One month ago, I took off to Atlanta for the Dream Maker conference. You may have seen the results on FaceBook or Instagram. I'm a Certified Dream Maker now! Anyway, it was my first time traveling overnight by myself and I was a little nervous. And, when I realized Siri decided to route me downtown during Friday afternoon rush hour...the panic set in. But guess what! I made it :) One month later and that drive is just a memory. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
So, as you may have guessed, the conference was at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North. I am somewhat already familiar with the hotels in this area, because for the last 3 years we have been traveling to this area of town for overnight (and a couple of weekend) trips. I had never been to this hotel, or really even knew it was there. It's in a complex of several other buildings.
The first thing I noticed, was (of course) Siri didn't take me to the front door. I wound up in a weird maze of road in the complex and all the buildings looked a like. I followed what I thought were signs to the hotel and ended up in a parking garage on site. As I walked to the hotel (again, following signs), I began to have the weird feeling that I was a little too far away from the hotel. I shouldn't have to walk this far. How heavy was my bag, anyway? Because after I checked in, I planned on coming back for it.
I finally reached the hotel and went in through a side door. The first thing I noticed was the nature inspired modern look. Much fancier than anywhere else I'd stayed as an adult. As I was checking in, I noticed the front desk guy wasn't too friendly. But, I'm a no-frills travel kind of person, so whatever. He checked me in and gave me my room keys. I was so pre-occupied with getting my car to the right place so it wouldn't be towed that I didn't even realize he didn't tell me my room number. When I asked if I was parked in the correct place, he pointed to the front of the hotel and said "No, you need to park out there," and then turned to help the next guest.
I drove around for the next 45 minutes trying to figure out how to get to the front of the hotel. I was getting pretty frustrated after I realized there was no map or signs of the property. I finally saw a very small sign and got to the right parking lot. From there, it was a short walk inside. Where are the elevators? I didn't find that out at check in either. I made a few wrong turns and finally found the elevators. As I stepped on, I realized it was one of those you had to activate with your room key. Ok. Let me dig it out of one of my pockets. Ugh. Great security feature, though.
I checked into my room and it was all super nice and clean. I was beginning to think that my awful check in experience could be redeemed after all. I don't remember what room I was in exactly, but I do remember it was on the 16th floor. I'm scared of heights, so I was terrified at first, but I had a really cool view of the city. The amenities were classy, the surfaces were clean, the glass shower (no tub) door was spotless, and they even had Starbucks coffee. There was even a bathrobe hanging in the bathroom. I wasn't planning to use it, but...FANCY! The king size bed looked super comfy. As a mom of a toddler, I was looking forward to climbing in early and getting a great night's sleep. I could see this being a nice weekend hotel or even a good spot for a week's stay. I had even told my husband that this would be our hotel the next time we came here.
So, after checking out the room and unpacking, I was getting a little hungry. The hotel had a restaurant, but I had no idea where it was. Once again, no information at check in. Lucky for me, there was some information in the room. I walked down and the restaurant happened to be on the same floor as the conference the next day, so I was able to get familiar with where I was supposed to be. I walked in to the restaurant, and was honestly kind of intimidated. I was by myself and there was no one around. Suddenly, someone appeared and offered me a place at the bar or a grab and go meal. There were tables, but I guess since I was by myself, I wasn't allowed to sit at one? I don't know. I finally settled for a spot at the bar and decided I'd get my food to take back to the room. My anxiety was really pegging at this point and I didn't want to feel awkward while eating. So, I ordered and scrolled social media while I waited. I was beginning to wish I had networked a little better with my fellow travel agents who would be at this event when my food arrived.
Back in the room, I unpacked my food and it looked delicious. I also heard the neighbors enter their room (it was a connecting room, of course, the door was shut). While I was eating, I could hear every word they were saying, even with the tv on. Every. Single. Word. The food was delicious, though very expensive. She-crab Soup, and a southwest quesadilla. The expense was worth it. I'd order it again. LOL.
The neighbors continued talking. By now, it was about 9 o'clock and I was hoping they would wrap it up soon. It sounded like they were having a party over there. And I could still hear every. single. word. I tried to watch tv, and when that didn't work, I tried to pull up some vendor education. It was no use. So, I watched tv and played games until about 2:30 am...when they finally settled down and I could get some sleep. Conference started at 8 in the morning and it would be all day. I would then have to drive back home. To say I was aggravated would be an understatement.
The bed was super comfy and I slept great for about 3 1/2 hours. I needed to get up, get ready, and pack up to check out before the conference sign in. I'm so glad it was an entertaining conference because I didn't doze not once. The conference area was pretty great. I wish I had taken more pictures. There were tables and chairs lined up and I would say there were about 250-300 of us in the room. Screens for power point and videos, and the sound system was decent (I don't know if that was the hotel's system or not, though). Lunch was onsite and they had sandwiches, chips, fruit, and sodas brought over from the restaurant. I will say it was good, but not as good as supper the night before.
Check out the next morning was a much smoother and friendlier process. There was someone more personable at the desk and she answered my questions with a smile.
In all, I really want to recommend this hotel. The room was sweet, bed was comfy, and amenities were great. But, as I sat in the room listening to my neighbors' conversations, my mind wondered to if I were the client needing sleep for the next day's conference? I wouldn't be very happy. (I was technically my client because I booked my own room. LOL). So, I have to give this hotel 3 stars: While the room and food exceeded my expectations, the customer service and noise (which I attribute to the paper thin walls) severely disappointed me. Hubby asked why I didn't complain. Well, honestly, by the time I realized it would be a major issue, I was not interested in changing rooms, and I would only be there for a night. I was also worried that since I was traveling by myself, complaining could put me in some sort of danger. I wasn't sure, so I just stayed quiet. Should you try this hotel out for yourself? I guess I could still recommend it with caution. Maybe it was because I had a connecting room. Or maybe it was just bad neighbors.
After completing the Marriott Hotel Sales Specialist Course, I learned a lot about Westin and the ideal traveler that they cater to. I can say that this hotel checked every box of the brand qualities. From the fitness center to the restaurant, everything was great. But, even with everything brand perfect, sometimes you just can't factor in personalities and inconsiderate travelers.
Happy New Year! I'm a little later than I wanted to be with this post, but technically we aren't out of the 1st month yet, so I think I'm good. I feel like blog posts are about as scary as Live Videos. Nah, maybe not.
Where are you going this year? Do you have your vacation planned yet? Today, I'm listing my top 5 bucket list trips for 2020. Of course, don't we all wish we could have 5 bucket list vacations every year. So, no, unfortunately, these are not trips that I will necessarily take this year. But, it's always nice to dream. That way, when it is time to plan, you have something to look to for inspiration.
Washington, D.C. by rail
I've always wanted to visit Washington, D.C. since I was in 4th grade. U.S. history must've been the theme of that year's Social Studies classes. I love the rail option for this city because you are dumped out at Union Station, which is pretty much right in the middle of everything. You can opt to take a taxi to your hotel, but after that, the capitol, white house, and main attractions are all within walking distance. I'm especially curious about the National Spy Museum. I have to say, that place looks really awesome!
Who doesn't want to be standing on a ship looking at a Glacier? Or hoping to see a few whales? Even this super cold natured girl is looking forward to the day she can board a ship headed to Alaska. I've seen the pictures and they are breath taking. For right now, I think Royal Caribbean will be my line of choice. I love their cruise tours and drool over them often. Add a land tour with rail to the beginning or the end of your cruise. It's the perfect way to see Alaska!
It's been 10 years since I was last in the Keys, and lately I've been wanting to go back. Maybe it's all the travel agent propaganda that they send us with all the beautiful pictures. Or, it could be all the Jimmy Buffett that I listen to (especially in the winter time trying to will summer here faster. LOL). At any rate, this time, I hope to be able to fly to Miami and drive to Key West. It's a beautiful ride!
The Hemingway estate/Museum was by far my favorite place. I don't even like to read Hemingway, but the idea of him writing novels from his estate in Key West is pretty cool. And the cats.
Speaking of animals, there are roosters pretty much everywhere. Don't mess with them because it's a felony, but we found them in the most comical places all over town.
I think it's on every mom's list to take their kid to Walt Disney World. We've already been, but I think he would be more excited now and into it. But nothing will beat his first time meeting Mickey...he just toddled right over with his arms out stretched and gave Mickey a big ol' hug for what seemed like 10 minutes. Just prior, a kid had to be bribed to go back to his parents because he ran away screaming, so I was super proud of our little guy for not being scared. I also want to see Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land. And, while we're at it, we'll need to head on over to Universal Studios because my baby's also in love with the minions. Another trip to Margaritaville will top it off for me :)
If you know me at all, you know my ultimate travel bucket list goal (for now. haha) is New York, Times Square, New Year's Eve. And I want to be in the middle of it! Now, granted, I don't want to have to actually drive there and drive back to my hotel, so I'm looking for something in Time's Square. Wouldn't it be awesome to watch the ball drop from your hotel window/balcony?
What are your bucket list trips for this year? Tell me in the comments!
Tales of a travel agent. Reviews, lists, and anything in between. *Opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of any travel companies mentioned. There may affiliate links in these posts. If you use these links to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.