May 1 marked one year since I started this blog. Although it's still mostly only read by Chris and my mother, I've really enjoyed being able to share my journey and experiences (including Chinese ER visits) via this blog. I love traveling more than anything else and in many cases, getting to where I'm going is really half the fun.
While I do want to try to blog more often and cover more than just reviews of hotels and flights, as someone who reads countless reviews before booking anything or making decisions, I like being able to contribute to the wealth of knowledge that can be found on some of the truly aspirational travel that can be had with miles and points.
Since I've now been doing this for a whole year, I thought I would look back at my top 5 most popular posts so far.
5. LAX Star Alliance Lounge Review
The LAX Star Alliance Lounge is possibly one of the nicest lounges I've visited in the US. It's a large lounge located in LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal with a small, private area for First class passengers and a large area consisting of various seating areas, both an indoor and outdoor terrace, and an excellent food spread for Business class and elite passengers.
4. SFO American Express Centurion Lounge Review
I was fortunate enough to be one of the first passengers to visit the SFO American Express Centurion lounge on the day after it opened. SFO is my home airport and while I am mostly exclusively loyal to American, I sucked it up and flew United for a day so I could visit this lounge located in Terminal 3. While it's not extremely large; stylistically, it's one of the more beautiful lounges at SFO. You also can't beat the buffet and extensive wine selection, all of which are free for lounge visitors.
3. Park Hyatt Tokyo Review
The Park Hyatt Tokyo is one of those aspirational properties that many travel bloggers are over the moon about. It was also made famous as the setting of the movie Lost in Translation. The amazing views offered from every one of Park Hyatt Tokyo's windows plus the always incredible Japanese service make this an absolutely solid choice if you're visiting Tokyo.
2. HND JAL First Class Lounge Review
I'm honestly shocked at how popular this review has been. I had no idea how often people are searching for information on this lounge, but due to the lack of reviews, this was my number two most popular blog post this year. The JAL First Class lounge is massive and has everything you could need while waiting for your flight. It features multiple seating areas and plenty of hot food and alcohol to choose from. Absolutely a solid choice if transiting the somewhat bland HND airport.
1. Singapore Airlines Suites Class LAX - NRT
Not surprisingly, my most popular post this year (by a landslide) has been my review of Singapore Suites from LAX - NRT. Singapore Suites got a lot of attention last year when a review of the incredible "suite" went viral. I was fortunate enough to have my own suite last September when I traveled to Asia and it was an awesome experience. I'm glad so many people have been able to read about my take on the extremely hyped Suites class.
Overall, it was a great first year. I'm hoping to continue enjoying documenting my travels and I definitely have a lot more in store for this year! Next up: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, the UAE, and plenty more of China. Hope you'll join in for the ride!
Guest Reviewer: Chris
An avid traveler and obsessive points and miles hound, Chris is my travel buddy extraordinaire. I love him for his enthusiasm, his sense of adventure, and his American Airlines Executive Platinum status benefits. Hope you enjoy his perspective!
While Jen was toiling away in China on a business trip a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a quick weekend trip to Honolulu to take advantage of a cheap American Airlines flight I found. I would only be in Hawaii for 24 hours, so I looked for a hotel that was both reasonably priced and not too far from the airport. The Hilton Hawaiian Village fit the bill, and while I’m normally not a fan of mega resorts, in this case it made sense.
I booked the hotel through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, which is an online booking site available to Platinum and Centurion cardholders. Its rate that was about $25 higher than the one on Hilton’s own website, but it came with a bunch of extra benefits such as a $100 dining credit, free breakfast (about a $40 value per day), a subject-to-availability room upgrade, 12pm check in, and 4pm check out. On top of that, I got a $10 dining credit for being having HHonors Gold status. So in total, my $204/night room rate came with $150 in credits, which made it quite a good deal.
My Uber dropped me off at the hotel just before noon, and the main check-in area was hustling and bustling with a horde of people. After making my way to the front of the check-in line, I was told that the tower I was in (Ali’i Tower) had a separate reception desk, so I had to go there instead. It wasn’t too far away, so I was soon able to check in for real. They offered me an upgrade to an ocean view room, but that room wasn’t ready yet, so I declined the upgrade in favor of the basic resort view room, which was ready. Had I been staying longer than a day, I would have waited for the better room, but in this case I figured I wouldn’t be spending much time in the room anyway, so would rather have something available immediately. I appreciated being given the choice - sometimes hotels just assume you want the upgraded room, and make you wait for ages.
The room was on the 14th floor and was fairly basic, with two beds, a desk, a coffee maker, a TV with a PlayStation 3, and a balcony with two chairs. It looked a bit worn, but I’ve certainly seen worse. The balcony view consisted of some concrete buildings and bird-poop-covered beams, so I didn’t feel the need to spend much time there. The bathroom had Coconut brand toiletries and a western toilet (I was hoping for a Japanese one, given how many Japanese tourists visit Honolulu!).
The resort is large and has five pools (one of which is exclusive to Ali’i Tower guests), a lagoon, and is also just a few steps away from Waikiki Beach. The pools were all busy while I was there, and finding an empty lounge chair required a bit of effort.
In addition to the many bodies of water, there are a plethora of restaurants onsite, including several chains (Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Round Table). Unfortunately, the Amex FHR dining credit only applies to a few select restaurants, so I couldn’t use it to expense any frappuccinos. Instead, I used all the credit toward a nice dinner at Bali, a seafood and steak house. It didn’t cover the whole meal (my steak alone was $60), but it took care of most of it.
The free breakfast was good for any breakfast option at Tropics Bar and Grill (including juice and coffee). I opted for the Big Kahuna, which came with eggs, potatoes, sausage, toast, and pancakes. It definitely hit the spot. It’s also worth noting that both restaurants can be reserved through OpenTable, so I never had to wait for a table.
Overall I had a pleasant enough time at the Hilton, but it’s not a place I feel a strong need to return to. It’s extremely crowded (which makes relaxing difficult), and feels overly commercialized, even by Waikiki Beach standards. On the plus side, it was relatively inexpensive, and its beachfront location can’t be beat.
Review: Park Hyatt Shanghai
City Guide: 5 Things to Do in Shanghai
Review: Grand Hyatt Shenzhen
Review: HKG Cathay Pacific “The Bridge” Lounge
Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG - SFO
For the beginning of the first of many business trips to China last November (yes, seriously behind in posting this), I spent 7 nights at the Park Hyatt Shanghai. The hotel is located in the Shanghai World Financial Center, which, until the Shanghai Tower was completed this year, was the tallest building in Shanghai. The World Financial Center building is part of a cluster of three super tall buildings (including the Shanghai Tower and the Jin Mao tower) located on the Pudong side of Shanghai, which you can enjoy a view of while walking along the Bund.
The Park Hyatt occupies floors 79 to 93 of the World Financial Center and it's absolutely breathtaking in every sense. I had stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo the month before I checked in here, which is a favorite hotel of the travel blogging community, but there was no comparison for me. The Park Hyatt Shanghai is perfection.
I have found Park Hyatts to be a bit stuffy and somewhat old-fashioned in their decorating style from time to time, which I definitely thought was the case at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. However, the Park Hyatt Shanghai was just the right mix of modern and minimal.
Upon arriving at the hotel, you'll walk in a set of glass doors and wind around a bit to elevators that only go to three floors: floor 1, floor 87 (the lobby) and floor 91, which is where the hotel's restaurant, 100 Century Avenue, is located. From the lobby, you will take another set of elevators down to the guest rooms, gym, and pool area.
Unfortunately, the lobby area doesn't photograph very well, and there are so many employees standing around in case you need anything at all (seriously, there are usually like 5 or 6 just lingering around), getting good photos was nearly impossible. Once you come out of the elevator, you will see the front desk in front of you and lots of seating arranged behind it along the windows for the bar and "pantry". Since the lobby is on the 87th floor, the views from the windows are stunning.
Check in went very quickly. The front desk agent was extremely polite and efficient. I presented my passport and credit card and confirmed I wanted the points rather than the Diamond amenity and before I knew it, I was off to my room. I had been upgraded very slightly to a Park Deluxe King, which as far as I could tell, just meant that I had a few extra feet in my room which fit a long and very random table and two chairs. The guest rooms are on floors below the lobby, so I took the elevator down a few floors and found my room.
I really loved the abundance of dark wood throughout the hotel. It was used for accents and was all over the place, making everything look very rich and contrasting nicely to the white walls. The hallways were very dark but had dramatic lighting which made things very cozy.
Once I entered my room, there was longish hallway with a closet on my left, then the main room straight ahead. The hallway also housed the minibar and coffee machine as well as the bathroom and the toilet, which was separate and several feet away from the bathroom itself. The bedroom was minimal, beautiful, and comfortable with a TV, a desk and chair, a long somewhat random table, a chaise lounge, and the bed. All of the lights and window coverings were controlled next to the bed, which is something I love in hotel rooms. It's so much easier to push a button once you're already in bed rather than having to bump around trying to find all of the light switches. Pure luxury.
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.