I knew I wanted a nice relaxing vacation spot where just my wife and I could sit on the beach, relax, and do nothing. The Marriott Beach House Grand Cayman hit the spot perfectly for doing so.

After a flat rate taxi cab ride of $18.25 and 15 minutes later, we arrived to The Beach House. It’s off the main road and there is not huge sign or anything for it. Pulling up, it didn’t look anything that special. There were employees there to open our doors and help with our bags and offered us some juice welcome drinks. We were only staying 2 nights so we didn’t really need help with our bags. Walking in through the front doors, it was nice, but still nothing amazing and I started to get worried if I picked the right spot over the Westin or even the Ritz.

Rates can vary greatly depending on the season. In September we paid $189 plus taxes and $50 resort fee per night. Point rates vary from 40k to 60k points per night.


No line for check-in in and Jose at the front desk was very friendly. I saw on my phone they had lots of different types of Ocean Front rooms available. He said they could only give me a 2 double beds ocean front room. I asked if Platinum members receive free breakfast, and he said that since they are not in the US, Canada, or Europe, they do not give out free breakfast but that I could have 1k points or some wine and cheese. I told him I was frustrated and probably should have picked a different hotel.

First impression are always so hard to overcome, but the Marriott Beach House did that, and the next 2 days were prefect. First Jose called me 15 minutes later when we got up to our room and informed me he could give breakfast vouchers instead of the wine and cheese.


Second, about 2 hours later while we were swimming in the pool, Jose hunted us down and told me he could be me put us in a large king size Oceanfront Jr suite. 90% of my hotel stays are for business and while I like upgrades during business stays, they don’t really matter since it’s only be working and sleeping in the room. One of the reason I am stay at brands like Marriott is to be able to get upgraded when I am with my family, so this is appreciated.

Our first room of the 2 double bed ocean front room was nice but a lil small. If our kids were with us they would have driven us nuts after a few days. Except for the view, it felt like a normal hotel room.


Man, that view is great though. small balcony with 2 chairs and a table. They also have a small mini fridge in the room. There is a liquor store a block away that you can stock up on drinks. The great thing is you can bring a cooler and drinks down to the beach and it’s not a big deal.


The bathroom was also pretty plain and similar to most other Marriott’s.


Now our second room which was a Jr Suite, was about the same width, but double in length. It had a nice sitting area with a double pull out sofa. They should have had a larger sofa in this space though. Same balcony setup. Bathroom was also similar, but they had different toiletries which was kind of weird.


The water and beach off the hotel is amazing. They have 12 lounge rings and 4 swim platforms. Even on a Saturday afternoon, you could always find a spot in the water. You can get your towels from the towel hut, and a beach attendant will help you find a spot on the beach, and get an umbrella if needed. It would get crowded, but you could always find 2 chairs next to each other. The towel hut also had water , aloa vera gel, and even Go Pro cameras for free daily use. When asking one of the beach attendants for help, his reply back was “unless its impossible, I can do it.” That attitude was of the entire staff, and exactly what you like to hear when on vacation. Staff would also walk around with ice water and even fruit sometimes.


To me it seemed like we were at mile 6.9  of 7 mile beach. The water and sand was great, but it was pretty narrow and there was only a few condos after the Marriott. It was interesting that the condos around were very empty, while the Marriott had quite a few people. The Westin and The Ritz were about a mile down the beach. While their beach was wider, the people there didn’t look like they were having as much fun as our place. The beach had no sea weed and was crystal clear. It was a lil rocky, but they seemed like “soft rocks” and not the painful sharp rocks at some beaches. There is also a man made reef and a natural reef right of the beach. They provide snorkel masks and it’s very easy to see lots of fish there.


They also had a watersport stand with free kayaks, paddleboards and similar items.  The dive shop had excursions you could book for a fee.


Up by the pool, they also had a gelato stand.


The food here was great. They had a beach bar with great views and they had servers who walked around the chairs asking if anyone needs anything. There are some Happy Hour specials from like 530-7. One day we went down there at like 630 and was going to have a drink around the bar. It started pouring. The Verandah Restaurant is nearby so they said we could sit in there and still get the HH specials.


We ended up staying here for dinner as it was their weekly Brazilian meat night. We saw them cooking some of it over an open grill earlier in the day and it made us hungry. The meat was delicious, and pretty cool to sit there while it was thundering and lightening outside as well.



The breakfast was amazing as well. Ours was free as platinum members. Not sure exactly how much it was, but I think it was like $30 Cayman dollars…. it was good though. Lots of variety and you will eat too much. While the food didn’t change drastically at the buffet day to day, they did alter the menu. Its like vanilla french toast, to apple french toast. They also had eggs benedict on the buffet which were delicious!


Once a month they have some type of special activity there. While we were there, they had Oktoberfest. It felt like the entire island was at the hotel in the lobby and bar area. It was great and strange. We weren’t prepared to walk from the beach and see this. Still had a great time though.


They had a rec area which we never saw anyone use. It had nice views from the area.


They also had a kids club that always looked empty. While our kids would have had fun a few days here, there was not a ton of kids activities for more than about 3 days. I could have stayed there all week just doing nothing. I would probably not have taken my kids there, or else we would have to plan an excursion each day.

The wifi was also pretty fast here. I was able to get some work done each morning with the wife sleeping. There are lots of restaurants and a mall all within a 10 minute walk.

Overall, this Beach House was great. The service was awesome and I hope to get back here with my wife and maybe some friends some day. The room are ok, but the laid back atmosphere, amazing water and sand, and just positive attitude that is hear make me want to get back.







I was surprising my wife with a trip to the Grand Cayman Island. We had to position ourselves in Atlanta for the night, so I decided to get away from the normal airport hotels. I also had about 13k (=~$130) Meryl Lynch points I still had in my account through a Meryl Lynch Visa card I signed up for 2 years ago. (Card had 50k bonus points, and no annual fee. I had already used the rest of the points.) I was able to use the credit card website to make the booking. When booking through a 3rd party, one doesn’t always receive their elite benefits from the hotel as noted per the reward programs Ts and Cs. I called the Aloft a few days beforehand and asked to add my Marriott Platinum number. They were unable to do so at that time.

After a $20 and 20 minute Uber ride, we pulled up to the Aloft. We didn’t get to explore around the hotel too much, but it was in a decent area downtown. Several people walking around at night.


The check in area was immediately when you walked in. The front desk was extremely helpful and nice and able to add my platinum number which allowed us to have free breakfast the next morning.


Our room was on the 5th of 8 floors. It was a basic setup that would be good for a night, but a lil smaller than most US hotel rooms. You immediately walk in into the bathroom which was a little strange though. The bathroom was small but sufficient with a sink and counter just outside the shower/toilet door. The shampoo and conditioner were mounted inside the shower area.


Beyond the bathroom is a little hallway with a no door closet and safe and also 2 free bottles of water..


The main area was basic but worked well for one night. Large comfortable king size bed. Weird retro clock that we couldn’t figure out, small desk area, and great views from the room.


The hotel had a very nice courtyard area out front and next to the pool. You could order drinks from the bar here. There was a liquor store a block away that we walked to and had a bottle of wine outside while enjoying the nice September weather. (note our cheap yellow tail wine was still $18….)


I have never had breakfast at an Aloft before and wasn’t sure what to expect. As a Platinum member, we got a voucher for 2 free breakfasts. It was a little confusing of what was included in the voucher, but it ended up that we could basically have whatever we wanted. We both got the Ranchero, a few pastries, and a container of milk. This was also available A La Carte.


There was just open seating anywhere you could find a spot in the front desk area. Some people were sitting at the bar.


Just some other pictures form around the hotel.

The workout room


24/7 coffee and tea


Pool Table and business center


Overall we had a nice stay here. However Aloft isn’t really my cup of tea. Nothing wrong with it, but I would stay in another hotel the next time I am in Atlanta.



For the second time in 2 weeks, American Airlines cancelled the second leg of my flight from DFW-SAT and re booked me on a flight 22 hours later. Well that doesn’t work so I had the pleasure of driving from DFW-SAT again and arriving at the Sheraton Gunter at 2am to check-in.img_20180917_015504

At 2am, the hotel and area is pretty dead. It was hard to find the entrance and parking area as its not off the main road and its in a maze of one way streets. I ended up parking across the street in a garage for $10 each night vs about $35 for valet.

The hotel is an older historic type hotel. However the lobby is more on the modern side, and then the rooms are older style again. As always when I check in, I asked for an upgrade as a platinum member and did not receive a room upgrade, but did get lounge access. He asked if I wanted breakfast or bonus points as well. Since I had lounge access where I could eat a small breakfast at, I chose the bonus points. Before I went up to my room, I asked him if I was close to the elevator as all I wanted to do was sleep. He said yes I was right next to it so he moved me a few doors down. I just love how I put in my Marriott profile that I like high floors away from elevators, yet they also give me rooms right next to the elevator.


Different sitting areas in the lobby.img_20180917_075655img_20180917_075737

Business center off the main lobby.img_20180917_075707

Hallway down to the room.


Small entrance hallway in the room.


The room was pretty small with one king sized bed in there. Bed was comfortable, but their pillows are too fluffy for me and I end up sleeping with 3 of them. The chair in the picture below is awkwardly placed as there is no space for it so it’s not against a back wall but kind of in the middle. I ended up kicking it when getting out of bed a few times before I finally moved it. I did not get a picture of my view, because I was just looking over the HVAC and back at the hotel. img_20180917_020314

TV stand and desk all in one. There was a spot for a mini fridge in the desk area, but you must request one they are not in every room.img_20180917_020337img_20180917_020319

They did provide 3 bottles of water everyday which is always nice.img_20180917_020326img_20180917_020358_1

The bathroom was what you would expect. Decent toiletries. Clean and enough counter space for my quick stay here.img_20180917_020412img_20180917_020418img_20180917_020424img_20180917_071829

They have breakfast in the lounge, as well as an evening reception. The lounge itself was pretty nice with several different areas and even a pool table. It was off the second floor and provide large windows to look down on the street below.


The breakfast was smaller than what most lounges offer. Eggs, bacon, and potatoes are your only hot options.  It was enough for a short stay, but a little disappointing.


However the evenings was probably the highlight of my stay. It’s the little customer service attention that can make or break a hotel stay. While the food was nothing special, (cheese, chips and salsa, and some not very tasty chicken skewers) the service by the 2 lounge attendants was great. When I went into the lounge I was expecting to pay $5 for a glass of wine like they charge at most Marriott/Sheraton lounges in the US. The attendant asked how I had lounge access and I said from being a platinum member. She then asked where my tickets were so I could get free drinks. I told her I didn’t receive any when I checked in. She took my room number, went down to the front desk, got my tickets, and kept my drink full while I worked for the next hour in the lounge.


While the hotel was clean, there was lots of little stuff falling apart in my room and in the hallways. It needs some TLC.


While I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay here, if the price was competitive to other hotels in the area, I would stay here again. I didn’t get a chance to explore the area around the hotel much, but its in prime downtown tourist area, so I am sure there are lot’s of restaurants and activities nearby.


We just booked a trip for next summer to Tahiti for the 4 of us! (I will be posting details soon on how we did it on miles and points) One of the hardest items to overcome is schedule and finding flights for 4 people with miles and points, and trying to do it in business class. We have a few other week long trips we want to plan for 2019 so trying to keep vacation day use to minimum. Finding flights on points and miles that can accommodate this schedule can be hard.  We were looking at a few different options.

Our first option was going to South Africa on Qatar Airways and then onto Mauritius. You can use 75k AA miles to fly from a city such as Houston-Qatar-Johannesburg in Business. Then stay there a few days and buy a cheap flight to Mauritius. Then I was looking at Air France to get back to the states. The Houston-Qatar leg especially interested me because they have Q suites on this route which would be awesome for the 4 of us.


I found a few flights that would work, but not on the exact dates I needed. It can be very frustrating when you find flights that are oh so close, but don’t work.  Something like a flight leaving Houston on July 4th, arriving in Qatar at 5pm on July 5, and then they only award availability they have is a flight from Qatar to Johannesburg on July 5th that departs at 1pm (so doesn’t work) and the next available award flight isn’t until July 10th…. So close but not close enough. The best way to search for Award flights on Qatar is using the British Airways Website.


Then to get to South Africa you have to do 2 separate searches. One for the the US-Qatar, and then again from Qatar to South Africa. You then have to call AA to book it and they can piece it together and their routing will only charge you 75k miles for business. I spent a few hours looking at multiple combinations form all the US gateways, but couldn’t make it perfect. If I would have been more flexible, I could have found something that would have worked.

So then I pieced together a complete European vacation. I have never used Air Canada Aeroplan miles before but they have some great value. 55k miles one way to Europe in business is one of the lowest redemptions out there. (We would have transferred in 220k miles from our American Express Membership Award account) I found a direct flight from Chicago to Zurich on the exact date I wanted for 4 people. (Aeroplan can get even better because on round trip tickets they allow 2 stopovers and an open jaw, however I found 0 availability coming back to Europe for the dates I needed)

This is for the 4 of us

My plan was to stay in Zurich a couple nights, then buy a cheap 1 way ticket to Mallorca, Spain.


After spending a few nights in Mallorca, buy a cheap 1 way ticket to Lisbon, Portugal.


Then spend a few nights there before coming back to the US. There is business availability from Lisbon-London-US for 57.5k AA miles and about $300 a person. While the fees are high, I have seen a lot worst. I am OK with paying high fees if it’s for the dates and flight choices I want.

Just a screenshot example, there are better connections and cities out there too.


So then we had to make a decision of Europe or Tahiti. Slept on it, and knew that we will be back to Europe several times over the next few years. Tahiti is only a once in every 10 years to a lifetime place to go. Tahiti here we come!


After a 5 hour delay at DFW, I decided to rent a car and drive to San Antonio at 1am. 5 hours and lots of soda later I get close to San Antonio and realize I am not sure which Marriott I am staying at. There are several Marriott’s in San Antonio; Riverwall, River Center, and River Plaza. Of course the Marriott App isn’t working at this time, so I decide to take a chance at River Plaza and pull up at about 5am. I just leave my car out front because I have 6am meetings and just need to get my room, shower and leave.

At 5AM the lobby was empty. It has a Spanish feel from it and is not a cookie cutter Marriott. It is very unique and has its own style. I asked the front desk clerk for an upgrade as a Platinum Elite member and he told me I was on the executive floor so it will be nice.


Water in the lobby.


Lobby sitting area.


Bar area in lobby and more sitting area.


My room on the 4th floor was directly next to the elevator. (not elevators, as one was broken.) I would typically always ask for a different room, but I just needed a shower and to move on so I didn’t bother asking for a different room. While the room was nice, there was nothing upgraded about it. Another “deluxe” room that is 99.9% the same as all the other rooms. Also, it was on the 4th floor executive floor, but the hotel has 7 floors. Not sure why the executive floor isn’t a higher floor.

Standard queen bed with lots of pillows. Also it was nice to have outlets in the lamps.


Nice fancy sitting area.


A proper desk which I appreciate so I can get real work done.


TV and a single bottle of water. Coffee, safe, and small fridge were all in the dresser.


The bathroom was pretty standard and adequate. Plastics cups for a Marriott and a lil cheap though.

The room also had a decent sized patio with real chairs! I enjoyed the view as well.



It was nice being on the same floor as the lounge.  It was never crowded in the lounge and it always had decent offerings by US standards.

Now I was a little disappointed that I was not offered breakfast in the restaurant as a Platinum Elite, but I am not a big breakfast eater… Not an elaborate breakfast offering in the lounge, but big enough for 1 or 2 days.


The drinks in the fridge were available all day long.img_20180904_081639

Coffee and Tea were also available all day long.img_20180904_081916

There was always seating available. The lounge had a Texas feel to it as you can see. There was also outside seating.img_20180904_081901img_20180904_132446img_20180904_132453_1

The lounge offered light snacks during the day as well as water and drinks from the fridge.


They had a nice spread for evening appetizers, and it was my dinner one night. Then they have their honor bar, which is like $4 beers and $4 glass of wine.


After Appetizers, they bring out some light desserts. My night was cheesecake and some type of brownies. Both were good.


While I didn’t use the pool, weight room, or some of the other public places, here are a few pics of those areas.


I didn’t take picture of the parking lot, but it was close onsite and $25, or $30 valet. While the hotel is not directly on the Riverwalk, its an easy stroll to it. Actually after staying on the walk so many times, I kind of liked being a few blocks away.

I enjoyed my 2 nights here at the Marriott River Plaza.  The hotel was unique and lounge was nicer than most other Marriott’s. It had its own charm, and I slept pretty good here. While I didn’t like my non-existent room upgrade or no real breakfast, I will probably give the River Plaza another stay the next time I am in town.


You don’t hear too often about passenger’s receiving a good ole fashioned check from an airline. Vouchers (like $9k here that I received) and credits yes, but not a check.  In August our family flew to Turks and Caicos and Delta lost our bags in our both directions for about a day each. If this happens to you, make sure you know what the policies are for bags on Delta or your airline of choice for that flight.


We filed an expense reimbursement claim for $7  for our bag being lost on the way to Turks. We spent $7 for 2oz of sunscreen and kept the receipt.We had most of what we needed in our carry-ons and didn’t need to procure too many items since our bag was returned too us in about 24 hours. It wasn’t until we were back in the states that I even thought of filing a claim for reimbursement and realized that we could have probably bought a few more items like sandals since we packed those and the sandy beach was scorching hot. (see guideline information below) I filed the claim online and was responded to in about 3 days saying I should be expecting a check in 7-10 days. Delta also deposited 5k bonus miles as well.


On our way back home, ours bags also didn’t make it with us. On our flights home, if we have to check in one bag we usually check in all of our bags because its not a big of a deal if bags get lost on the way home. While we didn’t have any out of pocket expenses, Delta has a guarantee that bags will be sent to the carousal within 20 minutes. (Domestic only, not international). Our bags were checked in under 3 different names. I filled out the form below that must be filled out with 3 days of your flights, and 2,500 miles for each bag were instantly put in our accounts. This was very painless and took about 30 seconds each.




One of the perks with Southwest Airlines is their cancellation policy. I used to think it was amazing, but now I think they are falling into the ways of all airlines and they don’t really stand out. Southwest allows you to cancel you reservation up to 10 minutes before takeoff and that full fare is good for travel within 1 year. (or points redeposited into your account if you used points.) Well I am learning out the hard way that’s not always true.

In February we booked flights from Costa Rica to Oklahoma City as our final leg of our South American Trip. We ended up cancelling those flights as we realized you cant fly to Costa Rica after visiting Ecuador and Peru within the past 10 days and not having a yellow fever shot. I figured no big deal as the $277 per person ticket would/should be good though Feb 2019. However I used a $100 voucher I received in Nov 2017 for a delayed flight. When I used this voucher, it made my entire fare only valid through Nov 2018. That doesn’t help me for booking an upcoming ski trip in Dec.

Southwest System Map 04-04-2018

I thought surely that can’t be correct. Maybe $100 expires in Nov, and the remaining $177 expires in Feb. A least that’s what logic would say. I looked all over Southwest’s website and couldn’t find any documentation of this policy. I then called, emailed, and tweeted out to Southwest.  I received consistent replies back all saying something along the lines of :

If the Customer uses travel funds and/or a Southwest LUV Voucher, the expiration date of the ticket is the earliest expiration date of the form of payment. “

Southwest also replied back that this policy is sent on the confirmation email. In looking at my email confirmation, it definitely does not say this in a clear manner. It only says the following:

“If you do not plan to travel on your flight: In accordance with Southwest‘s No Show Policy, you must notify Southwest at least 10 minutes prior to your flight’s scheduled departure if you do not plan to travel on your flight. Customers who fail to cancel reservations for a Wanna Get Away fare segment at least ten (10) minutes prior to travel and who do not board the flight will be considered a no show, and all remaining unused Wanna Get Away funds will be forfeited. All remaining unused Business Select and Anytime funds will be converted to reusable travel funds. If you no show your reward travel reservation, the points will be redeposited to the purchaser’s Rapid Rewards account. Any taxes and fees associated with your reward travel reservation will be held for future use in the form of reusable travel funds under the name of the traveler(s).”

So even if I had a $1 leftover voucher, then entire amount now expires at the same time that $1 does. The only good thing is that for me this only applies only to my ticket in my name. My family members still have the full amount valid for a full year.


I will be writing a formal letter to Southwest. Just a heads up to others so you don’t lose travel funds like I am about to.


We don’t travel often with a checked bag. We tried to avoid it at all costs. On our trip to Turks and Caicos in August, our bags got lost in both directions… Maybe once a year its needed though. About 6 years ago we bought a London Fog  Cambridge Spinner 29in standup that was lightweight and seemed durable. Well 6 years later, it was starting to come apart and fray, zippers broken, stair protector broken, etc. It was also black and white so after the first time we used it on an airplane, it went from pretty to hitting every stick on the ugly tree.


So I decided to file a warranty claim with London Fog. It was quite easy. The hardest part was remembering when I bought this and finding the receipt. Then you just email all the details to including a copy of the receipt and pictures.

I got a personable response in about 2 days saying they are looking into it and will contact me back within 3-5 days. After 7 days I emailed them back. A day latter LondFog replied back that my damage is just normal wear and tear and that I should have filed a claim with an airline whenluggage doesn’t came back the way you drop it off. However they said this “one time” they will send me new luggage for a $25 shipping fee.  I paid $152 for it brand new (MSRP $360) so I decided to go ahead and get a new piece of luggage. A week later it shows up at my doorstep new with all the tags.


Now the bad thing is I will probably never use it for an airplane, a least not anytime soon as I know it was just get discolored immediately. I got to keep my old one and will probably use that one until it falls apart. Then use the new one for car trips. I am also thinking of selling it for $75-$100 and then use that money towards a better piece of luggage.

Filing a luggage claim was quite easy and painless.



I have been to LA countless times, but never had the urge to stay in downtown. Well I finally decided to bite the bullet and stay at the Hotel Indigo downtown. I was happy I did and enjoyed the downtown area.


Check in was quick an easy. I originally didn’t put in my IHG number into my reservation but was able to add it at check in. I was given 2 bottles of water, a voucher for a free drink, and a room on the 10th floor.


Lobby hat rack?


The elevators were pretty trendy and hallways had a nice style to them.


The rooms had a very European feel to them with hardwood floors and a small area rug. The beds were comfortable with plenty of pillows.  I did not care much for the desk to get my work done though. There was plenty of USB and regular outlets to charge up everything.


The main thing I did not like about the room was the in wall air conditioner. It was also very noisy and annoying.


The bathroom was nice but I didn’t feel like the decor matched the rest of the hotel. The bathroom was pretty traditional where the rest of the hotel was more modern.


I did enjoy the views from the room. There was no street noise either.


Since IHG elites don’t receive free breakfast, I did not eat here. However the bar was integrated into their restaurant and was pretty sleek.


Now they had a really nice pool and rooftop area off of the 4th floor. The pool was pretty small, but the area was large. They had ping pong, cornhole, pool, and fusbol tables outside. It would be a cool place to chil during the day or the night.


The hotel was perfect for my first night in LA. Besides the noisy in wall AC unit, everything else about the hotel exceeded my expectation.