Oakland, California: Highlights of the City

Jack London Square in Oakland, California.
Oakland California skyline.
Oakland California skyline.

Oakland California doesn’t get the same flattering press that some of its neighbors, like San Francisco, do, but there are many good reasons to visit the city made famous by author Jack London.  Though there are some parts of Oakland you should probably avoid visiting, just like in Chicago and Baltimore, it’s quite easy to find desirable places to enjoy time with family without visiting the bad parts.

Start with sports: The city with just 400,000 inhabitants is home to the world champion Golden State Warriors Basketball team.  Oakland’s Oracle Arena gets rocking with a sea of yellow shirts when Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant begin tossing in three-pointers and win game after game. Try to get tickets from a ticker-reseller just before game time.

Don’t miss Lake Merritt during your time in Oakland, California! This lake is recognized as the country’s first official wildlife refuge, surrounded by lush green parkland and urban city neighborhoods.

Lake Merritt, Oakland, California.
Lake Merritt, Oakland, California.

Lake Merritt is a large tidal lagoon that is home to many species and visited by locals and tourists. Inside the lake, artificial islands have been designed as bird sanctuaries. The area also features walking paths and a boating center where canoes, rowboats, and sailboats can be rented out for a day of fun on the water. Lake Merritt is a great place to visit.  There’s even a themed amusement park for children, Children’s Fairyland!

For those more interested in the flora and fauna, check out the beautiful seven-acre collection of themed gardens known as The Gardens at Lake Merritt.

Jack London Square in Oakland, California.
Jack London Square in Oakland, California.

Found on Oakland’s waterfront, Jack London Square is a popular destination named after the world-renowned author, Jack London. This area is popular for entertainment and business, boasting restaurants, stores, hotels, an Amtrak Station, and more!  Every Sunday morning, locals and visitors alike can explore the farmer’s market for some bargains and farm fresh foods.

Tilden Park is a beautiful region in Oakland filled with outdoor adventure. There’s plenty of activities to immerse yourself in including an environmental center, steam train, merry-go-round, and golf course! This 2,000+ acre park is a respite for summer fun.  While you’re there, be sure to check out the botanic garden and swim in the lake.

Afterward, enjoy a picnic in the many seating areas.

The Morcom Rose Garden is a beautiful garden in Oakland featuring intricate paths and walkways, a reflecting pool, cascading fountain, and thousands of roses. This garden is named after Mayor Frank Morcom, known for planting the first rose bush in Oakland in 1933.

This garden has been a sanctuary of peace and tranquility, even serving for special occasions such as weddings. Visiting the Morcom Rose Garden is one of the best romantic things to do in Oakland.

Kids love visiting the Oakland Zoo.
Kids love visiting the Oakland Zoo.

The Oakland Zoo features 650+ native and exotic animals, a wildlife theater, and educational programs. This animal sanctuary covers a hundred acres of modern exhibits and natural habitats. There are also interactive displays for visitors to learn more about the zoo’s inhabitants.

The Oakland Zoo is nationally known for its excellent elephant exhibit, where the grey giants roam freely. Inside the zoo, the Valley Children’s Zoo boasts interactive play structures for children and is home to a range of unusual animals, including ring-tailed lemurs, century-old tortoises, pot-bellied pigs, and bats. The Children’s Zoo also has a modern Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room and Bug Room, which is a favorite with younger visitors.

Waterfront Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel

Stay at the Waterfront Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel to be in the heart of Oakland. Only a two-minute drive from Jack London Square and seven minutes from the Oakland Museum of California, this hotel will put you right in the center of it all. Enjoy one of the 143 air-conditioned rooms featuring docking stations and flat-screen televisions.

Hotel Highlights: Make sure to take advantage of the outdoor pool, sauna, and 24-hour fitness center. Enjoy a meal at the restaurant or snacks in the coffee shop/cafe. Wrap up your day with a drink at the bar/lounge. Continental breakfasts are available for a fee.

At the Hilton Oakland Airport, you’ll be close to the airport and within a five-minute drive of San Francisco Bay. Make yourself at home in one of the 360 air-conditioned rooms featuring docking stations and flat-screen televisions.

Hotel Highlights: Spend some time in the outdoor pool or fitness center. Additional amenities at this hotel include complimentary wireless Internet access, an arcade/game room, and gift shops/newsstands.

Grab a bite at Sports Edition Bar Grill, one of the hotel’s two restaurants, or stay in and take advantage of the room service. Snacks are also available at the coffee shop/café. Wrap up your day with a drink at the bar/lounge. Buffet breakfasts are available daily from 6 AM to 10 AM for a fee.

Interested finding a hotel in Oakland? Check out bonwi.com for more hotels and use your Bonwi points to use during another stay

Norfolk, Virginia: A Navy Town with a Battleship to Explore

The Chrysler Museum in Norfolk Virginia.
The Chrysler Museum in Norfolk Virginia.
The Chrysler Museum in Norfolk Virginia.

In the southeast corner of Virginia, the city of Norfolk is filled with exciting things to do for families, solo travelers, and couples alike. Home to the largest naval base in the entire world and one of the most important art museums on the east coast, Norfolk draws the attention of a diverse group of visitors. And as this beautiful city is on the water, there’s plenty of nature to indulge yourself in.

Deep inside the Ghent district, better known for being the most artistic area of the city, is the Chrysler Museum of Art. The museum dates back to the 1930s and is based on the art collection of Walter Chrysler, of the automobile fame.

It holds over 30,000 items in the collection that will take you back thousands of years including sculptures, paintings, glasswork, photography, and decorative arts. Famous for being one of the most important museums in the Southeastern United States, this is something you don’t want to miss.

The USS Wisconsin was once a giant active battleship that was in operation during the Second World War as well as the Korean War. Although the ship was retired in the 1980s, it was called up for service again for Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s.

Now, the ship is a nautical museum in Norfolk where visitors can take self-guided tours through different parts of the ship including offices, an onboard chapel,  and the staterooms of the officers.

There are also guided tours available where you can follow the full history of the ship while seeing other parts of the USS Wisconsin including the captain’s cabin.

The USS Wisconsin is a popular tourist attraction in Norfolk, Virginia
The USS Wisconsin is a popular tourist attraction in Norfolk, Virginia

 The former home of the Moses Myers, a famous American entrepreneur who was crucial in the growth of Norfolk, gives visitors a look into how people would have lived in this part of the United States at the turn of the century.

The Moses Myers House has been restored over the years, but many of the original furnishings are still in place. In fact, the house is known for being one of the first brick buildings to have ever been built in Norfolk.

Moses Myers house in Norfolk, VA.
Moses Myers house in Norfolk, VA.

Dive into some colorful nature at the Norfolk Botanical Garden that fills up 150 acres and is divided into different sections that include over forty gardens, each with its own unique theme. The gardens are seasonal meaning the flowers and plants bloom all year round.

The Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk VA.
The Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk VA.

There’s even a special garden dedicated to younger visitors. All visitors can enjoy the different themes such as a relaxing Japanese garden complete with traditional Japanese ponds, as well as a Hummingbird Garden filled with both flowers and the unique birds. There’s even a Tropical Display Garden that features all of the mimics a rainforest environment.

The Virginia Zoo

Inside the lovely Lafayette Park, The Virginia Zoo holds over 500 animals from elephants to rare species of frogs. Visitors will find animals from all over the world here including Africa, Australia, and Asia. The zoo is divided into specific exhibits to showcase the different species, such as the Trail of the Tiger which has tigers from Malaysia. The Virginia Zoo is even open at night to get a glimpse of the many nocturnal animals that are housed there.

A pair of Bongo antelopes at the Norfolk Zoo.
A pair of Bongo antelopes at the Norfolk Zoo.

Hotels in Norfolk VA

Stay at the Hilton Norfolk The Main where you’ll be minutes from Town Point Park and Nauticus National Maritime Center. This 4-star hotel is also close to the USS Wisconsin BB-64 and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

The Hilton Norfolk The Main includes 300 air-conditioned rooms with MP3 docking stations and flat-screen televisions. To keep its visitors connected, the hotel offers wireless internet access. In addition, cable programming is available.

Enjoy the family-friendly amenities such as an indoor pool and a 24-hour fitness center. Stay for a bite to eat at one of the hotel’s two restaurants or take advantage of the room service.

Enjoy a stay at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel where you’ll be minutes from Waterside Festival Marketplace and the Douglas MacArthur Memorial. This hotel is also within close proximity of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Town Point Park.

The 468 air-conditioned guest rooms feature flat-screen televisions, complimentary wireless Internet access, and cable programming.

Don’t forget to enjoy the recreational amenities including an outdoor pool and a fitness center.

The Wyndham Garden Norfolk Downtown puts you right in the heart of Norfolk, just walking distance from Norfolk Scope and Chrysler Hall. This hotel is within close proximity of Harrison Opera House and Moses Myers House.

Enjoy your stay in one of the 204 air-conditioned rooms that include refrigerators and microwaves. Each room comes with a Select Comfort bed, complimentary wireless Internet access, and cable programming. Private bathrooms with shower/tub combinations feature complimentary toiletries and hair dryers.

Relax by the outdoor pool or workout in the 24-hour fitness center. This hotel has a picnic area, a restaurant with a bar, and room service. Grab a drink at the bar/lounge. Full breakfasts are available daily from 6 AM to 10 AM for a fee.

For more hotels in Norfolk, get the best rates and use points for future stays on Bonwi.com.

The Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zones in Mexico

resort in one of the Puerto Vallarta hotel zones

Puerto Vallarta resort

Puerto Vallarta is a resort city that’s more packed than less historical ones, with a downtown center and a malecon walkway going past the waterfront. But then the places to stay fan out in both directions from there, so you can have your choice of hip B&B with a story in a pedestrian-only area, or a family all-inclusive resort on its own stretch of beach.

Here’s where to stay in Puerto Vallarta proper, with a note at the end on resort areas that are further north, in a different state. You can book the right hotel for you on Bonwi.com.

Downtown and the Romantic Zone

This is the original Puerto Vallarta, where it all started when this was mostly a fishing community. Improvements over the years have made it more pedestrian-friendly, especially with the long malecon filled with sculptures that goes from near the Buenaventura and Villa Premiere hotels at the edge of downtown all the way to the dramatic pier in the Romantic Zone.

Stay in the houses once occupied by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at Hacienda San Angel and Casa Kimberly, respectively, or check into one of the many gay-friendly hotels located in this area. You could spend your whole vacation here without getting in a car except for airport arrival and departure, though be advised you need to go to the pier area and beyond for beach access.

Puerto Vallarta downtown Mexico

Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zones: Concha Chinas

If you keep heading south past the pier and round a small outcropping, you come to another one of the Puerto Vallarta hotel zones, Concha Chinas. This area has a nice stretch of sand, some waterfront seafood restaurants that are nice for sunset, and hotels with a killer view. On the southern edge, on a different beach, is a Hyatt Ziva all-inclusive resort.

Mismaloya Resorts

Some of the prettiest water in Puerto Vallarta is around the Los Arcos rock formations and the Mismaloya area with its steep cliffs. Garza Blanca and Mousai hotels are the upscale options here, but there is also a Barcelo resort facing the water. Just be ready to settle in for your vacation at these places as there is not much else around and you’ll need a car or shuttle to get to Puerto Vallarta proper.

Mismaloya, home of Mousai luxury resort in Puerto Vallarta

The “Hotel Zone” of Puerto Vallarta

Back to the north of downtown, on the way to the airport, is the generically named Hotel Zone of Puerto Vallarta. The resorts march along the coast, interspersed with some good restaurants and an upscale shopping mall. There’s a Sheraton, a Hilton, a Fiesta Americana, and a combo Secrets/Now Amber resort on this stretch, along with a few independent properties. It’s easy to reach the Marina or downtown from here by taxi or Uber.

Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zones: The Marina Area

There are only a few resorts in the Puerto Vallarta Marina area, but they are good ones and this is a very pleasant place to stay. You can walk along the marina and see the yachts or be close to the departure point for boat excursions. On one end of the marina are two of Puerto Vallarta’s best restaurants as well as plenty of casual places too. You can also tee off at the city’s oldest and most conveniently located golf course. Choose from a Marriott, a Westin, Casa Velas, or Velas Vallarta–the latter two all-inclusive.

Casa Velas Puerto Vallarta

North of Puerto Vallarta

When you leave the airport and head north, you are actually leaving Puerto Vallarta and heading to another state: Nayarit. So although it feels like one big sprawl along the coast, that part is Riviera Nayarit. It starts with Nuevo Vallarta, where there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts to choose from, the Bucarias, then Punta de Mita. Keep heading north and you’ll get to Sayulita.

Wherever you choose to stay, get the best rate and the best points payback by booking your Puerto Vallarta hotel on Bonwi.com.

Looking for things to do? Check out our earlier post on activities in Puerto Vallarta.

Article by travel writer and Mexico resident Tim Leffel. Photos courtesy of the Puerto Vallarta resort reviews from Luxury Latin America.

Madison: Wisconsin’s Favorite College Town

Wisconsin State Capital in Madison,
Wisconsin's beautiful capital building in Madison. Victoria Hart/GoNOMAD photo.
Wisconsin’s beautiful capital building in Madison. Victoria Hart/GoNOMAD photo.

The city of Madison is known for being the state capital of Wisconsin, and while this may have made it famous, there is a lot more to this city than meets the eye. The wonderful city has so much to offer from arts to culture and museums to sports. Find your place in this fun college town.

The Wisconsin State Capitol is located near Madison’s gorgeous lakeshore in the downtown area of the city. Most visitors explore this area on foot. The building dates back from 1917 and is topped with a 284-foot dome. Inside the building itself are some beautiful decorative murals. It also holds marble from France, Italy, and Germany. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the history and art of this magnificent building.

The Thai Pavilion at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison Wisconsin.
The Thai Pavilion, the Sala, at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a beautiful and colorful area located on the scenic waterfront of Madison. First opened in 1952, this garden is filled with seasonal plants, so you’ll be sure to see something blooming all year round. One of the signature features of the gardens are the roses that are grown here, as well as the Bolz Conservatory which is an indoor area that features a range of indigenous foliage. There are also architectural features in the park such as the Sala, a picturesque pavilion that was given to the gardens by the Thai government.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI
Museum of Contemporary Art

In the heart of Wisconsin in Capitol Square is the Wisconsin Historical Museum, the perfect place to learn all about the background of this great city. The museum will take you back in time over the years and fill you in on all the historical and cultural significance of Madison. There are rotating exhibitions, galleries, fixed educational sections, sculptures, and more. There’s even a whole gallery dedicated to the creation of malted milk, said to be an invention of Wisconsin.

Head to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art for anything arts-related in Madison. Not only is this building filled with art and creativity, but the outer structure itself is often known as a work of art on its own. The front of the building resembles the bow of a ship and the museum spans three floors, all fronted with stunning glass.

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Places to Stay in Madison

Stay overnight at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace, situated right in the heart of the city and only a short walk from Capitol Square. Make yourself at home in one of the 240 air-conditioned rooms that include refrigerators, 37-inch LCD televisions, MP3 docking stations, and cable programming.

Highlights: Don’t miss out on the many recreational opportunities, including an indoor pool, a spa tub, and a 24-hour fitness center. Grab a bite at Capitol ChopHouse, one of the hotel’s two restaurants, or stay in and take advantage of the 24-hour room service. Snacks are also available at the coffee shop/café. If you’re in need of a drink, try one of the two bars/lounges.

The Graduate Madison is located in the center of the city, only a four-minute walk from Memorial Union Terrace and 10 minutes by foot from Kohl Center.

Relax in one of the 72 air-conditioned rooms featuring refrigerators, docking stations, complimentary wireless Internet, and cable programming. Private bathrooms in each guest room include showers, toiletries, and hair dryers.

Highlights: Enjoy recreation amenities such as a fitness center or take in the view from a rooftop terrace. Guests can catch a ride on the complimentary shuttle, which operates within 3.00 mi.

Wisconsin Veterans Museum
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Grab a bite to eat at Portage Pi, a restaurant where you can enjoy drinks at the bar and dine alfresco. Snacks are also available at the coffee shop/café. Cooked-to-order breakfasts are available daily from 6 AM to 11 AM for a fee.

Stay at the AmericInn by Wyndham Madison West for a wonderful stay in the business district. Here, you’ll be within a five-minute drive of West Towne Mall and University Research Park. There are 120 rooms in the hotel.

Highlights: Take advantage of recreational opportunities offered, including an indoor pool, a spa tub, and a fitness center. Additional features at this hotel include a fireplace in the lobby and a picnic area.

Find hotels in Madison.  and save using Bonwi points.

Hotels in Downtown Salt Lake City – Where to Stay

Little America Hotel Salt Lake City

The hotel zones of Salt Lake City are quite easy to figure out. There’s the airport, there’s downtown, and then there’s the sprawling suburbs beyond. If you’re coming to be near the Mormon temple or you’ve got business at the Salt Palace Convention Center, the hotels in downtown Salt Lake City are probably the only ones you want to consider.

Salt Lake City hotels in Utah

Rates are surprisingly high in this city, frequently topping $250 per night for many of the big hotels in the center, more than $300 when they get full because of a convention–which seems to happen quite a lot. So plan as far ahead as possible when booking and take time to read the online reviews if the place looks sketchy for the price.

Hotels Near the Salt Palace Convention Center

You can walk from your hotel to the convention center in ten minutes or less from a variety of large and small SLC hotels. The best one for travelers who want something with character is probably the Kimpton Monaco. Then after that you’re mostly looking at big chain hotels. There are two Marriotts, an AC Hotel by Marriott, a Residence Inn by Marriott, a Courtyard, a Fairfield Inn, a TownePlace Suites, and a Sheraton–all run by the same company.

There’s also a Hyatt Place and a Hyatt House, then a Hilton, a Doubletree by Hilton, a Hampton Inn, and a Hilton Garden Inn.

The Red Lion is now called “Hotel RL” instead. Salt Lake City also has a high-rise Radisson.

There are still a fair number of independent hotels in downtown Salt Lake City. There’s the towering Grand America, then the smaller Little America. There’s The Peery very near the convention center, plus Crystal Inn and a couple more.

Little America Hotel Salt Lake City
Little America Hotel lobby

Salt Lake City Hotels on the Edge of Downtown

Mormon temple downtown SLCThere are a variety of newer hotels that have sprung up more than a few blocks away from the action, but close enough that you can walk it if you’re not in SLC when it’s below freezing. There’s even a hostel called Avenues if you’re really on a budget.

The blocks in Salt Lake city are quite long, however, so pull up Google maps or something else to see how far the hotel truly is from where you need to go. Even the Hyatt Place is at least a 15-minute walk away from the temple or the convention center. When you look at The Kimball or Anniversary Inn, add another 10 minutes at least.

Hotels Between Downtown and the Airport

It used to be that is you were outside of walking distance from the downtown Salt Lake City hotels, you had to rely on taxis, Lyft, and Uber to get where you needed to be. This was especially true in winter, when you would freeze your butt off going more than a couple blocks.

A few years back though, the city completed a light rail line that goes between the airport and several parts of the city, however, including the convention center. That train happens to run along the main artery coming into town from the airport, which suddenly made the cheap motels along the road more of a value. They’re all basic chain motels so you shouldn’t expect much, but if everything else is full or overpriced, settle for one of those.

The Econolodge has seen better days, but it’s the closest of the cheapies to downtown. There’s also a Holiday Inn Express, a Motel 6, and a Ramada.

To get the best rates online and earn points back you can use for hotels, flights, or gift cards, get a Salt Lake City hotel through Bonwi.com.

Doubletree Salt Lake City
Doubletree Suites by Hilton Salt Lake City

One last option? You could stay in Park City and get into SLC in less than an hour. Then head back early and hit the slopes! Otherwise, stick around and check out strange things to see in Salt Lake City.

 

Santa Barbara California: High-End Hotels and People Watching

Lower State Street, Santa Barbara, California.
Lower State Street, Santa Barbara, California.
Lower State Street, Santa Barbara, California.

You know your city is well off when your downtown sidewalks are decorative red brickIt’s these little details that will catch the eye of visitors and locals alike and part of what makes Santa Barbara California so special.

Come soak up the sunshine and the pleasant ocean views on your next vacation, business trip, or bleisure opportunity. 

Foodies, get psyched– food tours are one of Santa Barbara’s specialties. Cruise downtown at a leisurely pace on your fat tire cruiser bike as you sample bits from the city’s distinctive and eclectic restaurant scene.

Don’t leave without visiting one of the areas many wineries; Carr Winery, Jamie Slone Wines, or the classically named Santa Barbara winery to name a few. The climate is perfect for a variety of wines, but this one is best known for its fruit-driven Chardonnay. If that’s not so much your style, blends of Grenache-Syrah or Pinot Noir are a few other favorites.

Stearns Wharf Dolphin Fountain, Santa Barbara, California.

Stearns Wharf Dolphin Fountain, Santa Barbara, California.

 Families will appreciate Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, an area rich with art galleries and boutiques with the up-to-date styles of California (and wine of course).

The zone is home to brewpubs, wine tastings, art galleries, and trendy boutiques. The region used to be much less visually appealing, comprised of mainly industrial warehouses. What was once a hub for the fishing industry during the nineteenth century is now turning into an upscale spot that is attracting eclectic artists and business owners.

Pass by the well-known Dolphin fountain and take a jaunt down Stearns Wharf. Other (more outdoorsy) activities in Santa Barbara include hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding,  surfing, and fishing. Don’t forget your bathing suit, the water’s almost warm enough to swim in. Not quite.

A tour of the newly opened Rosewood Miramar Beach
A tour of the newly opened Rosewood Miramar Beach

There is no shortage of hotels and lodgings, whatever your budget. Those with a few extra bucks to spare should consider the new Miramar Hotel. Located in the affluent community of Montecito, (home of Oprah Winfrey and plenty of other billionaires)  the hotel is marked by many tells of its creator, Rick Caruso, including photos of his four kids above the bar to his family crest strewn throughout the modern beach styled get-away.

You might even get to glimpse the talented Leonardo Dicaprio, spotted at the resort not too long ago. Rooms start at $800 a night, with the grande suite coming in at a whopping $5,000 a night.

Other lodgings to appreciate include Hotel California with a Middle Eastern theme and the Santa Barbara Inn, recently renovated with views of the beach and mountains.

Santa Barbara resident Arthur von Wiesenberger shares his favorite restaurants in the city.
Santa Barbara resident Arthur von Wiesenberger shares his favorite restaurants in the city.

Fresh Takes on food

In a feature story on GoNOMAD Travel, local Arthur von Weisenberger shared his personal favorites of his hometown.  There are plenty of new options to grab a bite at in Santa Barbara.

Santa Mezcal is restaurateur Carlos Luna of Los Agaves Restaurants’ latest creation. The cuisine puts a Santa Barbara spin on traditional Mexican flavors by mixing in local and seasonal ingredients of the Santa Barbara region in. “The food is terrific, it’s very authentic,” Wiesenberger said.

Sit outside on the terrace to people-watch State Street’s pedestrians as you indulge in bold, exciting dishes.

“You can sit on the street and watch all the action on State Street– or you could sit inside and watch all the action at the bar,” Wiesenberger said.

Don’t delay, make a reservation today for hotels in Santa Barbara California.

The Coolest Design Hotels That Are Part of Major Chains

W Hotel Mexico City

W Design Hotels, like the one in Santiago Chile

In a sea of boring hotel rooms from the major chains, how do you find the design hotels that actually give you some visual stimulation during your stay?

We know, it’s really hard to keep up with all these hotel brands. In this world of hotel chain consolidation and brand offshoots, some of the multinational hospitality companies have more names in their portfolio than a Five Guys Burgers has menu items.

Here are some of the best ones to put on your list when you are searching hotels if you’re looking for art hotels, trendy hotels, or just unique resorts that have a high cool factor.

W Hotels

The original cool chain hotel brand to really go widespread is still one of the best. Originally part of Starwood and now Marriott, the W Hotels brand is consistently modern, artistic, and—if there have been recent renovations—still surprising. You get the benefits of good corporate hotel training, but with a hipper dress code and attitude more suited to 30-somethings than the Ritz-Carlton crowd. Take a look at this one in Mexico City to get an idea.

W Hotel Mexico City

Kimpton Hotels

This was, for a long time, the coolest independent hotel chain in the USA that

Kimpton trendy chain hotel Florida

stretched from one coast to the other. Most are more boutique hotel than large chain, small enough where you can get some personal attention.

Now Kimpton is part of the IHG group that previously only had the mid-range Hotel Indigo brand for the cool kids. You can count on decor that is always interesting, a daily complimentary wine hour for mingling, and attractive rooms. They’re pet-friendly and Kimpton guests also can rely on professional service that isn’t too aloof.

Andaz Hotels and Resorts

The Hyatt brand was best-known for huge convention hotels before they went through an acquisition binge the past decade and also developed a few new brands. The Andaz one has allowed them to appeal to upscale travelers who weren’t the type who went for the traditional look and feel of a Park Hyatt.

Andaz resorts usually employ a cutting-edge architect and designer in the building process and there’s a much stronger attention to unique details and nods to local culture than you usually find in a multinational chain hotel brand. Their tag line is, “You’ll know it when you sense it.” They currently have 22 properties, with 8 of them in the USA. The shot above is their resort in the Riviera Maya of Mexico.

Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica

Thompson Hotels

As with Kimpton, Thompson Hotels operated as an independent brand for many years, getting lots of write-ups and awards. Then Hyatt swallowed them up to liven up their portfolio. Thompson Hotels are artsy in a different way in each location with a few consistent elements. “Spacious bathrooms include state of the art rain showers, signature robes and D.S. & Durga products.”

The chain has six design hotels in different U.S. cities and four in Mexico and the Caribbean. Have a good time in such cool locations as Nashville, Seattle, and Zihuatanejo.

Dazzler by Wyndham

These are only in Latin America right now, but they’re worth a mention because they put their policies where their mouth is when they say they’re appealing to millennial travelers. There’s a complimentary minibar, breakfast keeps serving until noon, and you get an extra two hours to check out if needed. There’s a communal area for mingling and the prices are low enough that people in their 20s and 30s won’t get chastised for putting this place on their expense report.

Business Hotels, but Aimed Younger

If you don’t gravitate to innovative design and just want a hotel room that doesn’t make you feel like you’re at an airport in Cleveland, there are some in-between options as well. Where the major chains have been trying the hardest with new brands is business hotels that aren’t crazy expensive and are aimed at millennials who don’t draw a dark line between work and play. These properties usually have fewer frills and a less traditional look in their furniture picks. They usually have a bar though which is the centerpiece of a multi-functional work and social area. They’re often in urban locations where you can walk out the door instead of having to get in your car.

Radisson Red design hotels
(c) Radisson Red

Brands to look for that fit this “kind of cool, but still clearly a chain” look include the following:

Radisson Red
AC Hotels by Marriott
Aloft Hotels by Marriott
Hotel RL by Red Lion
Hyatt Centric
Tryp by Wyndham
Tru by Hilton

There are also some oddball brands that are sort of pitched as design hotels but are hard to define collectively. Curio by Hilton, for example, seems to be the umbrella for any independent property they take over management for but they don’t want to tag with the boring Hilton brand. These include The Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida, Hotel Phillips in Kansas City, and Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque. It’s the same deal with their Tapestry Collection properties. Are they design hotels or traditional ones? Well, there’s not enough consistency to say either way.

When you go to book your art hotel or urban cool space to stay, you’ll find the best rates and a great points payback by booking at Bonwi.com.

Review and photos (except where indicated) by Tim Leffel, lodging expert and editor of Hotel Scoop. 

Richmond Virginia: A Cosmopolitan Civil War City

The James River flows through the city of Richmond, offering city kayaking to anyone.

The city of Richmond Virginia is one that holds deep historical significance as it was heavily involved in the Civil War period.  There are many historical markers and sites that pay tribute to this period of time in Richmond.

Over the past few years, some statues devoted to famous Civil War generals have been removed, causing anxiety and division among the populace.

Besides its role in the Civil War, Richmond is now becoming an emerging tourist destination with craft breweries and eateries that have put this city on the map.

The James River flows through the city of Richmond, offering city kayaking to anyone.
The James River flows through the city of Richmond, offering city kayaking to anyone.

Richmond includes the wonderful James River, which many will find kayaking, canoeing, or even swimming in the calmer parts of the waterway.
Richmond is also decked with areas of great natural beauty including many parks where visitors are found hiking, biking, bird watching, and horseback riding.

Things to Do in Richmond VA:

American Civil War Museum, White House, & Museum of the Confederacy

Richmond is one of the best places in the south to find out about the Civil War and learn the history of the battles and the Confederacy.

The White House of the Confederacy is better known as the official residence of President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War.

There are many guided tours of the mansion where visitors will learn about the historical and cultural significance of these landmarks.

The museum is located directly next to the White House and spans three floors which all include exhibits of Civil War memorabilia.

Belle Isle

On the James River Park System, cross the scenic footbridge that leads you to the small island. Belle Isle is a small area of land that is known for being surrounded by rocks that have been smoothed by the water so that they are flat in shape. Many locals come here to sunbathe on the rocks in the summer months. Belle Isle is also a great place to mountain bike.

Take some time on the walking trails around the island that take you through wild woodlands.

Hardywood Craft Brewery in Richmond VA.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond VA.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

For those interested in tasting some fresh brews, make your way to Hardywood Park, one of the most famous breweries in Richmond. Here you will find a delicious tasting room. You can also take a tour and learn how the beer is made before sampling some of the best beverages on offer. Many food trucks work with the brewery outside, as well as live music nights and special events and festivals.

Thinking of bringing your children to Richmond? Have no fear! It’s not all history and drinking. There’s plenty to do with your little ones in this city!

The Science Museum of Virginia is the place to come if you love science and want to know more. There are plenty of permanent exhibits here that are divided up into themed sections such as space, electricity, health, and geology, as well as rotating galleries.

The museum also features The Dome Theatre which is home to a 76-foot screen that has a claim for being the largest in all of Virginia.

Dooley Mansion at Maymont, Richmond Virginia.
Dooley Mansion at Maymont, Richmond Virginia.

The Maymont Children’s Barn features wonderful art and architecture for the parents to enjoy while children can play on the mansion’s grounds or just go wander through the gorgeous flower gardens. You can also tour the mansion on the property if you’re up for it!

The river goes through Maymont and you can sometimes find otters swimming in the waters, or you can play with the animals on the farm that sits in the grounds.

If you need one last place to take the kids to keep them occupied, try the Metro Richmond Zoo!

Places to Stay in Richmond VA:

If you’re looking to be centrally located in Downtown Richmond, stay overnight at the Hilton Richmond Downtown. It’s only steps from the Greater Richmond Convention Center and minutes from The National.

Belle Isle in the James River, Richmond VA.
Belle Isle in the James River

This hotel features 250 air-conditioned rooms with refrigerators and LCD televisions. Each room comes with a Select Comfort bed. Complimentary wired and wireless Internet access keeps you connected, and cable programming provides entertainment.

Highlights: Besides the beautiful guest rooms, enjoy the indoor pool, spa tub, and 24-hour fitness center. Other features include complimentary wireless Internet access, wedding services, and a fireplace in the lobby. Guests can catch a ride on the complimentary shuttle, which operates within 2 mi.

The Holiday Inn I 64 West End in Richmond is close to the airport and minutes from Crossroads Art Center and the Children’s Museum of Richmond. This hotel is within close proximity of the Shops at Willow Lawn and Markel Building.

This accommodation includes 142 air-conditioned rooms featuring refrigerators and microwaves. Complimentary wired and wireless Internet access keeps you connected, and cable programming provides entertainment.

Highlights: Enjoy the outdoor pool and fitness center. Grab a bite to eat at the hotel’s restaurant, which features a bar, or stay in and take advantage of room service. Quench your thirst with your favorite drink at a bar/lounge. Breakfast is available daily for a fee.

Looking for somewhere else to stay in Richmond, Virginia? Check out Bonwi.com for accommodations available for your trip!

Don’t Ignore the Independent Hotel Chains

Explora hotel Atacama

Inkaterra hotel in Peru, part of a local chain

You know a lot of the international chains when you pull up a list of what to book in a city, but sometimes the independent hotel chains are a better option in a specific location.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of the big international hotel chains. Just as you gravitate to a familiar food chain logo when you pull off an interstate highway exit, it’s easy to book a logo you know for hotels as well.

The hotel developers know this, which is why they would often rather be a Hilton, Holiday Inn Express, or Wyndham. That way they have far fewer decisions to make in the building (blueprints are ready), the furniture purchasing (it’s all in the catalog), and the staffing (hiring and training manual, check). They they can tap into a giant marketing and reservation machine that keeps the bookings coming. Even though there are around 30 brands just under Marriott, being one of them makes guests feel like they’re taking less of a chance.

There are plenty of smaller hotels chains that are not part of the big conglomerate system, however. This is especially true outside the USA, where guests don’t normally like the cookie-cutter approach as much as we Americans do. Maybe the people who gave birth to McDonald’s, Walmart, and Starbucks are just more comfortable with spending money on conformity, despite that whole “land of the free” sloganeering.

Keep your eye out for regional chains, especially when you travel outside of the states and Canada. Don’t forget that many of today’s best-known names, like Fairmont, Kimpton, and Swissotel, were once regional independent chains before selling out to a larger corporation. Orient-Express became Belmond and got bought up, but not by a typical hospitality company: they’re part of LVMH luxury brands instead.

There are still a few (for now) independent chains based in the USA as well, so let’s start there.

USA Independent Hotel Options

This batch of scrappy independents surely has suitors swirling around them this very minute, but as this post goes to press you can book a room at these  and be outside the conglomerate sphere.

– Thompson Hotels
– Joie de Vivre
– Rosewood
– Viceroy
– Montage
– Auberge Resorts

It’s probably no coincidence that these are all luxury brands catering to independent-minded globetrotters and style mavens.

At the other end of the scale, there are some regional motel chains that probably won’t get you too excited, but Graduate Hotels are located in college towns and the Drury Inn chain regularly rates at the top in its rate class for comfort and service.

Mexican and Caribbean Independent Hotel Chains

One of the largest hotels groups in the world that has remained independent is Grupo Posadas of Mexico, which is best known for the Fiesta Americana and Live Aqua brands. It also runs several others, like Explorean, and mid-range options.

Independent hotel chains include luxury resorts like Le Blanc Los Cabos

AM Resorts is based in Mexico but has other resorts in the Caribbean, all-inclusive beach spots mostly under the brands Secrets, Now, Breathless, Dreams, Zoetry, and more.

Palace Resorts is a big player in Mexican resort destinations as well, with 10 properties under several brands, including the high-end Le Blanc.

With fewer beds but often the top choice in some Mexican cities are Quinta Real, Grupo Habita, and Velas Resorts.

In the Caribbean, Jamaica-based Sandals Resorts is a major force in the resort world, with 16 all-inclusive beachfront places to stay.

Find the best rates and point returns in Mexico and the Caribbean.

South American Regional Lodging Groups

Across South America, it hasn’t been until the last two decades that foreign chains have really come on strong. More often than not, the independent hotels outnumber the chain ones. A few regional groups that stayed independent have some of the prime locations in some cities and often have competitive rates. Check into these when exploring the countries of South America.

Colombia: Estelar and GLH Hotels
Peru: Inkaterra, Libertador, Aranwa, and Casa Andina.
Chile: Vik Retreats (also in Uruguay), Explora, Tierra Hotels, and Singular Hotels.
Argentina: Alvear and Casa Sur for Buenos Aires, Design Suites in four locations.
Brazil: Fasano, Louvre (most has Tulip in the name), Nobile, Blue Tree, Transamerica

See more details on some of them on this list.

Explora hotel Atacama

Europe Regional Hotel Chains

Europe has plenty of regional hotel chainsThere’s an assumption that Europe has fewer chain hotels than North America and in some markets there are indeed a large number of independent properties. Chain hotels tend to have about a third to one half of the room count in many countries though since they are the largest properties. Those with the biggest percentage are the UK, France, and Spain, which not coincidentally have their own international chains based in the country.

Many of Spain and France’s biggest groups are international names you’ve heard of, under the Accor, Melia, Riu, and NH various brands. Here are some independent hotels chains on the scene though.

Britannia, MacDonald, Old English Inns, easyHotel, and Red Carnation in England
Valamar Riviera in Croatia
Louvre Hotels Group, B&B Hotels, and Apart City in France
Motel One, Steigenberger Hotels, and Maritim in Germany
Dinubius, Hunguest, and Mellow Mood in Hungary
Clayton, Maldron, and Tifco in Ireland
Valtur, Aeroviaggi, TH Resorts, and many more in Italy (country has 137 total)
Van der Valk, Fletcher, Bilderberg, and Bastion in the Netherlands
Colonia, H10, Hipotels, and Vincci Seleccion in Spain

Independent Hotel Chains in Asia

Some Asian brands have spread far and wide across the world but still have the most properties in their homelands, like Banyan Tree, Aman Resorts, Shangri-La, and Peninsula. Some of these listed below have just a few here and there abroad.

India: Taj, Oberoi, ITC, and Royal Orchid
Indonesia: Aston, Amaris, Favehotel, and Santika
Japan: APA, Tokyo Inn, Route-Inn, and Super Hotel
Thailand: Centara, Hop Inn, B2
Malaysia: Sunway, Tune, Hotel Seri
Vietnam: Muong Thanh, Vinpearl, A25
Philippines: Sogo, Hotel Go, GV
Singapore: Hotel 81, Fragrance, Village

So with all these choices out there, on top of the big international chains, how do you decide?

Well one way might be to look at how much of a payback you get from booking. Sometimes these independent hotel chains will earn you far more points on Bonwi than the international chains. Other times the big boys will come out on top. If you play the game right, you could earn a free night’s stay or an airline ticket from the points scored on your trip.

Search here for the best rates and payback.

Tim Leffel has been reviewing hotels across the world since the mid-90s and is the editor of Hotel Scoop.

How To Do A Staycation

How To Do a Stayvation

Your state may not be one that is aggrandized on the silver screen, but it’s likely filled with amazing places to see, food to eat and cities/towns to explore on your next staycation.

Whether you’re a nomad or a home-body, it’s awesome to get out, experience something new and recharge from time to time. But not everybody has the time or budget to hop on a plane and take a week or month-long vacation. Luckily, there are beautiful and inspiring things happening nearby. Here’s what you can do to get out of the house and start making staycation memories.

Do some online research

A smart way to connect or reconnect with your local area is to view your local region through the eyes of a tourist. What are travel bloggers saying about camping, outdoor activities, site-seeing, food and shopping in your area?Which hotels offer jaw-dropping amenities?

  • Set up a starter checklist of must-sees and must-stays in your hometown, county or region.
  • Dive deeper into city websites, forums and even social media accounts.
  • Sites like Instagram allow for location tagging so you can see exactly where some of the most iconic scenes are located.

Don’t be afraid to just hop in the car without a plan and just see where the day takes you.

Get out and drive

If you’re ever going to take the road less traveled, you may have to find it yourself. There are a ton of digital resources out there to find all kinds of amazing drives, hikes and eats. However, some of the best areas in your state aren’t going to come up on Trip Advisor, Yelp, travel blogs or even Google Maps! Don’t be afraid to just hop in the car without a plan and just see where the day takes you. Get wild and upgrade your ride by renting a convertible for a day or two.

Ask a local

If you’ve lived in multiple regions of the country, you likely know that the best way to get to know an area is by living there. Want to know the ins and outs of a new city? The quickest way to find out is to ask a local. Stopping for gas? See what the attendant has to say about the area’s food scene. Checking into your staycation hotel for a night or two? The front desk staff should have a great idea of some of the best activities nearby for your specific interests.

Get wild and upgrade your ride by renting a convertible for a day or two.

Trips from a hat

Just like the well-known skit from “Who’s Line is it Anyway”, placing different trips into a hat or bowl to randomly select keeps you and your partner, friends or family spontaneous. Whether it’s a state park, view, road, city or restaurant that you would like to see, failure to launch is a common struggle that keeps us tied to our normal routines. This hat trick will help.

In your research of local areas of interest, print out the names of each location and place them somewhere accessible. Set a regular time each week or month to select an adventure “from the hat” and say goodbye to the endless vortex that is:

“What do you want to do?”

“Oh, I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

Trust your instincts

Looking for a great bite to eat while out on the road? Searching for a change of scenery? The best thing to do may just be to follow your nose, eyes or gut. Some of the best local favorites an area has to offer may be so well known that they don’t focus on marketing their business. If this is the case, you could easily overlook an area classic for something a little more typical.

When you’re looking for a great escape, it’s okay to just slow down and feel out a given area. Use your senses to truly experience a given destination. If you smell something you like, go taste it! If you see something you like, go check it out! If something seems exciting, go explore it! If a place feels good to you, settle in and let it be your home for however long you’re there.

Failure to launch is a common struggle that keeps us tied to our normal routines.

Taking these little staycations can help you reset after a busy or stressful week, connect with your local area, inspire your sense of adventure and recharge your creativity. In other words, wander more and worry less! With Bonwi’s rewards system, you can accrue points with up to 40% back on hotel stays and car rentals. Where to?

Pittsburgh: A Renaissance City You Should Explore

Pittsburgh is at the confluence of three major rivers.
At the confluence three rivers, Pittsburgh PA is a city on the rebound, with lots to discover.
At the confluence three rivers, Pittsburgh PA is a city on the rebound, with lots to discover.

Famed for its steel industries during the Midwest’s industrial boom, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania is a place of red-bricks, countless depots, and arched bridges. However, taking a dive into the city’s riches will show any visitor a more characterful edge.

Pittsburgh’s museums are something not to miss, thanks to the investments of Andrew Carnegie in the 19th century.

Parks draped over the hills and riverside ridges of the downtown, Major League Baseball, Bavarian beers, and delicious eateries, make Pittsburgh a great place to visit. It’s one of the few small cities in the US that can boast a professional major league team in baseball, football, and hockey.

Things to Do in Pittsburgh

Eat downtown at the oldest restaurant in Pittsburgh.  The Original Oyster House, located in Market Square, first opened in 1870. The Original Oyster House is a designated historic landmark and represents much of what modern-day Pittsburgh is about, combining history with delicious food.

The Original Oyster House in downtown Pittsburgh is an institution in the Steel City.
The Original Oyster House in downtown Pittsburgh is an institution in the Steel City.

Old photos and Pittsburgh memorabilia cover the walls of this oyster house and bring a sense of nostalgia that makes you feel like you’re traveling back in time.

For some of the most breathtaking panoramic views of the Pittsburgh downtown and the waterways of the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, Mount Washington can’t be beat.

The hills of Mount Washington offer a picture-perfect broadside of the city’s skyscrapers and steely high-rises.

If you want to see something unique and cool, visit the Duquesne Incline, an old fashioned elevator that takes you up a steep hillside on the river.

Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh.
Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh.

The mountain features two funicular railways, wonderful eateries, historic spots supposedly once trodden by George Washington himself, and Emerald View Park, the perfect place for escaping the urban craze.

Experience the juxtaposition of something new in Pittsburgh’s historic Oakland neighborhood. The Oaklander Hotel is located in the heart of the collegiate and hospital districts. Considered the cultural center of Pittsburgh, Oakland houses Carnegie Library Main Branch, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, Carnegie Music Hall, and Phipps Conservatory.

This hotel features expressive accents and guest rooms where classic meets modern.

Featured amenities include the hotel’s modern fitness center, lounge with a cocktail at Spirits & Tales, and free WiFi access.

Distrikt Hotel is a new Curio by Hilton property in Pittsburgh, PA.
Distrikt Hotel is a new Curio by Hilton property in Pittsburgh, PA.

The Curio Collection by Hilton welcomed the Distrikt Hotel in Pittsburgh only two years ago. This unique downtown property combines both a historic yet modern look. Formerly the Salvation Army headquarters, the boutique hotel offers contemporary amenities while honoring the building’s architecture on the National Register of Historic Places.

This hotel is full of Pittsburgh pride with photo collages on each floor along with original limestone, woodwork, and stained-glass windows. The guest rooms include complimentary WiFi, a mounted 42-inch TV, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, Turkish linens, and a walk-in shower.

The suites at Distrikt Hotel have several options such as a separate living area, sofa bed, and floor-to-ceiling windows, and their Penthouse Suite includes a terrace overlooking downtown.

Grab a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant, The Whale,  inspired by the novel ‘Moby-Dick.’ This seafood an chop house showcases French specialties and local ingredients.

The Distrikt Hotel Pittsburgh has plenty of amenities for your stay, including a rooftop terrace, business center, state-of-the-art fitness center, in-room dining and valet parking.  Look for hotels in Pittsburgh and use your Bonwi points to stay even longer!

Disneyland Summertime Survival Tips

Disneyland Summertime Survival Tips

All year long your little ones have been admiring their favorite characters on the big screen and TV, quoting inspiring and hilarious lines and singing the songs from the many Disney films. Don’t wait until your kids feel all cooped up in the house during summer vacation to start making your travel plans. A trip to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is just the summer vacation idea that your family can get behind.

So now that you’re on board with planning a trip to Disneyland Resort (Disneyland Park together with California Adventure Park), you’re probably wondering what you need to do for a fun, successful trip within budget.  If the whole family isn’t comfortable physically or financially, it’s going to put a damper on the experience. At Bonwi, our mission is to make travel easier, so that vacations can actually feel like vacations. Here are our survival tips to help you make the most of your Disneyland Resort experience:

Beating the heat

Step one is to stay hydrated. Whether you’re towing your own bottle with a carabiner or regularly buying bottles at a cart or kiosk, it’s super important to keep your family hydrated. With all of the extra fun and excitement working together with the constant sunshine, you’re bound to exude a lot of energy.

The right apparel is also key to keeping your family safe and comfortable. Make sure to pack plenty of breathable tops, bottoms and footwear for the long days of fun ahead. One or more of the adults may want to consider bottoms or bags with plenty of storage to hold everyone’s essentials. Select apparel that will be comfortable for walking and standing the whole day. Hats and sunglasses will help to protect you and your family from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. 

Don’t forget to apply (AND reapply) sunscreen. Sunscreen should be applied to all skin that is exposed to the sun (remember to get the tops of your feet). There is a good chance that the protective effects will wash away after swimming, a water ride, excessive sweating or after a few hours.

The best tip of all for beating the heat at Disneyland or California Adventures is to hop on a water ride!

Keeping kids safe among the crowds

Let your kids know what to expect in terms of noise, excitement and crowds before your trip out to the park. Here’s how:

Talk to them ahead of time

It’s important to educate your children what to do in case you get separated for whatever reason. This can help reduce the overwhelm that children and parents may have heading into the experience.

Make sure phones are completely charged 

Setting devices to energy-saving mode helps lengthen the life of the charge. Bring your plug-in or solar charger.

Come equipped 

From the right strollers to safe and ergonomic carriers, the right equipment can help keep everyone’s legs fresh and ready for fun, while also ensuring that your children are safely within reach.

Consider buying ID bracelets for your kids

Customizable ID bracelets can include vital information such as your cell phone number, the child’s name, address, any medical conditions, etc. 

Come early and know where you want to go

By beating the crowds with early admission, you can avoid the issue of large crowds entirely. Having a good idea of the themes, characters, rides and attractions that your family wants to see/do while at the park will reduce idol time and confusion.

Maximizing the fun without maxing out your budget 

We all want to give our little ones the most amazing experiences possible. However, it’s important to keep in mind that any Disneyland trip should result in unforgettable memories. With a little bit of planning, your kiddos can have an amazing summer vacation in Southern California, regardless of your budget. Let’s focus on a few key areas that you can customize to plan the perfect Disneyland Resort vacation:

Characters

Where are your kiddos favorite characters? Do they have any special performances and when and where do they take place? For general admission, your family can interact with Disney’s most beloved cartoons come to life! There also a number of different dining options that feature some of the Disney greats, including Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy!

Themes

What are some of the can’t miss rides and activities that your children have to see while they’re at Disneyland? Plan each day to weave through all of the excitement and amazing attractions to stick together as a family while still ensuring each kid gets to spend time in their own real-life fantasy!

Lodging

If you stay inside the resort, you’re waking up right inside the action, but it may cut into your overall budget for your trip. Weigh the benefits of having your Disneyland hotel nearby and starting your days earlier vs. having more budget to spend on food, travel and memorabilia for your Disneyland vacation.

Ticket packages

For larger groups or for families looking for a comprehensive experience, Disneyland Resort offers ticket packages that permit visitors access to unique experiences at a more affordable value.

MaxPass

For $15 per day, per person, you can beat long lines with FASTPASS access as well as download and save as many pictures from your stay as you want.

Other considerations

Get to know the Disneyland Resort rules and regulations. This will make sure that there are no surprises during your vacation. Check their FAQs for answers to any other questions you may have.

Creating lasting memories

With enough attention to detail, you can all but guarantee that your Disneyland trip will be unforgettable. When your trip does go off without a hitch, you might want to turn it into a family tradition. Look into saving money on your summer vacations and all of your other travels with Bonwi’s rewards program. Take a look at Disneyland Resort hotels, Anaheim hotels and other properties a short drive away right here.

disneyland-resort-summertime-tips

Loyalty Points Battle: Wyndham Rewards vs. Bonwi

Wyndham Grand Clearwater

How does Wyndham Rewards compare to Bonwi?

How many points will you rack up if you always stay with Wyndham hotels and are loyal to that brand collection, 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: Wyndham Rewards and Bonwi Rewards. Wyndham’s program often shows up at #1 among the major international hotel brands when companies do a head-to-head benefits comparison. This is partly because their points don’t expire like the ones from Hyatt, Marriott, and the others do. They also used to have a flat redemption rate for all hotels, but that disappeared in 2019, so that might cause a slip in the rankings.

Do they have a chance of toppling Bonwi in the loyalty points payback race? Let’s take a look.

How the Wyndham Rewards Program Works

As with most branded loyalty programs, you only earn points by booking direct with the company, not if you use a third-party service like Expedia. Your earnings are determined by how much you spend. You earn fewer points for a cheap place than you do for an expensive resort. The program is straight-out dollar-based though, so it’s easy to determine.

For every qualified stay at a Wyndham Rewards hotel, vacation club resort, or vacation rental, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar or 1,000 points—whichever is more.

They have “9,000 hotels worldwide across 90 iconic brands,” but those icons may not be ones you want to look up to. If you go to cash in points, your only options might be a Days Inn or Super8 motel beside the interstate highway, with questionable business going on in the next room.

Your points earnings are limited only by your spending, though be advised the rip-off resort fees collected as some properties—including many of their Vegas ones—don’t count for points earnings. You can also earn points at their partners, like the usual rental car companies and  shopping partners, but also for booking tours at Viator or buying gas at Marathon stations.

How the Bonwi Rewards Program Compares

With Bonwi.com, there’s no set formula by brand on the earnings side and the points you earn are variable. Some properties may earn you less than the 10 per dollar Wyndham is offering, others will offer more. You have the whole market to choose from, however, not just one company’s brands. You can often earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

If we travel to Vegas, where Wyndham has its own properties plus the Caesar’s ones, we can do a nice head-to-head comparison. Booking with Wyndham would get you 1030 points at Paris Hotel or 950 at Bally’s. Here’s how many points you’d earn with Bonwi though, four times more and 50% more.

Bonwi points at Caesars Hotels

For other cities it’s less clear-cut. The 10 points per dollar level is pretty generous by brand loyalty standards, so in some cases that wins, especially at the cheap motels. In others, especially internationally, Bonwi comes out ahead.

Redeeming Points With Wyndham Rewards and Bonwi

Wyndham now has three tiers of redemption, which in all fairness is still much less complicated than any of its competitors. (Marriott Bonvoy has eight.) I can’t find an award chart for them anywhere, so you have to go through the booking chart to know how many points you need. But they say 200 properties are at the highest level of 30,000 points. So that will get you into one of the Caesars properties in their portfolio (which includes Rio, Paris, and Planet Hollywood in Vegas) or a Wyndham Grand, like this one in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Wyndham Grand Clearwater

At the other end of the scale, you only need 7,500 points to get into 3,000 of their hotels. That sounds like a lot, but remember they have Microtel, Day’s Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, La Quinta, Baymont, and Travelodge.

Everything in between is a flat 15,000 points. That is the most common, applied to more than 6,000 properties.

At Bonwi, the points redemption is variable based on demand and what the individual properties are offering. You may be able to get a room for less than 5,000 points a night, so you could get three nights for the price of one at Wyndham.

Other Redemption Opportunities

You can also transfer points to certain airlines or Amtrak to top off your balance at one of those. Usually this is nowhere close to a 1:1 trade though and you have to log in and start the process to see how many Wyndham points it will take. It requires 6,000 Wyndham points to get 1,200 American Airlines miles, for example, so you only want to do this as a last resort.

Bonwi points are always worth one cent each though, no devaluation required. So the math is easy: 6,000 Bonwi Rewards points are worth a $60 airline credit. Get to 30,000 points–which would only get you 6,000 AA miles with Wyndham–and you’ve got enough for a $300 round-trip flight.

The same is true for Wyndham redemptions for merchandise, gas cards, or gift cards. You’ll take a big hit to your points value to do this. With Bonwi, however, 10,000 points is a $100 gift card.

Overall, if you normally stay at Wyndham properties a lot and can compound your earnings by hitting elite status, it’s a better program than most. The earnings and redemptions are both clear-cut, so it doesn’t require an hour of research to figure out how to earn or redeem for what you need. This is an especially good program if you’re a road warrior staying at a lot of inexpensive motels by the interstate highways. Since it’s tied to a vacation ownership program, it’s also one of the few that can get you into a real condo with a kitchen when you’re with your family.

With Bonwi though, you have the flexibility to choose whichever hotel you want to stay at or whichever one gives the best point redemption where you’re going, regardless of brand. Your points also don’t expire here and you have a wider net you can cast for redemption since they’re worth a straight one cent each for flights or gift cards.

Check rates where you’re headed on the Bonwi home page.

 

 

Where to Stay in Syracuse, New York

Where to stay in Syracuse - best hotels

What are the best hotels in Syracuse to stay in if you’re headed to a university event, a Finger Lakes region tour, or a getaway vacation? We’ve got the scoop on your options around this easy-to-navigate city in upstate New York.

Where to stay in Syracuse - best hotels

Most people in the USA know of Syracuse, New York from it’s university. They mostly know that because of its history of great basketball teams. The university has a nice campus to stroll around, including the centerpiece building above which is the oldest. It is a fine college if you’re scouting out where to send your kid. But the city also has a lot of interesting history to dive into.

The historic Hotel Syracuse, now a Marriott and one of the best places to stayThe Erie Canal once went straight through downtown and was the reason Syracuse boomed in the first place. That canal mostly got built because of salt barons who were extracting this essential life element from a nearby lake in the early 1800s. Some 75% of the salt consumed in the USA in that century was from this area. The city because a technological center too, playing a big role in the advance of typewriters, gas lanterns, “China” dishes, bike gears, car gears, the airplane engine, and that metal thingy that measures your foot size for shoes.

This was also the birthplace of Gustav Stickley, the man who first developed his famous furniture here and started the Craftsman house movement.

It was one of the biggest beer brewing centers in the 1800s. Syracuse had more than 40 of them at its peak. Thankfully quite a few good craft brewers have emerged in this century too.

Take Amtrak here from Chicago, Toronto, or New York City, or pop over in a car from Niagara Falls or the Finger Lakes wineries. Here’s where to stay if you do.

Marriott Syracuse Downtown

When a tycoon bought this long-abandoned Hotel Syracuse building and restored it to its 1920s historic glory, the Marriott people kept telling him he was spending too much. It was getting too fancy to be a Marriott and execs worried that it turn out nicer than some of their JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties. It did actually and that’s good news for guests because the Marriott Syracuse Downtown is a stunning place to stay, with interiors from a “don’t make them like that anymore” time.

Marriott Syracuse Downtown Hotel

Interesting restaurants and bars with a story will keep you happy when the city gets one of its famous snowstorms.

Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel

Sheraton Hotel Syracuse

The closest hotel to the university is literally steps from campus. It has a view of that Hall of Languages building at the top of this post (built 1873) and the equally impressive Crouse College building (1884) from one side of the property. From the other side you see frat houses in historic homes much nicer than where most students will call home after graduation. This is a well-run modern hotel with good food, an indoor pool, and a bar with a billiards table and a few craft beers on tap.

Jefferson Clinton Hotel

Part of the Historic Hotels of America group, the Jefferson Clinton Hotel was built in 1927 and like the Hotel Syracuse, sat empty during the darkest years in this emptied industrial powerhouse before people and companies started coming back to downtown. It reopened in 2001 and is right in the heart of the city near Armory Square. You can walk to every great restaurant and bar in the central city from here, as well as all the museums and attractions.

The Parkview Hotel, BW Premier Collection

The “BW” in that name stands for Best Western, but this is no roadside motel. It’s in a historic building across from a park with a fountain and is walking distance to most of the city’s attractions. Room rates are often under $100, though visitors seeing the elegant entrance and lobby may think it’s much higher.

Hotel Skyler

Hotel Skyler Syracuse

The full name of this property is Hotel Skyler Syracuse Tapestry Collection by Hilton. Old time residents of the city would know the building by a different name: Temple Adath Yeshurun. That’s what it was for decades after being built a century ago. The LEED-certified property has plenty of character in the lobby with a fireplace and with 58 rooms it is not too sprawling. There’s a fitness center, sofa beds in each room, included breakfast, and a complimentary shuttle for rides within three miles.

Crowne Plaza Syracuse

You can’t miss the Crowne Plaza here since it has 279 rooms in a 20-story circular tower you can see from all over the city. You’ll get chain hotel predictability and a good skyline view, though get a high floor room if you don’t want to be looking at the interstate highway passing by. Built in 1969, it has operated under at least five names, but went through renovations before the latest sign went up. It’s walking distance from the universities and local hospitals, but has its own restaurant and bar for those often chilly nights when you don’t want to leave.

When deciding where to stay in Syracuse, there are plenty of other options of course, especially if you have a car and don’t mind being further out. To get the best rate and earn loyalty points that are easy to cash in for your next vacation, search here for hotels in Syracuse on Bonwi.

Article and photos by Hotel Scoop editor Tim Leffel, who was hosted at two of the hotels here on different trips for article research and a conference. For more information on the area, see the official Visit Syracuse website.

Pigeon Forge Tennessee: Why Is It So Popular?

Pigeon Forge Tennessee show
The Great Smoky National Park is the reason so many visitors come to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Max Hartshorne photo.
The Great Smoky National Park is the reason so many visitors come to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Max Hartshorne photo.

Have you ever heard of Pigeon Forge Tennessee? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. Right next door to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and birthplace of the famous Dolly Parton, Pigeon Forge has much more to offer than its comical name would suggest.

More than 9 million, yes MILLION visitors see this small Tennessee city every year, as they drive through the famous national park that’s right next door.

Speaking of the famous country singer, Pigeon Forge houses the Dollywood theme park. Partly owned by Dolly herself, the park includes a roller-coaster, waterslides (for the summer months) and a plethora of Blue Grass music.

Hatfield and McCoy dinner theater in Pigeon Forge: Corny but so fun!
Hatfield and McCoy dinner theater in Pigeon Forge: Corny but so fun!

If country music isn’t your style, the Titanic Museum is a must see – the entire museum is shaped like the late ship. Discover 400 pre-discovery artifacts in twenty galleries.

For a hands-on experience, visit the WonderWorks Pigeon Forge. With over one-hundred hands-on science exhibits, the kids will be entertained with hours. That, paired with laser tag, rope courses, and a 6D motion ride creates a wonderland no one in the family will want to leave.

Later in the evening head over to the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner show. The home-style eats and family-friendly environment provide a great backdrop to dancing and comedy shows.   The only bummer: No booze in many of these shows and in most of the restaurants in Pigeon Forge. It’s a religious kind of a town.

Shopping is a must on The Island Pigeon Forge; a collection of shops, restaurants and amusement rides. Upcoming events for the Forge include the SEAA Fast Pitch World Series Opening Ceremony on July 14th and the Chalkfest on October 5th.

If you’re going to visit the mountain community of around 6,200 residents, you’re going to need a place to stay. Not a problem; with an average of nine million visitors a year, the town is prepared for most anything. If you don’t wind up Margaritaville Island Hotel, at least pay it a visit. With friendly staff, easy access to amenities and a classically themed tropical-travel environment (compasses and maps galore), you’ll never forget that you’re on vacation while staying here.

For an experience on the opposite end of the vacation spectrum, check out Black Fox Lodge Hidden Forge. Designed like a giant wilderness lodge (complete with water slide and hardwood flooring) imagine you’re on a hunting trip without ever entering the woods. 

Though it’s not New York City or Los Angeles, Pigeon Forge will wow and delight the wanderlust tourist interested in venturing down the non-traditional touristic path. Find hotels in Pigeon Forge and Knoxville TN and save when you use Bonwi points.

Savannah Georgia: Ghosts and Whole Lot More

Earn points for your Savannah stay
Artillery-Demo-Fort-Pulaski, Savannah Georgia.
Artillery-Demo-Fort-Pulaski, Savannah Georgia.

Savannah, Georgia, famous for its famous ghost tours, beautiful scenery, and history, is filled with new experiences for any type of traveler. Ranked 17th among the top 25 U.S. destinations from Travel Advisor, travelers do not want to miss their opportunity to see this wonderful area.

Where to Stay:

Mansion on Forsyth Park, Autograph Collection

Mansion on Forsythe Park Savannah Georgia.
Mansion on Forsythe Park Savannah Georgia.

Located in Historic Downtown, this 4.5-star hotel is within close proximity of Forsyth Park, Armstrong House, and the Georgia Historical Society.

This beautiful hotel features 125 air-conditioned rooms that include refrigerators, pillowtop beds, complimentary wireless Internet access, and premium TV channels.

Enjoy a meal at a restaurant, or stay in and take advantage of the hotel’s room service.

The Highlights: Mansion on Forsyth Park, Autograph Collection has a full-service spa where visitors can enjoy massages and facials. If you’re looking for recreational opportunities, you’ll find a health club, an outdoor pool, and a steam room. Additional amenities include wireless Internet access, gift shops/newsstands, and wedding services.

Andaz Savannah – a concept by Hyatt

Located in central Savannah and only steps from Ellis Square and City Market, this 4-star hotel is within close proximity to both Johnson Square and First African Baptist Church.

Andaz Savannah includes 151 air-conditioned rooms featuring MP3 docking stations and flat-screen televisions. The pillowtop beds are covered in Egyptian cotton sheets. The hotel also provides complimentary wireless Internet access and cable programming.

Satisfy your appetite at the hotel’s restaurant which features a bar or spend some time at the coffee shop.

The Highlights: Enjoy a range of recreational amenities, including an outdoor pool, a spa tub, and a 24-hour fitness center.

See this related post on where to stay in Savannah.

Things to do:

Savannah, Georgia is famously known for its haunted ghost tours throughout iconic squares and old breweries. Spend some time brushing up on some spooky history as you learn about the old legends of Savannah.

Exploring the City by the Old Savannah trolley.
Old Savannah trolley.

It’s not a waste to spend some time driving or walking around the town. The beautiful streets are lined with oaks covered in Spanish moss while the old red brick buildings stand behind them.

The architecture of Savannah isn’t something any traveler wants to miss. Visitors can see replicas of horse-drawn trolleys, monuments, statues, cemeteries, and churches which all exemplify the Regency-style architecture of the town.

Downtown Savannah Georgia.
Downtown Savannah Georgia.

There are many tours to enjoy throughout Savannah. Spend your day on a trolley tour or take the city on foot. There’s tavern tours, culinary and cultural walking tours, and a haunted pub tour, along with a haunted walking and an African-American haunted ghost tour.

Breweries and more drinks in Savannah:

There are many breweries growing throughout Savannah including The Distillery, Coastal Empire Beer Co., and Moon River Brewing Co. Many of these feature citrus flavors and other specialty non-traditional brews.

Try the Alley Cat Lounge with rustic interior, PS Bar and Club Black Dream for dancing and celebrating. Other popular places include The Ordinary Pub, Betty Bombers, Green Truck Pub, and the Crystal Beer Parlor, with excellent meals.

When to go:

The best time to explore this beautiful city is during the Spring months when the area explodes with vibrant, natural colors. However, anytime is great to visit Savannah; most attractions go year-round with temperatures ranging from a January low of 39 and high of 60 to a low of 73 in July. Highs reach 92 during the summer.

Browse for Savannah Hotels and use Bonwi points for a return trip just for fun!

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.