$100 Statement Credit off $550 for Chase Sapphire Reserve, targeted?

I just got a secure message through my Chase account regarding the upcoming $550 annual fee on my CSR. “We recognize this is a difficult time for everyone. As a way to help, we’re providing you a one-time $100 statement credit toward the 2020 $550 annual fee on your Reserve credit card. On an upcoming billing statement (based on your renewal date), you’ll see a $550 charge for the annual fee, followed by a $100 statement credit. We will continue to bill the $550 annual fee in 2021. Because this credit only applies to open Reserve accounts, if you’ve closed your Reserve account or traded to another credit card before your renewal, you will not receive the $100 statement credit. We know COVID-19 has affected people in many different ways. Please check chase.com/StayConnected for updates and helpful ways to stay connected to your accounts.

I wasn’t super worried about the increased fee as I still get value out of the travel credits, insurance and increase in Ultimate Rewards points redemption but had considered closing my account. This is enough to keep me a customer for another year. I don’t find much value in the new Doordash or Lyft credits as I will only use those when I travel but neither service is available in my rural town, yet.

Chase

Hilton Garden Inn Cherry Creek Denver Colorado Photo Review

A quick overnight for business at the Hilton Garden Inn at Cherry Creek was a good experience.I usually stay at the Holiday Inn across the road but a client booked this hotel for me. While the Holiday Inn is nice and a bit cheaper I think I’d give the edge to this hotel. The best part about the Garden Inn is that it’s located in an upscale trendy shopping center so there are multiple restaurant basically on the ground floor.

Overall I enjoyed my time here. I like staying in this area because of the Cherry Creek bike trail which offers a great place to run or bike. There are public shared bikes along the trail as well.

Travel in my own Backyard

Sometimes you go very far to travel. I’ve been on 17 hour flights to Asia and 35+ hour transits from the USA to the Middle East but other times you can find fun in your own backyard.

On a recent snowy day I went for a run down a local rails to trails path here in Ottawa Kansas and managed to take a few photos I thought I’d share here. Why? Well because it’s my blog and even with heavy snow and a wet camera they came out fairly decent.

Hope you enjoy the pictures. They really don’t reflect how heavy the snow was coming down.

Photo Review Holiday Inn Express Austin Airport Texas

Short one night stay at the HIX at Austin Airport. Hotel is a good location just a few minutes from the AUS terminal by car. The hotel features a nice outdoor pool, fitness center with decent equipment.

It also passes my test of offering the free breakfast at 6 am instead of the weird trend of 6:30 am that many hotels have moved to. It also has small guest laundry and the fitness center is open 24 hours. This hotel is located in a business park type area so not a tourist centric property but most of Austin is a car centered culture anyway. #traffic.

Separate bath and toilet area are a bit dated with dark lighting but spotless. Only complaint is the overdone water softener setting giving me that “swimming in the dead sea” spa experience.
I didn’t use the airport shuttle but they seem to have two drivers and vans on call at all times. Check with the hotel for details of course.
Overall a nice hotel with clean comfort and well located.

Ever Wonder How Clean Your Cruise Ship Will Be? I think I know a way to find out. Plus Top 10 suggestions.

News groups and “news bloggers” like Yahoo and such enjoy posting items that slam certain companies. Norovirus on cruise ships is always popular for some odd reason. With the most recent Corona Novel Virus it is even more popular to pick on cruise lines. Some of it is valid because being on a cruise ship, in a college dorm, military barracks or other close quarters can also virus from Norovirus to MRSA to spread quickly.

So let’s say you are thinking of booking a cruise or have one booked but are a germophobe. Now there is a way you can do more research on the ship you have in mind.

You can go to the CDC and search for your cruise ship to see the most recent scores. Keep in mind these are like restaurant scores. A ship can do poorly on a given day but do perfect on another if the timing is bad. Imagine a cruise ship with a broken dishwasher and a kid in the pool in his diaper (not the fault of the cruise line) and could get a failing score. https://wwwn.cdc.gov/InspectionQueryTool/InspectionSearch.aspx

On the CDC site you’ll find the “Green Sheet” which are good scores of ships. You can drill down to find all sorts of data.

You can also find the ships that got a perfect score of 100 !!

MY TOP 10 WAYS TO “TRY” AND AVOID GETTING SICK ON A CRUISE:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water, A LOT.
  2. Don’t rely only on the hand sanitizer stations to clean your hands. These help but some won’t kill virus germs.
  3. Be careful what you eat in port. Sure the ship might not be perfect much like your favorite restaurant on land but eating the cool hipster jerk chicken street taco from the beach vendor in Progresso Mexico might not be your best move.
  4. Bring a tiny spray can of Lysol with you and spray your room down when you first get to your cabin. You don’t know who was in there a few hours prior. The staff does a great job of cleaning but they can’t be perfect. Why do you think they wear rubber gloves all the time. They aren’t cheap but mini cans of Lysol can be found in the travel products section at many stores. If you can’t do that at least take Wet Wipes and clean the door handles, light switches, remote control, sink handle, toilet handle, etc.
  5. Avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth if you haven’t just washed your hands. Even Kate Winslet warns about this in the movie Contagion and she still dies in the movie.
  6. Use the paper door opener napkins by public bathrooms when available. Just because you wash your hands doesn’t mean the person who left the bathroom prior to you did.
  7. Try to avoid using the tongs in the buffet line if possible. This one is ultra hard and the staff cleans and replaces these often but germs can spread with using these. If you must use them try to wipe your hands or clean them before you eat with your hands or just use a fork and spoon only.
  8. Get plenty of rest and limit alcohol. Sure we all want to think that drinking enough Bahama Mama’s at the poor bar will kill the germs in your system (see number 3 above) but it really will just make you hung over and tired.
  9. Don’t drink or even wash your teeth with the tap water in your room. The plumbing systems on ships is complex and the water isn’t always what your body is used to at home. This can lead to minor stomach issues at best. I like to hand a tag or something on the sink to remind me to only use it for hand washing, etc.
  10. Wash your hands. 15 seconds or more with soap and water is your best friend.

OK so now your are prepared to book your cruise. Do me a favor and go to my favorite booking agent: Cruises and Castles Travel

Ever Wonder If – Those “Buy Extra Miles” at airport check-in are a good deal.

Sure we’ve all been there. You are rushing around getting ready for your trip and you jump online to check in for your flight, “pick and pray” on the seat selector without the advantage of SeatGuru available. You worry about how to print the boarding pass in a hotel lobby with 5 printers that all lack ink and IT support.

Or Maybe you’re doing it on the fly at the airport Kiosk, worried about dropping your bags or passport while the amateur travelers all around you wonder at your kiosk skills and how cool a jet-setter like you looks.

Then BANG you get the “Mileage Multiplier” !!!

Wait!!! HOLD THE PLANE. YOU mean for just a bit more money I can get 5,000 extra miles to add to my Euro Trip Vacation stash.

Oh it must be a good deal because after all I’m flying already and only people checking in will be able to gain these extra miles at such a good value. I can see myself drinking champagne in crystal fluted glasses in first class. Or is that sparkling wine in plastic cups?

But wait is it a good deal? It must be but I can’t do the math in my head, too much going on. UGGGG. Not sure what to do! Pull the trigger or pass up the “deal of the century”. Oh the pressure.

OK let’s not do math, let’s just compare. If you don’t even have a reservation but log into AA.com (in this case). Go to the Buy, Gift and Transfer miles page and you’ll find this price:

That’s right my friends you would have just paid $12.03 too much for those miles at check-in. Feel special yet? Oh and there is more. That’s without taking advantage of the frequent or current mile buy deals for buying more miles.

Sure $461.99 is a lot to spend on miles but this is just a hint that those miles at check-in aren’t usually a good deal. As a rule of thumb if you aren’t seeing “buy miles” deals at less than 2 cents per mile it isn’t usually a great deal. In fact buying miles rarely is a good deal to buy on speculation. It can pay off to buy miles to put you over the top for a premium cabin redemption but I’ve never seen it be a good deal at check-in. I assume there are folks that can sneak this through on an expense account but most of us live in the real world and have morals.

Oh and those travel bloggers that help us all out by telling us about the latest mile buying promotions or top travel gadgets to buy from Amazon can be helpful if you have the need. Remember though that most are doing this as a way to may affiliate revenue. They get money when you click through many of the deals they post. Doesn’t make it wrong but just do it eyes-wide open. In fact when I do take advantage of things like this or credit card sign-ups I try to do it through blogs I like to support them. Some of them also lack morals so use caution.

Side Note: I pick on American Airlines here but most airline check-in deals aren’t worth it. Just remember if the price for those 5,000 miles is higher than $100 you are paying too much. Less than that could be a good deal and a unicorn. Maybe like a unicorn using a kiosk at the airport 🙂

Avid IHG Hotel Review – Madison Wisconsin

I had a recent business trip that required a stay in Madison Wisconsin. Thankfully the weather was mild and almost warm for January in Madison. I picked one of the new IHG brands that just launched, called Avid. I didn’t bother to read the press releases they have done on this so I’m not sure what they are trying to achieve.

My impression is that it’s a minimalist Euro Budget approach. Something like a cross between an Ibis and Holiday Inn Express. This property opened on December 19th, 2019 so it is only a couple of weeks old. It’s hard not to like a brand new property of any type. I’ll be interested to see what it’s like in say 3 years but I guess that’s on the local management to keep it in good shape.

I liked the free breakfast offering that has self service hot sandwiches that seemed to be really good quality. They also have self service cereals, fruit and a good selection of items that all seem fresh.

I also really like the higher end Bunn self service coffee machines but I think they missed a chance to add a high end self service espresso / cappuccino type unit in this area. It just seems like a natural fit to have a Nespresso or Illy type machine in addition to what they have on offer. Not a big deal though.

This Avid hotel has a 24 hour fitness center with nice new equipment. No swimming pool which is fine for this property. Free parking at this location and they offer a grab and go market store in the lobby that had a lot of soda, bottled waters, snacks, etc. Overall a nice concept. I think adding a small bistro lobby bar sort of like Hyatt Place or some Holiday Inn Expresses in Europe have would be a bonus but not a big deal.

The rooms are nice because they are new and also well arranged. They are small. Not Clubquarters small but about half the size of many USA Holiday Inn Express properties. They offer laminate flooring much like the latest HIX designs from IHG. My room had a shower and no bathtub. I assume all the rooms are shower only which I like.

PRO’s – Nice new fun concept.

Simple brand with good service and clean.

Price point seemed to be lower than other hotels at time of my stay.

Free parking.

24 hour fitness center.

Free breakfast with good food. Great staff.

CON’s – No bar soap. I don’t love it but I “get” the virtue-signaling / cost savings of the bulk shampoo and soap bottles in the shower but bar soap is a must for me. This is a big negative in my world and such a simple thing to make right.

TV was good but didn’t seem easy to stream your own content or watch Netflix, Crackle, etc. Marriott seems to be a leader in this area. Not a big deal.

Rooms a bit noisy with somewhat thin walls and the typical self slamming doors. Not a big deal but could be a killer if around those with lack of an indoor voice or door slamming habits.

Overall I really love this hotel (other than the bar soap issue). I would stay here or at other Avid’s again but I need to remember to pack my own bar soap for some odd reason #brokenrecord. I’m not sure we really need another hotel brand but I could learn to love Avid hotels.