not co-branded) which I do love for the revolving quarterly bonus categories.  It has been particularly useful to me before the holidays as Amazon has been one of the bonus stores.  That might be the one that I will consider closing and perhaps my husband could get it instead.

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In December I applied for and one month later  approved for the United Explorer credit card which gives me free checked bags when I fly on United.  Since I tend to fly United the most, that will be particularly useful to me.  Since I have had that card only about a month, obviously I do not want to close it.

Finally, I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Thinking that I might never be approved for it again, I’m keeping it.  I love the Ultimate Reward points and since am boosting my United points with my new Explorer card, I can use those UR points for other airlines, like Singapore Airlines.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred

So if I want the Marriott or Hyatt card, I’ll have to close one of my Chase cards and it will probably be the Freedom, much to my chagrin.

Have you thought about applying for any of the Chase co-branded cards before the 5/24 rule takes effect?  Are you having the problem that I am as to which card to close?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IHG Hotels and the Accelerate Promotion

Whether I have any intention of staying at a specific hotel brand or not, I always sign up for their promotion.  As much as I think that I know my travel plans, or lack of them sometimes, there have been instances where last minute travel opportunities arise and I wished that I had signed up for a certain promotion.

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I am working on the Accelerate promotion that IHG is sponsoring until the end of the year.  To participate you must first be an IHG Rewards Club member.  You can sign up here.  Once you sign up you can then go to the Rewards Club tab and find your offers.  You do have to specifically sign up for these promotions – it is not automatically done for you.

Some of you may not know what IHG Club or brand is.  IHG is the loyalty club for Intercontinental Hotels, Holiday Inn and all their various sub-brands (Express, Suites, Resorts), Crowne Plaza, EVEN, Staybridge, Candlewood, Hotel Indigo.

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Every person who registers for this promotion has different objectives to meet in order to complete all the offers that have been given to them.  I have six offers presented to me and in order to receive the 50,000 IHG points, I must complete five of the six. Remember, that your offers and mine will probably be difficult – yours could be easier or more difficult.  You do not have to complete all your objectives to receive points.  It is like stair steps in the sense that each step you take will give you extra points.  One of my offers was to have a one night stay and I would earn and extra 5000 points on top of the points that I earned just from staying at a Holiday Inn.

When I did this promotion a couple of years ago there were more points to earn and I wanted to earn them for an upcoming trip we had planned.  I would look for the least expensive hotel rates near Holiday Inns where I lived and book them.  In one weekend I had booked a Friday night and a Saturday night stay near Washington Dulles Airport where I lived since their rates went down over the weekend when business travelers were not staying there.  I went to the hotels, checked in and never stayed there.  You might be thinking that is a waste of money to pay for a hotel and not stay there but for all those points I earned, we were able to parlay that into a 3 night stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in Prague this year.  Since I also have the IHG credit card, I was automatically given top status and when we checked in, I was upgraded to an Executive Suite. Basically, the $54 dollars that I spent in the hotel that I did not stay in gave me this luxury hotel in Prague at no charge at all!  I have taught Blogger Hubby that spending a little money will reap its rewards later.  He’s become a believer.

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This is where I am though I do have three more nights that have not posted.  I have just fulfilled a weekend stay (while attending my Chicago Seminars) and I charged it on  my IHG credit card which means those two offers have been fulfilled.  To date I have earned an extra 10,500 points on top of those that I earned from staying at the hotel.

I hope you consider participating in a hotel promotion particularly if you travel or want to travel.  With these points my plan is to stay at the Intercontinental in Paris next year – I hear that it is nice there.

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Budapest and the Central Market

With an extra day in Budapest, we were on our own.  Monika, our cruise director on the AMA:Prima, had taken care of our departure transportation.  She had cabs in place for those who needed them at times requested.  It was very easy to depart our home for the past week – no need to put our luggage out the night before as you do with the ocean liners.  Completely different experience and a positive one at that!

We had reservations at the Radisson Blu because of the promotion that they had.  A short taxi ride from the dock and we were there.   I’m always looking at way to get more points and value for my points and by booking here and paying cash we earned quite a few number of points.   Since we arrived around 9:30  in the morning, our room was not ready.  We left our luggage and set out exploring on another hot and humid day.

One of the things that I really wanted to do was to go to the Central Market in Budapest.  I had read quite a bit about it and was excited to go.  Through sign language and the map we had showing a picture of the Central Market, we were able to ride the subway to the correct station.  This was the first time on our trip where language was a problem yet we were able to make our request known and they were able to gesture and point to where we needed to go.  People generally want to be helpful and that’s what we found.  Of course we needed to purchase tickets for the subway and we used our normal routine of watching those in front of us. Most ticket machines have a language button and by pushing the British Union Jack flag, we were able to understand  what we were being asked to do.  My tip in riding the subway when I am unfamiliar to the area is to take a picture of we you enter the subway so you know what your return stop is.

We emerged from the subway tunnel to a large tiled building. I’ve found out through this trip that I’m a sucker for a really interesting tile roof and this was no exception.

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Excitement was mounting and Blogger Hubby could hardly hold me back.  I walked in to cacophony of sounds, all sorts of scents, goods all over, stalls of fresh produce, butcher shops with all different cuts of meat and stalls selling ready to eat food.  I enjoyed looking at the native embroidered blouses they were selling but I didn’t purchase one.  We wandered up and down the market even going upstairs and walking around and then downstairs in the basement.  I’m not sure how much of this is a tourist destination or if it is a place where the people of Budapest shop.  I really think it was the former.  We did go upstairs to have some lunch.  So many delicious and delectable looking choices we had.  Blogger Hubby had goulash and I had a repeat of what I had in Prague – fried dough slathered with garlic butter then topped with shredded cheese.  Yum!  All I purchased was some paprika to bring home – Blogger Hubby was beginning to be concerned about how heavy my suitcase was beginning to be and we had all of our train rides ahead of us.  If you are going to stay in Budapest after your cruise do not buy the ship’s paprika in their little store – it is much less expensive at the market.

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P1040163P1040162P1040164While we were walking around, we found the train station was right by the subway line.  We had made our online reservations for the next day to go from Budapest to Vienna where we would change trains and board an overnight train to Venice.  We knew we had to bring our confirmation number to the train station to collect our ticket.  We walked into the train station to an information counter and showed them our confirmation letter with the details and the confirmation number.  They directed us to a machine where we could get our ticket.  It was quite easy to do.

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Back to our hotel we went to finally we able to check in.  Once in the room, I was really not impressed.  We had a funky window in our room – a circular window that we had to step up to.    Wouldn’t recommend staying here.

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Since it was so hot and humid, we stayed in our room for the afternoon.  Once it cooled down and got to be around dinnertime, we left and walked to Andrassy Street where there were many outdoor restaurants and cafes.  After looking at several different menus, we found the one to our liking and had an enjoyable dinner.  Walking back to our hotel, we stopped for a delicious, refreshing lemon gelato

IMG_1829Next post – our day in Budapest and the train experience we had in Budapest.

Our Arrival in Prague and What We Did – Part 1

We arrived in Prague by bus from Nuremberg around 7 PM and was driven to our hotel, the Intercontinental right on the waterfront, by the driver that I had arranged prior to our visit through the hotel.

The hotel has the appearance of a Soviet era building, very unattractive and sterile on the outside but was very modern on the inside.  As we were being checked in we were told that we had been upgraded to a Junior Executive Suite since I was Platinum Elite.  No, I don’t stay in hotels very often but having the IHG credit card gives me automatic platinum status.  Our room was very nice and large, especially by European standards.

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We dropped off our luggage and headed out to follow our driver’s recommendation of where we should have our dinner.  We went to VKolkovne which seemed to be a gathering place for after work drinks and dinner for residents of Prague.  Our hotel was unable to make reservations for us but we decided to walk over and see if we could get seated which we did with no wait!  Food was delicious and the beer was even better.  I became a beer drinker on this trip when I quickly realized that beer was less expensive than wine and even water!

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After dinner we went exploring.  We walked over to Old Town Square. The historic center of Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of many that I was sure that we would visit during this trip.  Many people  where many people were waiting in the dark for the Prague Astronomical Clock to strike on the hour.  This clock was installed on a wall on the Old Town City Hall in 1410.  When the clock strikes on the hour there is a Walk of the Apostles showing the figures of the Apostles and other figures including Death.  Once all the figures came out, the crowd around it seemed to disburse though the square remained lively.

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Food vendors were around the square with an array of food included a version of fried dough slathered with garlic butter and topped with a generous amount of shredded cheese.  My other favorite street food was chimney stacks which is like having dough wrapped in strips around a metal cylinder and then cooked over coals.  It is topped with cinnamon sugar and you can peel off the strips one layer at a time.

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For our first full morning we headed over to Old Town Hall Square to take a Free Walking Tour.  They seem to all advertise themselves by holding up an umbrella – different colors for different tour companies.  There are several companies that do this and you need to find the one that you are comfortable with.  My recommendation is to talk to the person who is actually going to be doing your tour.  Blogger Hubby found that some guides had a heavier accent than others did and he wanted a guide that he could have an easier time hearing and understanding.  We found a tour guide holding a Green Umbrella and he was from Seattle, Washington.  We determined that he was the “perfect” guide for us.  We were very happy with our decision, the amount of information he passed on to us and our entire tour.  It was shorter than some of the other umbrella companies but that is only because we took a shorter break than others did. If you look at his umbrella it shows the countries where English is the primary language.

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We needed to get back to our hotel by 1:30 since we had booked a Czech cooking lesson for the afternoon and evening in our hostess’ home.  My next blog will tell you all about our experience.

Fun Fact:  Many South Korean bridal catalogs shoot their photographs for the catalogs in Prague.  We saw many “fake” weddings in the square and in front of the astronomical clock.  Who knew!

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A few more pictures from Prague featuring some of their more beautiful buildings:

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IHG and Club Carlson Hotel Promotions – are you in?

As I have mentioned before, we tend to stay at more moderately priced hotels and it doesn’t bother us.  Most times we are out enjoying the area we are visiting in.  Sometimes these more moderately priced hotels have fantastic hotels in great locations.

Since this is the way that we travel (for the most part) I have enrolled in two hotel promotions for the Fall.  The first is the IHG “Into the Night” promotion.  IHG is the parent company of many well known hotels – Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn and Suites, Crown Plaza, Intercontinental and many more.  Like their promotion last year, the bonus will vary by individual.  You need to log into your account, register for the promotion and find out what your bonus is.  Last year I completed the entire promotion and received about 70,000 points.

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The other fall hotel promotion that I am working on for Club Carlson members.  It is the  Take Off with More Miles offer.  Once you register by October 15th  and complete two Eligible Stays at participating Radisson® hotels by December 15, 2014, will earn 7,500 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles in addition to your Club Carlson miles and the night/stay toward elite status.  If you are interested in this promotion, you can register here.  This must be competed by December 15th.

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Are you working on any promotions?

Club Carlson’s Park Inn Hotel, Cape Town Foreshores, South Africa

After our safari in Kruger we flew from Nelspruit to Cape Town.  Nothing special about the flight.  We landed, collected our luggage, picked up our rental car and was off to find the Park Inn,  Cape Town Foreshores where we booked two rooms with our points.  Blogger Hubby booked one room and I booked the other – a suite which I paid $30 USD for the upgrade.  This was perfect since we had a baby who slept in the living room portion of the suite.  We did ask for a crib for the baby and we received a really nice Pack ‘n Play with a crib size down comforter in a duvet for the baby to sleep on and a baby size pillow.

park inn entrance

The hotel as in a great location close to Long Street known for its shopping.  We were close to all the highways that we needed so it never took us far to get anywhere.  The hotel had a very modern feel to it with an inside atrium on all the floors.  The rooms were very nicely appointed.  Since we were gold elite with Club Carlson by virtue of us having the Club Carlson credit card, each room received a bottle of South African wine and a plate of dried apricots, nuts and jelly beans.  Our room, the non-suite, even had a balcony with chairs so we could sit outside, drinking our wine and watch the clouds over Table Mountain. Did you know that when the clouds descend and settle on he top of Table Mountain it is called a “tablecloth”?  Needless to say,  we were really happy in our room.

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The hotel does urge you not to go out at night and walk around.  There is a hotel shuttle that will take you and pick you up though we found that it took a while and we ended up paying $3 for a cab to bring us back from dinner.

A recurrent theme that we were finding is that hotels do not seem to offer you drawers to put your clothes in.  We each had one smallish drawer.  You can see it sticking out from behind Blogger Hubby in the last picture.  It is floating against the wall.  Next to him in the floor cabinet is the refrigerator which holds the bottles of water that the hotel gives everyone gratis every day – much appreciated.

The hotel had a really interesting Rooftop Terrace bar with the swimming pool up there and at times at DJ.  Not sure I would want to go swimming with all the drinkers around but it sure was pretty with all the colorful lights and again the view of Table Mountain.

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They offer a wonderful breakfast though double check to see if it is included with your room.  I did ask at check-in time and they told us it was but after the first morning we found out that only one room (the Business Class room on points) had the free breakfast and not the suite that we paid points and cash for.  Nevertheless we ate there every morning.  Since I had questioned it and they couldn’t tell me why one room had it and the other, they took the charge off the bill.   Parking is available at $5 USD per day but it is not for the faint of heart.  You enter from a small parking area and go straight up quickly.  The you turn oh so carefully and go up again.  Your space has your name on it so no one else can park there which is nice and you don’t have to go looking for a space.

The best part about having a Club Carlson credit card (and I am not paid in anyway to say this, just my honest opinion) is that when you use points to book a room, your last night is free.  You do have to spend two nights in order to get this benefit.  We saved over $200 USD, received wine and goodies in each room and have free internet.  We were delighted with our accommodations and would recommend it to anyone.

My favorite Hotel Chain – Rezidor Hotels

As I have mentioned before, I’m not really a Hyatt kind of gal…well maybe I am but I am not willing to spend all those hard earned dollars or points staying at the more expensive Hyatts unless they are the free nights that you can get when you open a Hylatt credit card.

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Instead,  I’ve come to appreciate all the benefits of Club Carlson and the Rezidor brand which is Radisson hotels,  Country Inn and Suites and Park Inn and a few more.  I find that they are moderately priced hotels, generally in good locations.  There is nothing pretentious about them.  I like the homey feel of the Country Inn and Suites with their fireplace in the lobby, plenty of warm,  just baked chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies awaiting you.

I began staying in this chain when Club Carlson ran their huge promotion back in the spring of 2012.  We accumulated lots of points during this promotion and were going to use them in Sydney.  After we received the points and before we went to Sydney I became aware of the Club Carlson credit card.  Most of you know the main benefit but for those who don’t let me explain – on your award stay of two nights or longer, your last night is free!  Yes, free.  That has made it, for me, very valuable.  I try to stay in that brand as often as I can so I can extend my points.

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Although award status doesn’t mean too much to me, for those who it does, your award nights go toward Club Carlson elite status.  With the card you are automatically a gold elite and that generally gets me a goodie box in my room free wifi as well as late check-out.

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With our upcoming trip all of our hotel stays are with the Rezidor brand.  They have a strong presence in Europe which I am thankful for.  In Cape Town, we are staying at Park Inn.  In Denmark we have three separate reservations to include our travels at various Radisson hotels.  In total we will be receiving four free nights which equate to over $680  not including the free wifi.   This credit card and this hotel chain are right up my alley.  With 20 points per dollar when I use it at any of their hotels and ten points per dollar anywhere else, it’s easy to rack up points.

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I have stayed at the Radisson Hotel on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and the staff could not have been more helpful – and that was before I even had their credit card!  It was a great location though to be quite honest, the Marriott was partially in front of the Radisson so if I had to do it over again, I’d do the Marriott unless we got a great view, like we did, of the Horseshoe Falls.  I’ve had mixed reviews at  Park Inn and I’ll say not to stay at the one by the Montreal Airport.  We’re anxious to see the one in Cape Town but I am confident since they were rated highly by Trip Advisor.

Do you stay at this chain or have the Club Carlson credit card?  If you do, what is your favorite perk of the credit card.  If you don’t have the card, what do you like about this chain?

Savannah, Georgia – Our Arrival

We left Charleston in the rain and that is how our spirits felt after such a great time in the Holy City, the nickname for Charleston, yet we were excited about what Savannah would show us. On our way out of Charleston we drove by Battery Park and Rainbow Row, the sights we didn’t see while on the carriage tour.  I’m sure it would have been great with a narrative on the carriage ride nevertheless, we were glad to see this part of the city.  We had intended to take a scenic tour to Savannah but with the rain, we decided to stick to the main routes.

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The drive didn’t take long, about an hour and we stopped at the Cider Market along the roadside for some great treats and drinks.  Once again, we decided to bite the bullet and stay in the historic district.  This time we stayed at the Country Inns and Suites, part of the Radisson chain and a hotel where I could earn Club Carlson points.  I thought I was being smart in making a separate reservation for each of the three nights we were there and doing it on the internet (2,000 points for internet booking if you are a Gold Elite; three stays since they were separate reservation numbers).  I found out later that Club Carlson revamped their elite program earlier this year and no longer gave points for booking online – oh well.  I still got credit for three stays though.  There was parking for about 15 cars under the hotel and we were lucky enough to find a space. If no spaces are available, there is a city parking lot  across the street where you will be given a pass by the hotel to park there for $10 per night payable to the hotel.

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There was nothing special about our room except for the gift basket of goodies because I am a Gold Elite courtesy of my Club Carlson VISA card.  We appreciated the snacks.   I thought we might have given a better location be cause of my status.  The room was directly across from the vending machines which were in the hallway as opposed to a room off the hallway).

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We went downstairs to speak with the concierge and she gave us maps as well as booked us on a trolley tour of the city and a boat tour on the Savannah River for the next day.  We then asked about a place to have dinner she swore by the Crystal Beer Saloon.  It didn’t sound like our type of restaurant but we decided to trust the concierge and perhaps have an adventure and what an adventure we had.  It is a bar when you walk in but the next room was the restaurant portion of the building.  It reminded me of an old Italian restaurant with black and white old time photos and red and white tablecloths.  We had an amazing meal – shrimp for me again.  The portions were quite large, so large that my friend “Louise” couldn’t finish her meal.  The manager came over thinking something was wrong with the meal.  She kept insisting that she just couldn’t finish, that the food was very good but he wasn’t buying it.  He decided to comp us their famous peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  This was by far the BEST peach cobbler I ever had.  The crust is what made it so delicious because it wasn’t soggy but instead crunchy, flavorful and delectable.  I asked for the recipe but it is a secret so no luck.  If I was to rate this restaurant, I would give it  5 stars.  It was just what we were looking for and it exceeded expectations.

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When we returned to the hotel it was “homemade cookies time” in the lobby which we thoroughly enjoyed as we sat by the fireplace watching television on the big screen.  Finally we went back to our room to rest up for our day of sightseeing.  I will say that I might not stay at this hotel again.  They seem to cater to tour buses – which I understand is probably their bread and butter but it is a little annoying when at 6:30 ish in the morning you hear all the luggage being rolled down the hallway to be loaded onto the waiting bus.  Additionally,  some nights the “cookies” were just for those getting off the tour bus and checking in – not for us regular guests.  Finally, since this hotel is in a city block, there is only room for two cars to fit in the area that was cut into the sidewalk for loading and unloading guests and luggage.  On our departure, a tour bus was sitting in this area and I had no place to put my car (I was in the public lot at this time).  The bus wasn’t idling;  the driver was just sitting on a step waiting for luggage.  In the half hour it took me to load my car, check out, etc not a single piece of luggage was brought down.  In my opinion, it would have been far better if he had waited somewhere else and then come to the hotel once the luggage actually made it down the stairs and the passengers were ready to move on.  It made it very difficult for those of us who were not with the tour group.  I became so frustrated with the situation that I complained at the hotel and then followed it up with a call to Club Carlson.  The end result – they gave me 5,000 points.  Still not sure if I would return to this hotel.

Next up – our tours of Savannah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epic Road Trip – driving to Charleston, SC, part 1

Thelma and Louise (names changed to protect the guilty) headed out recently on their Epic Road Trip from the DC area to Charleston and Savannah in a VW Jetta  Wagon.  No convertible, no souped up car, no music blaring forth but still, lots of fun.  Lots of logistics were involved…how long would we stay in each city, which city first, which hotels, whose car, etc.  With all those decided we thought we were ready to go until I noticed I had booked hotels in the same city for different nights and one of those bookings was non-refundable.  Oops.  I quickly went to the hotel booking site and cancelled and then quickly found a hotel for the correct dates in the correct city.

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Before we got on the interstate, we had to go by our local bakery for some freshly made doughnuts – every girl needs a snack for the road.  About two hours from home, we hit a traffic backup.  Seemed we went very slowly for about 6 miles and then…..nothing.  As we were passing through Fort Mill, South Carolina we saw a sign for Blue Rose Pottery.  Since we hadn’t stopped in about 30 minutes, we felt like we needed to stop and stretch our legs, or so we told ourselves that we did.  It looked like nothing on the outside but inside….it was Polish Pottery.  I felt like I hit a gold mine.  We probably spent about 45 minutes looking at the many different patterns.  I ended up purchasing two bowls and the knowledge of where to stop off I-77 when I need to “stretch my legs”.

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Our plan was to go to Charleston first for three nights.  We knew that we wanted to stay in the historic district and that it would be pricier than staying outside and then driving in.  We also thought it would give us more flexibility in case we wanted to come back to our room at the hotel.  In looking at the charges, we saw that staying Saturday night would cost us over $300 and then it would drop for Sunday and Monday nights.  We REALLY didn’t need to stay in Charleston for that price.  We knew that on Sunday we wanted to visit a plantation north of the city.  We quickly changed our reservation, again, to reflect only two nights.  In its place, we made a reservation at a Holiday Inn Express in Summerville, South Carolina, about 20 miles north of Charleston.

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I hate to be picky but there were a lot of little things wrong with our room and I did all that I could to remedy it while I was there.  We checked in around 5 PM and took the elevator to our floor.  As soon as we got out of the elevator there was constant barking and it was about 4 doors down from our room.  I personally like dogs but I do not like barking dogs in a hotel room.  We walked into our room and about 4 steps in from the door was a large RollAway bed.  We couldn’t get around it very well because of where it was and how large it was.  I put my luggage down and went to the desk to see if we could have another room.  The person working the desk tried calling the room where the barking dog was and there was no answer which is against Holiday Inn’s rules.  Apparently you cannot leave a dog unattended, which really isn’t realistic since you most times go out to eat dinner.  I was worried about the dog’s barking and how long it would bark.  I asked if we could have another room and they said that they were fully booked up.  I knew that they were full but was I REALLY the last person to check in…I don’t think so.  About half and hour later someone came to get the RollAway bed out of our room.  We went to dinner.  Came home and found our room hot and stuffy.  No matter how low I turned the thermostat or high high I turned the fan, it remained the same speed and temperature.  When we went to use the bathroom, we discovered that the wastepaper basket hadn’t been emptied from the previous guest and it was quite full…YUCK!  The next morning I again went to the desk to complain about the night (barking dog was not a problem) and they offered me $25 off my $139 room.  Hmm, that was not sufficient for a poor night’s sleep.  She asked what I wanted and I asked points.  She told me to “name my price” and I suggested 25,000 knowing that it would be too much but it would give us a place to begin talking about compensation.  This young woman wrote “Guest DEMANDS 25,000”.  I objected to that word since I had been very nice (even my friend will say I was nice and polite).  Nevertheless we left with no firm offer.  In fact, they never called until I received a survey online and I reiterated everything that I had told them at the hotel in person.  I ended up with the guarantee that next time I check in we’ll have it personally inspected by the manager and that the night will be on them.  She indicated that I “might” find some points in my account to help offset the problems that we had in our room.

Summerville has a charming historic downtown area.  Apparently it is the P1000237birthplace of Sweet Tea, the elixir of southern women.  There is a Sweet Tea Trolley Trail – and if we had more time, we would have gladly taken the tour.  I realize that I would like to stop in this city again particularly when the prices for a hotel in Charleston were so high.

 

Next up – Middleton Plantation

 

IHG Rewards: POINTBREAKS for Jan. 27 – Mar. 31, 2014

As you might have gathered from previous posts, I am a big fan of IHG – the loyalty reward program for Holiday Inn, Candlewood, Staybridge, Crowne Plaza, etc.  During their promotion of last quarter I earned over 150,000 points by meeting their promotion requirements – I could earn as little or as much as I wanted  within their parameters of their promotion.  Currently another “The Big Win” promotion is happening now and you too could earn many points.

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Getting back to why I love IHG is simply because they run these Pointbreak specials throughout the year where you can stay at some of their hotels for just 5,000 points per night.  What a savings that is.  They have hotels that are participating throughout the world.

Here is the list of participating hotels for this quarter:

ALABAMA

CANDLEWOOD SUITES BIRMINGHAM/HOMEWOOD

ARKANSAS

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES EL DORADO


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HOPE


CANDLEWOOD SUITES WEST LITTLE ROCK


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PINE BLUFF

ARIZONA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FLORENCE


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS GREEN VALLEY

CALIFORNIA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SANTA NELLA


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WEST SACRAMENTO – CAPITOL AREA

COLORADO

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LAMAR

CONNECTICUT

CROWNE PLAZA SOUTHBURY

GEORGIA

HOTEL INDIGO ATHENS DOWNTOWN – UNIV AREA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DOUGLAS

IOWA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LE MARS


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SHELDON

IDAHO

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BOISE WEST – MERIDIAN

ILLINOIS

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CRESTWOOD


HOLIDAY INN EFFINGHAM


CANDLEWOOD SUITES PEORIA AT GRAND PRAIRIE

INDIANA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AUBURN-TOURING DR


CANDLEWOOD SUITES LOUISVILLE NORTH


CANDLEWOOD SUITES INDIANAPOLIS


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LOGANSPORT

KANSAS

CANDLEWOOD SUITES EMPORIA


CANDLEWOOD SUITES KANSAS CITY-OVERLAND PARK

KENTUCKY

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CAMPBELLSVILLE

LOUISIANA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES AMITE


CANDLEWOOD SUITES LAKE CHARLES-SULPHUR

MARYLAND

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ABERDEEN-CHESAPEAKE HOUSE

MICHIGAN

CANDLEWOOD SUITES KALAMAZOO


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS LAPEER


STAYBRIDGE SUITES DETROIT-UTICA

MISSISSIPPI

STAYBRIDGE SUITES JACKSON

MONTANA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BELGRADE


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BROWNING

NORTH CAROLINA

HOLIDAY INN GREENSBORO AIRPORT


CROWNE PLAZA HICKORY


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HILLSBOROUGH (DURHAM AREA)


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PLYMOUTH

NEBRASKA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LINCOLN SOUTH

NEW JERSEY

HOLIDAY INN BUDD LAKE – ROCKAWAY AREA


CROWNE PLAZA MONROE SOUTH BRUNSWICK

NEW MEXICO

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ALBURQUERQUE SOUTH – BELEN

NEW YORK

HOLIDAY INN MIDDLETOWN-GOSHEN

OHIO

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DAYTON
-HUBER HEIGHTS


HOLIDAY INN HOTEL AND SUITES MANSFIELD
-CONFERENCE CTR


CROWNE PLAZA CLEVELAND AIRPORT

OKLAHOMA

CANDLEWOOD SUITES BARTLESVILLE EAST


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES EL RENO


CANDLEWOOD SUITES TULSA


CROWNE PLAZA TULSA – SOUTHERN HILLS

PENNSYLVANIA

CROWNE PLAZA PHILADELPHIA-BUCKS COUNTY


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SELINSGROVE


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WEST CHESTER

SOUTH CAROLINA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SPARTANBURG-NORTH

TENNESSEE

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ALCOA
(KNOXVILLE AIRPORT)


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MILLINGTON
-MEMPHIS AREA

TEXAS

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ALVARADO


CANDLEWOOD SUITES AMARILLO-WESTERN CROSSING

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CENTER


CANDLEWOOD SUITES CORPUS CHRISTI-SPID


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ELGIN


HOLIDAY INN HOU ENERGY CORRIDOR ELDRIDGE


CANDLEWOOD SUITES LA PORTE


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES AUSTIN NW – LAKEWAY


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES RIO GRANDE CITY

VIRGINIA

HOLIDAY INN PETERSBURG NORTH- FORT LEE


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WILLIAMSBURG NORTH

WISCONSIN

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BELOIT


CANDLEWOOD SUITES MILWAUKEE BROWN DEE

R
CROWNE PLAZA MADISON


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ST. CROIX VALLEY

WEST VIRGINIA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LOGAN

EUROPE

CZECH REPUBLIC

HOLIDAY INN PRAGUE AIRPORT

FRANCE

HOLIDAY INN MULHOUSE


HOLIDAY INN TOULOUSE AIRPORT

SLOVAKIA

HOLIDAY INN TRNAVA

SPAIN

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR – BARRIOS

TURKEY

CROWNE PLAZA ANKARA

UNITED KINGDOM

HOLIDAY INN BARNSLEY M1, JCT.37


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BRAINTREE
HOLIDAY INN COVENTRY – SOUTH


HOLIDAY INN NORTHAMPTON WEST M1, JCT 16


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SHREWSBURY


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SWINDON CITY CENTRE


HOLIDAY INN WALSALL M6, JCT.10


HOLIDAY INN DARLINGTON – A1 SCOTCH CORNER


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS LEICESTER – WALKERS STADIUM

ASIA

INDIA

HOLIDAY INN JAIPUR


CROWNE PLAZA NEW DELHI ROHINI

INDONESIA

CROWNE PLAZA SEMARANG

JAPAN

ANA HOTEL WAKKANAI


HOLIDAY INN ANA SENDAI

CHINA (People’s Republic)

HOLIDAY INN NANTONG OASIS INTERNATIONAL


HOLIDAY INN TAICANG CITY CENTRE


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SHANGHAI JINSHA


HOLIDAY INN DATONG CITY CENTRE


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS TIANJIN CITY CENTRE

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

EGYPT


CROWNE PLAZA RESORT SAHARA OASIS PORT GHALIB RESOR

SOUTH AFRICA

HOLIDAY INN SANDTON – RIVONIA ROAD


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PRETORIA – SUNNYPARK

ZIMBABWE

HOLIDAY INN BULAWAYO

CROWNE PLAZA HARARE-MONOMOTAPA

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINA

INTERCONTINENTAL MENDOZA

BRAZIL

HOLIDAY INN SAO LUIS

CHILE

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PUERTO MONTT

COLOMBIA

CROWNE PLAZA SUITES TEQUENDAMA BOGOTA

GUATEMALA

CROWNE PLAZA GUATEMALA

HONDURAS

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SAN PEDRO SULA

PARAGUAY

CROWNE PLAZA ASUNCION

MEXICO

HOLIDAY INN MEXICO BUENAVISTA


CROWNE PLAZA VILLAHERMOSA, TAB.


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS NUEVO LAREDO


HOLIDAY INN ORIZABA


HOLIDAY INN TUXTLA GUTIERREZ

CANADA

ALBERTA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FORT SASKATCHEWAN


HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SLAVE LAKE

BRITISH COLUMBIA

HOLIDAY INN HOTEL AND SUITES OSOYOOS

ONTARIO

STAYBRIDGE SUITES GUELP

I DID IT — I FINISHED “THE BIG WIN”

IHG announced their big promotion in September.  There was a list of stays that you needed to do to win it all or just complete the sections you wanted and take those points.  Since I was going to be traveling anyway, I made sure that I would stay in one of their hotels.

IHG-The-Big-Win-Promo

 

The night before we left for Hawaii, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express at the airport the night before our flight.  The Chicago Seminar that I attended in October was held at a Holiday Inn and that took care of 2 brands (needed to stay at 4 brands).  Driving home from Northern Michigan, we stayed at a Crowne Plaza, another brand.  Finally, when I went to Northern Virginia to visit friends, I made a reservation at a Candlewood for the least expensive rate possible to round out my fourth brand.  Although I never actually stayed there, it was well worth making the reservation (and checking in) to get all those points.  Altogether I earned about 145,000 points and that will give me about 6 nights of accommodations – well worth it in my mind to spend a little to reap a lot.

So often we use credit cards to get the sign-up bonuses to use for future travel but if you see promotions, sign up for them.  You never know when you might need a hotel room and the points I received from this promotion is a lot more than what I would get from a credit card sign-up.  If you are taking a trip or expect to be in a hotel room, look at the promotions and see how you can maximize it.

Here’s what I did and you can do it too.  The promotion runs through the end of December.  Click this link to register and start staying and getting your points

Stay at any IHG® hotel and receive
1,000 POINTS
Stay at 4 different IHG brands and receive
24,000 POINTS
Stay a total of 6 nights and receive
7,000 POINTS
Book 2 separate stays through an IHG® hotel website or mobile device to get our best price guarantee and receive
2,400 POINTS
Stay 2 Saturday nights and receive
4,800 POINTS
Complete a simple survey and receive
100 POINTS
Complete all of your offers and receive
39,000 POINTS

Still working on The Big Win from IHG

In September I signed up for the IHG promotion called The Big Win.  There were different steps that I could do to earn points during this promotion.  I first began by signing up for all the promotion codes that IHG provided.  I found the codes here in message number 3.  I added them to this page .  Of course, I was already a member of their loyalty program.

imagesihg rewards club

The details of the big win are:

A selection of different single promotions, which might vary according to some reports in the internet in relation to your stay pattern. There is a bonus if all promotions are completed until December 31, 2013. The following example is what some people got:

  • Try one and done: Stay at any IHG hotel and receive 1,000 Points
  • Stay more and earn: Stay a total of 4 nights and receive 4,000 Points
  • Explore more brands: Stay at 3 different IHG brands and receive 10,000 Points
  • Book with us: Book 2 separate stays through an IHG hotel website or mobile device to get our best price guarantee and receive 2,000 Points
  • Win in a weekend: Stay 2 Saturday nights and receive 8,000 Points
  • Get an additional 25000 Points if all promotions are completed until December 31, 2013.

My point totals were a little higher than this.  By entering the codes as well as trying to meet the different steps to the Big Win, I am getting lots of points.  In fact, I have stayed at three of their brands and a fourth one will give me even more points.  I have made a reservation at one of the brands that I have not stayed with yet just for the points.  I looked around for the least expensive hotel I could find so I could made the reservation at the lowest price point.  I am actually not planning on staying there.  When I compare what I am spending to what I am receiving, I am definitely coming out ahead.

ihg

IHG offers Point Breaks several times a year.  What this is are hotels in their brand around the world that are just 5,000 points per night.  A new list will be coming out on November 1st but some of the hotels have been “leaked” and they are Intercontinental Hotels in Tahiti, Johannesburg, Shanghai Rujin, The Crowne Plaza in Muscat, Prague, Acapulco and Panama.  Additionally there will be 143 properties in the United States that will have Pointbreaks!  Check back on their website for the full list of hotels on November 1st.  If you don’t have enough points in your IHG account, remember if you have Ultimate Reward points, you can transfer them in at a 1:1 ratio.

See how valuable their points become?

Staying at an Airport Hotel and Flying to Oahu

Since we had a 6:00 AM flight from Detroit Metro Airport  we decided to stay at a hotel near the airport.  We chose the Holiday Inn Express as IHG has The Big Win promotion going on right now and I wanted to take advantage of it. We were also able to leave our car at the lot behind the hotel for free for 8 days (through the hotel) and then pay $11 per day after that or $8 per day if you have a AAA card or AARP card. We parked our car at the hotel the night we checked in and then moved it that morning to the lot behind the Holiday Inn Express.  The shuttle bus was right there to take us to the airport.

ihg big win

Check in was a breeze as was security this time of the morning.  I took photos of our luggage in case they got lost and I could describe them and show them (yes, mine had the penguin duct tape on it) as well as looking at the luggage tag to make sure they were going to HNL.  The people that work the desk are only human and they can make mistakes – I just don’t want it to happen to me.

I found out that we could not use the UAL Club because we were flying domestically.  It would have been nice but it wasn’t that important.  We flew a CRJ (Canadian Regional Jet) from Detroit to Houston.  We had two of the 6 First Class seats and to be honest, I would never pay extra for these seats.  There was very little recline, no food offered whatsoever though juice/soda was offered.  Additionally this jet was freezing cold.  I know, at times, I’m always cold but when I see men putting on their jackets and trying to stay warm, I know that it is not just me.  The flight attendants did say repeatedly that the pilot was trying to warm up the plane.  I happened to get the ONLY blanket on the plane.  I asked for a napkin and the FA thought I was asking for a blanket.  I took the blanket and still asked for a napkin.  Blogger Hubby and I were huddled together under the blanket.  Hope this gives you an idea of how cold it was on this very uncomfortable flight.

Two and a half hours later we were so glad to get off this plane and get warm at the airport in Houston (IAH).  A two hour layover found us having some breakfast near our gate.  As the time drew closer for our take off we were all notified by the gate agent that the in flight entertainment system was not working and that we should download movies onto our IPAD’s (hmm, do’t have one) or go to a bookstore and buy a book.  She did say they were working hard to fix the problem.  We had plenty of books but still, it was over an 8 hour flight – a movie or two would break up the time if we needed it.  Just before we boarded I ran back to the food court and bought a lunch for myself.  I have not been too pleased with the food on United and had been warned that this flight had terrible food – actually inedible food.  Ran to Panda Express for a chicken dish and lo mein.

We were able to have pre-boarding due to flying Business Class.  Actually there were two business class sections on this plane.  The plane had a 2-3-2 configuration so we chose the two together on the side of the plane.  This appeared to be one of the older planes as the in flight entertainment is on a tiny foldaway screen in your arm rest that you pull out.  Also in the arm rest is the in-flight phone that many airlines had in years (or is it decades) gone by.

After we were seated our cheery flight attendant (FA) came by and asked us what we wanted to drink.  Since this was my first trip to Hawaii, I asked for something “tropical” and sooner than I could blink an eye, Blogger Hubby and I had mai tai’s in our hand.

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Shortly we were in the air and our FA came by to serve the luncheon.  As I had been told, there was only one choice and it was the chicken that I had been warned about.  Hubby took the chicken and said it wasn’t bad.  I was happy that I had Panda Express.  Since we were up at 3:30 AM (EDT)and wouldn’t get to our accommodations till around 11 pm (EDT)  wanted to make sure that I had food in my stomach.

After lunch, we were served sundaes with all the toppings that you wanted.  Sundaes are always a nice treat on a United flight.  I slept off and on, read a complete book and saw a movie.

ice cream sundaes

We landed in Honolulu and found that we had to walk quite a distance outside to baggage claim.  I was glad for the walk since we sat for so long but I’m not sure if some people knew how far it was.  As we were waiting for our luggage, Blogger Hubby surprised me with a sweet scented plumeria lei.  The aroma was heavenly.

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As the bags came off the carousel, ours was easy to find since I used the decorative duct tape that I refer to in this post.  We walked outside and waited for the shuttle to take us to National Car rental to pick up our car that we reserved through Priceline.com  I had remembered to go through the Ultimate Rewards mall and received extra points for booking it that way.

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We picked up our white Jetta, after carefully inspecting it and making note of the scratches and marks on the car, and we were on our way to Hickam Air Force base to buy our supplies for the week at the condo in West Oahu.  Since Blogger Hubby is retired military, we are able to shop at the commissary.  Blogger Daughter, who spent her babymoon here as well went to WalMart where she purchased food for their week here.

We finished shopping and were soon on H1 heading west.  This traffic is worse than DC traffic in rush hour on a Friday afternoon!  For any of you who travel the Beltway or I-95, you know what I am referring to.

traffic H1

Next, our stay at the Hawaiian Princess in Makara.

Hotel Promotions for the Fall – Starwood, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Hilton and Club Carlson

One of the fastest ways to get hotel points and status is to take advantage of their seasonal promotions.  That’s how we received over 200,000 Club Carlson points last spring.  Here is a rundown of some the active promotions – remember you need to become a loyalty member and you also need to register for them.

Starwood “Take Two” promotion – Starwood (SPG = Starwood Preferred Guest) spgis the  loyalty brand for Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft, The St. Regis, Walt Disney World Dolphin and WDW Swan.   This promotion offers double Starpoints on eligible stays and 2,500 bonus Starpoints for every five eligible nights and  up to 10,000 bonus Starpoints for twenty nights.  Award nights are not eligible for this promotion.  You need to register online between September 1st and October 31st.  This is for stays between September 1 and Dec. 15th.  Be warned that some properties are not participating in this promotion – click here for the list for those properties NOT participating.

Hyatt – Beginning September 9, you can earn 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport bonus hyatt logopoints after your first five nights (remember the difference between a night and a stay – you may have to check in and out again unless your hotel works with you), and thousands more for every additional five nights. After 20 nights, that’s 50,000 bonus points.

Stay
Earn
Total Bonus Points Earned 
5 Nights +  5,000 Bonus Points = 5,000
10 Nights   + 10,000 Bonus Points = 15,000
15 Nights + 15,000 Bonus Points = 30,000
20 Nights + 20,000 Bonus Points = 50,000

Obviously this is geared toward the business traveler but that is not to say that you couldn’t do this mattress run toward elite status.  If I was to do it, I would try to book stays at Hyatt Houses on Friday or Saturday nights when they are the least expensive. I know the one out by IAD is $65 per night.  On September 9th, go to the Hyatt site to register.  The promotion ends on November 30th.

IHG (formerly known as Priority Club) is the hotel loyalty program for Holiday ihgInn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo Hotels, Holiday Inn Resort Hotels, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites Hotels and Candlewood Suites Hotels.  The “Big Win” promotion runs from September 1st to December 31st and you will need to become a member.  Sign up, register and see all the offers that you will get.  This is what they wrote me “At IHG Rewards Club, seeing you win means everything. The world’s largest hotel loyalty program is bringing you our biggest promotion this year, creating offers tailored just for you. Each completed offer rewards you with a “win.” Complete them all, and you’ll earn big: 78,300 points. An unparalleled opportunity to earn and win is here. Win big and win often from September 1 to December 31.

The great thing about IHG is that  a few times a year have what they call Pointbreaks, where you can book certain rooms for only 5,000 points each night.  For the list of participating hotels, go to this site and look at the second message that lists them all through the world.  Pointbreak rooms must be booked by October 31st.  These are great deals.

Hilton HHonors – Triple Your Trip Promotion.  Sign up and stay Friday, Saturday hilton family or Sunday nights to earn Triple HHonors Points from July 9 through September 30, 2013. And earn Double HHonors Points on Monday through Thursday at participating hotels and resorts. If you’re not a member, join today. Because whether you’re earning Double Points on business or Triple Points on a weekend away, you can always count on HHonors to get you to your next getaway faster.  Register here for the promotion

Marriott – this promotion with United Airlines was previously discussed in this post

Club Carlson – loyalty brand for Radisson,Radisson Bleu, Park Inn and Country Inn and Suites.  If you rent a car from AVIS you can earn up to 9,000 Club Carlson points.  Reserve your rental with Code MUHA021.  This promotion is eligible for those who are renting 3 or more days, for advance rentals only and you must give them your Club Carlson number when you make your reservation.  Go here for more details.

Club Carlson

How many of you have ever heard of Club Carlson?  Here’s a hint…it is a loyalty program of a hotel brand known as Hotel Rezidor.  I know that I never heard of them till last year.  In fact, it was May 2012 when I first heard of them via their amazing promotion to get their name and their loyalty program more well known.  Give up yet?  They are the loyalty program of the Radisson Hotels, Country Inn and Suites and the lesser known Park Inn.  We’ve all heard of the first two.

club carlson

Basically what they did last year is give you an amazing amount of points if you stayed just one night in their hotels within a two month period ending July 15th.  You had to register by May 15th with them and if you stayed at a Radisson for that one night, they gave you 50,000 points as well as points for booking online and points for staying with them.  They did the same thing with Country Inn and Suites and the Park Inn only for those two they gave you 44,000 points plus booking online points and staying with them points.  Both Blogger Hubby and I separately registered and we wound up with almost 300,000 points which would come in handy for our trip to Australia.  I was fortunate that during the summer we lived about 40 miles from a Park Inn and I had a coupon for 30% off.  We paid $54 for our night and for that we got about almost 50,000 points.

As we were making plans for our trip to Sydney, we needed to find a hotel to spend four nights in.  Up until I got involved with points and miles, we tended to stay at a little out of the way hotels that were clean and less expensive and we would take public transportation to get to the city sights.

With the points we earned we were had our choice of two Radisson Hotels in Sydney.  The Radisson Bleu is in the Central Business District (CBD) and closer to the waterfront.  The other was the Radisson Hotel and Suites still in the heart of Sydney but closer to Chinatown, stores and restaurants.  We chose the later and each night cost 50,000 points or $375 AU which at that time was over $400 USD.

Additionally, before we went on our trip I signed up for the Club Carlson VISA card for one very important reason.  If you stayed two consecutive nights using your points, they refunded you your last night’s points.  That’s right, we got one of our nights free.  In theory we could have booked two nights each;  under my Club Carlson membership number and gotten the second night free and then also book the next two consecutive nights under Blogger Hubby’s membership number and gotten his second night free.  I felt like we had done quite well with all the points the gave us and didn’t want to be too greedy even though it was legal under their T&C (terms and conditions).

Our room was great.  We had a one bedroom suite with a small balcony that overlooked the busy street below, a full size kitchen and living room.  We were within easy walking distance of Chinatown and all the food offerings they had.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were also close to a small grocery store, a wine store, easy walking distance to Darling Harbour, the free city tours that are offered in all major cities in the world, the Chinese Friendship Garden and almost around the corner from one of the main transportations streets – George Street that has a free tourist bus that takes you to Circular Quay. I was even happier when I heard how much friends of ours spent on meals and we got great meals in Chinatown for less than half of what they paid and ours was probably just as good.  We just had more choices.

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In addition to the free last night of a two night or more award stay, the Club Carlson VISA gives you 85,000 points after you spend $2500 in the first 90 days; 5 points per dollar on all purchases and 10 points per dollar for all purchases purchases at participating Club Rezidor Hotels (Radisson, Country Inn and Suites and Park Inn); 40,000 points each year at renewal time; and free Upgrade to Gold Elite with the credit car.

Although this hotel is not on par with a Hyatt it is, nevertheless, a very god hotel and we have certainly enjoyed our stays.  Currently they are running a summer promotion that you have to register for.  You need to stay two consecutive nights and they will give you 10,000 points in addition to those that you would earn for staying there.

I’ve become a Club Carlson convert.  How about you?