Hotels

Hyatt’s New Globalist Status Requires Even More Nights Than We Thought

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We’re only days away from the launch of the new World of Hyatt loyalty program. As we learned last fall, World of Hyatt will replace Hyatt Gold Passport starting on March 1. I’m in the midst of putting together my thoughts on the new program — spoiler alert, I’m not impressed.

There are a few things to theoretically like in the new program, particularly if you hold top tier status. Globalists, as Hyatt has decided to call them, will get unlimited complimentary upgrades to suites in addition to the four confirmed suite upgrades of the past. Perhaps I was prescient when I wrote “4 Free Upgrades Are Better Than Unlimited Suites, Really” a year ago…

Anyway, that’s about the extent of the good news. There are at least some positives to look forward to for those who can maintain top-tier status, but getting there is going to be a challenge. In fact, it’s arguably harder than most of us thought it was going to be.

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Is This The Best Hotel Room TV Setup Ever?

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I don’t usually get too excited about hotel room TVs. In fact, it’s pretty rare for my family to ever turn them on. Maybe if we’re in a foreign country, we’ll watch a cartoon so the kids can have a cultural experience, but that’s about it.

I suppose some will say that the hotel room TV is going to go the way of the desk because millennials just don’t use them. Call me old school, but I still prefer to watch TV on a big screen. And I also like to listen to it. Like really listen with real speakers, not uncomfortable earbuds or tinny laptop speakers.

The problem is that flat screen TVs are notorious for having awful sound. There just isn’t space to fit a proper speaker. So you end up with undersized cones that are typically pointed to the side, or worse, out the back. I remember being at a Hyatt Place where my wife — who was trying to sleep in the bedroom area — could hear the TV better than I could even though I was sitting right in front of it.

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The One Hotel In North America I REALLY Want To Visit…

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While not all of the world’s best hotels belong to the major hotel chains, there are some incredible hotel experiences you can have on points. For example, as far as city hotels go, it’s tough to beat the Park Hyatt in Sydney or St. Regis in New York.

Then there are some boutique hotels that unfortunately don’t belong to any of the major chains, or any group at all. There’s one hotel in North America that has long interested me, that unfortunately isn’t part of any loyalty program. It’s also quite pricey.

But I use this blog to talk about my travel dreams/goals, so I feel compelled to at least write about it here. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned that I far prefer nature vacations to city vacations. I’m usually connected to the internet constantly, and there’s something so relaxing to me about being able to enjoy nature.

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Starwood Luxury Privileges: Latest Updates As Of Feb 2017

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Back when I became a full time travel advisor, I wrote about one of Starwood’s best kept secrets — the Luxury Privileges program. For a quick recap, you can read in detail about the program and how it works here.

Since first writing about the program in June 2016, new hotels have opened and the perks and free night promotions for the program have changed, so I want to post an updated list of the participating hotels and their amenities available through the program as of February 17, 2017. You can also always find an updated list published by Starwood here.

It’s important to note that the Luxury Privileges rate is its own independent rate and while generally the same or close to the flexible rate, it is not always the same. The Luxury Privileges rate must also be booked by an affiliated travel advisor and cannot be booked directly by guests.

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Hong Kong Is Getting A St. Regis!

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I was in Hong Kong a couple of days ago, and for whatever reason I started thinking about the hotel market there. Hong Kong is probably my favorite major city in the world, and has a lot of great hotels, though also a lot of not-so-great hotels. For those of us who are points-obsessed, it can be a tricky market.

Hyatt has two properties in Hong Kong that I really like — the Grand Hyatt and the Hyatt Regency.

Starwood is more of a mixed bag. For example, there’s the Sheraton and the W, and their portfolio is further enhanced now thanks to the number of Design Hotels properties there.

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Review: W Hotel Punta De Mita Mexico

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Prior to this trip I had never visited Mexico as an adult. As a kid we took a couple of cruises there (though 12 hours at a Cozumel cruise port probably doesn’t give you a fair representation of a place), and I remember once vacationing there when I was really young, but that’s about it. I also connected at Mexico City Airport last year, but that doesn’t really count.

Given that I fly halfway around the world to relax at a resort, I figured I might as well try somewhere closer to “home.” The new W Punta de Mita opened just last year, and looked like a fun place for a getaway.

I booked only a few days in advance using the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit. For my stay the hotel had a rate of ~$350 per night, which was brought down to an average of ~$260 per night after applying that benefit. The rate was actually much higher further in advance, but this hotel seems to consistently lower rates closer to the actual stay date.

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How Much Did IHG Pay For My “Free” Hotel Night?

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As I explained yesterday, I just redeemed my IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card annual free night certificate for a stay at the InterContinental Hong Kong. The card has just a $49 annual fee and offers an annual free night certificate valid at any IHG property, with no category restrictions.

So in my case I had an overnight in Hong Kong, and it’s tough to beat the InterContinental Hong Kong for that purpose, given its location. Since I was redeeming my annual certificate, the stay was completely “free” — there were no taxes and fees, or anything.

However, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has wondered how much this free night is really costing IHG. Yesterday I checked my reservation through IHG’s mobile website, and it listed a price. Specifically, it said that the stay cost 504HKD, or a total of ~555HKD including tax and service charge. That comes out to ~$72. That’s the internal reimbursement rate that IHG is paying the hotel.

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Review: Radisson Blu Oslo Airport

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Given our early departure the following morning, we decided to spend the last night of our trip at a hotel at the Oslo Airport.

Having stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport on the first night of our trip, we decided to try the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport this time. In my experience, both of these hotels are comparable in price with the Radisson Blu maybe just a few dollars more.

We rode the NSB train from Oslo Central Station to the airport and then walked over to the hotel. The Radisson Blu is the closest hotel to the airport, but you still need to exit the terminal to get there. It’s an easy walk that takes only a few minutes.

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I Scored A 5-Star Hotel In Hong Kong For $49 (Thanks To A Credit Card)

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The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card is one of the all around most rewarding cards out there in terms of the perks it offers. As far as I’m concerned, this card should be a “no brainer” for a vast majority of consumers. The card has just a $49 annual fee (which is waived the first year), and offers three huge perks:

— You get an anniversary free night certificate every year, which is valid at any IHG property worldwide, pending availability; given IHG’s global footprint, that should justify the card for just about anyone
— You get IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you have the card, which gets you bonus points, room upgrades, etc.
— You get a 10% rebate on points redemptions, for up to 100,000 points back each year

The single biggest perk of the card is the annual free night certificate. While some other cards offer an annual free night certificate with category caps and lots of restrictions, the annual free night certificate on the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card can be redeemed at any IHG property.

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There’s A Panda In My Hotel Room!

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I’m staying at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan Airport, and my inner child and inner germaphobe are conflicted. When I walked into the room, the first thing I noticed was this cuddly guy on the couch:

I’ve never seen something like this before, so at first I assumed someone just left a massive stuffed panda there and somehow housekeeping forgot it, or perhaps I was assigned a room occupied by someone else. But then I saw that it was wearing a Novotel shirt, so clearly it was placed there by the hotel. What a cute, unique touch! I’ve never seen anything like this before.

But then the germaphobe side of my brain kicked in. I’m generally not a fan of hotels having a lot of decorative pillows, since they spend half their time on the floor, and (I assume) are rarely washed.

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Marriott & Starwood Announce 2017 Hotel Category Changes

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Historically, both Marriott and Starwood have made annual hotel category changes. While they don’t make changes to the number of points required for a free night in a particular category of hotel, they do change which hotels belongs to which category categories.

For some context on the 2016 changes (early last year):

— 797 Marriott hotels changed in price, with 560 going up in price and 237 going down in price
— 282 Starwood hotels changed in price, with 168 going up in price and 114 going down in price

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Review: Park Inn By Radisson Oslo Airport

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Given our relatively late arrival into Oslo, we decided to stay at the airport the first night. I’m sure we could have headed into the city, but with three tired kiddos this seemed like a good option. And the Oslo airport has two very convenient hotels — you can walk to both the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport and the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport.

We chose the Park Inn for this night because it was a bit cheaper. In reality, you can’t go wrong with either one.

Getting to the Park Inn is really easy since you just exit the terminal on the arrivals level and turn left. There are plenty of signs confirming that you are going the right way and you never even have to cross a street. If it’s winter, you might want to walk to the end of the arrivals level before exiting.

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What’s The Correct Etiquette When Hotel Housekeeping Is In Your Room?

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This isn’t intended to be a “slow news day” post, but rather it’s something I’m genuinely curious about. I’m someone who thinks a lot about travel etiquette, be it about hotels, flights, or something else. I’ve discussed this a lot on the blog, and I have another “topic” where I’m curious to hear what you guys think.

One of my favorite things about constantly being on the road is housekeeping — I don’t have to make my own bed, wash my towels, etc. At the same time, the lack of organization around housekeeping is often frustrating to me. Since I largely work from hotel rooms, I typically call housekeeping when I leave my room and ask for my room to be made, since I’m often not out of my hotel room all day.

This brings me to a weird habit of mine (apparently?) — when I see that housekeeping is servicing my room I turn around and don’t enter the room. Why?

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Does A Bora Bora Hotel Owe This Honeymooning Couple Anything?

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Reader Aleks emailed to ask for advice regarding an issue she faced on her honeymoon in Bora Bora. I feel horribly about this situation, and I’m not sure what to make of it. Here’s her email:

To make a long story short, my husband and I booked a honeymoon to Moorea and Bora Bora. On our way from Moorea to Bora Bora, we made a quick stop in the island of Huahine (this is one of those small shuttle flights that picks up/drops off passengers at various islands). The plane breaks down. We are told to vacate the plane and wait in the airport for further information. After 10 hours in this airport (4 walls, no food, no water), they finally tell us they are sending another plane for us.

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