Choosing Hotels

In my last post I talked about using the site

If you’re a control freak like me, or risk averse, sites like are ones you stay away from.   Personally, I can’t imagine going online, booking a hotel and not knowing which one it is.  After spending a zillion dollars on flights to some destination, I do not want to spend a gazillion on some hotel that has not gone through the proper vetting  process.

By vetting, I mean using   In the olden days, before tripadvisor, you would look up a hotel online (apparently not that olden of days), and pray they weren’t scamming you.  The worst was one you’d get to the hotel and find that half the place had been renovated and the other half was pre-1970.  Yuck!  This happened to us once at the Kensington Close Hotel in London.  My husband (at the time we weren’t married yet) and I were taking a trip to London with his parents.  They live in the Netherlands, so we traveled from there, via the ferry in Calais, France, to London.

I was in charge of getting us a hotel.  So I went online and found the Kensington Close Hotel.  It had a great location, decent price, and good looking rooms.  Here’s what the web-site showed:

Not bad, right?!  I was so excited when we checked in.  The last time I was in London was just after high school, and it soon became my favorite city (although it’s a toss up now with Paris). We check in, get rooms on the same floor, and head up the elevator.

We got off the elevator, and stepped into a dilapidated hallway.  uh-oh.  Then we opened the doors to our rooms, and double uh-oh.  I was mortified.  It looked like the room hadn’t been updated since the London bombings of WWII.  And they had been a casualty of such bombings!  The wallpaper was peeling off the wall, even hanging in one spot.  The carpet had huge stains on it, the wall had mold in the seams, and the bathroom – really, I can’t go into it in fear that some of you reading are eating right now.  Needless to say, the photo on the website did not match the room I walked into.

Frank’s parents put on their best face and acted like everything was ok.  Keep in mind, this was a decent priced place, not CHEAP.   It was down-right nasty.  Here’s the matress:

We were EXHAUSTED after the long day of travel, and really needed a shower.  Naturally, the tub was clogged.  By the time the water got hot, I was standing in a foot of cold water and needed to take a quick shower so A) the tub wouldn’t overflow, and B) Frank had time to shower before it DID overflow.

By the time I was done getting ready, doing my best not to touch any surfaces, I was pissed! And embarrassed!  My in-laws are very sweet, polite people that wouldn’t think of going down to a front desk causing a ruckus.  So I had to do it myself, and certainly not in-front of them.  After all, what future daughter-in-law wants their in-laws to know what a Bitch there son will be marrying?! right?

I walked down to the front desk and asked them to change our rooms.  I was informed this was a standard room.  I asked the clerk to open their website, which he did.  Then I asked him to look at the photo (above) and tell me if he thought they looked the same.  “No, the one on the site is an updated room.”

OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH….. so That’s how this works!

After barraging him with the whole false advertising spiel, we were handed the keys to our lovely new, updated room.  The one I had intended to book in the first place.  All is well that ends well.

I was fortunate enough to find Tripadvisor early-on, and have used it for every hotel booking since! That’s my vetting process – check tripadvisor.  Easy enough.   But without knowing the hotel name, I’m outta luck.  Or maybe not… thanks to

For use as a child’s carry-on?


For use as a carry-on?

So I feel kind of stupid.  I went into the Gap to get some Father’s Day gifts for my husband. I bought him some shorts, new swimtrunks, and some polo shirts that were on sale for $12. Good deal, right?!

I get up to the counter, and the super-energetic sales lady is there to help.  She starts to mention the Gap card, and I think “nah, I have enough cards.”  Then I look behind her and on the counter is the prettiest sparkly teal sequin bag.  Like a bird attracted to shiny objects, I’m in awe.   She sees this, and says, “Cute bag, huh!  I just got them in as a web site return and have no idea what to do with them, don’t even know how much they are – do you want one?”

Well I’m still in shiny awe.  I can’t believe it, a free bag!!!  I say, “Yes.  How about the blue one…. or maybe I should take the small silver one.  oh, I can’t decide.”

So she scans the blue one and tells me it’s only $39, and I’ll be the first one to have it.  But wait.  What kind of moron was I?! I thought she was giving me the bag for free.  She had no clue what to do with them or how much they were.  Duh.  You don’t just walk into Gap and get something for free.  Not legally anyway!

I checked the bag out more.  Side elastic pockets, great for water bottles, or in my case a baby bottle for the airplane.  My daughter just turned two, and I want to have the bottle for takeoff and landing in case her ears are bugging her – it’s always helped in the past.  There’s a front zippered flap that has another zippered pocket inside, great for ID and boarding passes.   ID could go in the inner zipper to keep it safe from falling out while I rummage through.   And the main interior compartment is big enough to hold the ipad, some extra clothes for my daughter, some medicine, etc…

As the mother of a two year old, I’m always looking for a place to put diapers.  SO naturally, I was eyeing the small silver bag.  It clips on to the front of the backpack and basically rides piggy-back!  It’s insulated for food items, and even has a mesh pocket on the inside.  Perfect for diapers and travel wipes!

I had her add the silver bag to the purchase! I really think this will be a good combo, and something she can use as she gets older, at least for packing things for a trip.

Only one problem.  There’s no way my husband will want to carry a teal sequin bag through the airport! lol! 😉

Planning for Boston with a toddler

What’s a travel blog without travel?   Our trip to NY is coming up soon.  We’ll fly direct from SFO to Boston, rent a car, and then drive to Albany.   Both of us have wanted to check out Boston for a while, so we decided to tack that on the end of the trip!  I’m a history nerd, so the Freedom Trail is a must!  There’s a map online at their site:

(photo courtesy of:

Based on the map, it looks like the best place to stay is in the city center.  When traveling with a child, this is a must.  How many times have we forgotten extra diapers, her bib, her sippy-cup, etc… there’s no way we want to walk miles back.  (Let’s face it though, my lazy butt would find a CVS and buy it new – but then I’m carting a bag of diapers around the freedom trail.  So much for Freedom!).

Prices are over the top for city center hotels in Boston.  ugh!  We’re a member of Fairmont’s President Club (, which is awesome, but their hotel isn’t city center, and it’s about $400/night non-refundable.  Another traveling with child thing – don’t do non-refundable.  But wait.  Should we??

As I’m looking for hotels, a friend puts a post on Facebook, ” Now this is a killer place to stay! Thank you! – at Omni Parker House Hotel.”   Sweet.  Right in the middle of Boston, good reviews, and it’s on Hotwire.

Now let’s take the guessing (aka Risk) out of  Go to and you’ll find that people post the hotels and their amenities list and title from – so you know what hotel you’re booking! We’ve used this in the past, and it’s worked great.

Let’s do it!