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Photo credit Samantha Eve Yoga. Copyright 2019.
So it had been EIGHT years since the SigO and I had been home to California. (Disclaimer: Actually neither my love nor I are originally from California, and he considers the East Coast his home base. However I moved to California the day after I turned 18, and have looked fondly at SoCal as my true home ever since!)
Originally we were going to take only a few days off, and fly back for a super quick trip over Memorial weekend. However when we factored in the travel time, plus the cost for a cross-country trip, it turned out to be much more economical to extend our stay. (No really, twist my arm!)
For the first time, we booked our complete vacation using JetBlue Getaways. The online booking was fairly straightforward, although I wish the searching process allowed for a bit more customization of choices. As I am committed to sharing what I’ve learned, below is my review for the three parts of the trip booked online through JetBlue Getaways:
THE FLIGHT - JetBlue Airlines
I don’t think I’ve had a negative experience flying this company and I hope that they only continue to improve! I LOVED having FREE wi-fi onboard and the coach seats were pretty roomy. (Don’t take my 5ft 4in word for it! Even the SigO - all 6ft of him - was fairly comfy.) The attendants were extremely friendly (shoutout again to Shirley and Kevin on Flight 488 LAX to BOS), and they even had some vegetarian/vegan food options for the paid meals.
There weren’t really any negatives. So I am just offering some suggestions for ways that I hope they continue to improve.
I love JetBlue and plan to fly with them again! I hope they continue to improve, and that they remain competitively priced.
THE HOTEL - Majestic Garden Anaheim (formerly known as the Sheraton Anaheim)
Decently priced, we liked the location as it was safe, clean, close to dining options, and centrally located for where we would be taking day trips. (NOTE: We lived in SoCal before and wanted to visit people/places from San Diego to Santa Clarita. Being in the middle meant that we were able to easily get around.) The staff was friendly, the bed comfy, there was a mini refrigerator in the room, we were given two free bottle waters daily, and the shower head could easily accommodate my 6 ft tall SigO. We also received a $50 food voucher to the restaurant. Although they didn’t have a ton of vegan options, I was able to find something yummy to eat.
The DAY WE ARRIVED the hotel was changing names/owners. They did give us a lovely gift bag which was a classy touch, but we didn’t realize this change was happening until we got there. As a result of the change, they were also doing renovations, another fact we weren’t aware of. The day we tried to go to the pool, they were painting and running loud equipment, so we never got to use that facility. In addition, the TV in the room kept losing its connection to whatever cable company they used so it would randomly go off in the middle of a program. Although there was a mini-fridge, there was no microwave. So it was pointless to bring home leftovers from eating out (a fact I realized after bringing back the remains of a particularly yummy vegan Vietnamese meal that I plan to blog about later). The room appeared overall clean, but the first time I went to use the bathroom, I discovered a clump of hair - like someone had emptied a hairbrush - in the toilet. Kind of gross…
This was definitely not the hotel’s fault, but just note that if you stay as close to Disneyland as we did, you WILL HEAR THE FIREWORKS EVERY NIGHT! Most nights this was not an issue as we were out and about anyway. However that first night, after traveling ALL DAY, we tried to go to bed early only to be awoken by crashing and booming!
I would stay at this hotel again, but with the abundance of hotels in the area, I would also possibly check out their competitors. I do hope that they continue to remodel and improve, and props to the staff for always being friendly.
THE CAR - Hertz Rental
We ended up with an adorable 2015 blue Volkswagen Beetle to drive, although it took some discussion to even get a decent car (more on that in a minute). And when we came out from eating lunch one day and discovered the windshield mysteriously cracked, we were able to exchange it fairly quickly once we got back to the original office we started out at. (We had tried going to a location right up the street from where we lunched, but were told we had to go back to the original location. Fortunately we were not that far away, but it did eat into the day.) The return process was not too bad either (side note on that in a minute too), and the staff was fairly friendly.
CONS (brace yourself...):
First…the cattle call. Granted we landed on a holiday weekend, but it did not seem like they had scheduled enough staff for the amount of people they were expecting. There were “self-checkin” kiosks available, however people kept getting “stuck” and so those lines weren’t moving either. (Note: Apparently if you become a “Hertz Gold” member, you can avoid this type of check-in. We were not aware of that fact until after we were there. Plus it would not have counted for this transaction even if I had gone online to register at that moment while we waited. We still would have been stuck in the smushed herding procedure for this transaction.)
Finally we got to the front where a smiling person welcomed us. We smiled back, feeling relieved to be at the front. The next thing we knew we were given the “I’ve got a honey of a deal for you” spiel. We had paid for an “Intermediate, 2/4 Door, Automatic Transmission, Air Conditioning” car. We knew that the insurance was not included in the price we paid, but as that had been a fairly straightforward process with other car rentals, we were not worried. We were not prepared for the “negotiating” that we would have to do while exhausted from traveling, and hungry!
First the customer sales rep tried to get us to pay for an “upgrade” to a larger car (some type of SUV) that they considered “luxury” and that they could upgrade us to for a “special” additional cost. When we politely declined, the person asked us twice more!
Then they tried to give us something that fell in (what we would consider) the economy class instead of the intermediate class we had paid for. (Note: They had nothing in writing to show us which cars were in what class. So it seemed like if you didn’t pay for an additional upgrade, they just tried to stick you with a “whatever” car.)
Finally they picked out a car and then asked if we wanted insurance. We said yes, and the rep said okay, gave us a figure per day, and added it on. We thought we were finished. Then she asked if we wanted to have the “other” insurance. Wait, what? Didn’t we just add on insurance?
It turned out that each part of your insurance coverage was priced out separately. So the insurance we had added on only covered us if we were hit by someone, not if we accidentally hit someone else. So yes, we added the additional “other” insurance. Somewhere in the fast and furious figures that were flying about, it sounded as though we may (or may not) be covered for additional property damage or bodily damage as a result of this (possible?) accident that we may or may not have in the future while driving this rental.
As things got more bewildering, the rep also seemed confused when I asked if she could show me the fees in writing. Apparently they only exist on her computer, and are based on the class and car chosen, plus whether they can give you a special deal. At this point, I just wanted to go and eat some yummy vegan food and get going to the hotel. Even the SigO, normally the copacetic one, was beginning to look tuckered out.
Finally we got to the car, only to discover the key fob would not lock the car. (The car was already unlocked on the lot.) We flagged down a staff member roaming the lot who told us “the car is broken” and we needed to go see customer service about getting another one. (Note: Although we did not have to go back inside, the second customer service area is a little kiosk just before the doors….waaaay at the other end of the parking lot from where we were. The staff member said we could just leave our luggage out in the middle of the lot…uhhmmmm thanks, but no thanks.)
We explained the situation to the new customer service rep who proceeded to try and give us economy cars again! (The SigO informed me later that he knew I was done with the whole proceeding when I folded my arms and laid my head down right on the counter! Being an eternal optimist, I generally try to be a kind and loving person recognizing that this rep has probably had to deal with a million cranky people all day. However my inner child had, at this point, simply given up.)
Finally, perhaps seeing that we would not go away without a decent car, we were given a 2015 blue Volkswagen beetle that was simply adorable and we were on our way! (Note: We did thank each and every person we encountered during this process. My view is that it may not be their fault that the process is what it is, so why take it out on them?)
When we returned the car (the one they gave us after the cracked windshield exchange - see the “Pros” section), a very friendly staff member tried to check us in, however her computer was broken. From the other staff members, we gathered that these computers were frequently broken which caused delays in the check-in process. Fortunately we had allowed for plenty of time to get to the airport and we were soon on our way.
Overall, the Hertz staff was friendly, but the process was exhausting and I didn’t appreciate the lack of transparency in pricing. If given a choice, I’m not sure I would voluntarily rent a car from them again. If I do end up renting a car, you can be assured that I will become a gold, diamond, or platinum (should such a thing exist) client in order to avoid a cattle call situation again! (Is it ironic that a vegan was a part of a cattle call? Sorry…bad vegan humor.)
THE LAST WORD…for now
I would use JetBlue Getaways again to book a trip, but I might be a little more investigative about the choices presented to me. I would also consider looking at other travel sites for such deals. It seems like different chains work with different sites, so there might be advantages to such a comparison.
If you have booked any packages through sites, please feel free to share your tips! This way we can all enjoy travel experiences….with smiles!
Samantha Eve, a