Category Archives for Hotels.

Hotel Review: Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown

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After staying at the Hyatt Place in “Austin”, I headed to Dallas to do some house-hunting.

Picking up the rental car was a nightmare, but once on the road, I was at the Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown in about 25 minutes.

The parking garage is beyond a gate where you have to swipe your room key, and there are maybe 4 parking spots outside the hotel, as it’s located off a major thoroughfare (Harry Hines Boulevard), which, if there are more than a few people checking in, creates a huge, annoying queue.

Thankfully, I got a spot, grabbed my wallet, and headed to checkin/get a room key within a couple of minutes.

Checkin and arrival

After flying and driving, it hit me that I was super thirsty once I saw the water for sale near the checkin desk.

The desk agent greeted me warmly, and quickly found my reservation.

He acknowledge my Hyatt Platinum elite status, which is completely useless except for random scenarios like this checkin.

I didn’t know parking was an extra $14 a day, and had a 3-night stay… an extra $42.

For some reason, I thought it would be included as the hotel isn’t in downtown Dallas or in a particularly clogged area. Whatever, I asked if he could add it to my Chase Hyatt card along with… abottleofwaterI’msothirsty.

He validated my parking, gave me a room key, and said there would be no charge for the parking, and to enjoy the water. In fact, he gave me another bottle to take to the room!

I was bowled over by the gesture after getting through a flight and driving and parking and finding the place. It was very kind, and I was grateful. It really is the little things.

So, checkin could not have not any smoother. And the gracious service from checkin continued through the entire stay.


Hallways of the Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown

Hallways of the Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown

Everyone, from the cleaning staff to the bartenders to the other desk agents were attentive and professional the entire time.

The room

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Place Austin/Arboretum

File this under “Writing about it before I forget it happened.”

First impression: Wow – there are a LOT of chain hotels in Austin. I… had no idea there were so many.

In fact, there are three Hyatt Place locations in Austin:

But I’ll focus on the last one.

We passed many, many other hotels on the way to it.

I flew down to Austin for a work meeting, and that’s what I did most of the time. So I didn’t get to enjoy the amenities of the hotel, like the pool or gym.

I kinda flew down, checked in, and slept there in the evenings. Which was fine. Here’s my take on it.

Arrival and check-in

Great! I was harried. I’d left my ID in the rental car, and was a mess of bags and random crap after traveling all day. But the desk agent could not have been more thorough or professional or welcoming.

My Hyatt Platinum elite status was acknowledged, and she asked which room I’d prefer. I opted for the bigger room on a higher floor near the elevator: PERFECT.

Hyatt Place Austin lobby

Hyatt Place Austin/Arboretum lobby

I got room 516 on the 5th floor, was given a wifi code, and was told about the free breakfast in the morning.

The room

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Booking Barcelona: A Hilton Points Dilemma

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It’s been a minute, but remember when I was tempted by the 75,000 Hilton points signup bonus on the Citi Hilton Visa? And then I went ahead and got it anyway?

OK, flash forward to now. I have the 75,000 Hilton points, and just booked a trip to Barcelona in January.

Those are all great things, so what’s the dilemma?

To Points & Money, or just money?

This is how life has been lately: I think one thing sounds good, then turn it over in my mind and convince myself of its opposite. Then repeat, like an annoying little hamster wheel of indecision.

Why stop now?

Here are my conflicting ideas.


The setup

Within the image above are the raw materials for a room at the Hilton Barcelona in January. The options are:

  • The room rate at $150 a night, prepaid (AKA $935 for 6 nights after taxes)
  • 30,000 Hilton points a night (AKA 150,000 Hilton points for 6 nights with 5th night free)
  • 12,000 Hilton points + $50 a night (AKA 72,000 Hilton points + $310 for 6 nights)

Pros and cons

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Grand Opening: Choice Hotels Opens First Cambria Hotel & Suites in Manhattan

The Cambria Hotel & Suites in Manhattan celebrated its grand opening on July 14, 2015.

Cambria is part of Choice Hotels, and the Chelsea location is the first in New York!

Out and Out was excited to attend the grand opening celebration, and to talk with key members of the Choice Hotel senior management team about the hotel and Choice Privileges, the hotel chain’s loyalty program.

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Hotel Review: Hilton London Tower Bridge

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Oh man. Talk about a blast from the past.

I stayed here in October 2013 and never got around to writing a review about it. However, I still remember it all so clearly…

It was right after I used Delta miles to fly on Virgin Atlantic. It was my first time on that airline, and my first time at the Wingtips Lounge @ JFK T4.

It was also my first time staying on the “other side” of the River Thames, as I’d always stayed closer to Soho/Hyde Park. So staying in Southwark was a totally different experience.

And I’ll never forget the wonderfully curated, breathtaking Paul Klee exhibit at the Tate Modern and walking around overwhelmed by the artworks afterward.

I went to see the Tori Amos musical “The Light Princess” at the National Theatre. Anyway, suffice it to say it was a good trip. And the Hilton London Tower Bridge was a big part of that.

Arrival and check in

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu St. Helen’s, Dublin

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Ireland was my last hurrah with the Club Carlson program, which is now dead to me.

After leaving the Radisson Blu in Limerick and kissing the Blarney Stone, we drove into the city of Cork, and then looped back up to Dublin to stay our final night at the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s in Dublin.

Arrival and check-in

The hotel is located in an area that is rez. ee. dent. shul. OK?

That means that traffic is terrible at rush hours, because people are going to or from work.

It’s about 3 miles (~Whatever kilometers) from Dublin proper, but there is free parking in a huge lot right in front of the hotel. For late night escapades, you can easily get a taxi to the city center and back.

The reason I chose this location was because:

  • It was a new property for me
  • It was near the M1 which goes right to the airport
  • The property looked gorgeous

Because I had an early-ish flight back to Boston on Aer Lingus, I wanted to hop right on the highway and get outta there.

I knew the traffic would be bad, and I budgeted time for that, but wow. It was really bad. We were stuck on the same 3-block stretch for over 20 minutes.

Anyway, arrival and check-in.

We parked in the rain after a lovely day in Cork, and walked in.

You’re instantly transported to some other era, where opulent mansions still exist.

Upon opening the door to the Radisson Blu St. Helen's

Upon opening the door to the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s

Indeed, this property is a 1700s estate converted into a hotel. And it is lovely.

The desk agents checked us in within a few minutes and told us how to climb through a maze and get to our room.

Hallways of the Radisson Blu St. Helen's

Hallways of the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s

Again, no upgrade to a business class room, but we figured we’d eat in the lounge at DUB and then again on the flight over. So whatever. Ireland was 50/50 with the upgrades for Gold status elites in the Club Carlson program (through the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature which is now deep in a sock drawer and will never be used again).

The room

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu, Limerick

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After an underwhelming experience at the Radisson Blu in Galway, we hopped in our rental car and drove the ~2 hours to Limerick.

Through Shannon to Limerick

Through Shannon to Limerick

It was a pretty easy drive, except for the zillion confusing roundabouts.  And the fact that I don’t really know how I got to the Radisson Blu in Limerick other than dumb luck and some hairpin turns.

It’s literally one weird turn off the highway and then a narrow road into a parking lot that also randomly has a hotel in it. There seemed to be nothing around, but apparently it was only 15 minutes into downtown Limerick.

We didn’t end up going into the city because there was a marathon going on that day. Traffic was terrible and there was no parking. Instead, we drove to Killarney National Park for a day trip (though I could’ve spent several days there).

In a forest in Killarney #Ireland

A photo posted by Harlan Vaughn (@harlanvaughn) on

Anyway, we got to the Radisson Blu in Limerick and had a bite to eat and put our things down before we left again. But it was a fine crash pad.

Irish beers at the bar

Irish beers at the bar

Arrival and check-in

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Reminder: Club Carlson Program Changes in One Week! Book awards by May 31st

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The time draws near.



I managed to burn most of my Club Carlson points during my trip to Ireland earlier this month (reviews of Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin and Radisson Blu in Galway are up so far). But I also had a paid stay at the Radisson Blu St Helens and ended up earning ~44,000 Club Carlson Gold Points between that and the room charges in Dublin.

Nearly enough for 2 nights at a Category 5 property... if booked before next week

Nearly enough for 2 nights at a Category 5 property… if booked before next week

Book now, change later?

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu, Galway

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After getting the rental car out of the tiny garage at the Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin, I used Google maps to guide me out of the city and onto the highway that would take us the short drive into Galway (a little over 2 hours).

A pretty straightforward drive across Ireland's midsection

A pretty straightforward drive across Ireland’s midsection

We’d heard really mixed reviews about Galway, and were excited to explore the town for ourselves.

All was going smoothly until the home stretch into the city of Galway.

Arrival and check-in

The city is changing the entire flow of traffic, and the directions I’d pulled up were no longer accurate. One-ways were rerouted, or closed, and the road that the Radisson Blu is on (Lough Atalia) had horrible traffic. I had to figure out the reroute while driving on the left side, in a city I’d never been to… and I had to pee so bad OMG.

The roundabouts are the worst.

We finally got parked at the Radisson Blu after a few false turns. As soon as I got in, I found the bathroom, then went to check in.

There was some sort of convention there I guess, as there were all these teenagers draped and strewn about all over the lobby. But we checked in relatively quickly and the desk agent was beyond nice.

Again, we were upgraded to a “Business Class” room which included free breakfast.

Hallways of the Radisson Blu Galway

Hallways of the Radisson Blu Galway

The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the pedestrian area of town where most of the shops and restaurants are concentrated. From there, it’s another 10-minute walk to the other side of the River Corrib where the “real” Galway is located – lots of authentic pubs and shops over there.

The room

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Special Guest Review: Exploring Ireland’s Radisson Properties

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My partner Jay wrote an article about our hotel stays at the Radissons of Ireland. I’m still working on full reviews of all the properties – they’ll be posted soon.

I thought it might be nice to read a different viewpoint and hear a new voice. Jay recently opened the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card (pre-devaluation) and is still getting the hang of this points and miles business. So our trip to Ireland trip really was a last hurrah with Club Carlson – for both of us.

Ireland is Club Carlson HEAVEN, by the way. They have hotels in every major Irish city (see map below). It’s really too bad that not only are BOGO award nights going away, but categories are going up, AND the free night certificate they give after $10,000 in spend is only good in the United States.

Anyway, I’m also working a few new articles for the What to Do series. I’d definitely welcome other guest writers that would like to share their viewpoints about the best places to stay, where to eat, and how to get to your neck of the woods. Feel free to email if you’re interested – I’d love to learn about new places!

Without further ado, take it away, Jay!

We stayed at almost 50% of the Radissons in Ireland (4 out of 9)!

Our Radisson/Club Carlson Circuit

In order, we stayed at:

  1. Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Dublin
  2. Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Galway
  3. Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Limerick
  4. Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel Dublin

That’s a lot of Radisson!

Blu Royal, Dublin

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Royal, Dublin

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Getting there and checking in

After flying into DUB and picking up the rental car at the airport, we drove down into the City Centre of Dublin (you can take the N1 the entire way there).

With a little huge amount of help from Google Maps, I navigated my way toward the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin. There is a small parking facility attached to the hotel with a discounted rate of 10 Euros per night – which is a steal to park for 24 hours – so I parked there and went to check in.

The check-in could not have been any better. Francois, the desk agent, was so kind, welcoming, knowledgable, and professional (he’s the French one – his words!). He recommended a few good places in the area and we chatted a bit about Dublin. After a few minutes, we were all set with an upgraded Business Class room that included free breakfast. Sweet!

Check-in area at the Radisson Royal Blu Dublin

Check-in area at the Radisson Royal Blu Dublin

Restaurant on the ground floor

Restaurant on the ground floor

Lobby seating

Lobby seating

The hotel bar where they serve O'Haras stout beer - yum!

The hotel bar where they serve O’Haras stout beer – yum! (Sorry about the blur!)

The property is beautiful. It’s clean, bright, and airy inside with lots of really nice touches. Definitely one of the nicer Radisson hotels I’ve stayed in.

The room

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Club Carlson: Dead to Me

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

Forgive the histrionic title.

I tried hard to be a Club Carlson fanboy for a long while. I Club Carlson-ed my way through Europe last year, stayed at their resort in Fiji, and just came off a trip to Ireland where I stayed in four Club Carlson properties (Ireland is Club Carlson heaven).

I’ve always considered Club Carlson to be my auxiliary program, after Hyatt, but their prices and properties have been so aligned with my travels recently that you’d think they were primary.

They were the little hotel loyalty program that could. But now it seems, and in the words of my Mom, that they’ve gotten too big for their britches.

After the recent round of devaluations, it’s kinda like… um, you have some nice properties but you’re not all that great. Now their award chart is Hiltonesque, and so is the sudden about-face from generous to… what’s the word I want to use here? Brash?

I’ve already shoved my Club Carlson Visa Signature card in a drawer. The plan is to get the 40K anniversary bonus and then cancel it. Within a week, I went from being one of Club Carlson’s biggest cheerleaders to where I am now – a hater! I won’t mess with their program any more. It falls into the realm of “not worth it.”

The future

My hotel strategy moving forward will be Hyatt as a primary program and IHG as a backup for when Hyatt isn’t available. I never got into Starwood and honestly don’t see why others trip over themselves to earn that 1 Starpoint per dollar with the SPG Amex.

The reason Club Carlson got themselves into a huge devaluation is because they printed Gold Points left and right. Even still, 70,000 points for one night in a European Radisson? No way. And with $10,000 of spend on the co-branded credit card, I get 1 free night – but it has to be in one of their sub-par US properties? I’d rather run that money through a 2% cashback card and get $200 back – which is about how much a night in a US property would cost.

Speaking of companies printing too much of their points currency… American’s AAdvantage program is gearing up to devalue in 2016 it seems like. They are giving out wayyyy too many miles this year. #predictions #Nostradamus

Bottom line

There’s been so much spilled ink typed words about Club Carlson’s devaluation recently that I thought I’d throw my hat in as well.

While in Ireland this past week, I absolutely loved the Radisson Blu Royal in downtown Dublin. It was bittersweet, though, because I felt like I was having a last hurrah with Club Carlson.

Easy come, easy go. The free award night from having their credit card, and the reasonable redemption rates, were what put Club Carlson on my radar. Before that, I’d never even stayed at a Radisson. And from here on out, I don’t foresee myself messing with Club Carlson’s now-stingy and untrustworthy program too much more. Maybe just to burn the points that are left in there.

Is anyone else moving on from Club Carlson right about now? Are their recent devaluations – arguably overdue – a deal breaker for the entire program?