Italy 2015: Preview & Costs

During this trip report, I’ll be reviewing:

  • Lufthansa First Class IAD-MUC
  • Lufthansa First Class Lounge & MUC Airport
  • Lufthansa Business Class MUC-NAP
  • Hotel Excelsior Naples
  • Santa Caterina Hotel Amalfi
  • Palazzo Avino Hotel Ravello
  • Lufthansa Business Class NAP-MUC
  • Lufthansa First Class MUC-IAD

It was an amazing trip–probably my favorite we’ve ever taken, though perhaps because we visited the town in Italy where we’re getting married later this year (Ravello).  I really think Ravello is my favorite place I’ve ever been–just so relaxing and charming, but I’ll get to that later on.

Ravello, Italy

Ravello, Italy

It was also the only trip we’ve been on recently where most hotel costs were out of pocket instead of on points, but there aren’t many chain hotels on the Amalfi Coast, so we pretty much had to.  So with that said, the trip costs were:

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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.

My Hitlist: Five Goals & Plans

As I discuss in the Beginner’s Guide, I think it’s very important to regularly take stock of your travel goals and align your earning strategy in such a way that you achieve those travel goals as fast as possible.  That means always thinking 1-2 steps ahead of your next trip, and planning anywhere from a few months to a couple years out.

So rather than lecture you, I figured I’d show you a few examples of my planning… maybe some of you have even been some of these places or experienced some of these and can offer some advice?

Goal #1: Amanpulo

Do I really need to keep talking?

Do I really need to keep talking?

Why: Do I really need to explain why after that picture?  Amanpulo is a private island resort in the Philippines which certainly rivals places like the Maldives or Tahiti for postcard-ness, and, of course, offers the renowned Aman service.

My Plan: This is a tough one because Amans don’t have any loyalty program that I’m aware of, so you can’t use hotel points on the stay.  And it’s expensive.  This is one instance in which it might be advantageous to use a fixed value currency which can be redeemed for any travel related expense–including non-chains.

The best such program is from the Barclaycard Arrival credit card, which earns 2 points on all spending and also earns a 10% rebate on all redemptions.  So for every 100,000 points you redeem, they give you 10,000 points back… not a bad deal!  Given that the flights will likely be [nearly] free, I could live with splurging on a few nights lodging costs.

So really my plan is simply to try and build up a small stash of Barclay Arrival points until I feel comfortable with the amount I’ll be able to offset.

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Croatia Trip 2013: Washington Dulles Airport

Dulles Airport

I was tempted to try the new “Uber X” to save some dough on the way to the airport, but the app told me that we’d be waiting 15 minutes, so I just went with a standard black car which arrived in about 3-4 minutes to our Arlington, VA apartment.

We got to Dulles about 2 hours before our scheduled departure after our horrible experience last time.  We didn’t expect security would be as bad this time, and luckily it wasn’t, but you really never know with Dulles, and Lufthansa doesn’t participate in TSA Pre Check.

The Lufthansa first class check in counter was closed…  Likely because they had only this one flight remaining the rest of the day, and all 3 first class passengers had already checked in online.

So while I would’ve preferred to add to my collection of first class ticket jackets (just accept that I’m weird), we made our way to the security checkpoint with our computer-printed boarding passes.  There was no premium security lane…well more accurately everyone was being directed into the lane signed for premium passengers… but it only took about 10 minutes to get through and onto the train toward the B gates.

We arrived at a mostly quiet terminal B and had nearly 2 full hours to enjoy the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.

Lufthansa Lounge

Lufthansa Lounge

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Last Day: Lufthansa 50k and Chase Freedom 5X

Tomorrow marks the end of Q2, and the most relevant (to me) changes are:

        1. The end of the Lufthansa 50k offer.  I’d get it now if you are tapped out on AA, UA, US, BA, etc or if you want to be able to book Lufthansa or SWISS first class in advance.  It’s also a great deal at only 35k for a domestic (not Hawaii) first class round trip.  It’s not the best card for an absolute newbie, but Lufthansa first class is amazing–a product I value very highly–so I’m definitely looking to rack up my Miles & More balance.
        2. The end of the 2nd quarter for Chase Freedom 5X bonuses.  To max out my $1500, this week I went to our favorite restaurant and got a gift card that put me at an even $1500 (max per quarter) for the quarter in the 5X categories.  Q3’s categories are a bit more boring: Gas, Theme Parks, and Kohl’s.  I don’t shop at Kohl’s at all, so I’ll be putting my gas on the Freedom and then probably maxing out by purchasing a Visa/Amex gift card at a gas station toward the end of the quarter.

Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard®

Getting to Europe with a Single Credit Card Application

A question I get all the time is about traveling “for free” to Europe… how can I do it? Are there any strings attached? What’s the best time to go, etc?

So I thought I’d go ahead and summarize my thoughts and list a few cards which offer the ability to get to Europe simply by applying for them and attaining the sign up bonus.

However, all of the ways I can think of require a compromise in some way.  You have to travel in specific months, on specific carriers, from specific cities, or pay large cash fuel surcharges.  There’s no carte blanche to travel whenever, however and for no fuel surcharge.
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2 Reconsideration Call Wins in 2 Days!

As I explained, I recommend selectively freezing and un-freezing your credit files and calling reconsideration numbers to ensure that one bureau doesn’t get hit more often than other ones–this protects your credit by distributing the damaging effect of credit inquiries across all three bureaus (note once the cards age, it will have been worth it, but may as well have better credit in the mean time).  Humans also have a lot more latitude to approve you than a computer algorithm, so there’s really no downside.

I applied for both the Lufthansa Miles & More 50k credit card and British Airways 50k cards last week and both required a call to reconsideration–not unusual with the number of cards on my credit profile, but I was eventually approved for both.
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