Travel tips for Cisco Live (and other summer Las Vegas conferences)

[See disclosure/disclaimer at the end if you’re into those things.]

Many of our readers will be headed to Las Vegas over the next couple of months. Whether it’s InteropITX, Cisco Live, VMworld, or something else, you may be curious about the quickest way to optimize your rewards and your stay while you’re there.

While reading all the other posts on rsts11travel would be the most thorough way to learn your way around Vegas, we figured we’d put together a unified list of things to do and think about as you head to what will be Tech City for much of the summer.

Continue reading “Travel tips for Cisco Live (and other summer Las Vegas conferences)”

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Travelogue: Quick updates from Las Vegas, featuring Jimmy Buffett, Gordon Ramsay, and Uber

Welcome back to rsts11travel. Jimmy Buffett enticed us back to Las Vegas last weekend–no April foolin’ here–for a long weekend at Signature at MGM Grand. With Signature’s proximity both to the MGM Grand Garden Arena and the Las Vegas Monorail station, it’s an ideal and affordable option to enjoy relative quiet and little to no smoke. You still have the ease of access through the District to MGM Grand proper, and the entire strip is accessible one way or another, including the Harmon Ave sneaky path to Planet Hollywood.

Continue reading “Travelogue: Quick updates from Las Vegas, featuring Jimmy Buffett, Gordon Ramsay, and Uber”

A second look at Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts at Delano Las Vegas

It took a couple of weeks, but the rsts11travel review of Aria Las Vegas’s Aria Sky Suites property finally came out this week. One of the prods to stop editing and just post it was that we were booking another stay for this summer that was somewhat related. Not everyone will celebrate a birthday and aim for MLife Gold in one weekend, but about anyone with the right charge card can take advantage of these benefits.

Delano’s all-suite plan makes it a very comfortable place for longer-term stays on the Las Vegas strip

We’ve written briefly about Delano Las Vegas in our Hidden Gems piece earlier this year. It’s one of our favorite properties on the strip, especially when attending an event being held in Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With its small lounge and bar, coffee shop with pastries and snacks, and Della’s Kitchen breakfast/lunch venue, you can get a lot done without passing Michael Jackson, and with Delano itself being a non-smoking, non-casino hotel with a separate entrance, those with sensitivity to noise or smoke can escape those discomforts in their “home” hotel. But you’re a few hundred feet from Cirque du Soleil, the Mandalay Bay casino, their dining options from fast counter service to posh sit-down service, and of course the rest of the strip.

Continue reading “A second look at Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts at Delano Las Vegas”

Changes in Amex Platinum – and 3 reasons to keep the card

Over the last couple of weeks American Express has revealed tweaks to their personal Platinum charge cards. Most of the finance and travel bloggers I read agree that, while Amex has been under pressure to improve their offerings in response to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, they’ve made changes that were not as much of an improvement as many cardmembers had hoped.

Imagine Bart Simpson pointing at a cake right about here.

In return for a $100/year increase in annual fee (now $550/year), the personal Platinum card offers up to $200/year in Uber credits, 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points on prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com, and… that’s about it for tangible enhancements.  Continue reading “Changes in Amex Platinum – and 3 reasons to keep the card”

A golden weekend at Aria Sky Suites in Las Vegas

You only turn 29 so many times, I often say. Two years ago for my birthday we went to Las Vegas for a weekend at the Mandarin Oriental. This year we went a bit upscale and spent a weekend at Aria’s Sky Suites in the City Center complex. In the process we had some great experiences and re-qualified for MLife Rewards Gold status for next year in one (pricey) stay.

This is a long read, but we try to cover a packed weekend in an unusual property, so you should find it worth the journey.

Givens and Druthers

The owner of a model train shop I used to frequent in Indianapolis started every railroad design workshop with “givens and druthers.” The givens are your limitations. For a train layout it might be a 6×8 closet/garage, or having to fold up at night so the dog doesn’t eat it. The druthers are the “I’ll settle for this, but I’druther have that” wish list items. These are good categories to take into account when planning travel excursions as well.

Given #1: I travel a fair bit for my day job, and in that role I have to choose approved hotels and lowest cost options at those hotels. So the first given on this trip was something upscale from what work would normally pay for.

Given #2: A spa visit. Last summer we visited the Bathhouse at Delano (in the Mandalay Bay complex) and we wanted to refill our spa experience on this trip.

Given #3: An affordable (for an admittedly stretched value of “affordable”) rate, taking advantage of any special rates, promos, or other considerations we could find to optimize the expenditure and the experience.

Druther #1: Having just seen a video about the Aria penthouse suites, something like that was intriguing but likely out of our price range, but it was the first druther.

Druther #2: A private spa suite; Bathhouse had couples massages, but when we weren’t waiting for or having our massage, we were in the segregated spa facilities. Not as romantic as you might think.

So with these guidelines, the American Express Platinum card, and MLife Gold, we started looking at the options. Continue reading “A golden weekend at Aria Sky Suites in Las Vegas”

Internet on the Road, part 2 – how to optimize your travel connectivity, on #rsts11

rsts11travel note: This is the second of a two-part series started on #rsts11travel, featuring mobile internet routers. Part one appeared here on rsts11travel last week. The second part will appear over on #rsts11 since it’s a bit more POHO than random travel, and we’re excerpting it here. 

When you travel, you probably have a number of devices that demand connectivity.

Many venues limit your allowed devices, and maybe you don’t want your devices out on the open network. Additionally, you may want to use streaming devices or shared storage in your room, and that may not work with typical public network setups. Last time we looked at some battery powered routers with charging functions and other network features.

Today we’ll look at some choices for sharing a wired connection as well as a cellular modem. We’ll revisit Hootoo and RavPower devices as an entry point, and then go power-user/POHO on you with offerings from Cradlepoint,  Meraki, and Peplink.

Read more on rsts11.com

Travel quickie: Marriott and Starwood Q1 promos

This will be a short treat for the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest fans in the audience.

Marriott has announced their first quarter 2017 promos. Register now, and even one stay with either chain will get you more points than if you hadn’t.

starwood-2017q1-openerStarwood Preferred Guest has their SPG Double Take promo out. Register before March 15, 2017, and earn double Starpoints on your first three paid stays at any SPG program property with check-in between January 16 and April 15, 2017. Registration opened in December, but it’s worth checking to see that you registered. And surprisingly, stays prior to registration (during the qualifying period) will count toward the bonuses. Award stays will not count.

marriott-2017q1Marriott fans aren’t left out, as their Q1 Megabonus promotion will give you double points on your first three stays. Register by March 15, 2017, and stay between January 16 and April 15, 2017, with your earning option set to points (not miles), and you’ll get double Marriott Rewards points for your first three paid stays in that time period. The Ritz-Carlton is included in this promo, but third party bookings appear to not be included. Also note that the T&Cs say this is a targeted offer, but you may be automatically targeted if you register for Starwood’s program. Worth a click either way.

Hope you’re having a great weekend. For more info on hotel loyalty programs, including where you may be able to take advantage of these promos, check out our “Loyalty has its advantages” post from this past week.

Internet on the Road part 1 – how to optimize your travel connectivity

When you travel, you probably have a number of devices that demand connectivity. However, a lot of venues limit your allowed devices, and maybe you don’t want your devices out on the open network. Additionally, you may want to use streaming devices or shared storage in your room, and that may not work with typical public network setups.

Today on rsts11travel we’ll look at a couple of options for aggregating, optimizing, and even protecting your connectivity on a public hotspot, hotel network, or even on your own cellular connection.

There are three schemes we’ll consider in this series.

  1. Connecting multiple devices to wifi
  2. Connecting multiple devices to a wired network
  3. Connecting multiple devices through a mobile hotspot/cellular modem

A caveat up front with regard to security and obfuscation: Not all of these options offer the same level of security for your devices, and most will not limit visibility of your connectivity as far as the facility staff, the ISP, or others on your network is concerned. Nothing in this series should be taken as replacing your OS and application updates, antivirus and anti-malware/anti-spyware software, and of course realization that security is subjective. Continue reading “Internet on the Road part 1 – how to optimize your travel connectivity”

Loyalty has its advantages – Hotel program overview

Welcome back to rsts11travel. In our first full-content post, we suggested that you be a joiner. We were focused on Las Vegas at the time, but the same advice applies worldwide. Today we’ll look at getting you set up for the best advantages when staying with major and minor hotel chains, even if you’re not exclusive or a frequent stayer.

Mix and match your hotel programs

In the United States and across the planet, you’ll find a couple of chains just about everywhere. They can be a bit confusing, as some of them have as many as 40 brands under one frequent traveler program and family brand. Some examples for you:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest (Sheraton, Four Points, Westin, W, Aloft, etc, plus all of Marriott)
  • Marriott Rewards (Marriott, Residence Inn, Firfield Inn, Ritz-Carlton, plus all of the Starwood brands)
  • Hilton HHonors (Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, etc)
  • Wyndham Rewards (Wyndham, Days Inn, Howard Johnson’s, Ramada, Super 8, etc)
  • Hyatt Gold Passport/World of Hyatt (Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Andaz, etc)
  • Choice Privileges (Choice, Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, etc)
  • IHG Rewards Club (Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, etc)

These are the largest chains with a substantial US presence and multiple brands; Accor of France is merging with the Fairmont group, but isn’t as common otherwise over here. Best Western is probably the largest single brand chain with just over 4000 locations.

Continue reading “Loyalty has its advantages – Hotel program overview”

Powering your laptop bag on the go, part 2 (the battery edition)

Welcome back to rsts11travel. Today we’re going to review some portable battery pack options for charging your phones and tablets. We’ll be featuring products we’ve bought from Anker, Aukey, Nomad, and Apple.

Check out the previous installment for our recommendations on cables and AC adapters, which you’ll probably need to keep your battery packs charged up on the go.

There are lots of options, and we’ll only cover about a quarter of what’s in our various travel bags, but this will give you a reasonable starting point for most equipment. Continue reading “Powering your laptop bag on the go, part 2 (the battery edition)”