My wife’s family left California during the last millennium for Colorado. I endured years of family visits to Denver with weird beer laws like no beer sales in supermarkets or alcohol sales in stores on Sunday. Over time the laws in Colorado changed. These days Colorado stores even sell marijuana on Sundays.

Utah still has some of the more restrictive alcohol laws in the country, yet the state is not as restrictive as I anticipated prior to my time in Salt Lake City last week.

Eyewitness report – beer seen in Utah.

Salt Lake City has seriously good availability of craft beer from several Utah breweries and beer is available in pubs, clubs, grocery stores, restaurants and the Utah State Liquor Store. There is a beer scene happening in Utah.

But Utah is not like California where alcohol is widely available. The primary restriction in California is a statewide law on no alcohol sales between 2am and 6am. Other than that 4 hour window, most food stores and gas station stores sell beer, wine and liquor.

Utah has far more restrictive laws.

Here is what I learned about the different places for buying beer in Salt Lake City in a pub, grocery store, restaurant and Utah State Liquor Store.

Pubs

Salt Lake City has pubs. Salt Lake Official Visitors Guide can be downloaded online or a 5.5 x 8.5” book you will find at the SLC Airport and most hotels. Salt Lake City has named itself ‘Ski City USA’.  Read More…

Last week I completed my first 3-night stay for the Club Carlson Extend Your Stay promotion. I hold Club Carlson Gold elite status as a Club Carlson Visa card member for 35% bonus points on base points earned.

Club Carlson SLC points

Country Inn & Suites West Valley City Utah

  • Room rate $220.50 for three nights = 4,410 base points.
  • Extend Your Stay Early Bird Bonus = 10,000 bonus points for registering by January 12 during the first week following the announcement of the Club Carlson Extend Your Stay promotion.
  • Extend Your Stay 3-night stay bonus = 30,000 bonus points.
  • Club Carlson Gold elite 35% bonus on base points = 1,544 bonus points.
  • Total spend = $249.38 after tax.
  • Total Club Carlson points earned = 45,954 points.

Country Inn & Suites West Valley City Utah was one of the worst hotels I have experienced in years. Fortunately I was not one of the guys who was staying at the hotel for school and scheduled to take a test the morning following a night with two false fire alarms sounding at the hotel. I took a nap that day.

Despite a rough hotel stay, my objective was met to earn points for Club Carlson hotel stays next summer in Europe when we fly to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Club Carlson Copenhagen

As a Club Carlson Visa card member, I get one free night on reward stays of two nights or more. That benefit is essentially a BOGO Buy One-Get One free deal on a 2-night stay. My $250 stay in SLC earned enough points to book two hotel nights in Copenhagen at Radisson Blu hotels with published rates of $500 to $700 for two nights.

Loyalty Traveler - Club Carlson Jan 12 to March 29, 2015 stays earn 15K for 2 nights, 30K for 3 nights (Jan 5, 2015)

Alaska Ski the West Fly 2 times, get one flight for tax only.

My objective for Salt Lake City was simple. Salt Lake City is the flight destination I scheduled for two trips on Alaska Airlines for the Ski the West promotion offered to residents of California, Oregon and Washington. Fly two round trips to any of ten ski destinations by February 23 and earn one free round trip ticket to return to any of the ten airports by April 30. My plan is to fly either to Montana or Canada with the free ticket.

Ski the West Destination Airports for free ticket promotion.

  1. Mammoth Lakes, California
  2. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  3. Sun Valley, Idaho
  4. Bend, Oregon
  5. Bozeman, Montana
  6. Kalispell, Montana
  7. Reno, Nevada (RNO)
  8. Salt Lake City, Utah
  9. Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
  10. Vancouver, Canada

Loyalty Traveler - Alaska Airlines Ski the West Fly 2, Get 1 for tax only CA, OR, WA residents (Nov 6, 2014)

There are still four weeks left to take advantage of the Alaska Airlines offer. I booked two round trips earlier this month SFO-SLC for $96 each ticket. Yesterday, I saw prices were even lower to fly SJC-SLC.

My second trip to Salt Lake City departs today. I am headed to Sundance Film Festival in Park City this week.

Living the Loyalty Traveler poverty jet setter life in the mountains with movie and TV stars is not my typical vacation scene. I really have no idea what to expect at Sundance Film Festival.

My only real wish is I hope to meet Amy Goodman.

Park Plaza Europe Winter Sale is another discount rate from the Carlson Rezidor Hotels Group for stays from January 21 to April 30, 2015. This is a repeat of the January sale and a good value Club Carlson deal. You must book by 23:59 Central European Time CET February 8, 2015.

The sale is for hotels in Germany, Hungary, and UK for stays to April 30 and The Netherlands for stays to March 31. Croatia is primarily advertised as a summer stay 30% discount, but several hotels open in April and one hotel is a year round hotel open in Croatia.

Check out these rates for next week.

Park Plaza Winter Sale

Park Plaza Belvedere Medulin on the Adriatic Coast in Croatia is under $50 for Bed & Breakfast. This hotel is rated #1 of 10 hotels in Medulin, Croatia on TripAdvisor.com.

If you really feel a desire just to get away from everything and you have frequent flyer miles to burn, I imagine this would be a cool place to chill out on a budget by the Adriatic Sea in winter. Think of it as the poor man’s Venice. Medulin, Croatia is a place where July and August see tourists outnumber locals 3:1. If you want to meet locals, you have a better chance by visiting in winter.

Splurge at these Park Plaza rates and you can book Park Plaza Belvedere Medulin in a room with floor to ceiling windows, sea view balcony, breakfast and dinner for 71.40 EUR per night. This is prepaid and nonrefundable rate, but $214.20 EUR for three nights is $80 per night at today’s exchange rate for a room with breakfast and dinner by the sea.

That is almost all-inclusive if you don’t drink alcohol. And probably not much more if you do drink.

Park Plaza Medulin Croatia

There was a limited time offer JANSALE promotion at the beginning of January and I booked a 3-night stay for what I think is a good deal at what is now less than $90 per night in Amsterdam. The rates in Amsterdam are the same with the current Winter Sale as they were for hotels during the January sale.

The Euro has fallen off an economic cliff. Hope it stays this low next month (under 1 EUR = $1.13 on 1-23-2015).  My Amsterdam Park Plaza hotel stay will earn 30,000 bonus points with the current Club Carlson Extend Your Stay promotion. I view this Park Plaza deal as an opportunity to earn one free night in a hotel in London or Oslo or Copenhagen when rates are high priced for a hotel stay I need in Amsterdam when rates are low.

Loyalty TravelerPark Plaza Europe January Sale, book by Jan 7 for stays to April 12, 2015 (January 2, 2015).

Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson Jan 12 to March 29, 2015 stays earn 15K for 2 nights, 30K for 3 nights (January 5, 2015). Extend Your Stay promotion.

You have more than two weeks to plan Park Plaza hotel stays for dates to April 30, except Netherlands is March 31. That country gets tulip tourists and Queens Day National Holiday in April when hotel rates peak.

Sign up for the Club Carlson Extend Your Stay promotion to get a great rebate value through Club Carlson bonus points on a discount hotel stay in Europe.

I think this promotion can be a very good deal for many hotels and dates. Check out hotels if you plan to travel in Germany, Hungary, Netherlands or UK in the coming months.

Croatia looks like a fantastic vacation opportunity to me. Our April vacation is not yet booked for the week around Easter my wife has off work.

Park Plaza Europe Winter Sale

Terms and Conditions

*Applicable in participating Europe hotels only.

– Earn Club Carlson Gold Points with this rate.

– Subject to availability.

– Valid at participating hotels only.

– Book for hotel stays before 23:59 (CET) on Sunday 8 February 2015.

– Stay dates 21 January – 30 April 2015. Except for participating hotels in The Netherlands, stay dates are from 21 January to 31 March 2015.

– Blackout dates apply per hotel.

– Park Life Sale Rate Room Only and Bed & Breakfast Rate available.

– Minimum payment of 1 night only is pre-payable and non-refundable.

– Pre-payment element of one night is non-refundable but remaining nights are refundable.

– Penalty applies to all cancellations.

– Rate includes Value Added Tax.

– Rate excludes city tax in The Netherlands.

– Rate is excluding Tourist tax in Croatia – daily 1,00 Euro per adult and 0,50 Euro per child (12-18).

Marriott Rewards members have the choice of earning points with Marriott MegaBonus or miles with Marriott MegaMiles. The Marriott MegaMiles February 1 to April 30, 2015 earns 2,500 bonus miles for every second stay, up to 50,000 bonus miles during the promotion period. Marriott Rewards has 30 airline partners.

Now, it will take 50 stays to max out this miles offer and few members will have that kind of activity. The way I look at this offer is earning 5,000 bonus miles after four stays could be a good alternative to 7,500 or 9,000 bonus points in Marriott Rewards if you have some low cost stays.

Assume four $100 stays.

My Marriott Rewards MegaBonus offer is 3,000 bonus points for every stay beginning with second stay. Other targeted offers include 2,000 or 2,500 bonus points beginning with second stay.

So for me, I can earn 9,000 bonus points after four stays. You might have an offer with as few as 6,000 bonus points after four stays. In this case, miles can be a much better value.

5,000 bonus frequent flyer miles can offer far more value than 6,000 to 9,000 Marriott points with four eligible stays. You also earn 1 or 2 miles per dollar in hotel spend, depending on brand.

I changed my Marriott Rewards account earning preference to miles and registered for Marriott MegaMiles linked to my American AAdvantage account. You must have miles selected as your earning preference to register for Marriott MegaMiles. Registration is required by March 31. 2015.

Marriott MegaMiles Q12015

Choice Privileges launches Points Plus Cash rewards this week in what the program claims is the first in changes coming for 2015. The new option is available for U.S. members of Choice Privileges for hotel reward nights at hotels listed for 10,000 points or more per reward night.

From what I have gathered, the Points Plus Cash option requires a Choice Privileges member be logged in to your account and you need at least 8,000 points in account. Points Plus Cash reward option is pay $15 per 2,000 points. The program appears to be closer to IHG Rewards Club than Cash & Points options in other chains.

Read More…

Some common misconceptions held by those of us who have never visited Salt Lake City, Utah are nearly all people in SLC are Mormons, you can’t buy alcohol and Utah voters will once again vote 73% for Romney as President 2016.

While I can’t predict the future election results, the first two assumptions are not true based on my trip this week to the Great Salt Lake country.

Will I only meet Mormons in Salt Lake City?

If you want to meet Mormons easily, then go to Temple Square.

51.4% of the population in Salt Lake County are members of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, commonly shortened to LDS or Mormons. Only four of 29 Utah counties have a minority LDS population. There was a proportional decline of Mormons in Utah for a decade through the 90s and into the new millennium, as new non LDS resident population increased. 36,000 people moved into Utah in 2005. The incoming population has averaged only 5,000 people per year for the past decade. To be blunt, Mormons are increasing their numbers again in Utah through births. 22 of 29 counties in Utah saw a rise in the proportion of LDS members in 2013 in the population. SourceMormon populace picks up the pace in Utah – Salt Lake Tribune Nov 30, 2014.

So that gives you about a 50-50 chance of talking to a Mormon when you are out and about in Salt Lake City. The pubs probably offer a higher probability of meeting non LDS people.

City Creek

On a 3-day MLK holiday weekend Sunday, I kind of wondered if I was ever going to meet anybody in Salt Lake City outside Temple Square?

Read More…

Courtyard by Marriott Salt Lake City Downtown was moving on up the hotel market segment after three nights in Country Inn & Suites West Valley City. The Courtyard hotel downtown location is a convenient location, one block walk to the light rail UTA TRAX Courthouse Station on the green line with direct service to SLC Airport.  TRAX costs $2.50 one way and is a 23 minute trip from downtown to airport. You can walk to the terminals in 2 to 5 minutes depending on airline. Over three days of riding TRAX, it was one of the most accurately scheduled arrival times compared to mass transit systems I have experienced. Every train was within a minute of its published schedule. Trains between airport and downtown run every 15 to 20 minutes.

I burned a category 1-5 free night certificate I earned in 2014 from Marriott MegaBonus promotion. I would not have predicted in April last year I’d burn a free night certificate for a category 3 hotel.

January 20 was the night before the big event. Outdoor Retailers opened yesterday and it is one of the largest conventions for the year in Salt Lake City at about 24,000 attendees. Surprisingly, Sundance Film Festival starts January 22 and runs to February 2, 2015, but that is primarily a Park City event 30 miles away and does not drive hotel rates in Salt Lake City. Room rates in Salt Lake City are no higher during Sundance Film Festival than they were last week. It is the Outdoor Retailers convention that packed hotels, bars and restaurants downtown beginning Tuesday night.

Read More…

Westin Warsaw $40 is one hot deal on this week’s SPG Hot Escapes January 21, 2015 edition. As is often the case with SPG Hot Escapes advertised rates, the Westin $40 rate is for one date only on Sunday, February 8. A cheap long 3-night weekend in Warsaw is still an incredible deal at $137 for Friday check-in and Monday checkout February 6-8. Westin Warsaw is available for $53 per night or less for 13 weekend dates over the next six weeks.

Westin Warsaw

You can hotel hop for elite status in Warsaw with Sheraton Warsaw $60 every weekend. You can even go upscale by staying at Hotel Bristol, Luxury Collection for $77 per night Fridays to Sundays.

I noticed several Instagram photos posted by Seth of The Wandering Aramean this past week from his travels in Warsaw and Poland. I need to get to Poland one of these days so my wife can’t have bragging rights that she has been in a country I have not visited.

There are three other SPG Hot Escapes Starwood Hotels in Poland on this week’s list. Europe is on sale with 80 hotels and 42 in Asia Pacific region with only 41 in the USA.

Radisson Megapoints 10,000 bonus points per night rate in 2015 is offered at about 100 participating Radisson Hotels in the Americas for all of 2015. Promotional rate MEGAPTS is valid for stays through December 31, 2015.

This rate tends to be about $20 per night more than Best Flexible Rate.

Combined with the current Club Carlson Extend Your Stay offer for 20,000 bonus points on 2-night stays and 30,000 bonus points on 3-night or longer stays, this rate creates an opportunity for 40,000 to 60,000 bonus points on two and three night stays and Radisson over the next two months.

Read More…

Two of the past three winter days in Salt Lake City offered blue skies and January temperatures in the 40s for comfortable walking around the city. Salt Lake City is located in a valley between two high mountain ranges with the Wasatch Mountains to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. Both of these mountain ranges have peaks over 10,000 feet.

Today I walked from Courtyard by Marriott Downtown hotel to the Utah State Capitol, a distance of 1.5 miles, and back to the hotel. I actually walked more than six miles in my circuitous route around downtown Salt Lake City as I toured several hotels during the day.

Utah Capitol

Utah State Capitol, Salt Lake City

The State Capitol building of Utah is located on a hill in the northeast sector of the city with stunning vistas of Salt Lake City and the mountains on both sides of the valley.

Salt Lake City Mountain Vistas

Smog is notoriously bad in winter for Salt Lake Valley. I was blessed to have two days with relatively low pollution levels. Yesterday was cloudy with rain showers. Today the air quality index was ‘moderate’ over the east side of the valley, including Salt Lake City, and ‘good’ air quality over the west side of the valley. The difference was distinguishable from where I started the day in West Valley City when I looked to the west at the brilliant Oquirrh Mountains.

West Valley City

Oquirrh Mountains, seen from Maverik Center in West Valley City, form the western border of Salt Lake Valley.

Looking to the east this morning over Salt Lake City to the Wasatch Mountains was like looking through a dirty windshield.

SLC smog

View of Wasatch Mountains through smog seen from UTA TRAX Decker Lake Station in West Valley City.

Two days ago, when the air quality was good across the entire valley, I rode the Utah Transit Authority TRAX green line light rail one station too far, all the way to West Valley Center. I walked back to the Country Inn & Suites West Valley City, nearly one mile east. The Wasatch Mountains vista was stunning at dusk, just a few minutes after the sun had dropped below the Oquirrh peaks. I stopped to take photos of the Wasatch peaks in the fading light as I stood on the west side of Interstate 215.

Wasatch from I-215

View of Wasatch peaks on good air quality day seen from West Valley City.

This afternoon the view over eastern Salt Lake City from the Utah State Capitol was gorgeous with little smog obscuring the view from the hillside elevation of the Capitol steps.

SLC east

View of Wasatch Mountains from Utah State Capitol steps.

The mountain vistas of Salt Lake City on a clear winter day are a sight to behold. Snow covered peaks viewed from snow-free streets and sidewalks of Salt Lake City were a walking delight.

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