Archive for category holiday inn

Paris Trip Report, Part 3: Staying in Paris


We started our stay at Holiday Inn Paris Marne La Vallee rooms x01 and x33. My wife and I were in room x01, whereas my mother and my two kids were in room x33. Here are some pictures of x01 and the view from there:

Room x01 was substantially smaller than room x33 and was clearly designed for a single occupant (though there were two of us sharing the room). There were no outlets near mirrors, the bed took up almost all of the room’s floor space and things were cramped. However, it was not the smallest room I’ve had in Europe, and we were really only basing from it, so I was going to be okay with it. That is, I was going to be okay with it until the first night didn’t go so well. You see, that room is the nearest to the elevator, and (strangely) a stand-up shoe polisher in the hallway. There was constant elevator noise all night long, and everyone that walked by that shoe polisher had to try it out. We didn’t get much sleep. The next afternoon (we waited until the front-desk clerk that checked us in was back since she was very nice), we asked to switch rooms and were immediately accommodated. We picked up our things and headed to room x36 which was larger, had a better view, and was and much further from the elevator and shoe polisher!

The hotel was a great value. It is (now, after a recent refit) very modern, with updated lobby and bar area. And not only are the rooms accommodating (after our move), but breakfast was included, and the staff was great all around.

 

In addition, the proximity to shopping (there is a commercial center—including a great mall selection, a grocery store, and a nearby fruit stand), and to RER A is very convenient. In fact, the train station is maybe a 2 minute walk that doesn’t even cross any streets! From that train station, it is a 10-minute ride to hub stations that can get you anywhere in Paris in 5-10 minutes. So, really, the hotel is about a 15-20 minute train ride from wherever you want to be (with typically only 1 change of train).

After a fantastic, negative event-free, comfortable 8-night stay, we headed down to check out. Upon checkout, the agent informed us that our free breakfast wasn’t supposed to be free since we were staying on points for 12 of our 16 room-nights (honestly, I was amazed when the first agent told me it was included, but I wasn’t going to complain!). When I informed her that the original agent had indicated that breakfast was free, she removed the breakfast charges without any fuss. This was fantastic customer service and I was very pleased with every aspect of this stay. If I return to Paris, I will seriously consider staying at the Holiday Inn Paris Marne La Vallee again.

A few quick tips if you plan to stay here. Get a room with an even number. This puts you onto a side of the hotel with a much improved view (see pictures below compared to above). Also, get a room with a number greater than about x14. This should put you far enough from the elevator and shoe polisher to be able to get a good night’s sleep!

Next up: Getting Home. Then, the series will conclude with probably the most important post—Tips for vacationing in Paris!

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Paris Trip Report, Part 2: Miami to Paris


We left the Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport later in the afternoon and headed to MIA for our 7:40pm flight to MAD in time to catch a quick bite at the Admiral’s Club. The MIA Admiral’s Club is pretty nice with a kids’ play area, an interesting design with several rounded corridors and lots of artwork on display.

After relaxing for a little while, we boarded an Airbus A340-300 for IB 6118, which departed around 8pm bound for MAD and got some sleep during the 8.5-hour flight. Upon arrival at MAD, we picked up our bags and headed through passport control where the kids got their first stamps. It was a pretty big moment for them and, honestly, for me, too! Our layover was only about two hours, so we made our way to our gate to see how much time we would have before boarding. When we got to the gate, it was ominously empty and we were greeted by an agent who said “Paris? Allons-y!” So, needless to say, there wasn’t much exploring time. However, I did snap a couple of shots of the airport.

We trotted down the jet way and boarded an Airbus A321 for IB 3406 and a 1.5-hour flight bound for ORY. For this segment, four of us were in main cabin and my wife was in business class. Needless to say, she had a better food experience! Main cabin had snacks for sale and a soft-drink service whereas she had 3 courses of actual food and wine. Of course, her ticket was 60,000 miles and the rest of the tickets were only 40,000 each, so for 20,000 miles it had better have been some pretty good food since that was the only business segment she got! Incidentally, booking her in business class was the only way to get availability—this flight only had 4 award seats in coach despite calling at least weekly for a few months to check (I also checked the other segments to see if we could get her into business more often, but there was also no availability there… ever).

So, after a crazy RDU-DCA-MIA (overnight)-MAD-ORY routing, we were finally in Paris! We hopped into an Iberia shuttle and headed to our home for the next 9 days—the Holiday Inn Paris Marne La Vallee. I will pick up the next installment with an overview of the hotel and some insights into getting around town. The fourth entry will cover our trip home and the series will conclude with some tips about vacationing in Paris with your family—what to see, what to avoid, and how to save some Euros!

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Priority Club PointBreak List Today = Unexpected Score!


Priorty Club has an outstanding deal on select hotels that are updated each quarter. Instead of the typical rates for those hotels (often 25,000 points), the rate for a free night is, instead, 5,000 points. I took advantage of this offer at the Crowne Plaza Prague back in September and it was astounding the value that I could get for my 5,000 points (which, to put it into perspective, can be bought for as little as $30 or obtained free by entering 534 Coke lid codes at MyCokeRewards.com and redeeming them for PC points).

I saw on MommyPoints that the updated list was posted today and, lo and behold, I’m able to take advantage again! I have an upcoming stay at the Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport that I booked for 15,000 points + $60 (or 25,000 points). I called Priority Club today and they cancelled my reservation and replaced it with a 5,000 point reservation for a savings of 20,000 points. The phone call had a pretty lengthy hold time given the posting of the PointBreak list today (about 30 minutes total for the phone call), but that’s completely worth 20,000 points to me.

Incidentally, I learned an interesting lesson during my stay at the Crowne Plaza Prague. As I’m sure you’re aware, Priority Club does not provide elite benefits on rewards stays–even for Platinum elites like me. When I was booking this stay, I was told that there was no availability for the first night (well, for one of the rooms–I needed 2). So, I used my Platinum elite status to force availability which required me to pay for one room that first night, but made the property an option for my stay. The best side effect of this was that all of my Platinum elite benefits (upgrade to executive level, bonus points, etc.) now applied to both rooms. This turned out to be a great windfall. Not only did I get the 5,000 point rate, I got all of my benefits!

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Quick/Free 1,000 Priority Club Points for Watching a 90-Second Video


My mother recently stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and had a card pointing her to this promo on the in-room table. She mentioned it to me, but it appeared restricted to members who had stays. However, according to a post by Jason over at MilesQuest, it’s open to anyone that has the promo codes (which he helpfully posted on his blog, and I’ll repeat here). I just watched the video and have to say that it was well done. But, the 90-second video took me about 5 minutes to watch as a result of server-side bandwidth issues. YMMV.

Here is a link to the promotion.

Here is the list of promotion codes you can pick from:
SKAEXGTNC4
SKAEXR6WC4
SKAEX8M4C4
SKAEX9KYC4

Enjoy!

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Trip Report for Prague, Czech Republic


(Note, I will be updating this with pictures from the Crowne Plaza and a link to a photostream with all of the tourist shots we took. That update will post tomorrow or Wednesday).

I attended E-ATP in Prague last week and tacked a couple of vacation days onto each end of the conference to make this a nice little getaway for the Mrs. (courtesy of Delta SkyMiles) and me. Her mother had never been on an intercontinental trip before, so we took her with us, too.

We dropped the car at my workplace and took SuperShuttle the 3 miles to the aiport (for a “hit” in the US Airways Grand Slam promo). At RDU, we hung out in the Delta Sky Club for a little while. This was my first time in the Sky Club at RDU and it is a nice little lounge. It’s fairly new having only opened in December 2009. It’s not too different from any other Sky Club, but it was clean and equipped for the breakfast snacks we needed. We took Delta flight 4283 (operated by Delta Connection partner Pinnacle Airlines) from RDU to JFK on a Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200 which took off about 10 minutes late, but was a nice smooth ride.

 

While in JFK, I had my interview for Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) membership. This is a fantastic program that lets you take a dedicated kiosk through customs when entering the USA. It just takes a scan of your passport and a fingerprint to get you through with no lines in sight. Very nice and highly recommended. Incidentally, it’s also free for American Express Platinum cardholders (the $100 fee is reimbursed in the form of a statement credit). So what’s not to love?

After the interview, I met back up with my wife and mother-in-law at the JFK Sky Club. This lounge was fairly nice, but crowded. It took us a few minutes of waiting in the café-style bar area before we could find 3 seats at a table together. At this lounge we were joined by a fourth traveling companion who was also attending E-ATP. We snacked and drank our way through a 6-hour layover and hopped on Delta flight 210 which took us to Prague aboard an Airbus A330-200. This was as good as an intercontinental flight in coach could be. Complete with having to tell the passenger in front of me to not listen to music without headphones during a redeye flight. However, it did get us to Prague :).

 

When we arrived in Prague, we had a pre-arranged airport transfer to take us to our first hotel (which hosted the conference), the Corinthia Prague (part of the Wyndham Grand Collection). This hotel was fantastic in terms of service. Everything was top-notch and we felt completely catered to. Our room had a beautiful view and the property adjoins the Vyšehrad metro stop on the red line, so the location is perfect for a tourist.


 

 

On Friday, after the conference closed, we checked out of the Corinthia and transferred to the Crowne Plaza Prague. This hotel is not quite in the convenient location that the Corinthia was in. It’s about a 5-minute walk to the Podbaba tram stop where you can catch either the #2 or #8 tram, go 3 stops and transfer to the metro at Dejvická on the green line. (For an overview of the public transportation system in Prague, which is easy to use, inexpensive and expansive, visit here.) At the Crown Plaza Prague (a Priority Club property), we picked up two rooms for two nights on a Priority Club Point Break. So it was only 5,000 points per room, per night totalling 20,000 points.

The Crown Plaza Prague was also fantastic hotel in terms of amenities. In terms of room layout, it beat the Corinthia hands-down. The room was substantially larger, featuring a king-sized bed and larger bathroom. The service at the hotel was also comparable to the Corinthia. If I return to Prague, I am more likely to book this hotel than the Corinthia based upon my stay. The location is not as good, but it is serviceable and the price was €85 compared to the €179 for the Corinthia, so the value was a lot better.

After the first two nights, the three of us bunked up in one room. That may seem like a bad plan given the 5,000 points per night cost, but there was no award space available on the third night. In fact, when I booked there was no space at all and I had to use my Platinum Elite status with Priority Club to force a reservation (see previous blog post).

We checked out after our three nights and took a taxi back to PRG to begin our homeward journey. We hung out at the Crystal Lounge prior to takeoff which was a nice VIP lounge. The décor was interesting, the furniture comfortable, and the snack/drink selection was pretty good.

We then took Delta flight 1383 from PRG to CDG serviced by Air France aboard an Airbus A319. The flight was great, but CDG is a giant mess. We had to leave the airside of the aiport to transfer to our terminal which required another trip through security. Our layover here was 3 1/2 hours, but we only had about 30 minutes of that to spare. We didn’t even bother with a lounge.


We took Delta flight 332 from CDG to BOS on another Airbus A330-200. Here we had to go through customs. Given that I had just finished my GOES membership on the way out, I was curious to try out the kiosk-based entry as opposed to waiting in the line. However, since mother-in-law had to wait in the line anyway, we opted to just stick together. I’ll give GOES a shot next time :). This was another flight serviced by Air France and I have to say that the flight staff on both of the Air France flights was top-notch. They were attentive, gallant and not there when I didn’t want them to be. For our last leg, we hopped Delta flight 4923 aboard a Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-700 operated by Delta Connection partner Atlantic Southeast Airlines which took us back to RDU and another SuperShuttle ride back to the car for the drive home. The service on this partner flight left a lot to be desired. None of the flight staff were rude or anything, but curt instead of courteous.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic trip. A great conference bookended by a beautiful vacation with my wife and mother-in-law. If you haven’t been to Prague, you should go. It’s beautiful.

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Vacation Planning


I’m currently planning 3 trips: Prague (this month), Las Vegas (December), and Paris (April). Everything is squared away for the first two, but I’m still trying to figure out the Paris trip. I know I’ll fly American Airlines (there are 5 of us going and I have 200k AA miles set aside for 5 off-peak RT tix @ 40k each). The biggest question is the hotel. I have about 35k Starpoints to spend, and about 100k AmEx Membership Rewards points. I’m Starwood Gold and Priority Club Platinum, so the two real choices are between a Starwood property and a Priority Club property (MR transfer to PC at 1:1). The catch is I need 2 rooms (3 adults + 2 kids > 4 people).

Most PC properties are 15k/night + $60 (or 30k/night + $60 for an Intercontinental which seems out of scope). That means, with two rooms, I can get 4 nights on PC points. On the Starwood side, there are Category 5, 6, and 7 hotels (none currently show cash & points availability, though). If cash & points does become available, then the rates are 4,800 + $90 or 8,000 + $150 (you can’t use cash & points on a category 7). So, that means either 3 nights at a category 5 or 2 nights at a category 6. If I want 6 nights, there are a few ways to break it down:

  • 4 nights at a PC property for 120,000 PC points + $480
  • 2 nights at a category 5 Starwood property for 19,200 Starpoints + $360
  • Total = 120,000 PC points, 19,200 Starpoints and $840
  • 4 nights at a PC property for 120,000 PC points + $480
  • 2 nights at a category 6 Starwood property for 32,000 Starpoints + $600.
  • Total = 120,000 PC points, 32,000 Starpoints and $1,080 (but this is, theoretically, at a nicer hotel).
  • 3 nights at a PC property for 90,000 PC points + $360
  • 3 nights at a category 5 Starwood property for 28,800 Starpoints + $540
  • Total = 90,000 PC points, 28,800 Starpoints and $900

Any way I slice it, it’s about a week in Paris for $1,000 in spending on the hotel room. Which is not bad at all given that I get 2 rooms. My fear is that no cash & points availability opens up on the Starwood properties and I get stuck with full rates (which means I stay at the PC property and don’t have to switch hotels).

What do you think? Does it seem likely that the cash & points rooms will open up? What’s your experience with that sort of thing? Also, there are a lot of PC properties in Paris. Does anyone have a recommendation?

Thanks!

FYI, I also posted this question on FlyerTalk. They get a lot more views per day :). If you’re interested in what people suggested there, follow this link.

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2000 Priority Club Points for 250 MCR Points


Some time ago, MyCokeRewards delisted Intercontinental Hotels Group (Holiday Inn, etc.) as a partner, ending their nice run of offers to exchange MyCokeRewards points for Priority Club points. However, for today’s Wednesday Deal, you can get 2000 Priority Club points for 250 MCR points. That’s a heck of a deal (some Holiday Inn properties are only 5,000 points for a reward night). I recently spent Priority Club points on a reward night at a Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Pigeon Forge, TN that were almost entirely funded by MCR points. YMMV, but this is one of the single best uses of MCR points.

Enjoy!

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