July 31, 2015

Trip Report: NW x SW - Hampton Inn & Suites Bellevue (WA) Downtown

Looking for a place to spend the night between the drive from Vancouver to the Tri-Cities in Washington, I ended up choosing this hotel because it was new, it had good reviews on Trip Advisor, and the price was right. I didn't think it was practical to stay at a nice hotel in Seattle when all I will be doing is get in at night from Vancouver, get dinner and sleep, and then drive out to Richmond first thing the following morning. For all of that, this property proved to be the right choice.

Check-In

As with the previous hotels on this trip that were booked using AA miles, this one was reserved as a two-bed room as well. The front desk agent managed to change the room to a king quickly and I was off to the room in no time.

Hotel lobby...

July 27, 2015

The Battle of the Smart Luggage

If you are in the market for some new travel bags, you might want to hold off on a getting that new Rimowa and check out these new "smart" bags that have been popping up left and right from some enterprising start-ups.

Bluesmart...

Image from Bluesmart
...which claims to be the first "Smart, Connected Carry-On" -- has the following features...

Image from Bluesmart
This Indiegogo-funded travel luggage is now availabe for pre-order for $349 and deliveries should start by December of this year. Expected retail price is $495.

If you want to find out more about Bluesmart, you can visit their site here.

Trunkster...

Image from Trunkster
...another successful crowd-funded (on Kickstarter, this time) smart travel bag, whose main selling point is its being zipperless...

Image from Trunkster

It also has USB charging, integrated scale, GPS, full-width handle, etc. You can pre-order the carry-on for $365 (with the optional GPS) and deliveries will be during Winter 2015-16.

If you want to learn more about Trunkster, you can visit their site here.

Space Case 1...

Image from Planet Traveler

... another Kickstarter-funded smart travel bag that boasts a biometric lock...

Image from Planet Traveler
...global tracker, digital self-scale, 2 USB charging ports, bluetooth speaker, proximity sensor, personal concierge, etc. You can pre-order the carry-on starting at $299.

If you want to learn more about this product, visit their website here.

Genius Pack...


Image from Genius Pack

...which doesn't have a GPS tracking capability but is still "smart" enough with its "Laundry Compression Technology"...

Image fom Genius Pack

...and a host of other features...

Image from Genius Pack

It is so practical (well, except for the speaker feature) that it may actually be the smartest among the bunch :-) Anyway, this retails for $238 and is available to order now. 

If you are interested to find out more about this bag, you can check their website here

The last two on the list are not, technically, from start-ups but compared to the big players (like Samsonite & Delsey) they might as well be. And speaking of the big players, they and a few others are also currently working on their own smart bags and it would exciting to see what they come up with.

Anyway, for your reference, I created a table to compare the four bags I featured above...


Although I really like the look of Trunkster and think that Space Case 1 may be the "smartest" (it may have the best value, as well), I think Bluesmart may have just the right amount of both.

July 24, 2015

Trip Report: NW x SW - Vancouver In Two Days

I've only been to Canada (Montreal) once before this trip and this was my first time in Vancouver. I only had one full day and two-half days (so, technically, two full days. Hehe) allotted for this part of my trip so I had to make the most out of it.

My first half-day was actually spent in Richmond, where the airport is. It was late at night and all I was able to do was eat a late dinner. I think if my original plan (if my flight didn't get delayed) of getting in around late afternoon, then I would have been able to enjoy the Richmond area and explored a little more. I actually thought the place was nice and a bit similar to Narita.

For my first full day in Vancouver, I did the following:

Drove to Granville Island...


July 23, 2015

Business Etiquette (In Some Countries) According To Cebu Pacific Air

Probably taking cue from Cathay Pacific's recent infographic on tipping in Southeast Asia...

Image from Cathay Pacific
The Philippines' Cebu Pacific Air came out with one that tackles business etiquette in the countries that they fly to...

Image from Cebu Pacific
I am not sure if it is something that their customers will find useful but, whatever, it fills a gap...

...just like this post :-)

July 22, 2015

Trip Report: NW x SW - Hyatt Regency Vancouver

For my first full day in Vancouver, it was a no-brainer that I should stay in the downtown area -- where a lot of the tourist sites are or can easily be reached from. I really wanted to stay at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver because, hello?, Canada? Hehe -- but ended up choosing the Hyatt Regency because, hello?, couldn't afford the Fairmont? Hehe.

Check-In

As with the Westin near the airport, my reservation done through AAdvantage for a King room was transmitted again to the hotel as a double-bed room reservation. This was easily corrected upon check-in, though, and I was on my way to my room in no time.

Here are a couple of photos of the lobby area...



July 20, 2015

Hilton HHonors Trial Gold Offer...

...for (some?) Alitalia Millemiglia members.

I received an email from Alitalia's loyalty program, Millemiglia, regarding a promo with Hilton HHonors where you can try out their Gold status until October 31, 2015...

Image from Alitalia Millemiglia/Hilton HHonors
The terms state that if you stay three times before the promo expires, then your Gold status will be extended until March 31, 2017.

That is really generous! You would need to stay 20 times or 40 nights to achieve this status! And Hilton HHonor's Gold status is probably one of the best non-top tier elite status' out there, offering their members an upgrade, free breakfast in some brands, 1,000 bonus points in others, etc. etc. -- so this is great!

On top of that, since the promo was done through Alitalia's loyalty program, you can also earn up to four times the miles on your stays...

Image from Alitalia/Hilton HHonors

It doesn't seem like you have to choose to earn Millemiglia miles, though, to participate in the promotion.

Anyway, this is good timing for me since I am only Hilton HHonors Silver at the moment and I have a couple of hotel stays coming up in the next few months.

Image from Hilton HHonors
Check your email if you received this targeted promotion. I am not an elite or anywhere near being an active member of Alitalia's loyalty program, or Hilton HHonors for that matter, so I don't know how they "targeted" the members for this promotion. 

Anyway, thanks Alitalia Millemiglia & Hilton HHonors!

July 17, 2015

Trip Report: NW x SW - The Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport Hotel

The drive from Seattle to Vancouver should clock in around two and a half hours but since my flight from Chicago was delayed by almost two hours (I forgot to mention that in my Introduction), I ended up getting to Seattle around 4pm and, basically, getting stuck in rush hour traffic...


 ...and not reaching Vancouver until past 8pm. So, yeah, I hated Southwest for that delay :-)


Oh, Canada!


I chose to stay in this area for the first night because the options near the airport are cheaper. I knew I was getting in late and didn't want to waste money at a nicer hotel in downtown for such a short stay. I ended up picking the Westin because it looked the nicest and the reviews weren't all that bad. 

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