Wake up, go to the airport, fly to a new city, work from the office, explore for 4-5 hours, go to sleep and repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Hotwire just had an incredible sale: $49 4-5 star hotels in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Don’t worry if you missed it, we still have amazing deals EVERYWHERE.
The only thing crazier than these deals, was an internal Hotwire employee contest to create a video shorter than one minute on why we should get to visit all of these cities during the Hotwire Effect XL Sale period.
AND I WON! *cue “Eye Of The Tiger”*
Before I make you jealous with my city experiences and highlights, here are three big takeaways:
- Get out of airport security lines
Do not walk — RUN to attain whatever you need to skip the general boarding line at airports. Ok, so there is an application and approval wait period if you’re doing Global Entry, TSA Pre-Check®, etc. All the more reason to start now! I timed the amount of waiting I did in security lines at airports without this fast pass. Just under 8 hours. That’s a lot of time to slowly move inch by inch watching others enviously strut through their fancy CLEAR and Premier Airline status lanes with no wait.
- Any city is as touristy as you make it
When I won this unreal trip, friends, family, and coworkers definitely had opinions on which cities would be a dream. Their reasons can be sorted into three categories: weather, food, and quantity of tourists. I was excited to get a taste of each city, and even I contribute to dialogues about avoiding touristy places in Seattle like the plague. Here’s the thing — touristy just means popular for visitors. I dislike crowds as much as the next person, but just because something is ‘touristy’ doesn’t make it any less valuable of a travel experience. There are locals in every city. There are visitors in every city. You do you! On this trip, I did a mix.
- Hotwire really has dynamite deals
I’m just going to repeat this for you: $49 4-5 star hotels in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
I stayed in Hyatts, Westins, Loews, Omnis, Conrad Hotels, even the super cool Hotel Zeppelin in San Francisco. Please tell me the last time you stayed at one of these brands for $49. The cool thing about Hotwire is we always have amazing prices on hotels AND car rentals. If you’ve never checked us out, I’m about to rock your world. We hide hotel names so you can find 4-star hotels at 2-star prices. That’s the #HotwireEffect (Here’s the PNW version – do you see Bigfoot?) Why would you book a hotel without knowing the name? For unreal prices! Plus, you can sort by neighborhood, amenities, star rating, and recommend score so you know what to expect. Go ahead, try it out: hotwire.com
Okay, time to brag!
I went to Small Cheval for lunch (and one of the best cheeseburgers of my life)! They had Garlic Aioli and multiple types of ketchup on tap, so I was already impressed.
I spent some time working with my team in office – and the new space in Chicago. It’s stunning and reminds me of a Kimpton – hip but not too hip. Did I mention there was a nap room, library, and literally a guided meditation for employees was offered while I was there?
After work, I stood (and even sat) in the scary all-glass Skydeck. I only screamed a little, and everyone there laughed at me as the kind photographer kept telling me to step back so I was fully dangling my life 103 floors above Chicago’s concrete.
I grabbed frosé from the Taco Bell Cantina (anyone who has met me knows Taco Bell is sacred), and then got some real deep dish with the team from Lou Malnati’s. For the record, I’ve tried Giordano’s, and Lou Malnati’s has my heart. Next time I’ll try Pequod’s.
Expedia has an upper floor of the Empire State Building. (close your mouth)
I felt like Walter Hobbs!
Thanks to recommendations from my team who were locals, I knew where to grab a bagel and slice of pizza. It was kind of frustrating because as I walked to Ess-a-bagel and Joe’s Pizza, I saw 20 other restaurants I wanted to try!
As soon as I bit into my sesame and plain cream cheese sandwich, all was well. I also had validation at Joe’s pizza where pictures of celebrities eating there are all over the walls to remind you that you’re basically the same person as Anne Hathaway, Lenny Kravitz, or Neil Patrick Harris to name a few.
I had one of the best biscuit breakfast sandwiches and lattes at A Baked Joint (yes, that’s what it’s called *snicker*).
I know I’m raving about the offices in each city — but that’s because they’re really cool! The D.C. office is really fun. Everyone there was beyond welcoming and offered so many recommendations. This office also had the coolest Expedia mural by far.
After work I walked to the National Portrait Gallery and saw the famous portrait of former President Barack Obama along with many other pieces. I could spend an entire day here, and they always have new exhibits.
After New York restaurants, I assumed no other city could get on it’s food level. Let me tell you, D.C. either has it going on, or I just happened to hit the only amazing spots there. I don’t think it’s the latter.
The Bird had great fried chicken, and Milk Bar though originally from New York, has it’s flagship store in D.C.
One of my best friends lives in Miami, but I’ve never been there! So I took the day off.
We grabbed brunch at the Wynwood (the art district) Diner, and walked around looking at the famous Wynwood Walls which are frequently painted over by new artists from around the world!
As eager as I was to take advantage of the day off, I definitely wanted to say hi to my teammates in our Miami office. Miami, and our team in that office epitomizes the phrase ‘so extra’ in all the right ways.
First of all, again, the views were incredible. Waterfront, city and palm trees all around. Right when you walk in, you see an homage to Will Smith’s Miami. Ok, I’m not positive it was inspired by his lyrics, but I love the song so go with me. I tried my first cafecito, and then had a second one because it was so delicious even though the office warned me I’d be bouncing off the walls with that much pure espresso.
Within the hour and a half I was there, the team showed me salsa, cafecito, and I tried a Cuban sandwich.
Ok, I admit I intentionally made my route so I’d be in Orlando over the weekend. Two words: Harry Potter. Disclaimer: Orlando has plenty to do outside of theme parks. But I’m a Harry Potter freak.
Seriously, I’ve been to all midnight book releases and movie releases. I read books 1-4 eight times each and books 5-7 six times each. If we’re past you questioning the legitimacy of my fandom, we can begin.
First I checked into the hotel, and went to the concierge to see if I could get a discount on my ticket. Guess who was there? Our fabulous Local Expert team! Huge shout-out to Adam and Robbie for awesome service and being the real MVPs. They helped me get the cheapest tickets possible, and also were great sports about posing in my selfie.
Where to begin on Harry Potter World? I can neither confirm nor deny that I teared up a bit — this place has been on my list for a long time. I did it all. The rides, the many versions of butterbeer. Overall, I was just blown away by the detail in everything from the cobblestone streets to the eerily realistic Gringotts goblins.
I have never been to Austin. Or Texas. This is definitely a place I want to return to.
I did it. I waited in line in 97-degree weather for three hours EXACTLY to try Franklin’s BBQ. Because did you really go to Austin if you didn’t get BBQ? Best brisket of my life. Second-best pulled pork (my number one is Notorious P.I.G. in Missoula, MT). At a certain point it gets subjective, right? I think it’s telling when locals are in line for that long, and I would definitely do it again.
It was a Sunday so I had the day off which was great for exploring, but I really hope to check out and work from the HomeAway office there in the future. I went swimming as the locals do in Barton Springs to cool off (we definitely hit over 100 degrees).
I took a recommendation from one of the locals I met in line at Franklin Barbeque to try Summer Moon wood-fired coffee and had the best coffee drink of my entire trip. They make a secret 7-ingredient creamy “Moon Milk” for lattes that has such a distinct sweet but hearty taste. A must when you’re there, and they have multiple locations.
City of Angels, like my angel coworker who picked me up from the airport. That was a nice contrast to the hellish view I took in of Los Angeles traffic. When we got to the LA office my team and I went on their recommendation to The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker for breakfast and the eggs benedict was divine. I think the lattes below speak for themselves.
After work I went to my hotel the Loews Hollywood Hotel where they had a rooftop pool with a view. (Pinch me I must be dreaming, there’s no WAY this was $49). Right next door I tried StreetChurros which was a delicious fresh piping hot churro looped in soft serve. I’m drooling as I write this.
I made my way over to the LACMA Urban Light installation featured in the movie No Strings Attached at sunset for a great industrial view.
Finally, San Francisco. If you really want to get on locals’ nerves, call it San Fran. This was a great way to end my trip because it’s where I’ve visited most. Hotwire’s HQ is located in this city and the building floor themes are zany, but intentional. Seriously, we have a Star Trek floor.
I took the familiar BART into town, and then a coworker took me somewhere I had never been but always wanted to go – Taco Bell. Not just any Taco Bell, but Taco Bell on Pacifica Beach. Literally, they have a window on the outside for people to order with sandy feet. You can eat inside or outside on the deck with sweeping views of the beach. I can neither confirm nor deny that I also teared up here. I really love Taco Bell.
Anyways, I had no idea how close this SoCal-feeling beach town was to The City. I returned to the office, and had some fun working alongside fellow Hotwirens (that’s a thing, right?). I’m pretty sure I sang the jingle over 20 times that day. You know it right? H-O-T-W-I-R-E Hotwire-dot-com! Try getting THAT out of your head 😉 I ended the day with ice-cream from Humphry Slocombe in the Ferry Building with my manager, and grabbed a fabulous view from the rooftop bar at the Loews Regency next to the office.
I had dinner at Rambler the restaurant in my chic, modern Hotel Zeppelin. Food and drinks there were the perfect end to an unreal trip.