Plans for Vancouver and Seattle over the 4th of July next year are starting to take shape. We have our outbound flights, and based on availability, have opted to fly into Vancouver. The plan for this trip is to primarily “spend” miles and points, as our balances are probably a bit higher than we would ordinarily burn over the next 12 months and we don’t have big plans to travel for long stretches any time soon. In this installment, my research is primarily focused on finding hotels in the area, preferably available using a points currency that I already have, and selecting what I hope will be the best option. As I’ve not actually been to Seattle, let alone stayed in these hotels, a corresponding trip report will be in order to close the loop on whether I chose wisely.Introduction Outbound Flights Vancouver Hotel Seattle Hotel Return Flights Activities
For this trip, we are mainly focused on Starwood and Hyatt options because our balances are mostly in the form of Hyatt, Starwood and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Still, we love Fairmont hotels, dating back to our wedding at the Fairmont D.C., and always take a look at those options when heading to Canada. While we’ll generally get what we expect on the Hyatt and Starwood side up north, Fairmont has some unique and frankly awesome properties across Canada. Not to digress into places we won’t be going this summer, but the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac might be the most unique (chain) hotel in North America. As a general tip, if you’re headed to Canada, put your points and elite benefits aside and at least take a look at what Fairmont might have in the cities on your itinerary.
There are four Fairmont properties in Vancouver, which if I’m keeping score, is the highest concentration of Fairmont hotels in any one city.
The first option, which I won’t cover in great detail, is the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, the only on-terminal hotel at YVR. Our plans are more focused on seeing the city, and we enjoy walking more than driving, so we won’t be booking this. However, our JFK-YVR flight is often delayed and the 12:40am Pacific arrival is often later as a result. If that ends up happening, there is a good chance we will just walk over to this hotel for one night, and if I see inventory start to dry up as we near departure I will strongly consider a speculative booking.
The remaining 3 hotels are all in the downtown area, with the Pacific Rim and Waterfront properties being about 2 blocks apart, and the H0tel Vancouver a mile from those.
Ultimately, nothing about the Fairmont properties in Vancouver jumped out at me as especially unique or something we “needed” to do. At least not to the extent of paying cash for the stay versus points or points+cash somewhere else. I’ll keep the airport property in my back pocket just in case, though.
The lone Vancouver property in the Hyatt portfolio is the Regency. This property is high on my list without doing much additional research because I am a Hyatt Diamond member, I have roughly a week’s worth of Hyatt points in my account, other bloggers have generally enjoyed the property and it is centrally located – close to the SkyTrain, which would enable us to skip the rental car at the airport.
My Hyatt status came from a completed Diamond Challenge earlier this year. Since then, Hyatt properties have treated us very well – usually putting us in a room large enough for a toddler to run around in and burn off some steam if needed and including a pretty good breakfast. While I’m not one to suggest the best place to eat is the hotel, we usually do start our day there because the reality of toddler parenting is that we only really “get” 1-2 activities per day and we’d rather not burn one of those on breakfast, so I do place somewhat outsized value on the breakfast benefit as long as I’m confident in the quality of the offering. Hyatts have rarely disappointed me.
My call to Hyatt Reservations was positive – cash and points nights were available at this Category 3 property for $75 and 6,000 points per night. Based on that development, I made a speculative booking at this hotel.
Vancouver is a pretty good place to be if you’re loyal to Starwood, with 7 hotels in the greater metro area and 3 in the downtown area.
For this trip, we are going to stay downtown, so that immediately narrows my list to the Westin Bayshore, Sheraton Wall Centre and Westin Grand. All of these hotels are SPG Category 4 and available for 10,000 points per night.
While there is nothing particularly wrong with any of these options, two things (at the time of this posting) jumped out at me about the Westin Grand: It is an all-suite property and a Superior View Suite was available at the base point level. The Superior Suite is one category up from their “standard” Studio Suite offering, and the View is best described as a higher of two subcategories within each suite type, putting you on a higher floor and facing out to the city or mountains. The Westin Grand is also located closest of the three Starwood properties to the SkyTrain and central downtown area.
I am also an SPG Gold member through the American Express Platinum card. While Starwood does not offer its Gold elites free breakfast, there is an option for free wifi. Even at this hotel, the dining options seem sparse so I’m not counting on a solid breakfast option outside of the lobby Starbucks.
I did end up making a speculative booking on the Superior View Suite at 10,000 starpoints per night.
Conclusion (Or Lack Thereof)
I am ultimately submitting the question of where to stay to the jury (my wife and daughter), but I do feel that the research has yielded quality options in the programs that I’d prefer to use due to my points balances and status (Hyatt and Starwood), as well as one that we prefer as a family when paying cash (Fairmont).With almost a year before we need to firm up the plans and then leave for the trip, do any of you have any suggestions on our options? While I’m at it, do any readers have feedback on whether trip planning is worthwhile for your own vacation planning?
Featured image copyright MagnusL3D, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0)
My family (wife, 4 yo, and 2 yo) and I were in Vancouver two weeks ago. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency and it was so worth it. I used a Diamond suite upgrade and got an executive suite (3302) and it was great especially when traveling with the kids. The room was great, the location is killer, and most of all, the staff is really great. They are friendly, professional, and really helpful. This is in sharp contrast to the next hotel we stayed at in that trip, the Grand Hyatt in Seattle. The service just wasn’t as good. I have all praises for the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver. As for location, oh boy, it was really convenient. The major sites are easy to access by walking or using public transportation. The SkyTrain was literally right beside the hotel. In the few days we were there, we walked a good number of miles, used the SkyTrain, the Seabus, the regular bus, cab, and the Amtrak on our way to Seattle.
Thanks for the input! I will certainly take your advice on Seattle into account – the GH Seattle is on the list, and not to completely torpedo my next post, but so is the Olive 8 and I’m leaning toward the latter just because DSU’s there go into a pretty decent suite according to the Hyatt rep that I spoke to.
How did you feel about Amtrak from Vancouver to Seattle versus driving? We’re still kicking that around, maybe making a day of the drive and stopping off at places, but I’m not sure if there’s much to do on the road. How is immigration on Amtrak? We have NEXUS so the drive would theoretically not be too bad.
Don’t get me wrong, the GH Seattle was not bad. It’s just that having experienced the service at the Hyatt Regency I wanted more of the same great and friendly service. Instead, I think compared to the Regency, the GH was a little more impersonal and not as efficient. I remember in the club, the attendant was telling a guest that they are understaffed and that’s why they are a little bit overwhelmed. I kept thinking about the Regency Club in Vancouver and how there were a max of 1 or 2 people working there (usually 1) and how busy the attendant was but never complained to the guests and always wore a nice warm smile. It did not matter who was there. All of them wore that nice warm smile that felt genuine. By the way, since we were just spending one night, I did not want to use my DSU but just asked if an upgrade was available upon check in. The lady offered a higher floor room and I countered and asked for a suite. So she gave us one. Easy peasy. That was great and much appreciated.
As for driving vs the Amtrak, I have only tried driving really early to Vancouver (and we didn’t stop anywhere to avoid delays) so I can only evaluate the Amtrak – and that I liked. My goal for this trip was to not rent a car at all and we didn’t. All my arrangements were around that – I didn’t want to lug around 2 (TWO!) car seats. The Amtrak was great. We made sure to book business class tickets (using Chase UR -> Amtrak – really cheap) primarily to beat immigration lines in Vancouver. They let biz class out of the train first so you are in front of the line. As for comfort, apparently we got the old Biz class car. The conductor told me that they have 7 trains and 2 of them have the new trains they put into service last year. Despite that, the space was okay and it comfortable. On the way back, we were in coach and that would have been okay except that the cab door was broken and permanent open and we were seated right next to the bathroom. There was this unpleasant odor throughout the train car and that was not a nice experience. As for immigration going back to the US, there’s not benefit with biz class since immigration is done at the Vancouver Amtrak station and there’s only one line that funnels to the immigration counters. Still, if you find availability for both ways, go for it. If you do go the Amtrak route, make sure you allow sufficient time to get there early and get good seat assignments. You can’t do that online and they do it the old fashioned way with stickers and cards. But they are nice and will try to seat families together. Also, going to the Hyatt Regency from the Amtrak station should just be a matter of taking the train, but since we got in late (there were delays related to track repairs) we just took a cab for about ~10 CAD. Same thing going back to the station (very early morning), we just took a cab.
One thing that I was glad about was how we chose the hotels. They were in the city centers and that makes it easier when you have kids. More specifically, we chose to do our first night in Seattle at the Hyatt Place. Nothing fancy but it works. It’s close to the Seattle Center, which is where the Space Needle and Children’s Museum are at so we pretty much went around that area the first day before getting a quick bite in the International District (there’s a great food court at the Uwajimaya Village right across from the light rail station) and then walking over to the Amtrak King Street Station.
Good luck with your trip!
I stayed at the Vancouver Hyatt Reg on business for a night — great location, and I loved their breakfast buffet. I’d agree the staff was great. The Sheraton Wall Centre is just across the street, and that is a sexy looking hotel from the outside.
I’ve spent more time in Seattle, and yes Hyatt Olive 8 is much newer&nicer than the Grand Hyatt. They’re next to one another, so location-wise it’s a tie. Only other Seattle hotel I’d recommend taking a look at is the W. It’s got a much more chic feel, and might be a couple blocks closer to the sights/restaurants downtown.
Haven’t seen suites at any of these properties (I’m small time). A trip like this is on my radar when my two girls get a little older. So I’m loving your updates as you plan. Keep them coming!
Just a heads up….the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final is July 5th in Vancouver.
Personally, I wouldn’t think about staying downtown as a young family. I lived in Vancouver when I was a kid, from 88-92. We never went downtown, except to take visitors to Gastown. But even then, we’d just park at the Lonsdale Quay and take the Seabus. I see a lot of affordable airbnb places all over Vancouver for as low as $100/nt. If you can find one close to public transportation it’s very easy to take the bus/seabus into town. Otherwise you’d want a car for all the cool stuff.
We stayed with friends in North Van for the 2010 Olympics. We took a bus to the Lonsdale Quay (great food/shops), went for a ride on the Seabus (a hovercraft), that put us right downtown. We also visited Vancouver Aquarium/Stanley Park, Lynn Canyon Park/Suspension Bridge, Deep Cove, Mt. Seymour, Granville Island. There’s also Science World and Whistler (closed during to visitors during the Olympics). Grouse and Capilano are way overpriced tourist traps. There are better free options.
If you do have points to burn though….free is free.
This is perfect timing for me, as I am planning a trip to Vancouver sometime next year. I was looking at the same Starwood hotels you listed and I think I will go with the Westin Grand. I am also planning on taking Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver. Looking forward to your updates. Thanks
First of all, if you’re staying downtown then I’d highly recommend not renting a car. If you want to take a day trip away from Vancouver and need a car, there are plenty of off-airport locations to rent from.
I have stayed at the Hyatt Regency and thought it was quite nice. It is close to the Skytrain and is in a good location. I was treated pretty well as a Platinum and I’m sure you’d be treated better as a Diamond.