mccool travel

Southwest Florida Back Roads Road Trip

Southwest Florida Back Roads Road Trip

My goal, as with most road trips, is to completely avoid interstate highways and find the most interesting roads (usually not appearing on maps).

This one day road trip started when I arrived at Orlando airport and Barbara at Avisgave me a free upgrade to a Mustang Convertible. I could not ask for anything more for $195 a week; yes, I found a rental car in Florida in February for under $200 a…

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For my trip to San Francisco last month, here is how I decided to stay at Petite Auberge and my thoughts about the property.

My goal was to find a hotel in a central location so that I could walk everywhere without relying on public transportation.

Another goal was use a $500 prize I was fortunate to win from Expedia in a Twitter chat. While I hoped the $500 credit would cover 3 nights, I quickly realized I would be lucky to have it cover 2 nights. My visit to San Francisco was a few days before a large week-long technology conference, which created higher than usual hotel rates and tighter availability.

When I searched for hotel rooms with a maximum rate of $250, results were mostly undesirable properties (poor ratings or reviews) or in undesirable areas (sketchy neighborhoods or not in central San Francisco). I prioritized the results but was not satisfied with the top contenders—even for up to $250 a night.

I reluctantly upped my target price to $300, figuring I would pay the difference. Well, that did produce several additional properties in downtown San Francisco. Along with chain properties—like Kimpton, Joie de Vivre, and biggies like the Marriott chain—I noticed the independent Petite Auberge. I decided that it was a fantastic combination of location, rating, and reviews. And the rate was actually $251, just $1 above my initial threshold.

Location. Situated on Bush Street, between Union Square and Nob Hill, Petite Auberge is in a great location. It was a quick 5-10 minute walk to Chinatown and an immediate steep walk to the top of Nob Hill. Any closer to Union Square and there would be too much traffic and noise.

Rating. Petite Auberge is ranked #33 (out of #237 hotels) in San Francisco on TripAdvisor. While I would love to stay in a top 10 hotel, I was not prepared to pay $800 a night for the privilege.

Reviews. Reviews for Petite Auberge on TripAdvisor and other sources were great. There were some complaints; there are always complaints, no matter how highly rated the property is. The issues cited, though, were mostly related to not appropriate for business travelers, inadequate breakfast, short of staff on site, and street noise. None of those issues concerned me. When negative reviews mention lack of cleanliness, shoddy facilities, or obnoxious staff, I am concerned.

Still I continued to check around for a couple of days. I cross-checked other websites and apps, to confirm that Expedia rates were not out of line—and they were not (same price on Expedia, direct through hotel and other sources). When I finally booked my two nights at Petite Auberge, I was charged a total of $84; those darn hotel taxes.

After eventually deciding on Petite Auberge for two nights, I left my first night free. I covered my stay at The Mosser Hotel in another post.

On my checkin day, I arrived at Petite Auberge around 1pm. I was told that my room was not yet ready and I left my main bag with staff. When I later returned about 4pm to register, I was told that my bag was already moved to my room. That was really nice. One quirk about the Petite Auberge is that the front desk is often not staffed. The front desk at the sister property, White Swan Inn (two doors away), is always staffed.

Anyway, to get to my room on the top floor I took this classic European style elevator.

My room was a queen room, their basic room. It was quite comfortable for my solo stay—but a couple spending much time in the room should consider a larger room. My room had a comfortable queen bed, plenty of pillows, wooden desk and armoire, and flat screen TV.

The bathroom was cozy, clean, and nicely decorated, with a small corner shower.

The entire property is nonsmoking, has wi-fi (I had to request a router reset two times), and several food and beverage amenities. A complimentary bottle of water was in my room at checkin. Additional bottles of water, soft drinks, tea, and coffee are available 24 hours a day. Cookie jars in each lobby (Petite Auberge and White Swan Inn) were always full. A breakfast buffet was wonderful, including fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, and a hot entree. Last (but not least) is a daily happy hour with wine and snacks (like hummus, olives, and a cheese platter).

This is one of the basement rooms for breakfast and happy hour.

And I especially liked this upholstery pattern on a set of chairs.

I would definitely consider Petite Auberge for future stays near downtown San Francisco, Union Square, or Nob Hill.

Petite Auberge
863 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

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Petite Auberge, San Francisco Hotel Review For my trip to San Francisco last month, here is how I decided to stay at…
5 Minutes With Paula Froelich

5 Minutes With Paula Froelich

For McCool Travel’s 45th travel profile, I am happy to introduce you to Paula Froelich. When I recently send out a Twitter request asking for “fun travelers,” @PFro was the first suggestion. I have not yet met Paula in person but I follow her exploits online, including on her website, A Broad Abroad. She wears a few hats, as you will see.

[quote]Paula Froelich is the editor-in-chief of Yahoo…

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5 Minutes With Kristin Addis

5 Minutes With Kristin Addis

For McCool Travel’s 42nd travel profile, I am happy to present Kristin Addis. I recently discovered her website, Be My Travel Muse, and was instantly captivated. I was extremely fortunate to catch her at the right time and she graciously shared her thoughts for this profile.

Kristin’s bio (in her words):

[quote]Kristin Addis is a former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and bid…

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8 Great Fall Travel Trends

8 Great Fall Travel Trends

Signs of fall (autumn) are everywhere in North America.

Schools are back in session. Weather is getting cooler. Football season has begun and baseball is winding down (Go Nats!).

And pumpkin stuff is everywhere. I recently stocked up on Trader Joe’s pumpkin cereal bars because my local store ran out last year. I am such an obedient consumer.

Technically, though, it is still summer. Fall does not…

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5 Minutes With Amy Truong

5 Minutes With Amy Truong

For McCool Travel’s 37th travel profile, I am happy to present Amy Truong. I met Amy at a local travel event and was immediately impressed. Amy is adventurous, passionate, and radiates excitement about travel and life. Since I would like to increase visits to my website, I must mention Amy is a former FHM model.

I am thrilled that she participated in my Q&A because I sense Amy Truong is…

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8 Great Tips for Choosing a Motel

8 Great Tips for Choosing a Motel

On USA road trips, I prefer to stay at independent motels. I find that motels are a better value than hotels and motel staff provide better service and information. It can be a challenge selecting an adequate motel so I compiled this list based on my experiences choosing motel rooms.

My 8 great tips for selecting a motel: [ordered_list style=“decimal”]

  1. Independent. Skip Motel 6and try the nearby…

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8 Great Fun and Quirky San Francisco Scenes

8 Great Fun and Quirky San Francisco Scenes

Looking through pictures from my trip to San Francisco last month, I am reminded that the city offers a wide variety of activities, viewpoints (scenic and political), cuisine, cultures, and more. Countless resources show you the mainstream tourist spots (including me here, here, and here) but I hope to show some fun and quirky San Francisco scenes in this article.

My 8 Great Fun and Quirky San…

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Fall Foliage Guide 2014

Fall Foliage Guide 2014

Yesterday was a gorgeous day (labelled a rare 10 by Capital Weather Gang), so my wife and I headed for the hills; the hills of Virginia Shenandoah, that is.

Our fun day of scenic driving, short hikes, and viewing delightful early autumn colors is covered more thoroughly on our local website, FuninFairfaxVA. You should at least see the insect picture!

My picture, below, was shared by Virginia…

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5 Minutes With Shane Dallas

5 Minutes With Shane Dallas

For McCool Travel’s 44th travel profile, I am happy to introduce you to Shane Dallas, aka The Travel Camel. Shane is from Australia but is a true world citizen. He has visited over 70 countries and has been on the road continuously since December 2012.

[quote]The world is not as dangerous as it appears from afar. Those destinations with some of the worst safety reputations usually provide the…

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8 Great Airline Lounge Perks

8 Great Airline Lounge Perks

My return flight from San Francisco included a red-eye flight followed by a three hour layover. I did not sleep as well as I expected on the red-eye flight and I was a walking zombie at the interim airport (MSP). Lucky for me I had a complimentary airline lounge pass.

Several months earlier, I traded points in a defunct business account for four passes to any Delta Air Lines Sky Club. My three…

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5 Minutes With Banff Squirrel

5 Minutes With Banff Squirrel

For McCool Travel’s 43rd travel profile, I am extremely honoured to present Banff Squirrel. Banff Squirrel, aka Crasher Squirrel, was featured a few years ago in National Geographic, where he photobombed this couple’s scenic picture.

While this was not Banff Squirrel’s first interview (here is another), it is believed to be his first official profile (yippee, a McCool Travel exclusive). As you…

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Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, Oh My

Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, Oh My

Unlike almost every travel blogger I know, I do not produce and publish travel articles WHILE I am traveling.

So, for the next few days, the McCool Travel blog will be relatively quiet. I do have a travel profile going up on Thursday, which you will not want to miss.

However, I will be very active on other social media sites, posting food and attraction photos. I call it micro-blogging.


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5 Minutes With Carole Rosenblat

5 Minutes With Carole Rosenblat

For McCool Travel’s 41st travel profile, I am happy to present Carole Rosenblat. Get this, Carole invites people (readers of to vote on where in the world she will go next. Sound crazy? Or wonderful? Either way, you will want to check it out. Her current vote is which ancient civilization to visit. One previous vote was which “St.” place to visit. Fascinating.

Carole’s bio (in…

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24 Hour Philadelphia Stopover Part 2

24 Hour Philadelphia Stopover Part 2

My wife and I had a few free days earlier this summer and decided to visit Philadelphia and New York City (NYC) by train.

An earlier article covered the first part of our Philadelphia stopover. One thing I wanted to add to the first part is a nighttime visit to The President’s Househistoric site, next to the Liberty Bell. This was the site of the office for the first two Presidents (George…

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Keep Frequent Flyer Points Active

Keep Frequent Flyer Points Active

You worked hard to earn frequent flyer points. Make sure your points do not disappear due to account inactivity.

True now as in this 2010 article, friends don’t let friends lose their frequent flyer points.

I recently checked several accounts and discovered one account had about 15,000 points which would soon expire. I did not plan on flying on that airline. Not wanting to lose the points I…

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Celebrate the American Wilderness

Celebrate the American Wilderness

September 3rd marked the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The law originally protected 9.1 million acres of land in the United States. 50 years later, the National Wilderness Preservation System protects 109 million acres, almost 2 percent of the lower 48 states.

American Wilderness

Happy Golden Anniversary to the American wilderness!

McCool Travel LOVES the American wilderness. Our scenic…

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5 Minutes With Lacy Colley Yamaoka

5 Minutes With Lacy Colley Yamaoka

For McCool Travel’s 39th travel profile, I am happy to present Lacy Colley Yamaoka. She is yet another fascinating travel personality I met through Twitter travel chats, particularly #SeeTheWorld. Lacy combines public relations, sales, and social media expertise into freelancer life from—get this—Anguilla (the Caribbean, if you did not know!). Her online home is

[quote]My passion…

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30 Great Ways to Have Fun While Traveling

30 Great Ways to Have Fun While Traveling

Since 2010, I have been publishing profiles of travel personalities and people who just love travel. All have interesting travel stories and tips to share.

From the first profile in December 2010, I have asked each person for 3 ways to have fun while traveling.

Here are 30 great ways to have fun while traveling, from the first ten McCool Travel profiles. Each person’s name links to their profile…

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