Bargain Trip – SFO to SEA

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A short trip to visit my 95 year old Mom, my daughter and my grand daughter for Thanksgiving. You guessed it, I’m old, but people think I’m a LOT younger, so whatever works. I’m happy.).

You might already know I live downtown San Francisco, but decided to leave a day early, to lengthen the trip, just for fun. I booked a room at Aloft for $93 (got Starwood points for future), and used Uber Line to get to the hotel ($23). Bart would have been almost $10, but then I would have had to walk 15 minutes, so I felt it was worth the extra $13 to arrive in style, instead of hot and sweaty.

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Being a Starwood Gold Member, I got a higher floor and a free morning upscale drink (big deal, but better than nothing).

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The bar was nearly empty, but had a lovely chat with two servers who were great. One has traveled a LOT, so we shared travel stories, restaurants and tips. The food offerings aren’t plentiful, but adequate. They also feature a self-serve area with a variety of salads, sandwiches and other odds and ends. I opted for a frozen dinner of beef short ribs. It was only $5 and not great, but I waned to just chill in my room, so it was fine.

Morning came early and I went for a walk along the bay and watched flocks of little birds while the big birds (planes) departed for parts unknown. 43 degrees convinced me to head back to the hotel. After picking my outfit for the day, I showered and grabbed the shuttle to the airport.

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Next stop – Centurion Lounge for free drinks and free food, thanks to the good old American Express Platinum Card.

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IMG_1885The Champagne was delicious and the food was, as always, top notch. The sun chokes were awesome – roasted and lightly grilled. Salad greens with little additions of tomatoes and pink radishes were the highlight, along with other typical “add-ons” – onion, broccoli, etc. The little toasts with pesto pared perfectly with the salad, especially the mozzarella buffalo made it perfect. I also had a tiny portion of braised short rib with real mashed potatoes and a light gravy. Just enough.

The flight on Virgin America was pleasant and uneventful. I tried for First Class, which I usually get by checking in 6 hours before the flight, but all upgrades were taken, probably due to the holidays. It was OK, as I’d already had First Class treatment at the Centurion Lounge, so I took a nap while passively listening to one of my Audible Books – Big Magic, about being creative, instead of listening to the “crazy voice” in your head about how you’re not creative.

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Arriving in Seattle airport gave me a little surprise. American Express just opened a new mini Centurion Lounge there, so I stopped in, had a nice glass of red wine (a blend) and a little pasta – all free of course.

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I almost left my Burberry rain coat, but thankfully one of the servers, ran out and brought it to me. OMG, I couldn’t believe I spaced on that one. Oddly, I lost one of my favorite rain coats ever, about seven years ago – a mid length black Prada. I never lose clothing, but what is going on with me and my raincoat karma? Ahhh. At least I didn’t lose this one.

After grabbing an Uber, I arrived at the W Hotel in Seattle (great deal at $135). Because of my Platinum card, I got a free upgrade into a very nice corner room on a high floor. Perfect!

 

 

 

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Today was Thanksgiving and we all went for a festive Thanksgiving lunch, Mom, my daughter and granddaughter. My partner is with his family, so we can travel over Christmas and New Years on our trip to Europe, guilt free!

My Granddaughter, Mom and Daughter. Ain’t they cute?

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The next day, I boarded Amtrak’s Coast Starlight – Seattle to LA, but I’m getting off in Emerville, which is the closest stop for San Francisco. It’s a 25 hour trip, but the only way to

make it fun is to book a private room. It’s not cheap, but all the meals are free and it’s like a hotel on the move. It’s not for everyone, but I love the slow pace and the views are beautiful.

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I got an upstairs room, but was on the side with fewer water views, so after chatting with Lupe, my porter for the trip, if I could switch and she made it happen, so I moved to another room across the hall. I gave her a great tip, because it’s not easy to pull that off, as the rooms are booked from different stations to various stops.

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When you travel on Amtrak trains first class (or sleeper cars), meals can be in the dining room, or if you like, you can have them in your room. Your porter will bring them if you ask.

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Sometimes I like to join the other diners, sometimes I prefer to eat in my room. Both are fun. Going to the Parlor Car is a treat, because not all trains have them. Most Amtrak trains have observations cars, but the train is divided by classes. Coach is on one end, first class (or sleeper cars) are at the other end, and the diner is between them. There is also an observation car, which is nice, with tall windows. One problem is, that often, people from Coach will “claim” a seat in the lounge car and stay there for hours and hours.
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The Parlor Car is only for first class passengers, and the seats come and go constantly. It has a bar, booths and big swivel chairs, all in one car. Apparently, there are only 5 of these cars left and they use 4 on the Coast Starlights only. If you eat in the diner car, you are seated at a table for four, so often you’ll be with other people, which is usually fun. Conversations can be lively or strained, depending on who you sit with. After scores of trips, I’ve only had one time that was a challenging and I think the older husband and wife didn’t like gay people, so my partner and I merely talked to each other. They weren’t interested in anything we had to say. Sad, because clearly it was their loss. We’re fun and love sharing fun things with people and being good listeners too. One out of 25-30 trips is still good odds. I did have one situation a couple years ago that was odd. I was alone and sat with 3 other people. Eveyone was complaining how uncomfortable it was sleeping the night before. I didn’t say a word about my sleeping car. I was fully rested and also took a shower before breakfast. No need to make them feel bad, and my ego didn’t need to brag. We all had a lot to talk about, so it was a fun breakfast. We were all traveling alone.

The views are often stunning and last until it gets dark. Mostly nature views – so peaceful and relaxing.

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I got out for a fresh air break in Portland, which was nice.

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After dinner, I took another walk outside.

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All-in-all, it was a great trip and of course, the highlights were seeing Mom, my daughter and granddaughter. The rest is fun and just one of the trips where I use resources to live a Bargain First Class life.

Trip Costs:

Uber to hotel: $23
Aloft Hotel: Extra (unnecessary hotel night, just for fun): $93
Breakfast: Free Coffee and yogurt, berry, granola parfait: $5
Virgin America Flight from SFO – SEA: FREE (used Virgin Frequent Flyer points)
Lunch and Champagne: FREE (used American Express Platinum Card for access to SF) Centurian Lounge)
Food and drinks on the plane: Nothing. I was full from lunch.
Dinner and wine: FREE (used American Express Platinum Card for access to SEA Centurian Lounge)
Uber to hotel: $27
W Hotel (two nights): $135/night = $300 with taxes, etc.
Starbucks and breakfast (across from hotel): $8 x 2 days= $16
Lavish dinner, drinks and wine: $175 (my part which included Mom)
Flowers for my daughter and granddaughter’s room: $35
Uber from hotel to King Street Station (Amtrak): $8
Amtrak trip SEA to SF: $328 (small senior discount on fair, not the room)
Drinks and wine on the train: $41
Meals (Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast): Included in rail fare.
Tip to Lupe, my porter: $30

Total: $1081

Includes 4 nights away from home in first class accommodations, all meals for 4 1/2 days, all transportation with plane, train and private car, a huge Thanksgiving dinner and plenty of drinks and all the tips for everything. Daily average: about $240/day, which is easily be the cost of a first class hotel alone! Or a cheap hotel, plus meals, transportation, etc.

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On November 25, 2015
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