The Hotelion

With efficient traveling, hotel & deal analysis, and economic perspectives, Daniel makes your travel money go farther.

Trip Review: Universal Studios Orlando – Harry Potter World, Diagon Alley

Premise While in town, my lady made it very clear that not visiting Universal Studios Orlando and Harry Potter World was not an option. Thus, I booked us the Four Points International Drive and attended a Sheraton Timeshare presentation to get discounted tickets (~$107/person). The hotel shuttle took roughly thirty minutes to arrive at Universal Studios – roughly the same amount of time it would take to walk. It was a chilly January day, which definitely heated up later in the day.   Universal City Walk Strolling through CityWalk, I remarked at how ingenous it was – to be similar...

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Timeshare Review: Sheraton Vistana Resort, Orlando, Florida

Premise During my customary pre-trip research, I was determined to find a lower price than the obscene $160 + tax per person Regular Season ticket charge for a 1-day Universal Studios Park to Park ticket. With tax, both tickets came to $340.80. I used this $341 as my start point and searched to see if I could do any better. Realizing we were staying at the Four Points by Sheraton International Drive, I called them up. They had a designated desk just for Universal tickets, and had the option of discounted tickets in exchange for a timeshare presentation! The...

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News: SPG Starpoints & Uber Devaluation + Limited Time Offer!

Uber Devaluation News As of February 1, 2017, the amount of Starpoints earned from Uber not during stays will be cut in half, from 1 Starpoint per $1 to 1 Starpoint per $2 spent on Uber. This Uber Devaluation for SPG Starpoints currently only affects non-stay rides. During stays, you will continue to earn 2 Starpoints per $1 spent. No mention of how it affects those with Gold or Platinum status (currently 3 Starpoints per $1). Additionally, no mention of it affecting the earning rate for those at Platinum+75 nights (4 Starpoints per $1). I would expect these to...

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Website Review: SavTravv Hotels Free Price Comparison / Guarantee

Premise: Savtravv Hotels While perusing r/churning, as I do on occasion, I came across an ad for SavTravv Hotels, a website that shops around for hotel pricing to find the best rate. We guarantee to beat any hotel rate you can find online, or you pay nothing. I thought this was a novel idea, promising to save $10 or more for a low cost of 10%. I booked a trip for Cabo for ~$400 for a night, which I thought was the best rate at the time. Within an hour, I got a response from SavTravv listing several different...

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Free Hotel Review: Four Points by Sheraton Orlando International Drive

My standard hotel reviews include a breakdown by the following topics. Feel free to skip to whichever section you find most interesting.  Highlights Lobby Room Hotel Space / Ambiance Food & Drink Fitness Miscellaneous   Highlights: Four Points by Sheraton Orlando International Drive At the Four Points, I got basically what I expected. Decent service, food, quality, everything. Nothing in particular stood out, except for the Timeshare stand left of the check in. The Four Points had a nice pool, and it is located on International Drive, very close to Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and the convention center. It serves...

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Where Do You Go For Price Shopping? Domestic vs. International

Premise When making a big purchase, such as rings, cars, medical procedures, or the like, there is a tendency and rationale for price shopping. On a larger scale, people can compare physical and online retailers, as well as the location of the purchase. For example, on a $50,000 car, saving 10% by buying overseas is $5,000, enough for a decently long vacation. Or, saving 3% on a $20,000 piece of jewelry will fund some roundtrip ticket ($600) to that international store. If you can get an equivalent item for a much better price overseas, why would you not make...

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Place Tampa / Busch Gardens

My standard hotel reviews include a breakdown by the following topics. Feel free to skip to whichever section you find most interesting.  Highlights Lobby Room Hotel Space / Ambiance Food & Drink Fitness Miscellaneous   Highlights: Hyatt Place Tampa / Busch Gardens Ah Hyatt Place. How I’ve missed thee. This hotel is excellently located – close to University of South Florida, University Mall, and of course the aforementioned Busch Gardens. Outside of that, not much to speak of – think family-friendly clientele, free breakfast, and large, spacious rooms. It’s about what you would expect of a Hyatt Place. The...

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Thousand Dollar Hotel Review: The Plaza Hotel, Anniversary Surprise

My standard hotel reviews include a breakdown by the following topics. Feel free to skip to whichever section you find most interesting. Highlights Lobby Room Hotel Space / Ambiance Food & Drink Fitness Miscellaneous   Highlights: The Plaza Hotel, Take Two I’ve stayed here previously, but this experience blew it out of the park. For this occasion, I responded to the guest relations associate, and spoke with both him and his manager about making this anniversary for my lady and I special. From the beautifully set up room, to the personal touches, to the thoughtful anniversary surprise (Free Dinner/Lunch),...

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Company Vacation / PTO: Unlimited or Not?

Premise As I study the job market, I’ve come across two radically different concepts regarding company vacation time. On the one hand, you have the standard packages, with a certain number of days or weeks allotted to employees per year. This is typically based on position, tenure, and other factors. However, with the explosion of tech and startups over the past many years, they have pioneered a new benefits model, with unlimited time off available for employees. It’s a hypothetical of course, but given both options, which would you choose? Below, I talk about some pros and cons of...

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Manufactured Spend & Churning: My Year in Review, $4,000 FREE TRAVEL

Premise 2016 was the year I thoroughly explored churning and, more specifically, manufactured spend. This is the art (or the Hobby) of purchasing near-cash items (Visa Gift Cards, aka VGCs) or resalable items (iPads, tvs, etc.) to pay off credit cards, earning rewards points at a very low per-point cost. I found this link on r/churning, and read it thoroughly as a how-to guide for manufactured spend. The standard practice is to purchase Visa Gift Cards with a rewards credit card, and then purchase money orders to deposit to your bank.   Experience – Manufactured Spend 2016 I started off...

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