February 18 2015

Disneyland: Where to Stay

Where To Stay When You Go To Disneyland

The Planning

If there is one thing that we have learned through all of our traveling it is that where you stay can make or break your trip. Even if most of your day is filled with sight-seeing, where you rest your head at night can still have a huge impact on your experience. Don’t believe us? Click here to read our review of the cabins that we stayed in when we went to Mackinaw City. That was a great experience but the year before that we stayed at a budget hotel that was friendly to our wallet but not friendly to our senses. It made our skin crawl and dampened what would have otherwise been a great trip.

Because of that knowledge we spend a considerable amount of time selecting where we are going to stay when we go on a trip. Some of the items that we consider before booking a hotel include proximity to the attractions we want to visit, reviews on TripAdvisor, amenities and price.

When planning our trip to Disneyland we considered the hotels at Disneyland itself which included: The Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. All of which turned out to be too expensive for our budget. We then started exploring Disneyland’s Good Neighbor Hotels which are hotels in the area that are not owned by Disneyland but have a relationship with Disneyland and have received the Good Neighbor approval. We eventually choose the Anaheim Marriott Hotel which was in fact a Good Neighbor Hotel and was within a mile of Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney. The hotel had great reviews on TripAdvisor, it had excellent amenities and we ended up getting it at a price that was perfect for our budget!

The Experience

Marriott is known for its world class service and this hotel was no exception!

We received a friendly greeting from the front desk when we arrived and we were able to check in even though we had arrived several hours before the official check in time. We did have a bit of a snafu at the elevators only because we were not using them correctly. Ha! Turns out there is a keypad outside of the elevator banks where you make your floor selection as opposed to inside the elevator. We saw several others make them same mistake as we did throughout our stay so we didn’t feel so bad. We even had a couple that got stuck riding the elevator with us to our floor because they hopped in at the last minute without knowing they had to push their floor button before getting in the elevator.

Our room was clean and nicely furnished with a modern touch. But really the best part of our room was the balcony and the view!

Marriott Anaheim View

Marriott Anaheim View 2

Quite a change of scenery compared to what we see every day in Michigan!

After getting settled into our room we made the walk from the hotel to Downtown Disney! We knew that we were in for a mile walk but that didn’t bother us. The route from the hotel to Disneyland turned out to be very easy to navigate and it appeared to be very safe. (Although one night we did encounter police officers handling a disturbance.) The route was also lined with palm trees and it was very pretty a night when it was all lit up!

Anaheim Marriott Walk to Disneyland

As far as the amenities of the hotel go, we really didn’t take advantage of them since we were gone for most of the day but we liked knowing that they were there if we wanted to use them. We did attempt to use the pool but unbeknownst to us it was closed for renovation. Womp womp. That was a bit of a disappointment but it wasn’t a deal breaker.


– If you are not able to check in early or if you need some place to store your luggage on the day of your departure until it is time for you to head to the airport they will store your luggage for free! We used that service on our last day in Anaheim so that we could spend the day at California Adventure before flying home that evening.

– Shop around online on the various sites to get the best deal at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel or any other hotel for that matter!

The Opinions

Betsy: It is no surprise that I am a bit of a hotel snob since I have worked in the hotel industry for many many years. Because of my hotel experience, I see things that other guests may not notice. I am especially critical of customer service. All of the employees at the Anaheim Marriott were very friendly and ready to assist with anything that we needed. Our housekeeper in particular was very nice and every morning while cleaning she would sing while she worked. I like seeing employees so happy as it is indicative of the culture at the hotel. I really enjoyed my stay there and would definitely stay again! Hopefully next time the pool will be open!

Chris: The hotel was very conveniently located and so close we could actually see parts of Disney’s California Adventure from our window. They offered a shuttle to Disney but it probably wasn’t any faster than it took us to walk the distance. I was pretty bummed about the pool though… we came from 10 degrees and snow to 70 and sunny so I wanted to get some pool time in and soak up the warmth. Ah well …I just had to settle for going to Disneyland lol.

Category: Amusement Parks, Disney, Places to Stay | Comments Off on Disneyland: Where to Stay
September 15 2014

The Hard Rock Hotel – Chicago – Review *BackTrack*

hard rock chicago

Today we’re kicking off a new series called “BackTrack” where we write about places we have traveled pre-blog. With our upcoming trip to Chicago, we decided what better way to get in the mood then to remember our trip from last year:

On Michigan Ave. in the heart of Chicago, you will find a giant green building with a golden cap on top. This unique piece of architecture is the “Carbide and Carbon Building” better known as The Hard Rock Hotel. Quite literally walking distance from just about everything in Downtown Chicago, once you park your car there is really no need to get it back out and drive again. In fact, most of the time its actually faster to walk than to try and get anywhere in the crazy Chicago traffic.

hard rock chicago

Adorned with rock memorabilia (naturally) the lobby was quite hip and modern looking. There was rock playing from the overhead speakers and even the employees seemed edgy and cool. There was a small lounge and (of course) a Hard Rock store where you can get all of that merchandise you just love to collect. Their rooms can be a bit pricey, however, on this particular trip it had been comped for us for an event completely unrelated to the hotel or this blog. We arrived a bit too early so our room wasn’t ready when we checked in. Anxious to get out on the town, they gladly held our luggage for us so we could go sight seeing and everything would be set by the time we got back.

hard rock chicago

Our room was nice… simple, modern, with some rock inspired artwork and a somewhat decent view of the city. Upon closer inspection of the room, however, the furniture looks like it has taken a beating and we joked that there were probably some hard core parties held there. The in-room snacks were on some type of pressure sensor device that could tell if they had been tampered with… at $8 for a bottle of water I made sure we didn’t set anything near it as to not accidentally knock something over.

hard rock chicagohard rock chicago










Our view was that of buildings… but essentially that’s Chicago. However, we did get a small view of “the Bean” off in the distance. Overall it was a nice place to stay …if given the choice we will probably stay there again if the rates are competitive at the time.

Category: Chicago, Illinois, Places to Stay | Comments Off on The Hard Rock Hotel – Chicago – Review *BackTrack*
August 12 2014

Mackinac Lakefront Cabins – Review

Mackinac Lakefront Cabin Rentals

The Planning

When planning our trip “up north” we contemplated many lodging options. August is peak tourist season so there are essentially no deals to be found in Mackinaw City and even the budget hotels go for a premium. We didn’t like our budget motel the last time we were up there so we decided to broaden our horizons and look into cabin rentals. We found a little place called Mackinac Lakefront Cabins where you can rent a cabin right on the shores of Lake Huron. We figured we would be more likely to forgive a dirty little cabin than a dirty motel room, plus the price was the best in town so what did we have to lose?

Mackinaw Bridge


Things to note:

Mackinac Lakefront Cabins is a “sister” campsite to Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping. To check in you must go to the Mill Creek office just a short drive down the road.

Both campgrounds are well signed and easy to find, just minutes from downtown.

You have to provide your own bedding (blankets, sheets, pillows, etc) and other linens like bath towels, wash cloths. etc.

They require a one night’s deposit that is refundable if you cancel more than 7 days prior to your arrival.

Mackinac Lakefront Cabins

The Experience:

Check in was a little chaotic down at Mill Creek. They have you line up your vehicle in one of two rows and then you get out to check in. When we arrived there was a mad rush of people coming in and we were in the middle of it all. Check in itself was a breeze, however, we were stuck behind two cars that took much longer than us to get checked in. It was a bit frustrating but it really only delayed us by about 5 minutes or so.

Mackinac Lakefront Cabin inside

After checking in at Mill Creek we drove to our cabin. The Mackinac Lakefront cabins are set back quite a ways from the road. This was very nice and gave everything a more secluded feel. We got cabin #15 which was the very last one with a great view of the lake, island, and bridge! Our cabin was very clean, fresh, and new looking. We had a small bathroom with shower, microwave and mini fridge in the “kitchen”, and cable TV. They advertised free wifi, however, our phones did not catch any signal but this was a non issue for us and our data plans.



There were some great amenities near our cabin including  a nice beach with plenty of things for kids to climb on, a coffee shack for fresh coffee in the morning, two fire pits that were lit nightly and charcoal grills that you can borrow. We were also welcome to utilize any of the amenities over at Mill Creek as well.

Mackinac Cabin at night

The Opinions:

Betsy: After our last experience in Mackinaw City at the budget motel I was a bit apprehensive about what we would be walking into with these cabins. Thankfully I had nothing to worry about. Everything was clean, modern and perfect for our needs. I will admit that we probably could have done with less as we didn’t spend a ton of time at the cabin. However, after a long day of sightseeing it was nice to come “home” to something that I felt comfortable being in.

Chris: I would take these cabins over a hotel any day! Even though we didn’t really make much use of them other than sleeping… I could easily see us staying in all day lounging around with a great view and the sound of the waves. There were only 17 cabins and a handful of spots for RV parking so it was very quiet and peaceful with plenty of room to spread out!