Why I did a staycation in Times Square during the pandemic
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I’ve spent most of the pandemic in my tiny New York City apartment, which I also share with a loveable — but noisy — pug. My neighborhood is also a bustling hub of shops and restaurants and can be pretty noisy at times.
I was also starting to go a bit stir-crazy working from my living room. So I decided to change up my scenery for a weekend to rest and get some quiet time. Here’s why I decided to do a staycation in the most unexpected place: Times Square.
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Staycation at the Hyatt Place Times Square
When I exited the A train at Port Authority Bus Terminal, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The last time I’d spent any meaningful amount of time in Times Square was before the pandemic.
Most people have never considered Times Square, of all places, to be the perfect place to work and relax — but it’s why I wanted to stay there.
The Hyatt Place in Times Square is in what was once one of the loudest, busiest places on Earth to visit or stay. The Times Square neighborhood is now, essentially, a ghost town. The tourists have all but disappeared. The lights are dimmer. Car horns are more infrequent. There are even fewer costumed characters. I spent a weekend in late January at the hotel, which also happened to coincide with a ton of work I needed to catch up on, so I was looking for a low-key place to be productive.
Because of the pandemic, you have to buzz into the lobby instead of simply walking in. There were a few other guests in the lobby, but the hotel felt pretty empty during my stay, which was perfect. Check-in was a breeze, with the friendly receptionist acknowledging my World of Hyatt Explorist status as she explained what the hotel was doing to keep guests safe during the pandemic.
There were social distancing signs placed around the elevator lobby and hand sanitizer was plentiful. Everyone wore their masks correctly and the hotel felt very comfortable and safe. After receiving my (sanitized) room key, I headed up to check out my room. A day before check-in, I requested to be placed on a high floor, but it turned out to be unnecessary. There was barely any traffic, after all.
My room was tucked away in the corner, and stepping off the elevator, I was greeted with the scent of lemon cleaning products, which was reassuring. My room was small but comfortable. The bed was plush, but I was really excited about the sofa and desk. I’ve been doing work from bed for months now, so having a desk was a huge plus. I easily connected to Wi-Fi, and it was fast enough to make FaceTime calls, stream music on Spotify and crank out stories throughout the weekend.
On my second morning, I headed downstairs to search for food. Breakfast was a grab-and-go style and was pretty simple. If you’re expecting pancakes, you’ll be disappointed, but I’m a big kid at heart, so cereal and a muffin were perfectly fine with me. The coffee was hot and strong and proved to be really popular with other guests.
I can’t emphasize enough how quiet the hotel and surrounding area were. Bereft of the noise and people, I found Times Square to be rather — dare I say it — peaceful.
Travel is still on the back burner for me until I’m vaccinated, but I wanted to take advantage of this staycation while Times Square is still all but empty. And of course — the hotel was a cheap way to earn Globalist status for two years as the room was just $67 per night before taxes and fees, which I booked using the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Why I’m sticking with Hyatt in 2021
I went into 2020 as a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist, with occasional stays at Hilton Honors chains.
You might have read my story in December about how my brother’s long-term hotel stay earned him top-tier Marriott elite status. After nearly 100 nights in 2020, he’s now all-in on the Marriott Bonvoy brand, enjoying complimentary upgrades, welcome gifts and more. I have Gold status with Marriott and Hilton through credit cards, but I haven’t gotten much value from holding either status, save for free breakfast at Hilton and late checkout at Marriott.
After deciding to commit to the Hyatt brand, I switched all of my stays to the chain. Even without top-tier status, I was able to extract a ton of value versus what I’d get at lower tiers with other chains.
Like several other chains, Hyatt announced it would reduce elite status requirements by 50% for the 2021 qualification year. This makes it much easier to earn, as status earned in 2021 is valid all the way through Feb. 28, 2023.
Just as a reminder, here’s how the 2021 tier requirements break down:
- Discoverist: Stay five tier-qualifying nights or earn 12,500 base points ($2,500 in spending)
- Explorist: Stay 15 tier-qualifying nights or earn 25,000 base points ($5,000 in spending)
- Globalist: Stay 30 tier-qualifying nights or earn 50,000 base points ($10,000 in spending)
We’re over a month into the new year, and I’m already over halfway through my mattress run and should hit Globalist by April. I earned more than 2,000 points just from this stay alone and four qualifying nights toward top-tier status. But most importantly, I got a much-needed few days of peace and quiet.
All photos by the author
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