Hilton

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn

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

One of my co-workers and I took a taxi from the Cologne/Bonn airport to the Hilton Bonn. It’s a lovely yellow building located right on the Rhine River. The Viking River Cruise we took on the Rhine a few years ago would have sailed right by this hotel after we spent the day in Cologne, just a few miles away. It’s in an area very convenient to a pedestrian-only section of shops and even the train station is not a far walk away. I liked the hotel itself, with one GIANT caveat about my stay.

Hilton Bonn

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Trip Report: Turin, Italy and Bonn, Germany

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

Late last year I took a business trip that included stops in both Italy and Germany. The trip details were finalized while I was on my fall vacation to Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich so I only made my reservations about 10 days before I left. That actually worked to my advantage. Oftentimes our company gets better pricing on Delta. I know Delta has a great product and a lot of my co-workers love traveling on them and even have status with them. But for me their routing doesn’t often work. (For example, I really don’t like having to fly from Memphis to Atlanta and then west to go skiing. Yes, I could route via Minneapolis or Detroit and I know they handle the snow well, but it just doesn’t make sense to me when I could go via DFW or Houston or even straight to Denver.) And those of us who like to use airline miles for travel know that Delta doesn’t even have an award chart and can often charge ridiculous amounts for premium cabin flights.

But by booking so late, my co-workers had already used the allotment of cheaper business class fares so by booking on United I saved the company money and earned miles I’ll be able to use more easily. My solitary business trip in 2017 had earned me Silver status with United for 2018 so I earned 7x the base fare for my flights, enough to re-qualify me for Silver status for 2019. One downside of booking through our company’s travel department is that whenever possible our longhaul flights have to be on US-based carriers. So while I’d have loved to have flown on Lufthansa on the longhaul legs, I flew United to Munich and Lufthansa for the intra-Europe legs. While both flights between Chicago and Munich were in B777-200ERs, the one on the flight to Munich was the kind with 10-across seating in Business Class while the one on the return leg had been retrofitted with the new Polaris cabin in a 1-2-1 Business Class setup. That was my first time to fly Polaris and it’s just soooo much nicer than United’s older version it’s not even funny.

Outbound route in red: Memphis-Chicago-Munich-Turin, Domestic Europe Route in blue: Turin-Munich-Cologne/Bonn, Return route: Cologne/Bonn-Munich-Chicago-Memphis

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Categories: Accor Hotels, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Italy, Novotel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Hilton Garden Inn, Bozeman, Montana

As I’ve done for the last couple of years, I flew out on a Friday for my ski trip even though the group wouldn’t arrive until Saturday. I do this because I’m in a different origin city and I want to be sure I’m not late catching the bus from the airport to the ski resort. If all my flights are on time it works out fine but at some airports I just can’t arrive before the group due to flight schedules. And with so many credit cards offering free nights I can usually spend one of those certificates although that’s not what I did in this case. I looked into using my IHG free night but by the time I got around to booking a room, the Holiday Inn Express had no more availability.

This year my first ski trip was to Big Sky, Montana, one of my favorite resorts. I believe my first visit was in 1994 and I’ve returned every 3 or so years since. On my club’s last trip here I flew up on a Friday and spent the night at the Residence Inn in Bozeman and that was when I learned they no longer had a hotel shuttle. So instead of burning my Marriott certificate here I thought I’d try out my newly minted Diamond status with a Hilton property.

I was fortunate that the cabin crew from my flight was also staying at the Hilton Garden Inn because by the time I’d collected my luggage (and kudos to the BZN baggage crew for making priority bags first on the belt!) and called the hotel, the cabin crew had called the hotel, the shuttle had arrived and they were already on board so I didn’t have to wait for the shuttle at all.

Lobby and Check-in

Since I had so much luggage to wrangle I let the flight crew check in first while I got all my bags inside. The lobby has a large seating area for breakfast on the right side and more casual seating on the left side though there’s a long table there that could be used for breakfast too.

Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman Lobby Seating

Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman Lobby Seating

Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman Breakfast Seating

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Hilton Amex 100K Sign-Up Bonus is Back!

Every so often Amex offers a spectacular bonus for signing up for the Hilton Surpass Amex Card and now is one of those times. Sign up now, spend $3000 in purchases within the first three months after approval and earn a whopping 100,000 Hilton Honors points. Plus you earn a free weekend night award on the first year of membership.

This card earns 12x points for charges at participating hotels in the Hilton Portfolio like Hilton, DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, etc. There’s also a 6x bonus on spend at grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations.

While Hilton may charge a lot of Honors points for their award rooms, one nice thing is that you can redeem points for non-standard rooms.  For example, in 2015 I redeemed a boatload of points for what was essentially a 2 BR condo in Fiji.  Many programs only allow point redemptions for standard rooms or suites with only a single bed but we were able to get a room with a king + two twins.

View from the balcony of our unit at the Hilton Fiji

Just by holding this card you get Hilton Gold status and if you spend $40,000 on the card in a year you’ll earn Diamond Status though it’s not recommended to chase Diamond status this way as the benefits aren’t that much better unless you’re staying at Hiltons a lot.

This card does come with a $75 annual fee and it does incur foreign transaction fees so it’s not great for international travel.

Remember that at the present time Amex is limiting bonuses to once per lifetime for a given product so if you’ve already received the bonus for this card, you’re not eligible for it again.

If you’d like to get this card, feel free to use my link. The link is good through October 4, 2017 and I will earn points if you are approved through this link.

Categories: American Express, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, Hilton, Hilton Surpass | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport

My colleagues and I left Hinckley in the late afternoon and made our way back to London so we’d be near the airport for our return flights the next day. As I have Gold status with Hilton HHonors (thanks to simply having the Hilton Surpass card by American Express) I considered the Hilton attached to Terminal 3 but it was a good bit more expensive and I was leaving from Terminal 2 anyway so I booked the DoubleTree which is located between T2 & T3 as most of my colleagues were flying Delta out of T3 so it worked for them too.

DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow
(photo courtesy DoubleTree website)

DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport Lobby

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Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

We arrived at the Hilton Castle District by taxi in the late afternoon after having walked all over the Pest side of the city.  A bellman quickly assisted us with our bags and we found the bell staff was very helpful each time we needed them.  We’d arranged for the taxi driver who brought us up the hill to take us to the airport on Monday morning.  When he didn’t show, the bell staff jumped in and got us another taxi right away.

There are several sets of entrances into the lobby.  Upon entering, the front desk is at the right side.  The lobby’s stainless steel and dark wood look combined with the rather low ceiling should make the area feel smaller than it is but I never felt like the walls were closing in.

Hilton Castle District Lobby

Hilton Castle District Lobby

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Categories: Europe, Hilton, Hotel, Hungary, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

SPB Hilton Fiji

SPB Trip Planning
SPB Qantas First Class to Sydney
SPB Park Hyatt Sydney
SPB Sydney Opera House
SPB Around Sydney
SPB Flying to/from Uluru
SPB Emu Walk Apartments
SPB Uluru and Kata Tjuta
SPB Park Hyatt Melbourne
SPB Around Melbourne
SPB Flying to Fiji
SPB Hilton Fiji
SPB Snorkeling Trip
SPB Fiji Air Business Class to Los Angeles
SPB Hyatt Regency DFW

After our early morning arrival in Nadi we were whisked away to our home for the next few nights, the Hilton Fiji Resort and Spa. Check in took a little while as there were several folks on our flight checking in at the same time. The large open-air lobby has lots of comfortable seating and is a great place just to sit and relax.

Hilton Fiji Lobby Waiting Area

Hilton Fiji Lobby Waiting Area

Hilton Fiji Reception

Hilton Fiji Reception

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A South Pacific Birthday Trip

SPB Trip Planning
SPB Qantas First Class to Sydney
SPB Park Hyatt Sydney
SPB Sydney Opera House
SPB Around Sydney
SPB Flying to/from Uluru
SPB Emu Walk Apartments
SPB Uluru and Kata Tjuta
SPB Park Hyatt Melbourne
SPB Around Melbourne
SPB Flying to Fiji
SPB Hilton Fiji
SPB Snorkeling Trip
SPB Fiji Air Business Class to Los Angeles
SPB Hyatt Regency DFW

 

I have a couple of friends I like to travel with and over the years we’ve all had a birthday that ends in a zero (with different leading digits!). Our tradition has become whoever has the “zero birthday” gets to pick the vacation spot and we try to do it up right. About two years ago I first got into the miles and points game and it wasn’t long before I set a goal of celebrating my next “zero birthday” in Australia and using miles and points to pay for as much of it as possible.

My dad, who’s a 2 million miler on American, offered to give me whatever AA points I needed to make my trip happen. That left me a goal of helping my friends accumulate the miles they’d need to fly Down Under too. Then, of course, there would be points needed for hotel rooms. Lofty goals but with two years to get things planned, we were able to accomplish it relatively cheaply – well, cheaply as compared to what it COULD have cost!

The itinerary

I had visited Australia before, in 2006, and was eager to go back. One of my friends had been there as well but the other had not. So I knew that meant I’d need to re-visit some of the iconic places but I also wanted to be sure to visit some places I’d never been. My prior trip had involved stops in Sydney and Cairns, which is up near the Great Barrier Reef. While I would have loved to have gone back to the GBR, there were other places I wanted to visit as well, and with a total trip length of two weeks, we just couldn’t squeeze everything in this time around. In the end we flew from the US to Sydney and stayed there four days. Next we flew to the Red Centre of the country and visited Uluru (Ayers Rock) for a couple of days. Then it was down south to Melbourne for a bit more than two days.

During our trip planning we had talked about stopping off somewhere a little more exotic on the way back, somewhere we could just enjoy the beach, the sun and the surf. Since we’d be using primarily American Airlines miles, I quickly realized that due to their routing rules we’d need to stay in Oceania for our beach time. That led us to look at Fiji as our final stop before heading back to the US.

My friends and I each make our homes in different cities in the US so here is how our trip worked out:

The various routings for our trip. Map made on gcmap.com

The various routings for our trip. Map made on gcmap.com

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Categories: American Airlines, Australia, Award Travel, Chase, Fiji, Fiji Air, Hilton, Hotel, Hyatt, Oceania, OneWorld, Qantas, Sapphire Preferred | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Bonuses When Purchasing Points or Miles

Right now there are two loyalty programs offering a bonus on purchased points or miles. These are not new deals but will be expiring soon.

American Airlines Logo

American Airlines is offering both a discount and bonus miles if you purchase between now and Monday, July 13. You’ll get a 15% discount on the purchase price and a tiered bonus, depending on how many miles you buy.
2015-07-09 AA Bonus on Purchased Miles

Looking at the cost at a per point basis, here’s how that works out:
1,000 + 0 bonus = 1,000 for $25.08 = 2.50 cents per mile
15,000 + 0 bonus = 15,000 for $376.13 = 2.50 cents per mile
16,000 + 5,000 bonus = 21,000 for $401.20 = 1.91 cents per mile
30,000 + 5,000 bonus = 35,000 for $752.25 = 2.14 cents per mile
31,000 + 10,000 bonus = 41,000 for $777.33 = 1.89 cents per mile
45,000 + 10,000 bonus = 55,000 for $1128.38 = 2.05 cents per mile
46,000 + 15,000 bonus = 66,000 for $1153.45 = 1.74 cents per mile
60,000 + 15,000 bonus = 75,000 for $1504.50 = 2.00 cents per mile
61,000 + 20,000 bonus = 81,000 for $1529.58 = 1.88 cents per mile
75,000 + 20,000 bonus = 95,000 for $1880.63 = 1.97 cents per mile
76,000 + 27,500 bonus = 103,500 for $1905.70 = 1.84 cents per mile
100,000 + 27,500 bonus = 127,500 for $2507.50 = 1.96 cents per mile

(These prices do not include applicable taxes or a $30 processing fee.)

So the sweet spot – where you’d pay the least per mile – is at the 46,000 mile level.

You may purchase up to 100,000 miles in a calendar year.

Is this a good deal? Actually, it can be! As usual, I defer to Ben of One Mile At A Time and Brian, The Points Guy as to the current value of points and miles. Ben has AA miles valued at 1.8 cents apiece while Brian values them at 1.7 cents each. So if you buy 46,000 miles and get the 15,000 bonus miles you’ll be spot-on. If you only need a few miles to top off your account, it’s not a really great deal – unless you’re going to get more than 2.5 cents of value from the award ticket you’ll get.

 
2015-07-09 Hilton Discount on Purchased Points

Meanwhile, Hilton is offering a 25% discount when you purchase their points from now through Wednesday, July 15. The discount brings the price to 0.75 cents per point (plus applicable taxes and fees). It’s interesting that the website allows the user to choose to buy 80,000 points, but the terms and conditions state that an HHonors member may only buy 40,000 points in a calendar year.

Is this a good deal? Not really. Ben values HHonors points at 0.4 cents apiece and Brian values them at 0.5 cents each. But if you need just a few points to top off an award, it may be the route to go.

Categories: American Airlines, Hilton | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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