Dad to GO's (Plus mom and baby's) Eurotrip 2013

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Dad to GO, Jun 24, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    Hi Guys,

    Over the next couple of weeks I'll be writing a trip report that covers our 17 day vacation to Europe. While it was an amazing time, there are certainly some challenges to traveling with a 5 month old that I'll write about. I won't touch on every hotel and flight either (because let's face it... all you need to know about Easyjet is that it is a no frills super cheap airline)... BUT here it is.
    Thanks and would appreciate any feedback you have!

    **I'm going to try and upload the trip reports here but it will take some time with as many pictures as I have for each "stop"... I'll plan on loading the first 5 pictures for each post and then a link to the rest of them. If you are interested in the whole review just click on the link! :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
    viguera, violist and uggboy like this.
  2. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,268
    Likes Received:
    7,778
    Status Points:
    6,770
    Quite nice, but am I the only one who would prefer that trip
    reports also be posted here?
     
  3. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    Yeah I understand. I'll make sure to post the remainder of the trip report here. I'll also try and put the first few as well.

    Thanks!
     
    uggboy and HaveMilesWillTravel like this.
  4. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    Introduction

    When I first started getting more and more entrenched with the points earning and mileage game I knew one of the first places that I wanted to go was Europe… and I wanted to do it in style and on the cheap (for Europe at least). The first thing we had to get figured out was how we were going to get there. I knew that getting the airline tickets figured out would be the most difficult and important part of our trip. Back in 2011 I had jumped on the British Airways 100K point offer and figured that I could use those points to get
    both
    all three of us to Europe. I knew that the real way to maximize my points would be if I could get the British Airways companion pass by spending $30K within one calendar year. Since I didn’t even get the British Airways credit card until April this was going to be a challenge. Then I was introduced to buying coins through the mint. Oh the good old days… waiting for a 20 pound box of $500 in gold coins to show up at your door. I used the mint
    scam
    method to help me achieve the $30K spend required to get the companion pass and also get the additional points we would need for most of our intra Europe flights. I also waited as late as possible into the month of December to hit the final spend that would count towards the companion pass. By waiting until the end of December to hit my spend I would have until December 2013 to use the companion pass. Perfect! Little did I know that having 2 years would actually be very useful since we would be adding a 3rd little member to our family in December of 2012!
    [​IMG]
    Overview of all the flights
    [​IMG]
    Flights within Europe

    In reality the only other piece of the puzzle would be hotel stays. Since I don’t travel at all for work and my wife rarely travels this was going to come down to getting points from credit card sign ups, spending, and free night awards. We knew that we wanted to go to Germany (because I really wanted to see the WWII history, and my wife’s former roommates live there) and of course Italy… because… well it’s Italy! I started doing my research on what hotels were in which cities and at what level category they were so I knew how many points I needed per night AND if they were eligible for yearly free night bonuses. Some credit cards like Marriott only allow you to use your free nights up to a category 4 hotel which can limit the options you have, where others like Priority Club allow you to stay at any hotel in the world! I probably went overboard with the planning because I created a spreadsheet that covered all of the hotel chains and what hotels we would be interested in staying at in every city we went too. That’s a lot of hotels! We wanted to stay at not only nice hotels but hotels that were in good locations and baby friendly (Side note… the only hotel that was a let down in the baby department was the Bellagio). Once I had it narrowed down to where we wanted to stay and how many points we needed I went to work to create a gameplan of how I would get us the points we needed.

    I wanted to make sure that I tried to do this trip with the least amount of “multiple program points” as possible. What I mean by that statement is that I value programs like Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards at a high level and I didn’t want to just get those points and transfer them to a hotel program unless it was Hyatt. I wanted to try and get the points through the actual hotel program credit card themselves. Hyatt, Priority Club, Hilton, etc. If I was able to maximize these points it would allow us to travel again like this in the future, and more often. After figuring out where we wanted to go and stay I had my gameplan and was ready to make this trip not just a plan.. but a reality!

    Next Post… Bellagio Hotel and using AMEX Fine Hotel and Resorts

    Dad to GO... Where you can learn how to MAXIMIZE your travel and minimize your cost.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  5. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    Bellagio Hotel and Review

    While using miles and points to travel can be a HUGE money saver it also means that you sometimes have to be flexible when it comes to scheduling. That was the case when booking our outbound flight to Europe using the British Airways companion pass. I could not find anything in first class directly out of LAX which is our home airport. I was able to find something that would work from Las Vegas. Since Vegas is only an hour flight from Los Angeles AND I have the Southwest companion pass (Which I wrote about here) it was fairly simple to get a “positioning flight” the night before we would head to Europe.
    While going through Vegas wasn’t Ideal it did get me a little excited because it would allow me to use the AMEX Fine Hotels and Resorts program which is one of the many perks of having the American Express Platinum card. I had never used FHR to book a hotel but had heard a lot of great things about the program.
    Using Fine Hotels and Resorts gives you the following perks:
    • Noon check in upon arrival (if available)
    • Room upgrade upon arrival (if available)
    • Daily Breakfast for 2 people
    • 4pm late check out
    • Additional special amenity unique to each property, such as a $100 food and beverage credit or a massage for two people**
    Besides all of these great benefits they also have very competitive pricing, often the same as what the hotel is offering itself. I loaded up FHR and was debating between either the Palazzo which offered a $100 dining credit or the Bellagio which offered a $100 spa credit. I decided to go with the Bellagio and would use the spa credit to get my wife a massage for Mothers Day since that was the day we were flying out to Europe.

    Upon arriving at the Bellagio we were welcomed by the front desk agent and immediatley told that due to using Amex FHR to book our room we had been upgraded to a Deluxe Fountain View Room. We were also told of the other benefits including the breakfast and Spa credit. The check in agent also was very quiet when giving me the confirmation for the massage I had scheduled for my wife the next day. I thought this was a nice touch just in case the massage had been a surprise for my wife. After this we headed up to our room on the 23rd floor

    [​IMG]
    The view from the entry way of the room. It was a pretty standard size for a room in Las Vegas. The decor was nice but not over the top.

    Of course after getting the first impression from the entry way the first thing you want to check out is the view of the Las Vegas strip and the fountain.

    [​IMG]
    Not a bad view!

    We had a great view of the fountain show and up and down the strip and were definitely pleased with the upgrade to the Deluxe Fountain View room.

    [​IMG]
    The king bed had a nice down comforter and was really comfortable. Both my wife and I got a very good nights sleep.

    [​IMG]
    While there weren’t chocolates on the pillows, they did have them on the end tables next to the bed.

    [​IMG]
    The closet was your standard size that had lights that would come on when you opened the door. There were also 2 robes inside for us to use at our discretion. The TV also had a channel that you could switch to and it would play the music that went along with the fountain show outside when it was running.

    Please follow the link HERE to view the rest of the trip report.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  6. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    Las Vegas to London - British Airways New First Class​




    Introduction:


    When I was planning this trip to Europe my original plan was to just use the miles and points that I had already to get us free travel in coach. Then as I mentioned… I learned about the British Airways 100K sign up bonus and the possibility to get the 2 for 1 travel together voucher after spending $30K in one calendar year. Deciding to go (for lack of a better term) balls to the wall in order to get that 2 for 1 voucher was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. True with British Airways you WILL have to pay a large amount because of a fuel surcharge but we would have paid that same amount to fly in coach anyways AND the service you receive in First Class can not be compared. As my wife says… A bad day in first class is still better than the best day in coach. Boy is she right. Besides our Las Vegas to London flight I was also able to plug in London to Munich and Rome to London as part of the same itinerary… meaning those flights would also be in First and/or Business class.​
    British Airways has a distance based reward chart (which isn’t usually that great for long haul flights) but because of the 2 for 1 voucher it made it much more lucrative. The total miles needed (or Avios as British Airways call them) for two people to fly round trip from the west coast to London is 300,000! I was able to cut that in half using the 2 for 1 voucher. After hitting the $30K spend required for the voucher my British Airways account sat at just over 137K Avios points (Each dollar in spend was worth 1.25 Avios points). In order to get the remaining 13K+ points needed I simply opened up my Ultimate Rewards account and transferred over the miles. It took about 5 minutes for them to show up in my British Airways Avios account. As I mentioned in my introduction post when you are using miles and points you need to be somewhat flexible. This includes both where you are flying to/from and also when you are available to fly. I knew that we wanted to go sometime in the spring but did not have any hard set dates which made finding tickets a little easier. I started searching daily for sometime in April or May and after about 1 week I saw the flights open up with dates that would work for us… The only issue was that British Airways Executive Club was closed and in order to make the reservation using a 2 for 1 voucher I had to call in. My fingers were crossed that the seats would still be there when they opened at 4am pacific time. I called right when they opened and got lucky… they were still there! I gave the reservation specialist my details and in about 15 minutes we were booked. Next stop… First Class!​
    Some of you may be wondering what the whole “New First Class” is all about. Not to go into to much detail but basically a couple years ago British Airways decided to replace their long haul first class on MOST of their planes… Key word is MOST… meaning that there is still a chance to get stuck in the old first class on some routes. While first class is first class… there IS a difference.​
    [​IMG]
    Old First class on the left and New First class on the right
    The old first class is much more dated, has a much smaller video screen with limited options… and let’s face it. It definitely lacks the cool factor. I was like a maniac the weeks leading up to our flight trying to determine if we would be flying on the New First or Old First. Not just because the new version is so much better but also because the bassinet is located in different places for each of the different versions. While we would be in first class no matter what I don’t think my wife or myself were up to holding our son for 10+ hours with no place to securely put him down. Luckily… and FINALLY I was able to confirm the day before that it appeared we would be flying on the New First class… or would we?​
    Flight BA0279 (Seats 5EF):


    We got to the airport about 3 hours before our flight mostly because I wasn’t sure how long we would need to get through security, wanted to verify we were indeed in New First and I wanted to try out the Las Vegas lounge using the lounge passes that we got when we signed up for the Ink Bold. Of course when I went to verify that we were indeed in New First I was told that in fact we weren’t… wait… what?!?! The inbound flight was showing it was the new first class but now they were telling me it wasn’t. On top of that… the crew working the gate was far from helpful when I requested that we have our seats changed so that we could have a bassinet seat (since the location varies on new first vs. old first). I was told that WE would have to ask people on the plane ourselves about switching seats. I was not happy about that. After the plane arrived I walked out of the lounge to check it out and low and behold I could tell based on the windows that it was New First class. Okay, while I was relieved that we wouldn’t need to switch our seats… I was a little ticked off at this point. The fact that the British Airways crew in Las Vegas didn’t know themselves what version of First Class it was and they had lied to me saying that they had checked the plane themselves really annoyed me. About 40 minutes before our flight they made an announcement in the lounge that our flight was ready to board.​
    [​IMG]
    Our ride across the pond
    Once on board we made the turn left and entered the classy and comfortable looking New First class. My first impression was even better than what I had seen online. I was immediately attracted to the blue lights that they have decorating the first class cabin and the modern, sleek looking seating.
    [​IMG]
    View from the front of the cabin looking back.
    [​IMG]
    AVOD system on British Airways New First with 15 inch screen (Courtesy of British Airways)
    [​IMG]
    Seat and light controls. The knob turns “green” when you are in the proper seat position for take off and landings.



    Please follow the link HERE to view the rest of the trip report for Las Vegas to London in British Airways New First Class.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  7. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    London Mayfair Hotel

    After we arrived in London we knew that we would not have a lot of time to site see. Our flight to Munich was the following day at 6pm. I wanted to stay at a hotel that was in a good central location that would allow us to see some of the “big” ticket items… Big Ben, Parliament, etc. (queue National Lampoon’s reference). During my February App-O-Rama one of the cards my wife got was the Club Carlson Premier card. The sign up bonus came with instant gold status and 85K Club Carlson points which would be enough for us to choose any Club Carlson hotel that we wanted. I narrowed it down to either The London Mayfair or The Plaza on the River. In the end I decided to go with the Mayfair because of the location. It was close to a tube stop and also within walking distance of a lot of the attractions we wanted to try and see during our 24 hours in London. The cost was 50K points which would be well spent considering the cash price was $475 per night.

    After clearing customs and taking the hour or so long ride on the train into the city, we arrived at the Green Park tube stop for The Mayfair. The hotel is only about a 5 minute walk from the station so it was very convenient. The Mayfair area was definitely one of the more expensive areas in London. We saw plenty of upscale cars and dealerships (Bentley, Porsche, Rolls Royce) and some pricey restaurants which did make finding an affordable place to eat dinner a bit of an adventure.

    [​IMG]
    Courtesy Mayfair Online

    The lobby of the Mayfair was fairly contemporary and the check in area was small. Another thing I noticed was that there was a really strong aroma of perfume. Not enough to give me a headache but it sure did hit you hard the minute you walked into the lobby. I would forget about it when we were out site seeing and when we would come back… boom! Nostril check!

    [​IMG]
    Mayfair Lobby and Check In Desk

    My wife was acknowledged as being a gold Club Carlson member and we were told we were given a very nice Deluxe room as the result. This was a 1 category upgrade and while it was nice, it ended up being a fairly standard size.

    [​IMG]
    View from the doorway

    Even though the room wasn’t HUGE it was probably slightly bigger than your average room in Europe. The bed was a king which is always nice. There also was plenty of room for all of our luggage and baby items. Another nice touch was that on the table there were a couple apples and a small box of chocolates that were complimentary. They also provided a large bottle of water next to the bed for us.

    [​IMG]
    Chocolates as a gift

    [​IMG]
    Complimentary Water.


    Please follow the link HERE to view the rest of the trip report for the London Mayfair Hotel.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  8. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    London Heathrow Galleries Club & BA956 Club Europe


    After a surprisingly good night of sleep and a morning full of site seeing we were ready to head out to London Heathrow. We hopped on the London Tube and in about 40 minutes we were at London Heathrow. Check in and security were a breeze thanks to flying First Class and we were through about 20 minutes after arriving.

    One of the advantages to using points to book our flights in first class was that we also had lounge access before our flights. Since Club Europe is an Intra-Europe “First Class” we had access to the London Heathrow Galleries Club.

    [​IMG]
    Heathrow Changing Room… Way better than what America offers.

    [​IMG]
    View towards the windows overlooking the runways of the lounge.

    [​IMG]
    Tables & Desks inside the lounge.

    [​IMG]
    The “Coffee Bar” area.

    [​IMG]
    Snacks, Soda’s, Wine, and Liqueur.


    Please follow the link HERE to view the rest of the trip report for the Galleries Club and BA Flight 956 Club Europe
     
    uggboy likes this.
  9. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,268
    Likes Received:
    7,778
    Status Points:
    6,770
    Very cool, thanks a lot.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  10. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    Grand Hyatt Berlin: Grand Suite View King
    After 3 days in Munich seeing the sites and visiting with one of my wife’s old roommates we headed up to Berlin. This was probably the hotel I was most excited to stay at. I had heard some really great things about the Grand Hyatt Berlin and was looking forward to staying there.

    I redeemed three free nights with suite upgrade certificates that my wife and I received when we signed up for the Chase Hyatt credit card. Normally you would only get 2 free nights in a standard room but because we were in the middle of our Diamond trial status match with Hyatt, we were able to get the benefits of being a diamond member when we signed up for the credit card.

    One problem that came up with our reservation was exactly what type of room we would be getting. After we had made our reservation the Grand Hyatt Berlin changed which suites they would honor with their suite upgrades. I was disappointed when I heard this because I had a confirmed reservation in the larger View suite. I decided to reach out to Hyatt via twitter and within 30 minutes had a response from their customer service team. I explained to them my issue with the room change and was told it would be taken care of. The next day I received an email directly from the hotel manager informing me that my original confirmed (larger) suite would be honored. I was thoroughly impressed with the quick response and action I got from Hyatt and think this is a prime example of great customer service.

    The Grand Suite View King room is a large room at about 742 sq feet with a separate living room and master bedroom separated by 2 large sliding floor to ceiling doors. This worked out perfect for us because one of my wife’s best friends would be staying with us on this leg of the trip. She was able to have her own sleeping area and her own bathroom.

    Main Room:
    [​IMG]
    The Living Room

    [​IMG]
    Guest Bathroom

    [​IMG]
    Living room table

    [​IMG]
    Some of the “interesting” art in the room… Pet the furry wall!

    Master Bedroom:
    The master bedroom was separated from the main living room by large sliding doors and felt very open because of the large window. The bed was definitely one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in. We got great sleep every night and I wish I could have one of those beds at home. There was a TV and books in a little shelving unit at the end of the bed, a jar of ridiculously good chocolates (which were refilled every night!), and a bottle of water on each night stand.


    Please follow the link HERE to view the rest of the trip report for the Grand Hyatt Berlin - Grand Suite View King
     
    uggboy likes this.
  11. uggboy
    Original Member

    uggboy Gold Member

    Messages:
    50,172
    Likes Received:
    133,423
    Status Points:
    20,020
    Excellent trip report, but when I remember correctly you also stayed at the Sheraton Skyline LHR, what happened to this portion of the report?
    Again, thanks for sharing your experiences. :)
     
  12. Dad to GO

    Dad to GO Silver Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    219
    Status Points:
    400
    We noticed that the pictures didn't really come out that we took. Something got changed on the settings with our camera. And... in all honesty the hotel wasn't that great. We didn't have enough towels, the room was very hot and the bathtub plug did not work so we had to get someone to come up and fix it. All and all I probably would not stay there again.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  13. uggboy
    Original Member

    uggboy Gold Member

    Messages:
    50,172
    Likes Received:
    133,423
    Status Points:
    20,020
    Thanks for the update and info, cheers. Sorry to hear about your negative experiences during your stay at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel.
     

Share This Page