Hotel Review: Fitzpatrick Grand Central

We just returned from a long weekend trip to New York City, where our plans for the weekend centered around going to see the Classic East concert at Citi Field in Queens. When I was looking for a place to stay, there were not many options in Queens by the 7 train line that goes right to the ballpark. I saw that after leaving Queens, the 7 train’s first Manhattan stop is at Grand Central Station so my hotel search focused in on that area. There were several chain hotels in the area but when I looked at TripAdvisor, one independent hotel stood out – the Fitzpatrick Grand Central, originally built in 1916.

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For Sale: One Clown Motel, Possibly Haunted, Next Door To A Cemetery

It’s either the stuff of a collector’s dream or a coulrophobic‘s nightmare. Whichever type of person you may be or, more likely, you’re neither and just curious, the famous Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada is for sale for a surprisingly low price of just $900,000! Oh, and did you know there’s a cemetery right next door? Yeah, there really is.
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Is It Worth The Extra Money To Book A Room Directly From The Hotel Website?

The hotel chains have spent a lot of money on marketing to try to get you to book a hotel room directly with them by using their website or app and have gone with the “carrot and stick” approach to achieve that goal. On one hand, they’ve gone out of their way to market special low “Member Exclusive Rates” that are only available to members of their loyalty program and “Best Rate Guarantees” that tell you if you find a cheaper rate after booking with them, they’ll match it and lower the rate even further. At the same time, the hotel chains penalize you for booking anywhere except directly with them. Some of these “sticks” are they don’t give you any recognition of your loyalty status or let you earn any points in their program when staying on externally booked stays. They’ll also only give perks like free Wi-Fi if you’ve booked directly with them.

When I say you need to book direct with the hotel, I mean you use the hotel’s website, the hotel chain’s website, the smartphone app for the hotel chain, or by calling the hotel to make a reservation.

When I mention using an “external” website, that is basically everything else. Websites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Priceline, Hotels Tonight, Hotwire and Booking.com are just some of them. If you’re completing the booking anywhere but with the hotel, it’s an external website.

Hotel search engines like Trivago, Kayak and TripAdvisor show you prices directly from the hotel as well as from external sites, so it’s best to use something like that to see who has the cheapest price.

So, should you only book your hotel rooms directly with the hotel even if an external site is less expensive?  Continue reading “Is It Worth The Extra Money To Book A Room Directly From The Hotel Website?”

Credit Card Review: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express

One of the first cards I applied for when I started collecting miles and points seriously was the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express (let’s agree to call it the SPG AMEX from here on out, OK?). At the time, I read several websites saying how valuable Starpoints were and one of the only ways to earn them was by getting and using this card.

Here are some of the benefits of the card and why, despite the lack of bonus categories and benefits, I’ve kept it, year after year. Hint: Starpoints are still really valuable!

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What’s The Strangest Thing You’ve Seen In A Hotel Room?

Most hotel stays are uneventful and that’s a good thing. Occasionally you’ll have a memorable stay at a really nice place and other times you’ll endure a night somewhere that “did not live up to expectations” and that’s life.

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Sometimes you win and find a hotel like Chambers Park Place in Leeds, UK
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Other times you end up staying at the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum in London, UK – just look at that modern telly, the spacious beds and the 12″ of space between the two. At least the TV worked during our second stay. Yes, we stayed there more than once. Totally not our fault – it was part of a package arrangement when we sang at the Royal Albert Hall.

However, there can also be that hotel you remember for that ONE thing that made it, different or unique or just flat out weird. I’m not talking about cultural differences like a bidet or tea kettle. I’m talking about things you’ve never seen before.

With some contributions from our friend Steve, here are some of the things we’ve found in hotel rooms that to this day make us scratch our heads in bewilderment.

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Earn Extra Points When Staying at Holiday Inn Express

Hotel promotions are a great way to increase your point balances and they don’t require you to pay with a certain credit card (or any credit card) to take advantage of them. Hotel programs are already the most generous about rewarding points, with several chains rewarding up to 10 points per dollar spent for their base members. If you’re lucky enough to be staying at a hotel during one of these promotions, your balances can start to pile up quickly.

Starting on August 1st, you can earn double or triple points for stays at Holiday Inn Express hotels – here’s how to sign up.

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Hotel Review: Kimpton Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IL

During our whirlwind 50 hour trip to Chicago, I decided to have us stay at the Kimpton Hotel Allegro located in the Chicago Loop. I had several reasons to stay here. The hotel was built in 1926 and I’ve written before about how we love to stay in old hotels, like the Waldorf=Astoria in New York. The Hotel Allegro is conveniently located near the  ‘L’ trains so it would be easy getting to the airports for our flights and it was also within walking distance for many of the sights that we wanted to see. Normally this would be enough for me to choose this hotel but the Kimpton Hotel Allegro had one more thing going for it that made the decision a no brainer.

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