San Diego Trip Report – Part 1 (marZ edition)

B.Postive and I recently took a quick trip down to San Diego to take a break from work and hit up a few places I’ve been wanting to go. We drove down early on July 1st, spent two nights at the Westin San Diego, and drove back the evening of July 3rd. Yes, it was a quick trip, but I feel like I accomplished everything I was looking to (though there are certainly a lot more things we could have done).

I’ll report on getting and staying there, and B.Positive will post on the food and what we did!

Getting There

We didn’t have to get in a plane for this one since we live in Orange County, so no points or miles had to be used. In fact, B.Positive’a car didn’t even need to have the tank filled for the entire trip! Granted it was only a few days out there, but it was still nice to know that we were able to save on gas.

By the way, B.Positive filled up his gas tank using his Chase Freedom card, getting him 5 points per dollar, plus 10 more points for being part of the Chase Exclusives program, plus a 10% bonus for the same Exclusives program. That means a $50 fill-up would garner 265 points (50×5 + 10 + 50x.1 = 265)…not bad!

First on the itinerary was the San Deigo Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. The last time we went down there, we mistakenly went to the actual zoo, not realizing they are quite a distance apart. Don’t make the same mistake we did! After paying $10 for parking and another $42 to get in, we spent a good 5 hours inside and saw pretty much everything. The weather was pretty good but being in the sun for that long while walking uphill/downhill is never fun – make sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of water.

After we finished up at the Safari Park, we headed to Julian, CA to get some apple pie. B.Positive will have the details on the pie in his trip report, but I feel obligated to mention it’s about a 45 minute drive inland through some windy roads. It’s definitely not a place to go if you’re driving an old, beat-up car that might crap out on you at any moment, so just be wary of that if you decide to head to Julian.

After Julian, another 45 minute drive gets us to downtown San Diego, which is where the Westin San Diego is located. Now, there are two Westin’s relatively nearby in this area: the Westin SD and the Westin Gaslamp Quarter. I chose the Westin SD because it was about $50 cheaper than the latter. Also, all the reviews I read said the Westin SD was close enough that you could walk to the Gaslamp area, and that was indeed the case, but be prepared to walk about 6 blocks to get there.

Parking

Parking was not the most fun part. Space is at a premium since the hotel is located in a downtown area, and you’re hit with that realization in the form of parking charges. If money is no object, then by all means valet for $25 a day. For the rest of us, including B.Positive and myself, we need to save every dollar possible.

Just across the street, on the other side of Columbia St, is a public parking garage. The charge is $15 for a day of parking and the stipulation is that you have to leave by noon everyday. The timing wasn’t an issue for us since we were going to be out and about anyway, but still paying $15 was a bit of a kick to the wallet. Still, it was a $10 savings from letting the hotel park the car and the extra walk was literally 2 minutes to cross the street, so it was the best solution to an otherwise unpleasant situation.

For those of you that will by flying in, the hotel does offer a free shuttle service to and from the airport. From what I could gather, it was not a constantly running service, so expect to wait a little bit at the airport after you call for the shuttle. The good news is the airport wasn’t too far away as we saw planes flying over on a regular basis (though there was no noticeable noise from said planes).

Staying There

The most interesting part of my trip is how I actually booked the room. I knew I’d be booking an SPG hotel since I succeeded with my Platinum challenge earlier this year. I first went through Chase Ultimate Rewards to ensure I get 3 points per dollar, then to the SPG website. It displayed all the available options and prices for my dates, but of course I was not quite satisfied. Knowing that SPG, like all major hotel chains, has a best rate guarantee (BRG), I decided to check a few of the big travel agency sites to see if I could find a lower rate. Lo and behold, the first site I checked, Hotels.com, had a rate $3 less than was displayed on SPGs website.

I won’t go through the whole explanation of how to get the BRG since Ric Garrido has already done an extensive post on the topic, but I submitted the BRG form about a minute after booking the hotel, and less than 12 hours later my claim was approved! I selected the 2000 point option instead of 10% off because: 1) I value 2000 SPG points at a minimum of $40; and 2) 10% off is the weakest BRG benefit of all the major hotel chains.

An important note is that even though I selected the 2K SPG points, they still matched the lower rate. Hey…$3/night will start to add up if I keep doing it! Alas, I realized that I could have done even better job of saving money if I simply clicked through from Top CashBack. I suggest you sign up for this website as there are MANY more deals to be had (that’s my referral link btw). Note that this would have negated the Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but that 3% off is a pretty good deal. There’s always next time!

Other ways I could have come out on top is with regards to booking one stay for two nights versus two stays of one night each. I effectively could have booked one night at the Westin SD and got the 2K SPG point BRG claim, then booked another night at a different SPG hotel to attempt to earn another 2K points. It’s obviously not guaranteed to work out perfectly, but it’s definitely a possibility. Also, I personally wouldn’t mind switching hotels since it was only a two night trip, but longer trips or family trips might be an issue for some of you out there. But just keep that information in mind in case it comes in handy!

I regret that I did not take any pictures of the room, but I was upgraded to a Deluxe Bay View room. I was told that the hotel only had 4 suites, and all were occupied (which was confirmed by SPGs Twitter account), but an upgrade is an upgrade.

For my Platinum amenity I selected the extra 500 points (that’s at least $10!) and was also given a free drink voucher for the bar in the lobby. Not bad!

The room itself was pretty standard, though the bathroom was a bit small. It was still nice, and the Heavenly Shower head is indeed a nice feature. You could tell the hotel was a little older since it had an old school door that slid into the wall (or it was a space-saving technique).

The final note on the hotel is regarding the housekeeping. There was a note next to the bed that said you can earn an extra 500 points for each day you decline housekeeping. I thought that was great, and decided to put up the privacy note on the door handle (which I would have done anyway, btw), and waited for said points to post after my trip. When they didn’t, I tweeted at SPG to ask what gives, and was told the “Green Choice” promotion requires that I fill out the note and hand it in to the front desk when checking out. Oops! I got so excited about another 500 SPG points that I apparently stopped reading too soon. Don’t forget to fill out the form for some more easy points!

This is my first stay during the SPG Nice Choice promotion (I selected July 1 start date) so I have to complete at least another stay to earn double points. I haven’t decided where to go next, but I’m definitely hoping to go somewhere soon!

Deluxe Bay View Room

The parking spots you see at the bottom-middle of the picture is the structure we parked in. It was mostly empty and we got a spot on the second floor.


Trackbacks

  1. [...] won’t be the best trip report ever…heck, it probably won’t even be as good as the San Diego one I started off with…but hopefully it will provide some value to some travelers out [...]

  2. [...] you’ve never done it before, making a successful BRG claim isn’t that hard. I’m one for one, and it was easy, completely painless, and done in 12 hours. The hard part is finding one, but [...]

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