Popsugar Must Have Box Review

It’s a little unfair to review the Popsugar Must Have box. For one, I bought it knowing full well what came in it.  I got it with a 50%-off limited time coupon, so I paid $22 for it.  I am reluctant to spend $40 on a fully mystery box – though I may very well do that, after I’ve sampled a few and figured out which one made me happiest.   But even knowing the items, receiving them and using them was a different experience.  Some of the items I thought I’d love, I didn’t. Some of the items I’d have no use for, turn out to be very nice to have around.  But at the end of the day, I don’t think I would pay more than $30 for this box.  Now, Popsugar Must Have often has coupons for $10 off your first box (though the current one is just $5 off – check ) – but I don’t know if you can keep cancelling and re-subscribing at that price.


KeepCup 12-Ounce Brew Glass Reusable Coffee Cup,  $25

This is the main reason why I got this box.  I just got a Keurig Coffee Maker for Christmas, and I figured this would go great with it.  I’m less enthusiastic about it now that I got it, at least as far as hot drinks go.

First, the glass gets very hot when filled with fresh tea/coffee. Keurig drinks don’t start particularly hot, but it’s still uncomfortable holding the glass at first.  The cup doesn’t have any insulation, so the drink becomes cold quite quickly.  Don’t plan on sipping anything from this cup.

The design of the glass is also uncomfortable for my fairly small hands – it may work better for people with larger hands.  While holding the cup by the band, I can’t really avoid having my other fingers touch the glass.  And the band area is too large for me, it makes for a very uncomfortable grip.

All in all, this may be a better cup for when you are transitioning your kids from sippy cups to real cups – but I’m well past that point.  I wouldn’t buy it again.

popsugbeanieJack + Lucy Pom Pom Hat - “suggested retail value” $32, estimated actual value $8

One of the reasons why I got this box was because I knew my daughter would like this beanie.  And she did!.  She’ll wear it to school tomorrow and I’ll update how the wearing experience was.

I was unable to find *anything* online about the Jack + Lucy brand. No information came in the beanie packaging, they don’t seem to have a website or anything. So far, the only outlet for their products seem to be subscription boxes.  And said products are made in China.  This does not appear to be a particularly high-quality products.  These beanies are selling at around $8 on e-bay, and that seems like a reasonable value for it considering what similar beanies
sell for on Amazon.com.  Wholesale value for similar beanies is around $1-2.

Ultra_Repair_Cream_6ozFirst Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $28

Under normal circumstances, I would think that spending $28 on a cream was ridiculous.  But I saw it as a “freebie” included in the box.  But I tried it, and definitely fell in love! It’s extremely refreshing when you apply it, it has a seductive almost playful texture, and its easy to spread on your skin.  It took a while for my skin to absorb it, but I might have over-saturated my skin with oils today.  The fragrance is sort of strange. It’s not something I’d love to smell, and yet it’s quite calming.  It may be playing off some long-forgotten smells in my past.

But take the label seriously – specially considering the price.  This is not just another lotion. It’s basically a salve in cream form.  Its main ingredient is colloidal oatmeal (finely ground oatmeal).  A cheap ingredient, for sure, but one scientifically recognized for its anti-inflammatory, barrier repair, and moisturizing properties. Studies show that daily use of products containing colloidal oatmeal significantly improves eczema, dryness and itchiness.    So, as much as I like it, I’ll probably save this for times when I or the kids actually need it.

togoeyesTo Go Spa Ice Water Eyes Collagen Gel Pads 3pk, $12

These are little gel pads that you put in the fridge and then place under your eyes to get rid of puffiness and dark circles.  Reading through Amazon reviews, it would seem that they work best for cases when your eyes are really puffy and dark, after crying, or a sleepless night.  They may not do much for subtle needs.

They are disposable and they are expensive, and I wouldn’t buy them myself, but I’m glad to get them. We’ll use them for a spa day with the girls.

skinjewelnavajotatookeySkin Jewel Tattoos, 2 sheets, retail $12, real value $6?

I love these tattoos. I think they will look great on my daughters this summer (they do require tanned skin to pop out), and I’m sure they’ll love to wear them.   This particular package came sponsored by a TV show and shows samples of what Skin Jewel produces. Most of their packs follow a theme and include four sheets. The sheets pictured are the ones I got, though I got the first one (the one with the Native American symbols) in all silver and the second one (the one with the chains) in all gold.  The first sheet comes from Skin Jewel’s Navajo collection and the second from its Key West one.

Now Skin Jewel seems to be a British company, though some of their products are available through Amazon.com, but there are plenty of other companies that sell metallic tatoos at much more reasonable prices.  Wholesale prices start at around 15-cents a sheet.

mandukatowelManduka eQua Plus Yoga Hand Towel, Seaglass, $12

I don’t have much use for a yoga towel, which is just as well as my daughter absconded with it already.  She left the label behind, but it doesn’t do me much good. I, of course, think it’s ridiculous to pay $12 for a towel, one made out of artificial fibers, no less. So this is definitely a product I would never have bought.  Which is what makes subscription boxes so valuable – you end up trying stuff you’d never get otherwise.


granolaNature’s Valley Granola, Peanut Butter n’ Dark Chocolate, 12.7 oz, $4

I liked getting this in the box, as it not only added value but was something I could munch on right away.  As a snack, it’s too dry, but it has a good flavor and should be nice added to yogurt.  But we’re going to eat it just like a snack, I’m sure.

Popsugar Fedex Fun

I have often ordered packages by mail, but I’ve never paid too much attention at what they go through before making their way to me.  Apparently, I have been missing on some fun.  Last week I ordered a subscription box from Popsugar Must Have. I just checked to see what the box is up to, and it seems that it’s engaged in a wild vacation.

The box mails from Watsonville, a farming community in California.  Though Popsugar notified me on Thursday that they had mailed the box, it was actually picked up Friday afternoon (I’m writing this on Saturday).  By Friday evening, it was safe in a truck for the 170 mile trip to Sacramento.  What is funny is that San Leandro, where I live, is about half-way between Watsonville and Sacramento.  So by 1 AM this morning, it had already traveled twice as long as it needed to.

Then, at 10 AM today, the box made it back into another truck.  It’s has spent the last 10 hours in transit, but to where? I have no idea yet, but the box is not actually scheduled to arrive until next Friday!  That means that it gets to spend a week just traveling around? Will it stick to this section of northern California? Will it go further south or north, back and forth, perhaps?  Will it go to a different state?  And how much of a carbon footprint will it leave by virtue of it traveling alone?  Stay tuned.

Update: Well, the story was boring than anticipated.  The box spent all of Saturday and most of Sunday in a truck, only to make it to yet another Fedex facility Monday night.  And then from there it was delivered to the San Leandro post office, which set it out for delivery today.  So I got the box – and it only took it a little over 3 days to get here. Not too bad.

Review: Beautybox five November 2014 box

I got the November 2014 box for “free” by subscribing to Beautybox five.  It was actually somewhat better than the January 2015 box, but that is not saying much.  The total value of this box was about $13.50, but I’ll only use $5 worth of products; adding that to the $6 in worth I got from the first box, I actually lost $1 by subscribing.   Needless to say, I quickly unsubscribed.  I can’t believe this box is still in business.

This box had:

floss-picks-caseDen Tek Floss Picks + Case – 1 case/6 picks, value $0.50

Not what you’d call a thrilling item, but still a useful one. I didn’t realize that these things came with cases, but they’re definitely convenient and I’m going to buy more.

Made in Taiwan

macademiaoilHask Macadamia Oil Exotic Shine Treatment – 1 18 ml vial, value ~$3

This is actually a cool little sample to get. I don’t think I  need any more oil on my hair, but the whole point of having a sample is to experiment with something you wouldn’t otherwise use. So I’m glad to get it.

Made in the USA

eyecrayonNicka K Retractable Jumbo Pencil “Eye Light” Eye Shadow Crayon in Charcoal – full size, value ~$5

It gets fairly good reviews on Amazon and it could be a fun color, but it’s made in China.

dovebodywashDove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash – 1.8 oz, value ~$1.50

This is the second body wash I get in two boxes of Beauty Box Five.  I tried it and it’s pretty much your average body wash. I would neither seek it out nor avoid it. It has a pretty pleasant smell.  Made in the USA.

ashleybodybutterLaura Ashley Italian Lemon Body Butter – 50 g value $3.50

Having learned my lesson from the previous box, and suspicious of the cheap printing job on the label, the first thing I did when I saw this cream was look at where it was made.  You guessed it: China.  I did some research as to why what was once an upscale brand would be selling this garbage.  Apparently, “Laura Ashley” was bought by a Malaysian conglomerate some years ago, and now only operates in the US as a licensing company.  That is to say, they rent the name out to whoever wants to pay to attach it to their products. Apparently, they don’t have much in the way of standards as to who their licensees are.

FabFitFun VIP Winter 2014 Subscription Box Review

FabFitFun is a quarterly “lifestyle” subscription box.  It comes with a variety of items, including beauty and makeup, and so far it has had the most value for the money of all the boxes I bought – in particular because I was able to snag it with a 50% off coupon and only paid about $27! At that price, it was probably the deal of the century, but even at its regular $50 price (or $40, if you use the coupon WINTER10), it’s a very good deal!

I got this box knowing what was already in it, but given how cool the stuff was, I think next time I will take a chance anyway.   That said, I did unsubscribe from the box, just to see how that went.  It was an easy but involved procedure, which included warnings (“don’t think you’ll be able to subscribe again using another discount code, no siree, we are onto you, cheapstake”), threats (“you’ll lose any referral points you’ve accumulated and won’t be able to get any more”), confirmation screens and so forth.  But eventually, I clicked enough screens and was able to cancel.

So, this is what the box came with:


candleDaniel Stone COCO  Coconut Body Candle in Kai Gardenia, 9 oz, value $30
This candle doesn’t have the “double wood wick” and the lid that the model sold in Etsy does, but otherwise seems to be the same thing. It’s made of coconut oil rather than traditional paraffin, which melts at a much lower temperature – so it’s perfect for applying to your body, without fear of being burnt.  While I love the texture of the candle, I didn’t think its aroma was particularly strong.


bulletBullet case necklace, in gold, value $34
I read many reviews of people who did not like this necklace, but I think it’s very cool.  My oldest daughter has already claimed it, otherwise I’d wear it myself.  The one I got is all gold, and while I think the gold-black version is nicer (and only $25 at Amazon.com), I do like it quite a bit.  The chain is very cheap, though.


eyecreamPassport To Beauty Tibetan Goji Berry Intense Anti-aging Eye Serum with Retinol, 0.5 oz, retail price $88, actual value, $15
I had just ran out of my eye cream, so I was looking forward to getting this one. I won’t be able to know whether it “works” for a while (or ever, I am getting older quicker than any product can save my skin), but it does have retinol, which is proven to work on fine lines. It also has goji berry, which has anti-oxidant effects. The value of this item is said to be $88 and indeed that’s what Passport to Beauty sells it for.  But it doesn’t mean that’s how much it’s really worth.  I found a different goji berri & retinol cream at Amazon.com that gets great reviews for just $11 for a whole ounce (twice as much as this one).  They do have other different ingredients, but there is very little relationship between the cost and value of beauty creams.

applepeelJuice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive 2 fl oz, value $39
I just got a mask from my Birchbox subscription, so with this one, I’m all masked out.  This one has a very faint scent, which felt more like coconut than apples to me.  It slowly hardens on your skin, though not so tight as to make it uncomfortable. My skin felt very soft after using it.  I like it.

ahaLather AHA Hand Creme with Evening Primrose 4 oz, value $18
This is cream gets great reviews on Amazon but so far I’m unimpressed.  First, I don’t think jars are a particularly sanitary way of dispensing hand cream.  Unlike face or body cream, which I mostly put on after washing, I don’t always wash my hands right before applying hand cream, which makes me concerned that I’ll contaminate the whole jar.  Tubes are just butter.  The cream itself was too greasy for my hands – but I don’t have unusually dry hands.  It doesn’t have much of a scent.

eyeshadowyourMinerals Eye Shadows in Swedish Winter and Lavender Dream

Not really my colors, but at least they are not made in China.

Gift Certificates

Zumba $25 gift card and DVD, value to me $25
I don’t think we’ll be using the Zumba DVD – though perhaps my daughter will give it a try -, but we already put the card to work! I got my daughter a top on sale for $20.

Fashion Project $30 gift card
Fashion Project is a company that sells used designer clothing/accessories online.  The items are donated by regular people, and about half of the proceeds go to an organization of the donor’s choice.  Prices are probably comparable to e-bay, though it’s hard to know because so much of the price of a used item depends on the condition.  Needless to say, they didn’t have much for under $30.  Fashion Project describes pretty much all its items as being in near new condition or having gentle wear, but some commenters who used this gift card reported the items they got were not in an acceptable condition. I ordered a pair of used shoes for $25 which, after shipping, had me spending a couple of dollars out of pocket.  I’ll review them and the experience when I get them.

Salted 3-month subscription, retail value $30 – value to me $0
Salted is an online cooking school. They offer 15 “courses”, from “how to cook” to “grilled cheese master class“. They also have an Indian cuisine boot camp, that I might check out.  The courses are all very short – Indian cooking is just over 2 hours, so I’m pretty doubtful as to how useful they might be in comparison to the free material you can get on youtube.


Loot Crate Box Review – January 2015

This month I got totally obsessed with subscription boxes, and it wasn’t fair that I would keep this obsession just for myself – so I decided to get subscription boxes for the other members of my family as well.

There are a ton of nerdy subscription boxes for guys out there, but I decided on Loot Crate because it’s 1) cheap, 2) well regarded and 3) had a Groupon, so I was able to get the box for $10 (it’s normally $20).  I didn’t know what the box would have, but past boxes seemed to have enough cool stuff to justify the price.  This one did as well.  Mike wasn’t thrilled-thrilled, but he thought it was pretty cool – and so did I.  He wouldn’t actually want a subscription, but I think he enjoyed getting this one box.

The January 2015 Loot Crate box came with:

10-Doh Figure

10-Doh! mini-figure

10-Doh! 3″-figure, Korben’s Alley, value = ~$10

I will admit that I don’t get what this is. I’d never heard of a 10-doh! figure before, and after finding them online I’m not any clearer as to what they are. Let’s just say they look and have the cheapy feel of a Happy Meal Toy.  I couldn’t find any references to Korben’s Alley online.

IMG_2078IMG_2079Comic Notebook, value = $3

This is such a cute idea! A little notebook with pre-drawn cubes and bubble stencils for making your own comics.  I hope it will inspire either Mike or one of the girls to try their hand are cartooning.  This would be a very cute stocking-stuffer for any comic-lover in your life.

IMG_2080Star Wars Comic Book, Issue 001, value = $3

There is a new Star Wars comic series published by Marvel, and Loot Crate included the first issue with an exclusive cover.  Mike likes Star Wars and he’s looking forward to reading it.

IMG_2081IMG_2082Retro Arcade Skinny Tie by Black Tie Geek, value = ~$15

This was our favorite item in the Loot Crate box.  The tie is very cute and shiny, and as Mike doesn’t have a goofy tie, he’ll probably actually find occasion to wear it.  For me the tie actually justified the price of the box :-)

IMG_2083Voltron Blueprint T-shirt by Flophouse, value = ~$10

This t-shirt is actually black with Voltron’s blueprint in, well, blue – my camera was playing light tricks and I didn’t feel like fixing it.  It’s a nice, thinnish shirt, 100% cotton.  Mike is no a huge Voltron fan and he has a lot of t-shirts, so he doesn’t seem that eager to wear it.  I may end up swapping it if he doesn’t show more enthusiasm.
IMG_20738-Bit Glasses, value = ~$5

Similar to these ones sold by Amazon.com. My 10-yo is into goofy glasses, so she took a look a these and made away with them.  Good, because I don’t think anyone else would wear them.  They are UV-protective so I’m fine with her wearing them.

Las Vegas Hotel Review: The Signature @ the MGM

The Signature suites at the MGM hotel is one of the best places for families to stay in Las Vegas.  The suites are large and fairly well maintained, they have full kitchens, comfortable and stylish furniture and great bathrooms.  We have stayed there twice already, in August 2012 and 2014, and my kids want to go back already.

The Signature is a condo-hotel. That means that most of the units and individually owned, mostly by investors but there are some people who actually live in their units.  Unit owners can chose to rent out their units through the MGM management, through another company or on their own.  The first time we went, we reserved our unit through VRBO, though the second one my husband’s company travel agent made reservations directly with the hotel.  Both have their advantages/disadvantages, which I’ll discuss below.

Most rooms come with standard decorations and they include a king size bed with incredibly comfortable and high quality mattresses, pillow and bedding.  There is a sofa which turns into a queen size bed, which is not too uncomfortable either.  There is a table/desk with a couple of chairs and a full kitchen area.  If you reserve through the hotel, you will need to ask for any plates/pans/utensils you may need for cooking – though private units may come fully equipped.  There is a closet with a dresser, another small bar area, and the bathroom.  The bathroom is my kids’ favorite place. It’s large, it has a huge jet tub, a separate shower and a small TV which you can watch from the bathtub.   Some rooms come with balconies, which I would fully recommend as you can use them to dry out your swimwear.

Like most hotels in Vegas, the Signature charges a resort fee, which includes fast internet. There are also plenty of outlets in the unit.

The hotel itself doesn’t have much in the way of frills.  Each building (there are three) has a swimming pool. These are large, rectangle, kept at a nice temperature (neither too hot nor cold), appropriate for swimming, and not very busy.  One of the pools is designated for adult use only, which I appreciate as a parent.  Each pool has an attached hot tub, also very nice and relaxing.  The pool bars are not too ridiculously expensive, and the whole pool atmosphere is just relaxing.

One of the building has a small restaurant, which serves pizzas, soups and sandwiches.  The food is excellent and reasonably priced.  Unfortunately, they don’t take phone orders, but it’s not too inconvenient to go and get the food.  There is a bar and a Starbucks at another of the buildings also serving excellent food and drinks.

The Signature is located in the back of the MGM casino & resort.  It’s a 10 to 15 minute walk, depending on how much of a hurry you are in.  There are people movers, but it can still be challenging to get there for those who have mobility problems.  While the walkways to the MGM are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, the MGM itself is very crowded and I don’t think too comfortable for wheelchair users.

When you stay at the Signature, you can take advantage of the MGM pools.  There are pretty amazing, but they get very busy during the weekend – so it’s really good to be able to use the private Signature pools as well.

There are a couple of cons about staying at the Signature.  The main one is that it’s really far away from the strip.  It’s a long walk getting there, and at the end, you have to go through the casino – which means exposing yourself/your children to cigarette smoke and crowded areas.  We usually just took taxis, even to hotels a couple of blocks away (but this was August and we were there with my 80-yo dad).

If you do drive, there is no self-parking.  That means having to tip a couple of dollars every time you get your car – but also having to wait for your car.  This makes it harder to go in and out of the hotel.   Ultimately, I think these inconveniences are what keeps the suite prices so low.  You can usually get a suite here for the same price than what a regular room would cost you on the strip.

If you do stay here, there are both advantages and disadvantages about booking directly with the owner or a representative.  The advantage of going with an owner is that you will probably know exactly which unit you will be getting – that means, you’ll know in which building it is, how high up and what sort of view.  So if you want to make sure that you have a high-up room, with a balcony, a fully stocked kitchen and a view of the strip, a private booking may be the way to go.  We did that during our first stay, and we really got a great room.  Privately booked rooms can also be cheaper – though don’t count on it.  These rooms usually don’t include daily maid service, and during our first stay we noticed that we really missed it – in particular, the changes of towels.

The big advantage of booking through the hotel is that if there any problems, the management is there to help you.  When we checked in during our second visit, their computer system was down so they couldn’t actually check us in and take us to our room.  Instead, they comped us $75 for food/beverages at the The Lounge, and made sure we were comfortable while we waited.  I don’t think they’d had done the same if we had booked privately

The Signature at MGM Grand

145 E Harmon
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

Las Vegas Hotel Review: Palms Place

For the last four years, the kids and I have joined Mike in Vegas for the annual Defcon conference.  He goes to the conference, we hang out.  That means that I want to stay at a comfortable hotel, with plenty of room and amenities, that is also centrally located.  Though it’s off the street, the Palm Place is a pretty good alternative.

The Palms Place is a condo hotel, built before the Las Vegas real estate market collapsed in 2008.  Many of the units are privately  owned, though they are available to rent as hotel rooms through the hotel management.  They are identically decorated.  It follows closely the model of the MGM Signature Suites, where I’ve stayed twice, but the Palms Place has a cheaper look.  Still, it’s a very comfortable place to stay with a family.

The studio room features a king size bed, an L-shaped Italian sofa that converts into a queen size bed, a comfy chair, a large desk/counter area and two wall mounted TVs, one facing the bed and the other the sofa.  Only one of the TVs worked during our stay.  There is a kitchen area by the door, which comes with all the basics for keeping/cooking your food.  It had a desk, but it was somewhat uncomfortable to use.

The bathroom featured a beautiful, large and deep jet bathtub in its own enclosure, next to a floor shower. The walls are translucent so anyone in the room can see you bathe.  The tub is very noisy, so it’s not the best place to relax, and it’s literally impossible to hear the TV from the tub, but it’s still a very fun tub.

The room was all in all very relaxing and comfortable. It felt utilitarian rather than luxurious, but it was large and stylish enough.  One big minus, however, is that you cannot open the windows or go into the balcony (if your room has one).

The hotel didn’t have too many amenities itself, but it was also comfortable.  The hotel pool is on the 6th floor, along one side of the hotel. This high up, it can get pretty windy and this may be the one spot in Las Vegas where you can actually feel chilly outside in the middle of an August day.  It usually doesn’t get too crowded, and the kids and I had fun playing there.   Bear in mind that the pool hugs Simon, one of the restaurants, so you cannot really swim in privacy.

Palms Place gives you access to the facilities at the Palms next door – which you can access via a covered walkway.  Unfortunately, we never found the swimming pool at the Palms’, so I can’t report on how it was.  We did take advantage of the cheap but top-quality buffet restaurant and the movie theater – which is conveniently located near the walkway to the Palms Place.   We also went to the Palms to take the free shuttle to Caesar’s Palace.

All in all, the Palms Place provides and affordable and relaxing alternative to the strip.

Hotel Review: Overleaf Lodge & Spa, Yachats, OR

For almost a decade, we’ve been spent every Thanksgiving week driving from California to Washington state and back.  We usually do this on I-5, and spend a couple of days getting there, and a day back.  We have pretty much stopped everywhere along the way, so when Mike suggested that we find a place to stop this year, I actually ventured to look beyond I-5.  Behold! Oregon has a long and drivable coast, which we have missed altogether!

It turns out that there are practical reasons to miss the Oregonian coast in November.  It’s cold, rainy and foggy – but the day we spent exploring it left us wanting for a more thorough trip, probably in the summer.

The Overleaf Lodge & Spa is one of a myriad of high-quality hotels that spot the Oregon coast.  It offers amazing views and quality accommodations at a price.  Even the day before Thanksgiving, a night there was around $150.

The hotel itself was both comfortable and nice. The room was simple, but the beds were comfortable, there were plenty of pillows and we slept well.  They had nice toiletries.  Our room was in the first floor, and had a door onto a path to the beach.  The weather wasn’t great when we were there, but the kids enjoyed spending time by the seashore.  It was pretty messy, however!

The hotel has a beautiful lobby, with a small giftshop, a comfy fireplace area and a well appointed breakfast room.  Breakfast had plenty of choices, and focused on whole-grain/natural foods.

When we stayed, guests seemed to be mostly retired people, even though we are in our 40’s, we felt a bit young for the hotel.

Overleaf Lodge & Spa
280 Overleaf Lodge Lane
Yachats, OR 97498

Hotel Review: Best Western Arcata Inn

Simple and clean accommodations.

Two months after our one-night stay at the Best Western Arcata Inn, I have trouble remembering what the hotel looked like.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  We arrived late on a Tuesday night during Thanksgiving week, and left early the following morning.  What we wanted and needed was a clean, comfortable, hassle-free place to sleep – and that’s what we got.

The beds were comfortable, the pillows, in particular, were great.  The beds didn’t have ugly, unsanitary comforters, which is a big plus for me.  There was basic furniture and a large flat-screen TV.  The bathroom could probably have used more towels, and it was on the small side, but there was good water pressure.

Breakfast was adequate, with a waffle machine, toasters and cereals.  The breakfast area was tiny and crowded, however.

I paid $77 through a TripAdvisor deal.  We stayed mid-week in November, 2014.

Best Western Arcata Inn
4827 Valley W Blv
Arcata, CA 95521

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Express, Vancouver North / Salmon Creek

We usually spend Thanksgivings with Mike’s family in  Vancouver, WA.  Sometimes we stay with his mother, but more often we stay at a hotel.   This year there were 8 kids 12 and under for the holiday, which I’m sure makes the reason self-explanatory.

We’ve stayed in several hotels in the area, and the Holiday Inn Express is definitely one of my favorites.  It’s closer to the house than the ones near downtown Vancouver, it’s clean, comfortable and hassle free.  We stayed for three nights in November, 2014.

The room we got was clean and comfortable. It had two queen beds, a single desk with a chair, and a dresser with a flat-screened TV, a hidden fridge and a microwave. The room was large enough so that our family of four didn’t feel crowded. The bathroom was fairly large, as was the closet. And there was a little area for coffee, out of the way.
At first I thought the mattresses were lumpy and would be uncomfortable, but I slept very well. The mattress wasn’t too soft, but not terribly hard either. The pillows were great.

My two complaints with the room were relatively minor. Our first night, it was impossible to log into the hotel’s internet. I’m not sure if it was down or too crowded, but I couldn’t get a connection until after midnight. It worked well after that, though I had to re-authenticate at least twice a day.

The hotel was also pretty tight with the toiletries. We got a tiny bottle of shampoo and conditioner each day, sufficient for one person with long hair or two with short, but definitely not for a family of 4. Yes, I could have asked for more, but I never remembered to do so until it was too late. We also could have used more towels. On the plus side, the toiletries are from Bath & Body Works and smelled great.

The hotel itself is nicely appointed and functional. It has a large lobby with elegant but serviceable furniture, we used it for breakfast when the dining room was full, and to read the newspaper (available for free) while our room was cleaned.  The breakfast area remains open during the day, so if you need a table and chairs to work, you can go down there. The pool and gym are open 24-7 (you get in with your room key), and my kids enjoyed them. The water in the pool looked murky, but the kids didn’t complain. There is a small business office, but I didn’t use.

Breakfast was very good for a hotel at this price point. It had the usual continental breakfast items: fruit, yogurt, cereal/oatmeal, bagels, bread as well as a few hot items seating under a heat lamp. These were generally turkey sausage patties and biscuits with sausage gravy (didn’t try them). A couple of the days they had omelets (didn’t try them either) and one day they had bacon (very crispy, but not too bad). They have a pancake machine too. The best part, however, were the hot cinnamon rolls.  In the drink department, they had all the usual stuff – except for hot chocolate.

Check in and check out was hassle free. Traveling in November, I appreciated staying in a hotel rather than a motel (we’ve done the Shilo Inn before), as we didn’t have to face the cold to reach the hotel amenities.

I paid $77 a night + tax in November, by buying it through a Priceline express deal.
Two months after our one-night stay at the Best Western Arcata Inn, I have trouble remembering what the hotel looked like. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We arrived late on a Tuesday night during Thanksgiving week, and left early the following morning. What we wanted and needed was a clean, comfortable, hassle-free place to sleep – and that’s what we got.

The beds were comfortable, the pillows, in particular, were great. The beds didn’t have ugly, unsanitary comforters, which is a big plus for me. There was basic furniture and a large flat-screen TV. The bathroom could probably have used more towels, and it was on the small side, but there was good water pressure.

Breakfast was adequate, with a waffle machine, toasters and cereals. The breakfast area was tiny and crowded, however.

I paid $77 through a TripAdvisor deal. We stayed mid-week in November, 2014.

Holiday Inn Express Vancouver North – Salmon Creek
13101 NE 27th Avenue
Vancouver, WA 98686
(360) 576-1040

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

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