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This family reunion trip to Reno was the whole reason I started really getting serious about collecting miles and points about a year and a half ago.  It had been something that I had toyed with off and on over the years, but knowing what 8 cross-country would cost, I knew if we wanted to go to this family reunion, we’d have to figure out something to deal with that!

In my introductory post about the trip, I talked about how we decided to drive to Chicago so that we could take a direct flight from MDW-RNO, rather than taking a 6am flight out of DAY and having to be in airports all day.

The drive from Cincinnati to Chicago was fairly pleasant.  Only 1 kid vomited in the car, so all in all a good time!!! 🙂

We got into Chicagoland about 3pm, and traffic was a bit heavy as we got off I-65 on to I-80/94.  We checked in and went to our rooms, to find the first problem with the hotel.  There are no adjoining rooms at all.  Now I know that some people don’t like the adjoining rooms because the walls are thinner between rooms, but for us, this is a necessity.

Since our kids are still fairly young, we can’t really put any of them in a room by themselves.  So connecting rooms mean the difference between me getting to share a bed with my wife vs. sharing a bed with my 5 year old son :-(.

We ended up with the girls in one room and the boys in the other.

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Our (non-adjoining) room. The basics.

As is our custom when we stay in a hotel, after checking in and getting our bags all situated in our room we went off to explore!  Going down to the lobby there was lemonade and cookies out, which my kids descended upon like a horde of locusts.  I won’t say it’s quite as bad as the guy Lucky described in a US Airways club, but it was intense.  We did try to make sure we left some cookies for other folks though 🙂

I had signed up for the IHG card from Chase a month or so back, and one of the benefits is Platinum status at IHG while you have the card.  I had tried to call Chase, IHG corporate AND the IHG hotel to try and make sure that the status posted before I visited the hotel.  Unfortunately Chase said IHG had to do something and IHG said Chase had to do something and I didn’t get it to happen.

The #1 thing the kids look for in a hotel is the swimming pool.  And this hotel had a great one – probably the best I’ve seen!  The door was locked and wouldn’t open with our key, so we had to go back to the front desk, and they sent the maintenance man down to open it for us.

001In addition to the huge pool pictured above, there was a smaller baby pool, AND a hot tub.  Above the pool area, there was an alcove with a game room.

002It had ping-pong, foosball and a few other games.  We didn’t really spend any time here, because everyone wanted to go back to the room to get their suits on and go swimming!  The pool was really good – like I said, probably the best one we have been at.

Breakfast (or lack there of)

The 2nd thing we look for in a hotel (besides the swimming pool) is breakfast.  Unfortunately, this is a “fancy” hotel, so it has an attached restaurant and therefore does not include breakfast.  IHG doesn’t even guarantee breakfasts for their Platinum members, and since my Platinum status hadn’t come through anyway, I was denied.

I even tried the whole “Hang Up Call Back” routine to try and talk to a different front desk agent later in the evening, but got nothin.  They did give me coupons for free kids breakfast, but we’d have had to pay for both adults, and we figured we could do better on our own.

ihgHow we got there

The Holiday Inn Chicago Countryside is a Category 2 IHG hotel, so it runs for 15,000 points a night.  I had bought some IHG points at the recent Daily Getaway, and I transferred the rest from my Chase Ultimate Rewards balance.

While I was down in the lobby, I saw a couple come up to book a room.  They didn’t have a reservation, and the front desk agent quoted them the rack rate, which was $170 / night.  This led me to post about how fortunate we are to have the knowledge of miles and points that lets us travel for free / cheap.

Best deal for Midway Airport

So why did we pick this airport, even though we knew it wouldn’t give us breakfast?  It’s what they always say in real estate: Location, Location, Location!  We were driving up from Cincinnati, and flying out of Midway.  So we needed somewhere to park our car for 9 nights.  Most of the hotels that are right near Midway charge a parking fee of somewhere around $15 / night.  Most hotels that are further away from Midway don’t offer a free airport shuttle.

This hotel is right in the sweet spot in that it doesn’t charge for parking AND has a free shuttle.  So the $135 we saved in parking charges made up for having to pick up a few donuts and granola bars for breakfast!

Points With a Crew rating

When I “rate” a hotel, I always try to take into account both the things that cannot be changed (like the lack of adjoining rooms, or the separate buildings of the Dayton Fairborn Homewood Suites), as well as the service provided (the things that CAN be changed).

The service was good, and the personnel was all very friendly.  My shuttle experience was just fine as well (though a little crazy on the return trip, but that’s another story).  But the lack of breakfast as well as not having adjoining rooms are a deal breaker for me – I would likely not stay here again.  On the other hand, if I had to drive and park, it might end up being worth it.

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