Starling Travel

June 25, 2007

Rocketboom Sails

Filed under: New York,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Joanne from Rocketboom went sailing with friends in New York and took her camera along to share with all of us. If you have been wishing for an escape on the water, watch this video and enjoy a quick vacation in your day.

June 21, 2007

Hiking Sandals: The Perfect Travel Shoes

Filed under: Hiking,Travel — Laura Moncur @ 11:27 am

Hiking Sandals on FlickrThe folks over at 52 Projects always give me fun ideas for craft projects, but today, they have some sound advice about traveling shoes.

These hiking sandals went all the way to Cambodia:

Normally I would have worn running shoes on a trip such as our visit to Cambodia. That’s what I have always done in the past. But when I was in South Africa last year, I saw this couple wearing hiking sandals (matching colors, to boot), and I was like, “I am getting shoes like that.” (My feet were so hot and sweaty the entire time I was in South Africa.) So two days before we left for Cambodia (such a good planner, I know), I rushed to the sporting goods store (Paragon in Union Square) and purchased the above sandals. Those are Merrells, which is a popular brand, but there are several other companies that sell this kind of shoe. They cost me about $75.

Personally, I love my Merrell hiking sandals as well. They have taken me up and down Elephant Hill twice now and all over Disneyland. If you are taking a trip where it’s hot and there is a lot of walking, invest in a good pair of hiking sandals. Your feet will thank you for it.

June 20, 2007

Arkansas: Crater of Diamonds State Park

Filed under: Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Diamonds for the picking!The diamond mines of Nevada have nothing on the Crater of Diamonds State Park. When you visit, you’re allowed to dig and keep whatever diamonds you find. Somehow this seems wrong to me. Every state and national park I’ve ever visited has balked at removing a mere pebble, but at this one, you can take away a 3 carat diamond? How can this be true?

Apparently it is and Nicole Ruhter did just that.

Diamonds ranging from 2-6 carats have been found. It all seems like a publicity stunt to me, but the idea of being able to find my own diamond instead of wondering how many African orphans died in mines has me looking at a trip to Arkansas.


Where: Crater of Diamonds State Park Google Map
209 State Park Road
Murfreesboro, AR 71958
Email: craterofdiamonds@arkansas.com
Phone: (870) 285-3113

Maps & Directions – Crater of Diamonds State Park Arkansas

June 19, 2007

Five Things To Do With Your Hotel SWAG

Filed under: Hotel SWAG — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Hotel SWAG Pile from Flickr

If you bring all your own toiletries, then those little bottles of shampoo and bars of soap are pretty much useless, right? Wrong! They are your hotel-given right and you stuff them into your suitcase every day before you let housekeeping tidy up because they are one of the benefits of staying in a hotel. You end up coming home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes and tiny bottles. What do you do with them?

  • Use Them: In the privacy of your own home, you can use them. Lots of hotels have teamed up with famous toiletry brands, so it’s a chance to try out a new shampoo without risk. Try them on a weekend or any other day that it’s not essential that you look perfect and see if the shampoo works with your hair.

  • Empty Out The Bottles And Fill Them With YOUR Stuff: If you need a small bottle of your favorite hand lotion in your purse, the hotel SWAG bottles are ideal. The bottles are also good for filling with your favorite products and taking with you in your toiletry bag. I covered how to do this in detail here: Travel Size Your Way.

  • Give Them To Children: Kids love things that seem like they were made for them. I remember as a child that my grandpa would come home with the hotel SWAG from his business trips. I thought those little bottles were made for me because they looked just like normal shampoo bottles, just smaller. I especially loved the facial soaps because I thought they were just like a normal bar of soap, but it was small enough to fit into MY hands.

  • Keep Them For Guests: When you have guests visit, you can give them to your guest or leave them in your guest bathroom (I used to have one of those, but now, we all share). You can pretend like you’re a little hotel.

  • Give Them To A Homeless Shelter: My last Hotel SWAG pile went to our local homeless shelter right after we had a surge of refugees because of Hurricane Katrina. Our homeless shelter asked for personal hygiene supplies because so many people were without ANYTHING, even soap. Here is a directory: Homeless Shelters. You can find your nearest shelter and ask if they need toiletries.

I’m sending my huge pile off to Crossroads Urban Center here in Utah, but I wanted to take photos of it all before I did. There is something fun about hotel SWAG and I didn’t want to lose that fun without a way to remember it.

PostSecret: Hotel Room

Filed under: Postcards — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

This postcard on PostSecret was interesting:

PostSecret: Hotel Room

Most hotel rooms have a smoke detector with a blinking red light that reminds me of video recorders. I find that I feel the same way in rooms with that little blinking light, even though the new video recorders don’t have those little red lights.


PostSecret‘s beneficiary is the National Hopeline Network. It is a 24-hour hotline (1 (800) SUICIDE) for anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows someone who is considering it.

June 18, 2007

The Menger Hotel SWAG

Filed under: Hotel SWAG — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

We stayed at The Menger Hotel in San Antonio back in September of 2006. It was a wonderful stay. I think this was the first time I snapped a photo of hotel SWAG while it was in the room.

Menger Hotel SWAG 2006 from Flickr

The presentation was so nice with the basket and the washcloths that I took a photo of it and started a tradition for myself of taking pictures of hotel SWAG in the hotel. The SWAG is labeled, “Gilchrist and Soames.” According to their website:

Menger Closeup from Flickr

“A leading manufacturer of luxurious shampoos, soaps and body lotions. Gilchrist & Soames products are found internationally in upscale hotels and resorts.”

I have an entire collection of these and have never used them. Ever since I set up my Toiletry Bag, I haven’t had the need to use the hotel SWAG. That doesn’t stop me from collecting them, though.

What do I do with all the hotel SWAG that I collect, though? Stay tuned tomorrow for hints on what to do with your hotel SWAG.

June 15, 2007

Mystery Hotel SWAG

Filed under: Hotel SWAG — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

These were in the huge bag of Hotel SWAG and I can’t identify which hotel I got them from. Any help in identifying them would be greatly appreciated.

Mystery SWAG from Flickr

I have no idea which hotel we got this from. Any ideas?

Crabtree & Evelyn SWAG from Flickr

I don’t know which hotel was giving away Crabtree & Evelyn. Anyone out there can tell me?

June 14, 2007

Washcloths Are NOT Hotel SWAG

Filed under: Hotel SWAG — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The little bottles of shampoo and bars of soap are yours to keep, but some folks go a little further when they decide what to take home. Read more here:

A couple made off with an entire room of furniture at a Holiday Inn, but that isn’t typical:

Yet the most popular item that guests like to steal is washcloths. Holiday Inn loses about 100,000 of these a year. Guests also kept stealing the remote controls at the Grand Hyatt in Dallas but it turns out those remote controls only work in the hotel.

Washcloths, sheets, towels, glassware and bedspreads are usually are of such cheap quality, even at the really nice hotels, so I’m fascinated that they turn up missing. I suspect that the hotel guests aren’t “stealing” the wash cloths as the article suggests and they are merely lost in the shuffle of hotel laundry or accidentally end up in a suitcase. I doubt that many people are consciously stealing wash cloths.

June 13, 2007

Luxor Hotel SWAG

Filed under: Hotel SWAG — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

My favorite hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada is The Luxor Hotel and Casino. It has lost a lot of its cool, Egyptian image over the years and has been through many renovations, but I still love it dearly.

Luxor SWAG 2006 from Flickr

This is the SWAG from the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was taken in the hotel in November 2006. I especially love the pyramid shaped shower cap containers. It’s not pictured in the photo, but they also give you a full-sized bath soap for the shower.

They change their SWAG so often. Here is a photo of some of the older SWAG from The Luxor Hotel.

Old Luxor SWAG from Flickr

Luxor has gone through MANY iterations of their SWAG. Here are only a few of the versions I was able to find. My favorite were the bottles from their spa, The Oasis, which is gone now. Check out the designs on the bars of soap. Nefertiti was on the facial soap (both on the box and imprinted on the soap) and King Tut is on the body bar.

You can also see one bar of soap from the short-lived variation that was a multi-colored pastel with NO reference to anything Egyptian. The design of that SWAG was pretty, but I really missed the Egyptian style. I’m glad they returned to it.

If you have any photos of the older Luxor Hotel SWAG, please upload them to the Flickr photo pool:

It’s a public group, so anyone can add photos. If you don’t want to join Flickr, please contact me and you can email me the photos and I’ll post them here.

June 12, 2007

Best Western SWAG

Filed under: Hotel SWAG — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Over the years, hotel chains change their SWAG. I have an example of the current SWAG at Best Western here.

Best Western 2007 from Flickr

We stayed at the Best Western in West Yellowstone, Montana in May 2007. This is the SWAG that came home with me. The shampoo and conditioner were provided by Suave.

Best Western SWAG Old from FlickrThat design is fairly new, because I have an example of an older design in my SWAG pile here. I actually like the clean lines of this design better than the new one.

I wonder what Best Western SWAG from the past looked like. I wonder if there is anyone out there with old examples of what hotel SWAG. If you are, please add photos to the Flickr group pool:

It’s a public group, so anyone can add photos. If you don’t want to join Flickr, please contact me and you can email me the photos and I’ll post them here.

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