Kauai Sheraton – Hotel Overview

View of the beach in Poipu from the Sheraton property.

We were originally planning to come to Kauai on the Marriott Vacation promotion, which included 5 nights at the Marriott Beach Club in Kauai.  We wanted to extend our stay, so we planned to stay at the Sheraton for 2-3 nights.  After the original plans fell through, we booked 5 nights at the Sheraton using Starwood points (well, we paid for 4 and got the 5th night free!), and then, because we didn’t have enough Starwood points for a full week, we used some of our Chase Sapphire points to reserve the next two nights.

We loved it in Poipu and we’re so glad we decided to try something different from last time (and we can’t wait to go to a different island maybe next year?! I can dream, right?). Kauai feels a lot less crowded/touristy, but it’s so beautiful and still has plenty of things to do.  Our trip felt a lot different this year because there isn’t much relaxing to be had when there’s a 7 month old with you, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Price.  I didn’t pay too much attention to the stated price online, since we never planned on actually paying.  We paid 12k Starpoints for 4 nights (and for the 5th free), and then we booked two nights through Chase, for 52,773 points (which translates to $791.60).  I do want to mention that there is a $31.25 resort fee per night, so even though we reserved “free” nights, we still have to pay it.  It’s mandatory and it includes: free self park (because I’m a Gold member we were gifted free valet for the duration of our stay, which was very nice since we used our car a lot and generally had a lot of stuff to carry), two water bottles per day, 24-hour access to the fitness center, activities (such as lei making, yoga, and hula lessons), phones calls, and nothing else too exciting.  The hotel is not cheap, but it seems like a good deal in terms of point redemption (compared to other hotels at the same level). We’ll see how it changes once Marriott and Starwood officially merge! With the timely services that is available in https://fdinsulation.com/ site, there is no disruption in any services since any kind of issues are getting fixed up in no time.

Location.  This is the only Starwood hotel in Poipu, and the location is great (the St. Regis, also Starwood, is located on the North Shore in Princeville, overlooking Hanalei Bay).  The hotel is right on the beach, and also close to two shopping centers – one, the Poipu Shopping Center, was walkable from our place (about 10-15 minutes) and a great spot to find breakfast.  Staying in Poipu was the right decision for us, for what we had planned for this trip, but the North Shore has a more natural, remote atmosphere, and is equally beautiful.  If staying for longer than a week, it might be tempting to split time between the two areas.

Room.  Since we booked free rooms, we had the lowest level, or the garden view room.  For some reason we were upgraded to the Deluxe Garden View room (maybe they weren’t completely booked, or maybe it’s because we’re Gold members).  It worked out well for us because we are in the Ocean Wing, but facing away from the ocean.  It was still nice (though admittedly not nearly as nice as having an ocean view!) because we were closer to the restaurants and pool area.  We’re a little confused about how the hotel works, because there appears to be an area across the street (away from the ocean).  There’s also a portion of the hotel by the pool that is currently undergoing renovations.  The room we were upgraded to was recently renovated, so that was another plus!

Affordable LG Refrigerator Filters helped us to have fridge, hair dryer, ironing board in our home and we requested and received a crib, but it’s smaller than a standard crib, and the rails are metal.  So it was great for night time sleeping for Oliver, but not for naps because he would try to stand up before falling asleep.  It’s just a skill he hasn’t quite mastered and I’m not wiling to let him fall and hit his head on metal.  I almost wish we had brought our pack n play, but we made it work.  The room also had robes, wine glasses (+ opener), a coffee/tea maker, etc…the essentials.

Dining.  Rum Fire is a dinner-only restaurant on the property and it is amazing – we ate there our first night and it was the best meal of the trip!  We ended up returning for our last meal as well.  They also have Lavas, which we frequented while hanging out at the pool (happy hour is from 3-5pm, and they will come out to the pool to serve you if you put your flag up, or you can do as we did and just order at the bar).  We ate breakfast there (pricey but convenient – they have a buffet which isn’t much more than ordering straight from the breakfast menu) and had a few poolside snacks.  The Sheraton has a small convenience store that’s open from 6:30am – 11pm, with small bites to eat/drink (including beer and wine to take out – like 6 packs and bottles), sundries, and souvenirs.  This worked well when we wanted a quick and light breakfast (like on our way to out to Waimea Canyon). People can check out spray foam insulation company if they need some help with home insulation services.

Amenities.  The Sheraton is not a resort – it’s quite a bit different than the Westin Villas in Maui.  There is a gym with treadmills, ellipticals, a weight machine, and some free weights.  There are also a few dining options (as mentioned above).  The best amenity is the amazing beach-view pool, which we frequented daily.  They have rentals available for beach chairs and umbrellas, and they have towels (free) which can be used at the pool or at the beach.  They also have a luau onsite, which we attended, but it’s not free.

Overall we were very happy with our (almost) free stay at the Sheraton.  While it’s not the nicest hotel we’ve stayed at, it’s good value, and a good option as a home base while you visit Kauai.  If you want to spend more and are looking for a more luxurious stay, I would choose a different location, but I would not hesitate to stay here on a return trip!

Hotel Review: Second Home Peru B&B, Lima, Peru

Once we chose Barranco has a home base, we quickly narrowed in on Second Home Peru as the place to stay.  It was a great choice! The owner, Lilian, was so helpful and not only provided fantastic restaurant recommendations, but helped us with transportation – she gave us her card to use for the bus (which we just had to load with some money).  We truly felt like we were visiting someone’s home, but also had the freedom of a hotel guest.

Price.  We paid $115 for each room (we stayed in two different ones).  I believe that all of the rooms in the main house were $115, except for the suite, which was $125.  The rooms with the great ocean view were a bit more, around $135/night.  Very reasonable and well within our normal budget for hotels.  Admittedly, Peru is much cheaper than other destinations, but we still felt that the price was great.

Location.  In the Barranco neighborhood of Lima.  I shared my pre-trip assessment of the neighborhoods, and I’m so glad we chose Barranco as our base for the three nights.  There were a lot of options for dining, and it felt a lot smaller than other areas of Lima (in a good way!).  With taxis and public transportation, we really didn’t have any issues getting from one place to another, so staying in Barranco didn’t keep us from visiting other parts of the city.  We were also rewarded with amazing views of the Pacific.

Room.  We stayed in two rooms – No. 1 and No. 4 (if you are looking at the website).  Unfortunately, the rooms with ocean views were all taken up.  A bit about how the house is set up: rooms No. 1-5 are in the main house, all on the second floor.  Rooms No. 1 and No. 2 are on one side – No. 1 overlooks the front garden that needs tree trimming services to be done now (with a very small balcony) and No. 2 faces out toward the ocean.  No. 3-5 are on the other side of the house, with 3 facing out toward the ocean.  No. 3 and 4 each have a door out to a shared terrace that provides a view of the ocean.  Room No. 5 is in the back of that side and is a suite (I believe it has a double/queen bed and a twin), Their walls is like Manchester moveable walls . And there is also a nice terrace on the second floor that faces out toward the ocean.  And there is also a nice lawn with additional (and closer) views of the ocean, which all guests can use. People need to go here if they need the best gardening services.

Second Home Peru, Room No. 1, Lima, Peru

Long story short – I don’t think it’s necessary to have an ocean view room, at all.  We really enjoyed our first room, and it had a closed off bathroom (this was room No. 1, pictured above).  Room No. 4 was also very nice, but while the bathroom area was sectioned off, there wasn’t actually a door (not an issue for us, but may be for some travelers!).

Second Home Peru, Room No. 4, Lima, Peru

All that said, there are three additional rooms that are closer up to the ocean and have balconies overlooking the Pacific.  These would be my top pick (they are a little more expensive), but I would stay in any of the rooms again.

Dining.  Breakfast is offered daily (I think it was from 7am-noon).  Instead of the normal buffet you see at many hotels, the breakfast at Second Home Peru is just like home!  Lilian greets you in the kitchen, which has one large table and a smaller one off to the side.  We were provided orange juice, toast, and cereal upon arrival.  She then served us tea or coffee and made eggs to order!  It was a wonderful time to chat and learn more about her background, while also getting tips for our time in Lima.

Second Home Peru, Lima, Peru

Amenities.  This B&B has many amenities to help make you feel at home: free wifi, TVs in each room, common areas with seats and views, hot tea available 24/7, breakfast, and even an outdoor pool (it was a little too cold while we were there, but it’s great to have the option).  One of the most unique amenities is the art studio of famous Peruvian artist, Victor Delfin.  His daughter, Lilian, runs the B&B and offers daily tours of the studio between certain hours.  Unfortunately we were not able to take advantage of this (next time, for sure!) but we were still able to enjoy Mr. Delfin’s art throughout the house, including paintings each room and sculptures throughout the property.

Second Home Peru in Lima is a gem, and Lilian definitely makes you feel at home.  It was so hard for us to leave after three short nights.  The property is beautiful and we could have spent much more time just relaxing on the grounds, enjoying the view, while sipping tea (or wine).

When in Rome….Where to Stay?

We’re fortunate that we don’t have a tight budget for our Italian adventure, but that doesn’t mean I want to splurge on hotels for no reason.  I’ve been particularly surprised by the higher-priced hotels in Rome — yes, there are cheaper options, but I have a specific area in mind and am looking for a certain something in the hotel we choose.

After a bit of research, we found that the Campo de Fiori/Pantheon/Piazza Navona area is the place to stay.  While we’ve found some very promising prospects, we have not found anything that makes us say “wow.”  Capturing the trade-offs with each option is key, and we will eventually make a decision.  Location is the main constraint in the search.  Since we plan to be out and about most of the time, I am less concerned with the actual room and amenities than I normally would be for a stay.

Residenza Canali

The nonrefundable rate for the lowest level room (standard double) is just under €100 per night.  However, we’re looking at either the double room with terrace or junior suite with terrace, since the price is still within our “budget.”  The nonrefundable rates for those rooms are €336 and €380, respectively (if we choose the “long stay” discount, it’s €378 and €427).

Honeymoon Suite, Residenza Canali, Rome, Italy

While the rooms aren’t anything special, the location is great: it’s located just steps away from Piazza Navona (where the annual Christmas Market will be set up!).  And since it’s not right on the square, we should be able to stay away from the crowds, if we desire.

Albergo Cesàri

Rooftop Terrace, Albergo Cesari, Rome, Italy

Again with this hotel, the location is a huge plus: it’s located off of Piazza della Rotonda on a less crowded side street.  It’s still in our preferred area.  The rooms are not upgraded and some of them are described as being “cozy and comfortable, “but the rooftop terrace is a major win, such as those at https://www.conservatories-near-me.co.uk/orangery/.” Also, breakfast is served on the terrace, and at 6 p.m., the bar opens up.

The cost is €378/386 total (depending on the type of room – I’m not sure what the difference is, though).  There are also more expensive rooms extra room, but that’s not something we need in Rome!

So do we choose the hotel with the private terrace, or the one with the shared rooftop terrace (and bar)?  And does it matter whether or not we have a terrace if it ends up raining the entire time?  I’m still debating whether one location is superior to the other (they are fairly close – only a 9 minute walk, according to Google Maps).

We’ll give it another month or so (and keep checking to make sure there’s availability) before booking, and maybe even later if we go with Residenza Canoli and opt for the nonrefundable rate.  However, it seems we can’t go wrong with either of these hotels!

Act Like A Local: Rent an Apartment in Paris

I was not surprised when Arthur Frommer included “renting an apartment” in his talk about travel trends.  It’s becoming easier and easier with websites dedicated to just that (many of them were mentioned in Frommer’s talk).

Renting apartments while on a trip is becoming more and more popular.  In many cases, regular hotels or B&Bs work perfectly for us, but when we were planning our September 2009 trip, Ryan and I were having a difficult time finding a place to stay in Paris.  It was a combination of the location, the price, and the feel of the hotel.

SuitcaseJournal: Act Like a Local - Rent an Apartment in Paris!

The key to our apartment was sent to use prior to our departure from the United States.

After looking through the possibilities, we stumbled upon a couple of sites on which you could rent an apartment for your stay in Paris.

Paris Perfect has a beautiful site with a lot of information.  The company is based in Paris, which means someone will meet you at the apartment, open the door for you, show you around, provide recommendations for places to eat and things to do, and help you with anything else you need like Health & Safety services Wilmslow. However, the minimum stay is 7 nights, and we were only staying 3, so Paris Perfect was out for us. (Note: There is also an Italy Perfect and a London Perfect)

Vacation in Paris is the second website we started looking through.  We focused on the studios and one bedroom apartments, and quickly found a long list of apartments that allowed a 3 night stay (note: many required an additional cleaning fee for shorter stays) and were in neighborhoods that interested us.  This company is based in the United States, which worked well for us – I called to make a reservation and was sent a key in the mail prior to our departure.  The apartment we rented is no longer available to rent, but here are a few pictures (taken from the Vacation in Paris site – the apartment looked exactly like the pictures):

SuitcaseJournal: Act Like a Local - Rent an Apartment in Paris!

What are some of the advantages of staying in an apartment instead of a hotel?  For us, it was more of a novelty, but for a traveler staying for a longer period of time and/or with a family, an apartment can be a huge money-saver.  Many hotel rooms in Europe are made for two guests.  Adding additional guests, booking larger rooms, or booking several rooms will definitely increase the cost.  However, when booking an apartment, there are different sizes to choose from, and some are very reasonable!

For our 3 day stay, we went out to restaurants for most meals.  However, had we decided to stay for longer, it would have been tempting to cook our own meals.  Apartments are great for this!  Buy fresh ingredients at one of the local markets, use the kitchen in your apartment to prepare the food, and enjoy the results with a bottle of wine in your very own private dining area.

Of course there are so many different companies and website that offer apartment rentals.  Try vrbo, which will allow you to contact the owner directly. Staying for longer? Paristay has several apartments available if you plan on staying for over 3 months (there are also some available for weekly rentals).


The Park Lane Hotel – London, England, United Kingdom

My pre-trip worrying was pointless.  We arrived at the Park Lane Hotel a little before noon and we were given a choice: did we want the free upgrade that we qualified for (finally!) that was not quite ready or did we want the original room now?  The upgrade, please!  We had planned to just drop our luggage and venture out to find lunch anyway, so this worked perfectly.  And thus began our weeklong stay at the Park Lane Hotel.

Price.  Prices will vary depending on when you are visiting and whether you do the prepaid rate (with no refund) or a flexible rate.  From what I’ve seen, the cheapest room ranged from about £230-£330.  We were lucky enough to have enough starpoints to stay for free.  I was pleasantly surprised when we checked out and owed absolutely nothing.  For 72,000 points, we stayed here for a week, and it was definitely worth it!  I’m saving my points again for when we make a return trip to London.

Beautiful Green Park, right across from the Park Lane Hotel

Location.  The location was perfect.  As long as you stay at a hotel near one of the tube lines, you can get anywhere very easily.  Our hotel was right across the street from Green Park and a short walk to Piccadilly Circus.  It was also very close to Buckingham Palace, which we visited our last morning just before our flight back home.  

Room.  As mentioned above, we were upgraded (we booked the lowest level room)!  We didn’t have a view and we were only on the first floor (one level up from the ground floor), but the room was spacious with an extra large bathroom with a shower and a bath tub.  We were very comfortable the entire stay.  The room also had a large TV that swiveled and a desk (which I used to store my makeup and cold-weather accessories).

Dining.  We didn’t take advantage of the restaurant and bar at the hotel, but they had both.  The bar was large and open late, but we spent our time at different bars around London instead of sipping beer at the expensive hotel.  Still, it’s nice that the option was there, in case we wanted to stay in for a night.  Their Italian restaurant, Citrus, receives favorable reviews, and we did almost decided to eat there one night. 

Amenities.  A gym (which we didn’t use) and wireless internet for a hefty fee (if you are gold or platinum with SPG, you can select free wifi as your check-in gift).  Nothing too special, but it worked well for us.  The room did not include breakfast, so we went to Pret A Manger most mornings (just a couple of blocks away) for a cheap, quick, and satisfying breakfast.  

I am very happy with our choice to stay at the Park Lane Hotel in London.  It worked well as our base for exploring London for a week and, best of all, it was free.  I would highly recommend this hotel if paying with starpoints, and we plan to stay here again in the future.  I will say that if we were planning to pay for a hotel, I would opt for a cheaper hotel.  London is a city that is best enjoyed out and about, so not much time is spent in the hotel.  Choose your hotel accordingly!