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Middle Age Miles

Hotel Review: Highline DoubleTree Vail (During Covid Times)

hotel review highline doubletree vail
Highline DoubleTree Vail

Introduction

On our recent 2-night father-daughter getaway to Vail, Middle Age Miles daughter KB and I stayed at the Highline DoubleTree. The hard product at the hotel was solid, and we had a fine stay. We felt comfortable being at the hotel during coronavirus times. But service at the hotel was lacking and indifferent. We certainly understood that it would not be business-as-usual for a hotel stay in these times, but even within that framework there were a lot of “misses” that we would not expect a a high mid-tier hotel, especially one in a prominent tourist location.

For a mini trip report of our getaway to Vail, see our earlier article:

Booking and Rate

We had a great deal at the Highline DoubleTree that helped get me excited for the stay. First, we scored an awesome paid rate, using a special “Vail Mountain Escape” rate that we found on the Hilton website. The base room rates for our 2 nights were $96.75 for the first night and $119.25 for the second; with tax our all-in rate would be only $237.17 for the 2 nights (see screenshot above). The normal $40/night resort fee was waived for this rate.

Standard room rates for this time of year would run in the range of $150-200/night before tax and the resort fee (including normal discounts like Member Rates, AAA or AARP), which would result in an all-in rate of $200-250 per night. Our all-in cost of $237.17 for 2 nights was about 50% off.

Second, the Highline DoubleTree is a Hilton Resort property. This means that charges at the hotel qualify for the $250/cardholder year resort fee credit on the Amex Hilton Aspire card. We had an Aspire card that was eligible for the resort fee credit, so charging our room to this card would mean that we wouldn’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket for our room!

[Alternatively, there was an Amex Offer for $40 or 4,000 MR points back when spending $250+ at a DoubleTree hotel. This would have been nice to use, too. Some would say that we should have used one of these Offers to pay instead of using an Aspire credit (knowing that we would have to charge an extra $13 to our room to hit the $250 threshold), because the Aspire resort fee credit can be used at US restaurants from 6/1 through 8/31/2020. We could have captured the resort credit at restaurants fairly easily. But we didn’t want to worry about making $13 in extra charges to the room, and using the resort credit for this stay and paying nothing at all out-of-pocket sounded great to us.]

Points rates didn’t make any sense for this stay, as the cent-per-point value would have been low, we still would have had to pay the resort fee if using points (about $44 each night including tax), and the Aspire credit gave us a “free” stay anyhow.

Finally, we also received a total of 7,420 Hilton Honors (HH) points for this stay, broken down as follows:

  • Base points = 10x = 2,210
  • Diamond Elite 100% bonus = 2,210
  • 2020 Points Unlimited promotion = 2,000
  • Diamond “My Way” bonus = 1,000

At our baseline value of 0.45 cents per HH point, the points from this stay are worth about $33.39. And even though we used resort credit, we should still receive 14x HH points on our Aspire card. That comes to 14 * $237.17 = 3,320 more HH points. Those points are worth another $14.94, which brings the total value of points earned for this stay up to $48.33 (a 20.4% points rebate on our total bill of $237.17).

Location

The Highline DoubleTree is located about 2-3 miles west of Vail Village/central Vail. It’s on the north frontage road, at the West Vail exit. It’s an easy short drive into the center of town (or maybe not so easy on big ski days). But it’s definitely not in the heart of town and not ski-in ski-out at all.

It would be possible to walk into central Vail along the Gore Creek Trail, but it would be quite a long stroll.

Fortunately, there are several places to eat and a Safeway grocery store that are fairly easy walking distance from the hotel. A restaurant called Westside is connected to the hotel (but not hotel-owned or operated). The restaurant is rustic/Western-themed and has a nice open-air front patio. We had an outstanding hearty breakfast at Westside on the first morning of our stay before heading out for a long hike, then we had a late lunch there after we returned. Breakfast ran about $40 for the 2 of us, and lunch was about $50 including a glass of wine or beer for each of us. Service at Westside was very good. To make up for a bit of a goof-up on KB’s burger for lunch, they made good without any prompting by bringing us a huge and delicious cinnamon roll for dessert.

Westside Restaurant, adjacent/connected to the Highline DoubleTree Vail

In addition, there’s a McDonald’s just across the parking lot, where KB and I grabbed a quick bite to-go before hitting the road on the morning of our departure. A little further away are a Subway sandwich shop and a few other eating options including a sushi restaurant.

McDonald’s across the parking lot from the Highline DoubleTree Vail

Coronavirus Adjustments

Overall, the hotel was clean and we felt safe with respect to Covid-19. Hotel staff wore masks during interactions with guests. Plexiglass barriers were set up at the check-in desk between the guest and the agent. Hand sanitizer was available on a desk between the hotel lobby and the elevator bank. Tables and chairs in the common/bar area seemed to be appropriately spaced.

The hotel had made several service adjustments on account of Covid-19 concerns:

  • No breakfast service at all
    • But the hotel bar was open in the evenings, and dinner service was available, albeit with a somewhat reduced selection
  • No housekeeping service during a guest’s stay
  • The fitness center was locked, although hotel staff could open it for you – limited to 1 person at a time in the entire room, or 2 people at a time if they were traveling together
  • No valet parking service
    • This was an improvement, as it’s only a few steps from the parking lot to the lobby, and the lot wasn’t full at all
  • The elevator bank had signage restricting ridership to one party at a time – but this was not enforced and was routinely ignored by guests

Physical Facility

We thought the Highline DoubleTree’s hard product was nice. The lobby is large, open and bright, with large south-facing windows looking out into the mountains. Rooms weren’t fancy, but they were quiet and comfortable, they seemed to be well-constructed, and they included several nice touches in addition to what you’d usually expect. Our room included a mini-fridge, an ironing board, a humidifier (we didn’t use it, but this is a nice-to-have in the dry mountain air), and a nice little storage area that worked perfectly for dirty trail shoes. And as mentioned earlier, everything seemed very clean, which was a nice touch.

The only challenge we had with the room itself was having a hard time getting the thermostat to work properly. The first night, we didn’t realize that the system was completely off. That led to us being very hot during most of the night, until we were able to get the air conditioning switched on in the middle of the night. The second night, we thought we had set the thermostat for 69 degrees with an appropriate fan setting, but nothing ran during the night. Again, we had to get up in the middle of the night to try to make adjustments. This time, we were able to cool down the room slightly, but it never got as cool as we wanted. There certainly could have been some operator error involved here, yet the fact that we had 2 reasonably bright people in the room and couldn’t stay comfortable is at least some cause for concern.

Here are pictures of the hotel:

Highline DoubleTree Vail – Hotel lobby
Highline DoubleTree Vail – bar & restaurant seating area
Highline DoubleTree Vail – snack market
Highline DoubleTree Vail – pool & hot tub area
Highline DoubleTree Vail – meeting room converted into a game room
with appropriately-distanced game choices
Highline DoubleTree Vail – Room 333 – 2 queen bed base-level room
Highline DoubleTree Vail – Room 333 – 2 queen bed base-level room
Highline DoubleTree Vail – restroom
Highline DoubleTree Vail – Crabtree & Evelyn single-use toiletries
Highline DoubleTree Vail – The wall art in the room consisted of drawings of ski
equipment from US patents – particularly enjoyable for this former patent litigator!
Highline DoubleTree Vail – in-room Keurig & supplies
Highline DoubleTree Vail – in-room greeting letter and sweet snacks
Highline DoubleTree Vail – view of the mountains to the west, from Room 333

Service Challenges

Our treatment at the Highline DoubleTree Vail was underwhelming and, frankly, quite disappointing. Service challenges included:

  • There was no recognition of Diamond elite benefits, other than a quick lip-service “Thank you for your loyalty” at check-in
    • The hotel was not serving breakfast, so we didn’t get the Diamond breakfast benefit
      • In addition, there was nothing to compensate for the loss of breakfast benefits – the hotel certainly could have offered 2 free drinks at the bar, credit at the snack market and/or breakfast credit at adjacent Westside restaurant
    • We did not receive a room upgrade, even though the hotel was not nearly full
      • Best guess is that occupancy was 25% or less on our first night and 50% or less on our second night
  • The hotel originally charged us for premium internet access at check-out; this is supposed to be complimentary as a Diamond member
    • To make things worse, the check-out agent was unable to remove the charge when we checked out. He said that he’d make a note and someone else would look at it. Indeed, we corrected folio with the charge removed within about a half-hour. But as we left, I figured it was 50/50 at best that this error would be corrected.
    • This issue speaks on 2 levels – One, the elite benefit was not honored. The check-out agent should be trained and knowledgeable on this subject. And two, apart from involving an elite benefit, a check-out agent should be empowered to deal with a modest issue of this type on-the-spot to make the customer happy.
  • The hotel did not follow my instructions as to what credit card to charge for our stay. I wanted to use a different card than the default card on my Hilton profile. I presented the different card to the check-in agent and asked her to charge that card instead of my default card. She acknowledged me, said no problem, and took the new card. Nonetheless, the stay was actually charged to my default card, not the card I’d asked for.
    • As fate would have it, I got mostly lucky here. We have 2 Aspire cards, and both cards had the $250 Hilton resort credit available for use. At the end of the day, this didn’t hurt much, although I had already used part of the credit on the default card at restaurants.
    • I didn’t bother to call back and try to change the payment method.
  • The check-in agent did not tell us that we would not receive housekeeping during our stay
    • I had guessed that this would be the case, but no one told us. KB, who doesn’t read travel blogs every day of her life, had no idea that we wouldn’t be receiving housekeeping.
  • The amount of toiletries in our room was not really sufficient for 2 people staying 2 nights
    • If a hotel is not going to provide housekeeping during the stay, it should address this proactively. For rooms that the hotel is going to assign for multi-night stays, it should stock the room better with toiletries in advance.

That’s a lot of service issues for a run-of-the-mill 2-night stay!

Because of these issues, I filled out the post-stay survey that I received via email, to give the hotel constructive feedback on these service opportunities. The Highline DoubleTree’s front desk supervisor wrote back to me personally within 24 hours to apologize. She also offered to “reimburse” me with “points in place of breakfast.” She asked me to suggest an amount of points (“please let me know how you feel I can make it right for you”).

I replied as follows:

Hi [Supervisor],

Thank you for the nice response and acknowledging my survey feedback. It was certainly meant to be constructive and give a nudge in what I saw as areas of opportunity for the hotel. Everyone understands that it is an unusual time in the world; it’s how you adjust, communicate, and make your members feel valued that will make the difference for success going forward.

My comments weren’t meant to fish for extra points, but that said I very much appreciate your offer. I’m not exactly sure what’s appropriate. If we’re talking about breakfast, it would have been breakfast for 2 people for 2 days. We ate at Westside one morning for about $40 and at McDonald’s the other morning for about $10, which probably averages out to about the same as 2 mornings’ worth of hotel breakfast. I believe we usually redeem Hilton Honors points for about a half-cent each in value. So, 10,000 points maybe? I’m certainly not trying to be greedy, so if I’m off-base, please adjust and I won’t be offended. As I said, my comments weren’t about asking for points….

The front desk supervisor responded that she could award 5,000 points. (Ok, and I’m not complaining – but it seems unusual that she would ask me what would “make it right” and then award less?) She said that the points would post “ASAP” but they haven’t shown up in my account in the 5 days since her message.

Wrap-Up

Perhaps my expectations were set too high for a DoubleTree during Covid times. But I don’t think so. Many of the service opportunities we observed during our stay weren’t really related to Covid. We also appreciated the front desk supervisor’s response, even though execution was clunky.

As we mentioned, though, the hotel physical facility was really nice, and of course the setting in Vail was absolutely lovely. All in all, we weren’t unhappy with the stay, especially with the great rate we got. But I’m guessing that Hilton and the Highline DoubleTree Vail’s owner & operator are shooting for guests to leave with a better taste than just “not unhappy.”

Have you stayed at the Highline DoubleTree Vail? What was your experience like? And in general, have you experienced similar service issues during Covid-times hotel stays? Please let us know in the Comments!


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6 thoughts on “Hotel Review: Highline DoubleTree Vail (During Covid Times)

  1. Grant

    Hi Craig, thanks for the detailed hotel review. I was very surprised by the number of issues you encountered in the Service Challenges section. For the compensation, you might have been able to ask for a $50 refund or 10,000 HH points, whatever the hotel could provide. Hopefully your 5,000 HH points post soon, or you may need to add a new issue to the Service Challenges section.

    I haven’t stayed at any hotels since February, so I am not sure when / where my next hotel stay will be, but I do have a 3 night stay at the Andaz San Diego for Labor Day Weekend booked…

  2. NK3

    Hey Craig:

    I recently took a road trip from Seattle out to eastern Washington/Idaho, staying at a Hampton Inn in Spokane Valley. Like your experience, things were a little uneven. I had low expectations given the current times, and some things were better than expected, while others fell short.

    The goods:
    Breakfast–I was expecting nothing, or maybe a bag grab-n-go bag. They actually had a selection of items behind the front desk (pastries, fruit, yogurt, Jimmy Dean sandwiches, breakfast burritos, hard boiled eggs, beverages, etc.), and you just told the front desk agent what you wanted. I thought it was a great way to balance a decent breakfast and safety. It may not be feasible if the hotel was completely full.

    The expected:
    No daily housekeeping, but they had a nice letter in the room detailing the current services. They said to leave garbage cans outside the room and they would be emptied, to call if we wanted more towels/toiletries, etc. Since things were differing from the usual published standards, it was nice having a letter detailing what the services were. I think this would be helpful at all properties, since current levels of service may vary due to ever changing state & local guidelines.

    Things to improve:
    I signed up for a digital key, but it didn’t work, so I had to stop at the front desk.

    I never saw an employee wear a mask. I thought this was mandated by Hilton, but it is also required in the state of Washington. They did have the plexiglass up at the front desk, though the staff would regularly leave the desk or reach around the shield, deal with food, etc. I was really disappointed in this.

    I did not get my 250 Point My Way bonus, but that usually seems to happen when I stay at Hampton, and it was remedied with a quick mention on the website.

    Overall it is an interesting time to travel. I value safety over service right now, but it is interesting to see how different hotels are currently operating. Thanks for your post!

  3. James

    Craig, any updates on your AA saga? Those of us looking to go the SCC route could use your guidance. Can you put up a “canary in the coal mine” of sorts now so that we can know if you settled and had to sign an NDA?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi James – Thanks for checking in. No real updates on AA. I still need to send them a formal legal demand letter as the next step in the proceedings, as a prerequisite to litigation in Texas. ~Craig

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