May 13, 2021

That Time I Went on a Staycation...

I'm not actually sure if it counts as a staycation as we went to a different city, but the majority of our plans included being at our hotel, which feels like a staycation to me.

The main goal of our trip was literally just to stay at the hotel for a series of days without it costing a lot of money. This is officially my new favorite thing to do...
We originally just wanted to go to the nearest town that has a Chili's and an AMC theater as we had gift cards for both. I thought it would be fun if we stayed overnight.

Until Husband happened to get an email from Marriott advertising a promo they were running... which isn't really important, but the promo plus Marriott reward points plus low points/price rates equaled the evolution of our one-night staycation 45 minutes away into a 7-night trip in Pittsburgh.

"But how is this useful information?" you ask. Great question! Because Marriott has hotel brands (Townplace Suites and Residence Inn) that have nearly-full to full kitchens in every room.
So, yes, there's a catch. This might sound not-like-a-vacation, but if you buy groceries and make most of your meals in your room, your hotel stay is dramatically less expensive overall. Which we did!
Also, weirdly (and there are some exceptions, many Residence Inns and Townplace Suites-es are the lowest-cost Marriotts in a city.
We stayed at the Pittsburgh Airport Townplace Suites, which was a great location while not being in downtown Pittsburgh (I'll get to our activities later). It has both an indoor pool and a hot tub (requirements for the conversion from the 1-day to 7-day vacay). 

There was an Aldi very close by and a Walmart not far down the road for anything Aldi didn't have (like brand name tomato soup??). We brought some groceries with us and shopped for everything else locally.

In anticipation of our trip, we planned out every meal (cereal for breakfast), and made a list of every ingredient we would need and any kitchen supplies we thought our room wouldn't have.
We knew that our room wouldn't have an oven (bigger rooms do) so that was a little limiting.
One important item was in-room coffee. To save on waste and to make sure we had coffee we liked, I pre-measured ground coffee into filters, stacked them, and stored them in a large "wonton soup container." (And made sure it stayed upright at all times. 

I was able to fit 7 filters in a container which allowed us to have one pot per day and one extra in case we needed it.

Yes, the hotel does supply coffee, but like I said, coffee and plastic. We brought our own salt and pepper just to make it easier to cook with.
We were very happy with the supplied plates, etc... kitchenware
...and pleasantly surprised to see a toaster.
For the sink, a small container of dish soap and a sponge was supplied (found under the sink). We brought our own soap so we wouldn't have to ask for more if we ran out (we realistically wouldn't have because we used the dishwasher).
Also under the sink was a dustpan and brush that we never used. 
The garbage was in the closet, and wouldn't fit under the sink, so we put it just past the drawers so it was accessible from the kitchen and the bed/living area.

The dishwasher was adorable and surprisingly not annoying. Its small size made us feel okay about running it with just one day's dishes.

There was one dishwasher packet supplied for us, and I'm sure we could have asked for more. We chose to pack 8 dish packs so that we didn't have to worry about asking for them, and they weren't individually wrapped.
Utensils left a little to be desired, but we made do. We just had to run the dishwasher every night which wasn't a big deal.
We could have done with a bigger frying pan, but there was a nice variety and Husband said they were better quality than he expected. He's pickier than I am/most people so that's saying a lot.
There were 3 empty drawers that we were able to store all our extra supplies in. We brought two small cutting boards which was a good choice because we didn't like the one they supplied and it meant not having to wash one much except in the dishwasher.
The things we wish we had (and weren't willing to buy) were: spray cleaner (counters), metal tongs, and a rubber scrapper. I think that's it!

We didn't take advantage of any of these, but there was a list of kitchen stuff on the fridge that was available by request. Since we didn't ask for any, I can't attest to the availability.

Our menu included: cereal, sandwiches, grilled cheese + tomato soup, spaghetti + meatballs, chicken marsala, and tacos. The lunch sandwiches did get a little boring by the end of the trip, but were nice and easy. The rest of our dinners were purchased.

The hotel does have free breakfast for all guests, but we weren't sure if they'd be serving it because we were there during the COVID pandemic. They did have breakfast available, but it was only stuff like milk, yogurt, ummmmm.... and mystery grab-and-go bags. 

(The mystery was if the bagel was any good, what kind of granola bar, and if the apple was-or-was-not a red "delicious".)

Which brings me to what we did all week! So yes, we did watch a fair amount of Netflix. But we also did at least one fun thing per day, went to the pool/hot tub several times, and spent the rest of our time cooking which felt less like a chore because we weren't at our house. I guess also because we picked things that were all easy to make.

Day 1: Mini Brewery Tour

This was inspired by my wanting to find a brewery that takes those plastic can holders. Not the flimsy, cut-through-all-the-holes-before you-throw-them-away kind. the thick, colored ones.

The closest one to our house is 2 hours away, so we collect them until we go to a city and then pick somewhere to take them.

Husband picked Dancing Gnome Brewery on this trip.
Once there, he discovered that Hitchhiker Brewing Co. was nearby so we went there too.
The downside to this plan was that we ended up with a small collection of them again because of the beer we bought. We did get to go home with this adorable 1/2 size can box (I don't know what they're called), so that was fun for me.
Day 2: Applebees

We had a gift card to Applebees so we went there for dinner. We wouldn't normally eat there tbh, but we had a gift card, so it allowed us to not have to cook a meal and have a cheap meal. I indulged in the $5 giant green drink they had for St. Patrick's day (yeah, we went all the way back in March. whoops.).
Day 3: Goodwill Outlet

I know, this sounds like a really boring activity but delving through a warehouse of weird things is one of Husbands favorite things to do.

There's a Goodwill Outlet in Pittsburgh that just has bins and bins of stuff. Not shelves. Bins. The only sorting that is done is: furniture, clothes, everything else.

So we sifted through all the "everything else" bins for about an hour and left with two pairs of boots for me, a weird book, a plastic wine glass (I didn't think to pack one), a weird version of Monopoly, and some file folders. Day 4: Movie night

As was 1/2 of the original inspiration for this trip, we had a gift card for AMC Theaters. I found the AMC 22 Waterfront which has the fancy reclining chairs and saw Nobody (I recommend it). Not all of the theaters there have the fancy chairs, but it's a beautiful theater if you want to see a movie not showing in those theaters.
Day 5: Ikea

Our hotel was really close to the Pittsburgh Ikea so we spent at least two hours looking at everything. We managed to leave without spending too much, but we did make a sizable wish-list.

Day 6: Pizza Party

We already happened to have tickets to a virtual pizza-themed comedy show, so the menu planned itself. We ordered delivery for this one. If we had an oven, we might have bought a frozen pizza to cook, but we didn't... so we didn't.
The show was affordable because we only had to buy one ticket per computer instead of per person and it was so much fun. Also, we had leftover pizza for lunch the next day!

Day 7: Game night

This one was serendipity. Some of our friends wanted to have a virtual game night. We attended from our room. So we had free entertainment that night.

Day 8: Chili's

No, we didn't forget about the other 1/2 of the original inspiration for the trip. We planned to use our Chili's gift card on our route home so that we would have a cheap meal en route and not have to worry about cooking when we got home. (Yes, I'm aware of the irony of that). It was a surprisingly great vacation. I thought it would be annoying to have to make so many meals, but it really wasn't. And I thought it might be boring to spend most of our time at a hotel. But it wasn't. At least not for us.

Room Photos:

And just in case you want to see more of the digs for this particular room (because Marriott has limited photos on its website)...

We had a King Studio room which is why we had a smaller kitchen without an oven. The one- and two-bedroom suites have the oven and more space. 

Moveable desk
For dinner, we rolled the desk over to the couch as a dining table. Worked great.

Pull-out sofa, rolling ottoman and tray

There wasn't much room for luggage, so we unpacked into our dressers and the closet and stowed our empty luggage.

End table/dresser (one on each side)

There was just one TV but it pulls out from the wall and can be rotated towards either the bed or the sofa. 
Just be careful about coming out of the bathroom and not walking into it at night when the lights are off... 
The bathroom was great. I want a shower like this at home. 

There was also a lot of sink storage which was nice for stowing our bathroom bags. 

So that was our staycation! It was really fun and would definitely do it again. I assume other hotel brands have similar extended-stay hotels, but we're working the Marriott loyalty specifically. I'd love to hear if other people do this and what tips and tricks you have for making it fun and affordable!

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