October 24 2015

New PointBreaks List Goes Live on Monday

Every few months, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) releases a new PointBreaks list. I consider PointBreaks one of the best deals in hotel loyalty programs, with award nights offered at the deeply discounted rate of 5,000 points per night.

IHG brands consist of the following:

IHG brands

A new set of PointBreaks properties will be released for booking on Monday (October 26). The list of properties can be found on IHG’s blog (here), and I have also pasted it below.

I value an IHG point at 0.7 cents, so being able to book a room for 5,000 points is like spending $35. Having the co-branded credit card gives you a 10% rebate on redemptions, effectively lowering the cost to 4,500 points per night.

$35 a night is a good deal at just about any decent hotel anywhere. But among the 100+ properties on each PointBreaks list, there is usually a handful of extraordinary deals – InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Hotel Indigo properties that normally require up to 50,000 points for an award night (or several hundred dollars for a paid night).

A few potential gems in this round:

There are also a few properties within a short drive or flight of my home that I’ll consider for weekend getaways

 

Ways to acquire IHG points

If you’re short on points, I previously suggested ways to earn IHG Rewards points. Among the methods described is a way to indirectly buy points for $0.007 each.

 

Booking strategy

These properties are offered at the PointBreaks rate from October 26, 2015 to January 31, 2016, but award nights are capacity controlled and desirable properties only last a few hours (if that). So if you’re interested I’d be poised to book as soon as the booking window opens.

The PointBreaks rate usually loads sometime between 8 to 10 AM Eastern on the day booking opens. However, the official PointBreaks page usually doesn’t display the new properties until the afternoon – by which time many desirable properties are gone. (If you go to that page before the new round is loaded, you’ll just see properties from the prior round still there.)

So here’s my strategy in advance of each new round:

  • Check out the preview list now and identify properties I’m interested in.
  • On the Eastern Time morning of the day booking opens (Monday, October 26 for this round), go to the webpage of each desired property (accessible from the links below) and navigate to the booking page.
  • Find the 5,000­ points-­per-­night ­rate and book it! Again, the exact time the PointBreaks rate loads is unknown, but it’s usually between 8-­10 AM EST. I just periodically refresh the page until it appears (while working on other things in another window).
IC Cairo
The InterContinental Cairo on the banks of the Nile – a steal at $35/night (photo: IHG)

 

Preview list

Below is the full list as of this writing. Once a property sells out of PointBreaks nights it drops off the PointBreaks page and the 5,000-­point rate no longer displays.

Remember each member may make up to two PointBreaks reservations per property. A reservation can be of any duration (availability permitting).

 

ASIA / AFRICA / MIDDLE EAST

 

EUROPE

Belgium

Czech Republic

Finland

France

Germany

Italy

Lithuania

Poland

Russia

Slovakia

Spain

Turkey

United Kingdom

 

THE AMERICAS

Brazil

Canada

Columbia

Costa Rica

Guatemala

Mexico

Nicaragua

Panama

 

THE USA

Alabama

Arkansas

Arizona

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Iowa

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Massachusetts

Maryland

Michigan

Minnesota

Missouri

Mississippi

Montana

North Carolina

North Dakota

Nebraska

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

Nevada

New York

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Vermont

Washington

Wisconsin

West Virginia

 

October 19 2015

Staybridge Suites Birmingham Hotel Review

After a regrettable stay at another hotel, I was happy to be moving on.

The Staybridge Suites Birmingham had been open barely a year when I arrived – I hoped that meant they were old enough to have worked out the initial bugs yet new enough that the rooms were nice and clean.

Staybridge Suites is InterContinental Hotels Group’s extended-stay brand, and since I was in the middle of a month-long trip I also looked forward to the extended-stay amenities.

In the end it was a great stay and a phenomenal deal – only 4,500 IHG points per night (5,000/night for those without the co-branded credit card) as the hotel was a PointBreaks offering at the time.

Pic-exterior
The hotel’s main entrance

The location

Location is almost always the most important attribute of a hotel to me, and as a city girl I found this location ideal.

It is right in the city center, easily reachable by and accessible to all kinds of transportation (including my favorite kind – walking).

There are restaurants right outside the front door and a Sainsbury’s supermarket around the corner. Shopping, banking, and most other services are but a few minutes away on foot.

That said, I believe a location closer to the canals (such as that of the Hyatt Regency) would be more picturesque yet still easily walkable, so I suggest considering staying closer to the canals if you prefer a less hectic environment.

 

The room

As you’d expect at a new property, furnishings were new and modern.

My L-shaped room had a sleeping alcove on one end and the kitchen on the other. The design is space-efficient, but a little awkward as there’s not much clearance on either side of the bed.

Pic-sleeping alcove
Sleeping alcove

In addition to ample closet space, a basket is provided in case you plan to use the laundry facilities.

SS closet
The closet area area, kitchen (left background), and bathroom (right background)

The kitchen had dishware, flatware, basic cooking supplies, a stovetop with two burners, a small refrigerator, a microwave/convection oven, and a dishwasher.

Pic-kitchen

Since the hotel caters to mostly business travelers it lacked a few small details that would’ve made it more comfortable for double occupancy.

There was no sofa; only a single upholstered armchair – so it wouldn’t be a great place for relaxing conversation. Likewise, there’s just one chair at the desk/dining table – not brilliant for two-person meals.

I think the table in the corner was supposed to be a desk, but the TV occupied most of its surface so I always worked at the kitchen counter, which was comfortable enough with the padded desk chair.

Pic-desk

The bathroom was clean and functional, but again pretty cozy (space-wise).

Pic-bathroom

 

The service

The service was always polite and friendly.

I arrived at 7:30 AM and they couldn’t check me into a room until 11:00 (which is totally within their right since the published check-in time is 3:00 PM). I told the agent I’d traveled through the night, thanked her for finding me a room early, and said I was looking forward to taking a nap as soon as I got to the room.

A few minutes after I got in the room, she called to say they’d planned to test the fire alarm at noon but could reschedule if that would bother my nap. I told her not to worry and that they should proceed as planned, but I very much appreciated the gesture.

Housekeeping is provided every weekday, but if you want it on the weekends you have to request it 24 hours beforehand. I didn’t mind this policy (I often decline daily housekeeping anyway) and in fact liked knowing I wouldn’t be disturbed on the weekend.

The only snafu was that I’d checked in on a Friday so by Monday I was out of supplies. Yet when housekeeping came on Monday they did not replenish some supplies. I had to call down for toilet paper and soap. It actually took several hours to arrive and I had to call several times. Not a huge problem, but I’m just saying it wasn’t a flawless experience.

 

The amenities

I swear I took pictures of the amenities, but the dog must’ve eaten them?

Daily breakfast is included in the room rate, but after a few days I realized the hot-food menu only varied by one item: eggs were scrambled one day and omelet-style the next. The only other hot items were sausage and baked beans, both prepared the same way every day. However, there’s a nice selection of breads, pastries, yogurt, fruit, and beverages.

There is also an evening reception Tuesdays through Thursdays. It’s a nice touch, but again don’t plan your life around it and definitely don’t expect to make a meal of it. For the primary clientele – business travelers – these receptions are a convenient way to congregate with colleagues in the evening.

The laundry room had maybe 5 or 6 washers and the same number of dryers. The one time I used it, machines were readily available.

The fitness room was bigger and nicer than I expected, but I’d rather just go outside for exercise (weather permitting – this is England 🙂 ).

 

Summary

Overall I enjoyed the stay and the location is ideal if you like being right in the city. I wouldn’t hesitate to say here again if the price were right.

Pros

  • Central location
  • New, clean, and modern
  • Friendly service
  • Amenities for long-term travelers

Cons

  • Just some nits as described above

Cost

  • 4,500 IHG points/night. Since I value an IHG point at $0.007, I equate the cost to $32/night all in. A great deal for the quality!

Link to hotel website.