First things first, for business travelers, Virgin America rocks. It’s way better than United or American if you’re flying business class. The seats have those foot rests that extend out when you hit the button to recline, and the cabin in general looks newer and feels more comfortable.
The one downside is that Virgin America doesn’t have that many routes yet, but I’m planning to choose Virgin whenever I can from now on.
One tip I saw online was to buy an economy seat, then wait until the last minute and try to upgrade for a cheaper fee. This is great for travelers on a budget, but if you’re doing business travel for your company, the most convenient thing is to just book business class. On the flight to SFO, the business cabin was full so you wouldn’t have been able to upgrade. On the way back, there were empty seats so that trick could have worked there.
The conference was at the Clift Hotel, so I stayed there. Last time I booked through the hotel for a Superior Room, then when I checked in, I asked if I could pay to upgrade my room to a suite. I usually do this at every hotel when I check-in, just to see if there might be a nicer room available. I think it’s a bit cheaper than booking the suite ahead of time, since you’re taking the risk that there might not be any suites left. This time, I decided to just book a Studio Junior Suite on Hotels.com when I planned the trip. I forgot to ask at the front desk if there were any larger suites available. That would have been a good idea, because the room I got is technically a suite, but the living room is pretty small, the bedroom area is also small, and there’s no door between them. So it doesn’t necessarily feel like a big suite, but it’s comfortable and does the job.
One note about the Clift is that the bar downstairs is actually a popular place for people to go, so on a Friday or Saturday night, they might actually have some people waiting outside. Make sure you have your hotel key with you. Obviously they want their hotel guests to walk in and out smoothly, but there’s also a guy at the elevator that checks your key before you go up. It reminded me a bit of Vegas where they sometimes do that. It’s not a big deal if you know what’s going on, but at first I thought I was going to have to wait with all these people to get through the lobby to my room.
Besides the main conference, we had dinner at Fleur De Lys. There were mixed reactions from the diners, but that’s partly because people had a wide range of backgrounds. If you’re not a foodie, you probably won’t appreciate a lot of the presentation. I thought it was decent for a high end restaurant, but there were a few things that actually didn’t taste as good as I would have expected. No matter how good the presentation is, the food has to taste amazing if you’re going to get a high rating in my book.
The rest of the weekend was business, social events, and catching up with a friend from LA who flew in to hang out. It’s always nice when you can have a productive business trip and also enjoy the nights out and seeing friends in that city. Overall, it was a good trip and I’m sure I’ll be back to the bay area again soon.