Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Hotels (page 1 of 12)

Our 5 Best Hotel Stays of 2018

It’s a bit late to be compiling posts about our travels last year, but hey, I’ve been behind on most of the personal trip blogging for quite some time. I try to keep up a bit better over at Points with a Crew, but things languish here sometimes.

I’ve been thinking back on our travels during 2018, and I thought I’d share our five favorite hotel stays for the year. I’ve reviewed all of these separately, but here they all are in one place.

Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing

Our stay in Beijing was not only one of favorite hotel stays of 2018, but of the past few years of traveling as a whole. At only 17,500 Marriott points per night, with the fifth night free, it was an excellent hotel at incredible value. Read the full review here.

My older two kids and I enjoyed breakfast and dinner daily at the hotel as part of the rate, as one of the elite status perks with Marriott. The location is also great, with easy access to the pedestrian streets of Wangfujing. The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are also within walking distance. The Dongsi subway station, about 10 minutes from the hotel by foot, gives you access to the rest of Beijing.

DoubleTree Luxembourg

I only settled on this hotel as it made the most sense from a points perspective. There really isn’t anything else in Luxembourg will accommodate three people easily and it also a chain option bookable with points. The hotel isn’t convenient to the center of Luxembourg, but bus service is regular and efficient enough.

The hotel provided us with a larger room and the extra bed we requested was ready when we arrived. Free breakfast and a pool made it a great way to end our time playing tourist in Europe. Here is the full review.

The Claremont Berkeley

This was a special stay that was made possible by my final free night certificate from the Fairmont Visa which used to be issued by Chase. Both the card and program as we knew it is now dead. It was a last hurrah of sorts.

We had an enjoyable one night in the Bay Area, but was traveling just for this worth it with kids? There were a couple issues with our stay, including the fact that the upgrade certificate I’d tried to use to move us to a queen-queen room instead of one with two doubles did not actually get applied. And they didn’t have anything else available when we arrived (that they were willing to upgrade us into). A bummer traveling with two kids, but we managed. Here is the full review of this iconic property.

The American Hotel Atlanta

This iconic Atlanta hotel was one of the nicer Hilton stays I have had. My son and I enjoyed this hotel for two nights during our quick trip to Atlanta. We were upgraded to a themed suite and the location of the hotel in relation to downtown Atlanta attractions is perfect. Granted, there are a good number of fine hotels in downtown Atlanta, but I was impressed by this DoubleTree and would very happily stay here again. Full review.

Holiday Inn Express Pahrump

Yes. A Holiday Inn Express for a single night stay. But this may have been the nicest Holiday Inn Express at which I’ve ever stayed. The hotel is very new, and the design of the rooms and common areas so much more modern than other HIE hotels I’ve stayed with that it thoroughly impressed me. On top of that, it has a great pool, and everything was sparkling clean. It’s a gem in a town that is…not.

Conclusion

A bit of an odd mix, but these were the five stays I enjoyed most last year. I generally have good experiences with Hilton on the whole, but the Marriott stay in Beijing was probably the best of the bunch. And the Holiday Inn Express came out of left field. Never expected that would be a stellar stay!

What are some of the best hotel stays you’ve had?

Holiday Inn Express Pahrump Review – This may be the best HIE ever?

Location: Pahrump, Nevada. Never heard of it?

Overall rating: 10/10

Pros: Very clean, bright, airy, comfortable rooms

Cons: It’s in Pahrump?

After you get done asking, “where is Pahrump?”,  you might immediately wonder why I would bother reviewing a hotel there. Well…I didn’t expect to. But it made me want to (although the post has been sitting in my drafts forever). So here it is.

Pahrump is a city west of Las Vegas along Highway 160. It is along the route to Death Valley, at it made a convenient stopping point for the night after spending a morning enjoying the hotel pool in Las Vegas and an afternoon in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (SEE: The Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area).

Holiday Inn Express hotels are generally very cookie cutter. They are almost all the same style concrete tower, offer the same amenities, and the same breakfast. If you like consistency, they are one of the best brands for it. They do differ a little bit in Europe, but you can expect a consistent experience there as well. Just different.

But sometimes you get a bit of an outlier, and the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump is one of those. I booked the hotel for 20,000 IHG points. Cash rates were about $120 the night I booked, so it was a fairly run-of-the-mill redemption. Rates can vary, but begin as low as about $90 before taxes from what have seen. Expect spring to be a bit more and midsummer to be pretty low.

Arriving at the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump

We arrived in Pahrump after an hour drive from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  It is roughly 1:15 to Las Vegas, and about the same to Death Valley (a little more to Badwater Basin and the lowest point in North America). If you’re considering visiting Death Valley and don’t want to stay right in the valley, it’s not a bad option.

There’s not a lot to Pahrump. You’re essentially in the middle of a desert that nobody in their right mind would settle. Yet people did. Between the chronic water problems and the nothingness surrounding you, it’s no wonder real estate here is pretty affordable.

Walking into the hotel and checking in, it struck me how clean and new the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump feels. The lobby also has a bit more character than many other Holiday Inn Express hotels I’ve stayed at. I typically judge hotel lobbies by how inviting they would be for hanging out and socializing, and this was was a step up from most of their sister hotels.

Check-in was very quick and easy and the agent super polite. He welcomed us to the hotel and asked why we were in town. This is a fairly common question, but it amused me a bit considering where we were. I wonder if the typical reason is “just passing through” or if there is some other draw to Pahrump. Or more likely he is honestly curious what attracts visitors to this little desert town.

Queen-Queen Room

My thoughts about the cleanliness and newness of the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump continued as we entered our room on the third floor. The hallways are in great condition, just like the lobby.

In the entry there is a little corner counter, opposite the mini-fridge and coffee maker, all standard parts of a typical Holiday Inn Express room. The $20 Walmart luggage and Tutu the dog are not included.

It is a pretty typical design, but everything seemed very nice. There is also a microwave, which I don’t believe is something that every Holiday Inn Express includes. Maybe I don’t notice. We never use it.

The rest of the room was what surprised me. The design of the desk, luggage space, and dresser and rack for clothes are beyond anything I’ve ever seen at any other Holiday Inn Express. All items were sturdy, clean, and appeared new. Even with three different bags, it was easy to stay organized and nice not to have any luggage on the floor.

In the corner is a sofa/daybed that my son instantly claimed as his. He is a fickle one. Sometimes he wants to share the bed with me. Other times he wants to sleep in awkward spots like this. Only one thing is for certain: he never prefers an actual sofa bed. At least him sleeping here means a better night of sleep for me.

The bathroom was just as clean and nice as the rest of the hotel, albeit a very typical tub/shower and plain sink Holiday Inn Express design.

Our room also enjoyed a view of the pool below, nicely shielded from the afternoon sun by the hotel itself. The pool was our first stop after we got settled.

Hotel Pool

The Holiday Inn Express Pahrump offers an outdoor pool that is lovely on a warm spring day. I’m sure it’s nice as well in midsummer, if the desert heat doesn’t kill you before you reach it.

The kids had a nice swim. I sat down with a cup of coffee and enjoyed the warmth in the shade for a while before jumping in myself. We did all jump in the hot tub as well, but it is a bit nonsensical on a warm day in the sun!

Like the interior of the hotel, the pool area was very clean and well-maintained.

Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump

The Holiday Inn Express Pahrump offers the free breakfast that is standard for the brand. For domestic hotels, this typically includes eggs, sausage, yogurt, cereal, a couple bread and pastry options, and the iconic cinnamon rolls.

Nothing stood out about breakfast, but it was still good. It is nice to know that Holiday Inn Express hotels in the U.S. provide a consistent experience.

Things to do in Pahrump?

Don’t laugh. I gotta include something, don’t I? If you’re looking to gamble, there is of course a casino, but I don’t know of anything else off the bat in Pahrump itself that might be a draw. And I personally don’t find gambling a draw anyway, and would prefer to never, ever visit Las Vegas again.

The two points of interest for which the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump would be a great base are Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Death Valley National Park. We visited both of these places, and thoroughly enjoyed our time in each, however brief. I would love to come back and explore more of Death Valley, hopefully when Dante’s View is actually open. And the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump would probably be my top choice of hotel if we don’t decide to stay right in the valley.

Conclusion

The Holiday Inn Express Pahrump is definitely the nicest Holiday Inn Express hotel at which I’ve ever stayed. The one we stayed at at Charles de Gaulle airport is a close second (SEE: Holiday Inn Express CDG Airport Review), but I’ll still give the edge to the one in Pahrump.

The room was more modern and more comfortable than pretty much any other HIE I’ve visited. The amenities were still the same, but the level of newness, modernness and cleanliness thoroughly impressed me. There are few properties, especially in the mid-scale range, that have felt this nice. The hotel is fairly new. I believe it opened in 2015. But management has been able to make it feel like it could have opened just a couple months prior.

If we ever happen to pass through Pahrump again (as doubtful as that is), the Holiday Inn Express Pahrump will be where we stay.

Vino Bello Resort Napa Review

Over New Year’s 2019 I took our older two kids on a 3-night getaway to Napa. Amazingly, I was able to find a property in the Wyndham portfolio that did *not* have the dates over New Year’s blacked out and that looked like it would make for an excellent stay. We weren’t disappointed. Here is my Vino Bello Resort Napa Review:

I used a total of 45,000 Wyndham Rewards points for our stay. Most of these were earned from promotions during 2018, and 15,000 were from the annual bonus I receive each year when I renew my card at a cost of $69. We received over $600 in value, though, so I am not complaining! Wyndham’s award “chart” is a flat rate, as all hotels cost 15,000 points per night per bedroom. I’d booked a one bedroom suite with a king bed and a sofa bed.

Arriving at the Vino Bello Resort Napa

The drive down from where we live to Napa is just under 4 hours. Rather than head through Santa Rosa, I prefer to take Highway 128 and drive through the bulk of the Napa Valley. It’s just so scenic. We left the same way, too.

Dinner was at the same place we ate the year before when I took them on a quick one-night trip to the Best Western in Calistoga (SEECelebrating New Years 2018). It was our one splurge, since the Vino Bello Resort Napa has a kitchen and I cooked most of the rest of our meals. We had maybe another 40 minutes of driving until we finally arrived at the hotel.

Man, was the parking lot full when we showed up. I found a spot, not knowing it was conveniently in front of our building. The lobby of the Vino Bello Resort Napa is lovely. We were greeted warmly by the doorman who chatted it up with me until it was finally our turn at the desk.

Check-in was a bit interesting, as I was quoted a cash rate for our stay. I’m not sure how the system integrates with Wyndham’s but it apparently isn’t seamless. It took the lady most of a minute to confirm that we were indeed on a n award rate. Adding to the complication is that they actually have two resorts in one: the Vino Bello and the Meritage.

We were given a welcome packet after checking in from the concierge, who also tried to get me to sign up for a 90-minute timeshare presentation. If only my wife was along, I totally would have made us suffer through it. Unfortunately, your spouse must be present. We would have all received free breakfast that morning, plus 25,000 Wyndham points. Would have made up for most of our stay!

One Bedroom Suite at the Vino Bello Resort Napa

Our suite was in the Cabernet building, which is closest to the lobby and restaurant, and overlooking the pool. We were on the second floor. You have to go through no fewer than 4 doors to get there, all of which require your key card, which is a bit annoying. But I guess it makes it more secure? I really didn’t understand the point. This tiny “lobby” area was between the first and second doors.

Each door from the hall opens into a small entry room with two doors leading into two separate suites. I guess this would be super convenient if you booked two rooms, as they aren’t truly adjoining, but it would provide a secure way to still pass between them.

A one bedroom suite at the Vino Bello Resort Napa is excellent. The suite is spacious and would easily accommodate our family of five if we brought sufficient bedding one or two kids. You first enter into the kitchen. There is a nice high counter at the end.

Across from that is the large dining table. The bench against the wall is super soft and the kids sunk into the cushion until there chins were barely above the table.

Beyond that is the living room area with a sofa and two armchairs. The sofa also contains the extra queen bed.

The kids immediately eyed the fireplace. I grew up with a wood stove, so this is a sorry excuse for a fire, in my opinion. But they really enjoyed it. My daughter fell asleep with it on each night, and it did keep that corner cozy.

On the high counter was a welcome bottle of wine, part of what is included in the resort fee. Funny how you don’t get one per night, even though you pay the fee per night (unless you’re on an award stay). Spolier: the wine isn’t very good anyway.

The bedroom is connected to both the living room and the bathroom.

There is one king bed, and a second TV, as well as a full closet.

The spa tub is also inside the bedroom and not the bathroom. I’m not really a fan of this. I’d rather it be part of the bathroom as well.

The bathroom itself is very large with two sinks and an oversize shower.

I was in heaven each morning. I love a nice shower. This one wasn’t quite up to the awesome rain shower in our room in Beijing back in November (SEE: Renaissance Beijing Wangfujiung Review), nor did it top the most amazing shower I’ve ever used (SEE: Park Hyatt Milan: A Review). But it was still great. Until I realized one of the kids had dropped the bottle of shampoo the night before and I was suddenly unable to wash my hair and slipping all over the tile in the morning. The things they don’t tell you…

The one bedroom suite also has a deck, or lanai. I’m still not used to that word. Lanai is an island in Hawaii, not an outdoor deck thing. In December, it was exactly the nicest place to hang out. But I’m sure it is amazing in summer.

The best part of the one bedroom suite is the kitchen. Maybe you aren’t the sort of folks who like to cook on vacation, but depending on the situation, we really don’t mind. It’s way cheaper and quite easy when we have a more relaxed schedule, such as on this trip. The kitchen had pretty much everything you’d need for 4-6 people, including plates, cutlery and cookware. There is even a dishwasher and a couple soap packs.

You can ask for necessities from housekeeping and the front desk, but if you want the room actually cleaned, this comes at as a surcharge. I’m pretty sure this is standard to Wyndham’s condo properties. We managed just fine for three days without housekeeping, and it saved us $75.

On the whole, our one bedroom suite at the Vino Bello Resort Napa was excellent. I highly recommend this as a place to burn your Wyndham points as a family.

Facilities and activities

The Vino Bello Resort Napa offers a number of things to do on-property, as well as access to everything Napa has to offer. It may not be the full extent of what many expect from a resort, even though that is part of the name. There is a decent sized pool between the Chardonnay and Cabernet buildings, and we spent and evening and morning here enjoying it.

vino bello resort napa

The kids always try to get me to spend as much time as possible in the water. The pool at the Vino Bello Resort Napa is heated, but with the air temperatures as low as they are in December and January, it still isn’t all that comfortable. The kids didn’t care, but I would last only about 15 minutes before I wanted to soak in the hot tub for the remainder of the time.

On the opposite side of the restaurant and lobby is the Bordeaux building. It also has resort rooms, but also contains the crush lounge, which is where we headed the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. The lounge has a bar, but it is also family friendly (they serve food as well, so it is technically a restaurant). Kids are welcome.

One of the best features of the Crush Lounge at the Vino Bello Resort Napa is that it has a half dozen bowling lanes. Bowling isn’t especially cheap, but it was still reasonable enough that wanted to rent a land for an hour. We got two games in. Prices are per person per hour, $15 for adults and $10 for kids on weekdays. Prices go up $5 per person per hour on weekends.

The concierge is a helpful source of anything else you might want to know about the resort and the Napa area.

The Napa area

I know, most people probably don’t take their kids to Napa. The typical itinerary is probably all-day wine tasting at the many vineyards in the valley. There are a couple that are family friendly, and the concierge pointed these out. Taking them to the Castello di Amorosa, a winery in the style of a Tuscan castle, was an option, but I decided against it, mainly due to the cost. We had what we needed at the resort anyway.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t do any sightseeing. The first day we headed to church at Calvary Chapel Petaluma and then spent the afternoon in Sonoma at Train Town and then the mission.

Train Town is good with kids for a couple hours. The train ride itself is fun for kids of pretty much all ages. The other rides are more fair-style, and aren’t all that thrilling for older kids. But we bought a single pack of tickets for these and had fun on a few.

The morning of our second day we drove over to Fairfield and toured the Jelly Belly Factory. It had been well over a decade since I’d visited, and I hardly remembered anything. Our one bummer: they gave everyone New Year’s Eve off as well as New Year’s Day, so we didn’t get to see any action on the factory floor. But the video monitors spaced out every 100 feet or so still let us have a glimpse into their candy making process.

There is plenty more to do in the Napa area, and I am not a Napa expert, so I’ll have to leave you to do your own research!

Conclusion

Our stay at the Vino Bello Resort Napa was excellent overall. The one bedroom condo is spacious and perfect for a family, I’d happily stay here again. We still have Wyndham points to burn, so another visit might be possible this year.

The one thing I should note is that the Vino Bello Resort tried to charge us a resort fee at check out. This is against the Wyndham Rewards free night policy. I had to pull up the terms on my phone and present it to the agent at the front desk, who then took it to his manager. They did relent, but it was a bit disappointing. There is a separate write-up on this whole experiences (SEE: Waive that resort fee! Holding a hotel to its program policies).

El Colibri Rojo Review – Visiting Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

**This is very dated, but I decided to finish up a review of the place we stayed in Limón province when we were in Costa Rica in Fall 2017**

After a nice excursion to one of Costa Rica’s beautiful Pacific beaches (SEE: Hotel Punta Leona Review), I figured we’d visit the other side of the country to compare. From all we’ve heard and read, the Caribbean coast is an entirely different animal.

There are no good chain options (unfortunately) along the Caribbean coast, so I started scouring various OTAs and AirBnb for good places. El Colibrí Rojo stood out to us since it offered a two bedroom apartment, a pool, the potential to purchase a reasonably priced breakfast, and proximity to some of the nicer beaches on the Caribbean near Cahuita. All of this for $288 for 3 nights.

Cahuita also came highly recommended to us by Costa Ricans working with us for our adoption. The national park nearby, plus the other beautiful beaches, made it an ideal place to visit on the Atlantic side of the country.

Arriving at El Colibrí Rojo

The drive from San José to Cahuita is about 3.5 hours. Our previous trip was only about 90 minutes, so this was substantially longer for the kids. We warned them of the length a few days before, and even then we started getting complaints. Our trip would have been quicker, but we had to go an alternate route since the main highway experienced a mudslide in the monsoon-like rains and was closed. So the winding, mountainous route through Cartago it was. At least the Costa Rican mountains are stunningly beautiful.

By the time we got to Cahuita, though, the sun was starting to set. We ended up checking into El Colibrí Rojo and then heading back to the sleepy town of Cahuita itself to pick up some dinner. We settled on pizza, taking it back to our apartment to eat. After that, it was pretty much time to get the kids to bed. It had been a long, exhausting day of driving.

The next day we got to see a bit more of the tiny hotel property. The “lobby” at El Colibrí Rojo  is super laid back, an inviting space to spend a little time with a game or guitar, and chatting with the wonderful hosts of the property. The welcome area/lobby is across the drive from the hosts home and attached to the open-air breakfast area.

Across the gravel parking area are the “cabinas”. Most of them are pretty simple, but ours is the largest with a few additional features.

There are a row of hammocks in front of the cabins, welcoming you to relax in the warm, humid climate of Limón, in the shade and hopefully with a nice breeze. The weather here was quite a change from the upper 60s and lower 70s we were experiencing in San José and the central valley.

Our apartment was just called the “apartamento”, without a number. It is the only unit to offer a full kitchen and air conditioning, from what I’d read in the property description of El Colibrí Rojo.

El Colibrí Rojo apartment

The apartment is modest, but plenty nice for what we paid and what we needed for the five of us for a few days in Cahuita. The kitchen comes fully stocked, with everything you need to cook and serve meals for an entire family. It is great.

Attached to the kitchen is a small living room area with a couch and television.

Between the two areas is the dining table, a unique and beautiful high wooden table. It is also the location of the much-needed and appreciated air conditioning. We had that thing running almost the entire stay, likely to the chagrin of the hosts. From what I understand in Costa Rica, power isn’t all that cheap, at least in comparison to earnings. But we are wimps from mild northern California, and there is no way we would have been able to sleep without A/C. And it took running that poor little unit all the time to keep things sufficiently cool in the bedrooms.

The apartment at El Colibrí Rojo has two bedrooms, one with two single beds and the other with a double bed. Pretty spartan accommodations, but just fine for our needs.

The apartment also includes an outdoor dining area that is just for the guests who book it, as well as our own hammock. It is covered to provide shelter from the elements and is a great place to relax.

Here we are at lunch one day, eating soup in the warm outdoors. Not a great meal choice for the climate, but it’s what we’d brought. This is only a little over a year ago, and I’m blown away by how much our kids have grown!

Overall, the apartment was perfect for a few days at the beach enjoying the Costa Rican sun and swimming in the water of the Caribbean.

El Colibrí Rojo breakfast

Breakfast is served each morning in the open-air dining area between the “lobby” and the pool. It is a continental affair, consisting of bread, pastries, fruit and yogurt, although I think that you could order an egg or two if you wanted. I can’t remember. It’s been a bit too long. But I remember it being enough, and worth the minimal price we paid.

Of course there is also coffee and tea, as well as cereal, which the kids enjoyed.

Our hosts were very welcoming, and we got to chat a bit each morning about our time in Costa Rica. They were obviously a bit intrigued to see a fair-skinned couple with a trio or darker Costa Rican kids, and we were able to talk about our adoption. The hosts of El Colibrí Rojo are actually from France, relocated there in search of a quieter and more laid-back life, and it was interesting to get their perspective on the country.

Pool and other facilities

The kids thoroughly enjoyed the pool at El Colibrí Rojo. It is not very big, but it fairly deep. I had to carefully watch our youngest for fear of him falling in. Our daughter was good about carrying him around so he could be part of the fun. The water was about the same temperature as the air, maybe just a hair cooler. Plenty warm for swimming.

When we weren’t at the beach, the kids were generally in the pool.

I liked the overall open-air design of the facilities at El Colibrí Rojo. Considering that it is always warm, it totally makes sense. Although there is also the argument for air-conditioned rooms. I believe ours is the only guest room that contains an A/C unit.

There is not much to the property, but certainly enough if all you’re looking for is a pool and breakfast. The small number of rooms (less than 10, I believe) also means it’s a pretty quiet place as well.

Playas near Cahuita

The nearby national park in Cahuita is the real gem of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, and the main reason we were here. The water is lovely, the sand is lovely, and the weather is lovely. Beach vacations have never been on my radar, but this experience started to change my mind. Now I understand that there is a lot more than the gritty, cold, windy beaches I’m used to in northern California.

Kels was sick some of the time, but she was still able to make it out to the beach with us a couple times to enjoy the sand and sun with the kids. The kids had a blast.

The sun scorches fast, though. We all had to be careful to put on plenty of sunscreen!

Conclusion

Our stay at El Colibrí Rojo was very nice. It was an inexpensive place that gave us some comforts of home (i.e. a kitchen and air conditioning) and the facilities we needed. I’d happily stay again, and I hope the hosts are still running the place and doing well.

Saving $600+ on a New Year’s Getaway

After literally a couple years of watching and building my rewards balance, I finally put my Wyndham points to good use for a 2019 New Year’s getaway with the older kids. Last year we had a similar trip, albeit for a single night at the Best Western Stevenson Manor in Calistoga (SEECelebrating New Years 2018). But that exhausted my (already small) Best Western Rewards balance.

So I turned to Wyndham this year, and they really delivered. Compared to many rewards programs, Wyndham kinda gets a bad rap. They don’t offer the same sort of loyalty benefits, nor do they have a great portfolio of hotels; most are budget brands like Super 8 and Howard Johnson. But that does not mean that the loyalty program is without any merit.

Putting Wyndham’s flat rate award nights to good use

The most unique thing about the Wyndham Rewards program is that all rewards nights cost the same, no matter the hotel. You can you 15,000 points for a night at the Super 8 across town that is going for $49.99, or you could use it for a night at The Mills House, where I stayed in Charleston during a recent trip (SEE: The Mills House Charleston Review). You could also use 15,000 points per night for a stay at the Vino Bello Resort in Napa, which is where we headed for New Year’s 2019.

Extracting value out of the Wyndham program boils down to two things: earn points during their promotions, which are fairly uncommon, but tend to reward you quite well. Then burn the points at one of their good properties. This may require some searching, and you will not find nice hotels at a long list of destinations, but if you can make one work with your travel plans, the potential value is excellent.

You can also use Wyndham points for stays at their condo and resort properties, which includes the Vino Bello Resort. Wyndham IT has gotten better, and a good number of the condo properties show on their website, including the properties in San Francisco, Napa and many other places in the country.

The real issue is finding an award that works. The condo and resort properties typically require a minimum stay of 2 nights, which is not really a bad thing. But you will also find that a very large number of dates are blacked out. I often have to search weekend after weekend to finally find one that *is* available.

Pulling the trigger on a New Year’s stay

When I found that the Vino Bello Resort had availability over New Year’s, I immediately booked it. It’s rare to find, and I didn’t want it to slip away. My wife and I then discussed the idea of us going, and she was all for it. Instead of a single night like the year before, I booked three.

The value of using my pints here is much greater than using them at other properties. I try to always get at least 1 cent per Wyndham point, and I definitely succeeded on this stay. The base rate for a one bedroom condo for three nights was $514.35. Add in the $25 resort fee per night and taxes, and the total for the stay would have been over $600. This was 100% covered by 45,000 Wyndham points! Although I did have to squabble with the front desk to waive the resort fee. But policy is on my side (SEE: Waive that resort fee! Holding a hotel to its program policies).

I’d been waiting to use these points for a while. Admittedly, 15,000 of them were earned by renewing my Wyndham Visa card issued by Barclays bank, which meant paying an annual fee of $69. But for $69, we got a room worth $200+. I think that is an excellent deal.

Conclusion

Rumors have been flying around that Wyndham is going to devalue its program, moving to the 3-tier structure where some properties cost 7,500 points, others 15,000, and the highest tier 30,000 per night. This will severely devalue the program for me, and will probably make me ditch it entirely, as all properties at which I’d want to redeem points will not require twice as many. I can imagine that all Wyndham Grand properties, Viva All-Inclusive Resort Properties, and condo properties will fall in this new, highest tier. Even a stay at The Mining Exchange, where we stayed in 2016, would probably require 30,000 points (SEE: The Mining Exchange, Wyndham Grand Hotel: A Review).

All this to say, I am quite happy that I burnt 45,000 Wyndham points to get $600 in value now rather than holding onto them and watching their value potentially halve in the future.

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