Hudson and Bleecker Shoe Bag Review

After reading about the existence of Hudson and Bleecker travel shoes bags on another blog, I got on one of my kicks where I *had* to have them for my fantasy trips (these are all in my head), wherein I am perfectly coiffed, always well-appointed and organized to within an inch of my life using oh-so-stylish luggage and other assorted travel gear.

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So, yeah, I was determined to buy these and keep them stashed in my closet, probably forgetting about them when I actually went somewhere.

Problem number one was that they were sold out everywhere, including on the Hudson and Bleecker website.

I kept stalking the bags, narrowly missing them on a flash sale site, until one day, they re-appeared ON SALE at the Hudson and Bleecker site.

Normally $64 each, they were now $34. I ordered two.

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These are from the “Cinque Terre” collection and are linen with yellow trim. I was really excited to get them.

Until.

I received an email from Hudson and Bleecker a few days later saying that the bags were no longer available. They offered to substitute one of their packing cubes and give me an additional 10% off my order.

There were only two styles of packing cubes to select, one chambray and the other with a floral print.

I wasn’t happy but chose the chambray packing cubes. Supposedly it is the same dimensions as the shoe bag, but with a side zipper instead of one in the center.

One other thing: the packing cube retails for $30. By my estimation, since I had spent $34 x 2 = $68 on the shoe bags, I was already due a refund of $8. If I was supposed to get an additional 10% off the order, that would equate to either $6.40 or $6 more (depending on shoe bag cost versus packing cube cost), so I was expecting to get a total refund of $14 or $14.60. Instead, they refunded me the measly $8, which I thought was wrong.

I digress.

The chambray cubes arrived. I was initially underwhelmed.

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The inside has some nice features, including an internal divider (consisting of a slim zippered pocket, which could hold jewelry), as well as another zippered pocket on the other side.

Here are some close up shots of the interior:

I tried them out with some shoes. At first, I used just one pair of heels:

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This seemed like poor space utilization, so I tried a few combinations with two pairs:

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Two pairs of flats worked the best, but the heels/flats combo was also ok.

I’m going to give these a real life test next month when I take a work trip to a medical conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawaii Recap: Forgotten Beach Vacation Essentials

I thought I’d packed well for my trip to Hawaii last week, but it turns out I’d missed a few essentials. 

  1. A beach bag. I own approximately one zillion totes, and to forget to bring one for a beach vacation is practically inexcusable. The first day I found myself deciding between an oversized Vuitton duffel or a plastic bag meant for dry cleaning at the hotel to use at the beach. I had to go with Option B, and of course the bag immediately ripped and spilled all my sunscreen bottles into the sand. Tres chic.
  2. An insulated water bottle. I’d forgotten how cold drinks quickly become lukewarm drinks in a tropical environment. Ice cubes are fleeting. I longed for my S’well bottle. _9130571
  3. Non-leather flip flops. I brought two pairs of sandals: Birkenstock Gizehs and red leather flip flops from Abejas (the best flip flops ever). Except… neither of those performed well during the two days of torrential downpours and urban puddles that we experienced. A traditional pair of rubber flip flops would have held up better.
  4. A folding umbrella. See “torrential rains” above. This would have avoided the $10 drugstore version ($8 too much for what it was worth) that got left in the hotel.
  5. Spray sunscreen. I thought I was being clever by bringing a handful of high-end sunscreen samples that I received from various skin care gifts-with-purchase, but I forgot that spouse likes spray sunscreen. Even the cheapest spray bottle was $16 at the hotel. Bring your own!
  6. Face cleanser. This was really just an oversight. I have a ton of small cleanser samples (all those gifts-with-purchase that I dearly love), but somehow I forgot to pack one. Fortunately there was a Sephora right by my hotel and I picked up a Josie Maran Argan Oil  set for only $16.  I’ve been curious about this brand but this was the first time I tried it. I really liked the three products that came in it: cleanser, face oil, and moisturizing sunscreen. s1610294-main-grid

These aren’t forgotten items, but here are two other travel tips for Hawaii:

  • I didn’t want my wet leather flips flops to bleed onto other items in my (overstuffed) suitcase, but I was out of plastic bags as I packed up to head home. Solution: use the plastic liner bag from the hotel ice bucket. Perfect size for a pair of slim shoes. photo-79
  • Many flights leave Hawaii at night. My first leg was a red-eye to LAX that left at 9:30 PM. Most hotels are also not generous with late checkouts in Hawaii, which leaves you with the dilemma of how to spend the hours between checkout and airport time. The last day was gorgeous and I still wanted to hit the beach, but let’s face it, I didn’t want to be sunburned, sticky and possibly stinky when I boarded seat 2A. The solution I decided upon was to book a spa appointment at 4 PM, approximately 2 1/2 hours before I was due to be picked up for a ride to the airport. With a fresh pair of clothes in my purse, I stashed my stuff in the spa locker, got a massage, and used the (really nice) spa showers and facilities to get ready before I left. Later I found out that the hotel actually had a courtesy suite for this very purpose, but I thought my spa solution also worked out just fine.

Brand Loyalty – Starwood

Almost exactly five years ago, I had a reservation to stay at an unnamed hotel to run in a race.

I chose that exact hotel based on proximity to the start/finish line, so I knew it would be within easy stumbling distance at the end.

When I got there, the desk clerk informed me that they were oversold, and that my guaranteed, pre-paid room was, in fact, not guaranteed and not available.

However, they were happy to send me over to another hotel about 10 miles away, which totally defeated the purpose of staying near the finish line.

Spouse and I drove through increasingly sketchy parts of town to get to the new hotel, and at one point we passed an overturned car on fire.

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When we got to the new hotel, it was something like this:

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I took one look at the parking lot and decided that since I didn’t feel like being murdered in my sleep, there was no way I would be staying there.

I got on the phone and immediately booked a room at the local W, a hotel chain I’d long admired but had never stayed.

That W was heaven. I was hooked.

Since then I’ve stayed at nearly a dozen different Ws, mostly because I also committed to nearly always staying at Starwood hotels as part of their Preferred Guest program.

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Even though I don’t usually do a great job of concentrating airline miles or other “reward” points or programs, I am pretty fierce about Starwood, particularly since their Preferred Guest Program is recognized as one of the best loyalty programs out there. (Marriott wins the top spot).

Although the 40+ properties in the W chain are still my favorites, Starwood has many great brands including Westin, Aloft, St. Regis, Sheraton and Le Meridien.

I don’t quite garner Road Warrior Status, but I travel just enough to be able to maintain Gold Status with Starwood, which gives me perks like free internet, free drinks, late check-outs (4 PM in some places), and significantly faster points accumulation over regular membership. Best part is that it’s free to join.

Reaching Gold Status requires either a total of 10 different stays or a total of 25 nights within a calendar year. (Platinum Status requires 25 stays or 50 nights, which would be impossible for me to do).

Here are a few tips for how I’ve made (and kept) Gold Status:

  • If I’m short on stays, I will consider staying at two different Starwood Hotels in the same city during the same trip. Switching hotels is obviously required and can be a pain, but sometimes it’s worth it. Consider this, too, if there is one hotel that is much nicer but more expensive and another Starwood that is nearby but less costly. Downtown Chicago is a great example: there’s a Sheraton within about 4 blocks of the Lakeshore W. The first is often cheaper than the second, allowing a few nights of economy and a few of splurge.
  • Book two rooms in the same hotel under different reservations. A few times I’ve invited either my mom or my in-laws on a weekend getaway, and I separately make a reservation for one room for each party. This is slightly different from making one reservation for two rooms; this is making two reservations for one room each. You get double credit (two stays) if you book them individually.
  • Book one night at a time at the same property. I discovered this by accident, and technically, I don’t think the system allows this, but it worked twice for me. There were two occasions where I thought I would only be spending one night at a particular hotel, and in the end, my schedule changed and I ended up staying for two nights. In each case, I had already booked and pre-paid online for the room for one night. I went back online and made a reservation for the following night. Both times, I explained at check-in that I would really be staying for two nights, not one, and I didn’t have to switch rooms. The system gave me credit for two stays, when normally a two-night stay would have been considered a single episode.
  • If you’re going to Disneyworld, stay at the Swan or Dolphin hotel. Both of these are Starwood hotels located on Disney property, right next to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. You can take Disney transportation to any of the parks. The Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton, but both are nice. I like staying at the Swan slightly better, but the Dolphin is bigger and has a casual restaurant and a nicer one (Bluzoo) where I like to eat.
  • Don’t forget about the boutique brands. Starwood has a Luxury Collection that includes some smaller properties that some people may not realize are part of the group. One example is the cool and historic Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
  • Think outside of the conference block hotel. If I’m traveling for a work conference, I always check to see if any of the designated hotels are Starwood. If not, I check the map for proximity and usually book a Starwood hotel on my own. My work doesn’t require me to stay at designated conference hotels, which is nice.
  • Look for crossover rewards. These don’t count as stays, but they can help accumulate points. I have my Starwood account linked to my Delta frequent flyer account.
  • Always sign up for double and triple point promotions. Starwood is having one of these right now called “More For You.” Stays with a Friday or Saturday night earn triple points until the end of the year and other stays of two nights or longer get double points. You just need to sign up by October 31st.

Here is my home for the next week:

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One More Thing, #24

A few tips for using your smartphone when traveling:

  • As you head into the terminal, take a quick picture identifying the location of your car in the parking garage. This avoids aimless wandering on the back end of the trip, when you’re inevitably exhausted.
  • Take a screen shot of your mobile boarding pass and (temporarily) make it your home screen. No more struggling to unlock a passcode and pull up an email at security.
  • Download your airline’s app, which is usually free. I often fly Delta, and they have a great mobile app that allows you to check-in and tells you gate information and flight status.

Please share other great tips if you have them!