Hotels

Category Archives for Hotels.

Hotel Review: Radisson Blu, Terme di Galzignano, Italy

After arriving in Venice on Swiss from ZRH, I picked up the rental car and set about orienting myself in the direction of Padova (Padua), Italy.

I went to Italy for my “round” birthday. After reading up on Venice, I made the executive decision to stay off site at the Radisson Blu in Terme di Galzignano. I wanted the freedom to spend a day or two in Venice, and then drive down to Florence if I wanted. I also wanted to see some of the Italian countryside, and it seemed like the resort was well-situated for day trips in multiple directions. And so it was.

My boyfriend and I booked 4 nights. We both have the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature, and both used our BOGO award night for 2 nights each.

We booked a “Superior Room” for 57,000 Club Carlson Gold Points for each 2-night block.

Premium room award rate

Premium room award rate

Premium Room description

Premium Room description

But why the Superior Room? 

We are both Gold in the Club Carlson program, wifi is free at all of their hotels, and for what’s it worth, breakfast is included in every room rate here. I might’ve even scored an upgrade to this room, owing to my status.

I just didn’t want to chance it. It was my birthday trip, and I wanted to be assured of my room choice before I got there.

The normal booking rate is 38,000 Gold Points, so we paid the extra 19,000 points to have our room preference locked in. Plus, I wanted to make sure I had the view of the hills. It was admittedly a purely emotional decision, and probably not the smartest, but I feel like for special occasions it’s worth it to have the peace of mind.

And also, Club Carlson points are just so easy to earn. So I never really overthink my redemptions with this program.

Getting there and first impressions

Dear lord, driving in Italy just about gave me a brain aneurysm – the highways are so poorly signed. Even though Padova was a “straight shot” on the map, in actuality, it required about half a dozen exits, each one leaving me second guessing for miles (or kilos) if I’d done the right thing.

The route to Radisson Blu

The route to Radisson Blu

When we finally got onto the one correct highway, I saw a series of (tiny) signs pointing toward the next turn, until finally, after about a hour, we were at the Radisson Blu.

It is very isolated. There is nothing going on in the hamlet of Terme di Galzignano.

There was another tiny town nearby, Battaglia Terme, that had a couple of restaurants and not much more.

Parking was easy outside of the Radisson Blu, and we went inside to check-in. It was a beautiful, sunny day and right away, the resort felt welcoming and friendly.

The agent checking us in spoke little English and we don’t speak Italian, so it involved a huge variety of hand movements, but after a few minutes, we had our room keys. He wrote down the phone number to the hotel office and indicated that they spoke English if we needed anything. Despite the language barrier, we understood that they recognized our Gold status, combined our reservations, and were fine to let us keep the same room all 4 nights.

Then we headed up to Room 306.

The room

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Hotel Review: Park Inn by Radisson Danube, Bratislava

Also see:

As part of Eurotrip 2014, I found myself in the position of being on a train to Bratislava, Slovakia.

I suppose stranger things have happened

I suppose stranger things have happened

Once there, me and my friend Angie got out of the train station, hopped in a cab, and promptly got scammed by a cabbie with a hot meter. Between that and the somewhat griminess of the train station, I was kinda definitely thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

However, I am happy to report, I ultimately found Bratislava to be a progressive city, one rebuilding itself, modernizing in the right ways, and moving full-force into new and diverse industries. The atmosphere of the city was energetic. I could feel the momentum and drive in the air, which was wonderful.

And aside from that one cab driver, everyone else was completely kind and even eager to talk. I also saw lots of tourists, which apparently Club Carlson hasn’t caught onto yet, because the Park Inn by Radisson Danube is a mere Category 1, requiring just 9,000 Gold Points for two award nights (if you have the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card).

The Park Inn by Radisson Danube shares a space with lots of vendors on the ground/retail floor, but it’s fairly obvious where it’s located – at the base of a little square, nearest to the river. I had to look for the sign and wasn’t sure exactly where I was going, but I went with it and ended up at the right place (the taxi driver only gave vague hand motions and spoke no English so I wandered away after being scammed for 20 Euros – grrr).

Check-in was very routine. I was placed in a “Business room.” The agent acknowledged my Gold status and thanked me for staying. Then I headed to the elevator and up to my room.

The room

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What is Club Carlson Visa’s annual 40K Gold Points bonus worth?

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I’ve said over and over that I think the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card is one of the best for everyday, non-bonused spend. In addition to 5 Gold Points per dollar on every purchase, you also get buy-one-get-one-free award bookings, and an annual bonus of 40,000 Gold Points by renewing the card – which is $75 per year.

Got my annual 40K Gold Points bonus!

Got my annual 40K Gold Points bonus!

My bonus posted a couple of days ago and got me thinking: what is the annual bonus actually worth? Or rather, what could it be worth? After Club Carlson-ing my way through Europe a few months ago, I can firmly say, “a lot.” But I like putting numbers and values to things, and hence this post was born.

Club Carlson has an awesome online interactive tool where you can filter hotels by category… which is pretty sweet. They currently have Categories 1-7, but for this post, I’m only going to focus on 1-5.

Category 1

This category can get you 8 free nights at Club Carlson properties.

How?

With the buy-one-get-one (BOGO), you pay just 9,000 Gold Points for every 2 nights. Even if you book 8 nights at Category 1 hotels, you’d still have 4,000 points left over – and realistically if you stay 8 nights in a hotel, you’ll get 5,000 more from room charges (make sure to charge everything to your room at Club Carlson properties, because with the card you get 30 POINTS PER DOLLAR20 points per dollar for being Gold + 10 more points per dollar for using the credit card – which is insanely awesome!). And then you could book 10 free nights. 🙂

A few Category 1 properties that jump out at me are:

8 nights in Sofia would run you ~$500

8 nights in Sofia would run you ~$500

8 nights in Bratislava would also run you ~$500

8 nights in Bratislava would also run you ~$500

This is a pretty sparse category, but if you are in the right place at the right time, it could really be a boon.

Category 2

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island

From the way overdue files… 

To NAN

As part of my epic RTW trip, my first two segments were JFK-LAX in American First Class, then LAX-NAN (Nadi, Fiji) on Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific) in economy.

You know, I gotta say… it was about an 11 hour flight time, an overnight flight. Even though the seats didn’t recline, it really wasn’t that bad. The seats were spacious for economy, there was great IFE, and they served meals and snacks.  I wadded up a hoodie and tried to fall asleep as best as I could, considering.

I knew going into it to set my expectations low, but the flight was actually pretty comfortable. The cabins had great colors and were designed well, the flight attendants were personable, the food wasn’t amazing but at least they served us full meals, and I can’t complain too much about the economy seat, honestly.

And when the plane door opened up in Fiji, I felt my lungs and skin instantly moisten from the humid Pacific air. I’d been in a particularly frigid New York winter with too much dry radiator heat and the humidity was so welcome and wonderful.

It’s always an odd feeling to walk around in a tropical place holding full winter regalia, but I was happy to be in Fiji for the first time. Very… island.

Booking 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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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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Club Carlson-ing my way through Europe

<3

<3

In the middle of Eurotrip 2014, I had a moment where I was like, OMG, I’m staying exclusively at Club Carlson properties (except for one night at the Grand Hyatt Berlin).

So the news that US Bank, issuer of the Club Carlson Visa, may be imposing cash advance fees for Serve reloads was disconcerting. And now that Amazon Payments is over, too… I don’t know what I’ll do to manufacture spend now. This is a hot topic in the points and miles community, and there is some speculation about the new REDcard and possible changes to Serve. In any case, I am looking forward to the next step because I do think the Club Carlson Visa is a very good card to focus on for day-to-day, non-bonused, or manufactured spend.

I couldn’t have done Eurotrip 2014 without that card.

How I did it

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Hotel Review: Park Inn By Radisson Munich-East

Eurotrip 2014 has been very centered around Club Carlson properties. In fact, I’ve done 80% of it with their properties (4 out of 5 – and 3 of those were Park Inns).

The one in Munich was the first.

The hotel

This Park Inn is located about 100m from the Johanneskirchen stop of the S8 S-Bahn stop, equidistant to downtown Munich and the airport. After landing at MUC, I was at the hotel, door-to-door, in about 30 minutes. Not bad.

Park Inn Munich-East check-in desk

Park Inn Munich-East check-in desk

The part of East Munich it’s located in really doesn’t have that much going on. It’s a sleepy section with a suburb-like feel. There isn’t much in the way of food and watering holes. Really just the hotel and a restaurant/beer garden across the street. But for what I needed from this stay, a little off the beaten path was perfect.

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

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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Hotel Review: Dome Home B&B, Healy, Alaska

The Dome Home B&B in Healy, AK

The Dome Home B&B in Healy, AK

Denali National Park is a lot of things. It’s huge, beautiful, natural, wild, raw, breathtaking – and very far from most anything. There are no hotel chains here, so staying at the Dome Home Bed & Breakfast didn’t earn me any stay credits with any points program – but it did earn me some American miles. How? Sites like Pointshound and Rocketmiles are GREAT for earning points in far-flung places – sign up if you haven’t already. There are some gems on there for boutique hotel and B&B bookings like this one that will still earn you miles! I always checked Rocketmiles for every booking I make, just to see what’s available. And everyone should absolutely see Alaska someday, points or no. It is gorgeous!

I settled on the Dome Home after seeing that I could still earn miles for booking at that it was located near to Denali in Healy, Alaska – only a 30-minute drive from the northern entrance to the park. They also had a brewery I wanted to visit, and it was a 15-minute drive from a tourist oasis where there were restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and gas stations in case we needed anything “for the road.”

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Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Manchester, San Diego

Grand Hyatt Manchester entrance

Grand Hyatt Manchester entrance

I was in San Diego for some business and spent a few nights at the Grand Hyatt Manchester, near downtown and the Gaslamp District. It was my first time at this Hyatt, and I was quite looking forward to it.

This review also feels kind of gratuitous (like the review of the Centurion Lounge @ DFW) because Lucky has also reviewed the same property. BUT – I have breakfast pictures! Take that!

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Hotel Review: New York-New York, Las Vegas

Outside New York-New York in Las Vegas

Outside New York-New York in Las Vegas

Weekend in Vegas

I took a cab here from LAS, which was super cheap – only about $15. I read a tip somewhere to the cab driver to “avoid the tunnel,” whatever that means, so I said that and about 10 minutes later arrived at my introduction to the most artificial place in the world:  Las Vegas.

I went to Las Vegas for the weekend to hang out with a friend from high school. It had been a couple of years, and a visit was overdue. Also, Ms. Britney Spears announced a residency at Planet Hollywood, so that was reason enough for us. Add to that Shania Twain at Caesar’s Palace, and you have a recipe for the gayest weekend ever.

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