Monthly Archives: February 2015

Earn 3x AA Miles at Hilton

2015-02-28 AA Hilton PromoAmerican Airlines is running a promotion where you can earn 3 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent at Hilton properties between now and May 31, 2015. It’s a targeted offer and I received it for one of my AAdvantage Executive Platinum cards. I went ahead and registered my card, even though I don’t currently have plans for a Hilton stay before the promotion period ends because as the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe that sorry.

Hilton brands include the flagship Hilton brand, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2Suites and Hilton Grand Vacation Clubs. If you’re not staying at one of these hotels, if you dine there and put the charge on your card it may qualify for the 3x points.

Categories: American Airlines, Citibank, Credit Card Promos, Hilton | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review: Grand Summit Condos, Park City, UT

A couple of weeks ago I went on the second of my two annual ski weeks, this time to Park City, Utah. There are three major resorts in the Park City area: Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), Deer Valley and Canyons. Both Canyons and PCMR are owned by Vail Corporation and thus have an interchangeable lift ticket, which is very convenient.

While the town of Park City is not very big, PCMR and Deer Valley are located much closer to the center of town than is Canyons – but Canyons is Utah’s largest single ski resort. By next ski season a new lift will be installed that will combine the two resorts making over 7300 acres available for skiing!

Grand_summit_logoFor this trip my ski group arranged for us to stay at the Grand Summit at Canyons Resort. If you’re mostly planning to stay at Canyons – or if you have a car – this is a terrific facility. Our group all had 2-bedroom units where at least one of the bedrooms could have been used as a stand-alone hotel room. The bedrooms were generally large enough to let us move around without stepping on each other and there were lots of closets that let us set our luggage out of the way.

The bathrooms had nice high, large counters that gave us plenty of room to set our stuff down. As high as the counters were, I’d have liked to have seen a shelf underneath or at least a series of small shelves against the far wall as our counter did get crowded over the course of the week. (Hey, with two women sharing a bath, what do you expect?!)

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 Bathroom Sink & Vanity

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 Bathroom Sink & Vanity

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 Bathroom Tub & Shower

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 Bathroom Tub & Shower

The shower/tub in our bathroom had an adjustable showerhead though as usual it did not allow for a setting powerful enough for me. Someday I’ll find a showerhead like that! I did like the curved shower rod which kept the shower curtain from fluttering. Toiletries were Modern Apothecary branded and I actually really liked the shampoo and conditioner.

The bathroom in the master bedroom of our particular condo strangely did not have a shower. It had a nice large dual tub but we found it odd there was no shower. We did have a third full bathroom off our entryway (presumably for use by people sleeping on the pull-out sofa) and our condo-mates ended up using the shower in this bathroom.

Grand Summit Master Bath Dual Tub

Grand Summit Master Bath Dual Tub

Grand Summit Master Bathroom Sink & Vanity

Grand Summit Master Bathroom Sink & Vanity

Both bedrooms had a large chest that contained the mini-bar and the TV was mounted over it. There were only three small drawers per person which would have been more annoying if we didn’t have so much shelf space in so many closets. My roommate was rather short and had a hard time reaching the shelf (and the large safe on it) so I think more drawers would have been welcome.

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 Bedding

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 Bedding

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 TV & Storage

Grand Summit Bedroom #2 TV & Storage

Grand Summit Master BR Storage

Grand Summit Master BR Storage

Grand Summit Master BR Bedding

Grand Summit Master BR Bedding

The desk was terrific in that it had plugs-a-plenty on top of it. I loved not having to dig under the desk to plug in a power strip. My roommate would have like to have had more outlets on her side of the room as she ended up borrowing my extension cord to use beside her bed. Builders everywhere need to plan on everyone having a minimum of two electronic devices that need to be plugged in near the bed each night!

Grand Summit Kitchen

Grand Summit Kitchen

The kitchen was small but covered our needs as we did not cook in the condo. It had a bar with three stools and the dining table could seat 6 adults. The living area had both the sofa (with pull-out bed) and a love seat as well as two window seats. All in all there was lots of room and we didn’t feel cramped.

Grand Summit Dining Area

Grand Summit Dining Area

Grand Summit Entry Hall

Grand Summit Entry Hall

Grand Summit Living Area Seating

Grand Summit Living Area Seating

Grand Summit TV & Fireplace

Grand Summit TV & Fireplace

As for location, if you’re primarily skiing Canyons resort you can’t beat this property. Take the elevator to the 2nd floor and head toward the lobby – which can be quite a walk if your room number is a low one for your floor (e.g. 200, 300, 400, etc.) – pick up your skis from the ski valet, down some stairs and you’re at the snow. A short distance to your right is the Orange Bubble Express chair and a little further to your left is the gondola. Whether you ski down or ride the gondola back down at the end of the day, it’s an easy trip home.

View of the slopes from the Grand Summit

View of the slopes from the Grand Summit

View of Grand Summit from the slopes

View of Grand Summit from the slopes

If you’re planning to ski PCMR or Deer Valley and have a car, it’s an easy drive to either of those places. Parking at the Grand Summit is in an underground garage or you can opt for valet service.

But if you don’t have a car, plan on it taking 20 minutes to get to PCMR or 30 minutes to Deer Valley. You’ll either need to catch the free bus (Lime line) up near the entrance of the Grand Summit or walk over to the cabriolet (open air lift) that will take you down to the parking lot and the Canyons transit center. From there you can catch the Pink line bus which will go to PCMR (after a couple of stops) and then to the Downtown Transit Center where you can catch one of several buses to Deer Valley.

Personally, I don’t love the mountains at Canyons and only skied there one day out of five, so I spent a fair amount of time transiting back and forth. When I signed up for this trip I knew what I was getting into but that didn’t make all the commuting fun.

But back to the condos…they have a fairly large pool and three hot tubs, none of which were overly hot but felt good at the end of the day. It was also unseasonably warm while we were there so it’s possible that they were actually quite hot but didn’t feel like they were. We were concerned when we saw a lady bring her two small children – one under a year old – into the hot tubs. We really wished that management would have said something to them as many places we stay require a child to be 12 or older before allowing them hot tub access.

There’s also a small gym on the ground floor. I’m not one to do a full workout while on a ski trip but I do like to walk on the treadmill for a few minutes each morning before I ski just to help loosen my legs up. This gym had three treadmills and several bikes available as well as universal weight sets and some hand weights.

There’s a restaurant called The Cabin on the ground floor and it has a full buffet breakfast available for about $25 as well as a less-publicized continental version for about $13. The continental buffet is only the cold food but there’s enough fruit, cereal, pastries and yogurt to keep most of us quite full until lunch time. That was my go-to breakfast each day.

Would I stay here again? I really liked the property. The staff members were all friendly even if housekeeping could be hit-n-miss some days. My only beef is its location at Canyons and not closer to town. So I would almost certainly look for another property but it’s not due anything wrong with the Grand Summit other than its location.

Categories: Canyons Resort, Condos, Lodging Review | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Hilton Double Points or Miles Promo

2015-02-27 Hilton PromoHilton is currently offering a targeted promo where you can elect to receive double points or double miles on stays at participating hotels between March 1 and May 31, 2015.  Not all hotels are participating in this promotion so be sure to check this list if you have your eye on a particular hotel property for an upcoming stay.  You must register your choice prior to checking out for your first stay during this period.

Hilton is the only hotel chain that allows you earn both hotel points and airline miles for a single stay.  You can choose which of their airline partners you’d like to credit your stay to or you can choose to score double points on each stay.  Besides the flagship Hilton brand, the Hilton family includes Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Canopy, Curio, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2Suites and Hilton Grand Vacation Club.

Check your email to see if you’ve been targeted for the promotion and make your choice before your first stay.

Categories: Hilton, Hotel Promos | Tags: | Leave a comment

Starwood and Uber Team Up!

2015-02-26 SPG Uber PromoPer the Starwood website:

Now you can earn 1 Starpoint for every U.S. dollar you spend with Uber®, and earn even more Starpoints® during your stays with SPG®. Just sign in and link your SPG and Uber accounts — then sit back and watch your earning accelerate.

There’s a link on the Starwood site to connect your SPG account and your Uber account. Very simple, very easy!  Then you must complete one stay at a Starwood property this year.  After that, you’ll earn SPG points each time you catch a ride with Uber.

If you’re using Uber while staying at a Starwood property you’ll get bonus points: 1 bonus point for us “preferred” (regular) members, 2 bonus points for Gold & Platinum members and if you’re a Platinum member with 75 nights you’ll get 3 bonus points. Note that once you spend $10,000 on Uber rides you’re no longer eligible to earn base or bonus Starpoints.

If you don’t yet have an Uber account, now is a great time to sign up for one. If you use my link you’ll get your first ride for free and I’ll get an Uber credit.  Uber is great for times when you need a ride but don’t want to rent a car.  I’ve used them for airport transfers and it was so nice not to have to worry about paying – or even tipping – the driver because it was all automatically billed to my credit card.

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Citibank Adds Qantas As Transfer Partner

Like other credit card issuers, Citibank offers a card that earn a transferable points currency. I don’t yet have a card that earns Citi Thank You Points (TYPs). TYPs can be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners on a 1-to-1 basis, except where noted:

  • Asia Miles (currency for Cathay Pacific and others)
  • EVA Air Infinity Mileage Lands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Air France Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hilton HHonors Worldwide (1:1.5)

All transfers are for a minimum of 1000 points and must be transferred in 1000-point increments.

Recently Qantas was added as a transfer partner, making Citi the first US card issuer to allow direct transfers to Qantas Frequent Flyer (QFF). Several bloggers have pointed out that it’s not particularly a great deal given that Qantas awards are distance-based and international flights will incur fuel surcharges.

What this transferability does offer is flexibility. Qantas is part of the oneworld alliance along with American Airlines, British Airways and others. Qantas (and BA) open their booking schedules approximately three weeks before American opens theirs. This, combined with how few premium cabin seats Qantas makes available, mean that award seats can be booked using QFF (or BA Avios) as soon as they’re released – leaving those with only AA miles to pick up the crumbs that are left.

The downside is that Qantas charges 168K QFF miles and BA charges 150K Avios each way in first class from North America to/from Australia. And both programs incur fuel surcharges of $390 each way to go along with the taxes and fees.

Short-haul flights using QFF miles are cheaper than the US legacy carriers at 8000 miles each way for flights of up to 600 miles but BA only charges 4500 Avios each way.

So would you ever want to transfer your Thank You Points to Qantas? Probably not, but it depends on your situation. If you’ve been saving up TYPs for a trip Down Under this will get you in the door more quickly though you’ll still have to shell out over $400 for first class flight. But it may be worth it to you to lock in a first class flight well in advance. Once the American Airlines calendar opens up, you could cancel your ticket bought with QFF miles and watch for the seat to go back into award inventory and then use your AA miles to pay for it. The question is: is the reward worth the risk of losing your first class seat? For me, the answer is no. I’d rather pay the $400 and lock in my flight than risk losing it. Since a first class ticket goes for $9600-$10,300 (depending on whether you depart from Los Angeles or Dallas) each way, it’s absolutely worth it to me to lock it in and not worry about the $400 – but as always, it’s your call.

HT: The Frequent Miler

Categories: Citibank, Credit Cards, Qantas | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Ritz-Carlton Istanbul

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

Ritz Carlton Istanbul logo

After returning to Istanbul from Izmir via Pegasus Airlines, the friendly folks at Sea Song had booked us an airport transfer to the Ritz Carlton, where one of my traveling companions and I had used our Marriott points for three free nights. We were not able to combine our points but when making the reservation we’d gotten on a conference call with the Marriott agent and she was able to deduct points for two nights from my friend’s account and one night’s worth of points from mine. While they were two reservation numbers, there were notes in both reservations to point to the other reservation and that way we didn’t have to change rooms after two nights, which was nice.

The van dropped us off at the hotel entrance and, like at the Swissotel, our luggage went through an x-ray machine. But the bellmen took care of that for us so we were able to go straight to the check-in desk.

The lobby was just beautiful. Marble floors, lovely decorations, very calm and luxurious-looking. At certain times they also had pomegranate juice available.RC Lobby

RC Piano

RC FlowersWe were escorted up to our room on the fifth floor. We walked through the entry and past the bathroom and large closet into the main part of the room.
RC EntryIt contained twin beds and they brought up a rollaway for us. It made things a little tight in the bedroom area. We had to rearrange the chair a bit to make things fit.

RC Beds

RC Chair and ViewWe also had a desk with another chair, a combination TV stand/mini-bar and some floor space where we could put some of our luggage.

RC Desk

RC Mini Bar

RC ToiletriesWhile the bed area was a bit cramped, we had no such issue in the bathroom. It was huge! We had a separate tub and shower stall, only one sink but it had lots of counter space and a huge mirror over it and there was a separate toilet room. My only complaint about the bathroom was that the hair dryer was stored in a lower drawer and was somehow connected to the wall via the drawer. I’m a bit above average height for a woman and I got a good biceps workout trying to lift the hair dryer high enough to reach the top of my head because the cord kept pulling it back down. I’d really like to see them have a hair dryer on the counter top – though I suppose that ruins the effect of luxury when looking at the counter. Toiletries were Asprey brand.

RC Sink

RC Tub

RC Shower

RC ToiletThough we didn’t use them, the hotel had a nice gym and a gorgeous indoor pool with hot tubs. There was, of course, also a spa area with Turkish baths. There were also outdoor pools and lounging areas.

RC Gym Cardio

RC Gym

RC Indoor Pool

RC Turkish BathRight next door to the hotel Vodafone Arena is under construction. It will be the home stadium for Beşiktaş J.K., the city’s professional sports club which includes its football (soccer) team. The hotel is on a very steep street but it’s an easy downhill walk to Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style residence for Turkey’s rulers, which was completed in the mid-1850s. That’s well worth a visit too.

The staff at the Ritz was fantastic and the concierges gave us some great help with finding places to eat as we were so near to Taksim Square. Unfortunately the walk to Taksim was UP the steep hill but it made it easier coming home at night.

We really enjoyed our stay here and it was so conveniently located that we wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.

Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Ritz Carlton, Turkey | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Delta’s new 20-minute bag guarantee

2015-02-20 Delta Bag GuaranteeBetween now and the end of March, Delta is guaranteeing that your bags will arrive at baggage claim no later than 20 minutes after your flight arrives – or they’ll give you 2500 SkyMiles.  Note that this applies to domestic US flights and US-Puerto Rico flights only.  (This also includes Delta Connection flights and multi-carrier flights where the last leg is operated by Delta.)  To get the miles, you must fill out this form within three days of your flight’s arrival.  If your bags on multiple flights are late, you must submit multiple forms.  You must be a member of SkyMiles and in good standing both at the time of travel and at the time of the claim.

The official clock will be maintained by Delta’s baggage tracking system.  Oversize, overweight bags (like my skis) and special items are exempt from this claim as are lost, mishandled and damaged bags.

I didn’t put a clock on how long it took me to get my bags on my last Delta flights in January but it would have been nice to have had this guarantee waiting in the wings.

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Hyatt 20% Points Rebate Promo

2015-02-19 Hyatt PromoIf you hold the Hyatt Visa credit card, now is a terrific time to book award stays. Register on the Hyatt site and you’ll get a 20% rebate on your points within 4-6 weeks after your stay.

The great part about that is that if you already have a stay booked during the promotion period (February 17 – July 31, 2015) all you have to do is register – you don’t have to rebook!

The rebate applies to award stays, points + cash awards, suite upgrades and dining and spa activities. Your entire stay must be completed within the promotion period.

Sadly I don’t have any award stays planned during this period – but I’m hoping they’ll run another similar promotion for this fall because I’ll have several stays in October and I’d dearly love to get points back from those stays!

If you don’t have the Hyatt card, now is  a great time to get it.  One of the fantastic benefits is that if you spend $1000 within the first three months after applying, you’ll get two award nights good at any Hyatt anywhere in the world.  Be sure to use those for a special trip, like to the Park Hyatt Sydney or the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris, where rooms go for well over $500 per night.  You can sign up for the card HERE.

 

(Note: I have no affiliation with Chase and do not receive any compensation from them.)

Categories: Hotel Promos, Hyatt | Tags: | Leave a comment

First Friday Bonus Tomorrow

CSPJust a quick reminder that tomorrow you’ll get 3x Ultimate Rewards points on dining when you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card at restaurants. Normally the CSP gives two points but once a month gives us this little boost.

Ultimate Rewards points are extremely versatile. They can be transfered to six different airline frequent flyer programs, four different hotel rewards programs and to Amtrak’s program. Or you can use them like cash when buying travel products through the Ultimate Rewards portal. If you choose to redeem this way you’re not limited by award seat/room availability and you’ll earn points on your flight or stay. As an added bonus you’ll get a 20% discount on the number of points required – so a $500 flight would only cost 40,000 points.

If you don’t have an immediate use for Ultimate Rewards points, it’s best to hang on to them and only transfer them when needed. That keeps them flexible, which is one of their greatest assets.

So go out to lunch with your co-workers tomorrow, offer to put the bill on your credit card and have them reimburse you!

Categories: Chase, Sapphire Preferred | Tags: | Leave a comment

Pamukkale Bus and Preiene

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

 

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, the impetus for visiting Turkey was that a friend of mine had rented an apartment there for a couple of months and we wanted to take the opportunity to see the country up close.

Although we spent the first several days in Izmir, my friend was actually staying in the port town of Kuşadası, which was about 45 minutes away. At one point he did try to come to Izmir and have dinner with us but the big city traffic was so nerve-wracking to him and he ended up going back to Kuşadası.

I checked on the web and determined that the Pamukkale (Pam-OO-kuh-lay) Bus could take us to Kuşadası relatively cheaply. I looked at buying tickets online but since the website was in Turkish I didn’t want to agree to anything by accident so I asked the hotel’s front desk staff about buying tickets. They pointed out a Pamukkale office right across the street – perfect! We were able to buy tickets there and then hop on their shuttle bus that would take us to the main bus terminal.Pamukkale logo

Once we were dropped off at the main bus terminal we obviously looked a little lost because we had several people point us to the correct place to board our bus. The bus had wi-fi and individual entertainment screens that featured videos (not sure if they were TV shows or movies, but they were in Turkish) and some games. It made the trip to Kuşadası quite enjoyable.

By this time it was late morning and my friend met us at the bus terminal there. While we’d seen ruins just a couple of days before, he wanted to show us another site nearby that was a bit of a different experience. We stopped at one of the many open-air cafes for lunch and enjoyed fresh Turkish kebabs before heading the rest of the way to Priene.

Priene was an ancient Greek site that was once on the sea coast. But as with Ephesus, time and earthquakes have taken their toll and now it’s now many miles inland. But it must have had a lovely view of the Bay of Miletus, off the Aegean Sea.

Priene once overlooked the Aegean Sea

Priene once overlooked the Aegean Sea

The remains of the agora are recognizable and the theater is still in relatively good shape. We found it interesting that there appeared to be seats for important persons right on the front row.

Theater in Priene

Theater in Priene

The remains of the temple of Athena (funded by Alexander the Great) are in abundance with pieces of pillars all around. Some pillars were reconstructed in the mid-1960s though it’s thought the original pillars were another 3 meters taller. Still, it helps to give us an idea of what the place might have looked like.

These columns were reassembled in the mid-1960s

These columns were reassembled in the mid-1960s

The last word of this inscription is Greek for "Athena"

The last word of this inscription is Greek for “Athena”

Remains of Athena's Temple

Remains of Athena’s Temple

What was nice about this historical site vs. Ephesus was that there were virtually no restrictions as to where we could venture. We could climb on these 2500-year-old ruins and run our hands over the carvings at will. It’s just amazing to think about how old some of these ruins are!

What looks like elephant feet actually represent eggs - and Athena as a fertility goddess

What looks like elephant feet actually represent eggs – and Athena as a fertility goddess

Pieces of columns

Pieces of columns

A throne of sorts for a priest(ess) or other important person

A throne of sorts for a priest(ess) or other important person

After leaving Priene my friend took us on a driving tour of Kuşadası before he took us back to the bus station. Getting back to Izmir was as easy as getting to Kuşadası. Getting from the main bus station back to our hotel was a little more challenging. We asked a couple of different people at the bus station where to catch the local Pamukkale bus. While they told us, we didn’t fully understand the instructions. Eventually we did find the location (right where they told us it would be!) only to find we’d missed the shuttle by about two minutes. So we sat around another half-hour for the next one. Not the end of the world but we were ready to get back to the hotel at that point.

But we’d highly recommend the Pamukkale Bus as a clean, comfortable, affordable way to get around Turkey without having to rent a car. And Priene was a nice contrast to Ephesus – off the beaten path, no crowds and a definite hands-on experience.

Categories: Turkey | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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