Travel

Category Archives for Travel.

Hotel Review: Aloft Winchester, Virginia

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During my drive from Brooklyn to Dallas, I planned to stay 2 nights at hotels along the way. Long story short, my freaking car broke down. And I was plunged into a land of endless Plan Bs.

I prefer Hilton hotels. So during a fuel stop around dusk, I searched for a room on the Hilton app. Nothing was available within 100 miles. And I was tired from driving since 4am.

I didn’t have 100 miles left in me. I was ready for anything – even a roadside motel, “Psycho”-style.

So I checked Hyatt and Starwood. No Hyatt hotels in rural Virginia (not a surprise, but worth a looky-loo).

But there was a random Aloft hotel 45 miles away. I booked a room at the Aloft Winchester, nestled near the West Virginia border in extreme northern Virginia. It was ~$120 with taxes for the night.

As an added bonus, there were no pet fees! Hilton likes to charge $30 to $75 as a non-refundable pet deposit. So that was a silver lining.

Aloft Winchester review

Location of the Aloft Winchester

I booked on my phone and sped down the highway. I was so tired, my eyes were literally crossing. And I was getting bad road hypnosis.

Obviously, I made it because I’m writing this now. That day is etched into my memory as one of the longest of my life…

Arrival and check-in

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4 Free Nights in the Bahamas, Thanks to FoundersCard!

Up next: 4 free nights in the Bahamas!

Also see:

The (good) hits just keep on coming! (I wrote about a free private jet flight from FoundersCard yesterday).

I got free Caesars Diamond elite status this year from FoundersCard, which comes with a ton of benefits, including:

  • Diamond lounge access
  • No resort fees at Caesars properties
  • $100 celebration dinner
  • Priority lines everywhere

Because of this, I’ve been thinking about a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

Up next: 4 free nights in the Bahamas!

Up next: 4 free nights in the Bahamas!

Another benefit of Caesars Diamond status is 4 free nights at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas (part of the Marriott Autograph Collection).

Well, I just called to book it – and it went off without a hitch!

I used British Airways Avios points for flights there. And American miles for flights back. Total cost of ~$214 for round-trip coach flights for 2 from Dallas to Nassau. But the whole experience is worth nearly $2,600.

That includes 4 free nights from Caesars Diamond status – courtesy of FoundersCard. I’m so stoked!

About the 4 free nights

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Pro Tip: Purchase In-Flight Wifi Before You Fly

I'd recommend the all-day pass, especially if you have connecting flights

Just a little reminder and tip.

I rarely pay for in-flight wifi. It’s kinda nice to be uncontactable for a little while. Most domestic flights are ~5 hours max anyhow, and usually shorter.

But I found myself needing to get some work done on a plane this week and made the decision to rely on American’s in-flight wifi from Gogo.

(Typing on a computer in a cramped economy seat is another issue altogether. And I highly recommend one of these for seatmates who can’t stop staring at your screen.)

Yes, I like saving big on in-flight wifi

Yes, I like saving big

The all-day pass I bought 5 minutes before boarding my American Airlines flight was $16. But on the plane, they wanted $24. So I saved a tidy $8, a  ~33% discount, just for paying in advance.

Note that prices can vary based on the flight. But in general, if you need or want it, it’s better to purchase an all-day pass ahead of time.

And WHERE you buy the pass makes a difference for American or Delta all-day passes. 

Why buy an in-flight wifi pass

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Hotel Review: Capital Hilton, Washington, DC

Back like a heart attack

I’m back in Dallas and still reeling from an incredible trip this past weekend to Washington, DC, for BAcon 3 (BoardingArea’s conference for the blogger crew).

The more I stay in hotels, the more I feel it’s the staff that makes a good stay above all else. Location is probably second. Yep. Followed by breakfast. All I ever want is breakfast.

I took a Lyft for the short ~4-mile ride from DCA to downtown DC for my stay at the Capital Hilton. It was nice to see the foliage, and feel the fall chill: two things I’ve been missing in Texas.

capital hilton washington dc review

Back like a heart attack

I was in DC this August for FTU Advanced. So it was nice to be back, twice in a year.

The location of the hotel is incredible.

Easy walking distance to

Easy walking distance to so much good stuff (Click to enlarge)

You can easily walk to the White House, and Logan Circle or 14th Street for bars and restaurants. And anywhere downtown. Or take a quick Lyft to the Smithsonian museums, Washington Monument, and Lincoln memorial (or just walk it – it’s a beautiful part of the city).

It’s also 2 blocks from the subway, for those who like to ride the train. The location is the biggest reason I chose to stay here – it was the closest Hilton hotel to my conference location.

Arrival and check-in

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Get the Southwest Companion Pass for 2 Years for 90,000 Starwood Points

Want the Southwest Companion Pass? It's yours for 90,000 Starwood points

So it’s done: the Marriott-Starwood merger.

To be honest, they’re handling it a lot better than I thought they would. But I also get the feeling they can’t wait to destroy the program in 2018. But that’s neither here nor there.

Within the opportunity to link your Marriott and Starwood accounts, you’ll get:

  • An instant status match
  • The ability to transfer points instantly between both programs (3 Starwood points = 1 Marriott point)
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90,000 Starwood points gets you enough Marriott points for a Southwest Hotel + Air package, and thus, the Southwest Companion Pass

If you transfer 90,000 Starwood points, you’ll wind up with 270,000 Marriott points. Which is enough for a Southwest Hotel + Air package to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

It could be a fantastic deal if you fly Southwest a lot!

Use Starwood points to unlock the Southwest Companion Pass

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Hotel Review: Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu

Entrance to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu

Also see: 

After months of anticipation, the day finally came to travel to Hawaii. I was a Nervous Nelly because of a line of thunderstorms moving through Dallas (where I was) and onward to Memphis (where the fam was).

Thoughts of missed connections, rebookings, and sitting in an airport instead of in Hawaii came to mind. But thankfully, it all came together without a hitch.

I flew over with my Mom, stepdad, and Jay. And my little brother met us at HNL.

Entrance to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu

Entrance to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu

We took an Uber to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, about ~20 minutes away. Really, couldn’t have gone more smoothly.

Arrival and check-in

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Uber Alternatives in Austin: Ride Austin and Fasten

For my next trick, I will put up a post from the city I’m currently visiting lol.

I got to Austin on Sunday, and decided to meet up with a friend for drinks downtown.

No problem, I’ll Uber down, a 15-minute ride.

Tips from my friend Jason

Tips from my friend Jason

He gave me two tips: Ride Austin and Fasten.

Ride Austin

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Hilton Makes More Award Rooms Available for Diamond Elite Members

Works in Philly, worked in Hawaii too

I made a glancing comment on my Booking Hawaii: Part 3 post:

There were technically no award nights available, but I love the soft perk of Hilton giving Diamond guests enhanced award availability.

(Yasss, quoted myself!)

Which prompted some discussion in the comments. Drew asked for more detail. And Brandon reported getting more award space at a lower rate.

Aye verily, I was able to book an award stay when no award rooms were “technically” available:

hilton diamond

Boom

Hilton also has the room rate as “confidential.” Fancy!

This is, as far as I know, an unpublished benefit of the Hilton HHonors program.

They go on to say:

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How Hilton describes this perk

If you’re Diamond with Hilton, this could come in handy more often than you think.

Is this actually useful?

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Hotel Review: Homewood Suites Albuquerque Uptown

My view

Also see: 

I was in ABQ this past weekend checking out some potential investment properties.

I’m not sure I found a good mix of price, appreciation, rental demand, and location – but maybe I’m being too picky. It’s a whole other thing I’m thinking through now.

To set the stage for this heady trip, I booked 2 nights at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Albuquerque Uptown (and booked the flights and car rental, all within 10 minutes).

Breakfast area at the Homewood Suites Albuquerque Uptown

Breakfast area at the Homewood Suites Albuquerque Uptown

It was so good to remember the serenity of the high desert. The days were gorgeous. And the skies there are incomparable. I love seeing mountains in the distance. I’ll take mountains over sea any day.

After landing, I immediately drove to the East Mountains to meet the real estate agent. And checked in to the hotel around 8pm that night.

Arrival and check-in

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Booking Hawaii: Part 3 – Hilton Hawaiian Village and Tending Reservations

Just, yeah, gimme that!

Also see: 

I’ll go ahead and tell you the moral of this story: tend to your reservations.

After booking 4 flights to Honolulu, then adding my little brother into the mix, the final piece of the puzzle was to book the hotel rooms.

Step 1: The paid stay

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AwardAce: An Awesome Companion for Your Miles & Points Programs

AwardAce is packed with great features

Whoa! I just discovered an incredible resource that will appeal to beginners of our little hobby, and to full-on points & miles addicts.  It’s super cool and geeky, so of course I had to share it with you guys.

AwardAce is packed with great features

AwardAce is packed with great features

Meet AwardAce. You can use the site for:

Now that I’ve found it, I’ll be playing around with it on the regs!

About AwardAce

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4 Useful Chrome Extensions for Travel & Shopping

Nope, nope, yes

Also see: 

I love using Google Chrome as a browser. It’s light, powerful, and has lots of good plug-ins… er, extensions.

Some of them have elevated to near-constant use territory.

I’ve written about useful apps because I love time-saving productivity stuff like a good millennial lol.

These 4 Chrome extensions come with my highest recommendation. They’ve helped me save a lot of time, money, and clicking around.

1. Hyatt – Show Me the Points

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