Showing posts with label airline frequent flier miles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label airline frequent flier miles. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A London Stopover– On Airline Miles and Hotel Points

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford.
                                -- Samuel Johnson

While song writers seem beguiled about springtime in Paris, we found London to be equally as enchanting. It didn’t take long for this jolly ol’ capital city with a population of more than 8.5 million to wrap us in its charms during our brief visit in May.

Those London phone booths are icons of the city
Because we were returning to the States from Greece earlier than originally planned to deal The Scout’s, medical matter, he was tasked with finding us a reasonable and affordable routing for this rather spur-of-the-moment trip. 

Speaking of icons, there are those double-decker buses as well. . .
The best option he found was flying via London, using some of our accumulated airline miles. (There are no direct flights between Athens and Seattle, so you need to stop somewhere. Sometimes depending on flight connections the layover could be a matter of hours and other times, overnight at least).

We purchased tickets on Aegean Airlines for our trip from Athens to London. We then used Alaska Airlines miles,a regional U.S. carrier, to fly on one of its partners, British Airlines.

Traveler’s Tip: We booked two one-way tickets London – Seattle, in Premium Economy, that rather comfortable section that isn’t quite Business Class but certainly isn’t Economy Class. The price 42,500 air miles PLUS $432US a seat in taxes and fees: (85,000 miles + $864US) AND THEN an additional $169US to select the seats we wanted to sit in – two seat side by the windows (and assure ourselves we weren’t stuck in the middle of a center row).

While all those extra $$$ were equivalent to what we would have paid for a regular economy class seat it does make one wonder about using airline miles for ‘free’ travel.

That London Stopover

London, London, London
It occurred to us that we could make lemonade out of the lemon he’d been handed by using some of our horded hotel points to pay for a stay at the Marriott’s Park Lane Hotel. It’s located across the street from Hyde Park,in the rather posh and privileged Mayfair District.

Traveler’s Tip:  Even using discount sites, the price of a room here hovers at $500 a night, plus another $100 per night in taxes and fees.  We paid nothing more for our room than 180,000 points,(which we’ve earned on previous Marriott stays and credit card spending).

Because we have stayed in Marriott hotels enough nights to qualify for their ‘elite’ level benefits, we had access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge were we ate breakfast daily, and drank happy hour wine and an afternoon espresso drink each day – all complimentary which further saved us a great deal of money. A British pound was at the time equivalent to $1.46US.

PicMonkey Collage
Marriott Park Lane - London
After arriving at Heathrow Airport and caught the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station, 32 kilometers, or about 20 miles away. Paddington has been the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. The high speed airport ‘shuttle’ trains leave the depart every 15 minutes. More than 16,000 passengers use the train daily.

Catching the train was a snap as they’ve simplified that process since the last time we’d visited London. A young woman was standing just outside baggage claim selling train tickets and we had only to follow signs posted in the airport to find the train platform.  Two round-trip train tickets: $105US

Heathrow Express at Paddington Station
From Paddington it was a short taxi ride to the hotel. Once settled in to our room, we set off to explore.  We walked 33.5 miles in the 4.5 days we were there and next week, we’ll show you some of our routes through London’s neighborhoods.

A London Park
Before signing off this week, we want to thank all of you who wrote emails or comments on last week’s post about The Scout’s trip through the medical worlds of Greece and the U.S.  Your kind wishes and ‘sighs of relief’ were most welcome.

Those ‘medical moments’ whether experienced at home or while traveling do make travel experiences just a bit more precious.  Booking a one-way trip instead of round-trip because you don’t know when you will be able to return was a good reminder to us to keep traveling as far and wide as we can – while we can! In other words:


Hope to see you all back here next week! Until then safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Two days later ~ Whew, that was a flight to remember!

It is Thursday evening in Bangkok, Thailand. We are 14-hours ahead of those back in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. We arrived here Wednesday morning about 7:30 a.m. – two days after leaving Seattle; some 20+ hours in a plane and more than 30 hours after our departure.

Waiting for takeoff Seats 14 E and F

The distance and time involved in getting here was mind-boggling back when we first planned the trip and I can tell you now that we’ve completed the flight, that is was one amazing experience. . .especially for this ‘white knuckler’ who declared the first time I saw the size of an Emirates 380 aircraft that The Scout would never get me in one. (I am reminded,‘never say never’!

Our flight from San Francisco - Emirates A380
So large is this plane that two jet ways are used for entering and exiting (you remember we used Frequent Flyer miles so were flying top-tier in Business Class) so we never mingled with any of the 400 passengers who were flying in economy below us. There are 75 Business Class seats on the upper level and 12 First Class ‘suites’ (we didn’t mingle with those folks either).

We had decided to use our miles when planning our trip to Bangkok, Thailand – it is a long flight from Seattle no matter how you approach it.  In our case the first leg of the flight from San Francisco was 15-hours – so long that they actually had on-screen reminders for those wearing contact lenses to take them out and wear glasses (I heeded the advice).

Flight Part I
Following a three-hour layover in Dubai, we set off on the next leg which (thanks to tailwinds) was only 5.5 hours long:

Flight Part 2
I told you in a previous post about flying Business Class but I now have to say, there is Business Class and then there is Business Class – in the case of Emirates, they’ve knocked the ball out of the ballpark. For example:

A toast to the Wright brothers!
There’s a fully stocked lounge with nibbles, bubbly and fine wine to keep you entertained. As well as accommodating flight attendants who pose guests behind the bar for photos.

PicMonkey Collage

And bathrooms with gold-toned seats and fixtures, fresh orchids, Bulgari toiletries and of course, a window with a view!

Route maps kept us entertained
P1000028 Our personal viewing screens offered dozens of shows, movies and entertainment options but I preferred to watch the route maps and views from the cameras (on the tail, front and underneath the plane) showed real time photos of the aircraft.

I was a bit amazed to see us flying directly over Tehran, Iran. . .

PicMonkey Collage
A feast of wine and food
The food and wine choices rivaled high end restaurant offerings.  But perhaps the nicest thing about the flight was the flat-bed, complete with mattress pad, blanket and pillow!

So that’s how we spent our first two days of this  journey.  I’ll tell you more about Bangkok in upcoming posts.  Thanks for being with us today and hope you’ll follow along as we set sail next week for more stops in the Far East and then head to the Middle East. . .

We hope to be linking up this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Business of Flying Business Class

“You should start flying Business Class” a friend’s accountant told her not too long ago, she said during one of our regular coffee chat sessions.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 243
Business class - champagne served in real stemware
Nice to think that after all those years of working and saving that we’ve reached an age and retirement income that allows such recommendations, we both agreed.

Then we laughed at the thought. We know the price of that kind of  comfort at 35,000-feet.  And we aren’t about to pay it. . .full price anyway!

Emirates A380 - double-decker - we'll be upstairs
It wasn’t long after that conversation, though, that The Scout booked us in Business Class on Emirates Airlines for what will be a 35-hour trip from San Francisco to  Bangkok, Thailand, (via Dubai).  We’ll be upstairs at the front of the plane in an A380 like that one pictured above.

No, we are not paying the $13,810 (price tag on two one-way tickets).  Thanks to frequent flier miles (75,000 miles, each) we are paying only the taxes and fees of less than $100.

PicMonkey Collage
KLM Business Class meals

It’s not the first time we’ve burned air miles to fly Business Class. In the last decade or so we’ve experienced that luxury end of the plane on British Air, Air France and KLM.  Each flight was above and beyond ‘pampered’ experiences: food (real food) served on china plates, champagne, wine and cocktails flowed freely (literally and figuratively) and space, lots and lots of space.

PicMonkey Collage
The Scout unkownly demonstrating Business Class seat comfort
Frequent flier seats can be as elusive in Business Class as they are in Coach class but if you’ve got a long-haul trip coming up (eight or more hours in a plane is our definition) it might just be worth it to use them to get a lot more space and comfort.

Flexibility is  Key to Budget Business Class 

You may need to be as flexible as the seats in Business Class in order to nab a ticket though.

MilanBolgTusc2012 008
Business Class Seat Position control panel
Flexible in Routes/Departure Cities?

If Business Class FF (frequent flier mile) seats aren’t available to your destination from your nearest  departure city, try thinking outside the box. Three years ago we flew a KLM flight from Vancouver, British Columbia (our Canadian neighbor) to Amsterdam. We took a 30-minute flight from Seattle to make the connection – as no Business Class seats were available flying directly out of Seattle.

The Emirates flight to Dubai is from San Francisco as there were no FF Business Class seats available on the direct flight to Dubai from Seattle.

MilanBolgTusc2012 009
Champagne and leg-room - Business class treats
Change your destination?

Using our trips to Greece as an example, we’ve found that for some unexplained reason,  flights from Seattle to Istanbul, Turkey have been cheaper than those to Athens, Greece.  We’ve been flying there and catching a short flight to Athens to save several hundred dollars in ticket costs.  Could you change your destination to one where seats are available and then use a train or commuter flight to get to where you want to be?

HALBlackSea2010 035
Istanbul as a hub vs. Athens

Can you Reverse your Route?

Because we’ll be – in a manner of speaking – commuting between Seattle and Greece the next few years, we can book flights round-trip from Seattle or round-trip to Seattle.  If you routinely fly a certain route, check out prices for tickets starting at the other city – you might be surprised at the price difference.

An example:  We will be returning to Seattle this spring from Istanbul. While checking prices The Scout happened upon a Business Class airfare, Istanbul – Seattle – Istanbul that was only $300 a ticket more than what we paid for coach class (Seattle- Seattle round-trip) last summer. We booked it, directly with the airline. (The round trip  flight between Istanbul and Athens is about $150).

That same Business Class seat starting in London is several thousand dollars more than starting in Istanbul.

Option to Pay for an Upgrade?

Airlines don’t want those premium seats to go empty any more than cruise lines want ships sailing with empty cabins.  Depending on the airline you may find some last minute upgrade-from-coach-class deals are available.  Sometimes airlines will alert you to their availability at the time of your on-line check-in or make an announcement at the gate.  The upgrade cost won’t necessarily be inexpensive, but will be far less than paying full fare.

Frequent Flyer Miles to Upgrade from Coach?

Some airlines will allow you to upgrade your coach class seats by spending your FF miles to do so.  If you are seriously considering doing so, check with the airline to make sure the coach class fare you book allows you to make such an upgrade.

GreecePt12013 003
In Business Class you can wait in private lounges - instead of sitting at the gate

Shop Early and Shop for Sales

Start your ‘window shopping’ early.  Sometimes airlines will put premium seats on sale and you might just happen upon one of them.  The Scout was doing just that when he happened upon the fare I told you about above -  a fare so good that a premium seat ticket discounter told us he couldn’t match it.

Discount Ticket Agencies

We’ve never yet used one of these places as The Scout is doing a good job for us, but we’ve seen them mentioned as sources of good discounts.  Check out their track record before using one – and if earning FF miles is important to you, make sure the cheap ticket will allow you to earn miles. (Often times discounted tickets are in a class that doesn’t qualify – or qualifies for fewer earned miles).  A Google search turned up any number of agencies advertising cut rates.

Monitor Mileage Award changes to Frequent Flier programs

We are members of Alaska Airlines mileage program and therefore fly their partner airlines to earn miles towards our Alaska account.  We then use them to book Business Class on the partner airlines.
The flight we took in coach class on Delta in December to Greece earned us some 4,000 miles on Alaska. While in Greece, Delta changed its awards program so the return flight earned us less than 2,000 miles. 

GreecePt12013 016
Above Athens, Greece
Happy Travels to you all and thanks for ‘flying’ with us today!  We appreciate the time you spend and love reading your comments and emails! Have you some tips you'd like to share with others about ways to find inexpensive airline tickets. . .coach or premium seats? If so, please do in the comments below or shoot us an email and we will add the tip for you!

This week we are linking up with the fine bloggers at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesday: How to Hit a Travel Jackpot. . .

. . .or here are some of our latest tips for saving travel dollars.

Our destination earlier this month was Scottsdale, Arizona. So, why then, did we fly to Las Vegas --some 300 miles and a near five-hour drive away – to get there? 

Easy answer: travel deals!

Here is the why and what we did to save some money while extending the trip a few days as well:

KOandSeattle 041Airfare: 

Altered the routing without sacrificing the trip.

The airfare was already significantly less to fly to Las Vegas than to Phoenix when an Alaska Airlines internet promotion offered double airline miles on the Seattle-Vegas route; miles that counted toward frequent-flyer elite status.

Result:  Saved money and earned airline miles by altering our routing.  The mileage assures us that we will be MVP’s in 2014 (which means seat selection advantages, early boarding and best of all, no baggage fees for up to four bags between us!)

PhxtoVegas2013 052Car rental: 

Got more and paid less.

Finding a reasonably priced rental car these days – no matter what the destination – is difficult, especially at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. By flying into Vegas, we also got a much better car rental price than anything we’d found in Arizona. 

The Las Vegas  Fox Rent-a-Car also allowed the addition of a second driver for no additional fee; meaning I could also drive without paying between $140 – $210 extra to do so. Our like-new Toyota Corolla cost $281 for two-weeks. (Upon the return because a computer snafu caused a huge line and much confusion, they refunded $100 of that price as well!)

VegasAppleCup2013 029Result:  We had a round-trip scenic drive that took us past Hoover Dam just outside Vegas and then through the picturesque towns of Kingman and Wickenberg, Arizona.

In addition to loving the wide open spaces through which the route took us, we also had an option of spending a couple of nights in Vegas after returning the car. . .a double win, in our book.

The Unexpected Bonus

So, how many credit cards are too many?

MilanBolgTusc2012 006We fly Alaska Airlines almost exclusively and the frequent flier miles earned from this carrier has taken us round-trip to Europe several times on its partner airlines. (Our miles took us round-trip to Amsterdam in Business Class on this KLM flight to the left).

While awaiting our flight back to Seattle last week, we were approached by the “Alaska Airlines credit card man” offering us a signing bonus,you might say, of 25,000 miles, for applying  for the card.

Brushing off his offer, we told him we each already had an Alaska Airlines credit card.  To our surprise, he replied, “That doesn’t matter. . .get another one.  We have people who’ve gotten the maximum – five cards so they can use the companion tickets.”

One of the ways we earn Alaska miles is using their credit card: one mile= $1 in spending.  The other plus of their card is the $99 companion ticket offered each year in exchange for the card’s fee of $75. Those companion tickets come in real handy at times, for example:

KoOlina2013 023The ticket prices to Honolulu, Hawaii in January are enough to topple a palm tree.

The ticket cost for our upcoming trip came up at $882 for the first ticket, $41.56 for taxes and fees; total $924

The companion ticket: $99 plus taxes and fees of $39.29 for a total of $138.29. (And for you skeptics out there, even if I add in the $75 credit card fee, the price barely tops $200 – a considerable savings indeed.)

Result:  We both applied for credit cards. We each will receive 25,000 miles (which gets us that much closer to a European flight) and also will have two more companion tickets to use each year.

It has been awhile since I put out a call for tips on travel deals from you.  Have any new tips to share? Add them in the comment section on or shoot us an email and I will add them in.  And then come back on Thursday when we'll take a hike through the real ‘Old West' !

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Travel Planning: Moving Daydreams to Dates

We’ve been living in Hawaii this last month – watching palm trees sway before an azure sea and sky; a most pleasant change from the dark, gray (and very wet) winter days that exist at our more-full-time Pacific Northwest home.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 248But no matter where we are, January is a time to get serious about the year’s future big-trip travel plans. 

We used our laid-back days to move our daydreaming to dates on the calendar.

As all travelers know, nabbing frequent flier seats and booking rooms on hotel points, isn’t something that can wait until the last minute.

And travel – despite continuing dire economic reports in the media -- is on an upswing. If you don’t believe that, just take a walk through Waikiki – or book a hotel room there (and prepare for sticker shock).

I’d set my sights on Greece for a spring trip and so focused on it were we, that quite frankly we hadn’t been thinking about fall until The Scout found us an incredible deal while Web surfing. 

A springtime trip to our favorite places in Greece was my day dream for celebrating my summer ‘Big One Birthday’.  The Scout has nailed down the frequent flier miles and purchased tickets that will get us to Athens and back. We are using the ‘where the wind blows us-or the ferry sails’ approach to travels after reaching Athens.

And then there’s the Fall trip. . .you won’t believe where we are headed or the deal that we got! I’ll tell you about it on Travel Tip Tuesday. 

In  the meantime, a number of you’ve asked how we go about finding deals.  To check The Scout’s favorite resources, visit our Deal Finder page.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

KLM Airlines: Flying Up Front Like Royalty

It isn't often that we get to experience ‘how the other half flies’– those front-end-of-the-plane folks who recline in spacious seats behind that curtain enjoying all the treats afforded them there.

We are most-often among those in the cramped economy section  at the back of the plane eating the complementary snack pack of six soy nuts and coffee. . .and earning frequent flier miles.

On our recent trip though The Scout is to be commended for using a pile of those frequent flyer air miles earned in the back of Alaska Airlines planes to get us to Europe in style.

VeniceAmsterdam2012 240We flew Business Class from Vancouver, B.C. to Amsterdam and back from Venice on KLM, Royal Dutch Airline. 

Since it is Travel Tip Tuesday, I thought I’d give you a look what you can get for those frequent flier miles you’ve been accumulating:

VeniceAmsterdam2012 239The luxuries of ‘front-end’ travel begins long before boarding the plane in special lounges in some secluded area of the airport where only those ‘invited’ guests are admitted. The invitation is a Business or First-class boarding pass.

In Amsterdam (picture above) we could have consumed any number of beverages from hard liquor and wine to orange juice and coffee while awaiting our flight.  It was serve-yourself  sandwich makings, a chunky tomato soup, beet root salad and any number of pastries and snacks.
But that was just the prelude to the flight:

We learned from our multi-page printed menu that KLM was in the midst of its Third Annual “From Holland Food and Wine Festival” celebrated on board during October and November. As the name implies, it’s designed to showcase Dutch products, dishes and traditions. (Now why couldn’t other airlines do that? Maybe they do and we just don’t get to see it in the back, right?)

VeniceAmsterdam2012 243

These were the first of several glasses of Billecart- Salmon champagne that I sipped during the near 10 hour flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver. (Okay, so it’s not from Holland, but it is my all-time favorite bubbly; its cost keeps me from having it too often on the ground.)

MilanBolgTusc2012 008
We sipped the bubbly while adjusting our seats - an activity that in itself could keep you entertained for a few hours.
(That M in the circle was to activate the massage feature, by the way.) 

So back to the Food and Wine Festival. . .

VeniceAmsterdam2012 244

The starter course was “A baton of braised veal enhanced by beetroot with cumin and a Hollandaise piccalilli cream” (the little blue clogs to the left were salt and pepper shakers) and that was followed by:

VeniceAmsterdam2012 245

The entree:   A mouth-watering MRIJ beef tartlet ‘complemented by jus with VOC spices, mash of Willem van Orange potato and red cabbage with diced apple.”

We opted out of the desserts (although I had to try a Belgian chocolate from the box of temptations offered by the flight attendant after dessert). 

VeniceAmsterdam2012 251

Just before arriving in Vancouver, BC we had our final (oink!) “Light Meal” service: “Eigenheimer potato salad with shrimps served with salmon garnished with herring caviar and trout Hollandaise mousse” in the small dish at the top.

The hot dish is a “Zeeland-fish platter with fillet of plaice and haddock complemented by creamy dill sauce, tomato compote and green marrow peas with onions and carrots.”

In between the eats Joel napped, using  his blanket for an eye shade instead of the one in a kit given us at the start of the flight. It included socks, lotions, lip balm, tooth paste and brush,and ear plugs (mine is the pink bag):

VeniceAmsterdam2012 246

I also reclined but opted to watch one of a dozen movies offered but I also made periodic checks of our position on my individual screen (note, I’d switched to water):

VeniceAmsterdam2012 250

By this point in the flight though I was getting excited for the special treat that I had learned on our flight to Amsterdam would be coming. . .KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines has a tradition for ‘front end’ guests. . . you’ll have to tune in later this week to find out what it was that had me so excited.

How we did it: It required 100,000 Alaska Air miles per person to fly from Seattle (via Alaska Air/Horizon) to Vancouver, BC; then Amsterdam on KLM. [We were unable to connect using FF seats to Milan so we booked Easy Jet, Europe’s low-cost airline for that segment – $100 each, with all charges]. We flew Business Class from Venice to Vancouver, B.C. 

We paid only a couple hundred dollars in taxes, baggage charges, and fees for tickets that  cost in the $5,000 per person range.

Later this week  I’ll tell you about the treat and Joel will have some tips for booking frequent flier seats. Hope to see you then!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Three phone calls later: Singapore is Rome

RivieraNayarit2012 335Regular readers and those who know us well won’t be surprised to learn that we’ve changed travel directions again.

The winter’s “Big” cruise from Singapore is now the autumn cruise  from Rome.

All it took was a couple of phone calls.  Really, it was that simple. Proving, once again, that planning travel really isn’t that difficult.

The original plan: Frequent flier airline seats to and from Asia. A Celebrity cruise from Singapore to Sydney, a few days there (using Marriott points), then off to Bali, returning home a week later . Yikes – that put us traveling two days before Christmas! (Read that: the dreaded holiday travel.)

We were looking forward to the Asian Adventure, but. . .

RivieraNayarit2012 155While in Mexico we had plenty of daydreaming time and started discussing other destinations that we want to visit in the next couple years. . .

Then, back in Kirkland this week Joel happened upon the ‘perfect’ Celebrity cruise – beginning in Rome, ending in Venice, with stops in Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Malta and Slovenia along the way. If only we weren’t headed to Singapore. . .

After a 24-hour ‘ponder-the-idea-period', Joel checked on availability of frequent flier seats, which was key to any changes, with airline prices being what they are this year. Two calls to Alaska Airlines in as many days and we had seats and a good routing to Europe.  He nabbed them after cancelling the Cathay Pacific business class seats to Singapore. We’ll  fly business class on KLM to Rome and back.

DSCF2121The third phone call was to CruCon Cruise Outlet (the travel agency we use for booking cruises because they’ve had the best prices and on-board goodies). They moved our $200 deposit from one cruise to the other, we’ve now got a balcony room on the Silhouette; incurring no penalties and getting the same on-board credits and other goodies as we had on the other cruise.

Then he cancelled our Marriott ‘loyalty points’ reservation in Sydney and used them to book a five night stay in a Marriott “Autograph” Hotel in Venice. (Use of those hotel points in Venice saved us approximately $1,700!)

We were excited about the Sydney experience; but we are plain crazy about this new adventure. Joel’s dug out the Lonely Planet guidebook to Slovenia to get the research started. . .I ordered a new Baggallini roller tote from a discount on-line shop.  Let the fun begin. . .


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...