June 6, 2012
This past weekend I flew to Washington DC for the Star MegaDO Launch Party. You can read about the party here and here. I’m not going to write about the MegaDO or the launch party – at least, not today. Today’s post is a different kind of trip report: Frequent Miler Laboratory style…
Experiment 1: Buy flight to one airport, fly to another
The launch party was held at the Crystal City Hyatt, a stone’s throw from Washington National Airport (DCA). From Detroit, flights to DCA were quite expensive, but flights to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) were cheap. I had the crazy notion that I might be able to do a same day confirmed change so that I could fly to DCA instead of BWI (since the airports were in the same general area). If I had bothered to do 10 minutes of FlyerTalk research ahead of time, I would have known the results…
- Result: FAIL
I have Platinum elite status with Delta, so on the day of the flight I called their Premium Service number. The woman who answered was very nice and she even tried to make the change, but told me that the system wouldn’t allow it.
Experiment 2: Use iPhone GPS for driving directions
To get to DC from BWI, I rented a car. I could have taken Amtrak (Marc doesn’t run on weekends) and then the metro, but the round trip combined costs would have been higher than the car rental. I could have brought my old trusty Garmin GPS along, but I wanted to see how well my iPhone could do instead. A while ago I had downloaded the free MapQuest app which gives spoken turn by turn directions. Time to give it a spin!
- Result: PARTIAL FAIL
On the plus side, the MapQuest app had clear, loud, spoken directions. However, there were a few big negatives: 1) It doesn’t show a driver’s perspective view of the upcoming turns (or I didn’t figure out how to make it do so). Sometimes “make a slight right” is hard to interpret when there are multiple options; 2) I had no way of mounting it in the car so I could see it; 3) It routed me directly through the heart of DC instead of going around (as Google Maps would have routed me). This last one was the real killer since it plopped me right into a mass of traffic and traffic lights. In the end, I did get to my hotel, so it wasn’t a complete failure.
Experiment 3: Free parking
One downside of driving was that the hotel I had booked (the Radisson) charged $20 per night for parking. Luckily, a friend on Milepoint told me that the nearby Crystal City Shops had free parking on the weekends. I drove past the Radisson, turned left, and turned left into the free parking. No hassle, no cost!
- Result: SUCCESS
Experiment 4: Club Carlson Gold Status benefits
Last year, I asked Club Carlson for a status match based on my Priority Club Platinum status. For that, they granted me Gold status. In one prior stay at a Radisson, I didn’t get any special treatment for this status, but I was curious if this stay would be different.
- Result: SUCCESS
When I checked in, I was upgraded to their “Penthouse Suite”. On the elevator, I pressed “P” to go to the penthouse level where there were a number of suites. My suite had a living room, bedroom, two bathrooms, and separate shower and hot tub in the master bath. Very nice. On the other hand, it had the same crappy pillows presumably found in the rest of the hotel and I forgot to bring my travel pillow…
Here’s a grainy photo of the suite’s living room: