Hotel Review: Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel and Conference Centre

I took a quick trip to Toronto a while back and took the opportunity to try out a couple of hotels. The Westin I reviewed gave me a pretty interesting upgrade, so I was hoping for something similar at the Sheraton. Unfortunately there were no suite upgrades available, but I did get upgraded to the Club floor.

I got a pretty decent rate of $85 per night, so it was a no-brainer to just pay cash for the stay. The alternative would have been 7K SPG points, or a dismal 1.2 cents per point before taxes.

The outside of the hotel isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but thankfully the interior was much better. Still, the lobby was nothing to be excited about. At check-in, I was immediately upgraded to the club floor, but no suite this time.

The King room's entry on the 8th floor.

The King room’s entry on the 8th floor.

Don't mind the bags!

Don’t mind the bags!

The bed was comfortable, like most other Sheratons.

The bed was comfortable, like most other Sheratons.

Standard-sized bathroom, no surprises.

Standard-sized bathroom, no surprises.

The shower.

The shower.

The sink.

The sink.

I decided to check out the Club Lounge a little after getting to my room. My key didn’t work for some reason, so I just knocked and the lounge attendant let me in and apologized for the key. No biggie. Once inside, I saw the lounge was pretty empty…just one other person.

Sheraton Club

The lounge had only one other person. It was furnished pretty well.

The lounge had only one other person. It was furnished pretty well.

Lounge 2

Lounge 3

The food options were kind of interesting. There was a hot chicken and rice dish that was completely untouched and didn’t look all that appetizing. It seemed like it had been sitting there for quite a while, but there was no way to tell.

There were also some other snacks set up in the middle of the lounge. My favorite was the elegant bowl of Cheetos. Again, these things didn’t look very fresh but I’m sure the pretzels and Cheetos were still good (or at least as good as they could be). Some veggies, crackers, and cheese were also available.

There was also tea and coffee, plus a mini fridge with soft drinks (but no water bottles).

Hot food. Untouched, and not very appetizing.

Hot food. Untouched, and not very appetizing.

The snack table. Sorry for the blurry pic.

The snack table. Sorry for the blurry pic.

Coffee and tea.

Coffee and tea.

The lounge was quiet and relaxing, but nothing to go out of your way to see. The coolest part of the lounge was probably the view, which looked out towards the airport. For travelers, it could be fun to see the planes taking off from the runway.

That light in the middle of the picture is an airplane!

That light in the middle of the picture is an airplane!

This hotel was perfectly serviceable if you’re in Toronto for a few days. They have a free airport shuttle (which I didn’t use), and the rooms were clean and worth the $85 rate I paid. The rooms were also much more updated than the room I stayed in at the Westin, and even though my room at the Sheraton was much smaller, I think I’d still prefer it over the Westin. The biggest issue I had with the hotel is that you have to pay for parking (which was also true at the Westin). The daily rate was about $15, so if you’re renting a car make sure to factor this in to your travel budget!

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Travel Summary – 12/17/12

  • Loyalty Traveler is giving away more SPG points!
  • Gary at View from the Wing describes an Australian lawsuit that will make you shake your head!
  • Brian aka The Points Guy found a deal for up to $500 off British Airways premium cabin tickets!
  • Ben from One Mile at a Time is frustrated with the SPG Platinum upgrade policy!

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If you enjoyed this post and the others on this blog, feel free to follow me via the link on the right side menu, on Facebook, or via Twitter @TravelSummary.

Holiday Giveaway Winners Announced!

Remember the fine print I had in my giveaway? Where I said “I reserve the right to change this drawing and do whatever I want with these prizes. So don’t do anything weird?” Well, you guys did something weird, so I’m changing the giveaway.

The points community is full of a bunch of like-minded people, apparently. I had 3 unique prizes (4 prizes in all), and every single person that entered wanted only the Avios. With that in mind, I’ve decided to give away FOUR sets of Avios and save the GoGo internet pass and Southwest drink coupons for myself!

I used Random.org for all the drawings. The results are below:

Facebook Winner: there were only nine entries on my new Facebook page, so you had the best chance there.

Facebook

Natalie Merrill had the 8th comment and is the Facebook winner! Congratulations!

Blog Comment Winner: there were 18 comments on my blog post.

Blog Post

sjbvision had the 12th comment and is the blog comment winner! Congratulations!

Twitter Winner: there were 14 entries that tweeted @TravelSummary using #TravelSummaryRules. There are two winners from Twitter.

Twitter 1

Twitter 2

@CarlaTheriot is the first winner. @garion00 is the second winner. Congratulations to both of you!

The winners will be contacted today. Congratulations on your free Avios!

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If you enjoyed this post and the others on this blog, feel free to follow me via the link on the right side menu, on Facebook, or via Twitter @TravelSummary.

Holiday Giveaway Time!

I’ve been meaning to do a small giveaway for a while now, and there’s no better time than the holidays to do it! I can’t exactly give away Chase points now since they’re shutting down accounts, and these are not the biggest prizes in the world…but they’re free so don’t complain!

Prize 1: Two Southwest drink coupons (both expire 12/31/12)

Prize 2: One GoGo internet session pass (expires 12/31/12)

Prize 3: 1,300 British Airways Avios (transferred from my Amex account)

Prize 4: Another 1,300 British Airways Avios (transferred from my Amex account)

HOW TO ENTER

  1. Follow me on Twitter @TravelSummary and send me a tweet telling me which prize you want. Include the hashtag #TravelSummaryRules!
  2. I will post a link to this post on my new Facebook page. Like the page, then COMMENT on the post telling me which prize you want.
  3. Comment on this post, and tell me where you first heard about my website.

YOU MAY ONLY ENTER ONCE VIA EACH METHOD. Winners will be selected at random. I will select one winner each from comments on Facebook and on this post. I will select two winners from Twitter entries. You may or may not get the prize you want (you can always decline). Entries must be submitted by 11:59PM PST on Friday 12/14/12.

Fine print: I reserve the right to change this drawing and do whatever I want with these prizes. So don’t do anything weird.

Good luck!

Travel Summary – 12/11/12

  • Travel Summary (that’s me!) wrote about the upgrades British Airways made to the Avios booking site!
  • Gary at View from the Wing discusses Hilton’s amazing sale!
  • Seth the Wandering Aramean explains airline news about the Delta/Virgin purchase and  a possible AA/US merger!
  • Ben from One Mile at a Time explains how to redeem United points on a little-known Asian airline!
  • Jason at MilesQuest gives the contact information of a company looking for travel hackers for a cable TV show!

British Airways Upgrades Avios Booking Site, and it’s Better!

British Airways Avios were a little annoying to book before. Remember when you had to click “Get flights” and then click “Search Partner Availability” even when it was obvious British Airways itself didn’t fly that route? Well, that extra step is now a thing of the past!

Booking Avios is now a little easier because clicking “Get flights” now automatically searches award availability. You can see the search screen below looks the same as before.

The search screen looks the same as before, but clicking "Get flights" returns much better results!

The search screen looks the same as before, but clicking “Get flights” returns much better results!

But the results screen now automatically shows American Airlines availability, and shows at the top that British Airways doesn’t fly that route. This is a big win in terms of number of clicks and the time it takes to search!

The results now automatically show partner availability, plus the days are now tabbed to allow for easier searches!

The results now automatically show partner availability, plus the days are now tabbed to allow for easier searches!

Even better, the results are now tabbed by day over a 7 day period. This is much better than before when your search results included just the day you searched, and you could only search one week forward or back to find additional results (as opposed to clicking forward day by day).

Remember, Amex has a 30% transfer bonus to Avios right now. It’s not the best deal ever but still potentially valuable, especially when booking is more painless than it was before!

Happy flying!

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Hong Kong and Macau Part 2: Asiana Quadra Smartium Business Class LAX-ICN

  • Introduction
  • Part 1: Star Alliance Lounge at LAX Tom Bradley Terminal
  • Part 2: Asiana Quadra Smartium Business Class LAX-ICN
  • Part 3: Asiana Business Class Lounge at ICN
  • Part 4: Asiana Business Class ICN-HKG
  • Part 5: Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers
  • Part 6: Sightseeing in Hong Kong
  • Part 7: Getting from Hong Kong to Macau
  • Part 8: Sheraton Macau Hotel, Macau Central
  • Part 9: Sightseeing in Macau
  • Part 10: Getting from Macau to the Hong Kong Airport
  • Part 11: Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Lounge at HKG
  • Part 12: Singapore Airlines First Class HKG-SFO
  • Part 13: Four Points by Sheraton Hotel & Suites SFO
  • Part 14: Alaska Airlines Boardroom Lounge at SFO Terminal 1
  • Part 15: Southwest Airlines SFO-SNA

Asiana’s hilariously named Quadra Smartium Business Class was a product I really wanted to try. It’s received great reviews, plus I’ve never flown Asiana before and was looking forward to experiencing an airline that’s won so many awards recently (as they make you well aware of in their TV commercials).

First things first – how did I book my ticket? This one was a bit interesting, actually. I had a stash of AviancaTaca miles that I’d bought at a great price of just 1.5 cents each. As Gary at View from the Wing pointed out in this post, you can use a Cash & Points option to book your flights, which essentially allows you to buy additional points at around 1.3 cents per point. That’s exactly what I did (see an example below).

In this example, a first class award costs 70K points. The "Flexible Payment" option let me buy 42,000 miles for $535.92, or less than 1.3 cents each. A great deal!

In this example, a first class award costs 70K points. The “Flexible Payment” option lets me buy 42,000 miles for $535.92, or less than 1.3 cents each. A great deal!

Before I could book my flight, I needed to know what and when it was available. Asiana has two daily flights from LAX-ICN, an afternoon and a night flight. The night flight is on a two-cabin 777 configured with the Quadra Smartium fully-flat Business Class, while the afternoon flight is a 747 with three classes and a Business Class with the old, angled lie-flat product. My go-to for Star Alliance searches is United.com since their award search is easy to use and usually pretty accurate. I didn’t always see availability there for my flight – Asiana must have continuously released a few seats at a time because there were a few occasions where I decided not to book and found out the space was gone just a a few hours later.

Instead, I decided to put my Expert Flyer membership to use. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a website through which you can set up alerts for when a particular award seat becomes available (among many other features). I set up alerts for these flights on all the days I was willing to travel. I finally got an email that one was available, so I decided to go straight to AviancaTaca’s award website to book my flight.

As I mentioned I did the Cash and Points option. I mentioned I paid for the points, so it’s important to make the distinction that this was not a free flight. I paid for it, but the $819.36 I paid would normally be about the equivalent of a one-way Economy price. I essentially got a Business Class seat for the same price as Economy, because I did a little research to figure out the best way to redeem this award.

Now…on to the flight review!

As soon as I got on board, I was offered a water or orange juice and was referred to as “Mr.” Travel Summary. There was plenty of overhead space since the seating is a 1-2-1 staggered layout. If you take a look at the seat map, you’ll see that half the window seats have the seat portion right against the cabin, while the other half have seats near the aisle. I chose a seat that was close to the windows because it gives a much more private feeling. Either way you will enjoy your flight.

I was here for almost every minute of the 12.5 hour flight.

I was here for almost every minute of the 12.5 hour flight.

The seat was pretty nice. It was a little firm and a little narrow, but still very comfortable. I will say this though – if you’re on the heavy side, you may have a tougher time on this seat. Also, I’ve read that side sleepers have an awkward time sleeping because the way the bed is angled to the side. As I mentioned, the seat is a little narrow so you might have an awkward sleep if your curl your legs up so that your knees are bent.

The seat next to me.

The seat next to me.

Seat controls.

Seat controls.

Remote for IFE.

Remote for IFE.

Power!

Power! There was also a USB and headphone jack.

I had dinner before going to bed. The flight attendant lowered my tray table for me and placed the tablecloth on it. When she laid it down she noticed there was a small black mark in the middle of it that she couldn’t rub off, so she pulled it off and put a new one on. The little things matter!

I was determined to try the Korean meal on this flight, and thankfully it was something I liked. I started with shrimp with a pine nut dressing, moved on to bibimbap as my main course, and finished off with fruit and cookies. The food was delicious. The only real gripe I had was with the drinks. I had a diet coke, and the glass was so small that I finished it before even getting close to finishing my meal. It wasn’t refilled until I asked since the flight attendants didn’t really check-in during the meal except to pick up plates. Another small issue was that it took quite a bit of time between courses. Overall, dinner took over an hour from start to finish. Maybe I was just eager to go to bed since it was approaching 3am at this point.

Drinks and silverware.

Shrimp with pine nut dressing.

Shrimp with pine nut dressing.

Bibimbap!

Bibimbap!

Bibimbap 2

Fruit plate. I love pineapple!

Fruit plate. I love pineapple!

Korean cookies for dessert. Someone get these people some chocolate!

Korean cookies for dessert. Someone get these people some chocolate!

After dinner I decided to take a nap. It’s a pretty long flight from Los Angeles to Korea so I was hoping the bed would be comfortable enough that I’d be able to get a decent amount of rest. Sure enough, I slept an amazing 7.5 hours, waking up just once to go to the restroom in between! That ended up being the perfect amount of sleep, because it was time for breakfast just a little after waking up and about 2.5 hours remaining in the flight.

The pillow was a bit too thick and firm for my taste, but the blanket was perfect.

The pillow was a bit too thick and firm for my taste, but the blanket was perfect.

Amenities by L'OCCITANE (which I don't dare try to pronounce).

Amenities by L’OCCITANE (which I don’t dare try to pronounce).

For breakfast I decided to go with the Western option, and it was pretty average. Breakfast was the same as dinner in terms of timing. It took 20 minutes from the time I got my fruit plate to the time I got my croissant, then another 15 minutes to get my French toast.

Fruit plate and strawberry yogurt.

Fruit plate and strawberry yogurt.

Croissant

French Toast

All things considered, this was one of the better flights I’ve ever taken. Getting 7.5 hours on this flight was so important because it ended up helping with my jet lag. My flight left at night, I slept 7.5 hours, and when we landed in Korea it was about 6am. If you ask me, that’s perfect because all I have to do was stay up all day and I was good to go with no jet lag!

I have to admit that I expected a bit more service-wise. There are about 24 Business Class seats so there are definitely a lot of people to take care of, but there were many instances in which a simple check-in would have gone a long way for me (such as to get a refill on my diet coke!). But I must say, the movie selection was amazing and the TV was large enough that you could easily enjoy whatever you were watching (though definitely nowhere near the biggest in the sky). I would HIGHLY recommend taking this flight on your way to Korea, as long as you can guarantee you’re getting the Quadra Smartium seats!

I’ll leave you with the full menu and a few other shots of the cabin in case you’re interested. If you have any questions, just let me know and I’ll help the best I can!

Asiana Menu 1

Asiana Menu 2

Asiana Menu 3

My Row

Cabin

TV and foot rest.

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If you enjoyed this post and the others on this blog, feel free to follow me via the link on the right side menu, on Facebook, or via Twitter @TravelSummary.