Others

Tallahatchie Flats

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I found this place online and there was a similar location with cotton picker shacks nearby however the other place required all guests to be 18 and over, which none of my kids are. This place looked different and unique and that is what I like. I was recovering from whatever bug I had and didn’t really pay attention as we approached Greenwood. I did dawn on me though that the website did not say anything about running water. Panic over struck me as I had no plans to use an outhouse or step outside at night not knowing what the local snake population entailed. Getting there was easy, we contacted one of the managers who was working at another job and she told us where the key would be. Once we got to the property, it took us a minute to figure out which one was ours but once we did, we pulled up right next to it and brought our bags in.


The rooms were awesome and our kids loved it. Very spacious with two huge beds. We were in the Palo Alto. I told my kids they would have to pick cotton in the morning as punishment for something (I made up the something). They had a good time exploring the rooms and lo and behold it DID have running water. It had all the modern conveniences of a hotel but with a tiny TV but that was OK because we didn’t need a TV.
I wasn’t feeling well so I slept right away while the kids and wife played.
In the morning, I felt much better, the kids got ready and we went to the cotton field and the kids had a field day. They loved picking cotton and spent over an hour there. We cleaned up our flat, took some pictures and headed out.
It was a great and unique stay. I would highly recommend this place and it was affordable.

Vision Auto Glass Lansing, MI

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The windshield on my Toyota Sienna XLE minivan had a 2 foot crack in it which is way bigger than the size you can repair. So I called my insurance company representative at Allstate to find out if an insurance claim for glass replacement will raise my rates. Lucky for me, in Michigan it will not so I guess that varies by state. Allstate has a company they work with but I work with someone whose cousin works a glass company. I verified with the representative that I could use anyone I wanted and called the guy who works for Vision Auto Glass.

The advantage of finding your own person/company is that they have the ability to waive the deductible which in my case for glass replacement is $100. Apparently the front windshield for a 2011 Sienna is $800 some dollars so they were able to waive it. I was passed off to the admin person who quickly got Allstate on the line on a 3 way call so within 15 minutes I was able to give Allstate all the info they needed, got Allstate’s approval and arranged for Vision Auto Glass to come to my workplace and replace the glass while I worked. They had same day options if I took the van to their shop but that seemed like a waste of time.

 

 

On Thursday (2 days later), they called to verify they were on their way. I let them know my keys would be with my receptionist if they needed them (I left the car unlocked) and went on with work. Checked with the receptionist a couple hours later when I got a second and she confirmed that they came, borrowed the keys for a minute, and she signed for me for the receipt which required no payment.

The windshield looked great. They put the 4 or 5 stickers back on (oil change, state parks, county parks, EZ pass, etc) in the exact same locations and the invoice had some basic instructions about not washing the car for a period of time. This was easier than I thought it was going to be and cost me nothing:

Pros: Only took 15 minutes with the insurance company and glass company and I did not have to take my car anywhere. Deductible was waived (apparently this can only be done if the windshield is expensive as it obviously doesn’t make sense for them to waive it if the glass is only $150)

Cons: none

Overall: Better than expected experience, almost perfect. Would use them again in heartbeat.

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Wilkes-Barre, PA

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We finished our amazing horse ride at the Daisy Field Farm in White Haven, PA at around 7pm but spent another 30 minutes petting the animals and we headed out. I sat in the passenger seat looking for a hotel in Wilkes-Barre knowing we had time on Friday morning to swim since our first stop on Friday would be the Seven Tubs in Wilkes-Barre and the next stop at 1pm in Scranton which is only about 30 minutes away for the Houdini Museum/Show. Ideally I wanted a breakfast included and a nice heated indoor pool although the weather was in the mid 80s and sunny.

I used my standard searches of travelocity, tripadvisor, hotwire.com, and trivago and came up with a $99 rate for a 2 queen bed room at the Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Wilkes-Barre. I called the hotel to see if there were any better rates and got $10 knocked off for a AAA discount. I only had to give my name to hold the room so I assume they must have had a bunch of rooms available. The reviews seemed good with the main complaint being the slickness of the pool tiles.

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham

Our GPS took us there but to the wrong side of the street so we had to make a Uturn to get there. Parking was easy and it is a scenic location in what appears to be a fancy area close to the Mohegan casino (within 2 miles). Street signs in this area are dim for some reason but it was still light out when we arrived. The lady at the front was friendly. She was stuck on the phone with a customer who kept asking mundane questions. She apologized to me although no apology was necessary. Considering the phone call, checking in took 10 minutes. The lobby was fancy and updated looking with coffee and some fruit available.

The actual process of checking in took 1 minute. She guided us to a Taco Bell which is what my kids wanted. As I mentioned, street lights are dim. When we got to the Taco Bell approximately 5 miles down the street, the Taco Bell had no exterior lights on including the actual Taco Bell sign but fortunately our GPS was guiding us so we knew it was there. Even the ordering screen was dim until the employee turned the light on for us. They botched the order so I had to get the remaining nachos inside. We drove back and almost missed the hotel due to the dimness of the hotel.

Parking near our room was easy although the door on the far left is where the employees smoke although they went across the parking lot so we did not have to walk through smoke.

Our room, 106, was a great location. I had requested a ground floor room. We were close to the lobby/food, and close to the entrance but not directly next to either. The rooms were quiet.

2 minor issues in the room when we entered. One, there was leftover food in the fridge when we entered (a hamburger and fries in a box) and the TV didnt work. We called the front desk about the TV and she said to unplug it to reset it. The problem was that the plug is behind the wall mounted TV and I did not want to risk having the TV fall so we had them do it which only took a minute. Apart from that the hotel was great.

The beds were comfortable. The room was an ok size, not big but not too small. We ate, watched some TV and went to bed. In the morning, the breakfast had a standard offering of hot and cold items which everybody enjoyed in a very clean eating area with lots of seating. After eating we headed to the pool. The reviews were correct, as it was very slick. I warned my kids prior to entry but Jamal fell multiple times as “walking slow” is not in his vocabulary. The pool was a decent temperature and there were only a couple other people there. There were pool towels by the pool. I cannot remember if there was a bathroom at the pool but our room was close. The only issue is that you have to walk through the eating area to get back to the rooms while you are all wet which probably makes that area pretty wet as well. There was a small workout room right next to the pool as well that we didn’t use. We swam for over an hour and decided to head out.

We loaded our stuff, accidentally left our sleeping bag, and headed off. Checkout was a breeze, I verified that I got my Wyndham points and headed out. I let them know about the food in the fridge and they apologized profusely. I was not that bothered by it but I always like to point out things if it can help better the place. Overall, a great place.

Pros: Clean, great breakfast, great pool with both shallow and 5 foot end, hot tub. Great location, modern facility. Was offered $10 of casino money but I turned it down since I hate gambling.

Con: minor things: pool deck tiles are very slick, food in the fridge on our arrival and the TV didn’t work initially (but it was fixed by management within a minute. Keep in mind I am only writing cons because I feel I should write something

Overall: Great hotel at a great price and location. Only 5 minutes from the 7 tubs. Has everything in a hotel I want including a very friendly staff. I would stay here again in a heartbeat.

Super 8 Allentown

Super 8 Allentown PA review

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As usual, we did not plan out our stay. I was driving most of the day so I didn’t get to look up hotels. I started looking as we drove down from Scranton PA after seeing the Houdini show/museum. Hotels in the Allentown/Bethlehem area are expensive so you have to start with that premise. I wasn’t overlly concerned with a pool in this case because we were arriving late (8-9pm and I wanted to get to our first destination (America on Wheels) by 10am so that wouldn’t allow for swimming. I did want a hotel with a free breakfast. I struggled to find any hotel under $100. I tried booking.com , travelocity.com, trivago.com, orbitz.com. I found another hotel on trivago and then when I want to book it, it said that the hotel was full. As a result, the only hotel I could find that had a decent rating was the Super 8 in Allentown.

The hotel pulled up easy on our GPS and is in a convenient location and also right next to an Autozone which was convenient because I needed windshield wipers. We pulled in around 9pm after a 10 minute drive from Lehigh University. The check in counter was dark and dingy. Check in was fast.

Super 8 Allentown

The guy behind me asked the front counter guy if he could use the phones to call his girlfriend but was told the phones shut off at some specific time. As a result, the patron asked if he could pay me a dollar to use my phone. Although I was worried I was being conned, I dialed the number for him after he repeatedly told me that I was opening the texting and not the dialer on my own phone. I was worried somehow my phone number is going to be captured and used to make international calls. We’ll wait and see. He said his girlfriend didn’t pick up.

I parked on the other side of the building close to our room. Location seemed safe enough. Our room was right by the exit and the stairs. The room entrances are from the inside with a key needed to get in the side doors. So it was loud when people went up and down stairs.

Upon entry into the room, it was clean but did have a faint odor of smoke despite being a nonsmoking room. The room had very little room to walk but did have all your standard amenities and did have the sink outside the toilet area which I like. We were all exhausted, and ate our dinner and went to bed. For some reason though there were no blankets, only the thin linen and the decorative cover. It was odd. I was too tired to figure out what the reason was and if we could get blankets.

Woke up in the morning, the included breakfast was a standard offering which is all i ask. The staff in the morning was very friendly (I assume they were the owners). Check out took 2 seconds and then we went straight to autozone right next door.

Overall: Decent for one night when you are just looking to sleep. I would stay again if I am only looking to sleep.

Pros: I paid about $100/night which was the cheapest price around. Breakfast is decent and staff is nice. Location is centrally located.

Cons: No blankets, faint smell of smoke. Rooms are tightly packed.

Americas Best Value Inn Palmyra/Hershey

Americas Best Value Inn Palmyra/Hershey

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Since we could not get another night at the Best Western in Harrisburg, I wanted something close to Hershey Park since we were going to the Park on Wednesday and didn’t want much of a drive in the morning and at night after being tired.

Got to the hotel early after finishing up in Paradise and Intercourse. For some reason our GPS wouldn’t accept the address number so we drove to the general area and had to look for it which took an extra minute. Parking was easy, as it looking relatively empty. Checkin was fast and easy and the staff at the front was extremely friendly.

Americas Best Value Inn Palmyra/Hershey

Parked right in front of our room and unloaded our stuff and relaxed for a few minutes. First impression was that the rooms were huge so there was plenty of space for us and the bags. The bathroom however was the opposite, not much counter space, just a little shelve about the sink. Not a huge deal though.

The kids wanted to swim so we headed off to the pool which is outdoors. We took towels from the hotel room which was good because they didn’t have any at the pool. I decided not to swim as did Hibah for no good reason. The pool temperature was ok as it was around 90 outside. It is a rectangular pool with stairs to enter the shallow end. Plenty of poolside seats to watch. After a few minutes, Hibah changed her mind, ran back to the room, changed into her gear and went swimming. They swam for over 1.5 hours and then back to the room, for a shower, some tv, and off to bed.

There were plenty of towels in the room. Because we were in and out so much and it is a motel, there were a few flies in the room. I don’t blame the hotel for this but you need to consider it because there are generally lots of flies in general in the summer and they have direct access inside with a motel room. Any exposed skin at night and they were going to get on you while you slept.

The beds were comfortable and I like that that the microwave had a clock on it along with the standard bedside clock. We all slept well. We forgot breakfast ended at 9:30 on Tuesday which is when we showed up as we drove the 5 miles to Hershey Park. Instead we got breakfast at Dunkin Donuts right outside the park.

It was nice that the park was close when we got out at 10pm as we were dog tired. We grabbed some McDonalds on the way and then slept right when we got home. Next morning we all grabbed breakfast. The selection wasn’t great, but was good enough. It is in the main check in lobby in a tight area and there is no seating area. Kids grabbed some fruit and cereal (they have a waffle maker) and we headed off. Checkout took 5 seconds and again the staff was super friendly. We packed out stuff and were off to York.

Pros: Good price for area, nice pool, great staff, huge 2 queen rooms
Cons: Door opens to outside (so flies may come in), dated room, small bathrooms

Overall: I would stay again although the Best Western in Harrisburg (Best Western Premier The Central Hotel & Conference Center) was only slightly more in cost and was better so if both are available I would take the BW. I paid $239.74 (total includes taxes) for 2 nights.

Sea Life Aquarium Mall of America

Sea Life Aquarium Mall of America

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The entrance to the aquarium looks similar to the one in Michigan at the outlet mall they built in 2016 however this one appears to be floors (and was).

The kids were at the amusement park (Nickledeon Universe) the whole morning since 10am while I was at my conference. After an easy train ride that stopped directly in the mall, I met the kids in the park around 2pm.

After eating in the mall later, we decide the Aquarium would be a nice way to relax and let the food digest before going back on the roller coasters. It took about 15 minutes to get through the line. I bought the tickets while in line but still had to stay in line to enter.

Sea Life Aquarium Mall of America

You start off near what normally is the area where you pet the sting rays but since a couple of them were pregnant, no one was allowed to pet them. It was nice and cool inside and there was lots of hand sanitizer. They had a few small sections and they give out passports to the kids to get stamped in each section which the kids enjoy with the lure of a prize at the end. They also had one of those fun clear tunnels where sharks and other fish swim around you that everybody loved.

Bathrooms were easy to get to and overall it probably took us about an hour. The prize for the passport was a medal. The kids enjoyed it and then were ready to get back on the roller coasters.

Pros: good break from the amusement park, not too big
Cons: expensive compared to the selection in the aquarium
Overall: Since we were there, we went but overall it was a pretty run of the mill aquarium and if you skipped it or only had limited time for the amusement park, you would not miss much. Look for coupons.

Review of Harrah’s Gulf Coast

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This is a review of the Harrah’s Gulf Coast located at 280 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530.

Graciously, we were let out of our hotel in Gulf Port. The pool was ice cold and the gulf in Gulf Port was not much fun to swim in because a. it was freezing cold b. It was murky/seeweedy due to other islands blocking the waves and natural flow.

We got to the Harrah’s Gulf Coast. It is easy to find on the main strip. It is however difficult to figure exactly where hotel guests park vs casino visitors. Plus, add to the mix that we had our car top luggage carrier and so we had to make sure we fit in the garage. After driving around the building once, I stopped in the bus step and went to check in. Check in took a while. There was only one person and about 5 people and it appeared that none of the checkins went smoothly. About 30 minutes later, I got keys to our room. A luggage rack was easy to find and we loaded up the cart and they waited just inside until I parked the car. I was told I could park in the dirt lot if the van was too tall but we tried the covered garage and had about 1 cm clearance. The van did scrape some of the signs.

Harrah's Gulf Coast

Getting to the room was a breeze. The room was decent but nothing special but it was clean just not overly spacious. No free breakfast was included but the selling point of the hotel was the outdoor heated pool. In the evening it was chilly outside so we skipped going to the pool but it did look amazing. The pool has a nice set of red ambient lights that really make the pool picturesque. In the daytime, the pool was awesome. It was protected from the breeze and it was not too cold and it was huge. It has a nice graded entry for toddlers. The only big downside was the hot tub was closed for maintenance. It was closed the day we got there and was going to open after we checked out. Bummer but not a deal breaker because the pool was nice. There was a poolside shower which I originally thought would be nice but then we realized they were difficult to operate and had some ice cold water. You have to check out the towels which was easy and there was a bar poolside if you wanted anything.

At night we peaked through the glass at the Casino. The security guard said I could come in. I told him I was with my kids and he said they were all welcome in. I was surprised. I assumed you had to be at least 18 to enter. My kids loved it: lots of lights, noises, and more people smoking than they have ever seen. It was like a carnival to them. At one point I took Jamal to the bathroom and on the way back I stopped for a minute to check a basketball score during the NCAA tournament. The bartender told me I had to keep moving since I was with Jamal. So apparently the rule is kids can come in, they just cannot stop moving. Funny rule, but we obliged.

The hotel was overall clean, and the pool was phenominal. They have a catwalk to get to the beach at the gulf which was nice because the street is busy. We walked the beach but skipped playing in the water.

Parking was abundant and easy to get in and out. The hotel is crowded at times, which is expected since it is a casino but the rooms were quiet when it came time to sleep. Overall I would highly recommend it based off the pool alone.

Super 8 – Port Clinton, Ohio on Aug 25, 2015

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We decided we were too tired from Kalahari to go to Cedar Point the next day so we decided to delay that decision for at least one day. So I took a hotwire.com gamble. I found a 2 star hotel with the following amenities: Amenities: Free parking, Free breakfast, Free Internet, Pet friendly, Business center, Self-service laundry, Internet access. Plus the reviews on hotwire were stellar although there was only a couple. So I took a chance and bought it.

Turns out it was the Super 8 – Port Clinton, OH. I checked the TripAdvisor reviews after the booking and they were not as stellar. We easily got to the hotel and from the outside it was ok. I checked in the front. The lobby was clean and the guy at the front was friendly. He quickly got us a key. There was an outside stairwell that was closer to our room so we took that. The stairwell was completely covered in spider webs and big spiders. Needless to say the kids were terrified. We made it up and unfortunately the keyswipe on this stairwell did not work so I had to go down and through the lobby and open the door from the 2nd floor hallway. No pool at this hotel but we only planned to stay for the night.

As for the rooms, they were good enough. Nothing stellar but as expected. The kids fell asleep fast. Cable tv was fine. The room was clean. The curtains blocked the bright lights and there were not any loud sounds. We all fell asleep fast. In the morning, we headed to the lounge for breakfast. The breakfast was good. The kids enjoyed breakfast, we got some coffee, checked out and headed out. Overall, for the price of around $45 with tax, it was good value and good enough for one night. The outside stairwell was the only disappointment.

Off we went to see what Sanduskey has to offer.

Kalahari Water Park August 2015

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Always a highlight of any trip, this place cannot be beat. Having gone to a fun wedding in a detroit suburb, Kalahari is not too far away as it was only 1.5 hours from the wedding site.
The drive there was a nice relaxing break. The deal we got cannot be beat. For the 5 of us (2 adults, 3 kids) it was $149.99 plus taxes.

Checkin was not as smooth as I had hoped. The line was long at about 4pm when we checked in so we waited for a while. (more…)

Gulf Shores here we are

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So after our miscalculation, we finally ended up in Gulf Shores! The first thing the kids asked was to get the hotel room so they can go swimming! Bad news kids, we dont have a room. Now there were rooms available a few streets off the beach but we made it this far so at this point we were getting a place on the beach. We stopped a the tourist center and got flyers for properties. So we made a left onto the beach road and I drove into each property while Tara called places. After getting rejected at a few places, we struck gold. One guy said they had a cancellation so they have a 3 bedroom condo for rent for 5 days. The price was not great but it was available. I also tried getting a few places on on VRBO.com and similar sites but those sites are not designed well for finding places right away.Gulf Shores

Exhausted, we took the place which included parking in a garage, and a heated indoor outdoor pool. No free breakfast but it did have a full kitchen and a balcony over the beach. (more…)

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