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Everything posted by homeschoolmom

  1. This was a last minute "night-before" bid for our second week in D.C. Previous week was impossible to win with a reasonable bid in Arlington, VA or DC. The Hyatt CH was just finishing up a major lobby remodel. We got a nice room on the concierge level (alas no privileges). Room was well-appointed, but be aware shower is quite small (and I am a petite woman of average weight!). Location is wonderful, near Union Station and the Capitol, of course, also a short walk to the Supreme Court and Smithsonians. Downside: fire station across the street meant that we were treated to several wake-up alarms in the middle of the night (cotton balls are in the bathroom amenity kit-- use them!). Staff was great; impressive concierge and terrific housekeeping! Small lap pool and nice workout area. Be prepared for a major parking fee (don't recall what it was-- we were dropped off and then my hubby parked on the metered street spots on the weekend). Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. On Capitol Hill 3
  2. Hotel is being renovated. Rooms were large, pie-shaped, and had comfy pillow-top queen, not full-size, mattresses (yay!). Location is great for Wet'n'Wild and good for Universal. You may get lucky and get a terrific view of Universal's coasters. A little far from Sea World, but if you turn left at Universal Blvd and turn right on Convention Way, you can cut out a lot of International Drive traffic and pedestrians. Outlet mall is also fairly close by on I-Drive (opposite direction from Wet'n'Wild). Free wifi in rooms, no parking or resort fees. The best thing this hotel has going for it is its awesome staff!! Check-in was easy, got our requests including 2 rooms close to each other on the same floor (we traveled with family friends). My daughter left a Nintendo DS in the lobby, which was amazingly turned in and carefully guarded by security until our return a week later (they also offered to mail it). On our return, we went to the security room... I was impressed by their meticulous notekeeping on items, locked lost-and-found, etc. ... I also spoke to the general manager and he was very kind. We would be pleased to win this hotel again. Four Points By Sheraton Studio City 3 Star Universal Studios - Sea World 5905 International Drive Orlando, Florida 32819 407-351-2100 See Hotel Website View Map and Directions Check-In Date: Fri, Dec 5, 2008 / After 03:00 PM Check-Out Date: Sun, Dec 7, 2008 / 11:00 AM Amenities: Remote control TV w/ premium channels Radio Alarm Clock Business services Telephone w/ voicemail Iron and ironing board Hairdryer 24 hour front desk On-site Dining Your Offer Price Per Room, Per Night: $45.00 Subtotal: $180.00 Taxes & Service Fees: $32.84 Total Charges*: $212.84
  3. The Hilton Garden Inn location was very good for our purposes, close to I-75 and Busch Gardens. Lobby was being remodeled (hotel is not old, though). Room was in good condition and clean. Unfortunately, they do have full-size beds in the double-bedded rooms, not queen size as we prefer. No free breakfast, but free coffee/tea in lobby. No additional charges for parking, etc. Hilton Garden Inn Tampa North 3 Star Tampa North 600 Tampa Oaks Blvd Temple Terrace, Florida 33637 813-342-5000 See Hotel Website View Map and Directions Check-In Date: Sun, Dec 14, 2008 / After 04:00 PM Check-Out Date: Mon, Dec 15, 2008 / 11:00 AM Amenities: Remote control TV w/ premium channels Radio Alarm Clock Business services Telephone w/ voicemail Iron and ironing board Hairdryer 24 hour front desk On-site Dining Your Offer Price Per Room, Per Night: $45.00 Subtotal: $45.00 Taxes & Service Fees: $13.01 Total Charges*: $58.01
  4. This is a fabulous hotel. Excellent reviews on tripadvisor for a very good reason!! Hotel is too far for commuting to any theme parks, but excellent for family/business or night before checking into a theme park hotel. Very nice finish work on interior, large rooms, Starbucks coffee, great hot tub (and pool), and no parking/resort fees. Many restaurants and mall is on next I-4 exit east (Altamonte). Sheraton Orlando North Hotel 3
  5. Hi, Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Have traveled a lot recently but got too busy to post. I always use the PRICELINE link at the top of the page, though; thanks, Thereuare for taking care of all this! I thought this one was a great win, very surprised as I expected to get the Hilton Garden Inn Universal. I started at $31 and went up in $1 increments; I only had to add Kiss and Orl East as free rebids. Lowest price online was $139.xx
  6. We stayed here on a PL bid in April 2008. Location is very convenient to Downtown Disney (virtually across the street from the Marketplace area), so is great for visiting Disney Quest, Cirque du Soleil, Typhoon Lagoon, etc. Extremely pleasant check-in with no mention of PL (but that doesn't bother me anyway), rep. made sure we had 4 room keys for Extra Magic Hours (this is such an awesome perk), and no resort or parking fees--hooray! Later, the staff kindly sent up a special dessert for my daughter in honor of her birthday. Lobby and rooms are very well-kept and clean. Pool area was unthemed, but attractive with plush cushions on all the chaises; there was also a kids' pool and 2 hot tubs. Extensive fitness room with weight machines, yoga mats/balls, bikes, treadmills, ellipticals. Several shops including one with all Disney merchandise. Bar area with pool table, TVs, etc. Downstairs food court area was one of the most attractive I have seen. Benihana and Starbucks are onsite. Timeshare operators didn't bother me, but I never looked them directly in the eye or greeted them either-- not being rude, I just didn't want to engage in a conversation which would be a waste of my time and theirs. Room was fairly newly remodeled with nice carpet, etc., and very clean. We had a view of the portico roof, outside fountain, and the boulevard that leads out of the DD hotel area. Bathroom had newer marble sink, but shower enclosure was quite dated (1970's fiberglass, with high threshold and track doors), however the old-fashioned high-output showerhead was fantastic! There was an extra sink/vanity outside the bathroom as well. Large room safe and minibar were also available to use. We were quite disappointed with the double (full)- sized beds as we are used to getting 2 queens. Also, the beds were not as high-quality as those we slept on in other Hiltons, Hampton Inns, etc. Overall, a good stay, but would have been superior if the beds were queens!
  7. Going for a short weekend (Sat-Mon). Thought this was a little on the high side since Hilton website nonref. rate is $119; I was hoping for ~$60, but it's still a $30 or so savings, so can't complain too much! I am ecstatic that they don't charge resort or parking fees which alone can add $15 or more per night in this zone. We haven't stayed here before, but it's a perfect location for us since it's right across the road from Downtown Disney Marketplace and also very close to Disney Quest and Typhoon Lagoon. Hope this info is helpful... :)
  8. Staying on-site at Disney gives you access to their transportation system which is far superior to any Disney-area hotel shuttle I've seen-- including Downtown Disney hotels, extra magic hours (a selected park opens 1 hour early and/or stays open 3 hours later depending on season/attendance and day of the week), as well as free parking, now worth $10 or more per day, at the theme parks. We usually stay at the value resort Pop Century which is typically around $80 + tax per night with a Florida resident or passholder discount; however, I think a regular rate there is about $100 (the max. rate allowable by Fla law as posted on the back of the door is $125). Disney is very good about fixing problems, too, like leaky faucets, broken toilets, etc., so what might be a horrible problem at a comparable motel outside the parks (in the value category, I would compare to Holiday Inn Express or Courtyard) is taken care of immediately. Disney doesn't usually have anything show up on PL. The All Stars that showed up were a definite "rare bird," and were only given due to the construction of the new family suites. Disney has no problem filling up their nearly 30,000 rooms on-site and the reasons above show why. I think you could expect to save $40 or more per night by bidding PL 2 or 2.5* versus the Disney Value Resorts (All Stars and Pop Century), but only you can determine whether it's worth the $$. If you compare Disney Deluxes to PL Resorts, the savings would probably be even more substantial (say $80 vs. $150+). Www.mousesavers.com can give you a good idea of the going rates of Disney resorts as well as discounts available.
  9. I don't usually PL rooms at WDW because I prefer on-site. However, I'll throw in my 2 cents... just remember, my advice is worth what I charge for it-- absolutely nothing! Did you check the Hilton, Gaylord, etc. websites for availability and prices for your dates? First of all, if they're not available from the hotel website, they're almost assuredly not going to be available on PL; so that'll give you an idea of your chance of success as well as how much $$ it might take. I would expect a winning bid to be no more than 50% of the lowest website rate. For example, if the Hilton has a nonrefundable web-only rate of $199, I'd figure the best I'll do on PL will be right around $100. I do think it may be too early for PL to have inventory; however, with your popular peak dates, I wouldn't feel comfortable waiting around for that inventory to appear. You need to get a cancellable backup, pronto (if you haven't already). I also recommend checking out www.mousesavers.com for room discount codes for on-site resorts or specials at Downtown Disney hotels. Remember to use the links from betterbidding.com if you can. Expedia.com sometimes runs good sales on Disney properties, too, so that'd be worth a look (but you have to add a $5 service fee there, I think). Make sure you check all the other Disney-related topics on the Priceline Florida section; you might find some more useful information there. This should be enough to get you started. Good luck!
  10. I recently took AE up on a great Blue offer... get a $200 statement credit if you charge $500 by Oct. 31. This is easy for us to do as we put everything on credit cards (we pay off each month, but we probably "make" close to a thousand bucks a year just on rewards). My mom only got the $100 off if you charge $1000, which is okay but not nearly as good. I'm usually quite skeptical of these as they usu. require a balance transfer or have an annual fee, etc., but I read all the fine print, and it looks clean! The cash back deal was 1% until $12k, then 6% I think. So you might want to open the next Blue promotional envelope you get!!! :)
  11. In a little while, you could go watch the Jaguars. The mascot Jaxon de Ville (sp.?) is a riot!! Then, you could go check out the World Golf Hall of Fame/ Village in St. Augustine (an hour, prob. less, away depending on traffic). The Renaissance there is fairly new and has been going for ca. $60 on PL. If you're not into golf, you could always check out the Bill Murray-owned restaurant, IMAX theater, and the 2 big outlet malls or the Spanish Castillo de San Marcos/ old town. The Anastasia Island State Park in St. Aug. has a fantastic beach and new bathhouse/ snack bar. Good grief... I sound like I'm working for the tourist bureau!!! :)
  12. Ditto the above advice by flsunshine. The transportation is the key issue at Disney!! Disney's Magical Express -- free shuttle from the airport-- prob. saves some $$ too. Would also mention that if you are onsite, there will be no nearby grocery. It might be worth a taxi ride, though, for an 8 day stay. If you are extremely thrifty, I suppose you could pack granola bars, etc. for a cheap breakfast, and then use your empty bag or suitcase for some souvenir mouse ears! In a pinch, I like to pick up the 99 cent apples that they sell in the food courts. If you plan to be back at the resort several times a day, make sure you check out the refillable soda mugs at the food courts, too. Hope some of this is helpful to you!! With some luck, we might be visiting the mouse, too. (Just look for Mom, Dad, and 9 and 10 yo girls with big floppy hats!!) :)
  13. If you want to stay onsite at Disney, there are a lot of really good ideas about getting discounts as well as available discount codes at www.mousesavers.com. It is not my site, but I use it all the time... There are many special groups you may be a part of: military, nurse, teacher, gov't employee, Canadian, etc. that can score you a great rate. If all else fails, consider the Value Resorts. I'd rather stay onsite at a Value Resort than at a 5* offsite; transport to the parks esp. during the summer months is just too crucial IMO. You'd also be eligible for the Extra Magic Hours... it is sooo much cooler on those late evenings. Edit: Priceline is useful tho' for arrival day... esp. if you're getting in early and don't want to waste a theme park ticket. Some of the resorts in the area are destinations in themselves... in particular, I'm thinking of the triple themed atriums at the Gaylord (WDW zone) and JWMarriott's (Universal zone) lazy river pool and gorgeous landscaping/ boat rides.
  14. Have you checked www.mousesavers.com for discount codes? You may be eligible for other discounted rates if you are active or retired military (Shades of Green Resort inside WDW prop.), or if you are a nurse, teacher or gov't employee (Swan/Dolphin). Using PL or HW to do Disney can save you $$, but you can also lose a lot in convenience. Disney's Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours, and onsite transport can save you $, too, not to mention aggravation.
  15. You should also check JW Marriott Grande Lakes rates for your dates. It has been coming up much more frequently than the Renaissance since the Ren.'s remodel... The JWM is very nice, but a short distance from I-Drive. Closer to Sea World than anything else, it is right next door to the Ritz. It is much newer and nicer than the Ren., and prob. beats the Peabody too. If you were going during the summer, I'd recommend it just for the Lazy River pool. It's just that the location isn't as central. If I-Drive location is crucial to you (esp. if you won't have a car), bidding on the U/SW zone should probably be limited to 4*, or perhaps 3* if you're okay with that. I think you're bidding a little early, but keep trying... you have holiday/peak dates, so it'd be best get this one done early.
  16. Last minute bid, but was sure I could get low price since internet rate was $84. Resort fee will be $8, but I can deal with that. I'm always worried about "winning" :) the Holiday Inn Universal. Now that the HI Nikki Bird is leaving WDW zone, maybe HI will dump the Universal one as well... Bid this up in $1 increments, so I couldn't have gotten it any cheaper. I started at $38, I think, using the permutation method. Oh, yeah, and I used the savingsbarn.com link. Other hotels for this trip are Universal and Disney on-sites, so not bidding there-- don't want to take the chance of landing off-property. The Wyndham is a nice property; we love the laminate flooring, expansive lawns/gardens, duck lagoon, playground, pool/spa... everybody's really excited to go again!! Your Offer Price: $43.00 Number of Rooms: 1 Number of Nights: 1 Subtotal: $43.00 Taxes and Service Fees: $12.74 Total Charges: $55.74
  17. I can't really speak about renting a car. We always drive since we live about 3 hours north of WDW. I suppose it kind of depends on which resorts you're eating at... for instance, if you wanted to eat at one of the Monorail resorts (like Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary), it'd be pretty easy to take the resort monorail from MK and then back to MK for either more fun or to the Pop bus. This last trip we ate at the Swan's seafood buffet; we left MK on the bus to the Swan, ate, and then took the Friendship boat to MGM (it's the very next stop). This was just as fast as taking the car, was less hassle, and less expensive (Swan charges $7-8 to park and I could never get a definitive answer about whether they'd validate). When we ate at Boma at Animal King. Lodge, however, it would have been a long commute without our vehicle. (Highly recommended btw.)
  18. I really liked Pop; it's newer and has a few improvements (I noticed the vanity shelf and larger room safe) over the All-Stars... it's also closer to all the parks except Animal Kingdom. Our cons: my daughter missed the large Dalmatian statues from ASMovies, and we had an issue about our nonsmoking room that absolutely reeked of smoke-- took about 30 minutes to resolve; management needed some improvement from some other instances we witnessed as well. We used to stay in the moderates frequently, but we've quit doing that. Now, we will stay in the value resorts and upper-end deluxes when we want a treat. The AllStar Music and Sports are the only value resorts that have been reported as wins from PL. I seriously doubt that Disney will include Pop and AS Music as they are the most popular of the values. (Still, they have plenty of rooms at Mu and Sp to give to PL... I'd guess maybe 1500 apiece.) IMO, the transportation is the only reason to consider spending more at Disney, and the moderates transport. (except Coronado) is nothing to brag about. Pop has transport. that is very comparable to Coronado (NO shared buses). Make sure you use some of those saved $$ to tip Mousekeeping, and they will do a tremendous job for you!!
  19. Yes, many people seem to love the free dining. I'm just not interested in buying more tickets I don't need... The room only option with Fla resident/ AP discount works out better for us. Do you know about Disney Dining Experience membership? I paid about $60 for this, and now we get 20% off almost all table-service meals, incl. character meals at the Castle, Norway, etc. Plus, it works at the t-s restaurants at resorts (exc. Swan/Dolphin) and at the counter-service eateries at the Value Resorts (All Stars and Pop). We absolutely loved our $15 3-course lunch special (ohhh the creme brulee :) ) at Chefs de France, and the kids' meals at $6.99 which include decent entrees, soft drink, and desert (homemade ice cream/gelato) were great! (They are still allowing my petite 10 yo daughter some lee-way on the kid's meals, thank goodness!)
  20. Yes... however, I think I'm too scared to try it; with my luck, I'd get stuck with the Nikki Bird. I'd really be ecstatic if they'd participate on hotwire, where we'd have a shot at identifying them first!!!
  21. Hi, do you remember how far in advance you bid this one? I'm trying for late May dates and am getting shot down left and right for Philly 3* & 4* and Boston 4*. I'm thinking maybe my dates are too far out; hope that's all it is. :)
  22. I am checking out Philly rates, too, and found that the Wyndham Franklin has been reflagged as the Sheraton City Center. Reference: www.ilca.org. (I googled the address for the Sheraton, then W.F. and Sheraton together.) So, now you can find pictures and reviews! I guess this needs to be noted on the hotel list, too, Thereuare. BTW, JillSF, did you check EasyClickTravel?
  23. If you go to Brandon, try the La Septima restaurant (Cuban)-- great food and reasonable prices. I'm sorry I don't remember the address, but google or yellow pages will probably help!
  24. Most likely you're too early. Keep checking hotel website prices and winning bids to determine approx. % discounts; also watch these boards for winning bids and their dates. I don't recall seeing any for early August yet. I think you should stick to your preferred zone and don't go overboard with your bidding! If you're going to Disney or Universal, make sure you check the discount codes, etc. at www.mousesavers.com and the Universal site, to help you determine whether or not it's worth the hassle of staying offsite (trans. issues and Disney and front-of-line privileges at Universal). Good luck and try not to stress so much! :)
  25. Wouldn't it be funny if they listed a "duck" amenity?! :)
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