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.

December 12 2014

IHG Bonus Points Offer – To Buy or Not To Buy?

[If you came here just for the free donuts, the information is at the bottom of this post. 😉 ]

IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty program of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), is currently offering a bonus when you buy points in the program.

IHG Bonus Pts Offer

A few people have asked me if it’s worth it. My answer – as it is to most questions in life – is “it depends.”

The offer

IHG normally sells points for as low as 1.15 cents each. Here’s the price chart:

IHG Bonus Pts Rates

That is not a good deal considering they can be acquired for 0.7 cents by other means (discussed here).

However, this promotion gives you a certain bonus when buying points.

But not everyone is offered the same bonus. The various offers are 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. You can find out which you received here.

This is the effective cost per point with each offer:

IHG Bonus Pts CPP

Analysis

If you received a 50% offer or below, it does not make sense to buy points this way (since you can acquire them for cheaper, at 0.7 cents each, as mentioned above).

If you got a 75% or 100% offer, then I could see it making sense if both of the following are true:

  • You think IHG points are worth more than these sale prices. I personally value an IHG point at about 0.7 cents, so I think prices are favorable if you received the 75% or the 100% offer.
  • You have a specific, near-term use for them. I would not buy points just to hoard them as (1) loyalty points can be – and often are – devalued at whim by the company, and (2) I think it unwise to convert a liquid asset (cash) to an illiquid one (hotel points with little value outside their loyalty program) without good reason.

Here’s an example where it does make sense to buy points. Below is the price of a room at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam on a random date this summer.

IC Amstel 2

As you see, for one night the cash rate is €1,460 (about $1,800 at today’s exchange rate).

Instead of paying cash, you can book a night for 40,000 points – which can be purchased for $230 with the 100% bonus offer (40,000 x $0.00575) or $263 with the 75% offer.

I’ve used this example before, and it’s a fairly extreme example, but it’s good for illustration.

But be sure to check award availability at your desired hotel before purchasing points!

Bonus tip

Treat yourself to a free dozen Krispy Kreme donuts (with purchase).

Krispy Kreme Dozen

Coupon is available here and offer is valid only today (December 12). Enjoy!

November 30 2014

2,000 Bonus Points for Enrolling in IHG Rewards Club

IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty program of Intercontinental Hotels Group, is offering 2,000 bonus points for simply signing up. You can do so here.

IHG Signup Bonus

I believe IHG offers one of the best values in hotel loyalty programs: award nights for the heavily discounted rate of 5,000 points (the equivalent of $35) per night with its PointBreaks program.

2,000 points is 40% of the way to a free night through PointBreaks. If you don’t already have an account, it’s definitely worth a few minutes to sign up.

In case you’re unfamiliar with IHG, its brands consist of the following:

IHG Brands

The offer expires December 7, 2014.

 

November 24 2014

Luxury Hotels for $35/Night – New PointBreaks Properties Now Bookable

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 was released for booking today. The list can be found here, and I have also pasted it below for convenience.

I value an IHG point at $0.007 (seven tenths of one cent), so being able to book a room for 5,000 points is like spending $35.

$35 a night is a good deal for just about any decent hotel property 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).

PalacePortGhalib
The Palace Port Ghalib Resort in Egypt

A few of the gems on the list, in my opinion:

 

Ways to acquire IHG points

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

 

List of participating properties

Below is the full list as of this writing. The offer is valid through February 28, 2015, but award nights are capacity controlled and desirable properties go quickly so if interested I would book as soon as possible.

Once a property sells out of PointBreaks nights it drops off the PointBreaks page and the 5,000-point rate no longer displays for booking.

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

 

UNITED STATES

ALABAMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS MONTGOMERY – EAST I-85
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SYLACAUGA

ARIZONA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ORO VALLEY-
TUCSON NORTH

CANDLEWOOD SUITES TUCSON

ARKANSAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MALVERN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORRILTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES VAN BUREN-
FT SMITH AREA

CALIFORNIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES INDIO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES JACKSON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LIVERMORE
HOLIDAY INN PALMDALE-LANCASTER
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES TEHACHAPI
HWY 58/MILL ST.

COLORADO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CO SPRINGS-
AIR FORCE ACADEMY

CONNECTICUT
HOLIDAY INN NEW LONDON – MYSTIC AREA
EVEN HOTEL NORWALK

DELAWARE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DOVER

FLORIDA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BARTOW
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BROOKSVILLE WEST
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LIVE OAK
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PANAMA CITY-TYNDALL

GEORGIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AUGUSTA EAST
STAYBRIDGE SUITES COLUMBUS – FORT BENNING
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES HINESVILLE EAST –
FORT STEWART

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MOULTRIE

IDAHO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SANDPOINT NORTH

ILLINOIS
STAYBRIDGE SUITES AURORA/NAPERVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BOURBONNAIS (KANKAKEE/BRADLEY)
CANDLEWOOD SUITES CHAMPAIGN-URBANA UNIV AREA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MATTOON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORRIS

INDIANA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES KOKOMO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WASHINGTON

IOWA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CEDAR RAPIDS-I-380
@ 33RD AVE

CANDLEWOOD SUITES SIOUX CITY – SOUTHERN HILLS

KENTUCKY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES HAZARD

LOUISIANA
CROWNE PLAZA EXECUTIVE CENTER BATON ROUGE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS COVINGTON-MADISONVILLE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES DENHAM SPRINGS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORGAN CITY –
TIGER ISLAND

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES NEW IBERIA-
AVERY ISLAND 

MAINE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BIDDEFORD

MARYLAND
CANDLEWOOD SUITES ABERDEEN-EDGEWOOD-BEL AIR
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BALTIMORE WEST –
CATONSVILLE

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WASHINGTON DC – BW PARKWAY

MICHIGAN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CANTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HASTINGS
CROWNE PLAZA LANSING WEST
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DETROIT
NORTH – TROY

MINNESOTA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ROGERS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ST. PAUL NE
(VADNAIS HEIGHTS)

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WILLMAR

MISSISSIPPI
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CORINTH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FULTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GRENADA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES JACKSON
DOWNTOWN – COLISEUM

HOLIDAY INN HOTEL AND SUITES TUPELO NORTH

MISSOURI
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MARYVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SIKESTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ST. JOSEPH

MONTANA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GLENDIVE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES SIDNEY

NEBRASKA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES OMAHA AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES YORK

NEVADA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES WINNEMUCCA

NEW JERSEY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CARNEYS POINT
NJ TRNPK EXIT 1

NEW MEXICO
CROWNE PLAZA ALBUQUERQUE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DEMING
MIMBRES VALLEY

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LOS ALAMOS
ENTRADA PARK

NEW YORK
STAYBRIDGE SUITES BUFFALO-AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PAINTED POST – CORNING AREA

NORTH CAROLINA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GOLDSBORO –
BASE AREA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HICKORY-HICKORY MART
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MONROE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ROANOKE RAPIDS SE
STAYBRIDGE SUITES WILMINGTON EAST

OHIO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BOWLING GREEN
HOLIDAY INN DAYTON/FAIRBORN I-675
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MARION
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES VAN WERT

OKLAHOMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CHICKASHA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES MIDWEST CITY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GLENPOOL-
TULSA SOUTH

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PRYOR

PENNSYLVANIA
HOLIDAY INN BENSALEM-PHILADELPHIA AREA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PITTSBURGH SW – SOUTHPOINTE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS EXTON-LIONVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GREENSBURG
HOLIDAY INN WILKES BARRE – EAST MOUNTAIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES YORK

SOUTH CAROLINA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SUMTER

TENNESSEE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES KNOXVILLE AIRPORT-ALCOA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORRISTOWN

TEXAS
CROWNE PLAZA DALLAS NEAR GALLERIA-ADDISON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES HOUSTON-ALVIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FAIRFIELD-NORTH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FLORESVILLE
HOLIDAY INN DALLAS-FORT WORTH AIRPORT S 
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GRAHAM

UTAH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SPRINGVILLE-
SOUTH PROVO AREA

VIRGINIA
STAYBRIDGE SUITES CHANTILLY – FAIRFAX
CANDLEWOOD SUITES HARRISONBURG
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SUFFOLK
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WINCHESTER

WASHINGTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS VANCOUVER NORTH –
SALMON CREEK

WEST VIRGINIA
HOLIDAY INN HOTEL AND SUITES BARBOURSVILLE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES LOGAN

WISCONSIN
CANDLEWOOD SUITES LA CROSSE
STAYBRIDGE SUITES MADISON-EAST
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PLEASANT PRAIRIE /
KENOSHA

WYOMING
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BUFFALO

EUROPE

BELGIUM

CROWNE PLAZA LIÈGE

FINLAND
CROWNE PLAZA HELSINKI

FRANCE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS STRASBOURG – SUD
CROWNE PLAZA LYON – CITE INTERNATIONALE

GERMANY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AUGSBURG
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS STUTTGART AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS NEUNKIRCHEN
HOLIDAY INN STUTTGART
CROWNE PLAZA WIESBADEN

IRELAND
CROWNE PLAZA DUNDALK

ITALY
HOLIDAY INN SALERNO – CAVA DE’ TIRRENI
HOLIDAY INN NOLA – NAPLES VULCANO BUONO

RUSSIA
HOLIDAY INN MOSCOW – SOKOLNIKI

SPAIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS MADRID – GETAFE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS VALENCIA – BONAIRE

SWITZERLAND
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AFFOLTERN AM ALBIS

TURKEY
CROWNE PLAZA ISTANBUL – ASIA

UNITED KINGDOM
STAYBRIDGE SUITES BIRMINGHAM
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BIRMINGHAM – SNOW HILL
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS EAST MIDLANDS AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN SOLIHULL

ASIA

INDIA
HOLIDAY INN AMRITSAR RANJIT AVENUE
HOLIDAY INN COCHIN
CROWNE PLAZA KOCHI

INDONESIA
HOLIDAY INN JAKARTA KEMAYORAN 

MALAYSIA
HOLIDAY INN KUALA LUMPUR GLENMARIE

THAILAND
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BANGKOK SATHORN

CHINA-PEOPLES REPUBLIC
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BEIJING YIZHUANG
CROWNE PLAZA BEIJING LIDO 
HOLIDAY INN TEMPLE OF HEAVEN BEIJING
HOLIDAY INN CHENGDU XINDU
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CHENGDU WEST GATE 
HOLIDAY INN HOHHOT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SHANGHAI GONGKANG 

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

EGYPT
INTERCONTINENTAL THE PALACE PORT GHALIB RESORT

JORDAN
HOLIDAY INN AMMAN
HOLIDAY INN RESORT DEAD SEA

MAURITIUS
HOLIDAY INN MAURITIUS AIRPORT

QATAR
CROWNE PLAZA DOHA – THE BUSINESS PARK

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
HOLIDAY INN ABU DHABI

CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINA
HOLIDAY INN ROSARIO

BRAZIL
HOLIDAY INN PORTO ALEGRE

CHILE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS IQUIQUE

ECUADOR
HOLIDAY INN GUAYAQUIL AIRPORT

PANAMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PANAMA DISTRITO FINANCIERO

MEXICO

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CABO SAN LUCAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SALTILLO ZONA AEROPUERTO
CROWNE PLAZA TORREON
HOLIDAY INN CAMPECHE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PUEBLA ANGELOPOLIS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SAN LUIS POTOSI
CROWNE PLAZA XALAPA
INTERCONTINENTAL PRESIDENTE MERIDA

CANADA 

BRITISH COLUMBIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS FORT ST JOHN

NEW BRUNSWICK
CROWNE PLAZA FREDERICTON-LORD BEAVERBROOK