Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On the Road to Phoenix for the Freddies

“I mean everyone has got to take a road trip, at least once in their lives.
Just you and some music.”

Claire Colburn in the Cameron Crowe movie Elizabethtown

The absence of posting to my blog this past week was a 1,700 mile desert road trip journey to hotel resorts in Palm Springs, Phoenix and Scottsdale, and Las Vegas. The last time I road tripped across the desert southwest was 1996. This was actually my first extended solo road trip through the desert.

Memories of desert life flooded back into my head over the days driving in my car. Memories resurfaced of a child riding in the backseat of the family car, counting the miles to the next cheap motel swimming pool as we annually traveled to or from my grandparents home in Southern California to or from another military base in Virginia or Oklahoma or New Mexico. I recall childhood curiosity of the pleasures one must experience if able to afford a hotel stay at the fancy Ramada Inns.

My desert memories include youthful hikes in the valleys and mountains of New Mexico where I lived for a year at the White Sands Missile Range while my father served his third tour of duty in Vietnam. The barren, jagged desert peaks of Arizona brought back memories of sleeping in cave-like crevices on the boulder rock outcrops of Pyramid Lake, Nevada in my teenage years.
There has always been a feeling deep inside my soul that I associate with the southwestern US desert. Joshua trees, Saguaro cacti, and the ability to see objects across vast distances of land along with an inability to quickly extinguish the desert phantoms of sun lighted mirages. The
starry nights of hot air and days of clarity where reality is too picture perfect for the eyes to believe.

The April desert flowers were prevalent on the cacti and the sounds of song birds were omnipresent throughout this roadtrip.

“All the mountains, all the deserts, go for miles and miles around.
We have driven for years now, baby
Just to get back to a place we had already found.”

“The Wildest Times of the World” - Vonda Shepard

Monday, April 21, 2008

Points Concierge - IHG Priority Club 20,000 Bonus Points

Holiday Inn Express, Cannery Row, Monterey

IHG 20, 000 bonus points promotion

Offer: Earn up to 20,000 Priority Club Rewards points or 5,000 airline miles.

Details: 2,000 bonus points or 500 airline miles after every 2nd eligible night.
Promotional period: eligible paid stays between May 12 and August 31, 2008 at any IHG hotel worldwide. Registration is required and no retroactive credit will be applied for stays prior to registration.
Earnings preference must be set for miles to earn airline miles.

This Priority Club promotion allows a member to earn on average 1,000 bonus points per night for IHG hotel stays through the summer months. Think of this as a $10/night rebate.

This offer is more favorable to travelers on vacation with multi-night stays because a 4-night stay will earn the 2,000 points bonus twice for 4,000 bonus points. An 8-night stay would earn 8,000 bonus points.

The 4,000 points bonus offer from Jan 14 – April 30, 2008 for every 2nd stay was not as good a bonus for extended hotel stays. The one-night stays were best for maximizing that bonus at the least cost.

Summer travel strategy: Priority Club members can earn points from this bonus, possibly save cash with IHG 2-for-1 offers, and also buy up to 20,000 points for $200 in a calendar year.

Points earned from the 20,000 points bonus opportunity and through purchases, if used for PointBreaks 5,000 points/night awards, may be redeemed for a substantially higher value in the range of $20 to $40 per 1,000 points.

The current set of PointBreaks awards are available through June 9, 2008. A week-long hotel stay in Brno, Czech Republic or Moscow, Russia for 35,000 Priority Club points is a high value opportunity that can be easily secured with points purchases and/or hotel stays. Moscow has the distinction of having the world's most expensive hotels for 2007 and this deal for the Crowne Plaza Moscow can save well over $1,000 on average hotel rates for a 3-night stay in Russia.

Expect a new batch of PointBreaks hotel offers for summer months to come out around late May-early June. In conjunction with IHG’s 2 nights for the Price of 1 offer for some European hotels, IHG and Priority Club are one of the best ways to cut the cost of European hotel travel. The new set of 2-for-1 hotels should be coming out soon as the current web offer expires on April 30.

Last summer there were incredible savings available with the IHG 2-for-1 offer and the PointBreaks hotels in Europe. These two offers from IHG and Priority Club can easily cut $1,000 off the hotel cost for a 10-day trip out of the country. PointBreaks have more than half the hotel offerings in the USA, Canada, and Mexico to provide some cost relief for USA summer excursions.

April -June 9, 2008
Europe PointBreaks
5,000 points/night

Belgium, Mechelen
Express by Holiday Inn Mechelen City Centre

Czech Republic, Brno
Holiday Inn Brno

France, Toulouse
Crowne Plaza Montauban Toulouse North

Germany, Baden-Baden
Express by Holiday Inn Baden Baden

Germany, Minden
Holiday Inn Minden

Germany, Zwickau
Holiday Inn Zwickau

Italy, Siracusa
Express by Holiday Inn Siracusa-North

Italy, Cosenza
Holiday Inn Cosenza

Italy, Rome-Pomezia
Holiday Inn

Netherlands, Eindhoven
Holiday Inn

Russia, Moscow
Crowne Plaza Moscow World Trade Centre

UK, Aylesbury
Holiday Inn Garden Court

UK, Hull
Express by Holiday Inn Hull City Centre

Points Concierge - Hilton HHonors

View of urban Buenos Aires, Argentina

Points Concierge Hilton HHonors

10,000 points bonus for Hilton brand stays in Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
2-night minimum stay required.
1 stay = 2,000 HHonors points bonus
2 stays = 3,000 HHonors points bonus
3 stays = 5,000 HHonors points bonus

Registration is required. Bonus is not valid for retroactive credit.
Eligible stays between May 1 – September 30, 2008

Earning the full benefits of this promotion requires 3 stays and at least 6 hotel nights. The value of 10,000 HHonors points is $100 (the cost to purchase points). This is certainly not a promotional bonus offer worthy of a special trip or a significantly higher price than other comparable properties. That said, it is a small token offer for travelers thinking upscale and considering Hilton.

The points bonus value is about a $10/night rebate after first stay, a $15/night rebate for second stay, and $25/night rebate on third stay.

Sample room rates:

Hilton Quito June 13-15, 2008
$109 nonrefundable rate with nearly $30 in taxes on top of nightly rate. An issue with most properties in Latin America is the high tax (generally over 20%).
(I stayed at the Hilton Quito in 2000 for the LatinPass mileage runs. Nice executive lounge and wonderful treatment as a Gold member back then. The hotel even sent me a birthday card in the mail from Quito in 2001.)

Hilton Sao Paulo, Brazil May 13-15, 2008
$152.15/night + tax = $325.15 for 2 night stay. (Tax is less than 10% for this hotel.)

Hilton Nassau
June 16-18, 2008
$164 nonrefundable/night or $179 refundable rate/night or $195 Breakfast rate for 2 nights with tax = $436.80

Participating HHonors properties:

Bahamas - British Colonial Hilton Nassau
Barbados - Hilton Barbados
Curacao – Hilton Curacao
Dominican Republic – Hilton Santo Domingo
Jamaica – Hilton Kingston
Puerto Rico – Hilton Ponce and Casino
Puerto Rico – Caribe Hilton San Juan
Trinidad – Hilton Trinidad
Tobago – Hilton Tobago Conference Center
Venezuela – Hilton Margarita Island

Central America

Costa Rica – Doubletree Resort Punta Arenas
Costa Rica – Hilton Resort Papagayo
El Salvador – Hilton Princess San Salvador
Honduras – Hilton Princess San Pedro Sula
Nicaragua – Hilton Princess Managua

South America

Argentina - Hilton Buenos Aires
Brazil – Hilton Belem
Brazil – Hilton Sao Paulo Morumbi
Colombia – Hilton Cartagena
Ecuador – Hilton Colon Guayaquil
Ecuador – Hilton Colon Quito

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Turning Hyatt Gold Passport into Diamond

Park Hyatt, Carmel Highlands Inn
Hyatt Gold Passport Category 5 hotel
18,000 points/free night

My Hyatt Gold Passport account reads Diamond membership as of today.

Getting my Gold Passport stamped required a little prodding from this loyalty traveler. Six hotel stays at full-service Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt hotels posted to my account within two to four days after checking out of the hotel. Nearly all seven hotel stays at Hyatt Place and Summerfield Suites required a full two weeks to post. A week ago, April 12, I sent 8 email credit requests for missing stays and bonus points through the link on the Hyatt Gold Passport member account page.

In fairness, Hyatt Gold Passport does have a statement on the member’s account detail webpage for “Past Stay or Bonus not credited? Please allow 2 weeks after check-out to request missing credit.”

When you file a request for missing stay credit, there is this statement
“Your account will be updated with the appropriate eligible credit within 2 weeks. Please allow up to 4 weeks to receive credit for stays outside the U.S. and Canada, at Hyatt Place, Hyatt Summerfield Suites, and our Hotel partners.”

My Gold Passport stay counter progressed steadily and rapidly during March. The stay counter hit 10 on March 25, 16 stays by March 30, and then was stuck on 18 from April 4 for a while, and then notched up to 20 when the March 28th stay posted. Technically, all my stays posted within two weeks except for Summerfield Suites Belmont on March 29 and the Hyatt Place Fremont on March 30.

I made a phone call to follow up on the emails of the week before. The rush for diamond membership is the closeness of my next Hyatt stay this week.

Then, the Hyatt Gold Passport phone representative spoke the dreaded words, “stay is ineligible for points”. He told me the Hyatt Place Fremont stay of March 30 was notated as ineligible for points. This is the stay from the Best Rate Guarantee night I wrote about in this post.

I duly pointed out the terms of the Best Rate Guarantee state “The number of Gold Passport points awarded to you if you are a Gold Passport member will be based on the room rate actually paid by you at checkout.”

The point which was uncertain to me is whether a Best Rate Guarantee room night actually counts as an eligible stay for credit. Technically, I didn’t see any statement in the Best Rate Guarantee terms regarding Stay or Night credit on a Best rate guarantee discounted rate. Hyatt Gold Passport awards points for Hawthorne Suites and AmeriSuites stays, however, stays at these Hyatt partner hotels are not eligible for elite qualification membership. I realized the Hyatt "Best Rate Guarantee" hotel stay may not necessarily be an “eligible” stay for Hyatt Gold Passport “Stays Count Double” promotion.

But, Gold Passport did count the "Best Rates Guarantee" $71 Hyatt Place stay as an eligible stay and the stay was doubled for the "Stays Count Double" promo.
And I am now Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond.

There is still a matter of a missing 1,000 points from the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Gold Passport Bonus Offer reservation.

And it looks like the “Stays Count Double” did not trigger the additional Platinum Extras awards for every 3rd stay. The counter for Platinum Extras awards is confusing because it starts after reaching Platinum membership level with 5 stays, which required 3 stays with “Stays Count Double”. My 13 actual stays only triggered 3 Platinum Extras Awards for my 6th and 9th stays (Platinum Extras Award for 3rd and 6th stay was good for 1,000 points each), and I received the third Platinum Extra award yesterday for my 12th stay (Platinum Extras Award for 9th stay good for 1,500 points). Although my Gold Passport Stay Counter reads 25, I have not received the higher value Platinum Extras awards at Stays 15, 18, (2,000 points) and 21 (Regency Club upgrade).

Friday, March 14, 2008 I checked into the Hyatt Place Fremont for my first Hyatt hotel stay of 2008. Five weeks later (and $1,500), as of Friday, April 18, 2008 my Diamond membership shows on my online account webpage. This coming week will be my first Hyatt stay as a Diamond member. Phoenix, here I come.

On a side note: Hyatt’s website is generally really slow compared to the other major hotel brands I spend time viewing. I need cool rims on my browser so I can at least be entertained watching the circles spin while waiting for Hyatt to load another webpage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Making Contact with Kimpton Hotels InTouch

Hotel Monaco, Denver lobby ceiling

Kimpton InTouch Loyalty Program

Kimpton Hotels is a boutique hotel chain with over 40 hotels in the USA and Canada. San Francisco (9 hotels) and Washington D.C. (7 hotels) are the best covered cities. The Hotel Monaco, Denver (Kimpton has 8 Hotel Monaco’s in the USA) was mentioned in a February blog post as the #1 rated hotel on TripAdvisor for Denver, Colorado (now it is ranked #3 on TripAdvisor 4-17-08). After touring several of the big chain hotels in downtown Denver, the Hotel Monaco, Denver property was a relaxing haven from the bustle of the big box hotels of Hyatt, Marriott, and Westin.
Kimpton Group is planning significant development expansion of boutique hotel properties over the next few years to the tune of $800 million.
InTouch is Kimpton Hotels' guest loyalty program.
Basic features are:
- A free hotel night is earned after every 7 eligible stays or 20 eligible nights (not required to be in a single calendar year). Free night credits are posted quarterly to member account.

- Inner Circle elite level status is earned after 15 eligible stays or 45 eligible nights in a calendar year. Benefits include complimentary upgrades and personalized in-room amenities for your hotel stay.

- A Year-end bonus award with a gift certificate value is earned based on total stays or nights in calendar year. Range from 20 stays = $50 to 45 stays = $800 value for Kimpton partner restaurants, spa services, or KimptonStyle catalog. 50 stays earns a $1,500 chef-hosted dinner or cocktail party at a Kimpton Hotel partner restaurant.

- Stays at 10 different Kimpton Hotels in a calendar year earns a complimentary 2-free nights “Kimpton Passport Reward”.

- On top of all these benefits listed, the Kimpton InTouch membership card looks nice.

TripAdvisor ranks Hotel Argonaut #7 of 238 San Francisco hotels. Hotel Palomar #25, Hotel Monaco San Francisco ranks #26, Prescott Hotel #36, Harbor Court Hotel #46, Serrano Hotel #54, Hotel Triton #84, and Sir Francis Drake #102 (TripAdvisor rankings are from 4-17-08).

Hotel Monaco, Portland, Oregon is rated #2 in popularity of 119 hotels ranked on TripAdvisor.

Hotel Marlowe is ranked # 1 of 16 hotels in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Hotel Palomar, Dallas is ranked # 1 of 168 hotels ranked on TripAdvisor.

The Muse New York is ranked #68 of 340 New York City hotels ranked on TripAdvisor.

Hotel Burnham, Chicago ranks #9 of 164 hotels ranked on TripAdvisor.

The popularity of Kimpton boutique hotels is apparent in the number of guest reviews and the generally high overall ranking of Kimpton Hotel properties in a variety of cities. Most of the Kimpton hotels have over 100 guest reviews listed on TripAdvisor. The hotel traveler has lots of data and anecdotes to look over when making a Kimpton hotel selection.

The small number of Kimpton hotels in select major US cities is the primary limitation of the Kimpton loyalty program. If Kimpton hotel stays fit into your travel lifestyle, then you should definitely consider getting InTouch Kimpton loyalty membership.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Write Stuff, For Free?

street artist work in Victoria, British Columbia (August 2007)

"Now me I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
I've got a black limousine
And two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls

And I play if you have the money
Or if you're a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free"

Joni Mitchell, "For Free" 1970


This past week I have been thinking about travel guides, online and offline.

Social project travel media through online websites like FlyerTalk, WikiTravel, TripAdvisor, TravelPod, World 66, lastminute.com, etc. provide readers with an abundance of travel information. Data-mining of Travel 2.0 websites is the frontier of online travel media consolidation, in my opinion.

I looked at articles this past week about Monterey on WikiTravel and TripAdvisor and felt the desire to edit away, but then I came back to the reality of needing to write for my own profit and not spend too much time writing for some company making internet advertising revenue on my work. I am all for social media and free travel information on the internet, but I am also trying to carve out a niche for sustainable employment in the world of travel writing. Social media travel writing changed from a hobby to my job and I need some compensation for the work I create everyday. I contribute to several of these social media projects, but I also find myself holding back to keep control of my major pieces of work. It is a paradox I haven't resolved.

The Lonely Planet scandal has created plenty of commentary from travel writers. The recently published book by a former Lonely Planet travel writer has sparked controversy about the value of travel guides in current times when so much information is available for free over the internet. It is no wonder that travel writers can develop material from the comfort of their own homes about places on the other side of the globe that can result in the kind of travel writing fraud that has hit Lonely Planet Guides this week.

And I wonder about the capitalism behind the social forum websites. Thomas Kohnstamm complained Lonely Planet expected work on an inadequate shoestring budget. WikiTravel and TripAdvisor generate content that is edited and repackaged for profit and these sites don’t pay their online writers anything at all. Where does this leave the future of travel writing and travel writer employment?

I have a masters degree in Labor Studies, but ironically the internet took off the year after I finished graduate school in 1994 and the internet has been the primary factor in globalization and worker displacement in the US labor force since that time. It is a brave new world and employment conditions have been profoundly affected by these electronic developments. Travel writing is a different occupation now than it was in the 90s.

One recurring comment among travel writers and travel readers is the value of one person’s opinion compared to dozens of people’s opinions. How do you evaluate a hotel when 20 comments on TripAdvisor are positive and 10 comments are negative? Travel writing based on data mining of the social forums on the web will have to reconcile these differing opinions and the derivative works will primarily be editorial work.

Economics of travel is my primary writing topic. I don’t consider myself to be a traditional travel writer. My pursuit is travel analysis. You know where you want to go and I know ways to book upscale hotels for less around the globe.

My role is similar to a radio dj, albeit a public broadcasting station since I program my own content. If you like the tunes I spin in my travel writing, then my work has value. And if you are not into corporate hotels and don’t mind living in the houses of strangers with B&Bs and room rentals, then there are probably better ways than hotel living to spend your money and make it go further when traveling.

The B&B lodging option was something I tried for 8 weeks in Ireland back in 97-98 and that was a memorable and pleasurable experience. Sitting at the kitchen table at midnight in the house of a Catholic woman in Buncrana, County Donegal, as her policeman husband was involved in quelling the rioting associated with the Protestant Marching Season around Derry was the kind of personal experience a traveler will be unlikely to have in a major hotel. And the economics of spending $120 night compared to $50/night for a B&B was a bad value for us as travelers in 1997. (I haven’t looked at Irish B&B prices in years and the rates I listed here were the norm back in 1998).

The security and independence of hotel living is a travel privilege I have come to enjoy over the past ten years and I find good and affordable (for me) value in traveling with upscale hotel stays and the benefits of loyalty programs.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Entertainment Card Rate and Priority Club web bookings

Most websites do not allow you to check for 50% off rack rate deals. Priority Club Rewards website has a reservations page allowing the user t check for Entertainment Card rates online. This is a valued feature since most hotels do not offer an Entertainment Card rate and the user is able to browse quickly through the IHG hotels offering an Entertainment Card rate and quickly compare to the AAA rate.

In general, my experience has been that 50% off rack rate deals do not provide a lower cost room rate than available through hotel website group rates like AAA or special offer rates. The terms usually require a phone reservation and a discount on the rack rate (the highest room rate for that category room).

An exception is the Entertainment Card discount rates available through online reservations at the Priority Club website. These hotel rates may be a good strategy for bringing the cost of a hotel room during weeknight stays back down to a reasonable level. In all cases where an Entertainment Card rate was found, the rate matched or was lower than the AAA rate. In the case of the InterContinental Buckhead hotel in Atlanta, the Entertinment Card rate came in at a whopping $224 per night savings over the AAA rate for the date checked.

The cost of an Entertainment Card membership is only $15 and your membership makes you eligible for the IHG Entertainment Card discount at any participating location in the USA.
Here are some examples of savings:

Hotel Reservation Date Checked: Wednesday, April 30 for 1 night stay.

New York, New York area
Crowne Plaza Secaucus Meadowlands, Secaucus, NJ
$135 Entertainment Card rate
$160 AAA rate
Entertainment Card rate saves $35 on AAA rate

Boston, MA area
Holiday Inn, Boston Logan Airport
$134 Entertainment Card rate
$162 AAA rate
Entertainment Card rate saves $28 on AAA rate

Atlanta, GA
InterContinental Buckhead
$195 King Deluxe (Entertainment Card rate)
$419 King Deluxe (AAA rate)
$275 Club Level (Entertainment Card rate)
$469 Club Level (AAA)
Entertainment Card rate saves $224 on AAA rate

Minneapolis, MN
Crowne Plaza Minneapolis North
$89 (Entertainment Card rate)
$119 (AAA rate)
Entertainment Card rate saves $30 on AAA rate

Dallas, TX
Crowne Plaza Market Center
$98 (Entertainment Card rate) Entertainment Card rate saves $28 on AAA rate
$126 (AAA rate)
Entertainment Card rate saves $28 on AAA rate

Sunday, April 13, 2008

2-for-1 Hotel Dining the Entertainment.com Way

Swiftwater Cafe, Hyatt Regency SFO
San Francisco Airport, Burlingame, CA

The Entertainment.com discount books are available at significant discounts these days. The membership year started November 1, 2008 and the Entertainment’08 edition has less than six months validity left. I picked up books for the San Francisco, San Jose, and Monterey/Santa Cruz regions for $15 each with free shipping last week.

San Francisco/San Mateo Counties Entertainment ’08 edition has at least 10 hotel restaurant dining opportunities and several other dining options in close proximity to major hotel locations in the San Francisco Bay area. These discounts are almost always valid for 2-for-1 on a lunch or dinner entree.

Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood hotel brands all have restaurants represented, however, there are no hotel restaurant offers from InterContinental Hotels Group in the editions I looked over. Dining earns hotel loyalty points in some programs (Starwood) even without an associated hotel stay.

So invite your spouse, business colleague, or date and do some hotel dining on the cheap (relative to normally overpriced hotel dining), courtesy of Entertainment.com 2-for-1 dining partners.
Different editions have different offers. The Monterey fine dining section has been significantly reduced over the past few years to less than one-third of the offers five years ago. Many of the dining restaurants in the Monterey/Santa Cruz edition are not even in the counties.

Entertainment.com ’08 San Francisco/San Mateo area Membership Book
Coupons for restaurants in or adjacent to hotels:

Downtown San Francisco
1a. Hilton San Francisco, Kiku of Tokyo $18
1b. Marrakech Moroccan Restaurant (next to Hilton SF hotel), $20

2. Grand Hyatt, San Francisco, Grandviews Restaurant, $32
Grandviews Restaurant – 36th floor dining with one of city’s best views of San Francisco
$32 value for a free lunch or dinner entrée with purchase of lunch or dinner entrée.

3. Hyatt Regency, San Francisco, (these restaurants are located in the Embarcadero shopping area adjacent to Hyatt regency hotel and are not affiliated with hotel).
3a. Gaylord Indian Restaurant (outside Hyatt) $18
3b. Tony Roma’s in Embarcadero Promenade level, $5 off $15, or $10 off $40 purchase, or up to $8.00 free appetizer/dessert with purchase of two entrees.

4. Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, The Compass Grill, $22

San Francisco Airport, SFO (Burlingame addresses, about 14 miles from downtown)

5. Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, Swiftwater Café $26

6. Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, Knuckles Sports Bar $16

7. Doubletree Hotel, SFO, San Francisco Airport, Burlingame $19

8. Sheraton Gateway SFO, San Francisco Airport, Burlingame, Windows on the Bay $18

San Mateo (8 miles south of SFO, San Francisco Airport, directly adjacent west of Highway 101)

9. Marriott San Mateo, California Grill, $19

Palo Alto (Stanford University) (19 miles south of San Francisco Airport)
Two Starwood Hotels are located across the street from Stanford University campus, adjacent to each other, and within walking distance of upscale Stanford Shopping Mall (less than 1 mile).

10. Westin Hotel Palo Alto, Soleil Restaurant, $27
2-for-1 lunch or dinner entrée

11. Sheraton Palo Alto, Poolside Grill $18

San Jose/Santa Clara Entertainment book
1. Westin Hotel Palo Alto, Soleil Restaurant, $27
2. Sheraton Palo Alto, Poolside Grill $18
3. Stanford Park Hotel, The Duck Club, Menlo Park $25
4. Biltmore Hotel Santa Clara, Montague’s Café, $14 (or $7 off single entrée)
5. Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, Swiftwater Café $26
6. Sheraton Gateway SFO, San Francisco Airport, Burlingame, Windows on the Bay $18

Monterey / Santa Cruz Entertainment Book

1. Monterey Marriott, Characters Sports Bar, $11
2. Portola Plaza Hotel, Monterey, Peter B’s Brewpub, $10
3. Hilton Scotts Valley, Café Max, $19
4. Biltmore Hotel Santa Clara, Montague’s Café, $14 (or $7 off single entrée)
5. Hilton San Francisco, Kiku of Tokyo $18
6. Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, The Compass Grill, $22
7. Doubletree Berkeley Marina, Berkeley, California The Bar Grille, $25
8. Harrah’s Reno, Café Napa, Reno, NV $19

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hotel Valencia - Santana Row "Jewel in the Silicon Valley"

Hotel Valencia, A Preferred Hotels and Resorts "I Prefer" loyalty program member hotel

Santana Row shopping district

I first became aware of the Santana Row high end shopping district of San Jose when the original buildings burned down in a huge fire just as the shopping street was soon to open in 2002. The street Santana Row reminds me of the shopping centers of the fashionable shopping centers of Las Vegas with the palm trees and Disneyesque facades. There is a Borders bookstore amid the Gucci and Burberry shops. The real pleasure of the street is the Hotel Valencia, a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts. and a participant in the "I Prefer" hotel loyalty program.

Hotel Valencia courtyard fountain

This hotel is urban boutique and chic. I could try to think of descriptors for the rooms, courtyard, bar, and public spaces, but their website is accurately descriptive in parts I reviewed and the hotel is impressive for an urban boutique hotel as may be seen in photos. This is the premier hotel in the San Jose area as far as I have seen in the Silicon Valley. I guess there is also the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto if you really seek a luxury hotel in Silicon Valley, and the Four Seasons is within walking distance of IKEA or a ride to Stanford Shopping Mall. Hotel Valencia is a comfortable hotel getaway in the middle of the city.

Even the reviews on TripAdvisor are mostly highly favorable of the Hotel Valencia experience.

View to west from 7th floor Cielo restaurant patio

5th floor Ayoma Spa. The pattern effect on the walls is created by metal grate covering ceiling lights and is featured on all room floors. The lighting design is so inexpensively clever.

Rooftop 5th floor swimming pool and hot tub overlooks Santana Row on the right and the hotel courtyard on the left.

Mood lighting in the VBar.

Hotel Valencia, Santana Row, San Jose, California
Member of "I Prefer" hotel loyalty program.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

HHonors Double Base Points for Southern California Embassy Suites

Embassy Suites, LAX North, Los Angeles

My conversation with the Hilton HHonors service center this morning made me think of the movie "The Interpreter" and a scene with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn.
"Tobin Keller: How do you feel about him?

Silvia Broome: I don't care for him.

Tobin Keller: Wouldn't mind if he were dead?

Silvia Broome: I wouldn't mind if he were gone.

Tobin Keller: Same thing.

Silvia Broome: No it isn't. If I interpreted gone as dead I'd be out of a job, if dead and gone were the same thing there'd be no UN.

Tobin Keller: Your profession is playing with words Ms. Broome.

Silvia Broome: I don't play with words.

Tobin Keller: You're doing it right now. "
from IMBD http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373926/quotes

A Hilton HHonors promotion has me wondering what is really meant by "double base points".
I am referring to the promotion at http://www.embassysuitessocal.com/specials.php.
The wording of the promotion follows and I bolded the wording I question:

"Double HHonors Promotion
Travel to Sunny Southern California and Earn Double HHonors Points! Come and enjoy all the attractions, shopping and dining Southern California has to offer and stay at one of sixteen Embassy Suites in the area! Hotel locations range from Ventura to San Diego and include spacious accommodations in a two-room suite, complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast for each registered guest and nightly Manager's Reception.* Plus, earn double Hilton HHonors Base points and work towards the HHonors rewards you want twice as fast - from free nights to once-in-a-lifetime vacation experiences! Click on your desired property below and make your reservations between now and December 31, 2008 to earn your rewards. Stay must include a Sunday night. "

I called up the HHonors service center and pointed out the wording shown here and the fact there are no terms and conditions associated with this offer.

The interpretation of the wording "double base points" is critical for elite status consideration.

HHonors Gold is earned with 60,000 base points which is equivalent to $6,000 in eligible hotel charges (10 base points earned per eligible $ spent). Double base points would mean $3,000, rather than $6,000 in eligible spending would earn 60,000 base points.

HHonors Diamond would be earned with $5,000 in spending compared to $10,000 to earn 100,000 base points.

Interpreting double base points in this way is a strategy for attaining elite status on spending rather than stays or nights.

I called Hilton HHonors Service Center and the representative stated that double base points means double base points for elite status qualification. I even pointed out the terms and conditions from another promotion offering "Double Base Points". Yesterday, I received the Conrad Hotels email newsletter and here are the "Terms and Conditions for the Conrad Istanbul and a double base points promotion:

"Double Base points" means you will receive a bonus equal to the number of Base points earned during a stay. Bonus points earned on Base points do not count toward VIP tier qualification.

The HHonors customer service representative stated since the Embassy Suites offer does not have terms and conditions, then the double elite points do count for VIP tier qualification.

Past Case Examples of Mis-Interpretation:
United Airlines 500% frequent flyer miles 2004 Promotion

It is not uncommon for an airline or hotel loyalty program to change the terms or clarify terms after a promotion has been released. Case in point was the 2004 United promotion offering triple bonus miles. The original terms stated triple miles would be earned in addition to regular base miles and elite bonuses. The terms were changed before the promotion actually started.

There was an uproar from the members on FlyerTalk. A FlyerTalk campaign to honor the original terms for people who signed up while those terms were published was ultimately successful. As a United Mileage Plus 1K member I earned 5x miles from that promotion to earn over 90,000 miles on a single $543 ticket from California to Bangkok. Two weeks after Bangkok I redeemed 80,000 United miles for a Business Class ticket to Europe.

Maybe this "double base points" is a strategy for cheaper elite, but I wouldn't bank on a favorable interpretation of the terms by HHonors. Loyalty Traveler reads the promotion as currently displayed on the website as meaning double base points that should count for VIP elite status.

I have serious doubts HHonors will give double base points for VIP elite qualification.
I will have to wait for written clarification from HHonors or evidence from qualifying stays to see how the promotion bonus is credited.

Double points is still a good deal and provides a high added value (about a 25% rebate in potential value of points earned) for a HHonors members collecting Points & Points.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Traveling to Europe? Look for IHG 2-for-1 rates.

Priority Club has one of the best promotions available for travel in Europe with the Stay 2 nights for the Price of 1 Night. This promotion takes rates down to as low as $50/night for some locations and even 5-star properties like the InterContinental Carlton in Cannes can be under $200/night using this promotion.

There is a discussion on FlyerTalk on whether these rates earn points or not. It seems that some members always get points and some members need to request points for the 2-for-1 stay, and some members are refused points for the 2-for-1 stay.

No Points Given for “2 Nights for the Price of 1” is a good FlyerTalk thread to read regarding IHG 2-for-1 promotional rates in Europe. Regardless of the points situation , this 2-for-1 offer has some incredible deals for hotels in Europe. There are some InterContinental hotels participating in this offer.

One of the more interesting FlyerTalk posts in this thread states that back-to-back 2-for-1 reservations at the same hotel have been honored for an extended discount stay.

Diners Club Rewards for Extending Loyalty Accounts

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

I am a fan of Diners Club for using Club Rewards points to keep airline and hotel accounts active. Case in point is my wife's Air Canada Aeroplan account. The Aeroplan website had a notification warning my wife that her miles would be deleted on April 13 if there was no account activity. She also received an email warning. This is good customer service to give advance warning before simply deleting miles.

April 2007 we had a flight on United to Las Vegas and inserted her Aeroplan number in the reservation. Now, a year later, I needed to get some account activity and I transferred 1,000 Diners Club Rewards (the minimum transfer allowed) to 1,000 Aeroplan miles.

I made the transfer on April 2, 2008 and hoped the miles would register in the Aeroplan account before April 13. I decided to check today to see if the transaction had gone through. The website stated 2-6 weeks and my wife has too many miles to let expire. My fall back plan was simply to buy Aeroplan miles.

The Diners Club transaction posted 1,000 Aeroplan miles on April 4, 2008. The process was completed in 48 hours.

I use my Diners Club primarily to top off frequent flyer accounts for premium awards. There is a $0.95 charge per 1,000 points transfer. It is a small price to pay when 20,000 points exchanged for 20,000 miles can mean the difference between an economy award flight and a business class award flight (although the differences between economy and business or business and first tend to be more in the 40,000 mile range these days for most airlines).

Starwood American Express is also good for airline transfers, however, I find the Starpoints much more valuable as hotel points than airline miles, even with the 25% bonus on transfers of 20,000 Starpoints.

I use Starpoints for extending the miles in frequent flier accounts where I have had no activity. I have Mexicana miles I have been holding since 2002 (how I wish I had redeemed this two years ago when the redemption options would have allowed a First Class ticket to most anywhere in the world from the USA for 100,000 miles) and each year I simply transfer 10 or 100 Starpoints to Mexicana to extend the mileage expiration.

SPG Platinum members have no minimum transfer requirement for Starpoints to airline miles. Gold members have a 1,500 Starpoints minimum transfer and non-elite members have a 2,500 Starpoints minimum transfer. That is why I like the Diners Club card since 1,000 Diners Club points to airline miles is a transfer option I favor over spending 2,500 Starpoints from my wife's account.

We can better use 2,500 Starpoints for a Cash and Points hotel room or a free night at a category 2 hotel on the weekend. (Technically, 3,000 points for SPG Category 2 weekend award night, but as a platinum member using an award booked with my wife's points, I get 500 points back as a platinum amenity and therefore 2,500 points for a weekend stay.)

The Diner's Club card is expensive at $95/year, however, for loyalty travelers the Club Rewards program offers many hotel reward options using Club Rewards points that are not available with SPG AmEx (although a regular American Express Membership Rewards card does have hotel transfer options).

Diners Club is a useful card to have for the exchange options of points into airline miles or hotel points.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Starwood Family Fun Rates

St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort,
a Starwood Family Fun Rate participating property.

Starwood has made a concerted effort to provide a kids-oriented resort package for vacationing families with the introduction of Family Fun Rates. The program is starting in 29 Starwood Resorts in the US, Canada, and Caribbean, and anticipated to expand to other properties globally. The centerpiece of the program is the "Fun Team" and a Director of Fun at participating properties.

The Family Fun Rate includes a $100 daily resort credit that can be used for kids activities, spa, or recreational activities. The resort credit is not valid for food purchases which is a huge limitation in my opinion.

The rates I checked were all at least $100/night more than best available rate. The Westin Kierland Resort was $178/day more for the Family Fun Rate than the AAA rate for dates I checked in April with AAA rate at $335.20 ($376.33 after tax) and the Family Fun Rate at $494 ($554.61 after tax).

The Westin Maui Resort provides a better value.
Westin Maui Resort 7/8/2008-7/14/2008 (6 nights)
$455/night best available rate; $555 Family Fun Rate

The discounted meals, free drinks for kids poolside, and entertainment activities for children may make this a slight savings for some families.

Amenities included in Family Fun Special include:
$100 per day resort credit to be used on kids activities, spa, or recreational activities. (Appears this credit can't be used for food purchases.)
Kids 5 and under eat free from kids menu items.
Kids 6-12 receive 50% off regular menu items with purchase of adult meal. Two kids eligible per paying adult per room.
Age appropriate amenity for each child in the room.
Souvenir cup for unlimited juice, milk, soft drinks (T&C specifically states poolside bar).
Complimentary crib or roll-away bed, if needed.
Single guaranteed connecting rooms or suite.
Orientation with Fun Team member.
Evening family or kid-centered counselor-led activity on hotel property.
Separate adult and kids seating areas in main dining restaurant with child supervision provided at least 3 nights a week.

Terms & Conditions from Starwood:
"The offer also includes free kids meal from the kids menu with purchase of adult meal at select restaurants (one child 12 years old and younger per paying adult; up to two children) per room per day; one welcome amenity per child per stay; a kid’s cup that can be filled up with juice, milk and soft drinks for free at the pool bar; complimentary rollaway subject to availability; evening ritual (varies by property) separate kids and adult seating area (kids area is supervised) at dinner in the main dinning room (offered at least 3 times a week); and guaranteed connecting single rooms or suites."

Maximum Stay is 14 nights.

Find out more about this package: http://www.familyfunspecials.com/

Hyatt Diamond elite with a little R&R on the side

Club Regency, Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero
San Francisco

I have qualified for Hyatt Diamond Status

This past weekend I completed my 25th eligible stay for Diamond elite Hyatt Gold Passport status. Plus, I saw Bruce Springsteen put on another high energy show Saturday night in San Jose (tickets I won from KFOG 104.5 driving home from my first Hyatt stay of 2008 on March 14th.) With the luck of the drive home to Monterey, I won another radio call-in and picked up two free tickets for Crowded House at the Fillmore San Francisco in May. An added benefit of my Hyatt hotel runs is $400 in concert tickets for a couple of phone call-ins while driving on the freeway.

And I have already booked my first Hyatt Gold Passport free stay award with a $302 value on a Category-2/8,000 points free night at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix later this month.

My Hyatt Diamond elite hotel run took advantage of the “Stays Count Double" promotion that ran from January 1-March 31, 2008.

The research question I have posed is “What added value to hotel stays can be expected based on Hyatt Gold Passport diamond elite membership?”

Hypothesis: The Hyatt Gold Passport elite diamond member can expect to receive about $100 in added value per night stayed with Hyatt through benefits of diamond membership including bonus points and complimentary hotel room upgrades and amenities.

Assumption: Added value will primarily be through stays at full-service Hyatt hotels. Lesser added value will result for stays at Hyatt Place and Summerfield Suites locations (I base this hypothesis on the data and my hotel experiences over several years with Hilton HHonors Diamond and Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum membership.)

The simple design of the experiment is using myself as a sample guest starting with no status in Hyatt Gold Passport. I registered for the “Stays Count Double” promotion and booked my first stay of 2008 on March 14th. The 12th hotel stay on March 30 was the last eligible hotel stay I completed for “Stays Count Double” and I finished the promotion with 24 hotel stays. My 25th and diamond elite qualifying stay occurred April 5, 2008. My diamond membership elite status will last through February 2010. I have a minimum stay objective of 20 Hyatt stays by February 2010, with the likely possibility of having 50 to 80 nights at Hyatt during that time period.

Research data: The research plan is to tabulate the cost of attaining Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond elite status with “Stays Count Double” and compare to the added value received for my Hyatt hotel stays. I will have the benefits of Diamond status from April 2008 through February 2010.

Hyatt Diamond cost: $1,345 + 14% tax
(taxes ranged from 10% to 15% depending on location) =
$1,533 after taxes for 13 stays or about $118 total per Hyatt hotel stay.

Friday, March 14 Hyatt Place Fremont $71 (Stay 1 = 2)
Sunday, March 16 Hyatt Place Fremont $89 (Stay 2 = 4)
Wednesday, March 19 Hyatt Regency San Francisco $143.10 (Stay 3 = 6)
Thursday, March 20 Grand Hyatt San Francisco $152.10 (Stay 4 = 8)
Friday, March 21 Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport $89.00 (Stay 5 = 10)
Saturday, March 22 Hyatt Regency Santa Clara $89.00 (Stay 6 = 12)
Sunday, March 23 Hyatt Place Fremont $89.00 (Stay 7 = 14)
Wednesday, March 26 Hyatt Regency Vineyard Creek, $125.00 (Stay 8 = 16) Santa Rosa
Thursday, March 27 Hyatt Regency San Francisco $179.00 (Stay 9 = 18)
Friday, March 28 Hyatt Place Fremont $71.00 (Stay 10 = 20)
Saturday, March 29 Summerfield Suites Belmont $98.00 (Stay 11 = 22)
Sunday, March 30 Hyatt Place Fremont $79.00 (Stay 12 = 24)
Saturday, April 5 Hyatt Place Fremont $71.00 (Stay 25)

(Stay 13 on April 5, after the end of the “Stays Count Double” promotion was my 25th and Diamond elite qualifying stay with Hyatt Gold Passport. Future stays will bring a 30% points bonus and complimentary upgrade to Regency Club room when staying at participating Hyatt properties.)

Total cost = $1,345 in base room charges +14% tax = $1,533 for Hyatt Diamond membership

Hotel Points earned: 8,288 points earned for base room charges and platinum elite bonus.

Booking Bonuses: 5,000 bonus points pending for booking reservations using bonus points links on Hyatt Gold Passport website. (Grand Hyatt San Francisco 2,000 points/stay; Hyatt Regency San Francisco 1,000 points x 2 stays; Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport 1,000 points/stay).

Hyatt Platinum Extras awards are earned for every third stay. I have received two Platinum Extras awards to date and I redeemed these for 1,000 bonus points each. Platinum Extras Award already posted to my account for Stays 3 and 6. I anticipate receiving at least one more Platinum Extras award for Stay 9 that I can redeem for 1,500 points. I don’t know how Gold Passport will calculate the Platinum Extras awards for “Stays Count Double”. I may also receive a Platinum Extras award for Stay 12 (1,500 points), Stays 15 and 18 (2,000 points each), and Stays 21 and 24 (2,500 points).

I may receive as many as 15,500 points to my account through Platinum Extras awards.

Total Points Earned: 8,288 Hotel stay points, + 5,000 Gold Passport Hotel Bonus promotion points + 15,500 Platinum Extras award points (pending) = 28,788 points.

28,788 points are worth about $575 for the Gold Passport points at 2 cents/point base value when purchased.

I have already made a room reservation for the Hyatt Regency Phoenix for 8,000 points ($269 AAA rate was lowest available + 12.5% tax = $302) with an added value of $302 for a basic room. This value will increase if I receive some type of diamond membership amenity at the hotel. My award stay for the Hyatt Phoenix has a value of $302/8,000 points = 3.78 cents/point.

If I can use the other points for similar high value hotel stays, the potential value of the 28,788 points approaches $1,100.

Total points earning of about 29,000 points for my 13 Hyatt stays. Carefully selected redemption opportunities can make these 29,000 points worth around $1,000. And complimentary upgrades on future stays should quickly recoup my investment for Hyatt Gold Passport diamond status.

Loyalty Traveler knows and shows loyalty has privileges.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Have you ever been experienced? I Have!

Sheraton Libertador, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Presidential Suite stay, June 2007

An article I read earlier this week keeps coming back to my thoughts. “Travel Editors Gather to Rap about the issues du jour.” appeared on http://www.travelweekly.com/ April 1, 2008.

The editors were asked about how the economy will impact travel. Erik Torkells, editor, Budget Travel stated something I keep remembering:
“There will always be people who want to continue to spend money, and if travel's their No. 1 priority, they will continue to do it. And there will always be people who want a deal, and an incredible part of the experience for them is finding that deal. People tend to do what they do unless they absolutely can't.”

Last week I was hanging out in San Francisco. I woke up in my lovely hotel room at the Hyatt Regency and read the paper. I read about an old man who was beaten to death around Mission and Fifth Street the day before. The murder happened by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper building, just around the corner from the new InterContinental San Francisco hotel.

When I made the comment in my blog a couple of weeks ago about the InterContinental pushing the slum boundary another block south and west, I was not intending to make a slur against the InterContinental. The fact is the SoMa (South of Market Street) district is a scary place if you wander into the wrong streets. I approached the new InterContinental hotel coming from Sixth Street and Howard and I had to walk the gauntlet at 9am in the morning around hundreds of homeless, some mentally ill, some drunk, some sleeping, some bathing on the curb, but I wasn’t bothered by anyone.

A couple of years ago, I exited a restaurant at midnight across the street from the W Hotel San Francisco, and witnessed a couple of street people harassing tourists in a threatening manner. I was glad the hotel entrance was so close.

Last summer, outside the Westin Seattle, a crazy man threatened my wife and I with a large piece of lumber on his shoulder if we didn't give him $5. We ran into the street and took our chances with cars rather than risk being clobbered by a nutcase an hour before embarking on a cruise. And this was at noon time on a sunny Saturday.

Westin Seattle

A luxury hotel in the slums is all fine as long as you stay in the hotel. To me it is like being in a Caribbean or South American hotel where the world is kept outside and inside luxury abounds. I’d rather be in the nicer parts of San Francisco and for me that means Union Square (Grand Hyatt, Westin St. Francis, JW Marriott), the Financial District (Hilton Financial District, Le Meridien), or Nob Hill (InterContinental Mark Hopkins, Renaissance Stanford Court, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton). Fisherman’s Wharf hotels are in a highly touristed area, but unless the price is lower at Fisherman’s Wharf (which it usually isn’t) than downtown, I would opt for the larger downtown hotels. It only takes 15 to 20 minutes by cheap public transportation ($1.50) to reach Fisherman’s Wharf.

Many of the new luxury hotels in San Francisco are on Market Street (Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton Residences) or South of Market (Westin Market, W Hotel, St. Regis, Marriott, InterContinental San Francisco) and it will take some time for this area to develop into a safer location.

Heidi Mitchell, editor of Town & Country Travel, commented that the advantage of travel writers is their experience in having a large inventory of hotel experiences to enable valid comparisons between one hotel brand and another and one location in a city compared to another.

My hotel comments in reviews and blog posts are based on having stayed about 500+ hotel nights over the past ten years with hotels in the major corporate chains in locations around Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Asia, Canada, and the USA. It is not a lot compared to many road warriors, however, as a leisure traveler it is a solid foundation for making hotel comparisons.

And I take travel seriously, even if I don’t take myself and my writing too seriously at times.
“Travel is the frivolous part of serious lives, and the serious part of frivolous ones.”
Anne Sophie Switchine

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Marriott Megabonus offers 5,000 points for two stays

Marriott San Francisco

The Marriott Megabonus is now entering the last half of the three month promotional opportunity to earn 5,000 bonus Marriott Rewards points after every other stay, beginning with the second stay.

Members can earn 25,000 Marriott Rewards points with 10 stays between February 15 and May 15. Registration for this promotion is required and can be linked from the Marriott Rewards homepage.

The value of this promotion is the low threshold for earning points at only 2 stays for a 5,000 point bonus. 5,000 points can generally be redeemed for at least $50 in value. I think of this promotion as an additional $25 added value per stay. The low cost of many Marriott brand hotels like Courtyard and Fairfield Inn at less than $100 in many locations makes this equivalent to a 25% or larger rebate per hotel stay.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Value of Hyatt Stay Certificates

After more than two weeks of living, breathing, staying, and eating Hyatt, I was wanting to write about something else for a change. But I feel compelled to write another post about Hyatt. The most interesting hotel stay cost-cutting strategy on my mind today is the Hyatt Stay Certificate program.

The United e-fares weekly email yesterday had an advertisement for the Mileage Plus VISA card with an offer for 21,000 bonus miles and a free Hyatt stay certificate after charging $250 on your new card.

Visions of a luxury Hyatt hotel night in some exotic foreign city motivated me to investigate the details of this offer.

Frequent guests need to add Hyatt Stay certificates to the list of strategies for reducing the cost of hotel stays. There are some bargains to be had with Hyatt Stay certificates. The United Mileage Plus email promptedme to research and analyze Hyatt Stay Certificates.

First, I will continue with a quick analysis of the Hyatt stay portion of the United Mileage Plus VISA offer. The fine print of the offer states the cardholder will receive a Hyatt Stay Certificate good for one night at a Choice selection hotel after spending $250 on the card.

What is a Hyatt Stay Certificate?

A Hyatt Stay Certificate is a prepaid hotel night certificate covering room and taxes for the length of the stay designated on the certificate.

Hyatt Stay Certificates are available in 7 types. There are 5 levels of a nightly stay certificate and 2 levels of weekend multi-night stay certificates (weekend certificates are only accepted in USA and Canada at most Hyatt Hotels).

Most Hyatt hotels participate in the program and each Hyatt hotel is designated as accepting a specific minimum level of certificate, or any certificate in a more expensive level.

Nightly stay certificates come in 5 price levels:

Classic $99
Choice $135
Premier $165
Elite $249
Inspire $319

The United Mileage Plus Visa card offer will provide a Hyatt Stay Certificate-Choice Category free night. What is the value of a Choice Hyatt Stay certificate? About half of all Hyatt hotels worldwide will accept this level certificate for a free night.

The Hyatt Regency Monterey will accept Stay certificates in Choice level and above. The Hyatt Stay Choice certificate would have a value of $280 if used on July 21, 2008 for the Monterey Hyatt Regency (4-2-08 Hyatt reservationist found 7-21-08 available after two other dates in July and August were not available using a Hyatt Stay Certificate. Room rate $279/night + $11 resort fee). That is quite a valuable bonus on top of the 21,000 Mileage Plus frequent flier miles.

The limitations of Hyatt Stay Choice level certificates are only about half of the Hyatt Hotels in the world accept the Hyatt Stay Choice level certificate. The other half require a higher priced level Hyatt Stay certificate.

Other points to remember about Hyatt Stay Certificates:
- Hyatt Stay certificates are not valid at Hyatt Place or Summerfield Suites.
- There are only a handful of Hyatt hotels worldwide that do not accept Hyatt Stay certificates which improves their value.
- Hyatt Gold Passport points and stay credit are not earned for Hyatt Stay certificate hotel stays.
- Upgrade certificates can't be used in conjunction with a Hyatt Stay certificate.
- Certificate is only good for a single stay. Imagine you buy a three night Premier Hyatt Stay Certificate and then you decide you can only make a two night stay. Your 3-night certificate can be used for a 2-night stay, but you lose the value of the third night.
- You can use a higher-priced Stay Certificate for a hotel that accepts lower priced certificates, but you don't get any credit for the higher cost certificate. Assume you buy a 3-night Elite certificate because you had planned to use it in London and then cancel that trip. Your trip to Monterey could be booked with a Choice Hyatt Stay certificate at $135/night, but you are afraid the Elite certificate might expire before your next trip so you decide to use it for the Monterey Hyatt. Even though you paid $249 night for an Elite Hyatt Stay certificate and you may still be saving money on the cost of the hotel stay, you do not get any credit for the $114 extra your Elite certificate cost compared to the Choice certificate you could have used to book the Monterey Hyatt room.

USA/Americas, 129 hotels

44 accept Classic Hyatt Stay certificates (or higher)

34 accept Choice Hyatt Stay certificates (or higher)

21 accept Premier Hyatt Stay Certificates (or higher)

20 accept Elite Hyatt Stay Certificates (or higher)

8 accept Inspire Hyatt Stay Certificates

2 hotels, Hyatt Regency New Orleans and Hotel Victor, Miami do not accept Hyatt Stay Certificates.

Europe/Middle East/Africa region has 34 Hyatt properties.

Of these hotels, there are no properties that accept the Classic level Hyatt Stay certificate.

7 properties accept Choice level Hyatt Stay certificates.
16 hotels accept the Premier level.
4 require the Elite level,
2 accept the Inspire level (Paris, Dubai), and
5 hotels do not accept Hyatt Stay certificates.

Asia/Pacific 51 Hyatt Properties

14 accept Classic Hyatt Stay certificates (or higher)
5 accept Choice Hyatt Stay certificates (or higher)
8 accept Premier Hyatt Stay Certificates (or higher)
17 accept Elite Hyatt Stay Certificates (or higher)
7 accept Inspire Hyatt Stay Certificates

214 Hyatt hotels worldwide

(Hyatt Stay certificates are not valid for Hyatt Place or Hyatt Summerfield Suites)
Of 214 Hyatt Hotels worldwide
17 hotels only accept Inspire certificates (7.9%)
41 hotels accept Elite certificates (19.2%)
45 hotels accept Premier certificates (21.0%)
46 hotels accept Choice certificates (21.5%)
58 accept Classic level (27.1%)
7 hotels do not accept Hyatt Stay certificates (3.3%)

Classic level stay certificate ($99) good for 58 of 214 Hyatt hotels
Choice level stay certificate ($135) good for 104 of 214 Hyatt hotels
Premier level stay certificate ($165) good for 149 of 214 Hyatt hotels
Elite level stay certificate ($249) good for 190 of 214 Hyatt hotels
Inspire level stay certificate ($319) good for 207 of 214 Hyatt hotels

Example savings #1:
Hyatt Regency Philippines May 15, 2008 $140 + 23.5% tax and fees = $172.90/night and this stay is only $99/night for a Classic Hyatt Stay Certificate.
Savings using Hyatt Stay certificate = $74/night

Example Savings #2:
Hyatt Regency London, The Churchill
May 15, 2008
280GBP + 17.5% tax = $658/night

Elite level Hyatt stay certificate is $249/night.
Savings using Hyatt Stay certificate = $409/night

Example Savings # 3
Hyatt Regency Monterey
July 21, 2008
$279/night compared to $135 night using Choice Hyatt Stay certificate.
Savings using Hyatt Stay certificate = $144/night

London on the Cheap

The Churchill, Hyatt Regency, London was available for a Hyatt Stay Elite-level certificate 7-night stay at the cost of $249/night. $1,743 for a 7-night hotel stay when I checked today.

What would it cost to book this hotel through a regular paid reservation for the same period?
1,815 GBP + 17.5% tax = $4,265 for a 7-night paid stay at the Churchill.

Remember that no Hyatt Gold Passport points are earned on a Hyatt Stay certificate hotel stay. For a savings of $2,522 by using the Elite Hyatt Stay certificate, I think most of us would be willing to forego the points for a 7-night stay in London. Get your ducks in a row, and with a little bit of luck and availability, the Hyatt Stay certificate option may have you flying off to a new land at remarkable savings for your hotel stay.

Participating hotels and details of the Hyatt Gift Cards and Certificates program can be found at https://www.certificates.hyatt.com/