Traveling again! [but loyalty is dead]

We finally have time to travel again! Cara and I have been busy building an indoor cycling studio in Charlottesville, VA, so we’ve been taking a break from extended travel. We did get back to Ravello, Italy–where we got married a couple years ago–last Summer for our anniversary, but it was a quick trip and then right back.

Tomorrow we leave on our first extended vacation in a couple years, and a lot has changed in the miles & points game since then. On the airline redemption side, the biggest change for me is the 2 cent per point redemption available to American Express Platinum Business card holders. With the continued fare sales putting international business class fares in the $1500-2500 range, you’re really talking about similar points as before — sometimes even less — with the added benefits of mileage earning and more availability.  Other than that, it’s mostly same ol same ol… just slightly higher pricing, which is always to be expected over time … and why I’ve always been an “earn and burn” guy when it comes to points and miles.

On the hotel side, though, the major change is that loyalty is basically dead to me. I’ve been a Starwood Platinum for the last 4 years–expires today, but we didn’t re-qualify in 2016, so 2017 will be our first year without top tier hotel status in a while… and I don’t really care.

As leisure luxury travelers, the benefit of elite status to us was essentially being treated like a valuable guest even though we were giving the hotel very little money by redeeming points (and obviously by “we,” I mean the loyalty program’s low-ish reimbursement rates for point stays). Breakfast at a St. Regis resort, for instance, can easily run upwards of $50pp per day once all is said and done, and on an extended stay, you’re talking about hundreds of dollars. Room upgrades can easily cost hundreds per night–though whether they’re worth it to the extent that we’d pay cash for it is obviously a valid question.

It wasn’t always perfect, though.  We were definitely made to feel like freeloaders and second class guests at the Conrad Maldives, for instance.

That entire dynamic changes, though, when you actually are giving that hotel a lot of money.  For one, it’s my experience that at resort properties in particular, most OTA (online travel agency – like Expedia, Orbitz, etc) even the cheapest rates include breakfast as it is. Furthermore, requesting an upgrade — which is subject to availability anyways — strikes me as easier to justify from the hotel’s perspective when a guest actually is giving you a lot of money–as most luxury leisure properties cost.  Indeed, for our upcoming stay (detailed below) I emailed the resort manager to inquire about an upgrade, and she indicated she’d be pleased to give us one should it be available at check in.

And giving the hotel real money is exactly what you’re doing when you book with a card like the Bank Americard Travel Rewards card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve — both of which for me offer well in excess of 2% of return on spending.  It’s exactly 2.625% on the BofA card and Chase varies with spend (since some spend is bonus-ed up to 3x) but it’s always 1.5c per point on the redemption side, so the effective rate is likely somewhere in the 2’s. Not only that but you don’t have to worry about base/redemption rooms being available, nor do you have to limit yourself to one particular chain — or a chain property at all — which may be strong in one region of the world but weak in another.

In this instance, it’s also allowing us to stay 11 nights at a world class luxury property in Trisara which would otherwise be unattainable on points — or only at a very poor redemption rate several years ago.

The view we’ll be waking up to!

So with that in mind, here are the upcoming details of our trip — and associated mileage/point costs — which I’ll try to report as accurately and thoroughly as possible.  All costs are for 2 travelers:

  • ANA First Class Washington to Tokyo-Narita (215,000 American Express points transferred to Aeroplan – total for 2 passengers)
  • ANA First Class Tokyo-Narita to Singapore (included in the above)1 ThankYou Points transferred to Singapore Krisflyer Miles)
  • 11 nights at Trisara Resort (Roughly 800,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points)
  • Thai Airways Business Class Phuket to Hong Kong (50,000 United Miles)
  • Singapore Airlines First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco (140,250 mix of Citi ThankYou and American Express points transferred to Singapore Krisflyer Miles)
  • American Airlines First Class San Francisco to Charlotte (~65,000 Citi ThankYou points)
  • American Airlines Economy Charlotte to Charlottesville (included in the above)

All in all, we spent about 1.3 million different miles and points on this trip.  This is the most we’ve ever spent on a single trip–usually we spend closer to ~400-500k, and there’s also certain things we could’ve done to keep that amount down.  We could’ve spent ~5,000 SPG points per night – a total of about 50,000 accounting for the 5th night free – on a property like Westin Siray Bay.  But at this point in our careers/lives, time is a more scarce resource than points.  We have almost enough points to do it all again next month but are unlikely to have enough time until next year at the earliest–if not longer.  This is much different than when we were taking 5-6 intercontinental trips per year and were forced to economize.  In this case, we wanted to stay at the absolute best place regardless of price.

In any case, it’s a trip we’re very excited about taking and make sure to follow me on Instagram if you want to see some live photos.

BOOK NOW!! Amazing Emirates economy fares via Expedia!

Update: It looks like some city pairs like are pricing out as low as $179!!!

HOLY CRAP!

HOLY CRAP!

Update: Sometimes it looks like Vayama is doing it now too?  I’d search Kayak.com and just pick the cheapest purveyor of Emirates tickets for your chosen itinerary.

It looks like Expedia is forgetting to add fuel surcharge on Emirates flights.  I started to write this about a Washington, DC to Mauritius flight, but it looks like tons of other destinations are also in play… everything from Seychelles to Hong Kong, to everywhere!!!!

BOOK NOW!

BOOK NOW!

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Right now, you can book Washington, DC to Mauritius for $627 round trip via Expedia (sample dates that work for me are Nov 13 to 21).

via Kayak.com

via Kayak.com

Interestingly, it looks like it’s only available via Expedia, as the price on Emirates.com is higher.

via Emirates.com

via Emirates.com

It’s pretty clear when you look at the Expedia breakdown:

via Expedia ... final step before booking

via Expedia … final step before booking

…and the breakdown of what the fare is supposed to look like, that Expedia is dumping the fuel surcharge by mistake (the “YQ” line item).

Notice the YQ amount

Notice the YQ amount

This flight would be mileage-run worthy if you could find a program to credit your miles that earns 100% mileage on a “L” class economy fare with Emirates.  Alaska earns only 50% which would make this more than 8 cents per mile.

If you want to book this, I’d get on it ASAP!  These types of fares don’t last long!

Lufthansa 50k Offer is Back!

[UPDATE: Barclaycard abruptly asked links to be pulled down… so I’m not going to delete the post, but I do have to update the link to the current, public offer]

There’s a new 50k offer for the Lufthansa card & the spend is $5000 in 90 days.

55k is almost 2/3 of the way toward a first class ticket on Lufthansa or SWISS (and if you’re after SWISS, you’ll need to book sooner than later since that’s no longer an option for non-elites as of Jan 1).

Should you get the card?

If you really want to fly Lufthansa or SWISS first class, it’s definitely your best bet.  If not, or if only maybe, then you should probably only get this card if you’ve “maxed out” on getting other airline and bank cards.

Mallorca Next Summer!

This isn’t just me bragging about accomplishing one of the goals I just discussed, there are 2 real pieces of information int his post that may help you…  but I’m also pretty pumped about the trip!  Can’t wait for the St. Regis Mallorca!

Life could be worse...

Life could be worse…

First… the details:
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Last Few Months for the Longest Flight in the World

Singapore Air 21/22, the flights to and from Newark, NJ are the two longest scheduled passenger flights in the world.  Scheduled for nearly 19 hours (though it seems like it usually takes more like ~17.5), this is a ridiculously long flight.  And until recently it was only accessible via Singapore’s own KrisFlyer miles.  (Actually it did briefly open up to alliance redemptions, but closed off again…neither here nor there, though)

I can think of worse places to be "stuck" for a long time...

I can think of worse places to be “stuck” for a long time…

However since AviancaTaca joined Star Alliance, it seems Singapore’s IT has either forgotten or not bothered to block their systems from accessing award business class seats–which is the only class of service offered on this route.  And it just so happens their Lifemiles program is running a 100% bonus right now on purchased miles.

Why now?
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Saving Money on Paid Travel: Craigslist Vouchers!

This site is pretty much dedicated to earning and redeeming miles for “free” travel.  While that’s still true–and will always be true–the fact is that it’s not always worth it to redeem miles for a flight.  A $200 domestic round trip which costs 25,000 miles is less than 1 cent per mile of value.  When you can redeem twice that many (with AA, for example) for a one way ticket to Japan in business class, it’s hard to justify letting them go for a cheap domestic flight like that.

Enter Craigslist!
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Amex 75,000 Point Business Gold — Expires TOMORROW

I meant to write about this a few days ago, but other posts got in the way.  I got this card during one of these limited time bonuses in the Fall and my 75k posted promptly.

Business Gold Card

Business Gold Card

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Last Few Days for 100k BA Offer!

One of the best card offers that seems to come around every once in a while is the Chase 100k British Airways offer.  This year’s version is a bit worse than years past… I got my 100k BA in 2010 for a mere $2500 in spend.  And this was before BA’s program changeover to “Avios,” so I was able to use that 100k for 2 round trip tickets (in coach…) to Bangkok with a stopover in Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.

Notice the EMV chip for foreign travel

Notice the EMV chip for foreign travel

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Maldives Booked! [Completely]

Check out the outbound portion here for how we’re going to get there for [almost] free!

I’m going to be showering on a plane!  That’s right… on the way back from the Maldives, we will be riding an Emirates A380 in First Class–the only cabin in the world with an on board shower (2 of them, actually, and 2 full time “spa attendants” to clean them).

I'm going to pretend this is us in my dreams for the next 10 months...

I’m going to pretend this is us in my dreams for the next 10 months…

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Orbitz 15% Hotel Code

According to Cara’s research, Orbitz is having a 15% off hotel deal for President’s Day with the code “PREZ15.”

Just make sure that the hotel you select is “promo eligible” and then enter the code…simple as that!  The deal is valid until Feb 17th, 2013

Follow instructions from Orbitz to save 15% through Feb 17

Follow instructions from Orbitz to save 15% through Feb 17