Hotel Reviews: Three Nights in the Carolinas

We just returned from a trip to North Carolina and South Carolina. The main reason we went was to attend a friend’s wedding in Charlotte but since we are rarely in that area, we decided to turn the trip into a whirlwind weekend of visiting South of the Border, the cheesy tourist trap right off of Interstate 95, on Thursday, meeting up with friends in Raleigh for dinner on Friday night, and then attending the wedding on Saturday before Continue reading “Hotel Reviews: Three Nights in the Carolinas”

This is why you need to sign up for hotel programs before booking your room.

l’ve already posted about how you can sign up for hotel programs. Not surprisingly, I’ve certainly signed up for quite a few. When I look at AwardWallet, I see that I have accounts with these hotel programs:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Hilton Honors
  • World of Hyatt
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Le Club Accorhotels
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • La Quinta Rewards
  • M Life (MGM Resorts)
  • Kimpton Karma Rewards

I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t enrolled in the last two programs on this list until this week. I signed up for them because I was staying, or thinking about staying, in hotels belonging to these programs. You are going to get some benefit if you are a member of that hotel’s program when you stay at their hotels, even if it is as simple as free wifi or not getting the worst room in the hotel.

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Kimpton Hotel Allegro – Chicago

Kimpton Karma Rewards

We are planning a stay in Chicago for a long weekend this summer, when we go to see “Hamilton” again. I’ve had my eye on a couple of hotels that would be good for our stay and finally got around to booking one. One of them was the Kimpton Hotel Allegro. The prices had gone up since the last time I looked and when I checked on TripAdvisor the the least expensive room now cost $279 a night, which is the rack rate. I did go to the hotel to search if there were any discounts and AAA prices showed a bit lower (this is one of the reasons I keep my AAA membership – lower hotel rates).

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AAA Rates for Hotel Allegro

Since this was a much better rate than any other website was offering, I signed up for a Kimpton Karma Rewards account and went to make a reservation. After signing up and logging into my account, this rate popped up.

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Kimpton Karma Exclusive rate

So not only was this rate $55 less than the rack rate, it is also $21 less than the AAA rate that I found. You know what it took me to get this lower rate? Less than five minutes to sign up for an account and now I also get free wifi and a “Raid the Mini Bar” credit upon check in. Not bad!

MGM Resorts – M Life

We are not gamblers and we really have no idea about Las Vegas. We depended on you to give us suggestions on what to do while were there, and you really delivered, with comment after comment on our Facebook page!  I also spent quite a bit of time deciding where to stay, finally choosing the Delano with the AMEX benefits I’ll get there. Since I was staying at an MGM Resort hotel, I decided to sign up for the M Life program.

I remembered a post I read a while ago on Heels First Travel about how having a M Life membership can save you on hotels. I signed up and was immediately granted Sapphire status, the lowest level in the program. Just for fun, I looked for rates at the Luxor, one of the hotels I was considering before.

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Regular Rate
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M Life Rate

Just for signing up for M Life, the rate I was offered is $16 a night less than before. And that’s with only having the entry level Sapphire status; if you are a higher level then you will get even better pricing than this! If you happen to have status with Hyatt, you can match that to M Life. Having the Hyatt Credit card grants you Discoverist level and you can match that to M Life Pearl which will get you free self parking. Mommy Points, one of the blogs I follow, gives a full description of how to match status (unfortunately, the best perks she mentions were eliminated in March 2017).

These lower rates at the Luxor will make me reconsider where we might stay in Las Vegas (I know Sharon is just thrilled about me having to go over all of these hotels again). (Edit from Sharon: just kill me now…)

These are just two examples of why you should always sign up for hotel loyalty programs even if you will never stay enough to earn status. The benefits of being a member far outweigh the costs (it’s free!) of signing up.

What’s the best thing you’ve every received for being a member of a hotel’s loyalty program? Share your experiences with us in the comments or write us on Facebook and Twitter.

Hotel Review: Fairfield Inn & Suites West Palm Beach Jupiter

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Photo of hotel from Marriott website

When we drove home from Key West, our original plan was to leave early and visit the Morikami Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach and then go to dinner at Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale (more on Mai-Kai at a later date – it deserves a post all its own!). After driving from Key West and then having a full day of events, we figured we would most likely need to rest after dinner instead trying to drive three more hours to get home. We do have family in the area so we figured if we stayed overnight, we could plan to meet them the next morning for breakfast. We’ve stayed in the Fort Lauderdale area recently but decided we’d rather drive a little ways towards home after dinner so that our ride the next morning would be that much shorter.

Since I am not loyal to any specific hotel chain, I looked at what options I had that were near my relatives’ house and still close to the highway. I usually end up obsessing over these one night stays just as much as I do about where to stay for a week in Austria because I just never want to end up in a bad hotel. So I spent way too much time looking at TripAdvisor reviews before deciding that the best combination of location and price for us was the Fairfield Inn & Suites West Palm Beach Jupiter.

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Now when looking at where the hotel was, it would be a stretch to consider this location to be near West Palm Beach. However since we needed to stay near Jupiter, this was a good place for us.  It was located right off of I-95 and the Florida Turnpike and would therefore be a great location for anyone wanting to staying overnight near the highways.

On our last night in Key West, we decided that we were going to sleep in and stay in Key West until around lunchtime. We’d miss going to the gardens and would drive straight to our dinner in Fort Lauderdale. This worked out well but we also didn’t plan on dinner ending so much earlier than we thought it would. So after all that planning, we arrived at the hotel around 8PM, pretty well rested (we thought we would be there around 10PM and exhausted from our travels that day). We worked out our plan while walking to the lobby: if the front desk would allow us to cancel the stay, we would just drive home that evening. If we were going to pay for the room anyway, we’d stay at the hotel and get up early the next morning to drive home.

The front desk clerk on Sunday evening was exceeding pleasant and funny. I explained our situation and asked if we had to stay in the room. She said that she understood our dilemma and we weren’t forced to stay there. Unfortunately, Marriott would still charge us for the stay because we were past the cancellation deadline. I said that if we were going to pay for the room anyway, we might as well stay. We had a good chuckle over this and she then told us that since I am a Marriott Rewards Gold member, they upgraded us to a suite so we could live it up!

We were handed our room keys and went up to our suite, which was quite nice.

It had a living room with a full sitting area that included a desk, couch and TV. There was a dividing wall separating the bed area from the living room but it was still quite open so it would be difficult for someone to watch TV in the one area and someone else to watch TV in the other. Since we usually just read or watch our iPads in bed, this wasn’t a problem for us. I would say that for the $89 plus tax we paid, it was a very nice room.

The bathroom was a typical basic set up for a mid level hotel. The sink was outside of the bathroom, along with a microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator. The bathtub/shower and toilet were behind the door and there wasn’t all that much space (or light) in the room.

The hotel did have a pool and hot tub that were in good enough condition that I considered changing into my bathing suit. When push came to shove, though, I decided that changing to sit in a hot tub for 15-20 minutes and then having to shower that night before going to bed just wasn’t worth the effort. Instead, Sharon and I sat in bed and watched a special on the History Channel for two hours about the Shroud of Turin. Don’t be too jealous of our glamorous lifestyle.

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Daytime at the pool from the hotel website. We were there at night but the area was clean (but not scenic as it was basically in the parking area between two hotels).
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This sign was the highlight of our stay. We guess people are only allowed to use the pool at night? We pointed this out to the hotel staff who didn’t understand why we found the posted hours to be a bit odd.

The hotel offered a free breakfast, as is normal at most Fairfield Inn properties. Because we were meeting relatives for breakfast, we didn’t try it but it looked pretty standard for a hotel in this range. Think eggs, pastries, coffee, juice and oatmeal. For those interested, as we are, there is a Starbucks coffee directly in front of the hotel but the drive-thru line was about 10 deep when we drove by on a Monday morning, so plan your time accordingly.

Final Thoughts:

This hotel was a perfectly acceptable as a right-off-the-highway place to sleep. It had a great location which was close to the two major highways but did not get any of the traffic noise. The upgraded room was almost too big for what we needed. The person working the check in desk on a Sunday evening was very pleasant and funny (something rare to find with night staff). The room was quiet and dark, which let us get a good night sleep so we could get back on the road the next morning.  While I doubt we’d ever need to stay in the area again, we wouldn’t hesitate to stay here if we needed to.

The joy of being disloyal

When it comes to making travel reservations, I’m disloyal. There, I said it and truth be told I get a bit of a thrill in making that statement. You see, I am an Eagle Scout. Therefore, loyalty is part of the deal. Right here, second on the list behind being trustworthy. 

00000460 - Version 2A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy,
  • Loyal,
  • Helpful,
  • Friendly,
  • Courteous,
  • Kind,
  • Obedient,
  • Cheerful,
  • Thrifty,
  • Brave,
  • Clean,
  • and Reverent.

So why am I not loyal when it comes to my travel? Simply stated, I don’t travel enough to have anyone value my loyalty. Last year we stayed in hotels for 34 nights and flew 19,485 miles, which is a lot for us.
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Even if I had paid for all those hotel nights and flights (which I didn’t), I’d barely make it into the lowest level of loyalty with any major airline or hotel. It’s just not enough business for them to value my loyalty.

That’s not saying I don’t have status. I’m able to keep status with several hotel chains. I just didn’t earn it by staying in hotels. Instead, I have it by having credit cards.

  • Starwood Gold  – Provided by having the American Express Platinum Card
  • Access to Starwood club lounges – by having the SPG AMEX Business Card
  • Marriott Gold – Matched with Starwood post the merger of the two companies
  • IHG Platinum – Provided by having the IHG Credit Card
  • Hilton Silver – Downgraded from Diamond. I received that by a promotion that  matched my Starwood and IHG status.

We did actually earn Marriott Silver status last year based on stays, but we use our account with Gold status because of the increased benefits.

The problem is that while having this status is nice, I don’t have to do anything to keep it beyond keeping the credit cards that give me the status. I’ll take advantage of the status I have at those hotels when I stay there, which includes, possibly, a better room. I  just don’t have to go out of my way to stay with any specific brand.

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Not having hotel loyalty means that we are able to take advantage of a mistake offer at the Waldorf Astoria in New York before it closed for renovations.
The lack of loyalty to hotels and airlines is a very freeing experience. I have no hotel that I need to stay at to get enough stays to re-qualify next year, while I see people going through all this work for status just to get a free breakfast, a nicer room and possibly a upgrade to a suite (if the hotel feels like giving them one).

Let me look at my upcoming hotel stays:

  • Quality Inn – Dillon, SC (Close to South of the Border)
  • Hampton Inn – Charlotte, NC (getting 2X points by Hilton promotion  and saving $35 with an American Express offer.
  • Kimpton Hotel Allegro – Chicago, IL – saving $50 using American Express offer for HotelStorm 
  • Fitzpatrick Grand Central – New York, NY – booking through Travelocity earning 7% back through eBates and saving $47 with a 9% off coupon.
  • Candy Cane Inn – Anaheim, Ca – Saved $190 with Citi Prestige 4th night benefit.

I have stays with 3 different hotel chains (Choice, Hilton and Kimpton) and two independent hotels. I’m maximizing the offers that are available and I’m able to stay at a hotel that fits the need for each of my trips. I’m also able to stay at interesting locations that are not a part of any loyalty program, if I want.

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We had the entire attic level of the J. Palen House when we stayed in Cleveland. We couldn’t have booked this room if we were worried about gathering nights to qualify for status.
What about my flights? Since airlines award miles based on cost, I will never fly enough to earn status so I’m not compelled to work to give anyone my loyalty. I use my miles for flights when appropriate but will pay cash when necessary.

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Not needing to chase status with any airline has allowed us to enjoy JetBlue nonstop flights from Orlando to our vacation destinations like Austin and New York
If I want a nicer room at a hotel, I’ll pay the extra money for it. We fly different airlines to and from our destination more often than we fly the same airline (depending on price and schedule) because I can book the airline I want, flying the time that I want, and get the seat I’m willing to pay for. I never need to worry that I will not have enough stay credits or feel the need to book a room with points and cash instead of points. I will be able to stay at the independent hotel or the bed and breakfast if I want to.

I’m disloyal……… and I love it.

Do you feel compelled to stay loyal to a hotel or airline or are you a free agent?
Let us know how you feel in the comments or keep touch on Facebook or Twitter.

Resort fees and parking fees and taxes, oh, my! Choosing a hotel in Las Vegas

I’m well into planning mode for our big trip to the Southwest, which means I have to start researching hotels. I love the planning of trips almost as much as I do going on them; it is part of the fun for me. There are times where the planning starts to drive me, and Sharon, a little crazy (edit by Sharon: a LITTLE?!?!?! hahahaha!!!).

Part of our trip will be a stay in Las Vegas. Due to the number of activities suggested to us when we asked for help with planning, we extended our stay there to 3 nights. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Vegas so I needed to brush up on my hotels. Many of the places I know aren’t there anymore (or have new names) and there are so many new hotels!

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Standing by the Bellagio Fountain with Caesars Palace in the background, 2006.

I would say the MOST AGGRAVATING thing when comparing hotels was the number of added fees you needed to worry about. It was also VERY DIFFICULT to find out what these charges were without looking at multiple websites and having to go right up to confirming a room to see a list of all of the charges (one of our readers pointed out that the website Las Vegas Jaunt publishes an updated list of resort fees). I ended up breaking out the pencil and paper and making a spreadsheet to keep everything organized. This is an important lesson to learn: what appears to be the best price room, oftentimes is not.

After my initial research, I narrowed down my search to three properties:

Luxor

The twenty-something year old me would have stayed here without a second of doubt. Staying in a pyramid, how cool is that? But I’m not that kid anymore and I read reviews before I consider staying anywhere. Fortunately, it does appear that the Luxor, whose rooms had been starting to show their age, is cleaning up its hotel as of late. Reviews seem to be mostly positive and they have recently renovated some of the rooms. I find it very honest of them that they offer separate prices for the renovated and non-renovated rooms. The pyramid rooms are listed at 420 square feet, that feels a bit smaller due to the slanted exterior wall.

  • Resort Fee – $34.01 per night (after tax)
  • Self Parking Fee – $10 per night
  • Room Charge (Cleo King Deluxe room) – $497.80
  • Total for room, fees and parking – $629.83
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Luxor exterior taken in 2006

Tropicana Las Vegas – A Doubletree by Hilton

I always have something for staying at a hotel that has managed to survive when all of the other hotels have been demolished. The Tropicana does have a good location on the Las Vegas Strip and the entire hotel was renovated in 2011. They did change the theme to a Miami Beach style and that was a bit of a letdown as there would not be much of the “Old Vegas” left. The room size on the website says they are “Up to 450 sf.” The prices looked good so I dug a little deeper.

  • Resort Fee – $29 per night (before tax)
  • Self Parking – FREE
  • Room Charge (2 Queen Deluxe Paradise Tower) – $547.97
  • Total for room, fees and parking – $646.61

The free parking and lower resort fee made the Tropicana and Luxor prices almost identical, even with the Luxor originally looking like it would be $50 cheaper.

Since it looked like I’d be paying a decent amount for a room no matter what, I decided to see how much a higher end hotel would cost. I always have to remind myself not to fall into the trap of finding one hotel after another that cost “just a little more” and eventually end up paying double what I was originally planning. With that in mind, I looked at the next hotel.

Delano

The Delano, as in Franklin Roosevelt, is a non-casino hotel located in the Mandalay Bay complex on the south end of the strip. One difference with this hotel is that all rooms at Delano are 2 room suites measuring 725 square feet. I looked at this hotel because it was showing up on American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts website. The hotels in this program are available to people who have a Platinum American Express card (or above) and tend to be ultra-expensive places that we’d never stay at. I always look because, sometimes, you’ll find a moderate priced hotel and you still get all the perks. First, here’s the pricing breakdown:

  • Resort Fee – $39.68 per night (after tax)
  • Self Parking – $12 per night
  • Room Charge – $695.01 (King Suite Room)
  • Total for room, fees and parking – $850.00

Besides a two room suite with 300 more square feet of space, here are the American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts benefits for this hotel:

  • Noon Check-in, when available
  • Room Upgrade upon arrival, when available
  • Daily Breakfast for two people ($30 per person/day)
  • Guaranteed 4PM Late Check-Out
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • $100 property credit to be used during stay

I reworked the math and here’s what I came up with

  • Total for room, fees and parking – $850.00
  • Property Credit – (-$100)
  • Breakfast for 3 days (max value $180, value to us -$60)
  • Wi-Fi Credit (-$15)
  • Adjusted Total – $675

The final breakdown of pricing for each hotel is as follows:

Luxor – $630
Tropicana – $646
Delano – $675

Guess which one we are staying at? I hope we get to use our $100 property credit here.

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Skyfall Lounge outdoor patio, photo courtesy of Delano

 

Hotel Review: Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa

Spoiler alert – I had a really hard time deciding how I felt about this hotel. I mean, my reviews are normally my thoughts about a hotel based on my stay. But after visiting the Hyatt Centric Key West for a few days, I discovered my thoughts about a hotel can be changed by what I expect going in (and how much the hotel costs).

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Right after getting home from our stay, I wrote about how I spent 75,000 Hyatt points to stay at this hotel. I would normally think that many points for a 3 night stay would be expensive. That was until I looked up a cash price of a room and saw it would have cost us $1876.84. That means this hotel, after taxes and fees, would have cost $650 a night. Turned out this was “season” for Key West and as our favorite bartender told us, “Those rich people from New York need to spend their money somewhere.”

Collecting miles and points has allowed us to stay at some really neat places, including many that we would/could never stay otherwise. That being said, I still have trouble thinking of any place that would have cost us this much if we paid out of pocket except for the time when I traded my DVC points to stay at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. Given, we didn’t pay out of pocket to stay there but I definitely got the vibe we were way out of our pay grade.

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View from our room at Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica – Jan 2006

So then, what did I think of the Hyatt Centric?

Arrival and Check In

Since we drove from Orlando, it was 7 hours in car from when we left home to when we arrived at the hotel. It was also about 3 hours since our last stretch/restroom break. We wanted to park, check in and get to our room. We were also about 1 hour from sunset so we wanted to get the formalities done as quickly as possible.

When I drove up to the hotel, there was no one outside of what appeared to be the lobby. After I drove around looking for a parking spot for check-in (there wasn’t one), I just pulled to the side of the lot and put my flashers on. I walked in and asked “Where do we park for check in?” I guess this was a strange question as I had to rephrase it. “How do I get through the gate to park?” At this point, I was given a key card and told to self park and then check in. Fortunately, the parking lot was small and a short walk to the check in desks. We did not need help with our luggage (since we were only there for a long weekend), which was a good thing because there were no bellhops in sight. Once we were inside, the front desk staff was pleasant and we only had to wait about 5 minutes to check in. The formalities were dealt with quickly and the clerk thanked me for my “Gold Pa…..World of Hyatt membership.” I commended her on a quick recovery (World of Hyatt was only a week old at this time. Before that, it had been the Gold passport program.). Check in was quick and efficient. We were offered a glass of champagne or flavored water (included as part of our resort fee), that we declined, as we just wanted to get to our room. We were directed to our room, which was outside the lobby and up one floor. We walked to the elevator, passing the spa, and went up one level to our room.

I found the lack of someone to guide us when arriving to the resort seemed strange for a place of this price point. If you are not going to have a greeter, then you at least need to have a few parking spots designated for guests who are checking in near the entrance. I don’t mind having to cart my luggage (I actually prefer it). but having to take my bags from self parking to the lobby is not acceptable for a hotel charging this much.

Room

When I booked this room with points, the only one available was an ADA accessible room. I hate when hotels play with the inventory like that for award space – after all, how many ADA rooms do they have and was I denying someone who actually needed an ADA room because that’s the only room they were offering with points? There were plenty of other rooms for sale at the time, but none that I could book with points. Fortunately, I received a welcome email from the hotel a couple of days before our stay. I replied and asked if they had a regular room available, I’d like to leave the accessible room for someone who needed it. To the hotel’s credit, I received a reply within 30 minutes telling me that my room assignment would be taken care of. We apparently were given a one of a kind room (or two of a kind , to be factually accurate).

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Hotel layout of Hyatt Centric Key West. Is it just me or does it look like no room has a good view of the water at this hotel?

KWHyattBalconyAs seen on the overhead view of the resort, we had one of the two rooms located on top of the spa, overlooking the parking lot. They did attempt to hide the parking with trees and we had a outside porch with chairs, although I couldn’t see spending much time outside. I could say that since were paying with points and that I asked for a different room than I booked, that this would be OK. But I couldn’t help but feel like this was one of the WORST located rooms in the hotel. That being said, it was large, it had a HUGE walk in closet area, nice bathroom and for the most part was quiet, so we kept what we were given.

In all, it was a tastefully decorated room that fit the Key West area. There were power plugs everywhere and USB outlets on each side of the bed. The room also had a refrigerator and a Keurig coffee maker (Green Mountain K-cups were provided but we bought Starbucks K-cups and milk for it at the drugstore down the street). Unfortunately, the coffee lids left in the room did not match the coffee cups. I left a note for housekeeping and this was resolved the next day.

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Our bedroom at the Hyatt Centric Key West. The walk-in closet is off the left and the bathroom entry is to the right by the room entrance. The patio is behind me.

We didn’t discover some of the more interesting things about the room until after we woke up the next morning. Like the grout in the bathroom was originally white but was now gray because it hadn’t been cleaned in a while, and the floors left my socks a nice shade of black (I like to walk around with my socks on and they were filthy when I took them off). Not to mention the damage to the room (the light shades were crushed). The toilet seat was also very thin plastic and literally buckled when you sat on it. This is all totally unacceptable from a hotel in this price range.

None of these matched one the most WTF moment we’ve ever had in a hotel. I had noticed, and mostly ignored, a remote control that was in the closet. Sharon got curious and wanted to see what it did. I’m so happy she did.

I mean, like, I can’t even. What is that?? Disco closet lights? My mind tried to wrap around this oddity. Did we get the Bachelor/Bachelorette Party room? What else had gone on in that closet? Why did they leave the remote in there if it didn’t get used? I stopped thinking before I’d want to change rooms.

OK, so I’ve essentially torn this hotel down. Was there anything good?

Location

The Hyatt is the best location I’ve ever stayed in Key West. This was the view of the sunset on our first night there. We sat on the dock on the back of the resort with the drinks we got from the pool bar.

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Sunset from the Hyatt Centric Key West dock

The next evening we walked to Mallory Square for the sunset (and entertainment). It was only a 10 minute walk and we were treated to this.

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Key West Mallory Square Sunset

So it wasn’t all bad.

Hotel grounds

The Hyatt Centric grounds were a saving grace because this definitely was nice place to stay. They had turtles and birds (you could feed the turtles but the birds bite :-)) The pool area, albeit small, was very nice. They had a games area with a 1000 piece puzzle (someone completed it in a day – WTG!), foozball and boardgames, and a beach area with some sand and chairs. Key West is not known for beaches and this appeared to be for those surprised by this fact. They also had rentals of jet-skis from the property and the fishing docks were only 5 minutes away.

 

Final Thoughts

I’m really torn when I think about this hotel. There were so many things to like. It has a fantastic location on Key West. The rooms are large and tastefully decorated. The hotel grounds are inviting with many extras. I’d love to say that I’d stay here again.

I just can’t get over the price. For the amount that this hotel charges, it should be so much more. The service should be flawless, where you don’t have to look for someone when you drive up to the front door. The rooms should be spotless, not with dirty floors, damaged fixtures and flimsy toilet seats. I’m not even going to go into whatever that lighting in the closet was for.

The only reason we stayed here was because every other hotel we usually stay at on Key West was really expensive that particular weekend. In fact, if I could not have redeemed points, we probably wouldn’t have made the trip. Even though I had to part with 75,000 points, I’m OK with that if I don’t think about it too much. I had the points and weren’t holding them for any other trips. For that, it was worth it. If I had paid $1800+ for the room, I probably would think differently. I don’t have to worry about that, because I’d never spend that much for a room. Your Mileage May Vary.

Staying at Disneyland – Backup Plans (DVC Points, Hotel Points or Citi Prestige 4th night free)

I’ve already documented the difficulties I came across when trying to book a room at Disneyland with my DVC points in a previous article and now it was time to start looking at Plan B, Plan C and Plan D. Now, I don’t have much experience with booking hotels in and around Disneyland. We’ve stayed in the Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotel several times. Going back many years ago, we stayed at the Sheraton Anaheim Hotel (now renamed the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel) with a group discount from a theme park message board we helped moderate. On our most recent trip, we stayed at the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort (that’s a mouthful). It wasn’t my original choice, but I was lucky enough to win a free night during a online contest that had to be used by the end of 2016. It was a nice enough hotel, but nothing about it really screamed Disney; it was more a Sheraton that happened to be planted near Disneyland. It was also a 15 min walk to the Esplanade, which was fine in the morning but not fun after a full day in the parks. It’s also just far enough that you don’t want to go trekking back and forth during the day.

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Disneys California Adventure, October 2016

I needed to see what options I had for our stay..

PLAN B

I started with the Disney Hotels.

  • Disneyland Hotel – $2600 for 5 nights
  • Paradise Pier – $1900 for 5 nights

Well, maybe not. Besides paying cash,  I am also able to book these rooms with my Disney Vacation Club points. What would they cost in points (I’m valuing each point at $13; that is what I can sell them for)?

  • Disneyland Hotel – 225 points for 5 nights ($2925)
  • Paradise Pier – 171 points for 5 nights ($2223)

Um, no. I didn’t expect to see it would be a better value for me to sell the points and then book the stay for cash. While using DVC points to book Disney hotel rooms has never beed a great value, it’s now become a money losing proposition.  Either way, I don”t think a 5 night stay there is worth $2000+.

PLAN C

Time to see if I can book a stay with my other hotel points. Unlike Walt Disney World, the entrance to Disneyland is right across the street from a number of chain and independent hotels. I narrowed my search to places where I had points – here are some of the cash/points prices for our stay:

  • Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort  – $1089/140,000 points. This is part of the Marriott hotel family. This hotel was charging 35,000 points a night. However, if you make a reservation with points for 4 nights, the 5th night is free. This property charges a $18 daily fee for parking and has free wifi. Unlike most Fairfield Inn hotels, they do not offer a free breakfast to guests
  • Sheraton Park Hotel At The Anaheim Resort – $1220/32,000 points.
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    View from our room of the Sheraton Park Hotel At The Anaheim Resort in 2016

    Sheraton is part of Starwood Preferred Guest program. Rooms were available for 8,000 points a night. Like Marriott, Starwood hotels offer a 5th night free on points bookings. Self Parking charge at this hotel is $18 and the hotel offers free wifi. As I said above, this hotel didn’t overwhelm us the last time we stayed there. We had to walk to the Hilton nearby for Starbucks in the morning. However, if the price was right I  wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.

  • Hotel Indigo Anaheim – $1311/150,000 points – Hotel Indigo is part of the IHG hotel group (same as Holiday Inn. I’ve already said how much I love this program in a prior post.) Since I just purchased 120,000 Holiday Inn (IHG) points for $690, I have plenty of points in this program. I would also get 10% of my points back because I have the IHG Credit Card, so the actual cost would only be 135,000 points. This hotel  does not charge for parking (a big plus) and like all IHG hotels, has free wifi.

Those are some pretty decent options. The Sheraton and the Indigo are both tempting and if I had no other choice, I’d be happy to settle for either one. However, both of the hotels are a 15 minute walk and we (moreso Sharon) would like to stay somewhere a little closer this time. Since I do have other options, we are onto…

PLAN D

We’ve always been interested in the smaller hotels near Disneyland and many have been there almost as long as Disneyland itself.  I did some searching and came across a page on Disneytouristblog.com that ranked all of the Disneyland off-property hotels (while it is admittedly not complete, they are all reviews by the same person). I commend anyone with this sense of commitment to a project.

I had narrowed our search to several hotels close to the Disneyland entrance and used the rankings with the ratings on Tripadvisor and Oyster to make my final decision. I found it interesting that none of these hotels were bookable from any third party website (Expedia, Hotels.com); you can only book them directly from the hotel website.

  • Park Vue Inn – $1222 for 5 nights. This is THE CLOSEST hotel to Disneyland (it shows as a 0.3 mile walk on Google Maps). They offer free breakfast, have a deck where you can watch the fireworks from, and have free self parking and wifi.
  • Anaheim Desert Inn and Suites –  $1205 for 5 nights. This hotel is right next door to the Park Vue and, at first glance, appeared to be $20 cheaper a night. That changed when I went on with the booking as this hotel adds an $11 parking charge and $6 resort fee per day to the price. While they claim to have FREE continental breakfast and FREE wifi, I questioned how free that is with a $6 a night charge. Deceptive billing is always a negative for me.
  • Candy Cane Inn –  $988.65 for 5 nights (AAA Rate). I’ve heard about the Candy Cane for as long as I’ve been reading about Disneyland. It’s been right on the corner of Disneyland for over 50 years. They have free parking, free wifi and a complimentary park shuttle (if you don’t want to walk the 0.6 mile to the park entrance). Also important to us this trip is an on-site coin laundry.

These prices were all a little better than the chain hotels, so if I had to pay cash for this trip, I knew I had one more ace up my sleeve: I would be able to use the Fourth Night Free benefit of the Citi Prestige Card. I’ve not talked about this card before because it’s a niche player in my wallet. However, the 4th night free benefit is the killer app of the Citi Prestige. For any stay of 4 nights or more, they reimburse you the full cost of the 4th night (starting soon this will change to the average nightly cost for the stay, not including taxes or fees).

So with any of the room prices above, I’d be able to take 20% off the price of the stay. That would potentially be all the way from $520 off of the Disneyland Hotel to $197 off the Candy Cane Inn. My one concern was if the independent hotels would be eligible for the offer or not. I emailed the Citi Concierge to see if they could book the hotels we were interested in. The step by step directions are described in this article from Lucky at One Mile at a time.  I loved the reply I got back:

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So we had to make a decision. It was really down to using points at the Hotel Indigo or using the 4th night free at the Candy Cane Inn.

We are suckers for places that stick around even when it seems like they shouldn’t. It didn’t take us much time to decide. CANDY CANE INN, here we come!!!!!!!!

I sent back to the Citi Concierge our dates and room preference. Besides having to call in to verify our credit card number and then one more call to confirm booking details, we just got a confirmation from the hotel. I did spend an extra $10 a night to upgrade to a Deluxe room for the extra 40 sf. The out of pocket cost for 5 nights, after the rebate, will be $837. Not bad. I’ve never been so excited to be staying in a room that looks like this.

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Candy Cane Inn – Photo Credit Tom Brinker – www.disneytouristblog.com

Have any of you stayed at the Candy Cane Inn or any other of the hotels mentioned in this article? I’m interested to hear what you think. Comment here or write us on Facebook or Twitter.

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