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.

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.

Delta One Suite Photo Review CDG-ATL

 

A quick photo review of our recent CDG-ATL Delta One flight. Overall a great experience. I was disappointed in the headphones which seem out of place on such a nice product. Delta should spring for Bose or Sony. Even the old AA QC-15s are light years better.

Sorry, the photos aren’t the best as it was an afterthought to do a review on this. I was seated in 7A with my wife in front of me on 6A and our friends in the middle of row 6. The staff was one of the best I’ve ever had on a long-haul flight. 7A was a good seat but on the aisle side instead of the window side so it was a little harder to see out but with the door shut it didn’t affect the privacy factor. I’m tall at 6’2″ and have large size 15 feet but didn’t have any problem getting a great 5 hours of sleep on this flight.

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IHG 2nd Quarter Accelerate Promo Now Live but….

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In case you’re not familiar IHG Hotels has for many years run a quarterly bonus point earning promo called Accelerate. It has been decent for many years however it is targeted and seems to track how often you stay at IHG. So in other words, if you don’t stay at IHG hotels (Holiday Inn’s, etc.) often then you tend to get really good offers. Like “Stay 1 Night and earn 4,000 bonus points” or whatever. If you stay at a lot of IHG hotels the offers tend to get harder to achieve but also may offer greater rewards. For example “Stay 26 nights this quarter and get 20,000 bonus points” or whatever.

IHG says:

Complete your customized offers now and get your points. With offers designed for the way you like to travel, Accelerate helps you experience more of life. Earn bonus points, get rewards, and make every stay count more.

How does it work?

1. Book and stay at any IHG® hotel around the world from now until August 31.
2. Earn bonus points to use for great rewards and moments that matter.

So we get to:

Have: Customized offers, great (See above)

Offers that are designed for “the way you like to travel”, Apparently not the way others like to travel for me to travel the way I do or something.

“Experience more of life”. Apparently by staying at IHG hotels “life” is more of an “Experience”

And we get to “make every stay count more”.

All sounds great unless you get a crappy offer like my wife did this year.

Here is her offer:

FireShot Capture 048 - IHG® Rewards Club - Earn the extra rewards you deserve - Register Now_ - www.ihg.com

OK let’s say you aren’t familiar with this promo and think this is a great offer. That would be good if you didn’t know that my wife usually has an Accelerate promo worth like 50,000 points but can be hard to reach. She stays about 100 nights a year in hotels so targeting 24 nights’ish in a quarter to get some bonus works for her and IHG. This promo is so low AND requires her to stay for leisure to obtain it. Since she is a business traveler she doesn’t usually stay over on Saturday night. She doesn’t usually book for points & cash and uses a business credit card. Kind of disappointed.

Before you accuse me of kicking the gift horse that IHG Accelerate usually provides I will point out the offer I got below. Why is mine better? Because IHG had done the same to me in early 2018 and I moved all my stays over to Marriott in early 2018 to try and reset the clock with IHG. Good plan right? Sure except I found out that I REALLY like Marriott. In the marketing world, I would consider that a failure. So by IHG having targeted promo’s that punish loyal customers (11,600 versus 60,100) it can backfire I think.

FireShot Capture 049 - IHG® Rewards Club - Earn the extra rewards you deserve - Register Now_ - www.ihg.com

I won’t bring up the registration process issues on this latest promo. Mine worked fine and my wife’s didn’t load until after May 1st. Not sure why. I assume IT issues and not that they more closely reviewed her’s for extra crappy-ness.

Anyway. I urge you to register if you even think you’ll stay at an IHG hotel soon.

How does it work?

1. Sign up for Accelerate.
2. Book and stay at any of your favorite IHG® hotels from May 1, 2019, and August 31, 2019.
3. Earn bonus points to use for great rewards.

You can sign up for the latest promotion by June 18, 2019, and each offer must be completed between 5/1/18 and May 1, 2019, and August 31, 2019.

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