Providing Our Military with ‘Hugs’ of Appreciation

By Guest Blogger Tara Crooks
2013 Army Spouse of the Year

 

I have had the honor of representing thousands of military spouses as the Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year and in my work as Co-founder of Army Wife Network. We have been very blessed in our business to be associated with and able to feature       military family-friendly businesses like La Quinta Inns & Suites.

I first heard about the La Quinta Returns Military Rewards program through Military Spouse Magazine when information was provided in our awards goodie bags. However, I’ve long been a fan of La Quinta Inns & Suites personally due to the fact I am a military spouse and well, frankly, I PCS (Permanent Change of Station)!

What military spouse hasn’t dragged her entire family – including pets – thousands of miles across country for the love of her soldier?           La Quinta Inns & Suites has always been a travel favorite of our family for their generous pet        policy, clean rooms and bountiful breakfast – did someone say waffles? So imagine my joy when I received a voucher for two free nights at a hotel I had already booked! Yippee!

Enough about me though, I want to share a story from the field. One of the most                  empowering and uplifting things we at AWN do is our signature events called                 Field Exercise™: Love Military Life. Recently, we put on one such event at Fort Carson, CO. I had  contacted La Quinta Inns & Suites corporate and they graciously donated some free stay vouchers for prize giveaways at our event.

At our events, there is approximately 150 spouses that attend. Things are crazy with laughter and fun and we give away many items. I’m trying to paint a picture of this so you understand what a big deal this was for someone to say what they said and take the time to make sure it was heard.

On the first night, we came to the part of our program where we give away prizes. On the list were the vouchers for a stay at La Quinta. I never heard a group of women get so      excited about a hotel stay!  We told them about La Quinta Returns Military Rewards and to my surprise many in the room were already enrolled and taking advantage of the     program perks. What was even more surprising was one of the girls in the front row asked for the microphone and began to tell her story about her experience with multiple stays at multiple locations during her PCS.  She shared how the La Quinta staff had gone above and beyond and even placed a note under her door thanking her family for their service. It really brought everyone listening a great deal of happiness.

While it’s common that a business says they support the military or offer a discount, it is rare for a business to truly show their support so much that you “feel” it like a warm hug of appreciation.

Thank you, La Quinta Inns & Suites for everything you do for our military families! Your entire staff is much appreciated.

Starting March 1 – March 31st, enter to win a trip for two to the 2014 Military Spouse of the Year Awards Luncheon in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 2014. Click here to enter: http://woobox.com/8sv92i

PCSing with La Quinta Coast to Coast

By Guest Blogger Kelly Plowman

We made it!  What an incredible week we had traveling from California to Virginia.  The month of December was definitively busy.  We packed our lives into boxes, said good byes, traveled about 3,600 miles in 7 days and stayed in 6 different                     La Quinta Inns & Suites along the way.  Luckily, the La Quinta website made the     planning of our cross-country journey super easy with cool features that allow you to plan your stay by the route you are taking as well as a mobile app for last-minute reservation changes.          La Quinta has definitely got things figured out on how to make traveling easier, so there are fewer things to worry about. 

The places we have seen in such a short time have been really great. Highlights of the trip were visiting my alma mater Texas A&M University, eating yummy food in New Orleans, and visiting friends in Charlotte.  We really lucked out           weather wise and really had no problems.  Next time, if time allows, I would shorten the distance between each stop.  We drove on average 7 hours a day.  So by the time we made it to our next destination it was usually dark and we had minimal time to explore the city.  La Quinta Inns & Suites though made it possible to maximize the time we had.  Check-in was always friendly, easy and fast.  

They don’t require a pet         deposit, so that was a nice  surprise.  And we never had to worry about where we were going to get breakfast in the morning.  Every La Quinta we stayed at provided a wide         assortment of breakfast foods including a waffle bar!  I love that I got to experience a  cross-country trip with my       husband AND dogs.  The         memories we have made are sure to last a lifetime. 

La Quinta Inns & Suites made the planning of our PCS trip easy and our actual      journey carefree.  From their website tools and apps, to the pet friendly                     accommodations, it was easy for us to enjoy our trip.  There was always a La Quinta along our route, and a nice comfy bed to fall into at night.  Thanks for all the          hospitality!

I am pretty sure the dogs now think their life consists of getting in the car and       driving around all day.  What a nice surprise it will be for them to not have to get into one for a while.  We are all excited for this next chapter, and to start calling     Virginia home.  Now on to tackle another military first for me–military housing!

 

 

Treat Yourself to a La Quinta Staycation

By Guest Blogger Erin Bettis

Last weekend I was in dire need of a break. Being a stay-at-home mom of two, and a military spouse whose husband works and lives away from the family for several weeks at a time often feels like the walls are caving. My family’s circumstances lend to acting as a single parent with only a short two-hour breather in the evenings.

I needed to give myself some space. Some time alone to reenergize and self-reflect. So, I decided to give myself a “staycation” by lodging at La Quinta Inns & Suites for one evening. I’ve never given myself a staycation, but it goes something like this: You stay the night at a hotel in the city where you live.

My stay-cation location across town from where I live.

You don’t travel far from home, but you experience a change of scenery to make it feel as though you’re on vacation, hence, stay-cation. La Quinta’s     affordable nightly rates and cleanliness were attractive to me. I’m pretty picky about my quality of sleep, and their beds looked cozy when I viewed the online photos. They also offer a military rewards (among other discounts and deals), and any company who gives back to military families is ok in my book. I called the reservation line, and spoke to the pleasant Brenda who made my reservation a breeze. My long-pending staycation bucket-list item was about to get crossed off.

Once I dropped my daughters off for a sleepover with family-friends, I headed across town. The hotel was about 30 minutes away from my house, so it actually felt like I was getting away for the night. The warm, inviting front desk associate, Martha, checked me into my room quickly. She even went so far as to call my room about an hour after check-in to make sure that it was satisfactory – it was.

My gloriously large and very comfortable bed.The bed was as comfy as it appeared online, and the bathroom vanity also held little treasures – best of all free coffee (I love free coffee.) These features     often get taken for granted until you stay at a hotel that doesn’t offer them. Luckily, La Quinta did have those familiar features which made me feel like I was stepping into a home away from home.

With delicious FREE coffee and a coffee maker in your room and HD TV who could go wrong.

 

After that, I simply enjoyed every drop of selfishness I could fit into those kid-free 14 hours. I watched uninterrupted HD-TV, bathed in silence and snuggled under the warm covers – it was bliss.

 

The next morning I felt relaxed and centered. My first staycation was everything I expected. When I picked up my children, I had a renewed energy that can only be credited to La Quinta’s accommodations. La Quinta took care of everything so that I could take care of myself.

The beautiful sunrise I experienced the last day of my glorious stay-cation.

PSCing Cross Country In 7 Days & 7 La Quintas

By Guest Blogger Amy Meehan

Amy Meehan

Amy Meehan

Well, I can’t believe our cross-country trip has already come and gone. We had a wonderful time and are eternally grateful to La Quinta Inns & Suites for providing our family with consistent great service and cozy quarters throughout our travels. We always received a clean room with a comfortable bed and warm breakfast in the morning. Not to mention that it was a nice bonus to get the children in the pool for a pre-bedtime dip to burn off some energy after a long day in the car! 

While we were driving across the country I realized how lucky we are to visit different, unique places in the United States. When you PCS, you have so many options to choose from when it comes to your route and what you want to see. There were so many destinations I waLQ Waffle!nted to check out and landmarks I wanted to see, but that could have taken months! Taking a week turned out to be the right choice so that the interim between schools wasn’t too long for our children. Regardless, though, we had many funny moments and we made memories that we’ll cherish forever. And now that it’s all done, we can laugh at the near catastrophes like when we realized we had left electronics at our last hotel and when we panicked thinking that we had misplaced our son’s mouth retainers that the orthodontist just molded for him! 

LQ Pool!So, one chapter now ends and another begins for us. We would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to MilitaryOneClick for this wonderful opportunity during our permanent change of station! Next stop:  Washington, DC!

ADA Travel Made ‘Easy’

By Guest Blogger Jessica Allen
The War of a Wounded Warrior Wife

Traveling with your family will always bring some type of difficulty. Then in our world, you have to add the traveling difficulties Chaz has. Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to just hit the road again and stop wherever.  No, instead, all of our travel plans have to be thought out way in advance.  And, I do not trust anyone to arrange our rooms for us. It seems everyone’s opinion of what is ADA compliant varies drastically. We have experienced this again and again.

10.1 AllenFamily

Jessica and Chaz Allen along with their “cuties” and four-legged family member “Ginger” at La Quinta Inns & Suites’ Smyrna hotel.

Last year we were awarded four free nights with La Quinta Inns & Suites for being the top fundraisers for Team Fisher House for the Army Ten Miler. We used them at different locations and I wanted to share our adventures.

We used two nights in
Macon, Georgia
on our way to and from our niece’s graduation in Florida. Then we used the last two in Smyrna, Tennessee. One thing is for sure, La Quinta Inns & Suites knows the meaning of customer service. We had a few difficulties with the rooms through the 1-800 number, but the location’s staff happily helped us.

When I called I asked for an ADA room with the roll-in shower. The ADA part was heard, but not the shower part. When we arrived in Macon, the front desk informed me that our room was not ready. She was horrified. It was three hours past check-in. She asked for just a minute and then reappeared rather quickly. She informed me that the only room ready was the ADA suite with the roll-in shower and happily gave us that room. Then she informed me that the 1-800 number booked the ADA room for that night, but not on the night when we were driving back. She said she’d take care of that for us and she did.

When we came back through, we checked into our ADA room to discover that their version of ADA and our version of ADA were two different things. Our room had a bathtub and Chaz could barely get around it. I went back down to a different front desk person. Once again the clerk disappeared then reappeared and we got the suite we had before. (Yes we were very happy.)

We enjoyed both nights at the La Quinta in Macon. Chaz had no problems getting around the hotel or the room. The shower’s roll-in feature was great. And the bench provided actually supported him. Chaz is a big guy and sometimes those benches are not made for guys his size.

Now to the La Quinta in Smyrna. Once again I called ahead and reserved the ADA roll-in shower room for Chaz. We had made arrangements to chat with someone from La Quinta when we got there. They wanted to chat with us about the Hotels for Heroes program and being military and using their hotels. They took it upon themselves to call and double check our reservation to discover the roll-in shower room we had requested had been double booked. (She was way more worried than we were. Seriously we have dealt with way bigger problems.) I just tossed our portable shower bench in the van and we took off. When I arrived, the nice young man at the front desk escorted me to the roll-in room and then we looked at the other ADA room. I decided that since we had the bench we would take the ADA room with the tub and we’d make it work. He was the cutest thing and thanked me several times for making their double-booking so easy to resolve.

The ADA room with the tub in the Smyrna location was bigger than the room with the roll-in. I wanted the extra space for the cuties to roll around. In addition the more room we have available, the less likely Chaz is to smush our toes.

Did you know La Quinta Inns & Suites allows pets? I am an OCD cleaner. I am telling you that you could not tell pets were residing in either hotel. Ginger could tell in Smyrna, but we all know her nose is way better than mine. Our oldest cutie is allergic to dogs and cats and we did not have one skin or breathing problem there.

Would we recommend La Quinta Inns & Suites? Definitely yes! Their customer service is excellent. Their rooms and hotels were clean. And their free breakfast was super yummy. Both locations had different food options, but both were great.

Now on to some cool facts. They have a rewards club. Just visit www.lq.com/military and learn more about it, and please consider donating those points to Hotels for Heroes. Military service members (including veterans and spouses) get 12% off the rate, as well as several other perks. La Quinta makes your PCS moves cheaper and you can bring your pets—for free!

And for those with service dogs just think about how much easier La Quinta makes traveling for you. Do yourself a favor and stay with La Quinta Inns & Suites. We highly recommend it.

Stretch Your Travel Budget With Hotel Rewards
Program Benefits

When you get on the road for a PCS move or vacation, you can stretch your travel budget by taking advantage of rewards that some hotel companies offer in their
frequent stay or loyalty program. Your faithfulness to one brand can earn you points to be used for free future visits and even retail shopping! While one hotel may offer an attractive rate, benefits of being a loyalty member with another could add up to valuable “currency.”

Look for these benefits when considering joining a loyalty program:

9.2  Hotel Reward Program_81438043

 

  • Many frequent guests can earn a free night’s stay at any of the hotel chain’s locations. But to maximize your traveling dollar, investigate programs that can offer more. For members of the military, veterans and their spouses, for example, some hotel returns programs start new military members at an
    elevated tier level and with the
    ability to earn more points with each stay.
  • Several top-level programs offer the all-important airline miles, but be sure that the program you join partners with an airline that you would normally fly.
  •  Take a look at how points are earned and when they might expire (some have no expiration date). In most cases, rewards are earned based on the amount of money spent at the hotel or for a certain number of nights stayed at a hotel.  Analyze each program to determine which structure will allow you to reach their top levels sooner. Reaching the top level of a program ensures that you will be able to earn more points at a much quicker rate, giving you more options when selecting a reward.
  • Some programs now offer the ability to redeem points for gift certificates.
    These gift certificates can be used at some of the country’s top retailers or restaurants, as well as for tickets to professional sports teams’ games, concerts, amusement parks and at golf resorts across the country.
  • The program’s mix of partners can increase the ability to earn miles or points. For example, some programs that have a credit card partner will allow points or miles to be earned based on purchases using the card. Some programs even
    offer bonus points for doing business with other partners, such as rental car companies, mortgage companies and financial services companies.

While it’s very important to know that a program can provide an assortment of first-rate rewards, it’s good to know that certain membership benefits are also
provided during each stay. On-site benefits such as express check-in, room upgrades and in-room welcome gifts can play a crucial role in making the decision
to join a program.

With the myriad of hotel frequency or loyalty programs today, it would be well worth the extra time and effort to compare and thoroughly investigate a program.
Remember, investment of time could mean free vacations for you and your family, or gift certificates for free meals or free shopping!

Navy Military Spouse of the Year Gives La Quinta ‘A Try’

By Alisha Youch
Proud Navy Spouse since 1995

Navy Spouse of the Year, Alisha Youch (center), Commander Daniel Youch, USN (left), General Garry Parks, USMC (Retired), Chairman of Armed Forces Insurance (Right)

Navy Spouse of the Year, Alisha Youch (center), Commander Daniel Youch, USN (left), General Garry Parks, USMC (Retired), Chairman of Armed Forces Insurance (Right).

One of the unexpected pleasures of being named 2013 Armed Forces Insurance Navy Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse Magazine was receiving a lovely gift basket. The gifts were thoughtful, but more importantly they would also help me in the coming year in my Navy Spouse of the Year efforts. I am a psychiatric social worker, and I have recently founded an advocacy organization called Military Families Count, which seeks to improve mental healthcare and support services for military spouses and children. My advocacy efforts will involve a good amount of travel in the coming year to meet with legislators and government officials. One of the first gifts I put to use was a pair of gift certificates from the great folks from the Military Marketing Team at La Quinta Inns & Suites.

A recent trip to Washington, DC left me in need of a hotel room for two nights, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to give La Quinta a try. Making my reservation was a breeze! Once I selected the La Quinta location at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, I called the 800-number to make my reservation (just to make sure I would be able to use my gift certificates. Otherwise, the online reservation system would have done the trick.) All the reservation specialist needed was the serial numbers on the certificates, and I was all set. The process could not have gone more smoothly. That is, until the day of my trip . . .

As I was running out the door to head to the airport, I realized I did not have my La Quinta gift certificates with me. My husband helped me search for them, a scene which ended in our tearing apart the garbage cans both inside and outside our house on a hot, humid Georgia day – not a pretty scene! We never found the gift certificates, but I did find the business card that had accompanied them. I cleaned it off and stuck it in my pocket.

As my husband drove me, now late, to the airport, I called the BWI La Quinta, panicked, and told the manager my story, asking whether she could honor the gift certificates since I had previously given them the serial numbers. The manager kindly told me that she was not able to authorize such a deviation from policy. I knew it had been a long shot, but it had been worth a try. My husband reassured me that we would manage to cover the cost of the hotel room.

The security line was unusually long for an early Saturday afternoon flight.  “Perfect,” I thought. I was already running late, and now this. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the business card I’d retrieved from the garbage can. It belonged to Derek Blake, the Vice President of Marketing for La Quinta Inns & Suites. The card included his cell phone number – but it was Saturday afternoon! My discomfort was quickly overtaken by my desperation, and I dialed. My call went to Derek’s voicemail, and I tried to explain my situation without rambling, asking Derek if there was any way he could help. As I tucked my phone back in my bag, and a few minutes later, as I laid my bag on the scanner belt, I heard it begin to buzz.

Once through the security checkpoint, I found Derek had returned my call and left me a voicemail, and we engaged in several rounds of phone tag. In his third voicemail to me, Derek stated that he’d taken care of everything! He said he’d spoken with the manager at the BWI La Quinta, and they would be able to honor my gift certificates. He also told me to call him back if I had any trouble checking in. I never actually spoke with Derek that day, but I did text him back to thank him for his kindness and help.

Arriving at the BWI La Quinta late that evening, I was prepared to have to explain my story, pull out Derek’s business card, perhaps even call him in order to get past the front desk. I wheeled my bag up to the desk, and was welcomed politely by the clerk. I gave her my name, ready to explain . . . and she immediately pulled out a small folio bearing my keys and handed it to me, saying, “thank you for your service.” I was so eager to get to my room that I didn’t question her statement, but in the elevator, I wondered to myself how she knew I had a military affiliation. I looked at the folio in my hand and saw that it indicated I was a member of the La Quinta Military Rewards Program. I didn’t recall signing up or telling anyone I was military . . . then I realized that when Derek called the manager earlier that day, he must have shared that part of my story.

My room at the BWI La Quinta was comfortable, clean and nicely appointed. (I particularly appreciated the built-in nightlight on the hairdryer on the wall, which provided just the right amount of light to help me find my way around at night without needing to turn on the light.) I was really pleased to discover that La Quinta Inns & Suites provides free Wi-Fi in guest rooms – an amenity not provided at several of the “upscale” hotels I’d stayed at recently. Breakfast the next morning was more than satisfactory, and they started serving at 4:30 a.m. to accommodate business travelers – a very nice touch!  My two-day trip took me from DC to Baltimore, to DC, to Baltimore and finally back to DC. Knowing my comfortable, clean La Quinta room was waiting for me each night made the demanding schedule manageable. I texted my husband from my room the first night and said simply, “Figure out which La Quinta locations we can stop at when we PCS in August!”

The staff at La Quinta went above and beyond to make my trip successful – from the clerk who checked me in smoothly and politely, to the housekeeping staff who brought me extra towels (which were very new, very white and very fluffy), all the way up to the Marketing VP, who took time out of his Saturday to help me. I’d been able to accomplish my goal that weekend – a quick, busy two-day business trip with a minimum of hassle and a maximum of comfort. At the same time, La Quinta had been able to accomplish theirs – making loyal customers out of my family and me!

Traveling soon? Helpful tips to help reduce stress and ensure you get the most out of your trip.

MIlitary Family TravelSweat Where You Stay
Many hotels offer fitness centers with cardio machines and free weights at no charge for guests.

Start the Day Healthy
A healthy breakfast (whole-grain cereals, low-fat milk and fresh fruits) boosts your metabolism and improves your mental acuity. And since some hotels offer complimentary breakfast buffets, your travel budget can stay in shape as well.

Layer Up
By packing clothing options that can be layered, your family will be prepared for a wide range of indoor and outdoor temperatures.

Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can lead to headaches, hunger and feelings of sluggishness. Get refillable BPA-free bottles for every family member and fill them with water, not soda, to avoid empty calories.

Keep Those Digits Clean
Experiencing new, unfamiliar destinations means experiencing new, unfamiliar germs. Ensure family members wash their hands frequently, and bring along travel-sized hand sanitizers.

 

Family watching kids play Post #2

A Healthy Journey: Tips for Staying Fit on the Road

Military spouses and their families appreciate that travel can be both incredibly rewarding and immensely stressful. And more often than not, one of the first casualties of a busy travel schedule is your own wellness.  With a just a little planning, dedication and creativity, you can make sure that your health and wellness goals don’t get lost the next time you hit the road.

1.  Dine Outside the Drive-Thru

In America, “road trips” and “fast food” are virtually synonymous. But you can avoid the burger trap by packing your own healthy, filling snacks and lunches (apples, bananas, trail mix and PBJs). Even better, explore local cuisine options along your route, from organic restaurants and grocers to farmers’ markets (remember to always wash raw veggies and fruits thoroughly).

2.  Embrace Impromptu Exercise

If your family is spending long days in the car getting to your destination, it’s important to embrace exercise opportunities whenever and wherever you find them. Add a five-minute walk to lunch or bathroom breaks. Take the hotel stairs whenever they are an option. If your hotel offers a grassy area, toss the football or Frisbee with the kids after unpacking for the evening.

3.  Be Adventurous

With more than 7,000 national and state parks dotting the country, America’s natural beauty is often only a highway exit away. These protected spaces offer countless miles of trails for hiking, biking and burning off a few calories – all in truly breathtaking settings. And best of all, military families can enjoy free access to more than 2,000 recreation areas with a National Parks Annual Pass.
To learn more, visit nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.

How to put TLC in your PCS with pets

If you think moving is stressful for you, imagine how confusing it can be for your pets. Everything that is familiar to them—the potted plants they sniffed daily, the comfy couch they weren’t allowed on, the kids’ shoes they stumbled over by the front door–gets packed up and taken away. Then, they’re cooped up in their carrier in the back of the car for a long road trip.  In the short term, it is a bit more stressful to PCS when your pets are along for the ride. But in the long term, they make moving more enjoyable for everyone. Here are some things to keep in mind that may help in making moving a little bit easier.Dog in car pack with luggage

Think like a pet.
PCSing is a stressful time for any military family. Pets can sense when you’re feeling tense, and it can make them feel unsettled too. When you find yourself feeling worried about the detail of your move, try thinking like a pet. Go outside. Take a walk. Or curl up for a quick catnap. Everyone needs a little break every now and then.

Stay pet-friendly.
Pets can get comfy almost anywhere—but you’ll feel more comfortable if you ensure your accommodations are pet-friendly. Websites like tripswithpets.com, petfriendly.com and bringfido.com let you search for pet-friendly hotels by route or destination. Be sure to ask in advance if the hotel charges a pet fee or requires a deposit for unforeseen damages or extensive cleaning. Some hotels are truly pet-friendly and do not charge anything at all! When making your reservation, ask about their pet policy – hotels may have restrictions on weight and the number of pets allowed per room.

Keep your best friend close.
PCSing can be especially tough on kids, but moving with a pet can make things a bit easier. While children may be nervous about moving away from their friends, it can help them feel at home when their furry friends move with them. Encourage kids to help get pets ready for a move, giving them tasks like packing treats and caring for your animals while on the road. This teaches responsibility, strengthens their bond with pets, and helps alleviate the anxiety of relocation. Pets remind us to take life less seriously and have more fun!

Pet Travel Checklist:

  • Pet carrier
  • Pet food & treats
  • Favorite pet toys
  • Leash & collar with tags
  • Travel blanket
  • Portable water and food bowls
  • Pet medications
  • Vaccination Records
  • Updated microchip contact information