Omaha Impresses with the World’s Largest Dome

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Omaha is home to the world’s largest indoor desert under the world’s largest geodesic dome above the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit next to one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests! (Yes, you read that right!) Gain some knowledge at The Durham Museum, explore hundreds of acres at Lauritzen Botanical Gardens, and gaze your eyes at works of art at the Joslyn Art Museum.

Fun Things to do in Omaha

Check out Old Market for street musicians, artists, and more entertainment around every corner. Cobblestone streets lined with boutiques and galleries are sure to keep your eyes occupied! Enjoy new restaurants, original steakhouses, local pubs, cafes, and jazz clubs that make Old Market one of the best stops in Omaha.

The Old Market is large enough to keep yourself busy but small enough to feel like you have conquered it in a day. Be sure to sit and soak up the atmosphere and while you’re at it why not indulge in a craft beer whilst listening to some of the top-rated street musicians in Omaha.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium boasts not only the world’s largest indoor desert but also North America’s largest indoor rainforest! There are also over seven acres of indoor exhibits, thousands of animals and underground caves covering a total of 130 acres.

Immerse yourself in a desert environment without leaving Nebraska. Guests have the opportunity to see plant and animal life from three of the world’s deserts: the Namib Desert of southern Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States.

As you exit the Desert Dome, there is a special room designed to showcase newly hatched or young reptiles and amphibians. This area also houses some of the reptile related conservation and research projects taking place at the Zoo. Each window and skylight allows the young reptiles access to beneficial ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Additionally, guests can walk on the bottom of the ocean and come nose to nose with sea turtles as sharks circle above them in the 70-foot shark tunnel. Discover polar regions, temperate oceans, coral reefs, and the Amazon as guests explore the largest aquarium in a zoo.

The zoo is open all year making it great for rainy days as well.

Omaha guests have a wide selection from nine different breweries to sample the tastiest Omaha Craft beer. All the featured beers are produced by dedicated locals. Take advantage of the Omaha craft brewery tour, which stops at all nine breweries and provides you with coupons for nine free beers.

Accommodations in Omaha

Hotel Deco XV welcomes its guests with 89 luxury suites and rooms including four event spaces. Carrying a 1930’s style, this high-end accommodation effortlessly blends a contemporary hotel experience with an old soul.

Guest rooms feature extraordinary furnishings, surface flooring, and amenities to ensure the highest standard of comfort and satisfaction. The Front Desk staff will assist with dining reservations, travel, and provide tips on Omaha arts and entertainment offerings. Visit the new restaurant Monarch Prime & Bar featuring a methodically developed dry-aging program, wonderful cocktail menu and a newly designed wine list. Serving daily lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

Guests enjoy time at the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha.
Guests enjoy time at the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha.

Once standing as the Aquila Court Building, the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha is now structured to mimic the Bargello, a palace in Florence, Italy. Guests will discover the inviting warmth and hospitality in the center of downtown Omaha.

With only a three-block walk to Old Market, it’s easy to get around and enjoy the town. There’s a free shuttle bus service to downtown Omaha that is available from the Magnolia. Guests can also enjoy the 24-hour gym or the business center.

One review states, “From the moment you enter the property the staff, rooms, and amenities make it a real respite from standard living. The rooms are very well-appointed with a terrific coffee selection and superb bathroom. The beds…oh the beds!!! I never sleep as well as I do on trips to the Magnolia.”

Search for hotels in Omaha and your Bonwi points will cover an additional few nights stay!

Lima Hotel Zones: Where to Stay in the Capital of Peru

Country Club Lima Hotel review

Peru capital places to stay hotel zones

Most tourists don’t spend a lot of time in Lima hotels. The South American capital of Peru tends to be a one-night or two-night stop on the way to the country’s more enticing attractions.

Lima is the best foodie destinations on the continent though, plus it can be a fun place for nightlife. It’s also a good spot for a cooking class: in mine with SkyKitchen Peru we learned how to make ceviche, lomo saltado, a dessert kind of like funnel cakes, and a pisco sour.

More importantly for the hotel zones, this is a major business center in Latin America. Many international companies have big operations here and of course it’s an export leader in a lot of products coming out of Peru.

Traffic in Lima can move at a crawl during busy times, however, and there’s no metro system. So it’s important to pick carefully from the Lima hotel districts to make sure you’re where you’ll be spending most of your time. Here are the main hotel zones of the capital city. Head over to Bonwi.com for the best Lima hotel rates and you could rack up enough points for a room in Cusco, Puno, or Arequipa to go have some fun afterwards.

get the most points back for Lima hotel bookings with Bonwi

Best Lima Airport Hotels

If you are just stopping in Lima on the way to somewhere else, there’s a good chance your flight will come in at an odd time or leave at an odd time. You may end up with a 10-hour layover before your domestic flight to another destination in Peru. If that’s the case, there’s not much point in heading all the way into the city just to sleep for a few hours and come back. Get a room at the airport instead.

Lima airport hotel across from the terminal

The most convenient option is the Wyndham Costa del Sol Lima. It’s literally steps from the terminal. You walk out of the arrivals area, cross the street, and you’re there. That photo above was the view from my room when I stayed there. It’s a comfortable place with a decent restaurant and bar and the staff stays chipper at all hours. The other option is a Holiday Inn Express, which is only slightly further away. You could walk it if you don’t have much luggage, but that involves a pedestrian overpass to cross a 6-lane road so you may want to just hop a cab. Breakfast is included in the rates at these properties.

Miraflores Hotels of Lima

Miraflores Lima hotel zoneThis is the most desirable neighborhood for most tourists, with some of the best leisure hotels, a range of great restaurants, the seaside, casinos, and nightclubs. It’s a pleasant area to walk around, with a few things to see like the Huaca Pucllana pyramid structure that dates back to 700 AD and the Larcomar shopping complex for picking up some last souvenirs to take home.

There are high-end hotels like a JW Marriott and a Belmond—both with views of the Pacific Ocean—as well as some good mid-range and budget options. Atemporal Boutique Hotel is a good alternative to the chains, with just nine rooms. It’s a rather long ride from the airport to Miraflores though (as well as Barranco), so pick this area if you’re actually going to have time to enjoy it.

Barranco Hotels in Peru’s Capital City

Every city has its area where the artists congregated and made their mark. In Lima that’s the Barranco neighborhood, where abandoned historic structures and street art mix with lovingly restored mansions that are now boutique hotels.

Artsy boutique hotel in Barranco area of Lima

The best places to stay are Hotel B, part of the Relais and Chateaux collection, plus Casa Republica Barranco.

Hotels in San Isidro, Lima

The main business district of Lima is San Isidro, chock full of chain hotels and the international business travelers who book them. This area has the most embassies, multinational company offices, and accounting firms, but is rather staid when it comes to where you go to eat and drink. Thankfully there are some standout hotels that make it worth staying put.

Country Club Lima Hotel review

The best independent luxury hotel is Country Club Lima, with the feel of an elegant boutique hotel that’s also a social center for Lima’s elite. But there’s also a Swissotel, a high-rise Westin, and a bunch of mid-range Accor hotels from Ibis to Atton.

Slim Pickings in the Historic Center

In many Spanish Colonial cities, the historic center is the most interesting hotel zone and there are usually plenty of places to stay. Lima’s center tends to be a day tour kind of place though and there are surprisingly few good good hotels in the centro historico. There’s a very large Sheraton right downtown that averages $120 per night, but after that you have mostly small, independent budget hotels favored more by backpackers than flashpackers.

Tack on a couple extra days in Lima to visit the impressive Museo Larco with its vast collection of pre-Colombian art, have some great meals, and see the place where one-third of all Peruvians actually live. With this guide to Lima hotel districts, you’ll know where to stay depending on your main reason for visiting and what your flight schedules are like.

Get the best price for hotels in Lima and a nice rewards payoff too that you can use for another hotel, flights, rental cars, or gift cards.

Review and photos by Tim S. Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop and Luxury Latin America.

Reward Points Battle: World of Hyatt vs. Bonwi

Hyatt Clearwater Beach

World of Hyatt versus Bonwi Rewards payoffs

How many points will you rack up if you always stay with Hyatt and are loyal to that brand, as opposed to staying wherever you want and earning Bonwi points?

Let’s take a look at points earnings and payoffs with the two programs: World of Hyatt and Bonwi Rewards.

How World of Hyatt Works

Like most major brand hotel programs, the World of Hyatt one is purposely complicated. It’s not as bad as some on the earnings side since it’s dollar-based with few exceptions, but that amount varies depending on your elite status (or lack of). Then how many points you have to spend to get a free night also depends on the class of hotel, the city it’s in, and whether it’s busy that week.

On the earnings side, as a regular member you receive 5 points per dollar spent on your room and regular services in the hotel, such as dining or drinking. This also applies to partner hotels from Small Luxury Hotels of the World when you want something with more character. If you stay enough to move up the elite tiers, you earn more points per dollar. But as a regular member, $300 spent on your tab at checkout gets you 1,500 points. See the details here.

So if we pull up hotels in New York City, we find that you could earn points from Grand Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Centric, The Beekman, and more. With rates on our random dates ranging from $231 to $895, you could earn between 1,155 to 4,160 points per night on the room charge.

Now let’s say you’ve racked up 50,000 points over many,  many stays and want to spend them. What will that get you?

If we pull up a warm-weather vacation destination like Cancun, you can get… not much.  It’s 25,000 per night to stay at either Andaz Mayakoba or Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen. If you head to Miami instead, it’s a little better: from 12,000 to 20,000 per night depending on the property level. So you could manage two or three nights there with your points.

World of Hyatt point redemptions

How Bonwi Rewards Works

With Bonwi.com, there’s no set formula by brand on the earnings side and the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 5 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

If we pull up New York City again for the same dates, you’ll see that you’d receive 6,231 per night for booking Hyatt’s Andaz Wall Street. So the same stay that would get you 311 X 5 from Hyatt’s program—1,555—gets you more than four times as many points from Bonwi.

Bonwi rewards points for Hyatt Andaz stay

This isn’t always the case. The super-expensive Park Hyatt New York is an exception because it would earn you 5 points for every dollar. But as we’ve shown with Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards in the past, you usually have the opportunity to earn more points by picking the hotel of your choice than by being loyal to a certain brand. If you stayed at The Plaza in New York instead of the Park Hyatt, you’d pay about $100 less per night and would earn a whopping 13,673 points per night you could apply to any hotel stay or airline flight.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night.

If we pull up Cancun, for instance, where your only Hyatt choices were the two at 25,000 points per night before meals and drinks, here’s a taste of what you could get, it’s a different story for those same 50,000 points at Bonwi Rewards.  You could choose from:

  • 9 all-inclusive resorts for 22,500 points or less
  • 6 beachfront all-inclusive hotels for 18,000 points or less
  • 14 Playa del Carmen boutique hotels for 9,000 points or less

In Miami, it’s even better. For the same 12,000 to 20,000 points per night, you would have hundreds of hotels to choose from.

Hyatt Clearwater Beach

Other Redemption Options for World of Hyatt

What if you don’t need free hotel nights from Hyatt or they just plain don’t have any properties in your chosen vacation spot?  Well you could exchange them for airline points, but at a huge loss. Here’s the best-case scenario from the World of Hyatt website:

Planning your next trip? You can turn your points into airline miles. Transfer as few as 5,000 points for 2,000 miles

“As few as?” Ouch. That’s quite a haircut.

You can also exchange them for dining or spa credit, but again at a terrible redemption rate.  If you exchange 10,000 points you only get $50, which means Hyatt points are only worth half a cent each. It gets better with huge transfers, but still never gets up to a penny per point.

You cannot exchange them for gift cards, even at a bad rate. That option is not available.

Other Redemption Options for Bonwi Rewards

At Bonwi, your points are yours to do what you want with and if you don’t want to use them for a hotel stay, you have lots of other options, all at a level of a penny per point.

So if you have 10,000 points, that’s worth a $500 flight. No blackout dates, no specific airlines you have to use, no transfer formulas.

Exchange Bonwi points for gift cards

If you want to get a gift card instead for Best Buy or a restaurant chain, 10,000 points gets you $100. Simple and valuable.

Book your next hotel stay here and start earning more.

Story by Tim S. Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop and Luxury Latin America, author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

 

Tallahassee Offers a Different Side of Florida

Hampton by Hilton, Tallahassee Florida.

When you tell most people “I’m vacationing in Florida” their immediate thoughts probably turn to old people, drugs, and a blazingly humid climate.

While this might be true, the new hotels in the state’s capital, Tallahassee, more than make up for this over exaggerated reputation. You might want to plan a few years in advance for these though.

The proposed New Hyatt House hotel in Tallahassee, Florida.
The proposed New Hyatt House hotel in Tallahassee, Florida.

The New Hyatt House Hotel falls into one of these up and coming accommodations. Five stories and 120 rooms, this structure is due to begin construction this April 2019 and end in January 2021.

The building will be located at the entrance to Railroad Square Art Park. Its design will be inspired by the areas industrial, quirky style. Another standalone building will be nearby for all the retail space a shop-a-holic could ask for. The balance between staying true to the area while still incorporating the chain continuities of the Hyatt have been masterfully achieved.

The nearby Florida A and M campus provides plenty of college students, regularly updated art galleries, and expressive thespians for the all around arts lover. Definitely check out the Crum Box Gastgraden and cross off eating in an engine caboose from your bucket-list.  And don’t worry, locals will still have access to the park during construction.

Further down the road, Indigo hotels are also planning to set up an outpost in this historic Florida city. This company is dedicated to assimilation; incorporating locally inspired murals into its buildings, along with local music and menu options in their restaurant that will be changing with the seasons.

Indigo Hotel in Tallahassee, Florida.
Indigo Hotel in Tallahassee, Florida.

Always something new to look forward to, always with a fresh, blended take. But don’t hold your breath; construction isn’t slated till 2020 and there’s no end date in site. The feel they’re going for, “to give(s) guests the confidence to step out and explore the local neighborhood.” 

Hampton by Hilton Hotel in Tallahassee, Florida.
Hampton by Hilton Hotel in Tallahassee, Florida.

If you’re looking to vacation before 2021, the Hampton by Hilton built this past Spring 2018 in the epicenter of the All Saints District and Gaines Street Corridor. Worry-free spaces with familiar feels create an environment that makes guests feel they’re at their home away from home. A home with 124 rooms.

That’s a lot of vacuuming. And who can live without a guest laundry, pool and fitness center? Everything is up to par, as is evident by the structure itself, and the one $billion tourism contributed to Florida’s economy this past year. Can’t argue with those results.

Whether in the immediate future or the upcoming years, travelers will be well taken care of at the variety of shiny new hotels  Florida’s Capital has to offer. Just make sure to watch for Gators.   Find these Tallahassee hotels and many more and use the Bonwi Points you earn for a beach escape next winter, like to Miami Beach at the bottom of the state.

   

Best and Newest Charleston Hotels, Hottest activities

The French Quarter Inn, in Charleston SC.
The French Quarter Inn, in Charleston SC.
The French Quarter Inn, in Charleston SC.

Opened early this year, The Hotel Bennet has been twenty years in the making and will be known as one of the most opulent hotels in the Charleston area.

The CEO of this project, Michael Bennet, had to jump through several legal hoops during development, including an aspect of the buildings height restrictions.  Fortunately, he’s an old hat to the development game. The renovation of this historic building has taken a European approach to style and architecture, using marble, limestone, and copper infused with “Carolina Lowcountry Soul” as described by Forbes.

Located in the heart of Charleston this establishment, the hotel features a two-story restaurant headed by Executive Chef Michael Sichel, a French-style patisserie and a rooftop bar and pool. And don’t forget the champagne bar. The expansive hotel took 47 months to build, starting in March 2015.

If not baby’s bottom new, you will still find high quality, well-established lodgings in this historic city. A top hotel review site has two Charleston hotels ranked for best the in country in 2019 ranking first and third; the French Quarter Inn and The Spectator hotel.

The French Quarter Inn,  located in downtown Charleston, features personalized travel plans created by the exceptionally competent front desk staff, a daily wine and cheese reception in the opulent lobby, free bike rentals (the classic ones with a basket, of course) and rooms with breathtaking views regardless of your budget.

The new Hotel Bennet in Charleston SC.
The new Hotel Bennet in Charleston SC.

For those renting the Luxury King Balcony Full Sweet, a full king sized bed, a furnished balcony and a fireplace can be turned on at the end of an active sightseeing day. Hotdog!

The Spectator Hotel is, ‘a  little waterside beauty” and is, “regularly ranked among the city of Charleston’s most luxurious retreats.”  Opened in 2015, the hotel offers front door access to Charleston’s market, historic neighborhoods are all with a three-mile walking distance and conveniently surrounded by a variety of shopping, art galleries, and fine dining.

Though a smaller establishment, the lobby and adjacent bar are expertly designed for aesthetic pleasure and facilitated conversation with a cross between the 1920s flare and upscale modern. And don’t forget to tip the rotating butler, around for all your luxury vacation details and needs.

The Charleston City Market.
The Charleston City Market, since 1807.

The Charleston Market was once called and is sometimes still referred to as “the slave market” because of its long history of being the place slaves went to buy food for the plantations.  A special aspect of the market are the ladies who make and sell their own special Charleston baskets. It goes back all the way to Africa, and their careful construction out of sweetgrass and palmetto leaves makes these items special indeed.

The Charleston City Market is located right n the heart of the city on Meeting Street, about a 10-minute walk from Broad Street, the city’s main drag. If you choose to drive, you’ll find only limited street parking available.  Find out more about vendors and goods on the market website.

Find hotels in Charleston SC and use Bonwi points for a future trip.

Then book a trip to Savannah while you’re at it, using our guide to where to stay in Savannah.

The ‘Bleisure’ Trend: Mixing Leisure Trips with Business Travel

Times Square, New York City is a great place to combine business with leisure!
Times Square, New York City is a great place to combine business with leisure!
Times Square, New York City is a great place to combine business with leisure!

The concept of blending business travel trips with leisure vacation is growing at a rapid rate. An SAP Concur study shows a 20% uptick in bleisure travel.

For this study, a “bleisure trip” included a Saturday night stay, but it’s not uncommon for these trips to extend at least two or three days. Overall, 2.2 million bleisure trips took place in 2017. That’s about 10% of all business trips. While most business travelers still have to sightsee on their travel days, 1 in 10 travelers is able to stay an extra day.

According to Forbes, the nine most common bleisure destinations include New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, and Shanghai.

Here are a few of the top bleisure hotels in popular destinations.

Sheraton New York City - a good bleisure trip hotel
Sheraton New York City

Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel

Right in the heart of Times Square, it’s easy to understand how the Sheraton Hotel puts business and leisure travelers in the perfect spot. The Sheraton offers easy access to countless midtown offices and businesses, while onsite you can make good use of the 60,000 square feet of meeting space, including an Executive Conference Center that’s ideal for small groups.

It’s almost too easy to find entertainment near Times Square. Spend some time in the bars, museums, or see a Broadway show! When you’re in Times Square, check out one of the newest and most amazing exhibits, Gulliver’s Gate. A world in miniature that’s astounding. You may even have a view of the skyscrapers going up at Hudson Yards.

The Peninsula Chicago

This luxurious Chicago building is perfectly designed for leisure while taking care of business. Meet with associates in one of the eleven meeting spaces, then head upstairs to the Peninsula Spa for an Asian-inspired treatment. After the long days of business, relax on the sun terrace near the indoor pool.

westdrift Manhattan Beach – Los Angeles

Right in the heart of the popular Manhattan Beach community, westdrift is only a mile to the beach, and a quick trip to The Point, the city’s shopping, entertainment and dining hub.

Guests can also enjoy on-demand movies from their in-room Smart TV or outdoor lawn games such as shuffleboard, croquet, corn hole and more.

westdrift Manhattan Beach features 393 luxury guest rooms combining iconic designs, amenities and culinary offerings that speak to both coasts. Take some time to enjoy the nine-hole golf course, indoor and outdoor restaurants, a cross-fit inspired fitness center, a pool surrounded by cabanas, 18 meeting rooms, a traditional ballroom, and three large industrial-chic venues.

Tips for taking a bleisure trip

Book your meetings on Monday or Friday that way you will have Saturday and Sunday to travel.

When you travel for a business, there’s a chance you have to stay at a particular hotel.  Asking if you can use your company’s prenegotiated rate can also save you lots of money. Many bleisure-friendly companies are open to extending this benefit to employees.

Try booking your reservation with the company travel portal to access possible discount rates

Make sure you understand your company’s travel policy and what they will and will not pay for

Next time you consider traveling for business, consider adding a few personal days to explore the area. More than likely the company will already cover transportation costs, so enjoy the long weekend! Find something exciting in every new city and save on hotels using Bonwi points!

The Hotel Zones of Mexico City

Zocolo of Mexico City has hotels nearby

When you’re trying to figure out where to stay in Mexico City, it makes a lot of sense to start with the location. What are you planning to do while you’re there? Are you going to have business meetings or do you want to stroll around the historic center? Do you want to be in a nightlife area? In a leafy park zone? Near the best restaurants?

hotel zones of Mexico City neighborhoods

For such a large metropolis, Mexico City is actually quite easy to navigate from a tourist standpoint. Most of the hotel zones of Mexico City are within a mile of two main streets that meander from downtown out through Polanco. Here are the areas to consider when you’re planning your trip to this capital of food and culture.

Historic District Hotels of Mexico City

The most atmospheric part of Mexico’s capital city is the oldest part. The historic centro is grounded by the huge Zocolo public square, with the off-kilter cathedral on one side and the municipal buildings on the other. You can take the subway straight here and it’s not very far from the airport.

There are a few chain hotels, like a Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn, but most of the properties are independent or small-chain ones with lots of personality. Hotel Downtown Mexico is part of Grupo Habita and has sections for both high-end travelers and budget backpackers, both mingling on the roof desk with pool. You may have seen Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico in several movies and one episode of The Romanoffs on Amazon streaming. It has an amazing view from the roof, where there’s a restaurant.

Zocolo of Mexico City has hotels nearby

There are also some hostels and budget hotels in this area that are a good value and you can take the metro from here to anywhere it goes.

Paseo de La Reforma, Zona Rosa, and Condesa

I’m lumping these three together because if you’re someone who doesn’t mind walking for a half hour, you can get from one of these areas to the other on foot.

Many of the embassies and bank headquarters are along the Paseo de la Reforma boulevard leading from Alameda Park to Chapultapec Park. So you’ve got familiar chains like Marriott, Sheraton, Four Seasons, St. Regis, and Hilton along this corridor, along with a few Mexican chains. The eventual Ritz-Carlton will be along here too.

Paseo de la Reforma hotel zone has Four Seasons

The Zona Rosa is a big nightlife area a few blocks from the main drag and some of the best mid-range bargains in the city are in this area. It’s convenient and fun for going out, though it can be noisy on the low floors.

Condesa and Roma transform from business district to leafy residential areas with lots of restaurants and nightlife. Most of the hotels in this area are independent ones and some are a great value.

Polanco and Chapultapec Park

Polanco is the richest neighborhood near the city and it will dispel any notions you may have about Mexicans not having a lot of money. You’ll find shops from Prada and Louis Vuitton, Mercedes and BMW showrooms, and restaurants that can top $100 per person without many drinks.

Las Alcobas Hotel stairwell Mexico City

One street on the edge of Chapultapec Park has a string of chain hotels like Hyatt, JW Marriott, Intercontinental, and W.  Habita’s original hotel is in this area, as is the upscale Las Alcobas with the staircase pictured above.

Neighborhood Hotels of Mexico City

There area distinct hotel zones where you can stay in Mexico City, plus a few scattered around neighborhoods like San AngelIf you want to be in an area where you won’t see many other tourists at night, a place where Mexicans live and work, there are a few nice sections of town besides Condesa and Roma where you can stay in a real neighborhood.

Coyoacan is where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera spent most of their time, so you can visit both houses they lived in together here. Plus there are some nice restaurants on the main place you can enjoy after the day visitors have all left.

The local Stara group has hotels in neighborhoods without a whole lot else. Stara San Angel Inn is in the area where there’s a big weekend art market and they also have a property in Colonia Juarez.

There are hotels at the airport of course, including a Camino Real right outside of Terminal 1 and a Hilton inside the terminal itself.

For reviews of the top choices, see detailed reviews here of the best luxury hotels in Mexico City.

When you’re ready to book, be sure you get a good points payback wherever you stay by checking out Mexico City Hotels at Bonwi. You may get enough points from this stay to pay for a flight to a Mexican beach area like Los Cabos the next time around.

 

Travel writer Tim Leffel has written about Mexico City for more than a decade and has a home base a few hours north in Guanajuato.

Chicago’s RiverRun Connects City Parks

The Chicago River in Chicago, where the RiverRun will add a two-mile trail connecting parks.
The Chicago River in Chicago, where the RiverRun will add a two-mile trail connecting parks.
The Chicago River in Chicago, where the RiverRun will add a two-mile trail connecting parks.

Chicago’s skyline is rising every year, as the prominent US city continues to grow and expand. Nowhere is that clearer than along the banks of the Chicago river running through the cities bustling center. Skip the chrome Bean, as new activities will include Chicago’s RiverRun Project. Due to be completed this year (2019) the new concrete path will stretch two miles and connect several of the city’s best parks, creating a central recreational hub.

A bit less current having come out in the fall of 2018 but just as entertaining is the Art on the Mart honing in on Chicago’s diverse public art. This nicely complements the self-guided Frank Lloyd Art Trail featuring 13 of his best-designed buildings throughout the state.

From art to architecture to music, Chicago’s historical prevalence concerning the history of Jazz makes it the ideal location for the modern Chicago Blues Museum, also due to open this 2019. Located near Millenium Park, the structure will highlight the pioneering blues individuals of the past while simultaneously supporting the artists of today by displaying traditions carried over, as well as housing a performance lounge.

Besides Chicago’s RiverRun, the city is looking to increase its diversity of owners along the RiverWalk. Three new areas with the vendor and city-funded upgrades to boot will begin construction this fall. This change is part of the $10 million allotted to improvements along the RiverWalk announced in January 2019.

Hotel Zachary in Chicago.
Hotel Zachary in Chicago.

The Hotel Zachary opened this past year. With its stunning views of the Michigan Lake and fantastic West Town Bakery, the wonderful amenities are all wrapped up in the nuanced architecture by the well-known architect and namesake of the hotel, Zachary Taylor Davis. The artistic touches will not be lost on the average city hopper.

If you’re looking for something more traditional look no further than The Wheelhouse Hotel. Intimate and luxurious, the baseball-inspired and hyperlocal experience will have you wishing you didn’t have to leave. If you’re a drinker, the speakeasy-style bar Tinker to Evers will definitely be the highlight of your stay. The name comes from the famous triple play from baseball’s olden days, (Tinker to Evers to Chance).

Chicago is one of the USA’s biggest convention markets, so you will probably end up there at some point if you go to a lot of conferences. It’s also the home of Lollapalooza if you’re into music festivals. And remember, one business trip to Chicago could pay for a free hotel stay in warm Miami beach if you play your Bonwi cards right.

With all the new and upcoming restaurants, entertainment, and upgrades exploding on the riverfront, make Chicago a top priority for your next big-city adventure.  And of course, you and fine great hotel deals in Chicago and use the points for a trip later on!

 

The Hotel Zones of Savannah, Georgia

East Bay Inn Savannah hotel

hotels in Savannah Georgia

Where should you stay when you visit Savannah, Georgia? Well there are plenty of great hotels to choose from there, so a lot of it depends on your style and how much walking you want to do. Savannah hotels get booked out quite far in advance sometimes, however, especially on weekends, so use this guide to figure out where you want to be and plan as far ahead as possible!

The Riverfront of Savannah

Savannah was founded as a port city up a deep river from the storm-rattled coast, a place where the British could base their trading operations in the new world. Tobacco, cotton, and less noble cargo went in and out of the riverfront docks at a furious pace for more than a century. Now most of those riverfront buildings have been converted to residences, shops, restaurants, and yes, hotels.

The Savannah Marriott Riverfront is one of the largest properties, sitting on a hill overlooking the river into South Carolina. There’s also a Hyatt Regency that may win the prize for the ugliest building in the area. Independent properties include The Cotton Sail Hotel, River Street Inn, and Olde Harbour Inn. The ironically named Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront is actually one of the most expensive places in town, part of the Autograph Collection.

Savannah riverfront hotel

Search rates and points paybacks in Savannah.

Hotels in the Historic Core of Savannah

Once you climb up the bluff from the river, that’s where you’ll find the greatest concentration of hotels. The ones along the first few blocks here are the most convenient, within walking distance to everything and close to all the best restaurants and bars.

I stayed at East Bay Inn while I was there and would highly recommend it. (See a full review here.) It’s in a historic brick building with spacious and elegant rooms, plus there’s a social hour each day with complimentary food and wine. The same company runs five other interesting properties under the Historic Inns of Savannah group.

East Bay Inn Savannah hotel

There are a few larger independent hotels in this strip, but most are chain hotels in converted commercial buildings. There’s an Andaz, Hampton Inn, Kimpton Brice, Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo, Doubletree, and Hilton Garden Inn all along Bay Street.

The Savannah Convention Center Hotel

If you are going to a convention in Savannah, you will be attending a conference hall that is on its own island in the middle of the river. That means you’ll be taking a ferry each morning and night (which is fairly quick and pleasant), or you will stay at the big high-rise hotel right next door. That would be the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort.

Savannah convention hotel

Among the Plazas

There are many hotels that are on various plazas throughout historic Savannah, most of them small inns or B&Bs. In the more commercial area though, there are a few newer builds that were constructed from the ground up.

Perry Lane roof deck bar in Savannah

Perry Lane Hotel is one of the newest and hippest places to stay, with the great roof deck pictured above that’s worth a stop in for a drink at least. It’s part of the Starwood now Marriott Luxury Collection. Independent hotels among the plazas include The DeSoto, Eliza Thompson House, 17Hundred90, and The Marshall House. The Mansion on Forsyth Park is where celebs in town filming a movie often stay.

Bargain Rates Require a Car

To find an inexpensive hotel in Savannah, you need to have a car or be willing to pay for long Uber rides. This is especially true on weekends when everything near the center is in high demand. Most of the inexpensive hotels are a miles out of town, away from the historic area.

Most of these are mid-range and budget chain hotels, all in a strip between Midtown and Oglethorpe Mall. There you’ll find Baymont, Homewood Suites, Fairfield Inn, EconoLodge, Hampton Inn, Motel 6, and the like.

Find the best Savannah hotel rates here, plus earn back more loyalty points than with any other program. For things to do in the area, see the Visit Savannah site.

Best Savannah hotel rates and loyalty points payback

Article and photos by Tim Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop and the Cheapest Destinations Blog. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico Has More than Just Sun for Travelers

The gondola to the top of Sandia Peak near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The gondola to the top of Sandia Peak near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

While Albuquerque rarely pops up on must-visit travel lists, it truly is a dream destination for travelers. As the biggest city in New Mexico, Albuquerque indulges in a culture unlike any other.

Brenna Moore, public relations and communications manager for Visit Albuquerque said it this way: “It is a city that truly exhibits the confluence of old and new. …People are…often surprised to see how contemporary and youthful Albuquerque is. While the existence of southwestern landscape and architecture is a part of the city’s character, Albuquerque is also rife with modern, innovative, contemporary influences.”

Next time you visit southwestern America, be sure to spend a few days in Albuquerque.

Where to Stay

Enjoy your stay at The Embassy Suites by Hilton Albuquerque Hotel & Spa, located in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. This all-suite hotel is only three miles from Albuquerque International Sunport and even closer to the University of New Mexico, and the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Need some fun family activities nearby? The Embassy Suites are in close proximity to attractions including the Albuquerque Natural History Museum, Balloon Fiesta Park, Historic Old Town, Sandia Peak Tramway and Sandia Ski Basin.

Each two-room suite features a separate living room with a sofa bed, WiFi, a large desk, a mini-refrigerator, and microwave. Start your day with a free made-to-order breakfast or stop by Caffeina’s for a bagel and coffee.

With a four-star rating on TripAdvisor, one traveler wrote, “It was closed to downtown, it was spacious, the suites clean, modern and comfortable. The hotel was cleaned, they offered us coupons for drinks at night, they offered also fruits and other bites at night for free in the main atrium which was huge. Breakfast was incredible, anything you want to eat, and it was free.”

Hotel Andaluz

What was once the tallest building in Albuquerque, New Mexico now stands Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque, Curio Collection by Hilton. Set in the heart of downtown, this marvelous hotel features stylish guest rooms, featuring unique artwork from around the world and Spanish-inspired design.

Each room includes bath amenities, luxury linens, a signature Andaluz robe, and complimentary WiFi. Hotel Andaluz has many different suite styles to choose from including the Penthouse suite with a separate living and dining area, sofa bed, powder room, copper soaking tub, and Bose sound system.

Don’t forget to try out the unique dining experience at the MAS Tapas y Vino where you can sip and eat, all while enjoying live entertainment at Ibiza Urban Rooftop Lounge, featuring views of downtown Albuquerque and the Sania Mountains. Other amenities include complimentary fitness club access, a business center and Mercado, featuring local bites and treasures.

Anchored by a central plaza, Old Town’s cobblestone streets house galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Anchored by a central plaza, Old Town’s cobblestone streets house galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Highlights: Hotel Andaluz features beautiful guest rooms and suites. Experience the food, drink, and entertainment on the rooftop lounge.

Anchored by a central plaza, Old Town’s cobblestone streets house galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Both Native American and Spanish cultures have been shaping this neighborhood for centuries. Old Town holds Albuquerque’s oldest building, San Felipe de Neri Church. Many visitors spend a few hours wandering around Old Town.

Rio Grand Botanical Garden, Albuquerque NM.
Rio Grand Botanical Garden, Albuquerque NM.

Sit Along the Rio Grande River at ABQ BioPark

The ABQ BioPark, just southeast of Old Town, gives any visitor a relaxing day spent outdoors. This massive park is home to four distinct attractions: an aquarium, a botanic garden, a zoo, and Tingley Beach. With a whole day worth of activities, ABQ BioPark is sure to provide you with an amazing day.

The aquarium features a 285,000-gallon shark tank and 200-plus species including snow leopards, kangaroos, and polar bears. If you’re not interested in attending the zoo, spend the afternoon exploring the 36-acre botanic gardens featuring exotic plant species along the walking paths. You can also find yourself with options to hike, bike and fish at Tingley Beach during a summertime visit.

For the most spectacular views of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains, take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway. These cable cars carry passengers about three miles along a suspended cable between eastern Albuquerque and the 10,378-foot-high summit of Sandia Peak. Visitors can be amazed by the views of the Rio Grande Valley and the Land of Enchantment.

Find hotels in Albuquerque New Mexico and use your Bonwi points for a future trip!

Visit New York City in January for the Cheapest Hotel Rooms

Winter Village at Bryant Park, Manhattan.

New York City is a timeless destination and one that is much cheaper to visit this time of year than in the spring and summer.  Since it’s a big city, you will be inside most of the time, so why not splurge on those airline tickets at a time when it’s never going to be cheaper?

What are the most popular places and attractions to visit?  Thrillist provides some good answers, and ways to see the Statue of Liberty, such as taking the Staten Island Ferry to get your obligatory selfie shot.  Another water-borne method of observing the Big Lady is to take the free IKEA store shuttle that goes to their Red Hook, Brooklyn location from Pier 11, Wall Street in Manhattan.

Winter Village at Bryant Park, Manhattan.
Winter Village at Bryant Park, Manhattan.

There are some fun reasons to bring your family to New York City in January, besides the great hotel deals.  You can check out the Winter Village at Bryant Park, for example, and get some good deals on handicrafts, artwork and other locally made things. Plus they have a free ice skating rink, igloos to play in and even ice bumper cars!

But what about hotels?   I was told by more than one hotel manager that there is no better time than mid to late January to score rooms at hotels that normally would be much, much higher.   A quick glance at Google reveals that discounts are far higher this month than you’d expect.

There are a total of about 270 hotels in the city, and the second largest property is the old classic, Marriott Marquis Times Square.  This hotel is unique for New York City because of its size, 1966 rooms, and the way they are set up, a square all around a very, very long drop down to the lobby. It’s the tallest hotel atrium in the world.

The largest hotel in the city is the New York Hilton Midtown, with 1980 rooms. This Hilton is the 101st largest hotel property in the world and was built in 1963.   Every US president since John F. Kennedy has stayed at this hotel, so it must have something special, besides being the biggest in the city.

Book a stay at the Hilton,  or any of the 269 other New York Hotels and use Bonwi points to get another stay later on.

 

Wilmington Delaware: Fabulous Mansions to Wander Through

A luxurious room at the Hotel Dupont in Wilmington Delaware.
A luxurious room at the Hotel Dupont in Wilmington Delaware.

Wilmington, Delaware is famous for the Dupont family, the founders of the chemical company of the same name–and when in Wilmington, the standard bearer for old-line, classic hotels is the Hotel Dupont, right downtown.

The Dupont costs more than any other hotel in the city, but then, it’s historic, luxurious, and people rave about it, like these guests who stayed there in January 2019 for a wedding.

One gushed, “Your hotel and wedding venue was amazing!! Food and service were outstanding. We were there for a wedding, and it was nothing short from breathtaking!!! Everything was what a gorgeous wedding should be. The hotel rooms were so comfortable and relaxing. We can’t wait to return!!!

If you not up for a hotel that goes for upwards of $400 a night, there are plenty of other options in Wilmington, such as reliable chains like the Sheraton Suites, or Fairfield Inn.

The interior of Winterthur, which is much different from Nemours mansion.
The interior of Winterthur, which is much different from Nemours mansion. Tab Hauser photo.

Winterthur is an attraction that lights up many guides to the city.  This is the former estate of Henry Francis du Pont. Winterthur is set on 979 acres with a 175 room, eight-story mansion that was converted into the largest collection of “decorative arts” in America.  One writer described the mansion, which is packed to the rafters with furniture, arts, and antiques, as looking “like hoarders took over.”

A perfect spot for tea at the Nemours mansion in Brandywine. Tab Houser photo.
A perfect spot for tea at the Nemours mansion in Brandywine. Tab Houser photo.

The other Dupont mansion worth a visit to in Greater Wilmington is the Nemours Estate.  This 300-acre property is open for guided tours.  While a visit to Longwood Gardens centered on their gardens and not the mansion, Nemours is the opposite.

Here, the mansion, modeled on a French chateau with its 105 rooms at 47,500 square feet is the center of attention. It is surrounded by a formal French garden and a pretty walk down a long grass lawn to a one-acre reflecting pool complete with marble statues.  It’s quite a site to see!

Find hotels in Wilmington Delaware and use Bonwi points for free nights the next time.

Anaheim, California Enters the Big Time

Steelcraft container park in Garden Grove, California.
JW Marriott in Anaheim, opening in 2019.
JW Marriott in Anaheim, opening in 2019.

Anaheim, California has passed an important milestone in the travel convention business–their convention center is now 1.8 million square feet, so they can attract some of the biggest meetings and conferences in the state.

Next June, the city will host the world with the huge IPW Show presented by USA Travel. More than 6,000 travel and tourism representatives from 75 countries and all of the US states will be there.

Anaheim has been on a hotel-building boom, with more than 23 million visitors year ’round, and 150 hotels in the city that calls Disneyland home.  Here are some of the highlights.

Catal Restaurant, Downtown Disney, Anaheim.
Catal Restaurant, Downtown Disney, Anaheim.

At Disneyland, the company is  building a new 700-room luxury hotel. It’s slated to open in 2021.   Also in the works is the city’s first Element by Westin property that will open this summer at 205 W. Alro Way, just four miles from the Anaheim Convention Center.

The five-story, 174-room hotel will offer a pool deck with barbecue grills and lounge chairs, suites and studio rooms, plus a fitness center.

A luxury hotel by JW Marriott is in the works to open in 2019, adjacent to the GardenWalk in the city’s Resort district.  The 12-story $150 million property will have 466 guest rooms as well as meeting space for groups.

The seven-story Westin Anaheim Resort adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center will feature 613 guest rooms, including 101 suites, three restaurants, two bars including a rooftop lounge and provide guests a great view of Disneyland’s nightly fireworks.   This major property will also be opening in Anaheim 2019.

Anaheim is definitely a city for beer lovers. Currently there are 15 craft breweries in the city and there are three more on the drawing board for 2019!  And many of the existing breweries are expanding, like Golden Road Brewing that’s across from Angels stadium and offers a new 18,000 square foot indoor and outdoor beer garden and full service restaurant.  Noble Ale Works, near Honda Stadium, is also expanding this year by 10,000 square feet. Drink up!

SteelCraft Garden Grove just added the containers to the site November 2018, so it should be ready to open in 2019.
SteelCraft Garden Grove just added the containers to the site November 2018, so it should be ready to open in 2019.

Anaheim is also getting its own container park, like the one in Las Vegas, built from the homely containers that you can also see now in Long Beach.   This will be Orange County’s first shipping container food hall.  SteelCraft Garden Grove will include 20 artisanal retailers and restaurants, including coffee, wine, beer and dessert offerings, all located in repurposed cargo containers that are 40 feet each.  Opening in 2019.

Find hotels in Anaheim and save money using Bonwi points.

Is It the “Best Hotel Price” for You? Or for Them?

best price on hotel bookings every time

Every hotel booking site claims in some way to give you “the best rates” or “the best price,” but are they really showing you the best deal for you?

Why do some properties get placed at the top of the search results instead of others? Can you believe Booking.com when they say there are only “2 rooms left at this price”?

Can you believe it when Expedia tells you a displayed price is slashed from the normal one–and that there’s only one room left?

misleading hotel booking information

As you’ve probably guessed, the answer is “not exactly. ” Booking.com is constantly testing ways to get you to commit and one of them is by creating artificial scarcity. Often if they are telling the truth when they say they only have four rooms at that price, other sites may have plenty. It just means the Booking.com allotment is almost sold out.

That price you see above from the Expedia page is not special to Expedia. I saw the same rate on other sites, including Wyndham’s own and Bonwi’s, but without any scare language about that price being about to disappear.

The Games Hotel Booking Sites Play

These practices are nothing new, but it gets worse. You would assume that by using a site that presents multiple prices from multiple sites, you would get the best possible deal, right? If Trivago or HotelsCombined shows you the lowest rate across every online travel agent they track, you should be able to trust that you’re seeing the best rate, right? That’s what the Trivago guy or gal (depending on your nationality) keeps telling you in the TV ads.

Alas, it’s all a game. According to this article in Travel Pulse, “Trivago admits to misleading its customers” and could face more than $10 million in fines from the the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Trivago essentially led customers to believe that the results page had the lowest prices, but the ACCC discovered cheaper deals in the “more deals’ section which customers were not made aware of.

It came out that one of Trivago’s favorite tricks was to compare a standard room on one site with an upgraded room at another site and then show the difference as a big discount. They also “prioritized advertisers who were willing to pay the highest cost per click fee,” said the ACCC in a statement.

Here’ s the most telling admission:

Trivago has since updated their website to tell customers that hotels are ranked by ‘compensation paid by the booking site.’

In other words, if Hotels.com is paying them a higher click-through rate that Agoda, they are going to show you that the Hotels.com rate is lower, even when it’s not. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of using a site comparison tool like this?

best price on hotel bookings every time

How to Be Sure It’s a Great Hotel Deal

If you book through Bonwi, you’re guaranteed to get the best price available. We’ve even compared their rates (and points paybacks) to the ones you find from the hotel chain itself, like with IHG, Marriott, or Hilton. We’ve also compared the rates between Bonwi and Hotels.com.

There is one huge difference though in how the properties are displayed or ranked. The automatic sort in Bonwi is to show you the highest payback in points. In other words, the prime filter above all others is to show you which is the best deal for you. Which booking will result in the biggest points payback–the biggest rebate?

If you search Orlando on Expedia for dates in February, it’s hard to know how you’d find the best hotel price for you. The first result has “Sponsored” in tiny type, the second is a random medical center Hampton Inn, the third is $730 a night, and the fourth is a downtown Aloft hotel. How do these end up at the top? Well one is a paid ad, first of all, and placement of the others is a mystery. They’re not showing you the biggest discounts or the cheapest prices.

Let’s compare that to what you see on Bonwi if you pull up the same dates. You will always see the hotels with the biggest point paybacks at the top, regardless of price. I didn’t show the first few results because those are expensive Disney resort properties with huge points payoffs. But scroll down a bit and you still get a big rebate for that booking—enough to get you another hotel room somewhere or around $200 in flight credit.

best hotel price and payback at Bonwi

You’ll notice that I clicked the “Compare Public Prices” for that second listing. It shows what the other major booking prices are charging. That way you can be sure you’re always getting the best hotel price—without any fake discounts or sorting tricks.

To get the best rate for you every time instead of what is best for the booking site, head to Bonwi.com. You’ll get the best hotel price and the biggest payback you can use for more travel.

The Declining Appeal of Traditional Hotel Loyalty Programs

What's Marriott doing with your personal data?

Is your loyalty program paying off with a vacation?

What is your loyalty to a specific company or brand worth? Are you getting enough benefits from a traditional hotel loyalty program to make it worth them having deep insight into your habits and your travels? Does less privacy equate to better service?

It’s looking like many consumers are saying no. They’re joining brand loyalty programs when they’re forced to, like when a big hotel conglomerate won’t give them WiFi access otherwise, but increasingly they’re leaving it at that and not really participating.

That’s the conclusion of a study mentioned in an article in Skift on “brand loyalty in the era of the empowered traveler.” More people than ever are signing up for branded loyalty programs, but fewer are actually loyal in any real sense of the word.

According to loyalty insights firm Colloquy, the number of memberships in travel and hospitality loyalty programs grew by 20 percent between 2014 and 2016, surpassing more than a billion members. Yet during this same period, more than half (54 percent) of these travel loyalty memberships were inactive, and more than one quarter (28 percent) were abandoned without ever being used.

There are a lot of reasons for this that any traveler who is not a business road warrior could tell you.

Brand Loyalty Is More Pain Than Gain

1) It takes too long to earn any rewards.
We sign up for a traditional hotel loyalty program through Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott because we can’t get free internet access otherwise (except at their lower-priced brands, ironically), or we may even pay more money when booking direct without a membership number. So we grudgingly give our details, but then that’s often the end of it. It takes another year or two before we spend a night with that brand again and the earnings are never enough to get a free stay. The account is inactive and eventually the points expire. It was all an empty exercise. This is especially frustrating to younger travelers who want quicker rewards.

2) We can’t tell the difference between the hotel brands.
It has become impossible to keep up with all the hotel brands out there. After Marriott and Starwood merged, that sprawling beast has 30+ brands. Wyndham has 18. And most of these conglomerates are planning new brands! Do you really know which company oversees Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, or Cambria Suites? Do you like any one of them enough to always stay with them instead of the competition, just to earn a couple thousand points?

30+ hotel brands to keep track of with Marriott

3) We are getting tired of giving up so much privacy.
The Skift article linked above seems to think the solution is spying on us more in order “to serve us better.” If only they could dig up more info on our personal preferences, that would make us more loyal.

This is a seriously flawed premise. Just because someone answers in the affirmative that they like booking preferences saved in an app doesn’t mean they want everything they do in a hotel room to reside in a big data database.

Again, ask anyone who is not in a hotel every week if they want lodging corporations to know more about them and you’ll usually get a flat, “No way!” It’s one thing for a hotel chain to acknowledge our elite status and address us by our name. It’s quite another to know what we drank at the bar our last three stays and try to use that to predict what kind of services we require. It doesn’t take long for “personalized service” to cross over to, “You are seriously creeping me out here guys.”

What's Marriott doing with your personal data?

4) We’re worried about our data being stolen.
The more data we give these sprawling corporations, the more of our information is subject to hacking. Marriott just learned that the hard way when hackers stole the information for 500 million Starwood guests. How do you feel knowing all that data they gathered on you may be in the hands of the Chinese government now? Or for sale to the highest bidder on the dark web?

This was not an isolated incident either—it was just the largest. Smaller breaches have hit Hyatt, IHG, Kimpton, Trump Hotels, Radisson, and others.

A Low-key Loyalty Program With the Fastest Payback

There’s a way to get something out of every booking, no matter which brand you stay with, and earn free rewards faster. You won’t have a company spying on all your personal habits either. Just sign up with Bonwi and book your hotel stays through them.

You’ll see up front how many points you are earning for your stay:

Points back for Los Cabos Resorts

Just try getting a payoff that big from any traditional hotel loyalty program. Then it’s easy to figure out what you can get for your points when you cash in:

use Bonwi points for free hotel stays

If you want, you can even book a flight with your points on a simple 1-cent per mile redemption formula. Or you can book a rental car with those points. The system is transparent, simple to figure out, and doesn’t come with short expiration windows.

With Bonwi you only have to be loyal to yourself. You don’t have to stay with the same brand and you don’t have to give up a mountain of personal data. You just earn, cash in, and enjoy your travels.

Austin Texas: Still Hip, and Now, Booming with New Hotels

Austin's newest hotel is the Line Hotel on Cesar Chavez Blvd.
Austin's newest hotel is the Line Hotel on Cesar Chavez Blvd.
Austin’s newest hotel is the Line Hotel on Cesar Chavez Blvd.

Austin’s always been a bit of a spoiled brat of a city. I mean, it’s impossibly hip, it’s got Google Fiber, the fastest internet on the planet, and everyone who’s cool and hip is seen every March at the famous South by Southwest Conference.

But what we want to know is, what’s NEW?  Austin for the past few years has been on a hotel-building frenzy, with nine hotels coming online. The city added 2000 rooms in 2015 alone!

The Line Hotel was built in a 1965-era building that was once the home of a jazz club where live jazz was performed and played on local radio.  The new hotel is now open right on the lake, which is also a river.

The Line Hotel is a classic old style hotel, with new amenities that bring it into the 21st century. The designers have incorporated local artwork into many parts of the building, and they host many music and cultural events.

The Line’s lakeside infinity pool will tempt guests who will want to linger before taking on the city’s exciting music scene.

In 2018, the elegant Fairmont Hotel, from Canada, opened up a 37-floor, five- restaurant behemoth in Austin on Red River Street, with 1048 rooms and suites.

The rooftop pool at the Hotel Van Zandt in Austin Texas.
The rooftop pool at the Hotel Van Zandt in Austin Texas.

The Hotel Van Zandt opened a year earlier, a Kimpton property, it features a swanky rooftop pool and that oh-so-hip atmosphere the K brand is famous for.   You can bring any sized pet, and they even have a dog sitting and walking service available!

And you can even watch the amazing site when the world’s largest urban bat colony emerges in summer when you’re sitting on their outdoor deck.

Geraldine’s, the Van Zandt’s restaurant and bar, is a hot spot for local music lovers, and for those who love shareable plates of New American cuisine.

The new luxe boutique hotel, the Archer Austin.
The new luxe boutique hotel, the Archer Austin.

The Archer Hotel is another new stand-out in Austin, this one is a boutique hotel with eight stories and 171 rooms, and the Second Bar and Kitchen, where chef David Bull’s gourmet cuisine is presented in an airy setting with floor to ceiling windows.

You’re right where the action is at the Archer,  where the Rock Rose, Domain NORTHSIDE’s entertainment district, is a best-of compilation of Austin’s homegrown restaurants, bars, and shopping.

The smaller Hotel Ella is a boutique property in Austin.
The smaller Hotel Ella is a boutique property in Austin.

For something a bit different, and more historic, try the Hotel Ella, that’s walking distance from the University of Texas at Austin. Constructed in 1900, the Greek Revival-style mansion underwent an extensive renovation in 2013, and now offers a perfect balance between modernity and a rich history.

With 47 guest rooms, a cabana-lined pool, and a wrap-around veranda, Hotel Ella features beautifully designed outdoor and indoor spaces you’ll find the perfect spot for a business gathering or a romantic getaway.

If you’re thinking of Austin for SXSW, or just for the fun of it, find Austin Hotels on Bonwi.com and use your points for a future stay.

Cleveland: The Forest City Rocks

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
A scenic bridge in Cleveland, Ohio.
A scenic bridge in Cleveland, Ohio.

 Named “The Forest City” in 1834, Cleveland, Ohio has a deep pipeline of history. Located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland is dynamic, sophisticated and vibrant.

Cleveland rapidly became one of the largest manufacturing hubs in the United States in its early days. The city’s location on the river and lake shores, as well as being connected to many canals and railroad lines, made this the perfect manufacturing center.

Over the years, Cleveland has been a home to many crime stories and crime-lords. Crime is particularly present in only certain districts of the city, and other neighborhoods are very inviting for visitors.

Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is an ideal location to sit back and enjoy a cold craft beer or locally distilled spirit among the history. Clevelanders have created a city known for award-winning food and historic buildings. The vibrant, culturally diverse city is filled with world-class museums, attractions, and parks.

Cleveland Museum of Art.
Cleveland Museum of Art.

Home to the second largest performing arts center in the United States, Cleveland hosts many Broadway musicals, concerts, speakers and other large events throughout the year. Playhouse Square Center, in the Cleveland Theater District, was originally constructed in the 1920s. After closing down, through grassroots efforts the building was revived and is recognized as “one of the top ten successes in Cleveland history”, for an entrance to the new era of downtown revitalization.

Cleveland Museum of Art is a globally recognized attraction and with a $755 million endowment, it is the fourth-wealthiest art museum in the nation. The establishment houses over 45,000 works of art from around the world over 5,000 years of time and is internationally renowned for its holdings of Asian and Egyptian art. The museum is now one of the most visited art museums in the entire world.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of the most recognized faces of Cleveland. In 2017 alone, more than half a million visitors traveled to see the famous establishment. Credited to holding the country’s first rock ‘n’ roll concert, the city has hosted some of the most famous faces of rock; from the Beatles, Paul Simon, Elvis, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and many more.

In April of 2018, Cleveland hosted the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, with Bon Jovi, the Cars and other rockers flooding the city.  Visitors can expect to see impressive collections of memorabilia— from John Lennon’s guitar to hip-hop pioneer Jam Master Jay’s gold chains. The Hall showcases many installations throughout the year, a recently popular exhibit being a history of women in rock.

Bon Jovi at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2018.
Bon Jovi at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2018.

Cleveland is not short of places to stay either.  Downtown is lined with new and old hotels, exhibiting the city’s vibrancy, diversity, and history. The DoubleTree by Hilton is warm, welcoming and is the closest hotel to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The building overlooks the shore of Lake Erie and is close any attractions you and your family may want to visit during your stay.

Metropolitan Hotel, Cleveland.
Metropolitan Hotel at the 9, Cleveland, Ohio.

The Metropolitan Hotel at the 9, is a luxury property to pamper you.  Located in the center of downtown Cleveland, the art and history of the city blend seamlessly at the iconic location. The design of the hotel displays bold designs, distinctive amenities to create a unique travel experience full of character.

Whether you’re going to Cleveland on business or pleasure, be sure to look into Bonwi and after you book, you’ll get points to use the next time.

Chattanooga: The Scenic City Is Ready for New Visitors

Choo Choo Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Choo Choo Hotel lobby in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Tucked between mountains and the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is one of America’s most breathtaking cities and has garnered the nickname “Scenic City”.  Beginning about two decades ago, private and governmental resources have invested an incredible amount of time and money to transform the city’s tarnished image.

In fact, the New York Times named the city one of the “Top 45 Places to go” in the World. The renovated city has also taken home many national awards for outstanding livability and largest metro areas where to get the best “Bang For Your Buck”.

The “21st Century Waterfront Plan” was put in place in the early 2000’s to revitalize the downtown area and making use of the Riverfront’s natural resources. Since then, visitor numbers have drastically increased and the city is opening new attractions and accommodations each year to support the influx of crowds.

The Scenic City has become a world of outdoor adventure, amazing restaurants, boutique hotels, live events, and world-class attractions.

One of the best and safe ways to explore the city is on the water. New attractions line the Tennessee River offering endless activities like paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing, and electric unicycle rides.

Chattanooga is home to one of the nation’s top children’s museums, the Creative Discovery Museum, perfect for a day for family fun. The museum inspires children’s passion for learning through play; clay sculptures, message zooming through pneumatic tubes, digging for dinosaur bones and cast assuming in the Back Alley Theatre. A great way for the family to enjoy the hands-on activity while inspiring imagination in the younger generations.

Ruby Falls Village, Chattanooga, TN
Ruby Falls Village, Chattanooga, TN

As Ruby Falls celebrates their 88th birthday in 2018, they are proud to open the first phase of the $20 million expansion. A destination that inspires exploration, Ruby Falls is home to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall, located 1,120 feet beneath the surface of Lookout Mountain.

Highlights of the expansion include a new entrance, accessible Blue Heron Overlook, shaded open-air dining, the Village Gift Shop, and the Village Plaza that serves as a gathering place with live music and food carts. Guided tours are offered to explore the cavern trails and ancient geological formation, supported by abundant views of Chattanooga.

Chattanooga offers some of the very best accommodations in the country. For an authentic experience of the city’s history, the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel is the place to stay. Opened in 1909 as a terminal station during the golden age of railroads, today the station stands as a grand hotel in downtown Chattanooga.

The Edwin Hotel, Chattanooga, TN
The Edwin Hotel, Chattanooga.

The building boasts dining, retail shops, rose gardens and a unique twist to spending a night in town. Guests can overnight in beautifully restored sleeper cars, which were once reserved for the wealthiest of passengers in the railroad era.

Many new accommodations are being welcomed to the city in the fall of 2018. Two of the most highly anticipated additions include the Edwin Hotel and Moxy Hotel, both boutique hotels.

Whether you’re off to Chattanooga on business or for fun, why not use Bonwi points and get free hotel nights?

Where to Stay for the Montreal International Jazz Festival

Montreal Jazz Festival performers

Montreal Jazz Festival performers Lowdown Brass Band

Where are the best places to stay near the Montreal Jazz Fest that happens each summer? Which hotels get you close to the action?

If you’re headed to the International Festival of Jazz in Montreal, Canada, one of the great advantages is that it’s in a very central, pedestrian-friendly area. You don’t have to bus out to some distant fairgrounds area or spend a fortune on taxi rides. All of the outdoor stage shows are free and they’re clustered around the largest concert hall, where the big-name paid shows are. You can come and go as you please, doing your dining and drinking at local bars and restaurants if you don’t like the selection near the stages. (When I attended in 2018, none of the available beers were Canadian!)

If you stay near the event, you can pop back to your hotel to change, shower, or take a nap between shows. Then you’ll be ready to hit the late concerts, which can run until midnight. Then the fun moves to the clubs. Here’s where to check in nearby.

Hyatt Regency Montreal

You can literally watch a show from the sun deck a

bar at the Hyatt Regency Montreal right by the Jazz Festival

t this Hyatt in the center of the action. You walk out the door and you’re at the entrance to the festival, so you may be sharing the elevator with a legendary jazz musician on the way.

There are nearly 600 rooms though, so you can snag one fairly easily if you book ahead. The set-up is a little strange in that the first few floors are a shopping mall, but this being Quebec, you’ll find plenty of quality meals in the food court. You can also go grocery shopping without leaving the building–and there’s a fridge in the room.

Delta Hotels by Marriott Montreal

One of the 30 brands you can’t keep straight in the Marriott portfolio, this is the best one if you’re looking for a solid chain property with no quirkiness or surprises. With 465 rooms, there’s often availability and a good rate right up to a few weeks before the festival. There’s a spa and 24-hour room service if you party too hard at the festivities.

Courtyard Montreal Downtown

Another “no surprises” Marriott choice, this one is just one block downhill from the festival perimeter, so when you’re done for the night it’s all downhill to your room.

Montreal International Jazz Festival crowd

L’Appartement Hotel

Near the Delta but with lower rates and free breakfast, this one will get your day started right and leave a little cash for food trucks and drinks. Or you can make use of the in-room kitchen that most rooms have. It does have a gym if you overindulge and there’s even a rooftop pool to take advantage of the summer sun.

Best Western Plus on Ste. Catherine Street

This is often the best value choice in the area, so book well ahead of time for Montreal Jazz Festival 2019 or 2020. Otherwise those strapped international touring musicians  may beat you to it. Although it’s a relatively inexpensive option, this is one of the newest hotels in the area.

Le Square Phillips Montreal hotel

Le Square Phillips Hotel

Rates here are often reasonable and Le Square is in a great location. It’s near the metro, the Underground City, and Chinatown, but it’ll take you less than 10 minutes of walking to get to your favorite performance stage.

Hotel Le Dauphin Montreal Downtown

If you’d like to spend your days in the historic section and your nights at the Jazz Festival, Le Dauphin is in a good location between the two. Rates are usually reasonable at this minimalist, Danish-modern feel hip hotel.

Hôtel Zero 1

This is another stylish choice near the festival if you’re trying to avoid the typical chain hotel feel. Most of the 124 rooms are smaller than you’ll find at other properties on this list, but they’re well-designed and have a fridge. There’s a gym and a roof deck, but no pool.

Hotel Quartier des Spectacles

This budget hotel option is close enough that you could catch glimpses of who is coming on stage from your window if you’re on the top floor, with the hotel located right on Ste. Catherine Street. This is a quirky choice, sharing a lobby with Hotel Abri du Voyageur and with no elevators for the four-floor building, so you may not want to just blindly pick the cheapest room.

Montreal Jazz Festival performers

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

If you’re not much of a planner and you decide the week before to head to the International Festival of Jazz, you may well end up here at the Fairmont. It’s Montreal’s largest hotel, with 950 rooms in a building complex started in 1958. It has been through many renovations over the years and is known for running like a well-oiled machine.

Get the most reward points back with Bonwi

If you book any of these Montreal hotels with Bonwi, you can compare rates to other sites right on the page to make sure you’re getting the best possible rate. Even better, you will earn reward points back on every night’s stay that you can redeem later for free hotels nights, an airline seat with no restrictions, or a rental car. If none of that works, you can get the same return value on a gift card! See all the options here:

Montreal hotels with high reward point earnings.

 

Bleisure Travel in Detroit: Mix Business and Pleasure

The Parlor, a room at the Siren Hotel in Detroit.
The Parlor, a room at the Siren Hotel in Detroit.
The Parlor, a room at the Siren Hotel in Detroit.

Bleisure travel is quickly becoming the newest popular trend among young professionals. The idea is simple – you have to go on a work-mandated excursion to meet a client or attend a conference in a city you’ve never been to before? Why not use up a couple of those well-earned vacation days and take some time for yourself to see it from a tourist’s perspective?

And with Bonwi points, you can buy the hotel for work and use the points to extend your trip for fun!

By spreading out their vacation days into a multitude of smaller, less exotic mini-vacations, millennials are effectively finding the ability to check out unexplored parts of the country and take advantage of some of the new attractions these always-growing cities have to offer.

One of the most popular locations for these wanderlusting young people is America’s Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. Detroit is facing a revitalization effort of epic proportions, with engaging new attractions being built all the time.

Coupled with these new developments is a greater emphasis placed on luxurious and trendy spaces for visitors to stay and explore the city. Recently, three exciting new hotels are opening up within a two-block section of downtown Detroit that are sure to garner the interest of bleisure-minded folks.

The Siren Hotel

The new Siren Hotel by ASH NYC is finding its home inside of the historic yet seriously dilapidated 1926 Wurlitzer Building. The restoration process was completed in November of last year and its massive transformation left even locals to the area stunned.

The hotel consists of 106 guestrooms, a rooftop deck, 2 retail spaces, and several food and beverage options. The aesthetic of the building’s new design draws from the history of the once bustling organ manufacturer’s main office building and incorporates some new ideas from the mind of chief designer Will Cooper.

The location is perfect for those looking to find a downtown headquarters for their explorations of the most happening part of the city and offers a great variety of room options for any prospective guest.

A Parlor Suite at The Siren Hotel (from their website)

The Element Detroit Hotel

Opening in December 2018, Marriott’s new installation in their extended-stay Element Hotel series is sure to take Detroit by storm.

Finding its place in the once-great Metropolitan Building, the first Element Hotel to open in Michigan will be a 14-story, 110 room sanctum for those looking to stay in the city for a longer period.

The hotel will have 2,000 square feet of meeting space on its second floor, making it the ideal location for in-town business operations and will also have a great deal of retail and restaurant space.

This redevelopment will certainly mark a fantastic improvement for the run-down building, originally set for demolition.

The Shinola Hotel

Last, but certainly not least on our list is the set redevelopment of the building at 1400 Woodward Avenue into the chic new Shinola Hotel. This project will see the disheveled shell of a building turn into one of the most happening places to stay in the city.

The transformation of this building is the brainchild of two famous Detroit-based companies, Shinola and Bedrock. Their creative collaboration promises to produce one of the most happening spots in downtown.

Along with this renovation, the project will also open up a back-alley that connects the hotel with the previous two listed, the Siren and the Element,

The hotel will provide 130 rooms for its guests and 16,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. It is slated to open late this year and will be an excellent place to relax after spending a night out on the town.

So if you find yourself in Detroit later this year on business, think about the opportunity to extend your stay in one of these elaborate new renovations to some of Detroit’s most famous buildings.

Use your Bonwi Points and enjoy a stay at fine hotels like these–and get points back to spend as you wish!