Sunday, May 10, 2015

(Grand)mother's Day Staycation

Hotel Details
Hotel: Park Hyatt New York
Dates: May 9-10, 2015
Rate Paid: 30,000 Hyatt points/night
Regular Cost: $900 per night
Upgrade: Deluxe King 
Redemption: 3.0 cents/Hyatt point

One of the truly beautiful things about the frequent flyer miles/points game is that it allows us to stretch our normal, everyday lives and have occasional, small tastes of true high-end luxury. This special treat becomes even more fulfilling when it's done for someone else.

Mother's Day
While my father constantly reminds my mother that he shouldn't be responsible for doing anything for her on Mother's Day (clearly throwing me under the bus), he still does have a clear obligation to my grandmother.

In our Asian side of the family, my grandmother is pretty frugal. While she likes attention from her children like any other parent would, she doesn't find much value in flowers. In fact, I overheard her telling my father, "You know, why don't you just give me cash for Mother's Day?"

Of course, my father always tries to outdo expectations, so while he could have just given her some money to go shopping with, he instead looked at his growing pile of frequent flyer miles and hotel points and thought it would be more fun to give her a memorable experience.

Of course, booking a spontaneous last minute flight wasn't too feasible given the short notice, but what about a Manhattan stay-cation? After all, this amazing world class city has millions of tourists visiting every spring, so they must be on to something, right?

So he quickly scanned top-tier Starwood, Hyatt and Intercontinental hotels in NYC to see what would make sense. As you probably guessed from the top of the post, we went with the new Park Hyatt property in midtown, the new flagship crown jewel in the Hyatt family.

My father then went online and saw he only had 6,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points in his account. The cost for an award night was 30,000 points. So he went online to Chase Ultimate Rewards (where he had well over 340,000 points) and completed an instant transfer of 24,000 Chase UR points into Hyatt Gold Passport points. Suddenly, he had 30,500 Hyatt points in his account, and the award night was booked. Took about 5 minutes.

Park Hyatt New York
The hotel is newly built, opening less than a year ago in August 2014. It occupies about 19 floors of a much larger Manhattan skyscraper (Floors 7-25) with the other floors being residential, most likely to children of Chinese and Russian billionaires who don't know any better than to live in Midtown.

We already knew in advance that the Park Hyatt hotel lobby was not on the ground floor (but actually on the 7th), so we had to take a quick left and go into the Park Hyatt elevators. But I would imagine it's a bit confusing for a newcomer visiting for the first time. They do have some staffers working downstairs with iPads to walk up guests should they be lost.

From there, the elevators took you up and opened into the Bar/Lounge area (seen here), so guests also had to know they needed to turn right instead and go around the corner rather than heading straight into the lounge. Not the greatest layout, but I'm sure they had their reasons.

Instead of a traditional "front desk," you found long tables along the wall with staffers behind Macbook Air laptops. There was also a nicely appointed seating section (seen here below).

Since it was a Saturday (NYC hotels tend to be skew more towards M-F business travelers), we were allowed to check-in early at 2PM after calling to confirm. The hallways were very Park Hyatt, meaning it was a perfect blend between classic dark wood materials and sleek modern design.

We were "upgraded" to a Deluxe room which just meant we had a better view (higher floors). However, since the entire hotel is below 25 stories, you don't really get a great view of anything when you're surrounded by 50+ floor skyscrapers.

But what we lacked in views, they made up for in a massive room (definitely by NYC standards). The bedroom area was so spacious as you can see from the photos. It was almost double the size of other hotel rooms we've been at.

In addition to the space, it had a desk with a Park Hyatt iPad device and a modern phone for the business travelers and a flat screen television with so many channels for the leisure traveler, including Chinese, Russian and Arabic channels.

But the star of the room was the bathroom. It was in Park Hyatt style (sleek and modern), my father's personal favorite. Plenty of room to have a family share, including a wonderful separate bathtub, though the large windows could potentially make for a free peep show to people in the office buildings nearby.

The mini-bar was stocked with snacks and beverages, though without any prices that I could immediately find upon first glance, but we just assumed everything would be ridiculously expensive, so we knew to just stick with the free coffee. However, it did seem that the Park Hyatt provided us with a nice welcome gift in the room. Not exactly my personal favorite, but I'm sure most of their guests are not 3.5 year old toddlers.

The room was great, but the real reason we chose the Park Hyatt for our NYC Staycation was on the 25th floor - the Pool! It wasn't the largest pool that I've been to, but for an urban setting, it was perfect. And in fact, while I was one of 2 kids there when we arrived at 4PM, by 5PM, there were another 5 there with their parents. So glad that it wasn't full of stuffy businessmen and rich socialites.

The pool wasn't heated, but it was perfectly fine temperature and you got used to it immediately after going into the water. They had a separate area for swimming laps, but there wasn't anyone using it and all the kids were between the ages of 2-8 so we hung out by the stairs where we could touch the floor. There were plenty of seats and even had a staffer on site to be lifeguard and help with all the guests' needs. Towels and chairs were cleaned quickly.

They also had a steam room (which my grandmother loved) and a hot tub Jacuzzi where we could relax and warm up when the regular pool was too cold.

While the Park Hyatt stay was for my grandmother, our entire family, including my Aunt, was able to enjoy an overcast Saturday afternoon where we could play lazy tourists in our own home city.

But isn't it so ironic that some of the best hotel properties in the world are in such amazing cities? It means that a traveler would have to pick to spend their limited time between exploring the city or enjoying the hotel property. I'm glad we get to do both in New York City.

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