Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why We Will Never Use Expedia Again

We have been traveling a lot more in the past few years, now that the kids are older.  I've used Expedia to book almost everything.  And until this week-end, I was very happy with them.  

A couple of weeks ago we found that we could definitely attend Geowoodstock in Boonsboro MD, over memorial day week-end.  We wanted to camp, but the campgrounds were all full - no surprise.  Memorial day week-end is typically one of the biggest camping week-ends of the year.  So we went online to Expedia, and found a hotel room.

Hotel #1 - The Oak Tree Inn
We booked a room at the Oak Tree Inn in Brunswick.  It was nothing fancy, but it is brand new, and our options were limited, so we booked the room.

Two days before our trip, we received the following email:

This was not really a big deal.  We called, spent 30 minutes on hold, then another 45 minutes with an Expedia rep who upgraded us, at no additional cost to us, to the Hampton Inn in Martinsburg WV.  We love the Hampton Inn. Martinsburg is not where we planned to stay, but it was ok, I could adjust my plans, and it was the same distance, roughly, from Boonsboro.

Hotel #2 - The Hampton Inn
Take note of the itinerary number. That is NOT a reservation number.  It is for expedia - NOT for the Hampton Inn.  We learned that the hard way.  Also note the "your reservation is booked, no need to call".  SO stupid of us to believe that, we should have called!

At about 3:30 on Saturday, we arrive at the Hampton Inn.  When we walk in the door, the desk clerk is screaming into the phone.  The gist of his conversation is that they need to give them refunds, that this hotel has been booked solid for months.  Uh oh.  He slams down the phone, obviously hanging up on whomever he was talking to, and turns to us.  We give him our name, he types into his computer.   He asks if we booked through Expedia or, and when we tell him Expedia he, rather rudely, informs us that they have over 30 rooms booked through those companies that they never received the reservations for, and that they reservations could not have been made, because they have been booked solid for months.  They have no room for us.

We call Expedia.  45 minutes on hold, then another two hours on the phone with a representative who has to call the Hampton Inn, then look for another room for us.  This representative refused to look outside of the Martinsburg WV area.  The first hotel she chose for us would not take credit card payments, and did not have a website.  I was concerned.  Since they couldn't take credit card payments, she then found a different hotel for us - the Economy Inn.  We knew nothing about the hotel, but since our current reservations were for the Hampton Inn, we assumed the reservation would be similar, although I was concerned.  I typically like to research our rooms, and this was not a chain we were at all familiar with.  But our options were limited - it was memorial day week-end in an area with several VERY large events occurring at once..  We drive to the Economy Inn.

Hotel #3 - The Economy Inn 

This is the room Expedia booked us.

The pictures do not adequately show the age, and condition.  Everything was stained.  The room was so small that we could not take the bikes off the back of our car and put them in the room with us, and the location was such that we didn't feel safe leaving our bikes locked on the back of our car.  There were people kind of hanging out all around the outsides of the rooms - we got the feeling that some of them probably lived there.  It just didn't feel like an area we really wanted to be in.

Another call to Expedia.  This time it took an hour to get a person on the line, and while we were talking to them, we lost cell service.  So we had to start all over.  ANOTHER hour on hold (45 minutes I believe) and we explain the issue.  

While we're on hold with Expedia, it is getting late, so we start checking our options and calling hotels in nearby Hagerstown.  We finally found a room at the Hilton in Hagerstown - their last available room.  

When we get through to Expedia, we try to explain the issues, but they can't understand why we "cancelled our reservations at the Hampton Inn".  We could not get them to understand that we did NOT cancel our reservations, the Hampton Inn had no record of us ever having reservations!  We finally told him that it didn't matter - we booked our own room - and that we just wanted our money back.

And we were then told we could not get our money back, that the money was paid directly to the Economy Inn.

And that my friends is why we will never, ever, use Expedia again.  We lost half a day, of a two day trip, on the phone and driving out of our way to different hotels, only to end up booking our own room and STILL having to pay for the dump expedia finally booked for us.

A Note About the Hampton Inn - 

On Sunday morning at the hotel where we ended up staying (booked on our own, NOT through Expedia) we met another couple who had the exact same problem- they also arrived at the Hampton Inn  to find that they did not have a reservation, even though Expedia had sent them an email confirming that they did.

I posted pics on twitter, commenting that we either had to stay in this dump (at the time we had probably called 12 different hotels, none of which had vacancies) or drive home.  The Hampton Inn got back to me almost immediately. They wanted details, asked for the email to be forwarded, and apologized repeatedly, and THEY want to see what they can do to make this up to us.  I don't really think this was their fault - it might be a problem with their reservation system not working with Expedia, but it was definitely expedia we were having the problem with.  We're likely to stay in a Hampton Inn in the future - but we will book it ourselves, not through a 3rd party - and we'll call to confirm our reservation before going out the door.

Friday, May 15, 2015

From thrift store painting to menu board

When I bought this painting at the thrift store, I actually intended for it to be a sign for my porch.  But then when I was spring cleaning my kitchen, I decided it would make a great menu board..  I had primed the entire thing off white when it was meant as a sign, but that just made it easier to make it a chalkboard.  I used raft paint on the frame, a deep dark red.  When I sprayed on the chalkboard paint some of the overspray got on the frame - I rubbed it on and added a bit more black craft paint giving it that sort of crafty antiqued look.

I'm really surprised by how much my family loves this.  They all really like knowing what is for dinner each night.  Especially my husband!

Giant Bubbles

6 cups water 
1/2 cup corn starch 
1 tbsp baking powder 
1-2 tbsp Glycerine
1/2 cup blue Dawn dish detergent
(The recipe I have says to let it sit for one hour before using)

I'm sort of in love with these.  We don't have any small children here, so when we were hosting a skeet shoot (families welcome) I finally got a chance to make up a batch, in anticipation of children visiting the farm.  The first batch was fun - but the cornstarch kept settling to the bottom.  For the second batch, I heated the water first, and it stayed mixed better.  (It does still occasionally need stirred).

The first time I made them, I used a huge bowl.  The second time I used a drink pitcher - the drink pitcher works better.  You don't want to lay this in flat like a regular bubble wand, instead dip the string in with the straws held together, then pull apart once out of the mixture.
Yesterday afternoon I found out there would be some extra teenage girls here for a campfire, and I was ridiculously giddy over the opportunity to make another batch and try again. LOL!  

The "wand" is cotton yarn (I bought it to make dishcloths) and straws.  I've been playing with different configurations  - last night we added a washer to the bottom to weight the string down, that definitely helped, but I haven't come up with the "perfect" wand yet.  Dan put some holes in some dow rods for me last night for one set - I like those a lot, but want thinner dows and maybe some eye hooks at the end...  I'm having so much fun playing with these, I think there will probably be a batch of giant bubble mix on my porch all summer long.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Replacing The Broken Glass on Our Patio Table -

We have horrible winds here.  One storm picked up our large patio table & smashed it sideways against the deck railing, shattering the glass top.

After looking at a couple of options, I bought a piece of plywood (they cut it to size for me even) and a remnant of linoleum from our local flooring store.

We should have sealed the plywood with an all weather paint first. 

Then we attached the linoleum with contact glue.  The entire project cost me about $35 and took minutes to complete. :-)

Around The Farm This Week - May 6th (Building A Goat Playground)

This week we built a goat playground.

The baby goats LOVE it, and play, and sleep, on this most of the day.

I get a lot less done each day - because I spend so much time just watching them play.  :-)
The babies are starting to eat grass now too.

We moved all the goats that are not moms out of this pen.  Horton escaped the pen we put him in, and has been happily living with the horses in their pen.  Piper, who is still pregnant, is in the dog pen on the side of the house (where we have moved all the new moms when they first give birth, to keep an eye on them this year)

Dan and Matt used the skid loader to clean up around the hay troughs and smooth down the ground in a few areas where we had bad ruts - it looks so much better.

We also moved the ducks and chicks out of the garage.  We put them in the back of the goat pen, in a dog kennel, with a pen that has a heat lamp in case they needed it on colder nights.  That lasted for a day.  Then they figured out they could escape the dog kennel and roam the goat pen.  On Day 3 they were wandering around my backyard, and today they are in the peacock pen - they let themselves in and seem happy in there.  At night they appear to go back to their own pen, inside the dog kennel, all by themselves. 

 This week they discovered the little pond in my backyard flower beds, and they love it.  :-)

Dan blocked off part of the chicken coop run, and has put seed down.  I've been watering it, but it has not even sprouted yet.  :-(

I'm REALLY glad I put in a lot of perennials last year.  It's nice to see the rhubarb flourishing, and flowers like the bleeding heart pop up and bloom even though I haven't done a single thing in any of the gardens or flower beds yet this year.  I'm planning to look for plants and bushes at the flea markets on Sunday morning, then I will visit a couple of local markets and greenhouses to fill in some more

The pig pen is ready - but we haven't found pigs at the right price yet.