I want to share with you some encouraging thoughts. Today we have a snow day here in NH and my 11 year-old son and I were perusing the Marriott website looking at hotels in Ottawa and sights/attractions to be found there. What a teaching moment. He knows we prefer Marriotts and previously we had talked about why. So we had been thinking of using points for a stay there this summer, and were spurred on by a recent posting from jerrycoin to make this a reality. My son remarked that he had seen JC's name before on my computer, which led to a discussion of the variety of people who participate, what they write about, gleaning travel (and life) advice from peers who have more experience than you, etc. He saw some names and asked about the people who use those handles; I was able to give him some background on those I am familiar with. This is one of the most wonderful things about this Insiders community -- people with a wealth of knowledge reaching out to others with helpful travel tips, advice, and just plain fun & information. I have been an MRI member for just over a year and the experience has truly enhanced my life (just a few recent examples: interesting history writings, Ramblings, drooling over food photos, and everyone's, write-ups, pictures, videos and advice from their trips). Anyway, in our Ottawa planning today several things came up. First, his question of hotel category ratings. I explained the higher the number does not necessarily mean it's a hotel that will knock your socks off -- it may be highly rated due to a highly desirable location, may be in a city that has a lot of competition and that property may be full-service, etc. And a Category 4 may be perfectly suited to someone's needs when it's up to Marriott standards. Which in turn led to him commenting on a Residence Inn we stayed at which he said was sparkling clean, even the counters! He loved that property but I found out today that he remembers behind the tv it was dusty. So, then how do you know if it's worth it, he asked. We then went to hotel reviews on MRI and checked some out. Which brought up the point of hotels that get moved into a higher category and why. So I opened up a spreadsheet I had saved, "2013 Rewards Hotel Category File" which an Insider had kindly posted last year and I thought was great. It showed hotels that had changed categories, whether up or down. I had used this spreadsheet last year when planning our summer trip to Toronto before the required reward points went up. He then asked to see photos of a what a Cat 9 hotel is to make it so special, so we consulted the spreadsheet and chose the Long Wharf in Boston which is the closest Cat 9 to us. He loved what he saw and remarked about staying there sometime. So off we went to the Marriott booking page and we went through the process. We searched first with flexible dates and saw the pricing grids by month. Staying one night in February during school vacation for a regular room was $179. Then we clicked on using points and the grid changed. He commented that using 45,000 points for one night didn't seem as good a deal as paying $179 and saving the points for something else like Ottawa. He wondered if there would ever be a Cat 10. I told him a lot of Insiders also wondered that, and there was even a post talking about it. He asked how we earn points so I described the paid stay process and discussed the Marriott credit card (he kind of understood before this about credit but I was able to enhance his knowledge base). His next comment that planning travel was a lot of work to get the best deal but was worth it was the perfect opportunity to end our Marriott and life lesson. The entire process I just decribed to you, we adults would have finished in a few thinking moments (after coffee) and a few keystrokes. This morning's Marriott interlude probably taught my son more than he would have learned in school today. After reading a few recent posts this week about millenials and no loyalty, no savings accouts, and pulling teeth to have them join company 401(k) plans, I say there is hope for the generation after them. Let's all hope that the selfish me, me, me of the millenials (no offense to our MRI millenials, I'm just generalizing) starts circling back to the positive attitudes and hard working peole of previous generations. The younger kids (his classmates and teammates) for the most part seem practical, thrifty, willing to work and genuinely engaged in the future. Full disclosure: my kid does have a savings account, earns money (finds golf balls which he cleans and resells to pay for his summer camps), has good manners, asked his friends for a small donation to our favorite charity this weekened at his birthday party instead of gifts, and knows about sales tax and federal income tax. And if this random posting offends you, we all have a choice whether to read something here on not.