Stay Hilton. Go Out. 20% Off Hilton Stays with Double Points and more

By Nick – Random Segments

A growing area within the travel industry is trips targeted toward gay travelers.  You have travel agents targeting the gay community, as well as organized gay cruises.  There are events surrounding Pride festivals all around the world, as well as special events such as Gay Days down at Disney World.  Most of the specials related to these events are confined to special event rates.  However, Hilton has a blanket discount program, that comes with some very useful benefits.  

By booking through the special LGBT site that hilton has, you get the following benefits

  • 20% off the standard rate
  • Free High Speed Internet
  • Double HHonors Base Points
  • Late Check-Out
While you also get a digital subscription to OUT Magazine, that is not the primary benefit we are talking about.  But look at those benefits on their own.  For some locations, this is better than the corporate rate that many company contracts provide.  This is already better than the base rate, and comparable to the advance purchase rate.  The discount is better than AAA, and some basic elite benefits are thrown in for free.
I was amazed to learn about this program last weekend, and it is one that I know that many of you would want to know about, especially since these stack with your existing elite benefits, and promotions, as this is a special rate, with the benefits included.  
And unlike most special group rates, there is no proof of membership required.  No card needed, and no way for the property to deny you the rate, even if are not gay.  The only restriction is that the promotion is only for Hilton properties, and not the full family of brands.  The offer currently expires December 31, 2012 but it may be extended or restarted next year.  Book your stays under this rate if you want to see a discount like this continue, or possibly even expanded.

Four Seasons Atlanta Review

By Nick – Random Segments

So I was attending an event where the Four Seasons Atlanta was the host hotel, and the group rate was fairly good, so I decided to make a little weekend getaway of it.  


Arriving, I pulled up front, and I was immediately given my valet slip (Valet parking is $32 a night), and was offered assistance with my luggage, that one of the bell staff would take it, and have it delivered to my room.  A nice touch, although I was traveling light, and so I did not take advantage of it.  

The check-in desk is at the far left side of the first level, and is really kind of hidden unless you look for it.  The primary thing in the lobby is a staircase to the second (though it is officially the third) level resturaunts.  Check-in was a little slow as there were some computer problems, which they were apologizing for profusely.

The Room

I booked a basic room, which is billed on being one of the lower floors of the hotel.  However, because the hotel was fairly full, I was upgraded to the 18th (out of 19). 


The bed was extremely comfortable, and I really didn’t want to get out in the morning.


A basic work area, with nothing real fancy.  


View from my room(Facing North toward Buckhead).


Bath tub





All the items in the room were of high quality, and it was a pleasant if basic room.

Hotel Facilities

The Fitness Center and Pool are attached to the spa, and are designed for use by hotel guests, spa patrons, as well as residents of the building.  


Fitness Center Lobby


Free Weights




Charging Station (I wish more fitness centers had this)


Premium workout enhancements (for purchase)


Pool, at the far end is the whirlpool.  My one complaint about the pool is that it is only 4′ deep the entire way, which makes it very difficult for me to enjoy the pool.


Water, sunscreen, towels, and cool damp towels.  

The hotel also features a Sauna and Steam Room in the locker rooms.  The water and cool towels are also available in the locker rooms, and fitness center.  One thing that I like is that one does not need to get access to lockers by checking in with an attendant, and instead the lockers are open for use, and lock in the standard electronic lock method.  


The hotel is in midtown, and is only a block from the Arts Center Marta station.  Midtown is a growing business center, and social hub, but not the usual market for Four Seasons.  Driving to Downtown or Buckhead is not too hard from the hotel, though at peak times it can take a while to go in either direction.  Piedmont Park is 4 blocks down 14th St.


Decent luxury hotel, with some great facilities.  Old School luxury, and can be a nice getaway if you get a good rate.


Travel Humor for the Holiday

By Nick – Random Segments

Well, there is definitely some travel humor going around the internet before this holiday weekend in the US.  First up is this nice little review from the Mars rover:


Yes, this is not real, but we have all had this feeling.

The second piece is from everyone’s favorite Delta flight attendant, showing that US Airways does not employ the use of spell-check, even with the Democratic National Convention coming into town.

(HT to Darran for these)


Another Launch Party for a MegaDo, This Time for Star Alliance

By Nick – Random Segments

While I previously attended the oneworld MegaDo launch party, I was able to secure a space to the Star Alliance MegaDo 4 Launch Party as well.  Even with technical difficulties in forming the initial RSVP thread, when Gary announced the launch party, it filled within 40 minutes, while the OWMD party took a couple of days to fill.  However, one of the benefits of milepoint being a sponsor is that the save room for elite members of the site to have access to a special pool of slots for the event.  For the OWMD launch party it was the first 10 people, however due to the quick response for this event, they held a drawing.  As an additional bonus, milepoint is also doing a drawing for Silver Members (I know it seems like shameless plugging for milepoint, however since the organizers are also the founders of milepoint, they are doing sponsorship and cross promoting).  

But this is generally like the previous launch party where the focus is on the announcing of the SMD4 plans.  While it will be interesting to compare the parties (especially the giveaways, since the OWMD party was the first one where the sponsors when all out for swag), the real focus is on the megado itself. The party is on June 2 at 6:30pm in Crystal City, at the Hyatt Crystal City, just outside DCA.  There is even talk of a barcon, as the waiting list is long and a lot of people want to soak up the fun even if unable to get into the party itself. Unfortunately due to other things at the hotel, I am having to stay at a different property, though it is definitely one I intend to review for you. I will of course be on Twitter (@RandomSegments) with live updates of the announcement.


Preview of the New Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal in Atlanta

By Nick – Random Segments

So yesterday I got to participate in the terminal simulation for the new international terminal in Atlanta.  One of the benefits was that it was the full experience, as both a departing and arriving passenger.  While I only have departing pictures (full simulation, people were even put in the hold at Immigration and full questioning).

The area check-in area is really broken up into two zones.  At the far end of the terminal from the Security Checkpoint is the other airline area (where I had to check-in for my Airtran “flight” to Cancun)


Then closer in is the SkyTeam zone, similar to the layout of the Delta counters in the domestic terminal.


One of the wonderful things about the pre-security area is that it is great for planespotting.  The road into the terminal takes you right by Delta TechOps, and this is the view to the south from the terminal.


Yes, you are looking at the three South runways.

After clearing TSA, this is the view:


Up on the second floor is the Delta Sky Club.



We could not actually go into the club, as the watermain for the club broke the previous morning, doing some damage, and flooding the duty free store below.  Though with this, they did have some Atlanta style snacks available for us.


Here are some more pictures of the atrium area (which is divided into two atriums really).





For Hunter, yes they do have a Smoking lounge, though it is kind of hidden behind the Body Shop on the second floor of the Atrium.


And for once, the gate areas are designed really well.




The seats are decent, though definitely feel better than they look.

And the gate for my “flight”


The arrivals experience is nice, and you get this look as you go down the hall to customs.


Another plus, this customs hall does actually allow natural light in, so you do not feel completely trapped.  Another big change with the new terminal is no re-checking bags to go to exit the airport in Atlanta.  After grabbing my bags, and waiting in the agriculture line (they wanted to test the queing procedures for the area), I was able to walk directly out and be on the curb.  This is a big change for anyone who has Atlanta as their final destination.

Overall, a very nice terminal, and it will be even better when all the concessions open up (though beware anyone on an international flight that does not live in Atlanta and visits The Varsity, not a good combination).  The lobby is great for planespotting, even if you aren’t flying out.  I look forward to experiencing the terminal as a real passenger sometime.

If you have an interest in seeing the terminal yourself before it opens, the airport is hosting a community day this Saturday from 11am to 4pm EDT

Rene from DeltaPoints has another review of the terminal over on his blog from another tester.





Once in a Lifetime Opportunity to Test a New Airport Terminal in Atlanta

By Nick – Random Segments

As I’m sure many readers are aware of, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is opening a new terminal this spring.  The concession contracts have been signed, most of the heavy construction is done and you everyone is waiting for the terminal to finally open so international travelers terminating in Atlanta no longer have to re-check their bags just to get out of the airport.  But as a part of that, they need to do some operational testing to make sure everything works.

To make sure everything works, they are doing an operational test day on May 2 from 8am to noon, and currently seeking 1500 volunteers, to arrive from various places in Atlanta, to bring luggage and experience the airport as a passenger would to make sure that everything is working.  There will be complimentary drinks, as well as a commemorative gift for participants.

There is an application for this program and all submissions must be emailed by March 30 with participants being notified by April 15.  More information about the event is located on the airport website.  You have time to pack your special bags for this special trip without even leaving the ground (though you might be able to figure out a trip to do that while you are at the airport 😉  I’ve already got my application filled out and will be submitting it when I can scan it in.  I hope to see some other of you there. 


Thanks to the AJC for reporting on this event.


Boeing Customer Experience Center

By Nick – Random Segments

One of the megado exclusives was the Boeing Customer Experience Center.  Now, this is not a place where the average person can just go and check-out the options available for the aircraft, especially since some of these options will never see passenger use because they take too much space.  This is a place where airline executives come to see potential configurations for their aircraft order.  We were able to tour the mock-ups of the 747-8, 737, and 787.

Entrance Area



And a model of the Boeing Stratocruiser concept:












And on the upper deck:








Also included on the upper deck is a mock-up that either encouraged or was in response to the new Lufthansa First Class Suites.



The Customer Solutions AreaSAM_0153




Including a 787 simulator



I’m not going to post much here because everyone is extremely familiar with this aircraft.


What is really interesting with these seats are the controls in first class.



Unfortunately, this is only a part of the collection, as the main 787 demo is in another part of Seattle.



Wouldn’t you love to have a bar like this for those times when the upgrade out of Y doesn’t clear 😉



And to give you an idea of the space in the cabin, when it is not packed with way too many seats



And you hear about all of the bin space that is on the plane.  They actually went and designed a bag mock-up with the worst bag that still meets all airline carry-on guidelines to ensure that the bags fit properly in the bins.



American Airlines Flagship Dining Experience on the oneworld megado

By Nick – Random Segments

I’m exhausted from the oneworld megado, however I figured I would share with you our dining experience.  When we boarded the aircraft, we discovered the menus attached to our tray tables.


Now, I decided to go with the steak, because you don’t eat the fish on a plane.  Here it is:


It was a nice meal, though a little disappointing that the roll was cold, but they were trying to serve us an international premium cabin meal in a domestic 757, so I can forgive that.  However, the nice surprise (and I know many on here know about the quest for a better inflight steak) was when I cut the steak open.


Yes, that is actual color on the meat 😉

And for those curious about what the fish meal was:


Overall a great dining experience.


Park Suite at Park Hyatt Toronto

By Nick – Random Segments

For the New Years holiday, I decided to visit Toronto since it had been a little while for me.  Given the special offer from the oneworld MegaDO, I decided to book at the Park Hyatt Toronto and redeem one of my suite upgrades.  I have stayed at this property previously, in just a regular room.


Check-in was fairly smooth, but I actually found it lacking.  I was promptly checked in, and asked which welcome amenity I wanted, but the agent did not mention anything about how the breakfast benefit works.  He also made a big point of highlighting how I received a double room category upgrade, which annoyed me.  If I had not applied a suite upgrade, it would not have been a problem, but redeeming a suite upgrade, it really makes a guest feel like they are waisting one of the benefits of diamond.

The Room

The room was nice enough, and certainly much more modern than my previous stays here, and it is obvious that there has been some investment in the North Tower.  I was placed in a suite on the 11th floor, and here is a view of the suite itself.




The bedroom itself is quite small to make up for squeezing in a living room.

And the view from the rooms of the north tower are actually quite uninspiring, as it is off the main street.


And that pool that you see in the corner is the ancient Four Seasons Toronto that is about to shut down.  And despite being a bit off Bloor, I was still able to clearly hear the protest going on right in front of the Royal Ontario Museum, which is directly accross the street from the South Tower.

The bathroom is fairly standard, and fortunately they have replaced the soaps since my last stay.  My previous stays included Davies Gate soaps, and the exact same formulation that was carried in a Courtyard.  Now, they carry extremely high end soaps from Le Labo.



For this stay, I decided to go for the welcome amenity instead of the points (the lengths I go to to provide complete reviews for everyone). 


And here is the local wine that comes with it.


Other Facilities

This is a property that has its own spa, and the fitness center is a part of the spa.  In addition, all guests have access to the Stillwater Spa locker rooms, which includes access to showers, whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and relaxation areas.  It is real nice to be able to relax in the hotel.


I did take advantage of breakfast in the hotel resturaunt, and this is a property that does not place a cap on the Diamond breakfast.  Instead I was told to order anything off the menu.  I decided to go for the pancakes, with bacon, and banana.


It also came with hot maple syrup, and was a reasonable breakfast. The bacon was wonderful, not too thick, but still cooked to be crispy. I will say the powdered sugar did make the pancakes too sweet when combined with the syrup.  But overall, a decent breakfast for free, but I would never pay the menu price for it ($22 CDN).

It really depends on what you want to do in Toronto.  If you want to do the traditional tourist thing, the hotel is not well located.  It is in the Bloor Shopping district, with the only real tourist attraction being the Royal Ontario Museum.  It is about a block away from 3 separate TTC stations, though it is a little bit of a ride still to get to the downtown locations.  

Other Notes

While the room was nice, I still saw some pieces of age around the hotel, including one elevator where the marble was chipped.  Also, the entrance doors are extremely slow, and don’t always have someone at them to speed them open when you are wanting to come out of the cold.  I know these are minor things, but this is a hotel that is going to be competing with a new Four Seasons, the new Ritz Carlton, and other luxury hotels that are opening up in the city after years of higher scale neglect.  


A decent property, though lacking in some places that make it a true wow property.  Personally, I’m probably going to return to the Intercontinental Toronto Centre for my next trip to Toronto.


Irregular Operations Leads to First Taste of Alaska Airlines

By Nick – Random Segments

I write this inflight on a Delta redeye from SNA to ATL, as today’s flights turned into complete chaos when a surprise snow storm hit Seattle Sunday afternoon while Daniel and I were taking our mileage run.  We pulled out from the gate and then as we were about to taxi to the runway, they closed the runway because the conditions had deteriorated to the point where the runways were dangerous, and needed to be plowed.  So we returned to the gate, the delay grew until the point where departure time would cause a missed connection.  Thus we got off the plane and worked with the agent to rebook.  The advantage of being in a hub is that Alaska was able to get us to any city, and the challenge was finding a city with available seats on the redeye.  That led to the connection in SNA, with an option of a 2 hour connection or a 28 minute connection.  Given the weather, we decided to go with the 2 hour connection.

After we were ticketed, it was the run across the airport because seats were not assigned, and we did not want to risk waiting until the last minute and ending up with the last row of the plane.  So off to the S Satellite in SEA, using my new Sky Club membership (I had some SkyBonus points that were getting ready to expire) to get everything lined up for the Delta flight, then over to the Alaska Board Room to get that flight taken care of.

I like the board room, as they offer real food, and the drink selection is decent.  I’ll leave Daniel to do the full review since he was going around with the camera on this trip.  We were instructed to go ahead and grab a seat, while the agent worked to get us some good seats on the flight to SNA.  We ended up with the front exit row on a 73W, so no recline but slightly more legroom.  For that flight, I could deal with it.  

The Alaska Experience

The flight attendants were extremely friendly, and really went above and beyond the standard economy service offered on most American carriers.  They also really showed personality, starting with praising all the passengers on the flight for getting on the plane and seated quickly so the door could be closed 5 minutes early.  Of course with the de-icing, we did not depart on time, but we were not terribly late upon arriving.  The other part of the service which is surprising compared to most US carriers was a second drink service on a 2 hour flight.  Instead of the second service being coffee or water, it was a full second service with all drink options being offered.  Its rare to see such a minor thing carried out in the US, for economy passengers.

The seat was reasonable for what it was, nothing special.  Daniel and I were both lamenting the buy on board menu, as it listed all of the meal options, but only one of the hot meal options was going to be available.  Not encouraging since we both lost confirmed upgrades on American because of the weather.  But what did now wow from the hard product, the soft product is much better than the standard economy product I’ve become conditioned to from the legacies that have good service on the east coast.  I actually want to try Alaska Airlines again, when I’m not trying to do a crazy mileage run gone wrong.

Overall, today has been exhausting, with 5,200 miles being flown in a 24 hour period, with irregular operations.  And just for a visual representation:


And SEA-SNA-ATL was done all in economy (though at least full fare).