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Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

We had booked our trips from the US to New Zealand and back from Australia before we had worked out our exact plans for what to do in between those dates. As it turned out we’d have been better served to go straight to Christchurch but since we had our flights into Auckland, we didn’t want to immediately jump on a flight to Christchurch in case one of our bags went missing or there were other travel delays. So I looked for an airport-area hotel for us for one night.

I tried and failed to find us a hotel room near the airport that had three beds. But since I had a free night with my IHG credit card and would get a second one a few months before we left, I was able to book two rooms at no charge.

I don’t think of Auckland as particularly tropical yet the area near the airport had palm trees and the hotel grounds were quite lush. The yellow shuttle bus (more on that below) dropped us off right at the front door.

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Front Entrance

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Main Entry

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Categories: Hotel, IHG, Lodging Review, New Zealand, Oceania | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Each year my friends and I try to take a two week vacation in the fall. We have a system that whoever had the birthday ending in 5 or 0 that year gets to pick the location. That’s served us well and covers 6 years out of any decade. This year the birthday girl decided on spending most of our time exploring New Zealand with a few days on the end on the beaches of Australia.

That decision was made late in 2018 so our first task was finding business class award space on the longhaul segments for two of us (one doesn’t mind flying coach). We were fine buying our positioning flights as long as we could lock in business class for those 14 hour flights!

I was looking for award space on American, Qantas and United as well as keeping an eye out for space on Air New Zealand. I knew that American was pretty stingy on longhaul award space in premium cabins but they look positively generous compared to what Air New Zealand typically opens up. As luck would have it I found three business class award seats from Brisbane (near the Australian beaches we wanted to visit) back to Los Angeles for the last Wednesday in October. That was perfect so we snagged those even though we didn’t have our outbound tickets yet. I used my miles for the birthday girl’s return ticket which cost 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $81.83 for each ticket. However, thanks to my Citibank AAdvantage MasterCard I get a rebate of up to 10,000 miles each year so the net cost was 150K miles. I considered using 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles per ticket instead but our friend who lives in Chicago was using her AA miles to get one of the tickets and I know that sometimes Alaska has access to one less award ticket than oneworld alliance airlines and I just wanted to make things easier by having the two of us on a single PNR. I bought a United domestic flight from LA to Denver to Memphis for my return flight and my Chicago friend bought a United ticket home as well. However, when United made the fall schedule adjustments, I would land in Denver too late to catch the afternoon flight back to Memphis so they re-routed me through Chicago. While I was stuck on a one-cabin plane for the Chicago-Memphis leg, at least I got to fly back with my friend as far as Chicago.

After buying the return flights we sweated for a couple of weeks until Qantas opened up two business class seats on their 747 from San Francisco to Sydney. The seats were available two weeks and one day before the return flight. That couldn’t have worked out any better for us. My friend from Chicago and I were even able to include positioning flights with the cost of our tickets: 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $28.20 in fees

Long haul flights: the green line indicates my outbound flight while the blue is my return flight.

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Categories: Award Travel, Hilton, Hotel, IHG, New Zealand, Oceania, OneWorld, Other Hotels, Qantas | 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

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

Regent Hotels Joining IHG Rewards Club on February 1

Yesterday IHG announced that the six hotels of the Regent Hotel chain will become part of the IHG Rewards Club starting on February 1st. There are four Regent Hotels in Asia and two in Europe:

Regent Taipei
Regent Berlin
Regent Porto Montenegro
Regent Beijing
Regent Chongqing
Regent Singapore

These are considered luxury properties, on par with – or even higher than – Intercontinental Hotels, which are already under the IHG umbrella.

We stayed at the Regent Beijing in October 2017 for the kickoff to our Roof of the World tour with Viking River Cruises and were generally quite pleased with the room size and amenities. You can read our review of the property here.

The IHG portfolio is far-reaching and covers the full array of property types.  Adding Regent Hotels helps to beef up the top end.  Here are the current brands available within the IHG Rewards Club portfolio:

Which of the properties would you like to try next?

 

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Review: Holiday Inn Vail

My travel buddies and I needed a weekend getaway to escape the heat of our respective cities.  I read an article about fun things to do in Vail and as Colorado is a 2-3 hour flight for each of us, it made a nice, central place to meet up.

Knowing that lodging wouldn’t be nearly as hard to get in the summer as in the winter, I’d hoped to get a 2-bedroom condo at a reasonable price.  That way we’d each have our own bed and plenty of space.  It turns out that most of the condos can’t be rented for a single night.  I did have a travel agency track down one place but they wanted $300 for the one night.  No thanks.

I looked at what hotels were available on points and there weren’t a lot of reasonably-priced choices there either but I did find the Holiday Inn had a room that could sleep three adults.  The hotel is actually across I-70 from the resort but during the summer, there’s no charge for the parking deck at Lionshead so we were only a short drive away.

The valet greeted us promptly upon arrival. Leaving the car with the valet is really the only parking option but the price is cheaper in the summer than in the winter.  In the end, we were not charged at all.  I don’t know whether that’s due to my Platinum status, because we booked the room on points or if they just forgot.  But when I checked out there were no charges billed to the room.

Once inside we had a brief wait while other customers were being assisted but then were welcomed warmly and our room was assigned quickly.

hi-vail-hallway

Hallway to our room.  Carpet could use refreshing.

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Convert IHG Rewards Club Points to United MileagePlus Miles

2016-09-16-ihg-to-ua-conversion

Between now and October 10, 2016 you can transfer your IHG Rewards Club points to United MileagePlus miles.  For each 10,000 points you transfer you get a 50% bonus.  The kicker is that 10,000 IHG points usually becomes 2,000 airline miles. With this special you’ll end up with 3,000 UA miles.  So it’s not a great ratio, obviously.

The process is quite simple.  First go to the United site and register for the promotion.
Next, contact the IHG Customer Care Center to initiate the transfer.

Is this something you want to do?  As usual, it depends on your personal situation.  If you are IHG points-rich and just need a few miles to top off a UA award then, perhaps.  Otherwise I’d give this one a pass.

Categories: IHG, United | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Review: Crowne Plaza Milwaukee West

Back in April I visited with a couple of friends for a long weekend.  The Crowne Plaza Milwaukee West is actually in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin which is where one of my friends live.  I used my annual free night certificate from the IHG Platinum MasterCard.

I arrived late on a Sunday afternoon and had a short wait to check in.  Once I reached the counter my Platinum status was recognized and the friendly associate soon had my room assigned.  I was given a king room on the 7th floor.  Though it overlooked a busy intersection, I never had any issue with traffic noise.

CP MKE West King Bed

Crowne Plaza Milwaukee West King Bed

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Free 500 IHG Points

2015-09-24 IHG Promo

If you have the IHG® Rewards Club Credit Card you can get a free 500 points by adding the card to your Rewards Club profile by October 31, 2015.

Rewards Club is the loyalty program of the Intercontinental Hotel Groups, which owns the Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo brands, among others.

Just by owning the credit card you get Platinum status with IHG, though it’s not worth a whole lot – but can be used for status-matching to competing hotels. Best of all, the credit card gives you one free night per year at any IHG brand hotel, including their top-level Intercontinental hotels, all for a low annual fee of just $49. And the fee is even waived the first year! The card earns 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels and 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. So the card pays for itself.

IHG Credit CardIHG hotels do have a large world-wide footprint with over 4500 properties. If you want to apply for the card, check out this blog post from The Frequent Miler on how to get an 80K sign-up bonus AND a $50 statement credit.

Categories: Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, IHG | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Free IHG Reward Points for Joining e-Rewards

I recently received an email from IHG Rewards Club announcing that they’d award me 600 IHG points when I joined e-Rewards and completed two surveys within three months.  As it turns out, I’ve been an e-Rewards member for a long time so I’m not eligible for this promotion.

2015-08-22 IHG e-Rewards Promo

If you’re not familiar with e-Rewards, it’s an organization that sends out surveys and awards you currency for taking those surveys.  You can then use that currency to “buy” hotel points, airline miles or gift certificates.  For example, $25 in e-Rewards currency can be used to “purchase” 500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles, 1000 Club Carlson Gold Points or a gift certificate to Best Buy.  Once you’ve accumulated $25 in e-Rewards currency you can choose to spend your currency at one of 33 merchants (including a few charities).

Some partners have a straight redemption value.  For example, when redeeming e-Rewards currency for American Airlines miles, it’s $25 = 500 miles, $50 = 1000 miles and $100 = 2000 miles, so the redemption value is the same.  On the other hand, Club Carlson will give you a bonus for redeeming more currency. $25 in e-Rewards currency nets you 1000 Gold Points but $50 will bring 2500 points and with a $100 redemption you get 4500 Gold Points.  So you need to keep an eye on what currency is useful to you to know when it’s best to redeem.  Note that you are often limited to one redemption for a particular merchant within a certain time period so if you’re close to the next-higher-level award, it may make sense to wait to redeem.

You’ll be sent survey links and even if you don’t qualify for the survey, you’ll get a token amount of e-Rewards currency.  There are surveys that will award you $5 or more in currency but they are usually quite involved and take a fair amount of time.  I prefer the shorter surveys to fill in the time between doing other things at work.  The currency adds up before you realize it and soon enough you’ve got 500 frequent flyer miles ready to transfer to your account.  Note that the transfer sometimes takes a few days, so plan accordingly.

So if you’re an IHG Rewards Club member, check your email for a similar offer and your personalized link.

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