AUS

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My Free Anniversary Night in Downtown Austin – Thanks to the Chase Hyatt Card!

Say what you will about Chase, but their hotel cards that come with a free anniversary night are worth every penny.

And fortunately, some of them are still accessible even if you’re over 5/24, including:

I wrote how I got $500 in value from the Chase IHG card earlier this year. And I’ve used my Chase Hyatt free night certificate at the Hyatt Centric in New Orleans and the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia. I also wrote about 5 worthwhile Category 4 hotels where you can get lot of bang for your Hyatt free night cert.

hyatt anniversary night

A view of Texas hill country – paid for with my Hyatt free night certificate

And this past weekend, I got a stay worth ~$284 at the Hyatt Place Austin Downtown (full review soon!) in exchange for my $75 annual fee.

With values like this, a card with a valuable free night each cardmember year is a no-brainer to keep year after year. Especially when you can get outsized value in popular areas like downtown Austin.

A cute lil weekend trip

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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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Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt, Melbourne, Australia

Grand Hyatt Melbourne

I’ll go ahead and make this the most anti-climatic review EVAR: I loved the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne.

We came here off the heels of the InterContinental in Sydney and directly before an awesome Etihad flight that left us in the UAE, which was challenging for me, and a brief stay at the Park Inn Yas Island before heading back to the US of A, which closed our epic RTW trip that started in Fiji. Whew, that was a long sentence.

Anyway, side note, do NOT take a taxi from the airport. MEL is really far from downtown Melbourne, and a taxi was about $70USD. My eyes almost popped out of my head once we got there and I saw the price. Landing at the airport feels like you’ve arrived in the middle of the outback… and driving into the city takes a solid 45 minutes. I recommend the airport bus – it’s so much cheaper and takes just a little longer.

The Grand Hyatt is located right in downtown Melbourne, in the middle of numerous destinations, close to the water, the arts district, museums, trains, everything really…

It was a great home base for a few days in Melbourne, and as a Hyatt Category 3 property for only 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night, it is a total steal. One of those hidden gems in the system that is so worth taking advantage of.

Rooms here are often over $500 a night

Rooms here are often over $500 a night

However, since it was so centrally located, I went ahead and redeemed for a Club King room – I knew I could pop in and out of the Club Lounge for snacks and drinks throughout the day, and I wanted that breakfast! I often receive outsized value from the Club rooms, as I know I get my money’s (or points’) worth in drinks alone – especially when it is so easy to come and all day.

After paying the taxi driver, we headed into the Grand Hyatt. Checking in was a breeze. They were pleasant and helpful, and offered up details about the area, but weren’t overly long about it.

Entrance to the Grand Hyatt Melbourne

Entrance to the Grand Hyatt Melbourne

We learned that we could have breakfast in the restaurant instead of the Club Lounge for a small co-pay (I think about $20 extra), so we went ahead and added that to our room to start off with… pics will be below.

The room

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Hotel Review: InterContinental Sydney, Australia

From the way overdue files…

This time last year, I celebrated the start of 2014 in Sydney at the InterContinental.

I got in on the annual Daily Getaways promo to buy 150,000 IHG points – and promptly redeemed them for three nights in a “King Standard City Side Room.”

Now, I expected the area downtown to be crazy for New Years Eve. The location was amazing.

Location of the InterContinental Sydney

Location of the InterContinental Sydney

I don’t remember how, but I was somehow Gold with IHG at the time. This was with zero stays – maybe I status matched? Whatever the case, I am still Gold with them today despite not having any paid stays in 2013 or 2014. Mysteries of the universe.

I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d get some sort of upgrade for being Gold during a time where there would be a lot of tourists with no status. I didn’t expect it, but thought I had a ghost of a chance.

Check-in

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Trip Report: AA First Class AUS-JFK

Near the end of the trip to Alaska, we drove down to Seward for the day after checking out of the Sheraton, then headed to ANC. The airport is super nice, on the small side, but surprisingly stylish. The first trip was from ANC-DFW, and the second was DFW-AUS, both in AA Main Cabin ExtrAA.

For the leg home, AUS-JFK, I used six 500-mile upgrades to get me and Jay into first class. The upgrade cleared while I was on the DFW-AUS segment, and I got my new seat assignment: 6F. Yay!

We went to Admirals Club across from the gate to wait for boarding.

 

Rum 'n' coke at the Admirals Club in AUS

Rum ‘n’ coke at the Admirals Club in AUS

 

After a huge rum ‘n’ coke, I boarded with quite a nice little buzz and found seat 6F. Jay was next to me 6E.

 

Thanks, American!

Thanks, American!

 

Nice amount of legroom

Nice amount of legroom

 

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but the seat was nice with wide seats and ample legroom. It was the older first class on the 737 – hardly any recline, but a very roomy seat. I was exhausted after three flights and still managed to sleep. The plane had the old paint job and old logos. It seemed worn, but looked 1000% better than the old coach behind me.

The flight to JFK was a touch over three hours, and soon after ascending, the flight attendants brought around their famous hot nuts. I had mine with a Heineken.

 

HOT NUTS!

HOT NUTS!

 

The flight attendants on this flight were amazing. Very professional and a perfect level of attentiveness. I was so struck, I tweeted @AmericanAir afterward to let them know.

 

Screen shot 2013-09-01 at 12.12.07 AM

 

I’m sort of in my honeymoon phase with American right now, so I think everything they do is just perfect. And, truly, the way they’ve chosen to restructure has been really wonderful. A part of me doesn’t want them to merge with US Airways. Banish the thought.

Shortly after the hot nuts, lunch was served. I had the option of BBQ chicken or beef salad. I chose the chicken. It was served with sides of broccoli and mac ‘n’ cheese, a cheese roll, small side salad, and a glass of white wine. It was actually pretty tasty, considering. I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant, but it got the job done.

 

2013-08-27 12.08.27

 

First Class cabin

First Class cabin

 

The first class cabin was full, and we sat in the last row. After lunch, I passed out until we landed at JFK. The flight landed on time, we taxied to the gate, then rushed home to pick up Fenwick. He was so happy to be with his pack again.

All-in-all, this was definitely worth using my “stickers” for. The reason I connected DFW-AUS was because I knew I’d have a better shot at an upgrade on the AUS-JFK route as opposed to the DFW-LGA route. That probably would’ve had a newer, better plane, but EXPs frequent that route and my chances to upgrade would’ve been pretty dismal. I’m happy I chose this routing. I got 1,000 miles for the 190-mile connecting flight (190 @ 500 min = 100% bonus) AND got upgraded on the flight home.

I love how on each flight I learn a little more about American’s company culture. And no, I really don’t miss the in-flight entertainment. I’d rather read and work on blog posts as I don’t have a TV at home anyway.

My next trip with American is in November to Santiago. It’s got a damn crazy itinerary of LGA-ORD-MEX-LIM-EZE-SCL-IPC-SCL-MEX-DFW-LGA – all in a week. But it’ll make me Platinum again next year, earn me around 40K RDMs, 30K EQPs, and it’s all in first/business. Goal for 2014: make EXP.