Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hotel Review: Value Inn Worldwide, L.A.

Image courtesy of hotel website
~ I checked into the Value Inn Worldwide hotel in Los Angeles on Monday, July 30, 2012, after an 18 hour flight from Adelaide, Australia (which included a brief stopover in Melbourne).

Although I was on my way to New York City, I figured even one night in L.A. would help me deal with the inevitable jet lag I knew I was going to experience. The hotel was the first of eight hotels stays I would have during my three month visit to America.


Check in: The check in process was quick and uncomplicated. Just the thing you need after an 18 hour flight.
Reception Staff: The Indian lady on reception was friendly and efficient. She said she used to live in Sydney, and knew of Adelaide as the 'City of Churches'. So far, so good.
Image courtesy of hotel website
Cleanliness: I was allocated room 202. Although the hotel is a little dowdy, my room had been cleaned just before my arrival, and everything looked ship shape and gave me no reason to complain.
Location: the hotel is located on West Century Boulevard, which leads straight too and from LAX international airport - just three or four miles away. The neighbourhood itself seems typical for Los Angeles: fast food outlets, cheap hotels and motels, dollar supermarkets, car wash establishments and such like. There is a Chinese take away across from the hotel, and a Panda Express a couple of blocks away. These are handy since meals are not available at the hotel.
Facilities: These include free wired and wireless high-speed internet, free unlimited local and long distance domestic phone calls, and guest laundry.

Image courtesy of hotel website
Additional features and services include in-room coffee makers, microwaves, refrigerators, iron and ironing boards, hairdryers, safes, satellite TV with premium movie and sports channels, and much more. A full list of hotel facilities can be accessed here…

The WiFi reception was fine in my room and came free, a service Australian hotels would do well to emulate. Traffic noise was bearable. This was LA after all, and there was no noticeable aircraft noise despite the proximity of the airport a few miles down the highway.

Breakfast: The Value Inn website refers to their breakfast offering as a "complimentary deluxe continental breakfast", however, I thought it was fairly basic even though there was plenty of it. Choices consisted of apple or cranberry juice, tea and coffee, Cornflakes or Cheerios, muffins, waffles, toast and jam, and I guess water if you include that as part of breakfast.
Image courtesy of hotel website

So much for my Los Angeles stopover. From airport to hotel to bed to airport again. Still, it was never intended to be more than a short break to help me get over the long flight, and reset my body clock from the southern hemisphere to the northern one.

The hotel does not provide a pick up or drop off service for LAX. My taxi fare to the hotel from the airport was $20.00, and the return fare was $15.00 – including tips.

Recommendation: Let's face it, most hotels near large international airports are designed to cater to clients who are generally looking for one or two nights accommodation while they are on the way to somewhere else more interesting, and the Value Inn Worldwide fulfils this brief perfectly well. Based on my one night stay (hardly a scientific study, I know), I am happy to recommend the hotel for just this purpose. As budget hotels go, it was clean, the staff I spoke to were friendly and welcoming, the price was right, and it was close to the airport which is another reason I chose it. 3.5 stars.

More info:
Value Inn Worldwide, Los Angeles
4751 W Century Boulevard, Inglewood.
One Night: US$75.38 (includes booking fee through Orbitz.Com)
Ph: (310) 491 7000.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Visiting Attractions On A Budget in New York City


After hotel costs, transport and food, one of the biggest additions to the cost of any travel is the cost of sightseeing and visiting city attractions. In a city like New York, which has more places to visit than one could reasonably expect to see in a life time of travel, any system that helps reduce costs has to be worth looking at. In this post I want to write specifically about my two favorite ‘go to’ sites that offer the chance to score tickets to a wide range of events at vastly reduced prices. These are TKTS and Goldstar.

Most visitors to New York City, and the locals living there full time, are aware that discounted tickets to many New York theatre productions – including popular Broadway shows – can be found by visiting one of the city’s TKTS outlets.

The Theatre Development Fund (TDF), is the not-for-profit performing arts service organization that operates the TKTS Discount Booths. TKTS Discount Booths offer tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway musicals and plays at up to 50% off. The (TDF) operates three TKTS Discount Booths in New York City.

1. The Times Square Booth (under the red steps at Broadway and 47th Street), sells day-of-performance discount tickets. You can also purchase full-price tickets to future performances for all shows and same-day full-price tickets to shows that aren't being discounted.
2. The Downtown Brooklyn Booth (in 1 MetroTech Center, at the corner of Jay Street and Myrtle Avenue Promenade, Brooklyn), sells tickets to evening performances on the day of the performance and matinee tickets the day before as well as tickets to Brooklyn performing arts events.
3. The South Street Seaport Booth  (in the Seaport Marketplace at the corner of Front and John Streets, Manhattan) sells tickets to evening performances on the day of the performance and matinee tickets the day before. NOTE: As of this posting, the booth is closed until further notice due to water damage from Hurricane Sandy. Keep an eye on the TKTS website for news and information regarding when this booth will reopen.

All locations sell tickets at 50%, 40%, 30% and 20% off full price (plus a $4.00 per ticket service charge, which helps support other TDF services and programs. Availability and ticket inventory change throughout the day and are always at the discretion of individual theatre productions. Currently you are not able to purchase discounted tickets to shows in New York City via the Theatre Development Fund website. You have to visit a TKTS Booth personally, or use one of the apps available for this purpose (see below).

Goldstar states that it has the largest online listing of half-price offers to live entertainment in the world, and I’m not about to argue with that. I first learned about Goldstar in 2010 while on a nine hour cruise from Manhattan to Bear Mountain (up the Hudson River) with the Classic Harbor Line, for which I had paid US$160.00. A fellow passenger, who had purchased her ticket through Goldstar had only paid US$90.00, for her discounted ticket.

Unlike TKTS, which only sells discounted tickets to theatre shows in New York City, I have since used Goldstar to buy discounted tickets to major league baseball games, theatre shows, roller derby events, harbor cruises, and more. As I write, Goldstar are selling tickets for the three hour Bateaux New York Dinner Cruises during March and April priced at around $99.65-$103.65, compared with the full price of $166.10-$172.75. Considerable savings by any measure. Alternatively, the Central Park Walking Tour they are also currently selling is half priced ($22.50 instead of $45.00) for dates during March and April.

The really great news is that again, unlike the TKTS Booths which are only available in New York City, Goldstar offers discounts to hundreds of events in more than 30 cities across the United States. These include Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. An added bonus is that Goldstar tickets can be bought online through their website, and via their iPhone app (see below).

There’s an App For That!
Both TKTS and Goldstar have apps available to make it easy for visitors to purchase tickets without the hassle of joining long queues. According to information about the TKTS app at iTunes:
The Official TKTS app, available free of charge for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone, is the only way to get fast, accurate, real-time listings of all Broadway and Off Broadway shows available at the world-famous TKTS Discount Booths in New York City. The Official TKTS app is directly linked to the display boards at the TKTS Discount Booths, so what you're seeing, in real time, is exactly what the people waiting in line are seeing.
TKTS Discount Apps

Goldstar Weekend App
Currently, the Goldstar Weekend App is only available for the iPhone...

Note: This app is being marketed specifically as the Goldstar Weekend app, and as the name suggests, the app appears to offer event discounts for weekend performances only. Here’s what Goldstar themselves say about the app:
You might be busy this weekend, but a packed schedule doesn’t mean you have something fun to do, right? That’s where Goldstar Weekend comes in. Goldstar Weekend helps you discover and buy tickets to music, sports, theater, comedy and more in two minutes or less. Upon launch, you are taken to the closest weekend day. There you can browse up to 10 top events in your area, read about them and share with friends.

I myself have not used either of the above apps, so I can not offer comments or reviews of their ease of use or other comments. In fact, until I sat down to write this post, I didn’t know the two companies had apps, and for all I know the apps weren’t available when I was visiting New York City during the summer of 2012. However, I have used the TKTS booths while in New York City, and in the case of Goldstar, I have always made a point of pre-booking events via the full website, before my arrival in the city. Using the Goldstar website, you can purchase discounted tickets non-weekend events.

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