Hotel California

TRAVEL. It's a ninja skill I'm practicing.

Tues. 10/01 - Day 6


Yesterday was another catch-up day, and a bit experimental. I tested out the Rocketmiles service for booking a stay in conjunction with my JetBlue TrueBlue membership. This was in response to a promotion, where you get a ginormous amount of extra points for doing a first time booking and connecting your TrueBlue membership number.

While most of the tour, I've been thrifty by staying with friends, cooking and walking places. This was a strategic move, as there are a few more trips to be made as a part of my DIY research for the next book. If my planning goes correctly, the choice to book at this hotel will pay for itself in plane tickets. Here's how it was done:

  • I booked the stay through Rocketmiles at Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, which was one of the more affordable options at $180 prepaid, and also offered a fairly high amount of points per stay. The promotion gave me an automatic 1000 points, plus 3000 for choosing this hotel.
  • I booked using a JetBlue Amex card, which also gives me 1 point per $1 spent for regular purchases.
  • I chose Long Beach Airport, which is near this hotel because it services JetBlue. The flight cost $44, which I booked through JetBlue using the JetBlue Amex (adds 8x points). I don't know their algorithm for points per flight, but with all the bonuses, it should come out to quite an advantage.
  • By checking in at the airport with the JetBlue app, I gained a badge, which will also earn me points.

I estimate that I'll get over 5000 points for choosing this accommodation option, which equals approximately one future one-way flight! I would have had to stay somewhere anyway, and this allowed me one slice of luxury (flying instead of driving from SF to LA, plus a night in a hotel) for less than $250.


I flew in from Oakland Airport to Long Beach Airport. This area is a little out of the way of the rest of my LA trip, but I figured it'd add an element of mystery to the experience, since I'm slightly more familiar with LA. Abaracadabra!  It worked.

I don't know that I got the full read on this town. It was in some ways beautiful, and in others a little run down. A lot of places have had it rough recovering from the economic troubles a few years back. It's not quite as artsy as San Francisco, and a lot more tourist-driven in a way that I think is safe for those who prefer familiarity over adventure–with heavy reliance on name brands, rather than independent businesses. Of course, this was a first impression... and I hear there is a strip on 4th Ave called "retro row" which is full of smaller shops, that could tip the scales in favor of DIY, as far as the vibe goes. There's an Aquarium, and lot's of family oriented things here; less bohemian stuff.


Long Beach Airport is extremely small and friendly. I really liked landing there, but this is not the airport for anyone who loves fancy stuff. It felt beachy and we even exited the plane on a ramp to the ground, instead of one of those enclosed ET tube things.

I grabbed Long Beach Transit bus 111 which picked up a short 5 minute walk from the airport, and for cheap as dirt ($1.25), it brought me straight to the hotel. A day pass on LBT is only $4. If I was spending more time in town, I think that would be the transit of choice. The bus was nice and clean, and featured a woman in a sweatsuit singing at full volume to whatever song was playing through her ear buds. We'll never know what that was because she was very selective about which words she sang. 


The Renaissance Hotel, itself, is extremely nice. I was checked in early by a reasonably polite woman who offered me a brochure about the area, which proved to be helpful. Though, when I asked about independent shops, she suggested Ross Dress for Less and Walmart. Hmm. I was also charged a refundable $40 incidentals fee, which held those funds for a few days. Beware of this. I caught the charge on, which has been handy for tracking all my travel budgets and purchases. The folks at the desk were nice about it, but there was no mention of it when checking in, or booking travel.

The lobby features a bar called SIP, which is really interesting in's a ton of mismatch chairs, love seats and tables arranged in little nooks. There is a beautiful bar with a cascading waterfall built into the window, and a glass wine case on display. There's an adjacent Starbucks. The hotel also features a pool and gym, which I did not take advantage of, though I had a look. For the price point, this is a tremendously nice place.

My room had a balcony overlooking the convention center and Pine St, looking down toward the water. The room was well appointed, with a desk, large bed, large bathroom and bench built into a picture window. For those who watch TV on trips, there was also a TV. It had other essential things like a coffee machine, blow dryer, ironing board and pass code safe.  


I like to spend money on the things that I really want to do, and waste none on passing things that aren't or of interest. Since I was alone and wanted to write in the room, and I typically don't eat a huge breakfast, I did this trick:  Back in SF I had purchased 12 packets of Quaker Oatmeal for about $4, instant coffee and so forth. The coffee machine is my friend. I actually took a walk to Walmart, where I know they have snacks and food on the cheap. I got a cup of mandarin oranges with a plastic fold up spork for $1, and a vitamin water for $1. Back at the hotel, I had oatmeal (using the hot water from the coffee pot, and the spork), oranges, coffee and vitamin water. With my instant coffee, I could have more than the complementary pods left in the room. I did this for lunch yesterday, and breakfast today–it left cash for me to have a delightful veggie lasagna at a seaside restaurant on my walk. Total food costs for two days in Long Beach: $20.


Last night, I opted to take a walk on the water after a long stretch of writing. There is a beautiful boardwalk that flanks the docked sea crafts of all types.  Across from the convention center there is a Ferris wheel and a series of chain restaurants. On a Tuesday night, the area nearly empty, saving one extremely packed seafood restaurant. In a way, it felt like a ghost town...reminiscent of Spirited Away or some kind of eerie dream. Still, it was beautiful, and I enjoyed having the place to myself. I wandered in and out of the pirate-themed gift shops and listened to echo of the carousel theme the 8-bit songs of the pinball and video games faithfully trailing out from the doors of the arcade. I made it back up to the balcony of my room just in time for the sunset.

I retired very, very, very, very early last night. I am still kicking this brutal cold. Note to self: do not get sick during travel EVER again! LOL. Regrettably, I declined attending Ryan McIntosh's art reception at the Standard Hotel in down town LA. I would have loved to socialize, but I so needed the recuperation time.