Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"The Ultimate Jet Lag Adviser"

We're headed to Hawaii this week so I tried out the British Airways Jet Lag Adviser. It bills itself as "The Ultimate Jet Lag Adviser," but I wasn't super impressed...maybe it works better for longer trips?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Your Priceless Surprise Awaits

I recently spent one of the more boring evenings of my life filling out index cards with Austin. Remember back in the day, before the internet, when you could mail in stuff and see if you had won prizes? Well, those happy days are back. Apparently IHG was running a promotion where you could stay at an IHG hotel, pay with a MasterCard, and then receive a random amount of points as a reward. Alternatively, you could mail in a handwritten (per the rules) index card with your name, address, phone number, email, IHG Club member number, first six digits of a MasterCard you owned, and your date of birth and receive the random amount of points. 

So we sat there furiously filling out cards and I think we got to around 30 each before we got insanely bored. Then we had to mail in our cards (but we could used printed envelopes!) and wait for an email from IHG. I've never been much for gambling, but this was a fun email. I got 30+ links to this little game where you click on stuff and the amount of points you win pops up: 

Kind of like a slot machine! Austin didn't submit as many index cards with his name on them, (slower writer I guess), so he got less links and won a total of 17,500 points. I won (earned?) 37,000 points. To put that into perspective, we can stay the night in Boise on the way to Austin's parents' house for 5000 points, or stay a night at a two bedroom IHG condo near Disneyworld later this year for 35,000 points. Not bad for a boring evening and around 35 dollars in stamps and supplies.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hyatt Centric Park City Review

To start off, I was confused as we followed the signs to get here. They all said "Hyatt Escala Lodge," and I thought we were staying at the Hyatt Centric. Apparently they are in the middle of rebranding themselves, so they are one and the same. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the new name, just because it makes me think of a sleek, modern hotel in a hopping part of the city. I thought the old lodge name fit better, because the hotel really had a "lodge tucked up in the mountains" feel.

Anyway, we got upgraded to a one bedroom suite, which is always a nice way to start your stay. A bathroom for each of us! Also a gigantic dining room table, living room, and a kitchen nicer than mine. What to do with all that room? Without our kids with us the space kind of felt wasted.

Of course, one of the most important things I check out in a hotel room is the bathtub situation. The bathrooms were beautiful, and the presence of a 6-foot jetted tub meant I had to try it out, although I had to stay up past 1 a.m. to do it. I have no regrets. The sleep situation was helped by our afternoon nap on the very comfy bed. (The fireplace in the bedroom was a nice, cozy touch.)

We got into Park City for the evening by taking the hotel shuttle. It drops you off at the bottom of Main Street, pretty straightforward. I was skeptical of Austin's plan to get us back, but it actually didn't take us much longer than an Uber would have! After our movie, around 11:30, we took a few Sundance shuttles from our theater to get to the 7-11 at the bottom of the hill below our hotel. Then Austin called the hotel and they sent someone down to get us in the Hyatt van. Voila!

Breakfast the next morning was nice, nothing out of the ordinary. Austin likes his omelet bar but nothing made me miss my usual oatmeal. Kind of fun to see the ski lift outside while we ate, it made me wish I was more into skiing!

The only other hotel we've stayed at in Park City before is the Waldorf Astoria. I actually liked the Hyatt Centric wasn't as grand, but it felt warmer and more comfortable in terms of the color scheme and decor. Especially in our room, this hotel perfectly honed in on the luxurious ski lodge theme.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sundance Newbies

For two Sundance newbies, we couldn't have asked for a better weekend. We drove up to Park City, by which point it was raining/sleeting pretty hard. It didn't let up all night, and was snowing in the morning when we left, but that was okay, it just added to the mountain atmosphere.

We grabbed an early supper at this Mexican place, El Chubasco. There are some really nice places to eat up in Park City, and we love to get sushi normally when we go places together, but we're saving for our big trip to Hawaii next week, so we kept it simple.

After trying out the fajitas and salsa bar, we checked out our hotel...the classic picturesque snowy ski lodge. I'll review it in the next post, but we were impressed. And we have stayed in some nice places, so at the risk of sounding like the hotel snobs we are, we're not easily impressed.

We caught a quick nap in anticipation of a long night...we're not as young as we once were, and can't stay up til all hours like we used to without a little help. Then we took the hotel shuttle into downtown Park City to check out the scene. We wandered up and down Main Street with the crowd. Although fun, it was also dark, wet, and cold, so we popped into a couple places to warm up. A bookshop/chocolate shop for some hot chocolate and treats for later, and an art gallery to check out some amazing nature photos.

Thanks to the impressive volunteers and well-run shuttle system, we easily found the shuttle to our theater and got in line about an hour before the film started. Although incredibly bored waiting around, we were pleasantly surprised to find a giant tent for us to stand in. Austin says next year he's bringing a tripod to sit on.
                         Giant tent starts filling up with people
We'll make great old people. 

The movie (The Hollars) was, well, moving. I don't expect much from movies, generally speaking...I'm more of a book person. But as the movie explored messy family relationships, it made you examine your own relationships and experiences and see them in the light of what's happening in the movie. We laughed and cried in about equal proportions the entire movie, so I'm not sure how they're going to market it for film goers...(Apparently it just got bought by Sony).

One funny moment from the Q and A with Jim Krasinski after the audience member got called on and went on about how the film touched him and reminded him of when his father was in the hospital dying and...he heard Jim Krasinski liked basketball. Would Jim read his screenplay about a basketball story? Cue a collective groan from the audience.

The volunteers were trying to clear people out of the theater quickly, so we just got a picture and took off for our personal after-party back at the hotel. This included snacks, a nice steam shower for congested Austin and a bath in the jetted tub for me (couldn't resist trying that sucker out). We made it to bed a little after 1 a.m., so about as wild as it gets for us. It was a fun night.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mingling with the Stars

This weekend we are off to mingle with the stars! I probably wouldn't recognize most Hollywood stars if I stared at them on a bus for an hour, but the mere thought of being around famous people is exciting. (And intimidating. What to wear? Only the rich and famous can afford the luxury of looking like they don't care.)  

Austin and I are going to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, where thanks to a friend of a friend, we will be attending the premier of "The Hollars" a dramady which I expect will eventually make it to the big screen. I'm excited because John Krasinski directed it and stars in it, and I thought he was great in "The Office." (Who didn't?) Anna Kendrick also stars in it--also a fan--and it just seems fun to be at the same screening as them and soak in the star-studded ambiance. 

We are staying at the Hyatt Centric Park City for 15,000 points. We transferred Chase Ultimate Reward Points which were earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. The room would have cost $718 at the time when we booked the room. Hoping for a fabulous Friday night! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Trip Idea: Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown

Back in our wilder days...

Back in 2010 we went on an epic trip, which included Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. I particularly remember this trip as being the first couple's vacation Austin talked me into; we went with Austin's colleague from work and his wife. Austin has always been more interested in the concept of making couple friends than I have, but I'm not anti-social, I'm just realistic. Let's face it, couple friends are the elusive Holy Grail of adult life. Getting four people to all like each other enough to want to hang out on a regular basis? Good luck. 

All things considered, this was a very nice couple, and we had some nice dinners and outings together, but relaxing on vacation and being on point socially are not mutually compatible in my mind and probably never will be. 

However, as far as Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown go, I would definitely revisit that experience. I love wandering around historical sites reading little plaques, and although Austin is not big on educational travel, I seem to recall that he enjoyed it as well and found it interesting. So if you're like us and sometimes have a hard time deciding where to go for vacation, check it out. We went in April and the weather was great, but fall is a great time to do a New England trip as well. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Good Spontaneous, Bad Spontaneous

We all want to be the cool, spontaneous traveler who likes to pop into local dives and try their unique food, or dance in an unexpected monsoon. However, a seasoned traveler knows the difference between good spontaneous and bad spontaneous.

Example 1: Bob and Betty wake up in Kauai, and decide spontaneously that they want to go kayaking. They drive an hour to the Wailua River to spend a day on the water. Unfortunately, they slept in, the 6 permitted self-rental kayaks per kayak place are gone, and they didn't book a guided tour, so they end up wandering around town and eating some dry burgers before driving back to their resort, having wasted the best part of the day. This is Bad Spontaneous.

Example 2: Bob and Betty have booked a self-rental kayak in Kauai, and have decided to leave for their kayaking trip early in the morning, as they have read that the crowds are thinner and the kayaking better then. Before they drive up to the Wailua River, they grab a delicious picnic lunch at a local deli so they won't starve while kayaking. They pick up their reserved kayak, hit the river, and after paddling for a while, decide to spontaneously jump into the river while they're kayaking. This is Good Spontaneous. (Also part of our upcoming itinerary).
I enjoy having a framework and being spontaneous within that. Trying to make decisions about what to do and where to go eat while we are stressed and starving never ends well for us, so below I've shown our itinerary. I do have a short list of places that sound good to eat, (I hate wasting money on bad food) but food plans and the next day's schedule usually get finalized the night before.

Proposed Kauai Itinerary:

Get in late, explore resort pools and hot tub.
Snorkeling, check out other beaches, beach walks by hotel, nap, relaxing in Hawaii, sushi supper, evening luau at Smith's. (Show only).
Kayaking and lunch on the Wailua River
Resort in afternoon ?
Sunday drive to explore island and hiking--Austin still has to pick one--Honopu Ridge, Nualolo, Waimea Canyon, Blue Hole
Snorkeling, hit the beach before plane leaves at 12.