My Dad (1927-2002)
My Cat Drakkar
The Vermont Years
DJ / VJ Music & Video
The Book I Wrote
Asbury Park NJ
St. Paul & Minneapolis MN
Cape May NJ
Vintage Postcards &
Hotel Booking Advice
* My Personal Hotel Reviews *
My Favorite Brands
First, A Brief Introduction
For many years, I have been posting my hotel
and travel experiences online, primarily at TripAdvisor. I have a
love / hate relationship with the site, as I do with most review sites.
They simply do not have enough moderators to proof and qualify the reviews.
Have you ever read a review of a movie and the reviewer is telling the story
of how long it took to ship the item? And when it comes to hotels, I
long for the day that I never see another complaint lodged at a hotel
because of a problem with say Hotwire or Priceline!
As for me, I am a long ago Hotel Restaurant
Management graduate from Johnson & Wales, and Widener University. I
have spent most of my post graduation years in the hospitality industry -
everything from owning an Inn, to managing hotels and working as a travel
consultant. I am a hotels best guest or worst nightmare. I love
history of hotels and motels (hence my banner above) and even own many a
vintage postcard (and offer some for sale). I am more in favor of the
European values - save and rehabilitate, then the American model, demolish
and rebuild. You cannot rebuild history.
This is easy. Book
DIRECTLY with the hotel brand website, 800 number, a reputable travel agent
or the hotel itself! Do all the price surfing you want on
"third party" sites like Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, Hotels.com or
Priceline - but then book it with the hotel or your travel agent. But tell
them how you tried to book, and the rate available to confirm (which may not
be the rate the flashes on the screen in a long list of hotels). And
that list? It's sorted by who is most benefiting the pockets of the
3rd party - definitely not the order you need for a hotel closest to the
beach, airport, mountain, etc. Most issues arise because people do not
read the fine print.
Why you might ask? Many third party sites
limit your cancellation options - READ CAREFULLY before you confirm.
Sites like Hotwire and Priceline are the worse because they are "Opaque
Sites" - in other words, users booking on these typically have NO idea what
hotel they are actually being booked in. What about your hotel reward
points? Forget about it if you book through a 3rd party.
At the end of the day, you are making a
reservation with Expedia (or Hotwire, or whichever site you use), NOT with
the hotel! It's the 3rd party site that is billing you! They in turn
reserve your room at the hotel. And I bet you think the fee is small,
maybe 10% like a reputable travel agent? No way! Fee's for the
hotels can be as high as 35%. In other words, you THINK you're paying
$100 to the hotel for the night when in fact they may be getting as little
as $65. These sites are surefire ways to never get a free upgrade at
check-in! I was in the hotel business - any hotel nearing a sold out
status is going to take care of all their corporate and direct booking
guests requests FIRST before anyone booking through a 3rd party site stands
And how about that room type titled 'Hot
Rate' at Hotwire? Read the fine print and you'll likely find it's
called a 'Run of the House' room - in other words, anything left that meets
the minimum requirements. For a single traveler, it's a room with a
bed. And if it's in an area where smoking rooms are still allowed, it
may even be a smoking room.
Just read some of the horror stories
88% of users at this site give Expedia 1
star (hotel and air combined) -
This one from a small independent hotel itself bullied by
Here are a few of my hand picked favorites.
For my full reviews with many photo's, take a look at my TripAdvisor profile
The Grange Strathmore, London
(Visited June 2013)
ďSophisticated Elegance in a Lovingly Restored & Maintained HotelĒ
first visit to London in 2013 was accented by our delightful stay at this
charming hotel in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. History
abounds in this structure, once the London residence of the Earl of
Strathmore. Now with 77 rooms and suites, the home is a travelerís delight.
Our room was actually large (for London), with 2 Twin beds and 1 Double. We
stayed for a week (6 nights) and the location was extraordinary. Out the
door, itís a block to a main road where you can catch sight-seeing bus
trips, taxis or find numerous dining options and cafes. Nearby Brompton Road
is home to Bumpkins (a favorite dining spot of ours) and 1 mile on foot you
will find the famous Harrods Department store. A few minutesí walk,
youíre at the incredibly convenient Gloucester Road Underground (Tube)
station, on the Piccadilly line, with service that will take you right to
Heathrow or of course all over London. Each morning we took full advantage
of the British continental style breakfast served in the hotelís elegant
dining room. Back in the room, housekeeping service was always top notch!
The room was clean on arrival and maintained for our entire stay. (Read
Hotel Triton (A Kimpton Hotel)
(Visited September 2012)
ďOne of the Coolest Funkiest and Cleanest Vintage Hotels - Perfect for San
During a business trip in September, I added a few extra nights
for personal travel, and ventured north to San Francisco. I couldnít wait
for my first Kimpton experience, and it didnít disappoint! I loved it the
minute I walked into the hotel. Referred to as a boutique style of hotel,
this property in the Kimpton collection centers around pop culture and art!
The lobby (referred to as the living room) features colorful furnishings
where guests may enjoy the complimentary wine hour nightly at 5pm. Check-in
was friendly and quick, and I was on my way to the 4th floor. Even the halls
featured vibrant and funky colors. My room was fresh and clean and bright.
The bathroom vanity and mirrors sparkled, and ample and trendy lighting was
everywhere. The Hotel Triton is an excellent choice for the seeker of
independent and/or historic lodging! This vintage building hails to the
early 1900ís Ė but is fully remodeled with every modern amenity. (Read
See All Photo's Full-Size
Radisson Hotel Duluth-Harborview (Visited
ďGreat Service & Incredible Dining in a Vintage Duluth Hotel"
friend and I opted for a quick overnight getaway, and chose Duluth because
we wanted to explore the old city and dine at the upper Midwestís last
revolving restaurant open to the public. JJ Astor sits on the top floor of
the Radisson Hotel in Downtown Duluth, and offers an incredible dining
experience. The hotel itself is a unique circular design, which assures no
one of a long walk down an endless hallway. The hotel is 16 stories (or 15
if you omit the non-existent 13th floor) and features 200+ guest rooms.
Opened in 1970 as a Radisson, itís one of the longest continuously operating
hotels in the city, under one namesake. From reading other reviews, clearly,
if you desire a brand new all-suite hotel, then you shouldnít be staying at
the Radisson Ė then again, no where do they claim to be new and all-suite.
You will find well appointed and comfortable guest rooms that are clean with
modern amenities. The rooms are smaller, typical of the time period when the
hotel was constructed. However, youíll find modern features such as an HD TV
and free Wi-Fi. The Internet connection was fast and easy to connect. We
didnít watch TV. Complaints by other reviewers about noise concerned me, but
it was not an issue at all. Our room was on the 15th floor, the highest for
all guest rooms. The location is convenient to downtown attractions, and you
can certainly walk to the touristy areas if you choose. If youíre looking
for comfortable accommodations in a full-service hotel (they have a pool and
hot tub too), you wonít be disappointed. We dined for dinner Saturday
evening and breakfast on Sunday morning. Dinner was remarkable at JJ Astor,
and breakfast was great too! If I had any suggestions, it would be for the
ownership to immediately paint the parking garage Ė itís definitely an
eyesore, and long overdue for paint. Iím guessing itís managed by a 3rd
party, but it should still look fresh. Itís free, so I canít really knock
off a star for the hotel. Because the hotel is older, donít expect to pack
too many people with luggage in the elevators. We reserved online through
the Radisson website which assured us a great rate and fair policies for the
reservation. All the staff we encountered in the restaurant, at the front
desk as well as by phone/email were very polite and friendly. (Also
My Full Review of JJ Astor...)
The independents, small chains and
underdogs. Typically you get better service, or better rates or a far
more personalized experience - maybe all of the above. Think everything from Best Western &
Choice to Kimpton & Grange Hotels. And of course all the independently
owned and operated lodging options.
Click the links to explore and book online -
direct with these great brands. You'll also find my
personal reviews of many of these branded collections too!