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Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Going on a Short Beach Getaway and Getting TSA Pre-Check

When you think of Florida, you probably associate it with Disney, beaches and cruises to Caribbean. And that’s a big part of life here, no question about. But there is a different Florida, the heartland with swamps, cypress trees and cows. That’s where we live. It couldn’t be more different from glitz and glamour of Miami. And believe it or not, some people like it that way. You couldn’t pay my husband to move to the coast. He says it’s too busy there, plus, he likes the swamps.

Me? I love the beach. I could never get enough of it. So, few times per year, I try to arrange a short getaway to the coast, so we can enjoy this type of view:

This year we ended up in Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront in Melbourne because I had some leftover Club Carlson points with no clear plan to use them. Points first, cash last. Always. I wrote a post on it last year when we took my parents to this hotel for five nights.   I didn’t include a lot of photos, so figured a follow-up post is in order. I’ll show you the pictures first and  share a few observations afterwards. Here we go:

 

This is a pretty large hotel, that was originally supposed to be a condominium


 

A decent size living room

Beautiful views from the balcony, but there is  lack of privacy.


 

We were upgraded to a family suite with bunk beds for free (yay!)

The bathroom was nice, but a bit small.

The bedroom had a door with a lock. Also, the kids had access to the bathroom from the bunk area, so they didn’t have to disturb my husband and I.

I loved the fact that we had access to the balcony from the bedroom. Listening to the sound of crashing waves at night was such a treat!

There is  a very nice pool and a hot tub

The good and the bad

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how wonderful it is to have a suite when you are traveling with kids. Add bunk beds, and what more can you ask for, right? Overall, this was a wonderful getaway, especially considering what I paid for it. Basically, renewing two of our Club Carlson credit cards ($75 X 2) gave me almost enough points for a two-night stay at this hotel.

The cost  is a reasonable (by Club Carlson standards) 44,000 points per night. Cash rate was about $150 all-in in July, a low season. There is a parking fee of $8 per day, but it’s not a deal breaker to me. We were also upgraded to a bunk suite, which normally costs $35 extra per night. The suite was roomy and well-equipped, much better than a regular room. As a Gold member, I also got a welcome basket with some fruit and pastries, a nice touch.

Now, on to the things I didn’t like. The place is a bit shabby, and there is a good reason for it. The property is thirty years old at this point. They do try to maintain it, but it’s no fancy resort. Of course, the hotel doesn’t pretend to be one, and the cash rates reflect it.

Still, I think some improvements are in order. For one, they need to get rid of the carpet in all the suites ASAP. You can’t see it on the photos, but it’s kind of worn and dirty. It  was in bad shape last year and obviously, things only got worse over the last 18 months. I think it’s a bad idea to have carpet in any beachfront hotel, but some properties maintain it better than others.

When we stayed at Hyatt resort in Bonita Springs, I didn’t get the same icky feeling when walking on the floor. I do bring slippers with me to hotels, and maybe I’m just OCD. But bottom line is, if you are a neat freak, you probably won’t be happy at this place. Still, it wasn’t a deal breaker, and I didn’t let it dampen my vacation.

The thing I hated the most was the sleep-number bed. If you are not familiar, it’s basically a glorified air mattress with some padding on top. I didn’t like it the last time we stayed here, and it felt really uncomfortable during this trip. I got some rest, but be aware, sleep-number mattress is most definitely not for everyone. Also, they had a thick down comforter, presumably meant for North Pole. I like to stay cool while sleeping, so took the sucker off the second night and found a blanket to put on top of the sheet.

A note on bunk beds: they were kind of an afterthought. If you look at the photo, you’ll notice that the light fixture and sprinkler are right above the top bunk. If you have a busy child, they may not be able to resist messing with them. My kids did OK, though.

Bottom  line:

For the price via points, it was a good deal and you can’t beat the view and separate bedroom area. That said, if you are picky and are used to Hyatt resorts, you may not be happy here. This is a blue-collar oceanfront hotel, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s OK.

Is it worth signing up for Club Carlson credit card in order to stay in this hotel?

It really depends. I think potential value is definitely there, especially if you are just looking for a short beachfront getaway after visiting Disney. The drive here is relatively easy, and the views can’t be beat. There are some fast-food places nearby, including McDonald’s. Last year, I  wrote about Radisson in my post on best beachfront bargains on points, so you can see more details on ways to stretch your bonus.

If you are looking for a 2-night beach stay during peak season, Radisson is a good option to consider. It is quiet during spring break, so you don’t have to worry about any sleazy displays.

Remember, you are getting an actual suite with a separate bedroom door.  Do keep in mind that sleeper sofa will probably only suit small children. You could feel the springs and it just didn’t  look like something a teenager could sleep on. Consider paying extra $35 per night to upgrade to a  suite with bunkbeds, if available.

If you sign up for  Club Carlson Visa Signature, you’ll get enough points for two nights at this property by the time you meet minimum spending requirements. Assuming you would actually pay around $185 per night in March, the bonus would be worth  $300 (after deducting the annual fee of $75). And that doesn’t take into account leftover points, which would  be almost enough for a potential “free” night at Cat. 2 property. Here is direct non-affiliate link for this card.

You receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days. Annual fee of $75 is NOT waived. Be aware, from the terms of the application:

 If eligible, you will receive the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card. If not eligible for the  Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card, you will automatically be considered for the Club Carlson Platinum Rewards Visa Card which earns 50,000 Bonus Gold Points® after first purchase, plus an additional one-time spend bonus of 10,000 Gold Points after spending at least $1,500 in net purchases on the card within the first 90 days of account opening. Annual fee of $50 is not waived.”

An alternative: You could get Hilton Honors Surpass Credit Card from American Express (details here) and redeem points on Doubletree Suites Melbourne Beach Oceanfront hotel  The cost varies depending on the season. I’ve seen it for as little at 23,000 Hilton points per night during the summer. All rooms are suites (fit up to 6) and face the ocean. The property is located next door to Radisson. Gold status from Surpass card would give you free breakfast for two adults each day.

A reminder: today is the last day to apply for 100k points offer. Be aware, it doesn’t come with free weekend certificate.  I do think 100k bonus will be back at some point, but you never know with these things. If you were already thinking about getting this card,  you can apply  via my personal referral link   Thanks in advance!

Applying for TSA Pre-Check (Finally!)

At the moment, I have two cards that provide reimbursement for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry (see Nancy’s post for more details on both). One of the cards is Chase Sapphire Reserve and I plan to cancel it next month. I really wanted to apply for Global Entry, but things just didn’t work out. I had to come up with the plan to use the credit ASAP.

I looked up TSA pre-check centers, and there was one in Cape Canaveral, about 30 minutes from Melbourne. I figured we would go there after the checkout. And so we did. I did make an appointment online beforehand. The whole thing took about 30 minutes for both me and my husband, and was much easier than I thought it would be. We got approved, and the fees were reimbursed. Doing a detour to Cape Canaveral shaved off about 15 minutes from the drive home, so it wasn’t that much of an inconvenience.

Back to the swamp we go 

I was sad to leave the beach behind and go back to the swampland and alligators. My husband? He was happy. On the way home, the song “Seminole wind” came on the radio, and he was singing along:

And the last time I walked in the swamp,
I sat upon a Cypress stump,
I listened close and I heard the ghost,
Of Osceola cry.

So blow, blow Seminole wind,
Blow like you’re never gonna blow again.
I’m calling to you like a long lost friend
But I know who you are.
And blow, blow from the Okeechobee,
All the way up to Micanopy.
Blow across the home of the Seminole,
The alligators and the gar.”

 

I don’t think we’ll ever be  moving to the coast. Fortunately, I’ve got hotel points to give me my beach “fix” now and again.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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