Quick Photo Review of Marriott Townplace Suites Sioux Falls South Dakota

Nice new hotel with an extra nice staff. Good location with several nearby restaurants and a convenience store nearby. Typical Townplace hotel with free breakfast. I enjoyed my short overnight here and would stay here again if I come back to the area.

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Quick photo review of Springhill Suites IAH Houston Texas.

Handicap accessible room shown. Not a bad short stay. Close to airport. Breakfast at 6am is a bit late for an airport hotel but not surprising.

My state of mind on hotels today

So I was reading the Travel with Grant blog today and he states how he is in a funk over hotel programs. I agree and attempted to give my 5 cents. Why because it’s free. Not I’m not a troll on Boardingarea. Well maybe I’m sort of a big fan that is opinionated.

So I share some thoughts on most hotel programs below. Keep in mind that I travel 100 to 125 nights a year on business plus vacations and cruises so yes my dogs hate me. My wife travels 75 to 100 nights as well. She is a real IHG Spire loyalist as am I and am a Spire Ambassador (sounds impressive) but I also branch out with Hilton and Marriott a lot. We both hold Silver status with Marriott and I have Diamond with Hilton as well as Gold with Radisson.

Radisson used to be better but 40k a year is worth keeping the card for an odd night or so plus Gold status. I love Radisson Blu hotels and have stayed at a lot of them all over the world.

Hyatt, I love love them but…not enough properties. So I don’t want to waste my stays there.

Marriott, I want to love them, they have properties everywhere, but it’s too hard to earn top tier status. But…once you do you can earn United Silver. But…the free night certs are limited and expire too quickly. I’ve got about a dozen stays in with them this year so far but as a Silver i wonder why I’m not at other chains where my status is higher.

SPG, you should have already moved your points over to Virgin to Alaska when you had the chance. They also have too many places where the hotel selection it too eclectic and it’s not my thing. Points super valuable but a bit hard to rack up quickly in my world.

IHG, I love IHG. They have properties everywhere, well they are weak in Hawaii (come on IHG). As an IHG credit card holder you get a real free night cert that you can use for a year. In addition they have good promos. I also like buying up in points or cash to Intercontinental status for the free night rebates or status share and free weekend BOGO cert although it’s not always the best deal. The IHG card also gives you Platinum status which is a nicer level than some others.

Choice Hotels. They have been going down hill for years. The Cambria properties offer some hope and I really like them but they don’t have Cambria hotels in most areas. In general they are a fancy Wyndham motel or an Ex-IHG,Marriott,Hilton property. The card is OK I guess but I’m not a fan in general.

Wyndham…..They have lied to me many times on promotions and have for years. They have a few good properties but unless you work on a transient labor crew and are forced to “do time” in Super 8’s  or HOJO’s then they are not a good place to be, trust me.

Best Western. They are like an honest Wyndham with slightly better rooms or maybe equal with Choice. The future is bright for them as they seem to be putting in a real effort to improve the hotels but unless you do business travel in a region where they are all over it’s not my first, second or third choice and I’m Diamond with them (don’t ask).

Hilton. You’ll notice they are lumped at the bottom. If it wasn’t for nicer hotels they would be even with Choice or Best Western. They have devalued SO much I’m not sure where the bottom is. I want to love Hilton but they don’t love me back. The Hampton’s are a weak HIX and they devalue faster than I can earn points and I’m a Hilton Diamond. Sure they offer free breakfast and free wifi but isn’t that like free HBO and air conditioned rooms? They also did away with the double dip in another devaluation. 2017 may have seen some of my last stays with Hilton as I watch my Hilton points currency burning in front me faster than I use it. It’s like the Wiemar Republic of the hotel points world. Maybe I’ll start referring to their points as HHonormarks or RReichmarks.

So bottom line is use the cards from the random hotel chains for the perks and odd location awards but Marriott or IHG should be your future until they follow Hilton to the Neverland Ranch. The dynamics change for certain types of travelers I know and I don’t think everyone will agree with me. Just my personal opinion based on my experience and how I’ve been treated by these programs over the years. Plus I’m biased. Now IHG go build some Hawaii properties so I can go there on vacation already 🙂

My advices is to put most of your day to day spend on a good card like Chase Sapphire Reserve and forget doing much spending on hotel cards unless you need the hit to earn a promo, etc. Churn these cards to get points unless your a business traveler and if you are pick the best one that works for you everywhere you go or want awards.

Notice I have no affiliate links in my post so I’m trying to be as honest as I can about my feelings on these properties but keep in mind that I’m a bit biased to IHG in general. 20171218_1448131057734389.jpg

Should I buy the AA Platinum Upgrade offer or just do the UA Economy Plus Subscription?

So in 2017 I was Gold with American Airlines. I reached that again by mid year but managed to miss Platinum by a hair at the end of the year. I just didn’t see the profit in doing a mileage run. So far in 2018 I have some AA flights booked and some long haul award trips on AA but some of my business trips have been moved over to United for various reasons in this first Quarter.

So here comes the offers. I can buy up to Platinum on AA for $795

FireShot Capture 4 - Secure your eli_ - https___elite.americanairlines.com_eliterenewal_purchase.cfm

But after thinking about it I don’t think it’s worth that much to me. Sure I might see a few additional domestic upgrades but the main value is the MCE seats. And if I’m stuck flying United more than normal in 2018 I might be better off to just get an Economy Plus subscription for $499.

FireShot Capture 5 - Economy plus choose options I United A_ - https___www.united.com_ual_en_us_su

I’m not sure it’s worth it for either one. I actually wish AA would have given me a bit cheaper of an option to move up to Platinum since I was so close but at least I’m still Gold with a bunch of 500 mile stickers for now. I don’t think it’s worth it to do a status match with United either but we’ll see.

Iceland Air Coming to Kansas City MCI

I guess due to the recent subzero weather we’ve had in Kansas City lately, the Icelanders have been fooled into starting service from MCI to Iceland. And…I love it.

FireShot Capture 1 - Cheap flights to Europe & Iceland I Icelandair_ - http___www.icelandair.us_

https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/new-airline-service-announcement-expected-tuesdayat-kci

Apparently per TV 4 in KC:

Officials with the Kansas City International Airport and Mayor Sly James announced Icelandair is coming to KCI this year.

Icelandair will bring seasonal transatlantic air service to Europe with new nonstop flights between Kansas City and Iceland. Beginning May 26, 2018, Kansas City-region travelers can fly nonstop from KCI to Icelandair’s hub at Keflavik International Airport near the Iceland capital, Reykjavik.

According to the Kansas City Aviation Department, Icelandair’s Kansas City service will offer three nonstop flights per week to Iceland with connections to and from more than 25 destinations in Scandinavia, the UK, and Continental Europe. ”

This is good news for Kansas City. The city plans to work through political issues and build a new single terminal airport that will likely be too small and made of too much glass in the near future. As my home airport I love that I can now fly to Europe directly without flying to a hub first. Great news !

Update***

It seems this service will start seasonally from May to September in 2018 with hopes to expand. The outbound flights will be M-W-Sat with Return inbound flights on T-F-Sun. The flight is just under 7 hours and will offer fares that include the ability to stop over in Iceland for up to 7 days without additional fees.

http://www.icelandair.us/news/story/icelandair-is-going-to-kansas-city/

 

Cruising and cell phones don’t mix PSA

For those that have been on cruises before you either know this or have learned this but….cell phones and cruise ships don’t always mix. This is for a variety of reasons. Cruise ships are fancy floating hotels. It’s awesome because you don’t have to unpack more than once and when you wake up each morning you are at a new destination. It’s like a dream.
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In reality cruise ships are made of metal. Each cabin has metal walls and ceilings and floors so cell phone and computer signals are weak anyway. In addition since the ship leaves the country and is at sea it is away from cell towers once you can’t see land. The cruise lines figured out a long time ago that this is a money making area. So they installed cell phone transmission equipment so you can use a cell phone while on-board in many areas. The problem is that it’s expensive as shown in the article below. There is a balance though. Basically you can use your cell phone while in US ports just like you do now, although signal strength below deck can be bad because, well….it’s metal like I said.
Once you leave land you are at the mercy of the cruise ship roaming rates. Once you reach a new port you can roam on that country’s cell phone providers which is a mixed bag that you need to check with your provider on. Usually it cost more but maybe not as bad as the ship.  Keep in mind that most USA cell phone providers have USA service in ports you would think of like Long Beach, Miami, New York but ports like Key West, San Juan are still part of the USA so roaming while there is not usually an issue it’s part of the USA after all. 
Internet is a whole different animal. Cruise ships offer internet plans for a price and the speed is often not great, like dial up modem speed at times, although technology is getting better. So what is the best plan of action? What my wife and I do is make our last minute texts, facebook posts, phone calls at the port before leaving the USA. Then just before we say Bon Voyage we turn our phones to airplane mode. Most phones have this option and it will allow you to manually turn on wifi later if needed on the ship. It’s almost a ritual that says we are unplugging and starting our vacation. We then would use wifi for short sessions just to do a quick check of email so we know everything is OK back home and have peace of mind.
Another option in ports can be free wifi at restaurants, cafe’s, hotels, etc. This is becoming much more common than in the old days of the internet cafe Jason Bourne hangout days. Plus cheaper, as in free. Just keep in mind that these are public wifi areas in foreign port of call so it may not be too wise to log into your facebook, email, bank, etc. without using a VPN or really at all in my opinion. Plus remember that what happens at the Senor Frog’s beach bar in Cozumel at 5pm needs to stay at the Senor Frog’s.
One newer option with decent speed on free public wifi can be voice internet calling platform apps on mobile devices like Google Voice apps or even your own cell phone’s voice over wifi option. This can allow voice calls for free if unlocked on your device. That way you can leave a voicemail for Grandma who is baby sitting since she never picks up the phone anyway 🙂 “Hi Grandma, we just thought we’d call and “try” to talk to our kids for minute while we are in Grand Turk away from the beach leaving you another voicemail. I guess everything is OK since you posted that video of your cat on facebook yesterday that took us 20 minutes and $30 of internet ship charges to watch. Love you, we’ll try again when we reach Saint Marten. “
In addition we usually leave instructions with our family at home on how to contact the cruise line in a major emergency. Here is more info on that from carnival: https://help.carnival.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1139/~/calling-home
 
Here is the link to information from Cruise Critic which is a great resource:

Quick Photo Share of Holiday Inn Express Norman Oklahoma

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Lobby area20171002_165950_HDR

Fitness room. Not bad. Newer equipment.20171002_165933_HDR

Standard but welcome Keurig and K-cups supplied daily at most HIX which I love. 20171002_162905

Decent work area and TV. I always wish the TV’s could be bigger in most hotels. 20171002_162842

Nice beds at this hotel. Updated decor is pleasant and calming at this hotel I think. 20171002_162835_HDR

Nice clean hotel spotless bathrooms.20171002_162826holiday inn norman ok