Friday, October 10, 2014

Holiday Inn Express - Balloon Fiesta Park

Hotel Details
Hotel: Holiday Inn Express - Fiesta Park
Dates: October 10-13, 2014
Rate Paid: 20,000 IHG points/night
Regular Room Rate: $200/night 
Total $ Benefit: $600 
Point Redemption Value: 1.0 cents/pt 

Back in January, my father thought about taking my mother and me to Albuquerque, NM to check out the annual Balloon Fiesta. To keep his options open, he secured a reservation at the closest hotel, the Holiday Inn Express down the road from the Balloon Fiesta Park.

The upside was that the hotel was a 20 minute walk to the Park down the Alameda Boulevard sidewalk. Even though we had an Avis rental car, we read about horror stories about massive 1.5 hr traffic jams and completely full parking lots. Walking the 1.1 miles to the Park seemed like our best option.

The downside was that the hotel was charging a premium for Columbus Day weekend, the final weekend of the Fiesta.

Cash rates back in January were $200/night ($185 + $15 taxes). Points weren't that much better at 20,000 IHG points/night, though using hotel funny money takes the sting out a bit.

But to give you a good comparison of relative value, last May, we stayed at a luxurious 5 star InterContinental in Berchtesgaden, Germany for 30,000 IHG points/night.

We were able to get 3 nights in a King Bedroom Suite with a sofabed. Being 3 of us, we could use the extra space over a standard room. And fortunately, we could cancel this reservation up to 1 day before check-in and get our points back.

We arrived at the hotel around 2PM local time. From the initial impression of the lobby and the dining area, we were happy with the condition of the limited-service property.

Even though check-in time was 3PM, our room had already been cleaned so we head up to Room 225 on the second floor. As you can see, the even numbered rooms were the standard size while the "suites" were a bit longer and had an additional sofabed area.

As you can see, the room was quite spacious, very similar to the Hyatt Places we've frequented in the past. The half-wall separated the bedroom area from the sofabed area. They shared a flat screen TV that could be turned to face either room. The bathroom was standard, albeit small, but served its purpose. The room also had a microwave, separate sink and mini fridge to keep snacks and drinks. While nothing amazing, it was perfectly fine for our basecamp while we explored Albuquerque.

In the hotel, they also had other features including a coin operated laundry room, a business center, a swimming pool/jacuzzi and a small gym with treadmills and exercise bikes.

One of the nicer perks of this tier of hotel is the free breakfast each morning. While it's definitely not a spread you'd find at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens, the Holiday Inn Express breakfast was perfectly fine for our low-maintenance family with enough options for everyone, including turkey sausage patties, sausage links, biscuits, gravy, cereals, muffins, bagels, french toast, hot cinnamon buns, fruit and coffees.

Our only suggestion would be to mix it up a little, as travelers staying consecutive nights may have a tendency to get tired of the same breakfast options. But then again, with so many choices, only a glutton like my father would want more.

Overall, we had a perfectly fine stay and would stay here again if we're visiting the Balloon Fiesta again. The hotel's location was as good as it could be for people who wanted to walk to the Fiesta. However, that's a double edged sword since being so close to the action also meant that you'd face traffic if you were trying to get back to your hotel during peak Fiesta hours (6AM-9AM) and (4PM-8PM).

But as long as you plan around that, it's a super comfortable place to stay with your family. And the free wifi was super strong and fast!

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