Unless you're a prepper and have been hiding in your post-nuclear-apocalypse-shelter since the beginning of the year (or a newb, in which case, hi ) you will be aware of our TIPPLEmeetup which is happening at the end of next week - yes, that soon!
While for all y'all (ah'm STILL improoovin' ma Texan) it is simply our much anticipated and treasured TIPPLE for me this is part of a much bigger trip, in fact it's a 17 night mixed work and history visit incorporating a civil war roadtrip, joining bejacob on a County collecting journey and several legal research meetings. And I'm keeping all you lucky people involved with piccies, hotel reports, lounge reviews and flight critiques, all from the perspective of a Marriott Platinum (most of the time), an IHG Spire (secondary scheme) and a United Silver (courtesy of Marriott Plat).
So let's get started, shall we, boys and girls...
This is how it rolls, in a few words ('cos lots more will follow later)
Arrive Wednesday September 7th and depart Saturday September 24th
Three flights, four legs, all with United Airlines
07 September 09:25 UA80 MAN-EWR...Land 12:25
14 September 15:29 UA687 EWR-IAH....Land 18:09
24 September 13:20 UA589 IAH-IAD......Land 17:30
..... ....connect 18:40 UA100 IAD-MAN....Land 06:35
17 nights at 13 hotels in 10 towns over 9 brands - 7 Marriott & 2 IHG
07 September - Harrisburg Crowne Plaza (IHG) - $115
08 September - Gettysburg Courtyard - $90
09 September - Woodstock Holiday Inn Express (IHG) - $115
10 September - Richmond Marriott - $150
11 September - Richmond Marriott - $140
12 September - Hamilton Residence Inn - Cat2 10,000 points
13 September - Newark Airport Renaissance - Cat5 Certificate
14 September - Houston BrookHollow Courtyard - Cat1 7,500 points
15 September - Houston Downtown JW - $120
16 September - Houston Downtown JW - $120
17 September - Houston Downtown JW - $120
18 September - Corpus Christi Springhill Suites - $115
19 September - Harlingen Residence Inn - Cat2 10,000 points
20 September - San Antonio Marriott - bejacobs paying for this one...
21 September - Houston ICON Autograph - $190
22 September - Houston North Marriott - $60
23 September - Houston North Marriott - $60
Yes, for those who tested themselves on Re: Pay or Redeem? this schedule will be vaguely familiar-ish...
The whole trip breaks down into:
1 Autograph for 1 night
2 Courtyards for 1 night each
1 Crowne Plaza (IHG) for 1 night
1 Holiday Inn Express (IHG) for 1 night
1 JW Marriott for 3 nights
3 Marriott Full Service for 5 nights (one 1-night & two 2-nights)
1 Renaissance for 1 night
2 Residence Inns for 1 night each
1 Springhill Suites for 1 night
So, madness, or just someone who enjoys a busy schedule (and checking in and out of hotels)..?
Honolulu, oh, yeah, definitely on my bucket list!! Alas, not this time kharada46 but I will definitely be in touch when the stars align for that trip!!!
Now why would an intelligent gent such as brightlybob add a United domestic seat TIPPLE (I mean Tripple) Seven to see you in the Islands kharada46? It might make sense if they had lie flat seats to make that trip however; they don't and he is smart enough or will be after running around South Texas with bejacob to not make that mistake!!!
LOL...well sort of. United uses an old domestic B772 on the IAH-HNL flights that has a regular first class seat rather than what was used previously by Continental when they had a very nice lie flat seat for first class on those flights. I'd rather stick a sharp stick in my eye and twist it than sit in a normal first class seat for eight hours. Normal long haul flights of say five hours or more one would think you'd have a lie flat seat in first/business class regardless, but not this United company.
Three words on why I'm looking at AA or DL on my overnight return flight from HNL - Lie flat seats.
I'll definitely be flying AS to Hawaii with my newly minted MVP Gold status after an overnight somewhere on the left coast (SAN, OAK, and SJC are leading contenders) but coming home, I want to sleep.
Oh, but we're getting off topic. 4 days, 25 counties, the Rio Grande Valley, and the Alamo. How's that for a post-TIPPLE itinerary?
Well I'm in for the full United Economy experience tomorrow as my son is not on the same itinerary as me so whilst theres space for me (silver) to upgrade to E+ I can't really leave him alone on row 26.
I'm not poking myself in the eye with a stick though, as a regular flyer with RyanScare and SqueezyJet I'm reckoning I'll love all the space provided by United Economy
Crazy? Perhaps, but who am I to judge? I have my own madness. I call it county collecting.
I know you're just along for the ride, but here's a list of the towns and cites (county seats) we'll be visiting in south Texas after we leave Houston.
Rio Grande City
and then back to Houston
Busy, though not overly so. We should even have some time for a little sightseeing along the way.
Nice detail there,bejacob,couldn't resist looking at map and following the course of our drive, Southards to Corpus Christi, then inland and Southwest to the border before heading East to Brownsville. Thereafter northerly, skirting Corpus Christi before heading northwest to San Antonio and then broadly following the I10 back to Houston. Really looking forward to the trip...
So the question, brightlybob is...what is the luggage toting strategy for such a trip? If it was me, I'd have a roller bag carry on and a backpack. I'd hit up the coin operated laundry at a few of the hotels on the route. Please share your plan!
Well I've got to take my court garb so I cant avoid hold luggage. So as I'm onto that Im bringing my entire Hawaiian shirt collection.
I don't really unpack when I'm away, instead I take a coathanger with me and then hang up my shirt for the next day in the bathroom overnight. After my morning shower the shirt looks fine, no ironing necessary! So all in all, no laundry for me
And so it begins...
With a 2 hour flight delay - Thanks United
But checking in they did give priority security, which was slower than the regular line
Rather than sit with the masses on mesh metal seats I opted for lounge access - £22
Seats are comfy, but it's small
And the Internet doesn't work
So I'm using 3G but deep in the airport the signal's weak & glacially slow
Should be in the air right now but instead I've 2 more hours to wait
Yeah, I know, how many first world problems can I find to whinge about
IAHFLYR, you can't really say you've had the complete UA experience without being stranded overnight somewhere, right? My arch nemesis UA airports are DEN, ORD, and SFO.
clebert, well I can say I have not had the full UA experience then. The only time (knock on wood) that we got stranded overnight was leaving RSW years ago on Continental due to the right engine refusing to accept fuel when they went to start it. After three attempts it's mandatory or at least was then to return to the gate and have it checked by maintenance. Since there was no maintenance onsite at that time we all got to spend the night and mid-morning the next day we were off to IAH.
Sure hope brightlybob doesn't get to enjoy that at IAD on his 42 minute connection!
This thread is awesome!!!!
Sorry about the delay! Of course, by now you are high in the sky and headed this way!
You and bejacob are going to have so much fun! Even in Zapata...maybe they will be filming boarder wars!!!
I'm jealous of the Texas/Mexico boarder trip for sure. Really! It's an adventure! Keep count how many times you are pulled over! Let's make bets!
Maybe we better keep the outrageous shirts packed away for that portion of the drive. Imagine that police radio conversation. "Two caucasian men wearing Hawaiian shirts in a rental car driving along the border. Think about that and then ask me again why I pulled them over?"
Make sure when you are driving along the border in those shirts that you are in a rag top sittin low looking almost like Bluto did at the ending of Animal House!!
This also could be the TIPPLE phrase when they attempt to shut the bar down in the lobby.
"Nothing's over till we say it's over. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
United Flight 80 MAN-EWR September 7th.
Well as I posted yesterday I suffered my 2 hour delay but we did fnally alight our 757 flight. For those that are interested, Group 1 (top elites) boarding consisted of about 5 or 6 individuals and Group 2 (gold and silver flyers) were another 5 or 6, so there was maybe around 10-12 UA frequent flyers that flight. As I say, my silver courtesy of Marriott Plat would have swung me an E+, had my son not been on a separate itinerary. As for the flight itself, apart from near constant turbulence it was an unremarkable flight. Plenty of legroom in standard economy and reclining seat meant a comfy flight, but as I remarked I'm used to RyanScare and SqueezyJet, so my expectations are low. Food was standard airline fare, though the Chicken curry had an unexpected bite. It was by no means a hot curry but I rather expected it to play to Anerican tastes and be more like a Korma (or as I call it, dessert!). US border was pretty quick and very friendly, bags were slightly delayed but Silver status meant they did come out priority and that enabled us to get to the hire car line quickly. By the time we grabbed our keys that line was snaking back a good distance. Wheels down to steering wheel was about an hour. Nice going
Then the drive from EWR to Harrisburg, by the time I pulled up at the Crowne Plaza it was past 7pm (US time) and as I'd been up from 1am(US time) I really felt that. This was the IHG Harrisburg Crowne Plaza at $115 inc breakfast ($130 inc taxes). This stay is a testament to the need for 2 programs as Marriott has no city centre property in Harrisburg, but my secondary IHG did. And it provided a nice start on my 7-nights-for-50,000-bonus-points IHG promo. The hotel provided a good sized room for a city centre property but in need of a refurb.
Still the very comfy bed and powerful shower made for a good nights sleep and with the jet-lag we had a 6am breakfast and a walk around the city as it awoke. Not for nothing did Theodore Roosevelt remark that the Harrisburg State Capitol was the most beautiful he had seen!
After that a nice walk over to the Natonal Civil War museum made us the first in of the day and we had the place to ourselves till about 11am. There is so much there, with artefacts, recreated scenes and video montages following the fortunes of ordinary citizens as the tensions build and the conflict develops. There was never any crowding and we left at 3pm, much more knowledgable than when we entered.
Good to have you safe and sound here in the U.S. We can talk about the constant turbulence you experienced as there is a pretty well known theory about that and that Chicken Curry. If it is the same Chicken Curry we had to/from Mexico last month they should CAN the person who puts that on the menu, it was not worthy of even sticking a fork into it let alone eat it.
It's good to be here. I'm now just relaxing at the very nice Courtyard in Gettysburg, my Cat5 that cost $100 and on my test turned out to be the no-brainer pay option. Clean as you like, big room, great pub next door, 10 mins from Gettysburg... Who could ask for more?
As for that UA Chicken Curry, well, within the margins accepting that it's mile high mass catering in a plastic bag, it was edible and had some zing... So not so bad. The thing about economy is that all airlines are 30"-32" pitch and there's not much you can do with that. Premium Economy, Business and First is different, there's huge differences in space, food, facilities and privacy levels that make price comparison near impossible and almost irrelevant. But UA economy with an industry average 31" seat pitch, decent seatback entertainment, regular free beer runs for the first half of the flight - none during second half but that didn't bother me as I had a car to pick up and 3 hours of wrong-side-of-the-road-driving to bend my brain around - and near-edible food (excepting that awful couscous) was fine, nothing special, but fine all the same. I would definitely fly transatlantic United again. No problems! Mind you I wouldn't pay a premium for it against Delta, BA or Air Transat. Air Canada economy is well below them. Virgin Atlantic economy is I reckon, just ahead.
Whenever I'm flying transatlantic economy again I reckon Virgin will be 1st as I collect it's miles anyway and it's marginally the better economy product. UA is second, it's economy product is as good as the rest, there's silver bennies (thanks to Marriott Plat) and it's miles are easy to spend via Marriott. The rest come third and the deeply unimpressive Air Canada strikes last.
Glad you made it to the National Civil War Museum - it is relatively new and not well attended unfortunately, but does an excellent job tackling the overall war and scope.
As for the need of a downtown Marriott property, Harrisburg probably isn't a major overnight destination unless the state legislature is in session I suspect, and given the extensive number of hotels near the PA Turnpike exits and the fact it is a pretty easy city to drive around, I can see why a Marriott hasn't moved in downtown. Having said that, I was fairly surprised when I was there a year or so ago how active the downtown was near the river in the evening, and would certainly stay there myself if they ever opened one in the area near the capitol complex/Amtrak station/hospital.
It would be true to say that Harrisburg is no centre of the world place, but it does manage to keep a Hilton (which has undergone a recent refresh) and Crowne Plaza (which is right now underaking a much needed refurb) in guests. Even if it can't support another FS, I'm surprised a CY/FFI/SHS hasn't found the downtown maths workable.
As I say, this stay exposes the value of having a back-up scheme.
8th September... So after finishing at the civil war museum and walking back to the Crowne Plaza we drove our way to Gettysburg to the Courtyard there. It's a recent build and was very impressive, wide corridors, outside seating, big room with large bathroom. All scrupulously clean for $90, $100 with taxes.
The hotel is right next to an Appalachian brewhouse with great food and beer, I opted for the meatloaf, Texas toast, mash, onion scratchings and beer gravy, all washed down with a nice wheatbeer
We woke up this morning after a great nights sleep and did something really unusual, PAID for a Marriott breakfast. Let me tell you, that hurts... But my, made to order it was hot and tasty and with the coffees and orange juice, not too bad at $25. All done we checked out and made our way to the Gettysburg battlefield, just a 10 minute nip down the freeway.
And it was there that I think I had the best experience of a guided tour ever. Although the Segway tour was suggested to us, son wasn't interested (weird things these teenagers) so I instead opted for a 1-to-1 guide, Britt, who drove us around different points of the battlefield, and he was really knowledgeable, explaining carefully each theatre of the battle and pointing out all the salient areas, it was two and a half hours and $65 very well spent. After that we then saw the film, cyclorama and the museum. After 5 very busy hours we were both fully historied out and took the drive to our next hotel...
Tredegar Ironworks also has a nice museum section, pretty interesting. Hope you enjoy it! Appomatax Courthouse is interesting just due to how non-descript it seems given what transpired.
There is another NPS site in Richmond, pretty close to the Marriott, the Maggie L Walker Historic Site. Provides an interesting story of the post-CW life and opportunities for African Americans in the South to build communities - she was an entrepreneur and community leader, and did well, but had some tragedy also. I recommend it if you have the time.
This night at the Woodstock HIX is the outcome of IHGs accelerate promo, offering 50,000 points for 7 nights of stays. Although I already have a couple of nights booked for work, I might struggle so decided to substitute my planned Fairfield Inn night at the same cost for this one. Though not as nice as the Courtyard the previous night and offering only the fast food icons of Taco Bell, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC as walkable food choices it was at least an economic choice for an early night for the next days hefty mileage. The room was well kept and a good size
The hotel was clean and as usual the HIX breakfast served a good early morning fill-up.
Anyhow, following my free breakfast it was time to head off on a 2 hour drive to Appomattox to visit the Courthouse and museum there. It's a really great outdoor museum as most of the village has been restored to its 1865 glory for you to walk around and explore so you can really get a sense of life at that time and follow in the footsteps (literally) of those that attended that momentous - but surprisingly modest - meeting 150 years ago.
After a few hours of films, museum and tours it was time to make the 2 hour drive to Richmond checking into the Richmond Marriott from where I'm typing this...
10 & 11 September
Here we spend 2 nights in Richmond looking at the political and economic drivers of the Confederacy visiting The Confederate White House and Tredegar Iron Works. The Downtown Marriott is in an excellent location just a 10-20 mins walk from both, and with an LNF rate keeping it at $150 on Saturday and $140 on Sunday ($330 inc taxes) it's affordable. And spoiled teenage student son really does enjoy his Marriotts!
Having checked in we found our room on the 16th floor, one above the concierge lounge. It was large for what is obviously an older city centre property but in common with all Marriotts well kept meaning everything works as it should... Well everything except my bed which has a dreadful mattress bulging out to one side and sagging at the other, making an audible "sproing" sound as I get into or out of it. Likewise the mattress topper is a sad and thin affair. I still slept well but this was definitely NOT that wonderfully comfy Marriott bed I'm used to!
The Exec lounge serves a very good breakfast and extends its breakfast hours at weekends for those that like to lie-in. Likewise its evening offerings are also very good. We ate one night in Millers, the streetfront Sportsbar which is clearly frequented by locals as well as guests.
Food is definitely NOT premium priced here, but is very tasty, it was packed last night for the NFL games.The White House and attached Museum of the Confederacy was excellent, but whilst Tredegar was very atmospheric,neither museum there spent much time on its economic importance to the Confederacy. I guess the student will have to *study* that from home.
Anyhow museums over its time to checkout and make the 5 hour run up to Hamilton for our final stop near a mall to let the teen shop for all those American goodies...
Monday Sept 12th - After checkout we made our way back towards Newark. 5 hours and 300 miles of motoring put us within an hour of the airport and at our final joint stop, the Hamilton Residence Inn where I'm redeeming points. It opened in June and launched as a Cat2 and I reserved a suite for the 2 of us instead of paying the $170 (inc taxes) rate.
Unfortunately the hotel only offers King+Sofabed studios for redemption so I'd have to ask for the Queen-Queen suite upgrade on arrival. This place is a great use of 10,000 points, in fact it turned out too great for Marriott and just a few weeks after opening it was uprated to a Cat3.
On arrival I asked about a Queen/Queen upgrade which was granted without demur. Late checkout also given. The suite was lovely with plenty of room and the teen certainly appreciated camping out in the living space with the privacy to FaceTime his friends.
The Monday Mix was very good with chicken fajitas, all the fixings and lemon cake as dessert. The beer and wine flowed freely. And breakfast was also very good with cereals, breads, waffle machine, sausages, eggs and bacon. This Residence Inn does the food well.
We didn't end up checking out late anyway as son wanted to do a spot of shopping for American goodies, and that done we then drove the final 50 miles to Newark International where I helped check him in and drop off his bags for his return home, before making my way to the EWR Renaissance where I'll spend the night before moving onto Houston for my Research and TIPPLE trip...
Thanks for that IAHFLYR, though so far I've only done 5 hotels of the 13, my sixth is right now at the EWR Ren, which I'll add this evening. This is the middle of my 3 consecutive redemptions, the first was the Hamilton RI on Monday at 10k Cat2 when I reserved it in May, but now been increased to a 15k Cat3. Last night I checked into the Cat5 EWR Renaissance using my Cat5 megabonus cert and tonight I checkin to the Cat1 Courtyard Brookhollow for 7.5k points. Overall I've saved $500 for a cert and 17.5k points. Pretty dang good!
My personal favourite so far was the Gettysburg CY, new and big room, lovely outside patio area for a cool 'un and a great pub next door. Breakfast was fresh, cooked to order and very tasty. $100 inc tax for the hotel plus $25 for the cooked to order brekky for 2, can't complain there! Mind you the $100 was an LNF (down from $170)