Put on your Hotwire Hotel Deal Vacation Pants

Hotel Rosedale in Bakersfield, CA.  Found for only $45 bucks a night on Hotwire. 

This time My Vacation Pants teaches you how to find super cheap “secret” hotels using Hotwire.com.  Read on to find out how easy it is to find a deal on a hotel anywhere you want to travel to. 


It’s time to start teaching you all how to find some great hotel deals on the internet.  One website I have used many, many times is called Hotwire.  The premise of Hotwire is that you select your criteria, dates, location, star level, and they give you a list of several “secret” hotels.  You select the one that looks most appealing, and only after you enter your credit card information and pay for it do they reveal the name of the hotel.  Scary, I know.  I was a little hesitant to try this website at first as well.  I thought, surely, they are tricking me.  They say I am only paying $49 a night for a three star, but it will turn out to be a dump for sure.  Well after years of using Hotwire to book my hotels, I am happy to say that I have found countless deals at otherwise unaffordable hotels.  The site works.  However, you do have to know your way around the website, so I’ll walk you through how to book a killer hotel deal.  


Step 1:  Go to www.hotwire.com and click on the hotel tab. 


MVP (My Vacation Pants) Travel Tip:  The website offers hotels, rental cars, and flights, but I have always found the best deals using the hotel function.  I have also rented cars through hotwire a couple times too, but I seem to find better deals when I book my flights, hotels, and rental cars separately, and not together.  

Go ahead and fill in your information.  Put in a destination, dates, number of rooms, and number of people.  When my kids were babies, I would just put two people in, but now that they are older I count them.  They guarantee a sleeping space for each person you list.  So if you want two beds, you are going to to need to put at least three people in to the search engine.  I have made the mistake of just putting in two people and we get to the hotel to find out they only have rooms with one queen bed.  You can sometimes find cheaper deals for only two people, but it is worth paying a little extra to make sure you have a spot for everyone.  Now ,click the big red button.  

Step 2:  Now let me show you how to select the perfect hotel.  I stay in Anaheim, CA a lot because we got to Disneyland a lot, so that is the search criteria I put in for this example.  I also selected four people.  This is what came up.  


The list on the left hand side will list Hotwire’s Top Picks first.  Sometimes it is a great deal, but you can do better.  Go ahead and make sure the tab on the top says you are on the hot rate hotels page, then right below it click “sort by” and then click “price: low to high”.  This will now list your hotels in order from absolute cheapest to most expensive.  

Also, if you are not familiar with the area you are booking a hotel in, there is a map of regions on the right.  You can click the highlighted green area, and only the hotels in that area will show up on the left. You can select more then one region, so keep selecting until you have all the areas you would choose.  I usually leave it open because sometimes it is worth driving 30 minutes or so for a great deal.  Sometimes you have to be close because you don’t have a car, so choose accordingly.  


So after changing my filter and making my list in order from cheapest to most expensive, I scrolled past all the one and two star hotels until I hit the first three star or higher hotel.  Wow!  I just found a three star hotel near Disneyland (Buena Park is the city next to Anaheim), for only 50 bucks a night.  But before you book it, there are some more things to look for before selecting a secret hotel.  First, make sure it is listed as the star level you prefer.  I find that the Hotwire hotels we have booked are well rated, and do seem to match the star level listing.  We have been burned picking star levels lower then three, but if we stay in the three stars above we are usually happy.  Now you can be dangerous and book a two and half star and get some amazing deals, but make sure you look at the percentage recommended.  If it is lower than 85 percent, don’t do it.  Or be daring and do it, sometimes you can find a hidden little gem by taking a risk.  It’s up to you.

Okay back to my find, notice that this is an all-suites hotel (that is super exciting because that means every room will have a kitchenette, a couch, and bed, so that is fun).  Also notice, it has free internet, and free parking listed in its amenities section.  If it is not listed as free they may charge for parking and internet.  Now the only thing that could spice this deal up a little more is being closer to Disneyland and having free breakfast.  Let’s continue to scroll.  


Here is one on the list that is $69 a night, but it is much closer to Disneyland.  It has free internet and free parking, but still lacks free breakfast.  It does have a high rating, but not enough to tempt me.


I scrolled a little more and found two that have free internet, free parking, and free breakfast, but I wouldn’t book this because they are way more expensive than my $50 find, and it’s only 30 percent recommended.  I wouldn’t risk it with ratings that low.  


This could be an option if I needed free breakfast and wanted to be closer.  I can feed my family breakfast for less than $32 dollars a night though, so I would probably pass. 


This is the cheapest three and half star option.  I understand some people (A.K.A. my mother in-law) don’t like booking lower then a certain star level.  I get it.  Live it up, but please get a good deal.  


Here are some affordable 4 star options.


And for those of you that have to have a 5 star stay, you can book these for normally $500 – $800 night rooms for much cheaper.  Even rich people want a good deal, right? 

So all in all, I would stick with my initial find of $50 a night for an all suite hotel, with free parking and free breakfast, and with good reviews.  





Step 3:  Book your hotel.  Go ahead and click on the hotel in the list.  The above screen will pop up.  It gives you an idea of what possible hotel brands you might get.  If you are still comfortable with the names listed, go ahead and click book now.  Now look at the picture below,  it also gives you a list of hotel features, and a chance to upgrade to a room you would like.  It’s usually cheapest to let the hotel choose your room for you.  Remember, they will give you enough sleeping places for the number you listed in your room search, so if you put four people, you‘re not going to get a room with just a queen bed.  I know it seems stressful to choose the unknown, but Im telling you, it works.  


One final thing you can check before you book your secret hotel is the Trip Advisor ratings that are listed on the site.  Trip Advisor is one of my favorite travel sites because it gathers reviews and gives pretty accurate ratings for a hotel (I’ll do a Trip Advisor post in the future).  Sometimes I cross check the site to see if I can figure out what hotel it might be. If I go to Trip Advisor and look up the three star Buena Park All Suite Hotels that have three and half circles, then compare the amenities available, I can often figure out the secret.  This is for those of you that just can’t stand the unknown.  As I said before, I know it is hard to book blind, but with this little trick you may not have to.  You are definitely lowering the risk factor with a little detective work.  If you’re still comfortable, go ahead and click “book now.”

  
At this time, Hotwire will ask you to sign in to your account, or sign up for an account.  This is what the final page before booking looks like.  Make sure you check that the rate is correct.  Also, this is the first time they will show you how much your room will be with taxes and fees.  $10 dollars is not bad at all.  If the hotel charges a resort fee, it will tell you that you pay that directly to the hotel once you get there.  Another plus about this hotel is that even though it is in a resort area, it does not charge a resort fee.  Awesome!


Click “book now”.  Your credit card will be charged and your hotel will be booked.

Now, the name of your hotel will be revealed.  Voila, this is what I got.  Looks nice to me!  You can now check out the listing on Trip Advisor for the hotel you booked to make sure you got a deal.  Which, from the looks of it, I did!!! 

Still not convinced? Take a look at the list of past hotel purchases we have made on Hotwire:

  • Holiday Inn Resort, Galveston, TX, three stars, $77 a night, January 2016
    Super nice pool right across from the ocean.


    The pier is nearby too.  Phil is pointing out his excitement.



    Look at the view from our balcony. #handsome



    We definitely got a pool view.


    Combined with an ocean view.  Nice. 


    This is the view from the corridor.  We were getting on that Disney Cruise Ship in the distance. 
  • Staybridge Suites – Austin Airport, Austin, TX, three stars, $84 a night, January 2016
    The kids eating breakfast from their couch bed.


    Gotta love a breakfast bar with Texas shaped malted waffles. 
  • Hotel Rosedale, Bakersfield, CA, three stars, $45 a night, December 2015
    Great Breakfast.  Malted waffles make me happy. 

    The hotel corridors were unique.

    Yep, that’s a teeter totter at a hotel.  


    The pool area.  Nice hot tub. 


    The patio area with a pool view.
  • Hyatt Place, Phoenix, AZ, three stars, $65 a night, December 2015
    Phil had a brothers night.  A perfect place for a bro getaway. 
  • ALO Hotel by Ayres, Garden Grove, CA, 3 and 1/2 stars, $80 a night, October 2015
  • Crowne Plaza, San Diego, CA, 3 and 1/2 stars, $89 a night, July 2015


    My daughter enjoying a book in the comfy bed. 
  • Best Western Plus – Flathead Lake, Kallispell, MT – 2 and a 1/2 stars, $99 a night, June 2015
    This place was great.  They had cheese blintzes at breakfast and a great view. 
  • Wyndham – Anaheim Garden Grove, CA, 3 and 1/2 stars, $79 a night, April 2015
    Once I found out that I had gotten this place on Hotwire, I called and asked if they would upgrade us to the bunk bed rooms, and lo and behold, they did!
  • Best Western Casa Grande, Arroyo Grande, CA, 2 stars, $85 a night, March 2015
    Cute little breakfast nook area.


    The lobby was super amazing looking.


    The grand stair case in the lobby. 
  • Desert Palms Hotel and Suites, Anaheim, CA, 3 stars, $66 a night, January 2015
  • Aquarius Casino Resort, Laughlin, NV, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $35 a night, November 2014
  • Holiday Inn Express, San Diego, CA, 3 stars, $65 a night, October 2014
    Any hotel that  has a  bed that can fit a family of 4 for a selfie is a friend of ours.
  • Ayres Suites, Corona, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $55 a night, August 2014
  • Embassy Suites, Brea, CA, 3 and a half stars, $69 a night, July 2014
    We love Embassy Suites.  They all have an amazing jungle atrium lobbies with fantastic breakfasts and they are an all suite hotels.  Plus this time, they upgraded us for free.  Nice touch.  
  • Holiday Inn Express, Show Low, CA, 3 stars, $70 a night, March 2014
    We enjoyed the inside bridge between the buildings.


    Totem Pole
    It also had a small little playground.  Great for young kiddos. 



  • Prescott Hotel and Conference Center, Prescott, AZ, 3 and 1/2 stars, $69 a night, March 2014
    Hanging poolside.


    Sweet indoor pool that we got all to ourselves.


    Enjoying the hotel furniture.


    This was the view from the back terrace of the hotel.  Prescott is beautiful.  It sits on a hilltop, so you can see everything.


    Look a this kid.  He’s so cool, and so is the nice bed.
  • Luxor Resort, Las Vegas, NV, 4 stars, $34 a night, July 2013

    The lobby.

    In front of the hotel.


    Poolside.
    What a steal!  My mom got us an upgrade for $34 bucks a night.  Cheapest I’ve ever paid for a 4 star hotel.
  • Colton Inn, Monterey, CA, 2 and a 1/2 stars, $102 a night, June 2013
  • Holiday Inn, Santa Maria, CA, 3 stars, $64 a night, June 2013
    My bro in law made some killer breakfast burritos here. 


    Huge rooms. 
  • Ramada, Hagerstown, MD, 3 stars, $56 a night, March 2013
  • Doubletree Hotel, Wilmington, DE, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $66 a night, March 2013
  • Best Western Plus – Chincoteague Island, VA, 2 and a 1/2 stars, $54 a night, March 2013
    The kiddos insist on making little beds out of hotel furniture. 


    Chincoteague Island is known for their wild ponies that roam the island.  We found some Un-wild ponies across the street from the hotel. 
  • The Padre Hotel – Bakersfield, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $56 a night, December 2012
    This was such a cool hotel.  It was an old hotel all glammed up for a new age.
  • Best Western Seven Seas, San Diego, CA, 3 stars, $45 a night, December 2012
    Sometimes, if you are real sweet, they will upgrade you to a suite with a hot tub.  That’s always fun.  
  • Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel, Buena Park, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $55 a night, November 2012
  • Sheraton Hotel, Cerritos, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $66 a night, April 2012

Well, there you have it.  What are you waiting for?  Go book a hotel and then come back and tell me about the amazing deal(s) you found! 

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Put on your Google Flights Vacation Pants

One of our recent flights to Austin, Texas that we found through Google Flights. – 2016

My Vacation Pants takes you through a detailed tour of how to use the amazing, yet complicated features of the website, Google Flights.  Read on to find out how to book the cheapest possible flight on the internet.
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Put on your Treehouse Hotel Vacation Pants

Out ‘n About Treesort located in Talkilma, Oregon. -2011

The Vacation Pants family goes on a unique trip to Medford Oregon.  Included in this budget friendly trip are stays in a treehouse resort, beach hikes, Star Wars filming locations and, good food.


Trip Overview
This is probably the trip that I get asked about the most.  Interestingly enough we took this trip in March of 2011, right after I had our second child, Luke.  He was only five months old at the time.  It was our first BIG trip as a new family of four.  I was working part-time and we had very little money.  We got some money back from our tax refund (a great way to take a trip) and we wanted to use the money to go somewhere far, but cheap.  Using Google Flights, we found the cheapest possible place to fly during our time off. (This is how we plan a lot of our trips.  More on that later). In this case, a flight to the town of Medford, Oregon popped up for $138 round trip, including all taxes and fees.  We knew nothing about the area, but we were intrigued.  With airfare that cheap, we could take a week long trip for less than our tax refund. So we looked to see what there is to do in and around Medford, Oregon.  That is when we found the Out ‘n About Treesort in Talkilma.  The treesort is located about an hour outside of Medford.  We were amazed that we could stay in a real treehouse, so that sold the trip for us.  We ended up renting a car and doing a little road trip around Southern Oregon and Northern California that I will go in to great detail about.

Trip Itinerary

Overall this was a 6 day, 5 night trip.  The cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  So often this determines the length of our trip.


Day 1: Flew from Los Angeles, CA to Medford, OR.  We stayed at a local motel in Grants Pass.

Day 2:  Traveled to Talikma, Oregon to stay at the Out ‘n About Treesort.
Day 3: Traveled to Crescent City, CA to stay at the Curly Redwood Lodge
Day 4/5: Crescent City, CA
Day 6: Traveled back to Medford, OR to depart from the airport to return home.

Google Map It – Click a link for a map to the round trip road trip we took from the Medford, OR airport.


Trip Budget


Remember we go places that are cheap at the time of our vacation.  Prices will vary, but this is what we paid at the time in March of 2011.


  • Airfare – $138 per person, round trip, from Los Angles, CA to Medford, OR.  We booked the airfare through Allegiant Airlines.
  • Rental Car – $203 dollars for whole trip.  It was an Avis Rental Car that we booked on priceline.com.  It was the lowest published price at the time.  We booked an economy car with unlimited mileage.  They did not have free additional drivers at Avis, so I joined their rewards program for free, and one of the perks is a free additional driver, so both my husband and I were able to drive the car.
MVP (My Vacations Pants) Trip Tip: Find out what works best for you and your family BEFORE leaving on your trip. It is easy to get stressed when traveling, especially with small children.  My husband, Phil and I have roles on our vacation that we very much stick to.  For example, I do all the clothes packing for out trips, but Phil brings in all the luggage when we get to a hotel.  Phil does most of the driving on road trips, I navigate on google maps, and use my Trip Advisor app to find good places to eat. Also, if we are all cozy in a hotel room, I run out and get us some food in the rental car.  That’s why I sign up for additional driver.  This is what works for us, what works for you?
  • Gas – You can estimate how much gas you are going to use on a trip by using https://www.fueleconomy.gov/.  All you do is put in your itinerary in the map section.  Put what kind of car you will be driving and the website will give you a pretty amazing estimate of how much money you will be spending on the gas.  For the entire trip, driving an economy car, it will be about $14.70.  I am going to round up to $25.00 for the cost of side trips, and then you have to fill up the tank before you return it to the rental car place, so I calculate for this amazing road trip it will cost about $50 for the entire trip.  
MVP Trip Tip: Don’t prepay for your gas at the rental car place.  It is usually way more expensive than gas you can get right outside of the airport.  
  • Hotel – $307 for a five night trip.  The most expensive lodging is obviously the Treesort.  Also note, that since we went in March (summer months are their more expensive months) the Treesort was way more affordable.  
  • Activities – 
    • Jedidiah Smith State Park – $8
    • Ocean World – $12.95 a person, but kids under 3 get in free, so our kids were free at the time.  Children ages 3-11 are $7.95 a person.  
    • Bowling – We spent about $25 for shoe rentals for three, and two games of bowling.  Go midday during a weekday for the best deals.  
Trip Grand Total – $1041 – This total is based on 2 adults, one child, and one infant in your travel party.


MVP Trip Tip:  I don’t include food in our trip budgets because you have to eat every day anyway.  Food should already be in your budget at home.  You may spend more on eating out on vacation, but you can also go to a local grocery store and brown bag it.  We do a combination of both on our trips and we wind up spending close to what we spend at home for a week.


Trip Lodging


  • Buona Sera Inn, located in Grants Pass, Oregon.  This was cute little motel with uniquely decorated rooms.  We thought it was perfect for a one night stay.  What makes it special: It has beautiful murals painted around the hotel and cute rooms that are all decorated in their own unique theme.  I can’t remember what we paid for it, but you can book a room through their website for $52 a night right now.  Don’t forget about these independently run inns and motels.  Many of them are hidden, affordable gems. 
  • Out ‘n About Treesort, located in Talkima, Oregon.  We stayed in the Treezebo.  This was truly a unique and memorable experience.  You had to take a series of rope bridges and staircases to your room 45 feet above the ground.  You can then use a pulley system to lift your luggage to your room.  The room has a sink and a toilet, but showers are down on the ground in a shower house.  There are some treehouse rooms that do have a private shower, but they cost a lot more.  What makes it special:  You are staying in an actual treehouse for goodness sakes!  It is like a Swiss Family Tree House dream come true.  They also have several activities at the treesort like a swimming hole, ropes course, giant swings, fire pit, etc.  Fun for the whole family.  We only stayed one night because the place books up far in advance, so we got a last minute room there.  We paid $125 for the one night.
     
     
  • Curly Redwood Lodge located in Crescent City, California.  Their website links do not work, so you have to call to book a room.  At the time we called and they gave us a large room with two queen beds for $65 a night. Here is a tip: if you cannot book online because they don’t have those capabilities, you can often get some killer deals.  What makes it special:  It is right across the street from the harbor. All of the wood in the hotel was made from one huge curly redwood tree that produced over 57,000 feet of lumber.  It’s a marvel to be seen.  





Trip Activities


  • The treehouse resort has built in activities that are included in your stay.  We explored the grounds and found a ropes course, a swimming hole (it is closed in the winter, or at least too cold to go in), trails to hike around, rope bridges and swings, a net play area, a campfire etc. 



  • Tsunami Lanes – We went bowling.  Bumper bowling is especially fun on a rainy evening.  
  • Beachfront Park – Amazing park with fort like structures and super amazing swings for young children.  THIS PARK WAS FREE!!!

  • Ocean World – It was very small aquarium in Crescent City, but fun for our young children.  They have a touch tank and a seal show.  




     


  • Crescent Beach – We walked on the beach and had a blast.  It was a beautiful walk.  





  • Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park – We went here and it was like driving through the Ewok planet in Return of the Jedi.  Why?  Because this area is where those scenes in the movie were shot!  Gorgeous foliage and beautiful, huge, and ancient redwood trees.  It cost $8 for our whole vehicle to drive through the park.  



Trip Eats


  • Chart Room Marina and Restaurant – This was our splurge for the trip.  The restaurant is situated right on the water and it was right across the street from the hotel.  The food was good, but pricey, but we know you’re paying for waterfront dining as well.  Kid Friendly:  YES. They brought Audrey a jar of crayons and some coloring pages.  
  • Wild River and Brewing Company – We knew this was a local hangout as soon as we walked in.  The pizza was good and I didn’t get any weird stares from breastfeeding my son in public.  They also had a fun little hike right in the parking lot, so that was cool too.  


Overall this was a fantastic trip that you will not regret taking with your young family.  I mean, come on, don’t you want to be one of the few people that has stayed in a treehouse hotel?  People asked us all throughout the trip why we would fly to Medford, Oregon on vacation,  but you can see from these pictures that it was a world class trip in an unexpected location.  It is a testament to the fact that there is adventure everywhere, you just have to look for it.
This was also an important trip for our little family because I wanted my kiddos to be trained at a young age on traveling and adventuring.  Now my kids are 7 and 5 years old and they have been to many cool places.  They love hotels and they love traveling.  I think it all comes back to this trip that I took my 2 year old and my 5 month old on.  It was a fantastic introduction.  


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Trip Links

http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/Vecchio7
https://www.allegiantair.com/
http://treehouses.com/joomla/index.php/treesort
https://www.google.com/flights/