Sunday, October 6, 2019

Hawaii is the most popular use of miles

It is also the most popular place to fly to, on a mileage run, to make an elite threshold before the end of the year. A good use of miles for flights and also Hotel points. I enjoyed a real vacation on the Island, It's a long 8 hour flight, though! I'm used to flying from New York EWR to Europe on the 7 hour flight. I used to live in Hong Kong and often stopped in Honolulu to minimize the long flight to the USA. It's easy, clean and relaxing, so it was always a joy to arrive at HNL airport. Asia is just not as spacious, that's why its' relaxing to get away from intense, crowds to an island that is just one big resort.
It took a long time to check in to the at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. They don't have a dedicated Elite check in area to speed up the process. Many Bonvoy hotels, do have a sign up, where elite members  bypass the can bypass the line. Sheraton hotels used to treat their Elite members very well , but Since they merged with Marriott, Bonvoy Platinum benefits have diminished. Business hotels treat repeat visitors better than vacation hotels.  Ther is no club Lounge for Elite members, but the Receptionist did give me a voucher for 2 free drinks at the bar, but when I got to the bar, the bar tender said that we would have to pay for one drink because the receptionist was mistaken. The Sheraton charges a $40 Resort fee, above the price quoted for a room, as most Honolulu hotels do. Even the Holiday Inn Express, charges an extra $25, which is great if you have kids, because they have activities for children, like a game room. I don't consider a hotel with just a pool, a resort. I expect a beach or golf course and Spa, before I feel I'm in a Resort, and the Sheraton is across the road from the beach with no Spa.  The Sheraton claims that the fee includes MiFi rental and a GoPro Camera, that I was not interested in. Neither did I use the coupon booklet that it includes. Last time I was in Hawaii, I rented a car but this time I thought I would avoid the extra $35 a night self-parking fee.

I decided to move to a hotel with closer beach access, the next night. This turned out to be a pleasant adventure on the 2 hour Public bus trip along the spectacular edge of the shore. It cost $6, but the return trip cost over $100 with Uber because the Island bus did not run due to a blocked road. (The Uber taxi took the route around the other side of the island.) This is the only place I have ever seen true free Range chickens! They wonder around all over the place and I'm curious how their owners can claim them? Dogs come if you call them, do hens? I'm a city girl... what more can I say....

I was really glad that I moved to the Courtyard Hotel Oahu North Shore, it was much more like a Resort but there was no resort fee. they gave me Elite welcome gifts and delightful perks. The hotel is near several popular destinations, including the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Kaukauna Point. The rooms are spacious and the Bistro Hotel restaurant is nice, and there is a McDonalds, next door if you want a quick bite, after Kayaking with sea turtles . If you want to learn more about the Pacific Islands, the place to go and Wander through 42 acres of tropical Luau entertainment and restaurants at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I did go there when I had young children because there is so much to learn about the culture of music, dance, and traditions. I think the beach at the Courtyard, is one of the locations that they filmed the TV show "Lost" at, the palm trees are so high.
The Courtyard pool was a relaxing place and I was captivated, chatting to a man who had been a child when Pearl Harbor was attacked . He experienced that historic event, that unfolded on December 7, 1941. Tourists like to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, a deeply moving and emotional experience, but it was amazing to hear about it from someone that had been there.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

It pays to be Loyal to Loyalty programs

It pays to be loyal to a Hotel chain. I’m Platinum elite with IHG, so they give me extra points for each stay:
I got this email before I checked in: –“Thank you for being an IHG® Rewards Club Platinum Elite Member.     This email has been sent to notify you that points have been deposited into your account by InterContinental . Point Deposit Type: Welcome Amenity
Points Deposited: 600 “

My Marriott Platinum status is more rewarding because it allows me to go to the club lounges, where I get free  hors d'oeuvres and breakfast. IHG does not offer this perk. (Marriott Rewards is now called Marriott Bonvoy.) most Hotel loyalty programs get you to earn “elite level” benefits including room upgrades, bonuses, and gifts.

It’s a lot of work to read the small print, but doing your homework can earn extra hotel or airline points. Occasionally, Hotels send out promotional offers to earn extra points. IHG Hotels sent me some good offers. Elite members' points don't expire, plus many other benefits of being elite. You can reach spire elite IHG status with 73,000 +  qualifying points or 71 more qualifying nights. IHG elite status starts with Gold then Platinum then Spire Elite and the highest is InterContinental Ambassador status

I booked a Cash + POINTS stay because I had received an offer to get extra points for that Cash + POINTS stay offer, but, to my annoyance, I discovered after my stay that I did not get any points for this stay. It was a “Non-Qualifying Stay: Discounted Rate **” If I had seen the small print, I would not have made this reservation because the rates were cheap on that date and it would have counted as a stay:
Non-Qualifying Stay: Discounted Rate ** † Non-qualified spending. Points are calculated based on total qualified spending less any applicable fees and taxes.
** Thanks for staying with us. Because your room rate was discounted, it's not eligible for points.
You can combine your points with cash to redeem for a Reward Night at your choice of IHG® hotels and resorts, starting at 5,000 points. BUT DON’T TRUST THE TRICK TO DO THIS, if you are doing this from an offer to earn extra points. You will not get any points for the paid (cash) part of the points & cash
I actually like the least expensive brand the best. the Holiday Inn Express, because they have free breakfast. I stayed at the Glasgow Airport, Glasgow, last week and enjoyed the wonderful breakfast. It is a short walk from the airport to the Hotel and the Scottish Staff are all very nice. They even let me take my airport trolley up to my room, despite signs posted to the contrary.  It’s also nice to have luxury at the InterContinental hotels, if I have time to enjoy it.
IHG REWARDS CLUB offer points at these hotel BRANDS:

Glasgow Holiday Inn Express is a practical Hotel

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Listen up Elites; Change is in the Air

Marriott Bonvoy is the new name for Marriott Rewards®, Elite program for Hotels : Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® and SPG®.
And United airlines has a new cabin.

I may be wrong. but I suspect this will be centered on Marriott hotels because I have had 2 SPG hotels move out of the program in the last month. I had booked The Sheraton Providence (PVD) airport, but it has left the group. Now yet another hotel that I stay at, is leaving. The Hotel Des Indes, a Starwood Luxury Collection property will join Leading Hotels of the World, which does not offer many benefits.

Bad news for United Elite members, no more free upgrades to premium economy seats. 

United will launch Premium Plus on 20+ Long-Haul Routes.

in March Premium Plus will be a new service on international routes as United’s new full-service premium-economy cabin. Seating will have up to 19 inches of width, 38 inches of pitch and 6 inches of recline. Flights like the 787-10 Dreamliner, will come with Saks Fifth Ave. pillows and other amenities but fewer amenities than in first class or Polaris. Details Premium Plus Launch on 20+ Long-Haul Routes
Not much to smile about, but you will be able to select Economy Plus free of charge on all connecting segments that do not have a premium-economy cabin. Sitting in the slightly larger than economy seat (economy Plus) on a flight to Newark from Houston if you are buying a ticket to Europe, is a long part of the trip to be in a seat 2 inches wider, but I suppose every inch counts. On the connecting flight, you won’t have Club lounge access on Premium Plus tickets. I know a couple of men whom, do not fit in economy, so will have to purchase the next class up.
Premium Plus fare will be O,A,R,ON,RN fares. So if you want to fly cheap you can buy a basic economy fare but will not earn miles on your flight. The next up would be regular economy then Premium Plus then Polaris. I don’t think they will have first class on flights anymore, looks like it will be the 3 cabins on international flights.
You can not use a Global Premier Upgrade (GPU) to upgrade from economy to business class on S, T, K, L, G or N fares, but you will be able to upgrade to seat in Premium Plus from the afore mentioned fares, (Except basic economy “N” fares).
If you book a Premium Plus fare, you will be prioritized above all economy passengers for waitlisted Polaris business-class upgrades. Not that there is much chance of that upgrade happening.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tex-Mex Christmas

I always enjoy visiting San Antonio because the history fascinates me. I can imagine the Romantic 19th-century heroes like Bowie and Davy Crocket at the Alamo. The spellbinding Fort Building fa├žade in the middle of the city, makes me appreciate those brave founding Texans.

Before I learnt to speak Spanish, I ate chili con carne on the other side of the world. I did not know that Carne, simply means “Meat”. The hot Beef and beans dish is eaten all over the world, but tastes the best in Texas. My favorite food to eat, on the River walk, is Texas-style barbecue brisket or Chili pepper meals, a cuisine originally popularized by Tejanas. They worked as wives or servants and many had their own food stalls. In the late 19th century, San Antonio was a booming railroad town and became famous for its open-air market stalls.


Come see the holiday lights strung across the Alamo grounds. It just brings this amazing structure to a magical elevation! Christmas is the best time to visit the Alamo. Firstly, the weather is cooler in Texas this time of the year to walk around the grounds open until 7 p.m. daily . The lights will be up for the full month of December. We remember the Alamo and the sacrifice the Pioneer defenders made in 1836.

Free events to enjoy with your family are: Alamo Christmas tree Lighting Ceremony | Nov. 30, 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. Enjoy hot chocolate, cookies and live music.

The next event is “A Homemade Christmas at the Alamo” on Dec. 1, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., explore what the holiday season would have looked like on the Texas frontier! A Homemade Christmas will include period crafts for visitors of all ages, living history demonstrations, Christmas storytelling, music and more.

Fort Sam Houston - The U.S. Army in San Antonio | Dec. 1, free with registration This presentation will cover the history of Fort Sam Houston and the U.S. Army in San Antonio. Beginning with the initial arrival of the army in 1845, the talk will highlight the numerous army activities throughout downtown San Antonio.

Tourists like to take a boat ride down the river to see the city center and eat at one of the superb TexMex restaurants on the river banks. I always toast the city with a Margarita.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Christmas traditions

I bought my Christmas pudding at Heathrow Airport and wish I could buy my Christmas crackers in England, but will not because they are banned by TSA due to the tiny explosive.


I visit Holland every year for the 5th of December to enjoy the tradition of Sinterklaas with relatives. Then I get to celebrate Christmas on the 25th again in the USA.(I like to “double dip”). It is believed that the tradition of Santa (Father Christmas) originated in 340 A.C, when the Bishop of Myra gave sweets to children. The legend of the kindly Pope’s representative arriving is played out with much pageantry in Holland to this day. Sinterklaas arrives annually on a Saturday at the end of November. This event is broadcast on national Television, each year he arrives at a different city by boat.

Children watch the TV news every day in Holland, to hear about his voyage. One year the Sinterklaas Journal had lots of children in dismay because he almost landed, but his boat had to turn around because they forgot to bring his Staff, and had to turn around to go back for it. Luckily, we know from previous years, that no matter what sort of exploits happen, Sint arrives on time to deliver gifts on the 5th of December.In England, Xmas extends to “Boxing Day”.and in Holland they also have 2 days of Christmas celebrations.
I traveled to Amsterdam with some friends from America and enjoyed their astonishment at seeing Santa’s helpers because he is always accompanied by 2 fake black moors! They are both named “zwarte Piet”( Translated is: “black Peter”). I have to admit, it is the strangest thing to see 2 grown men in tights with black makeup covering their faces! Well worth hopping on a KLM flight to cross the pond to experience a Dutch Christmas, if you can keep a straight face.