Author Archives: 2btravel

About 2btravel

I love traveling and go where I can when I can. I prefer to use points & miles as payment! This site will concentrate on trip reports and how I used points to accomplish it. Happy to help others 2B Traveling with points too!

A Week in Iceland

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

When I signed up I thought our tour of Iceland was very reasonably priced. I think I mostly got my money’s worth but what seemed to be a nearly week-long tour (Sunday to Saturday) turned out to be really a 3.5 day tour. The group left the US on Sunday and arrived at the hotel midday Monday. So we had a half-day on Monday, all day Tuesday, an off-day (?!) on Wednesday and all day tours on Thursday and Friday. We had welcome and farewell dinners included, breakfast each day and our 3-star hotel. And a lot of that time was spent riding the bus. That’s not a knock on our tour operator because short of busing people to new hotels each night I don’t know how else you’d run a tour but it’s just something to think about if you’re considering visiting Iceland on a tour. If you’d like to visit on your own, English is everywhere and the only trouble you might have getting around is trying to verify any written directions against posted signs. The Icelandic language has some non-Roman characters and some names are quite long so if you’re driving by yourself it might be easy to miss a turn if one nearby has a similar name!

That being said, I’m glad I went and my roommate and I decided we’d like to come back during a warmer time of year than mid-October unless we want to see the Northern Lights.

A lot of places think the saying “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes” was coined just for them but I’m here to tell you it is definitely true about Iceland. In any given half-hour you’re liable to have some sun, rain, fog, partly cloudy skies, maybe a little hail or snow. It’s kinda crazy though I’ve never been anywhere that I saw so many rainbows in such a short period of time. We didn’t see much of the sun during our visit, unfortunately. But we gained an appreciation for the hardy souls that live here year ’round. Several of the folks in our tour group were avid skiers and while I knew there weren’t many alpine resorts in Iceland I figured they were quite good at cross-country skiing. But when I asked our guide about it she indicated that is just not done here. While someone might ski over to a neighboring farm, the weather is so changeable that it’s dangerous to go out distance-skiing as you might get caught in a storm. Wow!

So here are some of the highlights of our trip.

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja, or the church of Hallgrímur is a Lutheran church in Reykjavik. It is one of the tallest structures in the country and the largest church in Iceland. It was named after a 17th century poet and clergyman. The notable tower was completed first but it took 41 years to build with construction completing in 1986.  Its exterior is quite impressive and as I was going through my photos I realized I personally failed to get a single one of the outside of the building!  We only had fifteen minutes to stop here so my roommate and I split the photo-taking so that’s her photo of the exterior as well as one of the shots from the tower.  The views from the tower give a nice overview to the surrounding area and I thought it was worth the price to see it.

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Categories: Europe, Iceland, Tours | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

For our tour of Iceland the tour company had us staying at the Plaza, one of six hotels in the area owned by CenterHotels. The CenterHotels website says they offer “six first class hotels in the city center of Reykjavik” but then follows it up by mentioning their 3- and 4-star hotels. Well, I’m sorry but a 3-star hotel is not “first class”. I realize that the whole tone of this paragraph makes me sound spoiled and entitled. Several folks on our tour did not seem to have a problem with the hotel. But I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed as this hotel was definitely a step down from any we’ve used in the last several years. Lodging in Iceland is expensive and I guess our tour was so reasonably priced because we were at a second-tier hotel.

That being said, if you’re not as choosy as I am, the hotel has a fantastic location and the price includes breakfast. The staff was great and very international and for the most part very young. They always seemed to be smiling and were quite helpful.

Photo courtesy Center Hotels website.

The hotel has two wings and I’m not sure if they’re connected above the ground floor or not. (Our room was on the ground floor so I didn’t spend much time exploring other floors.) I do know each wing had its own elevator. The halls and the rooms both had hardwood floors. I believe my roommate and I actually got a slightly larger room, believe it or not. Continue reading

Categories: Europe, Hotel, Iceland, Lodging Review, Other Hotels | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Et tu, United?

On Friday, like many of you, I got an email from United telling me about upcoming changes to their MileagePlus® program. Since they released this information on a Friday afternoon, you may be thinking this is not good news. You would be right, for the most part.

The Bad News

Just in time for the holiday season, United is removing their award chart. For flights on November 15, 2019 or later, the current rules for how much an award flight costs will be flexible. That is, an award flight will cost whatever they say it costs for that date on that route. So for popular routes for holiday travel you can expect higher prices – in some cases much higher.

The Good News

Award flights within the US and Canada that currently price at 10K to 12.5K miles may price lower sometimes. This pricing is already available for some routes.

Effective November 15 the close-in booking fee of $75 will be eliminated if you book a flight within 21 days of departure. Previously this fee was waived only for certain elite members.

If you are an elite member or hold one of the Chase United credit cards there are still no blackout dates for award travel – though of course you might not like the price that is charged.

For now, the Star Alliance award chart is not changing. For now.

In the end

It’s very disappointing to see United following Delta’s lead with this dynamic pricing. I would bet that American is not far behind. While it’s nice that the close-in fee is being eliminated, it’s not something I’ve ever had to pay as I typically book many months in advance. This is going to make award trip planning more challenging as you may see an award price for X-miles one day, save up enough for that, only to find it now costs Y-miles when you’re ready to book.

I’m just a lowly Silver elite this year and unless I take a business trip this year am unlikely to requalify. I chose United because it’s more reliable than American and I could do more with my miles than I could with Delta miles. Yet they’ve taken that advantage away.

The United website has a page with more detail.

Categories: Award Travel, Star Alliance, United | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

We arrived in Reykjavik from the airport on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. After temperatures in the 70s (F) in Amsterdam, it was no surprise to find the weather a good bit colder in Iceland. Our driver dropped us off at the back door of the Radisson Blu 1919. As there was road construction on one corner we couldn’t tell the building was as pretty as some other photos of it that I’ve found online. In 1919 the first steamship company in Iceland was formed and its headquarters were in this building – thus the 1919 in the hotel’s name.

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, Iceland, Lodging Review, Radisson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

We took the (crowded) train from Centraal Station to the airport. The escalator that comes up from the train station to the main part of the terminal is parallel to the one that takes you up to the next level where the hotel is. There is plenty of signage and you can also follow the signs out to the parking lot and garages and you’ll head the right direction.

Entrance from the terminal

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, Netherlands, Starwood | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Brief Tour of Amsterdam

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

We had two days in Amsterdam. There’s a lot to see and it’s a popular city so I’m just going to hit the highlights of what we saw.

Basilica of St. Nicholas

While we were up and at ’em fairly early on the Friday, it seemed most of the tourist things were not. This church was near our hotel and as it was almost opening time we took the opportunity to stop in and see it. It’s the primary Catholic church for the city and dates to about 1887.

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Categories: Europe, Netherlands | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

When IHG acquired Kimpton, that added a number of desirable properties to the IHG portfolio. One of those was the Kimpton DeWitt which has a great location near Centraal Station, the canal cruises and lots of restaurants and shops. Yet this area was quiet in the evenings and we did not have to deal with noise either inside or outside the hotel.

Hotel Exterior. The entrance is at the lighted portion halfway down the block.

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, IHG, Lodging Review, Netherlands | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

Flights between Memphis and Chicago were on American Airlines, then Chicago-Madrid-Amsterdam and Munich-Madrid-Chicago on Iberia

Outbound: Chicago – Madrid

I’d flown from Memphis to Chicago on Tuesday evening and spent the night at my friend’s house. Then we spent a leisurely morning doing a few last-minute things before driving to the airport garage where she’d park while we were gone. Mid-day, mid-week it’s about a 45 minute drive from her house to the airport. We had left in plenty of time but were over halfway to the airport when I realized I’d left both my charging cords at her house. Well, we’d stop and I could get another one at Walmart. Then I realized I’d left my tablet there too. Oh boy was the trip off to a great start or what?! I still had my phone so we did stop and get a charging cord – I’d needed one to keep at work anyway – and we were able to get a family member to stop by her house and turn off the tablet so it all ended well but it was quite a bummer to start things off like that. Continue reading

Categories: Iberia, OneWorld | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

The genesis of this trip was a friend telling me about a group tour of Iceland that several friends were going on and asking if I wanted to go or not. Of course the tour wanted to sell us airfare and options using points and miles aren’t all that plentiful, especially if fixed dates are involved.

The group tour was only a week and since October is when we we usually take a two-week vacation anyway, my travel companion and I decided to use our miles to get to Europe, enjoy a few days there, then buy tickets to Iceland, do the tour and then fly to another city in Europe where our miles could get us back to the US in business class. Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Iberia, Iceland, Icelandair, IHG, Marriott, Netherlands, OneWorld, Radisson, Starwood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

Though I usually do these trip reports in sequential order as to the activities, I skipped over the flight from Chicago to Munich as it was on a B777 configured in the old 2-4-2 layout that we experienced on our flight from Chicago to Brussels a few years ago. So I’ve included the food options below but am not providing a detailed review. Since my reservations were made only 10 days before, I was not surprised to find that the only available BusinessFirst seats were middle seats in the middle section. However, when I checked in 24 hours in advance I was thrilled to see it was the new 1-2-1 layout. But I was unable to select a seat. I was fine with that since now it no longer mattered where I sat. Later in the day, however, the seat map later reverted to the old 2-4-2 as I assume they had changed which aircraft would be servicing this flight. The good news was that now I had been assigned an aisle seat though it was still in the center section.

On the return, we did indeed finally get the 1-2-1 layout with the new Polaris amenities so I’ve included photos of that seat below. I did not include a review of one of the Lufthansa business class lounges in Munich as it was quite busy and there really wasn’t a way to take photos without people in it.

UA 952 ORD-MUC
Aircraft: B777-200ER
Seat: 8D (BusinessFirst, aisle of center section)
Depart: 1900 CDT
Arrive 0930+1 CET

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Categories: Star Alliance, United | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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