Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Wyndham

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).

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.

Wyndham Launches New Elite Tiers In Its Already Revitalized Loyalty Program

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Last year Wyndham launched a revamped loyalty program that scrapped its previous award tiers and replaced them with a flat rate for award nights. This means both the Super 8 down the road and the Shelbourne Wyndham Grand in Miami require the same number of points: 15,000. This single change made the Wyndham Rewards program more attractive, not to mention that Wyndham was running credit card offers in 2015 with a sign-up bonus of 45,000 points. This combination could make for an great 3-night getaway for a only a $69 credit card fee!

Now they have taken the revitalization of the program even further by launching a new elite tier system. The tier bonuses (at least on paper) are decent. Among the different tier benefits are room upgrades, late check out, early check in, annual bonus points, a welcome amenity, and more. You can find all the details here. Also, check out Gary Leff’s fantastic rundown on the new program.

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Wyndham’s new elite tier chart goes into effect on May 18, 2016. Image courtesy of Wyndham.

The way things are heading, Wyndham may quickly become one of the more lucrative hotel loyalty programs around. They already have great appeal to the budget traveler, consisting mostly of low and mid-tier brands. If they could add a couple more brands of luxury hotels into their portfolio that have global coverage, they could easily become one of the dominant names in the hotel game. I had been considering letting go of my Wyndham Rewards Visa that I used for a stay a The Mining Exchange this month, but I may reconsider that decision in light of the changes.

One of the most unique offerings of the program are its rollover nights. A lot of programs let you roll over nights toward the next year, but I can’t think of a single one that lets you do this at the base level. Assume you stay 4 nights this year. Because you didn’t reach Gold status this year, all four nights will roll over to next year’s qualification, which means you only need one more night to hit Gold in 2017!

Overall, I think the new program is very generous, with both Gold and Platinum levels offering good perks while requiring a fairly small number of nights. As a program, it easily matches or beats the general perks offered by IHG, and even the lower levels of the Hilton and Marriott programs, in my opinion. This may be a comparison of apples to oranges since I am making this determination of the ‘on paper’ perks, and not taking into consideration the general quality of the chain. Being given an upgrade to a ‘Preferred Room’ at a Ramada may not really be much of anything. Then again, if used at a Wyndham Grand, it might be quite nice. And the real magic is that this benefit kicks in at Gold level, which requires only 5 nights!

The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel: A Review

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Overall Rating: 9/10

Pros: Neat historic building, very nice room and bathroom

Cons: Noisy night due to event, no free breakfast, room not especially large

Wyndham Rewards is an often overlooked hotel loyalty program. The portfolio of hotels includes mostly budget options, most of which aren’t on the radar of many travelers. Recently, Wyndham removed any sort of tiered elite status program (which really only have a basic and gold level), and replaced it with a simple earning and redemption structure. Essentially, you earn 10 points per dollar spent on their hotels (minimum of 1,000 points per stay), and every hotel requires 15,000 points for a “GoFree” award night. There are also a 3,000 points + variable cash “GoFast” award for many hotels.

The Mining Exchange Wyndham Grand represents good value

With the flat 15,000 point redemption rate for any hotel, the best value for your points is always at higher end hotels, and with Wyndham these are generally the Wyndham Grand, Wyndham, and Dolce brands. I had been eyeing The Mining Exchange: A Wyndham Grand previously as a potential redemption option for our points, and it was an easy decision to make when we traveled to Colorado Springs to see friends and family.

The going cash rate was $169+tax over the dates we were staying in Colorado Springs, so The Mining Exchange was definitely a good candidate for a rewards stay, although I am sure there are still better options. I used all 45,000 points gained from signing up for the Wyndham Rewards Visa for our 3-night stay; for a credit card fee of $69, we were getting ~$550 in value. This got us a value of over 1.1 cents/point, which makes the credit card return a decent 2.2 cents/$, since it has an earning rate of 2 points per dollar. There aren’t all that many hotels at which you can get this sort of value, however.

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Arriving at the Mining Exchange Wyndham Grand

Upon arrival at The Mining Exchange in downtown Colorado Springs, we were greeted warmly by the two valets at the door. They kindly took our luggage and escorted us to the lobby. I realized that we don’t often receive this sort of service because my wife and I do not often arrive at hotels by car, instead typically choosing to navigate the mass transit system.

mining exchange wyndham grand lobby

We immediately noticed how elegantly beautiful the lobby is. There is ample seating, a piano, and couches along with a fireplace next to an old vault that remains in the building. I spent some time here on the second morning to enjoy the setting of the place.

The edifice of The Mining Exchange Wyndham Grand was constructed in 1902, and the building was originally the stock exchange for mining companies in the region for many years (hence the name). The building underwent a $24 million renovation to become The Mining Exchange hotel in 2012, and it took on the Wyndham Grand branding.

mining_exchange_bed

Our room impressed us as well. It was a standard queen, but it was plenty large, the bed was comfy, and the desk was huge. The exterior wall was brick, but the rest of the room was very modern. I found that I really liked the meld of old and new.

mining_exchange_painting

There was a painting on the wall that looked like it was of the hotel exterior, but done in very bright colors. It took me a while to make out what it was. It even had a separate light to illuminate it.

mining_exchange_bathroomThe bathroom was very nice, although the sink area was a bit small. Even with what we considered to be fairly minimal toiletries, it was hard to keep all of our items unpacked around the sink. The shower was a different story, however. It was waaaaay oversized and had dual shower heads. The water was wondrously hot. Hands down the best hotel shower I have ever used.

One of the first things that we noticed however, was the lack of a fridge. My wife and I can typically make due for a night without a refrigerator, but I knew that this would be a lot more inconvenient over a 3 night stay. Her diet consists of a lot of food that must be refrigerated, and it is a major inconvenience to be without one while traveling. Instead of making a single run to the store, we would have to run there once every day.

I headed down to the front desk to see if they had refrigerators available. The lady was very nice and said that they would bring one up right away. The maintenance guy arrived 20 minutes later. Stellar service. The service provided by housekeeping was equally as good. They even left us some complimentary chocolate on Saturday.

Food and breakfast

The one major bummer of the hotel was the coffee. I forgot to pick up cream or milk at the store before we arrived at the hotel (which is a must for me), so I figured I would try the Starbucks coffee the hotel bar offered during the morning. Complete mistake. It was awful. I found Caribou coffee a block away the next day, at it was better. There is also a actual Starbucks located on the other side of the block on Tejon street. This was a quick easy breakfast in lieu of paying for the hotel restaurant.

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Springs Orleans restaurant. Image courtesy of Wyndham.

We didn’t try Springs Orleans, the hotel restaurant. The menu looked delicious, but we ended up eating with family and friends for most of the trip, grabbing a quick bite out, or we cooked for ourselves. I haven’t had cajun food since when we were in New Orleans for a couple nights on our honeymoon, nearly four years ago.

Other facilities and issues

The other things we didn’t try were the MXSpa or the fitness center, both located on the basement level of the hotel. I should have just given it a peek, even if we didn’t use the services. By far the coolest part of The Mining Exchange Wyndham Grand was the lobby.

One other issue that came up was a noisy event hosted by the hotel. I don’t know what it was, but there was music blaring across from our room until at least 11:00 at night. I was surprised the hotel allowed this. We did’t mention it to the hotel since my wife and I both eventually managed to fall asleep. But I can see how it could be super disruptive.

Final notes

Parking will cost at least a little. The Mining Exchange Wyndham Grand offers valet parking for $18 per day, and you can come and go as much as you like. They will fetch and return your car each time. We decided to go with the self park option, since the garage is only a block away, and it cost $1 per day on the weekend (actually per entry/exit), and then $0.75 per hour on weekdays, with a maximum of around $7. Our Monday bill was $5, so we managed to get away with $7 in parking for the 3-night stay.

Overall, we had a great stay. The hotel service was fantastic, and we really enjoyed the blend of the historic building with modern facilities. The rewards value was decent, but not great; however, we were more than pleased with the value of our stay.