Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Equinox Resort - New Family Tradition?

Hotel Details
Hotel: The Equinox Resort & Spa
Dates: December 24-26, 2015
Rate Paid: 6,000 SPG points + $160 per night
Room Upgrade: Bi-Level Suite
Regular Room Rate: $693/night 
Saved: $533/night
Redemption: 8.9 cents/point

Back in December 2011 (literally, just a few short weeks after I was born), my parents and my maternal grandmother decided to take me on my first trip. It was Christmas time 2011, and they had been learning how to handle me as a crying newborn infant for the past few weeks. My father thought we could use a change of scenery and booked a few nights at The Equinox in Manchester, Vermont for the holidays.

That year, it was quite cold and the snow had sprinkled over the mountains and we enjoyed a charming countryside White Christmas as a new family.

Four years later, my father decided it would be nice to return to the Equinox for the holidays. Aside from a small Christmas tree in our living room (see below), we don't really "go all out" with the holiday decorations, so we were excited about being somewhere else where they did.

So we invited my aunt and my paternal grandmother and drove up together 5 hours to Manchester, VT the morning of Christmas Eve. While we had hoped for another White Christmas, the weather was actually about 72 degrees in New York City and not much cooler in Vermont. But they had the most stunning New England sunset as we pulled up to the quaint little Main Street.

The hotel was historic to say the least. Their website discusses how it was visited by 4 U.S. Presidents over its 200 years in existence, including Presidents William Howard Taft, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Benjamin Harrison.

My father had used his Starwood points to book two rooms using Cash & Points, offering a pretty great value versus paying cash outright. Since it was a 2 night stay over Christmas Eve and Christmas, the cash rates were $693 / night for a regular room. Normally, you could get rates for $200-300/night. So using SPG points to offset the cost made a ton of sense.

Note: the Equinox has a $35 per night resort fee for each room that is not waived even for SPG Platinum members on award bookings. Per the website, "the Resort Fee of $35 per night includes the following amenities and services: unlimited valet parking, bottled water in room, wireless internet service, use of the business center, local telephone calls, in-town shuttle for shopping and dining, morning coffee and newspaper in the common area, access to 850 acres of hiking trails at the Equinox Preservation Trust, use of the Golf Club putting green, resort bicycles, tennis courts, sleds seasonally, use of the spa fitness center, pool, steam rooms, and the sauna."

Nevertheless, we were excited to spend a few nights in the Vermont mountains in a charming, historic hotel over Christmas.

Prior to our arrival, my father applied 4 of his SPG Suite Night Upgrades to get all of us into larger suites. Unfortunately, only one of the room upgrade requests cleared (Room 350), so my father offered the "Ulysses S Grant Suite" to my grandmother. She said it was silly to put me in the smaller room, so she declined and said they'd be fine in the regular room (Room 340).

The Ulysses S. Grant Suite was set up as a regular sized room on the first floor, but had a staircase that led you to a loft like living room upstairs. It was nice to have some extra space, but I'm not sure it was worthy of a U.S. President.

We settled into our rooms and got ready for dinner. They offered three restaurants in the hotel, the buffet style Colonnade (breakfast & dinner), Marsh Tavern (casual fare) and the Chop House (higher end steakhouse). Interestingly enough, the Marsh Tavern and Chop House shared the same entrance with just a open wall partition separating the two dining rooms. If you didn't notice the different furniture, you may not have realized they were in fact different restaurants.

Each morning, we enjoyed a complimentary SPG Platinum continental breakfast offered at the Colonnade (fresh fruits, pastries, cured meats and a large selection of gourmet cheeses). If we wanted to upgrade to the full hot buffet, including an omelette station, then you could pay the $5.50/person upcharge. Alternatively, you could also select items of the a la carte menu and spend up to $48/room, but that had to include tax and mandatory tip, so it was really closer to a $40 credit off the menu.

As you might imagine, most of the guests this Christmas weekend were families (many from NYC). When we checked in, they handed out different schedules of kid-friendly activities each day. Each day, they had several different movies playing in one of the banquet rooms, including Minions and Frozen. In the adjacent room, there were empty tables and board games for families to borrow and play as they wanted. They also had free coffee, hot chocolate and hot apple cider throughout the day for everyone.

Given the relaxing environment, we often found many guests simply sitting around one of the many fireplaces, reading newspapers or books when they weren't enjoying the large indoor pool and spa on the property (note, pool and spa are housed in a separate building so you will have to walk outside).

My favorite activity, however, was putting small notes on one of the many Christmas trees around the resort.

But the main Christmas Tree was the one at the base of the stairs by the Marsh Tavern and Chop House restaurants. This tree was the same one that I stood by when I was just 1 month old years ago.

Have I changed much since then?

1 comment:

  1. I just found your Europe Series a few days ago. It inspired me to also pursue my dream of going to Europe someday. I might also do it solo like what you did. I really enjoy reading all your entries. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

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