2018 Highlights and 2019 Aspirations

Wonderlust-Bonwi-Partner-for-Aspirational-Travel

Today we announced a strategic partnership with WONDERLUST. We’re really excited to kick off 2019 by working with the top notch team over there. Read the press release here.

Wpnderlust-Bonwi-Partner-for-Aspirational-Travel

2018 was an incredible year for Bonwi. We were rated the #1 hotel booking site by travel points guru Dan Gillaspia of uponarriving.com. We were a finalist in the Travolution Awards for the Best Travel Deals Publisher 2018. We also:

  • Surpassed 5,000 registered members on (sign up here if you haven’t already)
  • Exceeded 1 million bookable properties on Bonwi.com
  • Reached 1,000 subscribers right here on the Bonwi Blog
  • Added public price comparison to site search

Now we’ve partnered with WONDERLUST to differentiate the online travel experience for leisure and business travelers. Bob and his team are a force to be reckoned with.  As the exclusive editorial content provider to Bonwi, WONDERLUST will share features and travel advisories to Bonwi members including inspiration around new destinations and experiences and access to other partners and offers in the highly curated WONDERLUST ecosystem.  In turn, Bonwi will provide WONDERLUST users with:

  • Timely offers for up to 40% back in points when booking hotels and cars
  • Unique registration offers
  • Free dining for domestic bookings, and up to 50% off on dining, shopping and entertainment

Take a look at the world from the WONDERLUST perspective at wonderlusttravel.com.

Thank you for your support and for joining us in another exciting year ahead!

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

best price on hotel bookings every time

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

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

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

misleading hotel booking information

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

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

The Games Hotel Booking Sites Play

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

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

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

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

Here’ s the most telling admission:

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

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

best price on hotel bookings every time

How to Be Sure It’s a Great Hotel Deal

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

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

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

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

best hotel price and payback at Bonwi

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

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

Fun Ways To Bring Travel Memories Home

Fun Ways To Bring Travel Memories Home

Making memories and looking back on the times that you went on adventures around the world is one of the best perks of traveling. For this reason, having a few tangible ways to remember your travels will come in handy during the years to come. In this week’s Travel Tip Tuesday, we’re sharing our favorite ways for you to capture your journey.

Start A Collection  Sometimes, the cheap, obvious souvenirs are the best option, but add even more meaning to them by getting one of the same thing every place you visit. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Currency
  • Maps
  • Mugs or shot glasses
  • Matchbooks or coasters

collection

Write Letters/Postcards To Yourself  Take time to write a quick summary of the day on a postcard and mail it home. You’ll get to re-live your mental state and where you were at in life during different parts of your journey.

 

recipes

Collect New Recipes  Capture all of the different kinds of food and flavors you experience on your trip by bringing back a new recipe with you every time you visit a new place. Just take a quick snapshot of your favorite food and drink menus that inspire you. That way you can enjoy these new flavors at home and share them with others.

Capturing your trip in these tangible ways allows you to quickly recall the finer details that may otherwise fade away. They forever capture where you were, how you were feeling, who you were with, and all that you experienced during your adventures.

Ready to explore destinations? Try a search on Bonwi.com.

The Declining Appeal of Traditional Hotel Loyalty Programs

What's Marriott doing with your personal data?

Is your loyalty program paying off with a vacation?

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

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

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

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

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

Brand Loyalty Is More Pain Than Gain

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

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

30+ hotel brands to keep track of with Marriott

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

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

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

What's Marriott doing with your personal data?

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

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

A Low-key Loyalty Program With the Fastest Payback

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

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

Points back for Los Cabos Resorts

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

use Bonwi points for free hotel stays

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

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

Cooking While Traveling

travel-tip-tuesday-cooking-while-traveling

travel-tip-tuesday-cooking-while-traveling

Cooking While Traveling

Most travelers are familiar with the challenges of preparing meals from a hotel room or vacation rental. Necessary cooking utensils and ingredients are seldom available outside the familiar confines of our own kitchen. This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday shares a few tips on the right gear to bring along with you to make cooking while traveling a piece of cake.

knives-and-wine  

Bring A Chef’s Knife & Wine Opener  Vacation homes occasionally have flimsy, dull knives that make cooking feel like a dangerous chore. Bring your own sharpened chef’s knife and skip trying to use that dull blade in the drawer that by now is good only for spreading butter. It’s also best to error on the side of caution and pack a corkscrew just in case there are none available.

spices

Olive Oil Along With Salt & Spice Blends  A good olive oil makes it easy to turn the fresh, local ingredients you find into memorable meals, but it’s not worth buying a big, expensive bottle if you’ll only be using it for a week. Instead, pack a small bottle of whatever you like to use at home. Along with olive oil, your favorite salt and spices can make a big difference when cooking simple vacation meals.

tongs

Tongs & Grilling Tools  There are many cooking tools you can hack with other common kitchen supplies, but it’s tough to get by without tongs. Bring a cheap metal pair and maybe consider leaving them behind for future vacationers. Also if there’s a grill where you’re headed, pack any other such tools that might not be available, such as an accurate meat thermometer.

baking

Baking Supplies  If you plan to whip up any cobblers, pancakes, or pies with local summer fruit, pack a little kit with common ingredients such as baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon, etc. You won’t waste money buying a big container of an item when you only need a teaspoon of it.

coffee

And, Of Course, Your Favorite Coffee  When settling for K-cups or Starbucks just isn’t an option, remember to include a bag of your favorite coffee beans before leaving. A little grinder with a small french press and you have everything you need for a great cup of coffee no matter where you are in the world.

Ready to explore destinations? Try a search on Bonwi.com.

Millennial Business Travelers Want Quicker Rewards

millennial business travels want quicker rewards
millennial business travels want quicker rewards
Photo by gbarkz on Unsplash

When you picture a business traveler racking up loyalty points from airlines and hotels, you probably think of the two main characters in the movie Up in the Air. They’re middle-aged, seldom at home, working most of the time they’re awake.

Today’s millennial business travelers don’t look much like that. When they’re getting something back from their travels, they’re not hoarding points for a grand trip “someday.” They want to use those points as soon as possible for something fun: a weekend getaway, a night out with friends, or a free hotel stay to extend their business trip and go to a concert.

That’s one of the conclusions of a Travel Weekly article on the new state of loyalty programs. According to a J.D. Power and Associates study, “32% of millennials prefer to redeem their points for a quick reward instead of saving up for a bigger reward, versus 17% of other age groups.” They’re also not very loyal in the real sense of the word. They’re more than twice as likely two switch loyalty programs within a year than other age groups. They typically choose the programs with the quickest payoff.

Jennifer Corwin, associate practice lead for travel and hospitality at J.D. Power, said, “Millennials definitely redeem rewards more quickly. There’s a sense of having something top of mind when you get something recently, and it allows you to also have higher satisfaction.”

Many traditional programs are losing these younger frequent travelers because their retail and event payouts are typically valued far below the travel benefits on a redemption basis. You frequently get half the value or less with your points with a product purchase as you would redeeming them for Marriott stays (with Marriott points) or a United flight (with United points). This stands in stark contrast to what younger travelers really want from their points. “Among the most appealing rewards for millennials, the study found, were access to special events, dining and retail purchases.”

Shopping with Bonwi points
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

While traditional programs are scrambling to offer more of the first option, for the other two, millennial business travelers are probably better off booking with Bonwi. This booking service doesn’t require real loyalty since you can often parley one stay of a few nights into something worthwhile to redeem points for.

Millennial business travelers want faster reward payouts for their loyalty
By Tim Gouw

Just 10,000 points is enough for another hotel night, a one-way cheap flight, or a retail gift card for $100. With a simple penny-per-point redemption scheme that doesn’t require complicated charts, you always know what your points are worth.

Unlike with traditional airline programs, there are no blackout dates on flights and you don’t have to hit a certain point level to redeem. You just need 30,000 points for a $300 flight. For a hotel, you pull up the city and dates and see what you can afford—and for that amount of points you can afford a hotel night anywhere. Just try pulling that off with Hyatt or Hilton. Or if you’re a millennial wanting that shiny new object NOW, you can get a gift card to Amazon, Best Buy, or dozens of clothing outlets.

See how fast you can rack up points here, with no lock-in to using one brand.

 

 

The Hopper is the Best Way to See San Diego


Stress-free Transportation in San Diego–The Hopper!

Brand new transportation from Anaheim to San Diego has arrived.  The Hopper Shuttle is now available for travelers making their way through California by bus.

The Hopper is available for travelers going from Anaheim to San Diego on a trip, and it aims to target the travelers who would prefer to explore San Diego stress-free.

Deciding which trip package you want to purchase is the only difficult decision. You tailor your own trip to include the mix of tickets and transportation that’s right for you for your next trip to San Diego.

Stops that are featured by the Hopper Shuttle include Old Town, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Gaslamp, Balboa Park, and Little Italy.

Ticket options include the Hopper All In package, which gives you one full day of exploring San Diego in comfort and style through this transportation-only experience. Stops with this package include Old Town, Embarcadero – North, Embarcadero – South, Seaport Village, Gaslamp, Balboa Park, and Little Italy.

The Hopper Plus package is exactly the same as the Hopper All In package; however, the length of the use of the transportation system is extended to two days.

Attractions Admissions Included

Attractions that are featured in the package include Petco Park Tours, the USS Midway Museum, the Hornblower 1-Hour Harbor Cruise, the Flagship Coronado Ferry, the Maritime Museum, and the Antique Carousel at Seaport Village.  Pay for the bus, get the attractions admissions included!

The Hopper Shuttle advertises as being a travel guide to San Diego for you. The transportation system has put together several of the best recommendations for exploring America’s Finest City, whether you’re into art, culture, history, or just fun activities.

According to the company’s CEO, Tom D’Amato, “the Hopper will make it easier than ever for people to see the best spots in America’s Finest City, whether you’re visiting for a family vacation or making the most of a business trip. Our goal is to help people make lasting fun memories in our city and get them to their Next Stop: Paradise!”

Tranluscent windows make seeing even the tops of the buildings easy aboard the Hopper bus. Hopper Bus photos.
Tranluscent windows make seeing even the tops of the buildings easy aboard the Hopper bus. Hopper Bus photos.

The Hopper Shuttle is equipped with comfortable seats and tables to sit with friends at. The bus also has a translucent bus-long window on the ceiling to let in natural light and the sweeping views.

Consider catching the big blue Hopper Shuttle for your next excursion into San Diego to get a real taste of the city, while also having your trip scheduled and routed for you.

If San Diego Hotels are what you’re seeking for your next trip, why not get points just for booking–enough points to book another trip!

TRAVEL ADVISORY from Wonderlust Travel

santorini
santorini
Photo by Charlie Marusiak on Unsplash

WONDERLUST took a look at Bonwi and issued an in-depth and very flattering Travel Advisory about us. If you haven’t heard of WONDERLUST, it’s Bob Guccione, Jr.’s new addition to the travel inspiration landscape, with a unique perspective  and a pretty humourous take in an effort to breathe new life into our industry. And what can we say, they think Bonwi rewards are the best value around.

Little known in the Death Match Arena of travel booking sites, because they don’t advertise a lot, is Bonwi and to distinguish themselves from the all conquering giants in the market, they have carved out a niche in offering the most competitive rewards program.

...the most competitive rewards program Click to Tweet

Read the full Wonderlust Travel Advisory here.

Pythian Market in New Orleans: A New Foodie Mecca

Pythian Market is a European-style food market, with 14 different eateries and tables people can sit at and share, in downtown New Orleans, Lousiana. Pythian Market photos.
Pythian Market is a European-style food market, with 14 different eateries and tables people can sit at and share, in downtown New Orleans, Lousiana. Pythian Market photos.

A new foodie endeavor has opened its doors in New Orleans’ Pythian Building. The Pythian Market Food Collective has become a gathering space for anyone and everyone that features local food purveyors, a fast craft bar, and retail vendors.

Since its opening in May 2018, Pythian Market has made itself a one-stop destination with an impressive variety of cuisines and drinks to try that accurately represent the diverse culinary landscape of New Orleans.

The market is located in the historic Pythian Temple in New Orleans’ Central Business District at 234 Loyola Avenue.

The temple was originally commissioned by the Colored Knights of Pythias in 1908, and it has been an “integral role in New Orleans’ early civil rights movement and was a place where the African American community congregated and celebrated,” according to Lisa Brefere, founder of award-winning F&B consulting firm Gigachef and curator of Pythian Market.

Brefere’s, and staff’s goals were to recreate this early notion of a gathering place. They wanted to reuse the Pythian Temple for its original purpose, and they have done this by creating a centralized hub of food, culture, spirit, and community.

Food halls like this have been delighting people in Europe for decades, now you can visit Pythian Market in New Orleans for the same experience.
Food halls like this have been delighting people in Europe for decades, now you can visit Pythian Market in New Orleans for the same experience.

The food collective has a  wide assortment of different eating places that feature locally-sourced purveyors who strive to consistently incorporate fresher and lighter ingredients and flavors.

The 14 independent vendors range from local brands that have a following, to up-and-coming new food concepts that seek to push the envelope of comfort food.

The unique offerings at Pythian Market include crawfish poutine from a Southern-meets-Louisiana comfort food spot Fete au Fete, the Hanover – oxtails stewed in a rich brown gravy with carrots and potatoes – from 14 Parishes Jamaican Restaurant, Eat Well’s Vietnamese banh mi and phoritos (pho burritos), and cachapas – Venezuelan stuffed corn pancakes from La Cocinita.

La Cocinita has also been featured on CNBC’s Restaurant Start-Up, Food Network’s Eat Street, and the Cooking Channel’s Taco Trip.

One chef is taking center stage at the new Pythian Market. Chef Marlon Alexander has brought two fresh ideas to the food collective: Cru – raw and cooked specialty seafood dishes including tempura fried Gulf oysters – paired with craft cocktails and wines, and Poulet – fresh sustainable cuisine with an emphasis on locally-sourced rotisserie chicken.

Even those who are a little more conservative with their food choices will find something at the Pythian Market. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from Frencheeze, wood-fired pizzas from Meribo Pizza, and traditional Southern barbecue from Central City BBQ are sure to cover the bases for anyone who’s not looking to stray too far into the unusual.

Craft drinks can be found at various locales throughout the market. Bar 1908 is the perfect stop for fast craft cocktails, local beers, and seasonal frozen beverages.

The Pythian Market is 11,000 square feet with 140 seats and combines contemporary and rustic themes that are reminiscent of the history of the building.

Find the perfect New Orleans Hotel at Bonwi, and get points you can use for your next vacation or business trip!

Bonwi Getting Noticed for Its High Points Returns

Best online hotel booking site Bonwi

Naturally we think you should you Bonwi for your hotel bookings so you can get a higher payback on points than with any other service.

free beach resort stay with Bonwi

We’ve laid out how Bonwi Rewards points are worth more than what you can get from an online travel agent like Hotels.com, a direct hotel chain loyalty program like Hilton Honors, or a competing points service like PointsHound. You don’t have to believe us though: the word is getting out that the returns here are clearly the best.

First, Bonwi got nominated in the Travelution Awards Shortlist in the “Best Travel Deals Publisher” category. As the celebs always say with a pained smile, it’s an honor just to be nominated, but we’ve got our fingers crossed for the ceremony handouts on November 19.  We’re up against some well-known brands like TravelZoo, but also some upstarts trying to disrupt the industry like we are to offer travelers a better deal.

Best online hotel booking site Bonwi

Next, the popular loyalty points and travel blog Upon Arriving put Bonwi in the #1 spot in its recent post on “The 15 Best Hotel Booking Sites of 2018.” They backed up our claim that nobody else is going to give you a higher return on investment in what you spend on a hotel.

It offers ridiculously high returns on some hotel bookings. With Bonwi, the amount of rewards that you earn when booking a stay fluctuates depending on all sorts of factors. So you never know exactly what kind of return you’re going to get.

But if you happen to be interested in one of the top earning properties, you might be able to get as much as 40% back on your booking, which is just incredible.

You’re not going to beat the best deals on Bonwi even if you have top-tier Platinum status with another hotel loyalty program.

It’s always good to get some outside validation for the claims we put out there. We regularly give you examples of how you can easily earn 20, 30, sometimes 40% back on our hotel booking by going through Bonwi.com. If you can’t bear the thought of another night in a hotel room, unlike most of the other services we give you options. And they’re not options presented at a lower cash-in value either. Your points are worth 1 cent per mile when you spend them on airline bookings, an Amazon gift card, a rental car booking, or a card for $100 at your favorite restaurant.

rent a car with points

If you do want to use your points for a hotel stay, you’ll quickly see they go a lot further than the ones from IHG, Marriott, or Hyatt. After just a few nights at hotel on business, you’ll have enough for a weekend getaway with that loved one you’ve had to leave behind. Isn’t that the best reward of all—turning business obligations into personal connection times?

Book your next hotel stay here and reap the rewards faster than with any other program.

 

Johnny Ward Gets a Deal Using Bonwi in Oslo

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Travel blogger Johnny Ward of One Step 4ward blog is back for more Bonwi, this time to redeem his loyalty points. Last we heard from Johnny, he told us,

“My total booking was about $600, and I got $200 back in points – 33% credit, unreal.”

Those points, they do add up. For Johnny’s trip to Oslo, where prices run high, his Bonwi points helped him out with a hotel for $3.82. Did that sink in?

Johnny Ward got a hotel in Oslo for $3.82. Click to Tweet

“I had used Bonwi to book hotels cheaper than Booking.com, Expedia etc in both Lombok and Komodo, Indonesia, as well as in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thankfully, through booking with Bonwi, those bookings hadn’t just saved me money, they had also accrued me 13,000 points to use through the Bonwi platform. Brilliant.”

Here were some of his options for redemption:

Pretty nice, eh?

Read Johnny’s full story here, and check out his pics from the trip. Brilliant!

UponArriving Names Bonwi #1 Best, Most Popular of 2018

We are way too excited (and humbled) to keep up the suspense. Thank You to Daniel Gillaspia for the honor of the top spot as Best Hotel Booking Site for 2018!!!

Deep breath. OMG OMG OMG!!! UponArriving.com has named Bonwi as #1 on the list of The 15 Best (and Most Popular) Hotel Booking Sites [2018] . Here’s what Dan said about Bonwi:

Bonwi is a standout OTA for one very special reason. It offers ridiculously high returns on… Click to Tweet

Dan also does a nice job calling out our sometimes slower search speed, too. Truth is, it’s seconds – less than 15 on a really exciting deal-packed day. It takes those extra 7-10 seconds on top of the other, lesser OTAs because we are pulling in Every Single Deal out there. Just for you.

“You’re not going to beat the best deals on Bonwi even if you have top-tier Platinum status with another hotel loyalty program.”

That’s why we’re Number One!

Now, if you’re new to the world of online travel booking site, deals, incentives, points, rewards, loyalty and redemption, Dan’s article is a go-to read. Yes, we also love it because we’re Number One, but it’s a comprehensive and definitive guide to who’s who, what’s what, all the choices out there and how you benefit from the major deals sites. Read the full story here.

 

 

Southern California’s Newest Hotels for Visitors

The new AC Hotel Laguna Beach, southern California.
The new AC Hotel Laguna Beach, southern California.
The new AC Hotel Laguna Beach, southern California.

Southern California has been one of the most popular and exciting vacation destinations in the United States for decades. With all of the luxury arts and entertainment opportunities, one can quite easily forget about the importance of planning the logistical side of their trip entirely.

However, if you don’t plan your stay ahead of time, you may find yourself out of luck when searching for reasonable deals on lodging in the Golden State. Luckily, 4 exciting new hotels have recently opened their doors throughout the state’s Southern regions that are sure to capture your attention.

Burbank

If you find yourself planning a trip to Burbank in the next couple of years, consider staying at the AC Hotel. Officially opening in 2020, the AC Hotel in Burbank will boast a classically European designed 196-room, six-story building directly across from the newly renovated Burbank Town Center.

The hotel will feature a beautiful rooftop observation deck, a large public courtyard, a luxurious pool and a 3,800 square foot restaurant space. Geared toward the traveling young professional, the AC Hotel will exude a totally new lifestyle concept for Burbank. AC focuses on the millennial travelers–not a lot of emphasis on the lobby, but fast Wi-fi, a great hotel bar, and a fun experience.

Laguna Beach

This August, the same people that brought you Palm Springs’ Korakia Pensione, “One of the Sexiest Hotels in America” according to Forbes and the New York Times, are rolling out a new boutique hotel in Laguna Beach, Hotel Joaquin.

Taking the place of what used to be an old Motor Inn, the Hotel Joaquin will provide a fiery new atmosphere to the area by embracing the land’s Spanish heritage in accompaniment with the beauty of the breathtaking California coastline. This petite resort promises to provide guests with a relaxing and gorgeous stay and wants to help you create memories to last a lifetime.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to many exciting new opportunities in the realm of lodging. This past January, The Sydell Group opened an LA branch of its famous NoMad Hotel in New York. Located Downtown, the hotel consists of 241 rooms over 12 stories, complete with a rooftop pool.

Also Downtown, the anticipated opening of the first Proper Hospitality location in LA, the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel is sure to impress. This 13-story hotel was built in 1924 and will have 148 rooms for guests to occupy starting later this year. And last, but certainly not least, the Godfrey brand, famous for their fabulous locations in New York and Boston, is opening a brand new high-end boutique in Hollywood.

The 60,000 square foot hotel will be geared toward the fast-paced lifestyle of the traveling professional, providing amenities that allow guests to conduct both local and remote business operations in a comfortable and aesthetic atmosphere.

Find your Los Angeles area hotel on Bonwi, and use the points for another stay!

Robots in Hotels? Yes, That’s Happening Right Now

At the Yotel hotel in New York, the 'Yobot' fetches your luggage.
A TUG robot hard at work at a new Sheraton hotel in Los Angeles.
A TUG robot hard at work at a new Sheraton hotel in Los Angeles.

How would you react to a robot showing you to your room? How about if a robot answered the door when you called for room service?

This is already happening at some hotels in the US, and inevitably, if trends continue, robots to help with simple tasks like these will be a part of every large hotel in the years ahead.

It all started with hospitals.  The Tugg robots that have been used for several years to monitor patients and distribute medications have morphed into the hospitality business.  A story on GoNOMAD.com detailed this latest trend.

“Ahead of their time, the brand new Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel is paving way for a new generation of hotel experiences, and memorable ones at that.

“When it opened in January 2018, the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel Hotel not only its sleek and modern design was new, they also brought in robots that help out as staff members. Some robots show guests to the elevators and to their rooms, and others bring room service to hotel rooms.”

This new hotel has eight of the robots working in various capacities, from showing guests to their rooms, to helping deliver room service requests for guests, said Wanda Chan, general manager of the Sheraton LA San Gabriel.

And on the East Coast, the innovative Yotel hotel chain has also employed the shiny new aluminum employees, first as a novelty and now in a similar capacity as the Sheraton.  It started at Yotel with a robot that fetched luggage, called the Yobot. This robot has been around since the hotel opened in 2013, and stays behind a glass wall.

At the Yotel hotel in New York, the 'Yobot' fetches your luggage.
At the Yotel hotel in New York, the ‘Yobot’ fetches your luggage.

Now the UK-based chain is taking their robots to a new level, with a pair of  room service robots in the newest property in Singapore.  Need extra towels, or more hangers?  One of them will bring it to you.  They’ve learned how to operate the elevators and can navigate all over the different floors for guest rooms, delivering to the cabins and singing songs as they depart.

If a high-tech servant like this is something you’d like to experience, book a hotel in Singapore with Bonwi.  Use the points you gain from any stay to use for a future car rental or another hotel.

With or without a robot to serve you.

 

Most Loyalty Rewards Programs Are Really Only for Road Warriors

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

A recent travel trade article on airline and hotel reward loyalty rewards programs pointed out a clear trend: for most of us, these programs are getting worse. While the road warriors at the top elite levels are getting showered with perks – those who stay 75 nights a year out of 365 with Marriott for instance – the rest of us are getting less and less for our flights or hotels stays.

As U.S. airlines moved from a distance-based to revenue-based model, the only loyal members with something to gain were those who bought expensive business class tickets. Those at the top of the elite pyramid. Everyone else started finding that their 6,000-mile flight was earning them 1,000 “miles” now because it was based on ticket price. At that rate it can take 25 flights to earn even the lowest domestic ticket.

That model has already spread to one major hotel chain. Hyatt gave its loyalty program a new name, World of Hyatt, and promptly made it more difficult for all but the most frequent biz traveler guests. The new system awards 5 points per dollar instead of a set amount per stay, though you’ll need to spend at least 10 nights at Hyatt properties in a year to get to the lowest of three elite levels. The head of the program, who is now gone, made it clear in interviews announcing the change that the program was aimed at one tier of guests: the most loyal ones, those spending the most money each year.

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

As we’ve seen in the airline industry, this kind of program quickly leads to a two-tiered system. The highest elite level members get most of the freebies, get the best rooms, and earn the most points for every stay. The rest of us get stuck with what’s left, whether it’s a cramped middle seat or the smallest room with no view.

Like a well-trained magician performing a sleight of hand, the bad changes for consumers are usually buried within news of big “improvements” the loyalty rewards program will bring. With the hotel programs, they’re usually touting your ability to combine points and dollars (a dubious win at best) or buy merchandise with your hard-earned points.

The dirty little secret of the latter is that your points value plummets if you do a merchandise buy instead of cashing in points on a hotel. Here’s what Skift noted in their article:

While these new tools are a boon for airlines and hotel mileage programs, their value to consumers is still somewhat mixed. When United launched its pay-with-miles Wi-Fi service, Maphappy took a look at the value of the purchase in cash or in miles. Its conclusion? ‘The premium on paying in mileage was about 117 percent higher than the cash price,’ Maphappy found.

If you purchase a pair of headphones or get a Best Buy gift card, it can be even worse. Often these transactions can degrade the point value to a small fraction of what it was in hotel or airline value. Here’s what you’ll have to pay for a $30 item via IHG’s program:

$180 of rewards for $30 item

Where You Can Earn More and Not Lose Value

With Bonwi Rewards points, you have a lot of advantages over these programs from the airlines and hotels:

1) You can use your rewards on any hotel, not just one company. When you cash them in for a hotel, you can get 20%, 25%, or 30% return on your spend. With the average direct loyalty program you’re lucky to rise above 10%. (In other words, you have to spend $10,000 to get $1,000 in value–even if you do everything right.)

2) You don’t have to be loyal to one company. You can choose any hotel in any location at any price and earn Bonwi Rewards, even picking which one has the highest payoff to maximize your return. When it’s time to cash them in, you have just as many choices.

Bonwi points payoff
3 nights at either earns you a plane ticket or a night’s hotel stay.

3) Points earned on hotel stays can be redeemed for flights. Forget about blackout dates, restrictions, or the lack of seats at lower tiers. With your Bonwi points you can book on any airline at any time, based on a simple 1-cent per dollar redemption figure. If you have 30,000 points, you have $300 for a flight, and no, you won’t have to still pay for the taxes if they’re included in the fare, as you would with the U.S. airlines.

4) You aren’t penalized for choosing a rental car or gift cards. That 1-cent per mile redemption figure that’s so easy to understand applies to rental cars and gift card purchases too. You won’t see your rewards value decrease just because you made one spending choice rather than another. Your Bonwi points have a clear intrinsic value.

So book your next hotel stay with Bonwi and see how easy it is to be on Easy Street, instead of feeling like your loyalty is only getting you kicked to the curb.

Article by Tim Leffel, editor of the Cheapest Destinations Blog and author of the book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

Bristol, England, Makes a Great City Break

The Bristol Hotel, right near the river and in the heart of the city, is perfect for a City Break.
The SS Great Britain was built in Bristol and is the top attraction in the city. You can tour even the very bottom of the outside of the ship!
The SS Great Britain was built in Bristol and is the top attraction in the city. You can tour even the very bottom of the outside of the ship!

Sometimes, frequent travelers like to avoid the most popular cities, hoping instead to discover an out of the way place that won’t be overrun with tourists.

Yet there are times when it’s fun to visit the most popular tourist cities because they’re set up to provide visitors with fun experiences,  restaurants of all stripes, and more hotels.  Bristol, England falls into this category, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Britain.

Visitors come to Bristol for what people on the Continent like to refer to as ‘City Breaks.’  The advent of City Breaks came mostly after inexpensive flights became widely available from Ryanair and EasyJet made flights to places like London, or Prague, or Faro, Portugal very very affordable.  So today you’ll see many Brits and other Europeans planning their own 3-night city breaks, and Bristol is a perfect place for this.

Either take a cheap flight from Paris, or Rome or just take the train two hours from London.

The Bristol Hotel, right near the river and in the heart of the city, is perfect for a City Break.
The Bristol Hotel, right near the river and in the heart of the city, is perfect for a City Break.

Bristol’s fine Bristol Hotel would be a great choice for anyone visiting the city, with prices from around $135-150 US.  You can find a deal using Bonwi and have around 6000 points to use on a future trip.

What else do visitors enjoy in Bristol?   One new attraction is called Cargo, at Wapping Wharf. This is a collection of shipping containers that have been put together and strapped into two stories where cafes, small shops, a bakery, high-end restaurants and other businesses have opened up.  Building using containers means that you can put two or three together to make it larger, and the rent is low. So all manner of experimental businesses can give it a go.

Cargo is a shopping and dining area built out of shipping containers.
Cargo is a shopping and dining area built out of shipping containers.

Bristol is just one of thousands of cities where you can enjoy a city break, and with Bonwi, you’ll get points you can use for the NEXT one too!

Portland, Oregon: A City of Bikers, Transit Lovers and Artists

Portlandia, the female symbol of the city of Portland, atop a downtown building.
Portlandia, the female symbol of the city of Portland, atop a downtown building.
Portlandia, the female symbol of the city of Portland, atop a downtown building.

Portland, Oregon, is a city that gets quite a bit of good buzz.  Perhaps that’s because of where I live, in Massachusetts, which is very similar to Oregon in how people vote, view the world, and what they expect from their fellow citizens. 

We visited Portland two weeks ago, and we found the city to be just as progressive and similar to the TV show, “Portlandia”, as we expected.  We even got a chance to see the original Portlandia statue, an 85-foot high statue of a woman sticking out of a government building downtown.

Portland has a lot of reasons to be proud, among them that the percentage of residents who either use public transportation, bikes or walking edges up to nearly 50%.  With services like bike paths serving just about every part of the city and residential recycling for food waste, it’s an eco-paradise!

The city’s Japanese Garden has trails to enjoy and serenity near the falling waters and replicas of Kyoto’s famous rock garden formation. In February, The first Art in the Garden exhibition beginning the Garden’s Year of Kyoto, will be of the fine Japanese bamboo art from the Kansai/Kyoto region, presented with changing displays of ikebana.

The city made a great decision in the 1980s when they decided that a four-lane highway that cut the Willamette River off from the city should be torn down.  So today, where there was once a giant blockade of cars, is now a beautiful green space, and here is where festivals, concerts and other events take place for most of the year.

Portland's Japanese Garden is a wonderful place to explore and enjoy peacefulness.
Portland’s Japanese Garden is a wonderful place to explore and enjoy peacefulness.

Our visit to Portland also included a stay in a very cool city hotel called The Sentinel.  This hotel, located in the heart of downtown, costs about $300 per night, and if you stayed there, you’d earn about 1082 points for a two-night stay. You’d love the comfy stylish rooms, and the wonderfully homey lobby with big chairs.

If you have to go to Portland for business, take advantage of what Bonwi offers by using the points you can accrue for a future stay in a different hotel.

There are many Portland hotels you can book for around 5000 Bonwi points per night, if you want to save money and go for something more basic.  And even with these low price, hotels you will still come home with more points to use in the future.  Bonwi= win-win!

Washington DC Shines, Despite Today’s Politics

The view of the Jefferson Memorial from a paddleboat Washington's Tidal basin. Max Hartshorne photo.
The view of the Jefferson Memorial from a paddleboat Washington's Tidal basin. Max Hartshorne photo.
The view of the Jefferson Memorial from a paddleboat in Washington’s Tidal Basin. Max Hartshorne photo.

I’m just back from a trip to Washington, DC, where the beauty of the city and the energy of its citizens energized and entertained me. If you haven’t spent time in the capital in recent years I’d highly recommend a visit. More than 20 million people visited DC last year, and there are a whole lot of reasons why that number will keep growing in 2017.

Being able to see the buildings that memorialize our greatest presidents as well as the newest monuments like the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Martin Luther King statue is exhilarating, and refreshing.

In the glittering sun of a lazy Sunday, we climbed into paddleboats and enjoyed monument-viewing up close in the Tidal Basin.  All around were the great monuments, the obelisk nod to our first president, Washington, the rectangular Lincoln Memorial and the newest monument to our nation’s great African American citizens, which looks like a crown, with a dark color that contrasts with the lighter colors of the others.

The city has expanded its water transit network in the face of traffic problems so that now, many residents commute to the city from Maryland and Virginia by water taxi.  We cruised up the muddy Potomac River where were told that the water quality has dramatically improved–but you still can’t go swimming, or, God forbid, drink it.

Yet this didn’t stop a flotilla of kayakers, paddleboarders, and pleasure boaters large and small from taking to the water on this sunny afternoon.

Kayaking on the Potomac River in Washington DC.
Kayaking on the Potomac River in Washington DC.

The river is an area that’s going to be dramatically changed when the expansion of the Kennedy Center is completed in Sept 2018. As part of an ongoing $175 million expansion project, a new pedestrian bridge will connect the Kennedy Center to Rock Creek Trail, which runs along the Potomac River, connecting the National Mall to Georgetown, Rock Creek Park, and the C&O Canal.

If a visit to DC is in your future, you’ll find plenty of hotels to choose from. In fact, 4,635 of the city’s hotel rooms are within walking distance to the Walter Washington Convention Center.

Find DC Hotels on Bonwi, and you’ll earn Bonwi points for a future trip!

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Sarah Kim Gets 36% Back in Bonwi Points

Sarah never had time for the rewards points game…until she met Bonwi. We love to change hearts and minds with travel, so we offered to send Sarah on a trip.

“Since I’m a skeptic of rewards programs, the team at Bonwi invited me to try out their site by booking hotels in Bruges, Berlin, Barcelona, and Cannes. From only these four trips, I got enough rewards to cover a FREE 7 night trip to Athens and Santorini in May! Keep reading to learn more about Bonwi, why you should use them, and exactly how I got a free flight and hotel stay in Greece.”

You can read Sarah’s story here, and learn exactly how she earned her free 7-night trip to Athens and Santorini. Take notes, then try a search at Bonwi.com and do what Sarah did…earn fast and redeem for free travel.