Hilton Launches Actual Room Selection Via Mobile App

Hilton Select your room
Select your room on Hilton’s app

All the big hotel chains are offering inducements to encourage bookings via their mobile apps.  Now, stodgy old Hilton is breaking new ground by allowing mobile users to select their own hotel room.

This is not just picking between a king sized bed or two doubles.

It looks like you will be able to see the exact rooms that are available and make your own selection.  It’s sort of like ordering theatre tickets on Ticketmaster, or choosing seats for your flight.

This strikes me as a very innovative incentive to move customers to mobile bookings.

If you are the kind of guest who prefers a room with a view, the Hilton app could be worth trying!

Pets Always Stay Free at Red Roof Inns

This is Mitzy.
This is Mitzy.

Hold on to your hats, hotel snobs.  I just joined RediCard, the loyalty program of Red Roof Inns.

The reason:  not only are Red Roof Inns pet friendly, but pets stay free.

From time to time, we travel with our cockapoo, Mitzy.  We’ve encountered up-charges at hotels ranging from $20 per night to $75 per stay.

To be honest, I’ve only stayed at one Red Roof Inn, and it was a new hotel in Garden City, Long Island.

The decor was very modern and the room was comfortable.  What I liked best, though, was that the floors in the room were a laminate, and that seemed so much cleaner than a carpeted floor.  There was free wifi, but no free breakfast.

Reasonably priced hotels are scarce on Long Island.  I got the room via a Priceline bid for a 2 star hotel.  I was impressed enough with the place that I reserved directly the next time I was in the area.  My second visit occurred after Hurricane Sandy, and the hotel was housing many families and their pets that had been displaced by the storm.

Pets Always Stay Free at Red Roof Inns

The hotel I stayed at in Garden City, NY had interior corridors and was designated a Red Roof Inn Plus property.

Our room at the Red Roof Inn on Long Island looked pretty much like this.
Our room at the Red Roof Inn on Long Island looked pretty much like this.

Red Roof Plus properties feature:  modern decor, flat screen TVs, vessel sinks, wood-like floors, additional electrical outlets, a 100% smoke-free designation, high-end bedding, in-room red accent wall and renovated lobby featuring stone accent wall.

In 2013, USA Today readers voted Red Roof Inn the best budget hotel brand.

All but three of 375 Red Roof Inns accept pets.  The exceptions are:  Oxon Hill, MD; Flushing, NY; and Queensboro Long Island City, NY.

Red Roof Inn’s Pet Policy

Here is the Red Roof Inn Pet Policy:

  • One well-behaved family pet is permitted unless prohibited by state law or ordinance
  • Service animals are always welcome
  • Pet must be declared during guest registration
  • Please keep your animal on a leash when outside your room
  • In consideration of all Red Roof guests, pets must never be left unattended in the guestroom
  • When you walk your pet on property, please be considerate and clean up after your pet

Check out their pet Facebook page for special deals.

 RediCard — The Loyalty Program of Red Roof Inns

The benefits of the RediCard, the Red Roof Inn loyalty program are that you earn 10x points per stay, and a free night with 6,000 points.  At that rate, it would take between six and ten paid stays to earn a free night.

You also get free bottled water in your room each day, and a discount of up to 20 percent off the best available rate when you book ten days in advance.

I hear that Red Roof Inn is coming out with a co-branded credit card in 2015.  Any takers?

 

Resort Fees Revealed

ResortFeeChecker.com
ResortFeeChecker.com

Resort Fee Checker is a new online tool that allows travelers to check the resort fee at over 2,000 U.S. hotels.

Resort fees are those annoying, expensive charges that hotels tack on for routine services that should be included in the room rate.

Resort fees are most frequently imposed in these popular destinations:  OrlandoLas VegasMiami,  AnaheimOahuPhoenixPalm SpringsMaui, and San Diego.

The fees can range from a few dollars up to $35 per night.

There fees cover a variety of amenities which vary from property to properly.  These amenities that are commonly free at other hotels, may include:

  • Pool
  • Fitness center
  • Business center
  • Internet access
  • Newspaper
  • Faxes
  • In-room coffee
  • Parking

Resort Fees:  Know Before You Go

Add-on charges such as resort and parking fees are especially annoying for users of Priceline and Hotwire, because the fees are may not revealed until deep into the booking process.

Resort Fee Checker was developed by the folks who run the HotelDealsRevealed website, where consumers can report the specifics of their Priceline wins.

Don’t be caught unaware!  If you are planning a resort trip, do your research in advance.

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My Room Rate Dropped Four Times in Four Weeks

Gotta Love the Thanksgiving Parade!
Gotta Love Hello Kitty at the Thanksgiving Parade!
Joel Shprentz Photo

Do you ever wonder how much the person sitting next to you on the plane paid?  It seems that airfares are constantly changing and totally unpredictable.

The same can be true of hotels.  The room rates go up and down depending on the hotel’s model of supply and demand.

We had a recent hotel stay at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway.  I locked in two award nights well in advance — 50,000 Club Carlson points for a two-night stay.

We decided to add a third paid night on to our stay, so several weeks ago, I made a reservation to extend our stay.  The room rate at the time was close to $300 per night, plus tax, bringing the total to nearly $350.  That’s a lot to pay for a room at a 3 star hotel.

Amazing View from the Empire State Building
Amazing View from the Empire State Building, but Chilly!

It wasn’t worth bidding for a Priceline hotel because it would be really inconvenient to move hotels for one night.  Also, since we were traveling with our teenage daughter, we needed a room with two beds, and Priceline only guarantees that the room will accommodate two adults.  In New York City, hotel rooms are notoriously small, and often cannot accommodate three people.

Check the Room Rate and Call if it Drops

I had booked the room at the AAA rate.  Each week I checked online to see if the rates had dropped.  If so, I called the hotel and requested that they adjust my rate.  I did this four times, and four times, the hotel graciously adjusted the rate downward.  We ended up paying $172 for the room.  With tax, it came to $200.

Great Sales at Macy's
Great Sales at Macy’s
Joel Shprentz Photo

I love the location of the Radisson Martinique, right in K-town in the center of Manhattan.

We took advantage of pre-Black Friday sales at Macy’s, and went up the Empire State Building — both less than two blocks away.

Thanks to the Martinique app, the hotel comped us breakfast each morning.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them!  

Click here to compare current rewards credit card offers.

Does 60x Club Carlson Points Make You Swoon?

Club Carlson's Weekdays Triple Points Offer
Club Carlson’s Weekdays Triple Points Offer

I recently enjoyed a fabulous award stay at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway in New York City.

As a Club Carlson credit card holder, I was eligible for the stay one night, get one night free deal on award stays, so the cost of my two-night stay was 50,000 Club Carlson points.

I enjoyed the hotel so much that I am looking for ways to replenish my points account!

Stacking Club Carlson Promos

Club Carlson is always running a bunch of promo offers and special rates.  Each offer applies to a select list of hotels and you need to read the fine print to make sure you qualify.  Sometimes, it is possible to stack promos, so that your earn bonus points on several offers with the same reservation.

The tricky thing is that the special offer may not always be the best rate.

Club Carlson is currently running a 3,000 point bonus if you book your stay using their mobile app through November 16, 2014.  This is good for up to three bookings, for a total of potentially 9,000 points.

Club Carlson is also running a promo for 7,500 American Advantage points if you book two stays at participating Radisson Hotels.

You can combine these offers with the “Business Time Triple Points” offer to boost your points earnings.

Would you rather earn 3x times points (equivalent to 60x points for cardholders) or get 30 percent off your stay?

You really have to play around with the promo codes and look at all the rates options and offers to find the best deal.

Sometimes, the most advantageous rate of all may be the old, reliable AAA discount.

60x Gold Points on Weekday Stays

You can earn triple Club Carlson points when you stay at select Radisson Hotels and Country Inns & Suites on weekdays.

Try using the promo code BIZTIME3 for Sunday through Thursday nights at participating hotels now through November 30, 2014.

With this promo code, you can earn 40 Bonus Gold Points® per dollar spent on room nights. These bonus Points are in addition to the standard 20 Gold Points per dollar spent on eligible stays, for a total of 6o Gold Points per dollar.

There is a long list of properties in the U.S. and in some Latin American Countries that are participating in this promotion.

Stay Two Nights, Get Third Night Free on Weekends

Club Carlson's Weekend Extender
Club Carlson’s Weekend Extender Promo — Stay two nights, get third night free

If you are traveling on the weekend, be sure to check if your hotel may be eligible for Club Carlson’s Weekend Extender promotion.  You pay for two nights but you stay for three!

Book your three day weekend using the promo code  WEEKENDX for extended weekend stays at participating hotels now through November 30, 2014.  The stay must include a combination of either a Friday and Saturday night, or a Saturday and Sunday night.

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eStandby Upgrade Options at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway

Original Mosaic Floor in Lobby of the Radisson Martinique
Original Mosaic Floor in Lobby of the Radisson Martinique

We recently spent a delightful weekend at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway in New York City.

This hotel is part of the Club Carlson chain, and I was lucky enough to secure a two-night stay for 50,000 points with their “second night free” option for Club Carlson credit card holders.

I earned the points as a bonus when I opened the Club Carlson credit card, and paid the annual fee of $60 for the business card.  Thus technically speaking, two free nights cost me $60.

Are the eStandby Upgrades Worth It?

When I booked my stay online, I was offered the option of several eStandby upgrades.

  1. High Floor:  Enjoy your stay about the streets of NYC, $30 extra per night ($40 value);
  2. Martinque Club Level – 1 King bed, includes a complimentary breakfast and access to the Executive lounge, $0 extra per night ($75 value); or
  3. Executive Suite – 1 King bed, separate living room area with sofa bed, complementary buffet breakfast and access to the Executive lounge, $69 Extra per night ($100 value.)

The deal is that you find out at check-in if you are awarded any of the add-on offers, and if so, you are obligated to pay the up charge.

I chose option 2, which had no added cost.  I didn’t particularly care about being on the Club Level, because I had heard they didn’t serve refreshments there like at many other hotels, but the notion of free breakfast seemed worth a try.

Free Breakfast Vouchers at the Hotel Martinque in NYC

Ad things turned out, I was not offered the upgrade when checking-in.  But I had a back-up option:  the Radisson Martinque App!  The iPhone app contains a coupon that you can redeem for a free breakfast buffet.

I was surprised when the front desk clerk provided vouchers for the full breakfast buffet for two mornings.  I was traveling with my sister and my daughter, so we received 6 free breakfast vouchers in total.  The regular price of the breakfast buffet is $29.95 per person.

Because I had Gold status (a perk of holding the Club Carlson credit card) I received a welcome gift of a small box of Belgian chocolates.

The breakfast buffet offered lots of choices, including fresh fruit, tomatoes and cucumbers, cheese, bacon, omelets, home fries, french toast, pastries, cereals, juice and coffee.  It wasn’t the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen — I certainly wouldn’t pay $30 for it — but it offered a nice selection, and it enabled us to get an early start on our day.

What I Loved About the Martinque on Broadway

  • 1.5 block walk from Penn Station
  • Clean, comfortable rooms, and fairly large for NYC
  • Free wifi
  • Literally on top of the Subway station and an easy walk to midtown or SoHo
  • A park across the street
  • Belgian chocolates on your pillow at night
  • In Korea town, across the street from Macy’s, and near many cheap jewelry stores
  • Beautifully preserved historic hotel with gorgeous mosaics in the lobby and a 15-story marble spiral staircase
  • International clientele including many airline personnel
  • Genuinely friendly staff and good service
  • Free bottled water in your room and a Keurig coffeemaker

What I Didn’t Like

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So Easy: Free Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique in NYC

Facebook Friend Discount at Radisson Martinique
Facebook Friend Discount at Radisson Martinique

A lot of miles and points travelers gravitate to the Radisson Martinique in New York City because you can stay two nights free for 50,000 Club Carlson points, if you have the Club Carlson credit card.

Well the nights are not exactly free, because you do have to pay the annual fee on the credit card.  That fee is $60 per year for the business card, or $75 for the personal card.

I have a two night stay booked at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway for a weekend in September.

The best thing about nights booked on points is that you don’t have to pay the NYC hotel taxes that add 20 percent or more onto your tab.

A big limitation of award stays is that you cannot reserve a room with two beds.  I am traveling with my sister so I reserved a king sized bed and will hope for the best!

How to Get A Free Buffet Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique

Free Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique
Free Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique

If you download the Radisson Martinique app on iTunes, you can get a mobile coupon for one free buffet breakfast!

This is a full American breakfast featuring eggs, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal and bakery items.

Social Media Promo Codes to Discount Your Stay at the Radisson Martinique

The travel industry is big into social media these days, and the Radisson Martinique is no exception.

If you “like” the Martinique on Facebook, you will gain access to a promo code worth up to 20 percent off the lowest available rate.  Here’s the link to their Facebook page.  The Facebook friends’ promo code is FBOOK.  This discount is available for select dates only.

For the dates I checked, this discount was greater than the AAA discount (promo code AAA), but be sure to check both!

Similarly, if you follow the Martinique on Twitter, you can access a promo code for up to a 20 percent discount.  That promo code is TWT.  The availability calendar shows that this code is applicable beginning in January 2015.

Per Diem Discount

The best deal of all is the military per diem discount, otherwise known as the government rate.  This rate includes one complementary full breakfast per room per night.  Eligible parties include:

  • U.S. military personnel, U.S Federal civilian employees and U.S state employees
  • Active and retired travelers
  • Business or leisure travel
  • ID or military orders required
  • Tax exemption varies by state

The Historic Roots of the Martinque

Radisson Martinque on Broadway
Radisson Martinque on Broadway

The Radisson Martinique on Broadway is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels of America.

The building has landmark status from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In 1923, Harry F Young, aka “The Human Fly,” was hired to climb the Hotel Martinique to promote the silent movie Safety Last.  Tragically, he lost his grip on the ascent, and fell nine stories to his death.

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Fishing for Compliments on TripAdvisor

Baiting the Hook on Trip Advisor
Baiting the Hook on TripAdvisor

I’m sure the Sheration Park South in Richmond, Virginia isn’t the only hotel to do this, but it put me off.

When I was checking out earlier this week, the front desk clerk asked me if I enjoyed my stay.

The conversation went something like this:

Clerk: Did you enjoy your stay?

Me:  Yes

Clerk:  Was everything OK?

Me:  Everything was fine.

Clerk:  Did you get room service?

Me:  No, we ate in the restaurant.

Clerk:  How was the food?

Me:  It was fine.

Clerk:  Was your room clean?

Me:  Yes it was very nice.

Clerk:  We are undergoing renovations.  I hope you weren’t disturbed by the noise.

Me:  No, not at all.

I guess I made it through the gauntlet, because the clerk then handed me business card and suggested I write a review on TripAdvisor.

There was really nothing of note about this particular Sheraton.  It was just like many others I have stayed in, no more, no less.

I wouldn’t bother to write a review on TripAdvisor unless there was something terrible or something outstanding about my experience.  I did not appreciate being screened in this manner.

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

Of course, I check TripAdvisor when I travel.  The big thing I noticed about hotels in Richmond and Petersburg were the reports of bedbugs.  Not just reports, but pictures!  These pictures gave me the creeps!

It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a 4 star hotel or a 1 star hotel — bedbugs are a big problem in Richmond.  In fact, I read an online review of this very hotel that reported a recent occurrence of bedbugs.

Was that why the hotel was prompting guests to write favorable reviews on TripAdvisor?

Do you check the Bedbug Registry before you travel?

FWIW, I found this informative resource on 15 Tips for Avoiding Hotel Bedbugs on Health.com.

Which Five Star Hotel is on HotelCoupons.com?

HotelCoupons.com
HotelCoupons.com is my “secret” weapon

I have a guest blog post today on Air, Land and Sea.  It’s about my last ditch option for finding cheap hotel rooms.

If I’m on a road trip, and I bomb out on Priceline, I give HotelCoupons.com a shot.

Head on over the Air, Land and Sea to check out My Secret Weapon for Cheap Hotel Rooms.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if your choose to use them!

Fast Track to SPG Gold Status: Deal or No Deal?

Earn SPG Gold Status with 2 Stays
Earn SPG Gold Status with 2 Stays

When I logged into my Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) account today I noticed a special offer:

upgrade to Gold Preferred Guest® status after two eligible stays at SPG hotels by October 15, 2014.

The promotion is offered to “select” Starwood Preferred Guest members who register by August 31, 2014.

The Gold Preferred Guest status will be good through February 2016.

Certain exclusions apply:  bookings made through third parties such as online travel agencies do not count, nor do award night booked with Starwood points or Cash & Points.

Normally, ten separate stays or 25 nights in a year are required to earn Gold status, so this is indeed a fast track.

Is SPG Gold Status Worth It?

Here are the benefits of Gold Status:

  • Three Starpoints for every dollar spent – a 50% bonus over basic membership.
  • 4 p.m. late checkout.
  • An “enhanced” room at check-in, when available.
  • Your choice of a welcome gift:  bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access, or a free drink.

So far as I am able to gather, the “enhanced” room may be a room on a higher floor, but is not a suite.

The welcome gift is a choice of:

  • 250 Starwood points (125 points at Aloft, Four Points and Element);
  • high speed internet access for the entire stay; or
  • a complimentary beverage at the restaurant/bar, maximum value of $15.

No Status, No Problem

I have a couple of hotel stays coming up but I am not going to go out of my way to stay at a Starwood hotel just to earn gold status.  I can almost always get a cheaper rate going through Priceline or Hotwire, and I am unlikely to have enough paid stays at Starwood hotels in the next 18 months to make this deal worthwhile for me.

What about you?  Is this a deal, or no deal?

 This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them!