Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: IHG (page 1 of 3)

IHG’s Winter 2017 Promotion: Accelerate (Yes, Again)

In what may become the most reused promotion name in hotel industry history, IHG has yet again released another Accelerate promotion. I am beginning to think that the name “Accelerate” may be here to stay. The current Fall 2016 promotion is just winding down, and the new one picks up January 1, 2017. The couple weeks around the holidays are unfortunately left out in the cold.

Like all the other Accelerate promotions, the offers are “customized” (the best I can tell, it is randomized, or influenced by status) for each member. Shawn over at Miles to Memories reported that his were okay at best.

I was fortunate to get a good one. Mine has the potential to earn 30-31k points from a single night stay and a purchase of 1,000 points. This should cost a total of $100 at most. If I am fortunate enough to have a work stay during the promotion, it could easily cost me as little as $13.50 out of pocket for the points purchase. Pretty sweet. It’s even better than the last couple I have had.

What other offers are out there? Let me know what yours are in the comments.

 

A Little Post-Thanksgiving Trip

Too often I forget that a quick getaway can be just as enjoyable as a multi-week adventure. This weekend was a great reminder of that. Quick trips may not seem as grand, especially in light of some of our recent ones, but they are far more doable.

After a lovely Thanksgiving, my wife and I hit the road for some time together in San Francisco this past weekend. My job gives me both Thursday and Friday off for the holiday, so it was the perfect opportunity for a quick getaway.

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The Westin St. Francis, venue for Tremaine Convention

There were some ulterior motives beyond simply visiting the City by the Bay. The annual Tremaine Dance Convention in San Francisco is traditionally been slated for the weekend after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. My wife has taught dance for several years at a local studio, and I figured we could catch some of her students’ competition dances at the event. As this is the last year she will be teaching (before we bring our kids home), I figured it would be extra special for her to attend.

I have been to San Francisco many times over the past few years. But rather than letting it feel like old hat, I was excited for a weekend away. Most of my trips to the Bay are for work, and it is rare that my wife and I get any time in the city. The last time was supposed to be special, but it turned into a hectic anniversary spent getting a passport.

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The Mark Hopkins Hotel

For our first night I was able to get a fantastic rate for a night at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, an iconic, historic hotel located at the top of San Francisco’s Nob Hill. At only 4 blocks from the dance convention and Union Square, the location was great as well.

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Front of the Mark Hopkins

The hotel normally runs $300+ per night for a standard room, or 60,000 IHG points. We got it for way less. It was actually the lowest rate I had ever seen for the Mark Hopkins.

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Christmas tree in the Mark Hopkins lobby

The Mark Hopkins is beautiful. The lobby and restaurant were already decorated for Christmas. Check-in was a little busy, and I could tell the front desk just wanted to get us on our way. They did upgrade us to a corner room, but not on a high floor or with a view of the Bay. But it was still very nice (main view is header photo).

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View of the front valet lot

We spent a relaxing night at the hotel, simply enjoying the time together. A great part of the experience was enjoying dessert at the Top of the Mark, the 19th floor restaurant with wonderful views of downtown San Francisco and the Bay.

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View from our table at the Top of the Mark

The next day we visited Union Square with its traditional Christmas tree. We considered ice skating at the rink as well, but were a bit turned off by the price. As it turned out, it was raining heavily during the middle of the day, so I was quite happy we didn’t buy tickets. We’ll have some skating opportunities near home before the season is over.

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The Christmas Tree in Union Square

After lunch and a crazy drive through town to re-park the van (we burnt an hour looking for an open parking garage), it was time for the dance competition. I left my wife at the mezzanine level of the Westin St. Francis and headed off to a coffee shop for the evening. After blogging and slacking for a while, I decided go watch Arrival at the AMC Metreon.

I fetched my wife roughly five(!) hours (man, that is a lot of dancing). Our second night was a cash and points booking at a Holiday Inn Express just over an hour from the city. The two stays would finish off my Fall 2016 IHG Accelerate promotion.

Sunday was spent driving home, enjoying the redwoods, the rain, and the time together. Now that we have a more reliable vehicle, I hope we can take many more weekend getaways.

 

 

 

Intercontinental Carlton Cannes: A Review

Location: Cannes, France

Overall Rating: 9/10

Located at an enviable location along the boulevard La Croisette in the heart of Cannes, the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes is one of the most iconic hotels in the world. During the Cannes Film Festival it is the most prestigious place to stay. It was also the primary location in the classic Cary Grant film, To Catch A Thief.

After I settled on Nice as the starting point of our trip this past summer, I simply couldn’t resist using our IHG free night certificates at the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes. Heading to Cannes wasn’t initially on the itinerary, but the amazing award redemption was simply too good to pass up. Instead of staying in Nice for 5 nights, I figured we would split our time between Nice and Cannes, spending 3 nights in each city and reducing our time in Italy by one night to compensate. Rates were over €380 the nights we were there, so it was a fantastic use of the $49 annual “free night” certificates, plus 60,000 points for the third night.

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Entry walk

We arrived in Cannes by train and then took a local bus that dropped us just steps from the hotel. A €1 bus ride certainly beats a taxi or Uber. The entryway to the Carlton is gorgeous. While the Hyatt Regency in Nice where we had just stayed has an upscale elegance that is not overstated, the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes is far more decorative and grand.

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Logo at the entrance

I instantly knew we were at a top notch hotel. The service was impeccable. The doorman was extremely friendly, and insisted on taking my luggage. I generally protest as I feel my wife and I are more than capable of handling what we pack. Plus, we don’t tend to stay at places like the Carlton, so it still feels rather odd to let someone bring our luggage to our room.

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Lobby from foot of main stair

The front desk is to the left as you enter the lobby from outside, and the concierge desk is opposite. The lobby itself is beautiful and imposing. Check-in went quickly for us, and we were told that we had been given an upgrade to a larger room. Technically, this is not something that IHG hotels are obliged to do for award stays for elite members, but I have found that some do nonetheless. I appreciate the gesture.

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Hall

The lady at the front desk proceeded to walk us to our room, which was the first time we had ever experienced this. I found it awkward, but I can assume that it is simply par for the course at a hotel of this caliber.

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Stair that heads down to the restaurant

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Panorama as you walk into the room

The room itself was spacious and every bit as nice as I expected. It was furnished with a desk, a sitting area of two chairs and small table, and a king bed with nightstands, all of very nice quality.

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Comfortable king bed

The window could open slightly and overlooked the side street. If we had been here during the off season, I may have tried my luck at requesting an upgrade to a sea-view room. But in the height of summer, I doubted we would have much of a chance. Plus, I always hate asking.

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Sitting area by the window

There were two bottles of water provided when we arrived, and again each day during our stay. This was a staple at all the upscale hotels we stayed at during the trip, and it was very much appreciated. My wife and I both struggled to stay well hydrated in the heat.

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Room panorama from the interior corner

The desk wasn’t especially comfortable for working, mainly due to the chair. Luckily, I didn’t need to clock more than just a couple hours during our stay. Other than that, it was nice enough.

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Desk. It wasn’t overly comfortable to work from.

The bathroom was reasonably sized and very, very nice. It featured a shower/tub, double sinks, and a separate area with a toilet and a bidet. And again, there was a phone in the toilet room.

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Bathroom

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Double sinks

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Shower/tub

One thing we didn’t do was eat breakfast at the hotel. It is a bit of a bummer that even at the highest status level (which we received as a fluke last year), IHG Rewards Club members do not get free breakfast. This is a staple perk of nearly every other well-known hotel loyalty program, including Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. Lack of free breakfast at any status level is one of the biggest shortcomings of IHG. There was no way that we were going to pay €34 per person for breakfast!

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Our hot plate has become a travel necessity.

This meant we cooked in our hotel room the whole time. We do this a lot anyway since my wife has a sensitive stomach and cooking for ourselves is preferred. Plus, we’re pretty cheap. The markets in Cannes were within easy walking distance, so we were able to get fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables quite easily.

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Front of the Carlton

Although we very much enjoyed our room, my wife and I spent the bulk of our time out and about. Cannes is lovely. We enjoyed exploring the Lerins Islands both, and I even jumped in the Med for a brief swim while on Ile Sant Honorat.

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View between the Lerins Islands, from Ile Saint Honorat

Our other enjoyments were spending time at the Marché Gambetta, the open air market near the train station, and seeing the Musée de la Castre, which provides unbeatable views of Cannes and the Lerins Islands. We also walked Rue Meynadier which is one of the main commercial areas and has a great collection of small shops.

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Panorama of Cannes from the Musée de la Castre

Overall, we loved our time at the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes. The hotel is iconic, and the service excellent. It was a memorable experience, and I loved that we got great value from our IHG certificates. The hotel is certainly above our typical travel standards, but this is what award travel is for!

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Leaving!

IHG Share Forever 2016

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IHG runs endless promotions. I’ve been a rewards member for just over a year now, and there has basically been at least one promotion running at any given time. No sooner have I completed my Accelerate offer (thank you work travel) than another hits my inbox: Share Forever. This is some serious deja vu. Both the Share Forever and Accelerate names were used last year.

If you are an IHG rewards member, head over to the promo site to see your offer. The offers differ among people, but yours should allow you to potentially net at least an extra 65,000 IHG points. Mine is good for a single night during May, which could earn me an extra 8,000 points plus 1,000 for my wife. Beyond that, I don’t expect to go out of my way to earn the extra points. If work sends me on a couple trips, I could potentially hit the 5 night mark, but the extra rewards are still meager.

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Good return for one night, meager beyond that. Maybe we’ll spend a night in SF to see the Giants.

The only confusing thing about my offer is the point totals. My Share Forever dashboard already says I earned 1,000 points (maybe for just logging in? I doubt it). The email also said “Earn 73,900 bonus points with Share Forever” while my dashboard shows a potential 67,900. I had issues with the previous accelerate offer telling me I could earn more points than were showing, so maybe it is another tech issue.

If you are not an IHG rewards member, go sign up, and then register for the Share Forever promotion. Better yet, go apply for their Chase MasterCard. The welcome bonus is currently an above-average 70,000 points, with a bonus 5,000 points for adding an authorized user.

Finishing Off My Spring 2016 IHG Accelerate Promotion

I previously wrote about how two work trips made it possible for me to capitalize on my IHG Accelerate promotion offer. Like other promotions IHG has run, each member’s offer is ‘customized’ for them, although I am sure there is a finite pool of possibilities, and each is either picked randomly or by a set of criteria. My wife and I happened to have the exact same offer for the Fall promotion last year, and also the exact same one this Spring. While the offers then were rather lousy, my Spring 2016 Accelerate offers are much more lucrative, especially when my work will reimburse me for my lodging.

I completed three of the offers on two stays back in January, and another by a single night in February, netting a total of 45,000 bonus points. My final offer for an extra 10,000 points requires a total of 5 paid nights, and I am finishing it up by a two night stay at the Holiday Inn Express Walnut Creek and a single night at the Holiday Inn Windsor.

Combining the earnings from this promotion with both the base points I earn from the stays and the points I earned from the Priceless Surprises promotion this year, I have already banked 125,000 points for a total of $65 out of pocket. This is one of the times that I am extremely glad that I have work travel at my disposal as a way to earn extra points. Possible uses for 125k IHG points range from 2 nights at a top-tier Intercontinental in Tahiti, to 5 nights at a mid-range Holiday Inn at in a major city, to a whopping 25 nights at a PointBreaks property!

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