Posts Tagged With: Chicago

Free/reduced admission to museums nationwide with Time Travelers

My husband and I are big history nerds. We love to visit local historical societies as well as sites of national significance. It hasn’t been easy on our pocketbook, though, since most of these places charge an admission fee. We’ve paid a variety of prices – from a goodwill donation to upwards of $30 a person at Chicago’s Field Museum. In this post, I will share how we’ve saved money on museum admission, nationwide, through the Time Travelers program.

What is Time Travelers?

Time Travelers is a nationwide reciprocal benefits program in which museums, historical societies, and research centers can choose to participate. As of 2012, over 270 sites in 41 states are represented.

What are the benefits of Time Travelers?

Each site offers different benefits, including:

-Discounted admission
-Free admission
-Gift shop discount
-Free parking
-Restaurant discount
-Free or discounted tour(s)

Where can I use my Time Travelers pass?

Take a look at this list, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society. It details the benefits of each participating site. The key at the top of the list will tell you the benefits each site offers. http://sites.mnhs.org/support/sites/sites.mnhs.org.support/files/Time_Travelers_10_10_version_with_MHS.pdf

The pass can also be used anywhere you see this logo:

The Time Travelers benefits program offers free or reduced admission to many museums nationwide. Image courtesy of Time Travelers.

The Time Travelers benefits program offers free or reduced admission to many museums nationwide. Image courtesy of Time Travelers.

Where can I purchase a Time Travelers pass?  Why is it a good value?

Passes are not purchased directly through Time Travelers; they are purchased through a participating institution. My pass is through the Minnesota Historical Society and is valid for one year. My $75 Household Membership gets me into all 26 historic sites managed by the Minnesota Historical Society for free, plus offers a gift shop discount. Additionally, I reap all the benefits of the Time Travelers program. Since receiving my pass last fall I have visited these participating institutions:

-The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park (the benefit was 2-for-1 tickets)

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park, IL participates in the Time Travelers program.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park, IL participates in the Time Travelers program.

-The Rookery (managed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust) in Chicago’s Loop (2-for-1 tickets)

The Rookery in Chicago participates in the Time Travelers program.

The Rookery in Chicago participates in the Time Travelers program.

-La Porte County Historical Society (IN) offers free admission to Time Travelers members.

The La Porte County Historical Society (IN) participates in the Time Travelers program. Photo courtesy of La Porte County Historical Society.

The La Porte County Historical Society (IN) participates in the Time Travelers program. Photo courtesy of La Porte County Historical Society.

Consider contacting your favorite museum to see if they participate in the Time Travelers program.

©Jessica Leigh Rosier 2012

Categories: Attractions, Museums | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bon Appétit: Upscale dining for under $20 via Restaurant.com

My vacation gastronomy has completely changed since I discovered Restaurant.com, a website offering discounted dining certificates. In the past, I relied on hit-or-miss bargain restaurants outlined in guidebooks. Now, my husband and I eat three-course meals for less than $20 in a city’s most renowned eateries thanks to Restaurant.com. In this post, I share my tips about selecting Restaurant.com certificates.

Wait for the sales

Visit the website and you’ll see that, in general, $50 certificates sell for $25, $25 for $10, and $10 for $5. Although these certificates are an amazing deal, I wait for the 80% or 90% off sales. By using a sale code, I get $25 restaurant certificates for $2! The certificates never expire, so I stock up on favorite restaurants during the sale time. I will send out a notification to blog followers when the sales occur, which is usually once per month.

Buy smart

When shopping for dining certificates, it is important to keep a few things in mind:

1. How many people will be using the certificate? Certain restaurants mandate the purchase of two entrees, which would require you to be dining with a companion.

2. Will you be able to meet the minimum spending requirement? Certificates often specify that you must spend a certain amount of money (a $25 certificate must be used on $35 worth of food, meaning you pay $10 in the end + tip). Check out the restaurant’s online menu and make sure you and your companion(s) will be able to eat $35 worth of food. While the $35 limit is easy to reach at high-end restaurants, it would be tough at a fast food joint.

3. Is the restaurant any good? It’s difficult to pre-select restaurants in an unfamiliar destination. To ensure that I’ll have a great dining experience, I visit Yelp.com. By typing in the name of the restaurant and the city, I’m able to read customer reviews and decide if the certificate is worth purchasing.

Read the fine print

Be sure to thoroughly read the certificate before purchasing. I’ve seen some certificates that are only valid Sunday-Thursday or aren’t valid on alcohol.

Chicago's Walnut Room is one of the dining establishments featured on Restaurant.com. Photo courtesy of smartdestinations.com

Chicago's Walnut Room is one of the dining establishments featured on Restaurant.com. Photo courtesy of smartdestinations.com

Visit http://www.restaurant.com/ to search for certificates.

©Jessica Leigh Rosier 2012

Categories: Dining | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Sleep like a celeb thanks to Priceline.com bidding

Among the seemingly hundreds of websites advertising discounted hotel rooms, Priceline.com is my favorite. I am partial to this website for one reason – the “Name Your Own Price” feature. In this blog post, I’ll share some of my recent Priceline.com bookings, give tips for placing a successful bid, and highlight positives and negatives.

My “Name Your Own Price” deals

Last winter, I booked three nights (Friday- Monday) at Chicago’s Hotel Felix for only $60 per night using Priceline.com. According to the hotel website, room prices begin at $136.80. That’s a savings of over $76 per night! This ultra-chic, 4-star boutique hotel is located steps from the Magnificent Mile and features locally made H2O bath products.

Chicago's Hotel Felix, $60/night.

Last August, I scored two rooms on a Wednesday night at Madison’s Crowne Plaza hotel for $50 each. Rooms typically start at $99.95, according to Crowne Plaza’s website. I saved over $49 per room by using Priceline.com’s “Name Your Own Price” feature. The three-star property has a remodeled lobby and pool area.

Madison's Crowne Plaza Hotel, $50/night on Priceline.com

Madison's Crowne Plaza Hotel, $50/night.

Last March, I booked a room at Miami’s Courtyard for $70 per night. We stayed here on a Sunday night. This is an especially good deal because we were at a Spring Break destination in the height of it all.  According to their website, rooms usually start at $149 so I saved $79 on this booking. The three-star property is close to the Miami International Airport and has an open-air lounge.

Miami's Courtyard hotel, $70/night. Photo courtesy of Marriott

Miami's Courtyard hotel, $70/night. Photo courtesy of Marriott.

How to successfully “Name Your Own Price”

Through much trial and error, I have come up with the following strategy for successfully bidding on Priceline.com using the “Name Your Own Price” feature.

1. Timing is everything. Don’t bid on a hotel three months ahead of time – you won’t get a great deal. The closer you book to your vacation, the better the deal. Hotels may have dozens of rooms to unload a week before your arrival and the prices will drop in correspondence. I don’t recommend waiting until 24 hours before check-in, though. Try bidding two weeks before your trip. Don’t worry if your bid isn’t accepted; try again the next day (Priceline will make you wait 24 hours).

2. Be persistent. Don’t get discouraged if your initial bid isn’t accepted, just try again tomorrow. They seem to adjust prices daily so yesterday’s rejected bid could be accepted today. Start again with your low bid and work your way up to your max bid. If that’s rejected, try again the next day…

3. Increase your bid by $5. When bidding on a hotel in a small/medium -sized city, I begin my bid at $50. If looking at hotels in large cities, I start at $60. If my initial bids are rejected, I increase them by $5.

4. Expand your geographic region. Priceline will let you choose your optimal geographic area when you bid. For example, when bidding on hotels in Chicago you can choose the Magnificent Mile area, the Loop area, the Lincoln Park area, etc. When bidding on Chicago hotels, I typically start by selecting the Magnificent Mile area and place my bid of $60. If that’s rejected, I expand my geographic area to include the Loop. If that $60 bid is rejected, I will lastly choose the Lincoln Park option.

5. Lower your expectations. Priceline will let you specify what type of property you’d like (4-star, 3-star, etc.). I always begin by bidding on 4-star properties. If my bids are getting rejected, I will lower my bids to include 3.5-star or 3-star properties. I have never had to book below at 3-star property, though.

Positives & Negatives of “Name Your Own Price”

I believe that the positive attributes of Priceline.com’s “Name Your Own Price” feature vastly outweigh the negatives. Nevertheless, I will share my thoughts so you can make an informed decision. Keep these things in mind when deciding if the “Name Your Own Price” feature is right for your next vacation.

Negatives:

1. You don’t know what property you’ll be assigned – only the geographic area and the star level.

2. You may end up having to pay for parking, depending on your hotel assignment.

3. The reservation is non-refundable and cannot be transferred.

4. The “Name Your Own Price” feature does not allow you to specify desired amenities, such as pools or on-site restaurants.

5. As a default setting, rooms are booked to accommodate two guests. This can be changed by calling the hotel directly after you book. This is only a hassle if you’re traveling with more than two people.

Positives: 

1. Four-star properties can be booked for a savings of 50% (or more)!

2. The “Name Your Own Price” feature has allowed me to stay at luxury properties on a budget.

3. The bidding process is exciting and fun!

Visit http://www.priceline.com/ to start bidding.

©Jessica Leigh Rosier 2012

Categories: Accommodations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: