Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

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The Club at DFW Review

My daughter and I transited Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) last week on our way to South America, and with a 7-hour layover, we had plenty of time to hop through a couple lounges. The first we hit up was The Club at DFW using my Priority Pass membership.

The Club at DFW is located in Terminal D. We’d landed at Terminal A, so we had to take the skytrain several stops until we arrived on the other side of the airport. The Club at DFW is located near Gate 27, on the mezzanine level of the airport. If you head into the middle of the cluster of shops, you’ll see the lounge at the escalator leading to it.

Head up, and turn right. You might be confused where to go from there, as the lounge is actually broken into multiple areas, but the signs should help.

the club at dfw review

We were greeted warmly by the attending lounge agent, and she scanned our boarding passes and my Priority Pass card. As this is the membership card from my Chase Sapphire Reserve, I can guest in up to two people for free. However, as is common with “The Club” network of lounges, kids 12 and under are free at The Club at DFW. This makes it a great choice if you’re traveling as a family. Unless you have more than one teen, you can get everyone in for free.

Layout and seating of The Club at DFW

The lounge agent explained the lounge to us, as it was our first visit. There are a couple different spaces, and it is a bit more unique than the other The Club lounges I’ve visited. There are a few different sections, including the dining and beverage section, an open-air business center, and then the “Relax” area meant to be more quiet.

As the dining section was pretty full, we opted for the Relax section, which is glassed in and had pleasant jazz music playing.

The seats are comfortable, and there is an ample number of power outlets for keeping your devices charged. Such a necessity in our modern connected world. It’s sad that heading to a lounge and not finding a seat with a plug for my laptop power cord is a source of frustration.

The open-air business area was a popular spot. Open-air being open to the terminal, not the warm Texas air.

It’d be cool if the lounge had views of aircraft or the runway, but you instead look out over airport shopping below.

Past the check in desk to the left is the dining area. We did move over here later when thing thinned out a bit and we both felt like eating.

The Club at DFW is *not* a large lounge. The make do with the space they have, and the space itself is nice, but overall it isn’t that big. Agents were often checking to see if seats were full, and I heard them call in on a walkie talkie a couple times how many were available in one of the areas. My guess is that The Club at DFW becomes capacity-controlled often.

The Club at DFW food and drink

I knew that we would be eating again later at the Premium Lounge as international business class customers, so we just snacked a bit at The Club at DFW. In the relax section there are some beverages, including soft drinks, coffee, and a lemonade tea beverage. I was expecting infused water, so both the sweetness and tang surprised me. It was quite good.

The food options included a small salad bar, rolls, sandwiches, wraps, brownies, cookies and fruit. This is all fairly typical of the Club lounges. There wasn’t really anything to distinguish The Club at DFW from that at SJC, or the one in Atlanta (SEE: The Club at ATL Review).

the club at dfw review food

You also have a coffee machine and a selection of tea. There was also a soup. I cannot recall what it was that day.

The bar is small and located behind the check in desk and is continually staffed. The Club lounges have a decent wine selection, and plenty of other options to choose from.

Other facilities of The Club at DFW

The Club at DFW may be the only lounge of this type that has a shower. At least it is the only one I know of. The shower is located in the restroom in the Relax section.

Note that this is the only restroom. If the shower is occupied and you need to use the facilities, you’ll need to exit the lounge and head across the mezzanine to the opposite side of the escalators for airport bathrooms. Not ideal, but easy enough to manage as they are maybe 100 feet from the lounge.

The WiFi was a bit of a struggle. Maybe it was just my computer. My daughter didn’t have much of an issue streaming Netflix, but I had trouble loading many web pages. We were also able to FaceTime friends (after moving to the dining area that was a bit more noisy), so the WiFi struggle may have just been my machine.

Conclusion

Overall, our experience was nice, and The Club at DFW might be my favorite of the lounges within The Club network. It is a solid domestic lounge if you have time to kill in Dallas while waiting for a flight. The primary drawbacks are getting there from other terminals, and also the size, as I’m sure it ends up capacity-controlled, especially considering the level of effort staff go through to manage seating.

Hope you enjoyed my review of The Club at DFW!

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?

Laying Eyes on Tahoe for the First Time

While I’ve visited much of my hone state (I only have two counties left!), there are a number of places that I’ve still not had the opportunity to see. A couple of these are a mild source of shame, as they are some of the most beautiful locations within California. And at the top of this short list was Lake Tahoe (SEE: One place I am ashamed I haven’t visited).

When I planned a last-minute road trip with our older two kids last year, Tahoe seemed like a great final stop before returning home. It wasn’t too far off the most ideal route between Death Valley and northern California, and it was a far more beautiful option than crossing over into the central valley. It would be a fairly quick visit, but at least we’d get to see the lake.

The first stop: Emerald Bay

After a morning spent driving up Highway 395 and a stop a Mono Lake (SEE: A New Favorite California Scenic Drive), we finally crossed through Alpine County and over to Lake Tahoe. Emerald Bay was the first stop. You know those classic photos of Lake Tahoe? Sorta like this one?

That’s Emerald Bay. It’s an utterly picturesque spot, and probably the most photographed point around the entire lake, as it is easily accessible from South Lake Tahoe. Parking was a bit tricky, as everyone is competing for a spot. We were fortunate to find a place not too far from Emerald Bay and then walked down the road.

Not only did we get to see Emerald Bay stretching out before us, but we also enjoyed lovely Eagle Falls. The kids and I crossed through the water a few times, which was frigid, but we were careful to stay clear of the sharp drop. It is a very picturesque spot. Just don’t get too close to the edge, as there was a death here recently, directly related to taking a selfie.

We took a brief walk along the trail heading south from Eagle Falls, but all too soon had to return to the car and head back into town.

An evening at the “beach”

After checking into our hotel and enjoying some Mexican food for an early dinner, we headed to the beach at the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Area. We walked the short stretch of sand (which is rather unlike ocean sand), and the kids enjoyed playing on the rocks and in the very gently lapping waves.

It started to get chilly quickly, definitely a drawback of visiting in early April. But, man, is Tahoe beautiful. The photos don’t do it justice. It was so much better to finally be there in person and see this gem of our state. We’ll have to come back for a summer trip where we can explore and enjoy the lake longer than half a day.

Our last stop was for ice cream. I found a great spot right at the Nevada state line called The Baked Bear. I’d never heard of the chain before (they have a number of locations in California and in a smattering of other states), but it is an excellent place. Pricey, but excellent. They make custom ice cream sandwiches where you get to pick your cookies, ice cream, and a coating or topping. Definitely a hit with the kids.

Conclusion

We’ll miss you, Tahoe. Hopefully we’ll be back to visit soon. Don’t we look like a bunch of ragamuffins? Obviously none of us cared to really brush our hair after seven days in the car (LOL).

This wrapped up our final full day of our April 2018 road trip (SEE: Southwest Road Trip Overview). I’m finally done with my posts, only a little over a year later. Blogging over at Points with a Crew has taken precedence, but even that is changing, as I’ve landed a new opportunity that I am very excited about. More on that later. I’m just glad I’m done. A couple more trips to finish, and I’ll be wrapped up with most of our adventures.

4 things award travel has taught my phone’s autocorrect ​

Autocorrect fails are some of the funniest things. I wish I would note down every random thing my iPhone *thinks* I meant, many of which are words I’ve never ever typed. And probably never would have, except for the “helpful” interference.

But autocorrect can actually learn, which has been useful. Here are four award travel-related words my phone has picked up on:

SFO and HKG (and many other airport codes)

These are two airport codes I’ve used a lot. San Francisco International is a typical departure point for us, and Hong Kong seems to come up in a lot of deals and also as the backbone award segment when flying to Asia, as the route between these two cities is served by United, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore. It’s little wonder my phone will correct to these a lot.

There are a number of others it knows, including ACV, SMF, LAX, and ROA.

Bonvoy(ed)

It’s sad, but true. My phone will now correct things to “bonvoy” as I type. As least it’s not audibly yelling “Bonvoy!” at me, although that might be the logical next step. I’ve had a couple instances where I’ve tried to type something else, and my phone has changed the text to “Bonvoy”.

Maybe this is the ultimate way of being bonvoyed? I guess most of the time this is what I’m trying to write anyway. If you’re unaware of the issues plaguing Marriott’s new Bonvoy loyalty program, check out the website dedicated to cataloging customer problems.

AAdvantage and MileagePlus

It makes sense that two of the primary award programs among U.S. carriers are used commonly enough that my phone knows when to insert them, correct capitalization and all.

MileagePlus is unique enough that I’m not surprised. But it is surprising that American’s program name is recognized. If I mess up just trying to type “advantage”, sometimes I get the version with the double A.

LifeMiles

Don’t get me started. I have a love-hate relationship with Avianca’s program. While I’d managed to put up with their quirky website and other nuances, things pretty much disintegrated when I experienced a flight cancellation and they refused to refund the ticket. If their system says its flown, it means you flew it, no matter how much evidence you present to the contrary (SEE: My epic battle with LifeMiles and how I was finally victorious).

I’ve ranted about LifeMiles enough, often by email with Mark Ostermann of Miles to Memories, who has his own long list of grievances with the program.

Conclusion

Maybe a funny post, but it was a humorous revelation when I started noticing how often some of these words come up. Being active in a few award travel Facebook groups as well as being an award travel writer has resulted in an odd number of additions to my phone’s learned words.

Four Day Blast to Taipei and Back

It’s been like ten days since I published a post, which is like two months in blog time. I just can’t keep up. The demands of family, work, and other, more lucrative side work (as this blog directly makes me $0) have resulted in me neglecting posting. But I *do* have some exciting news on one front that I will announce in due time.

In the middle of these hectic weeks was a trip that was planned months ago. I’d caught an amazing fare sale on trans-Pacific one-way tickets and combined it with award flights for the outbound to give my son and I three days in Taipei, Taiwan and then one day on a stopover in Xiamen, China.

You may be thinking that sounds insane. It kinda was. But it was also super cool to blast to Asia and back for an effective time of only four days.

Taipei – A city for foodies

I’ve conversed with a few different folks and read up on how great Taiwan is for travelers who love to eat. Jason, a former contributor at Points with a Crew, turned me on to a few places in the city that we enjoyed. I also picked another suggestion featured by Lonely Planet, and we explored some of the night markets, enjoying the eclectic sights, smells and flavors.

We spent a total of two nights and three full days, seeing everything from Taipei 101, to Dihua Street, to Yangmingshan National Park, to the history in Tamsui. It was a fast-paced and fun three days.

Xiamen – A rising Chinese gem

Our return itinerary included a full day in the mainland Chinese city of Xiamen. I could have planned things in such a way that we would have had a shorter layover and could have just hung out at the airport for several hours, but a late flight the night before and a hotel night would give us most of a day to explore this city. Xiamen was featured by Conde Nast Traveler as an up and coming destination.

Or so I thought. My son ended up feeling sick in the morning and then our afternoon didn’t go at all how I expected. But we did get to see an interesting part of the city before we had to head to the airport and board our flight back to California.

More to come on the trip. I have a number of other posts from previous trips that I still want to finish first, however.

Would I do it again?

In  a heartbeat. I went solo to Australia in early 2017, which was my first condensed trip abroad. But this was the first time I pulled off something this short with one or more kids. Our trip to France last year sorta qualifies, but that one was seven full days and eight nights, which is fairly normal for some people’s European adventures.

Four days and three nights in Asia? That’s a bit more crazy.

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