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Complete the Hyatt Diamond Challenge in 9 Nights With the Citi Prestige Card

Random thought of the evening.

I’m going through my cards and want to dump:

And replace them with:

The hitch is that you have to wait ~8 days between applications with Citi, so I’m not sure which of their cards to get first. But I’m warming up to the idea of Category 1 and 2 Hilton hotels – there’s a ton of value to be had there.

Anyway.

Citi Prestige + Hyatt Diamond Challenge

Via The Points Guy, tomorrow is the last day to sign up for the Hyatt Diamond Challenge (something that’s always tempted me). You’ll have 60 days to complete it when you sign up (so until September 30th).

And via View From the Wing, the Citi Prestige card’s 4th night free benefit is “too good” to last. (I agree.)

Hyatt hotels are easily bookable with the Citi Prestige travel program. (Here’s the link to Carlson Wagonlit to search.)

A quick search in Dallas turned up 6 Hyatts, most under $100 a night

A quick search in Dallas turned up 6 Hyatts, most under $100 a night

If you book a 4-night stay for $100 a night, you’d pay $300 (after the Citi Prestige statement credit).

Do this 3 times in 60 days, pay $900, get Hyatt Diamond status. Any many hotels are available for under $100.

If you have Hyatt stays coming up anyway, this might be something to mix-and-match with cash + points stays.

And hotels booked with the Citi Prestige card do earn elite credit.

What’s Hyatt Diamond status worth?

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Boston

Hyatt Regency Boston reviews

Since the BOS-DUB flight on Aer Lingus tonight flies out of, um, Boston, I decided to build in a day to explore this culturally rich city. As a base, I decided on the Hyatt Regency Boston.

It’s a Hyatt Category 3 hotel, meaning it’s 15,000 Gold Passport points per night, and also eligible for use with the annual free night certificate given as a perk to cardholders of the Chase Hyatt Visa.

Since I’d already redeemed my annual free night certificate earlier this year at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I redeemed 15,000 Gold Passport points.

Daily rate was $313/night

Daily rate was $313/night

This saved me $313 for a one-night stay, which means I got a value of 2.1 cents per point – and meets my 2 cents per point minimum. However, since I’m a Chase Hyatt Visa cardholder, I’ll get 20% of those points back due to a promo they have going on right now until July 31st (but you had to register by March 31st). That gives me even more value out of the points redeemed – closer to 3 cents per point. Considering how easy it is to earn Ultimate Rewards points, I consider Hyatt stays one of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards – especially with this 20% discount going on.

Getting there and check in

After getting off the Amtrak train at Boston’s South station, it was a short 10-minute walk to the Hyatt Regency. The streets in Boston drive me absolutely batty. I’m a lover of the grid. Well-planned cities like Chicago and Phoenix appeal to my sense of order greatly. I can deal with New York’s mish-mash of a kinda-sorta grid. But Boston is something else altogether.

Once I found the Hyatt Regency, I entered through the sliding glass doors. You have to take an elevator up to the lobby on the 3rd floor, and from there, you have to take another elevator up to your room. So to enter and/or exit, you always have to take two elevators. This design feature/flaw was not my favorite thing in the entire world, and I can see how it could be confusing to some.

Ground floor entrance of the Hyatt Regency Boston

Ground floor entrance of the Hyatt Regency Boston

Check-in area on the 3rd floor

Check-in area on the 3rd floor

The desk agent was very, very welcoming and acknowledged that I was Platinum with Hyatt. After just a couple of minutes, we headed up to our room.

The room

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Booking Dublin: A Change of Plans

Also see: 

Major change of plans is more like it.

Thanks to The Points Guy, I caught wind that an award I’d long had my eye on, BOS-DUB in business class on Aer Lingus, was widely available for booking with Avios points.

The good news: it still is.

I immediately transferred over some Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards (I love combining them when I can and British Airways is perfect for that – so is Singpore) to my British Airways account, and called in to book my dates.

Get 'em while they're hot!

Get ’em while they’re hot!

Throughout April and May, and possibly into the summer months, award availability is peppered here and there.

Business class award availability on Aer Lingus

Business class award availability on Aer Lingus (Click to enlarge)

That screen shot was taken just now. There are still some flights out there.

The best way to book this is by checking availability on the United website, then by calling British Airways to book over the phone.

I called them post Avios-hack (to change a different set of flights), and my hold time was less than 5 minutes. In fact, I was all booked and set up with flights in under 15 minutes (pre-Avios hack).

If you’re interested in booking, you have either one month or when availability runs out, beginning today. The Avios program is changing on April 28th, and this particular award will go from 50K round-trip in business to 75K, which is a pretty staggering change.

I’ve been interested in experiencing Aer Lingus business class, and visiting Ireland, for a very long time, so it’s all very serendipitous.

But what about the Delta flights?

Of course I had a pretty severe schedule change with Delta.

The mighty schedule change

The mighty schedule change

I was willing to get down to DC to take advantage of an awesome fare that Delta had earlier this year. I was even thinking I could spend a day or two in DC, maybe catch the tail-end of the cherry blossoms. But when the Aer Lingus award availability came around, I was then willing to get myself to Boston, and am now thinking of spending a day there instead.

I called Delta and explained that I had a schedule change of over 4 hours, and that those times no longer work for me – could I please cancel and get a refund? They immediately canceled the ticket and said to expect a refund in 5-7 business days. Awesome. So those are done.

It was a great deal, but then again, so is the Avios redemption on Aer Lingus, and even more so now that it’s time-sensitive.

The 2 round-trip flights would’ve been over $10,000 had I paid for them. Instead, I got nearly 11 cents per point of value by booking with Avios. An incredible deal – get on it if you can!

BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus business class

BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus business class

Getting to Boston

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Hotel Review: Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans

2015-02-16 11.28.20

Also see: 

After leaving the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, we grabbed our bags (well, I grabbed my Tumi T-Tech) and wheeled them over to the Hyatt French Quarter.

Hyatt French Quarter exterior

Hyatt French Quarter exterior

Checking in

It was the height of Mardi Gras. The day before Fat Tuesday.

All of the hotels were on a wristband system and checking them at the door. And the staff at this location could not have been any more welcoming or gracious. Especially Magen (hope I spelled her name right). She was at the check-in desk and consistently provided amazing hospitality service at every turn. Kudos to the check-in staff here!

As soon as we wheeled through the door, the concierge at the door verified that we had a reservation, and we were able to walk right up to our room within minutes. It was one of the best check-in experiences I’ve had at a hotel: fun, quick, welcoming, and thorough. Really, they couldn’t have done a better job, especially considering it was a holiday in the city.

Upon walking in, I noticed the beautiful decor, the wine bar and breakfast/cafe area, and the fact that this is a small boutique hotel of only 4 floors (a far cry from the 30+ floors at the Hyatt Regency from earlier that morning!).

Upon walking through the doors

Upon walking through the doors

View of the lobby

View of the lobby

Powdered Sugar, the cafe/breakfast area

Powdered Sugar, the cafe/breakfast area

Seating inside Powdered Sugar

Seating inside Powdered Sugar

Batch, the wine bar/cocktail lounge

Batch, the wine bar/cocktail lounge

Hotel directory - only 4 floors

Hotel directory – only 4 floors

The room

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New Hyatt Promotion with American… Interesting

There is a new Hyatt promotion whereby they are offering 100,000 AAdvantage miles and a 3-night stay at either Ziva or Zilara all-inclusive resort.

To enter, you simply send a tweet with a link to the promo video, and the hashtags #HyattAllIn and #HZEntry.

The promotion has been open since February 17th and ends on March 10th, so you still have some time to enter – but not if you are a resident of either Florida or New York (hmph).

Here is a link to the complete rules of the promo. And here is my tweet that you are welcome to copy and/or modify if you’d like to enter (and feel free to follow me to Twitter, too!):

Why this is interesting

American is the only legacy airline left that doesn’t have a hotel partnership.

  • Delta is with Starwood (and sometimes Hilton) – all 3 are linked because of American Express
  • United is with Marriott (and deserve each other IMO) – and are linked because of Chase

And American doesn’t have a hotel partnership yet.

Hyatt + American would be a dream come true for me, as I love Hyatt hotels, and am partial – for now, pending further changes – to American.

After the merger completes, American will be the biggest airline in the United States. And Hyatt is far from the largest hotel chain. Their imprint is tiny compared to American’s network. American needs a hotel partner with a similarly large imprint. The obvious choice would be Hilton: they are both linked to Citibank (and to American Express, kinda) and both do not have existing partnerships.

But this Hyatt + American promo is interesting because:

  • 100,000 American miles is nothing to scoff at
  • The implication is that American will fly you to the Hyatt resort
  • This is their first promo together (that I can remember)
  • It signals that they are open to partnerships, which is exciting

In fact, in the linked YouTube video, Hyatt put a little note to American at the bottom of the video’s description: Special thanks to our friends at American Airlines. How cute!

Bottom line

Not only is this a great promotion to enter if you haven’t already (it requires just 1 tweet, and the limit is 1 per day), but it interests me highly because Hyatt and American are starting to work together.

Realistically, we won’t see any changes to American – period – until after the merger completes, but after that, I plan on bracing myself for a whole spate of rapid-fire announcements, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this partnership is in the mix.

Good luck to those who entered the promotion! Would a Hyatt + American partnership be of interest to you? Do you think it’s a good idea, or would Hilton be a better choice?

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency New Orleans

Hyatt Regency New Orleans

Also see:

After arriving hella late to New Orleans, me and my partner Jay hopped in a cab and made our way into the city. A cab from MSY to the French Quarter area is $33 flat each way, just FYI.

The Hyatt Regency New Orleans is about 6 blocks from the French Quarter, where most of the “action” of that blurry string of days took place.

I made a map!

I made a map!

As you can see on the map, New Orleans is chain hotel heaven. There are properties from IHG, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, etc.

The reason I picked this the Hyatt Regency is because I have an affinity for Hyatt, and because, over the circus that was Mardi Gras, I couldn’t find a block of consecutive days anywhere else. So, I had to move hotels – twice. But it’s good because I get to write about them now.

From my vantage point now, I liked the Hyatt Regency the best. It is a little off the well-worn French Quarter track, and isn’t particularly pedestrian friendly as it’s technically in the CBD (Central Business District), but I had no trouble getting around on foot. Might be a consideration for others, though.

Checking in

We bounced in at around 2:30pm. Check-in was supposed to be at 3pm, but judging from the constant stream of people going in and out, I could tell they might have trouble turning the rooms over so quickly.

We checked in on February 15th, and this image came to mind and made me lol:

The agent at the check-in desk told me the room wasn’t ready yet, but offered to take out bags and showed us where we could wait and grab a snack or a drink. How long would the wait be? I asked. 20 minutes. That’s nothin’. I was happy to try a New Orleans craft beer for a bit while the room got ready.

  We headed over to Borgne, the restaurant attached to the lobby. We were told that happy hour started at 3pm, but that we could order and ring everything in after 3pm. The happy hour was awesome! $3 local craft beers, $7 pitchers of sangria, $3 well drinks.   We ordered a pitcher of sangria (which was yummy and spicy), and I ordered a stout beer: the SPB Southern Prohibition Hipster Breakfast Oatmeal Stout, which is actually brewed in my home state of Mississippi. It was delish!

SPB Southern Prohibition Hipster Breakfast Oatmeal Stout - nom!

SPB Southern Prohibition Hipster Breakfast Oatmeal Stout – nom!

By the time that all went down, I went over to the check-in desk again and out room was ready by then. Perfect! So that is my check-in story. And here are some more pics.  Read More

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Just booked: New Orleans for Mardi Gras!

We have lost our minds here at the Out and Out headquarters in NYC (AKA me in my living room in Brooklyn) – and my dog is giving me the side eye for using the royal “we.”

I’m going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras! (That is kind of a misnomer. “Mardi Gras” is a 3-week celebration. I am just going for the Baccus Parade and Fat Tuesday. But still – super stoked.)

How it happened

Really, I was just tinkering around on the Hyatt website looking at Category 3 and 4 hotels on a dark, snowy evening because that’s what points junkies do in the evenings, right?

But really, I had a free night cert from the Chase Hyatt Visa that I needed to use and wanted to maximize my value. I noticed, in the Category 3 list, the Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans. And then thought hmmm…. I wonder if…. (Basically a repeat of Oktoberfest booking.)

I couldn’t get the website to cooperate with redeeming the free night cert, so I called up Hyatt and a very patient agent plugged in a variety of dates surrounding Fat Tuesday (February 17th this year).

While she did that, I played around with points bookings with both Hyatt and Club Carlson (my two fave programs).

Paid $75 for the Hyatt card annual fee, getting back $315

Paid $75 for the Hyatt card annual fee, getting back $315

Hyatt French Quarter availability - 15,000 points or $500?

Hyatt French Quarter availability – 15,000 points or $500? #nobrainer

Now, I’d been saving my Club Carlson points for when I go to Ireland in May, but seeing that the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine Street in New Orleans was eligible for a BOGO booking sent me over the edge. I figure I can always manufacture some more Club Carlson points in the next couple of months, anyway. I still have my eye set on their Radisson Blu in Cork, Ireland.

Anyway, the Hyatt agent found a night at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans that was eligible for the free night cert. A quick Google search showed me that it was on the route for the Bacchus Parade. PERFECT.

But then, flights…

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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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Booking Dublin: Hotels

The Delta attack on United hubs elicited my first post written in utter excitement with little no editing.

After I booked the Dublin trip, I realized there were more pieces that had to fall into place, and thought it would be a good opportunity to document my trip-planning process.

The trip is IAD-ATL-DUB, and back the same way. I’m in New York, so I am anticipating:

  • Booking hotel rooms for six nights
  • Probably renting a car
  • Getting myself down to Washington, DC from NYC
  • Using my American Express Platinum Card to get into Delta and/or Priority Pass lounges in IAD and ATL (and DUB on the way back)
  • And of course, being in Ireland for the first time

Hotel options

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Details about FoundersCard benefits (Cathy Pacific, Avis, hotel discounts)

I recently got a thoughtful email from a reader with a few questions about FoundersCard benefits (HT: Kevin).

I’ve written before about the many benefits FoundersCard offers.

Also see:

I thought I’d turn my reply into a blog post as others might have similar questions before deciding to sign up for the card.

His email:

Let me get your advice…

1.  I am already BA Gold (Emerald) but could use a bit of VS Silver and CX Silver headstarts… and definitely could use the 10% off on US-originating BA flights to the UK (and the rest of Europe?).

2.  I’m already Avis Presidents’ Club so not sure about the Car Rental benefits.

3.  Especially keen on the hotel discounts, eg Park Hyatt Tokyo, SLS in Los Angeles.   Would you be able to share with me as a prospect what the rates are at these properties if you have the FoundersCard?

Awesome questions! I’ll go in order.

#1

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Confession: I didn’t love the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome (A Review)

View of courtyard
park hyatt paris vendome review

Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome Entrance

Yep. I stayed four nights here as part of my free Paris vacation valued at over $20,000. Both my partner and I opened a Chase Hyatt Visa credit card. Both came with two free nights at any Hyatt property in the world. Hyatt now has a handful of properties that are in a new category: aspirational Category 7. I was torn between redeeming the free nights at the Vendome or at one of the two Category 6 properties in Hawaii. It’s obvious which one I picked because I’m now reviewing the Vendome. I was underwhelmed by it. It was “meh.”

The reason I chose the Vendome was mostly because of the hype. In the points-and-miles blog stratosphere, people talk about the Vendome like it’s the holy grail of hotels.

Expectations. I tried not to have very many. I was hoping for a nice room as a Platinum member with Hyatt. Nearly the second I walked into the Vendome, I kinda had this sinking feeling that I’d wasted my precious four free nights.

Arrival and check-in

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Just booked: A ~$20,000 Dollar Trip to Paris for FREE? You betcha!

See you soon, Paris!

See you soon, Paris!

I am over the moon right now because I just booked an epic trip to Paris in June. I have booked complex, multi-stop and RTW itineraries before, but even still, was amazed at how easily and quickly this trip came together.

The trip

Leaving from EWR.

  • EWR-ORY in business class on British Airways
  • 4 nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
  • 1 night at the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile on Club floor
  • ORY-LHR-JFK in business class on British Airways
  • 2 incredibly stoked adventurers

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