Help with first ever Int'l award redemption!

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by servo, Jul 18, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    Looking to go to Italy next year with the inclusion of a holiday to save a day of pay that my wife will have to miss over the 2 weeks we're taking (was thinking using Memorial Day weekend in May), and would like to do the following in First Class if possible using my UA miles, but would consider AA miles if it made more sense:

    Outbound:
    MCO - VCE (a stopover would be cool for a night somewhere in a connecting city, doesn't really matter where unless it's not worth visiting) with visits in Venice, Florence, Rome and a final night or 3 on the Amalfi Coast. Likely just taking the train in between cities. The biggest problem I'm noticing is that my best option is LH (direct MCO-FRA), but they don't open award space to UA until 2 weeks out from DOD, so it sounds like I might need to position, but don't know the best way to maximize. If I booked something with UA miles and then award space came up on LH, would it be worth the cancel fee? What's a good strategy there?

    Return:
    NAP-MCO

    Suggestions on good hotels in each city would be preferred as well. I've got IHG (Plat status), Hilton (Gold) and Club Carlson (Gold) points to use, as well as 2 IHG free night certs, and 2 free weekend certs from the HHonors Reserve card as well as maybe some SPG points.

    Relevant Balances:
    UA: 198k
    UR: 45k
    AA: 126k
    US: 40k

    Hilton: 232k (with another 150k waiting in the wings in my HA account if necessary) & 2 wknd certs
    IHG: 135k & 2 anytime certs
    CC: 86k
    SPG: 37k

    I'm crazy excited to show my wife the payoff of all the mile hunting I've been doing over the last year. Hopefully, that'll help her get into the game as well a bit more.
     
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  2. Steven Schwartz
    Original Member

    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Very excited for you. First may be difficult but you'll have a great time even if it's Business. Easier in UA First than any of the partners. Few thoughts>

    1. Do you have a Hilton AMEX? If not, get one as the AXON awards available to AMEX holders provide a nice discount. They have horrendously devalued the program but we just booked a hotel that would have cost 240,000 points and got the AXON award for 190,000.

    2. Providing your specific optimal dates and your lattitude on either side would make it much easier to provide some help. Bottom line is you have almost 250,000 UA miles if we count your UR points. Connections are usually through partner hub cities, like Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Geneva, Brussels, etc. We went to Paris 18 months ago and flew home from Brussels in UA First. If all you're looking for is a short layover, Brussels is a bite-size city that would work well for a short layover.

    3. Sorry that I'm primarily a Starwood and then Hyatt guy so can't offer much help. Only one Hyatt in all of Italy.

    4. As to is it worth it to book and then change, very much an individual decision. I have been fortunate to travel First on Lufthansa, Swiss, Air France, British Airways, UA and Cathay Pacific. In a million years, I could not afford to pay for it! Heck, even Business Class is a stretch. So to me, paying $300-400 to change to snag something spectacular and memorable is most certainly worth it. When I started years ago, tickets were easier to come by and there were less restrictions. Now my attitude is grab what I can and be willing to change is something comes up that fits better or, well, excites me. But again, only you can answer that.

    So let us know your preferred dates and I imagine a few people will step up to the plate. Bon voyage!
     
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  3. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Yeah what Steven said. I was actually writing something but then my works Internet went offline and is still off.

    I was saying you need to look into Axon for hotels most likely. And connection in USA before you jump the pond. BRU or a SAS hub seems to have pretty good space ...

    AA might work as well but avoid LHR. That would means AB or AA or maybe Iberia? That would also prolly mean you need a connection in the USA before you jump the pond.
     
  4. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    Yes, I do. I was planning to look into AXON awards, but it looks like there aren't many solid Hilton properties in the areas we're going, with the exception of the Hilton Sorrento, which looks good, but we weren't going to stay there 4 nights.
    We don't really have specific dates in mind, just that we'd like to do it over at least one major holiday in the US, in case my wife has to take a week off without pay to do a 2 week trip. April-June would be ideal, but again, not required, as long as it's not the dead of winter.

    I think I'd be fine with that philosophy if I could get that MCO-FRA leg in first. The wife doesn't like to be inconvenienced with 3-4 stops, but understands that we're a bit more limited when getting something so nice for so cheap. I can also use MIA, TPA, or JAX as an over the pond city without getting on another plane, and could also use avios for a short haul flight MCO-MIA, or others, if that would help with positioning.

    Could I do *A outbound and OW inbound?
     
  5. Muerl
    Original Member

    Muerl Gold Member

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    You can do *A and OW different directions.

    Also, AB flies out of RSW to DUS which I don't know you location in florida but in my head should be as close as either JAX or MIA (which ever is further). But I think thats only a 2 class plane.

    I can't really help on hotels having never been there.

    Good Luck!
     
  6. Max M

    Max M Gold Member

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    You said you're wanting to visit Rome, right?

    And you have the weekend cert, which I assume is the Citi one valid at ANY HHonors property?

    The Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria collection hotel, would be a fantastic way to use the cert, and is a FANTASTIC property.
     
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  7. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Of course you could; but w/*A you could use the stopover allowance and get from one city to another (except you'll leave Italy since nothing in Italy is a *A hub.)

    As for hotels, I'm assuming you have the CC card. If so the Rome Radisson Blu at 88k for 3 nights is a pretty darn good deal.
     
  8. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    That was one I looked at, but man, tripadvisor and other reviews were not very kind for a high star property.
     
  9. Max M

    Max M Gold Member

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    You have to take some reviews on TripAdvisor with a grain of salt.

    I've seen countless negative reviews on TripAdvisor for the Grand Wailea on Maui, but love the property.
     
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  10. Pizzaman
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    My experience with both UA and AA (and in a much smaller sample size, LH) is that getting into/out of Venice or Naples is significantly harder than going to FCO. The trains in Europe are quite good, so consider FCO as an option if you're having trouble figuring everything out.

    For example, you could head into FCO and take a relatively short train ride to and from Naples before heading north to depart from Venice.

    As for hotels, my personal experiences are with SPG, all great:

    Hotel Excelsior, Naples
    St. Regis Rome (one of my favorite properties)
    Westin Excelsior, Rome
    Westin Excelsior, Florence
    Hotel Danieli, Venice
     
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  11. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    I could not agree with you more. We had many stays there and they were all fantastic.
     
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  12. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    This makes me feel better. I trust the Milepointer reviews more than I do TripAdvisor.
     
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  13. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    Good advice, thanks pizzaman. As for the SPG properties, I don't think my measly 36k point balance is gonna do much to help me with those hotels, and the per night regular price just isn't feasible. Here's the hotels that I could really use some additional Milepointers advice on:

    • Hilton Florence Metropole Hotel (looks like a pink Spongebob)
    • Intercontinental De La Ville Rome
    • Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
    • Holiday Inn Venice Mestre Marghera
    • Crowne Plaza Venice East
     
  14. KeithA51

    KeithA51 New Member

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    The Hilton Molina Stucky is on Giudecca, a separate island from the main part of Venice. I know someone who stayed there and they loved it, but you have to take a water bus to get to Venice proper. For the Holiday Inn, Mestre is even further away on the mainland. It is the industrial city closest to Venice. I've not been there, but I've heard it described as very unattractive. You would have to take a train or bus from there to Venice. The Crown Plaza is northeast of Mestre, even farther away from Venice. Of those 3 choices, I'd definitely take the Hilton.
     
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  15. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    Imho, stay at the Danieli (or another hotel near where most of what you want to see is. Even the Boscolo Bellini is too far out, imho, and I love that place.
     
  16. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    Points are my only option - we're in no position to be doing 200+Euro/night hotels, that's why I got into the points game. I don't think I have enough SPG points to pull off a 3-4 night stay at the Danieli.
     
  17. Pizzaman
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    Can you sign up for the SPG Amex and get the bonus? They have a personal and corp card to help pad your balance.
     
  18. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    Then do your final night there if you can, imho.
     
  19. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    How about c&p?
     
  20. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    C&P is pretty much a last resort, because they're still rather expensive. (at least the ones I've looked at so far)

    Not a bad idea. Clearing a multi-property stay in a 3-4 day window with the wife on the other hand....

    I have the personal card, but haven't gone for the business card yet. I'm one of those "online reseller" small business on the side type of business cardholders, and I've been honestly a bit nervous about going for business cards outside of Chase for that reason. I've been realizing (also via this thread I started - http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/maximizing-spg-spend-for-starpoints.64683/page-2#post-2025818) that SPG points are tough to come by unless you stay at a bunch of properties, otherwise it's just 1x'ing away...

    Back to the flights for a moment though, I found a nice AA return in business class on Air Berlin for 50k pp NAP-MCO-ORD, but can't find squat today for saver availability on United for business or first in May/June 2014, either to VCE or FCO. Did I miss out, or does inventory change by day of the week?
     
  21. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    daily.

    for UA ... use WA tools & setup an alert?
     
  22. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    Each to their own but I wouldn't be overly worried about applying for an SPG business card.
     
  23. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    I would trust your opinion - I know Citi is a bit iffy, but wasn't really sure about Amex.

    Haven't used the alert tool before - I guess it's time to look into this.

    Thanks to all for the help so far - really appreciate it.
     
  24. Pizzaman
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    I haven't personally heard of anyone having issues with getting the business version from AMEX. Some of those are friends and family with very small "businesses".
     
  25. Muerl
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    Muerl Gold Member

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    I have a business SPG Amex for my Rental Property, which people often wonder about the feasibility of.
     

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