This is a personal thoughts piece on how I plan travel. My travel itineraries are planned several moves and months ahead, yet I am still tweaking my hotel stays in Europe two weeks from now.
Club Carlson’s Free Fridays promotion motivated me to shift some hotel nights around to Carlson properties for our July travel to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Prague and London.
I can easily earn 2 free hotel nights by changing 2 award nights on our trip to paid nights for $200.
I calculated Kelley and I could do a major shift moving 10 nights of hotel stays to Club Carlson hotels in Amsterdam, London, Prague and Bratislava to max out the promotion with 6 Free Fridays between our two accounts. But that would mean spending an extra $800 more this trip on hotel stays if I cancel current reward nights already booked in other hotel chains.
Realistically I know I can maximize the value of 2 Free Fridays in London. We could possibly use 4 Free Fridays in Europe. I studied our travel plans for the next three trips in Europe and I don’t think it is worthwhile to plan too much of our travels to be in an expensive city like Paris, Amsterdam or Dublin on a Friday simply to maximize the value of a free Club Carlson hotel reward night.
“If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” Disney paraphrase of Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland.
My 2017 Europe Travel Objectives
1. Go to Monaco
I have a prepaid stay for two nights in a sea view room with breakfast at Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte de Monaco. I won an auction bid last year for $110. Average room rates are $300 per night in summer, $500 on weekends or 40,000 points per night.
Original plan was to stay at the hotel in July and then go to Marseille for the Tour de France time trial stage.
Kelley is reluctant to go to the French Riviera in summer, especially after I told her the long term summer forecast for southern Europe is heatwave.
Krakow, Poland at 88F last week fried Kelley’s brain. (It is a wonderful 59F and fog right now in Monterey, California).
We are hanging out in Czechia for 10 days instead of Monaco. I am planning a solo trip to France in September/October.
Marriott Monaco room rates with breakfast drop to 187 EUR per night midweek and weekends in October. My $55 auction nights are still a real deal.
I can get to Milan for about $60 to $80 on Aegean Airlines from many cities across Europe. The train between Milan, Italy and Monaco is only 15 EUR. Milan is one of the least expensive airfare tickets from airports all over Europe.
Visiting Milan is also appealing to me. I read an article recently about Milan being considered one of the top three rated tourist satisfaction cities in Europe.
I have not been to Italy since I was a 15-year old teenager. Fond memories from 1975 traveling from Pisa to Rome with my sister and her boyfriend. On the overnight train ride I fell for a girl from Sicily, who fed me and kept me safe through the night as we slept on the floor of the crowded train. She did not speak English and I do not speak Italian. I think of her every time I hear Rod Stewart’s Italian Girls. One of his best songs.
2. TBEX Killarney, Ireland Oct 3-5
I keep oscillating between attending TBEX Ireland – Travel Blog Exchange or using my time to go some place I have never been. I love the Kerry area of Ireland and I have not been there in nearly 20 years, so a difficult choice.
The WOW $100 airfare San Francisco to Dublin the other day almost had me hit ‘buy’. I checked again last night to see those $100 tickets are no longer around for the dates I need for TBEX.
Not really a problem since I can fly Norwegian to London Gatwick for $160, use a Club Carlson Free Friday in London, then fly Ryanair from London LTN or STN to Kerry KIR airport for $30.
$200 Oakland to Kerry, Ireland via London LGW and no need to spend the night in Iceland to catch a 6:15am WOW early morning flight to Dublin.
I have a flexible hotel reservation already booked for Killarney, but no TBEX conference ticket yet ($197 to August 11) and no plane tickets to Europe yet.
3. Fly 4 flight segments on Aegean Airlines in my quest for Star Alliance Gold.
My next flight to Europe in two weeks will earn Aegean Miles+Bonus Silver elite. That gives me until July 2018 to fly 4 Aegean flight segments and earn 24,000 Aegean Tier Points for Star Alliance Gold elite.
I want to knock out 4 Aegean flight segments in Sep/Oct.
United Airlines cheap economy K fares to Europe only earn 50% flight miles as Tier Points, meaning I would need 48,000 miles in cheap flights to pick up 24,000 Aegean tier points. Lufthansa and Swiss in K class do not earn any Aegean Tier Points.
SAS cheap economy flights earn 100% Tier Points. There are currently round trip tickets for $490 from Stockholm to San Francisco and about $650 San Francisco to Stockholm.
Two Stockholm-San Francisco round trip tickets on SAS earns over 24,000 Tier Points. Paying a higher ticket price might be the better value for me.
Option 1: Pay $650 and fly SAS SFO-ARN in Sep/Oct.
Option 2: Pay $428 and fly British Airways San Jose to Oslo, Norway in Sep/Oct.
Option 3: Fly Norwegian to Europe and pay $490-$505 to fly Oslo or Stockholm to San Francisco on SAS. (But this requires setting a date for the SAS return flight to Europe. Already have a trip planned in December/January, so February is earliest return date.)
Aegean flight segments are cheap to earn, while traveling to Monaco.
Aegean Airlines Warsaw WAW – Athens – Milan MXP
Google Flights showed Dublin to Milan at $83, but tickets repriced at $150.
Shannon Airport SNN has Ryanair flights to Warsaw for $29 one way.
Ryanair Shannon SNN – Warsaw Modlin WMI
Aegean Airlines Milan MXP – Athens ATH – Stockholm ARN
SAS Stockholm ARN – Copenhagen CPH – San Francisco SFO
This is one potential itinerary to meet my objectives of a trip to Monaco, attending TBEX Ireland and earning 4 Aegean flight segments.
Airfare $857 total with another trip to Europe ticketed for April 2018.
Airline ticket #1: Thu Sep 28 Oakland – London Gatwick Norwegian $160 one way
Fri Sep 29 London Hotel Club Carlson Free Friday –
Airline ticket #2: Sat Sep 30 London Luton – Kerry, Ireland KIR Ryanair $26
Airline ticket #3: Ryanair Shannon SNN – Warsaw Modlin WMI $28.45 one way Sunday Oct 8
Airline ticket #4: Aegean Airlines Warsaw WAW – Athens – Milan MXP $56.78 one way Thu Oct 12
Hotel Marriott Monaco 2 nights
Airline Ticket #5: Aegean Airlines Milan MXP – Athens ATH – Stockholm ARN $80.20 one way Mon Oct 16
Airline Ticket #6: SAS Stockholm ARN – Copenhagen CPH – San Francisco SFO $504.92 USD round trip Wed Oct 18 – Sat Apr 14
Europe itinerary 19 hotel nights in 8 countries
Thu Sep 28 – Wed Oct 18
London 1 night (Club Carlson Free Friday)
Ireland 8 nights (TBEX Killarney)
Warsaw, Poland 4 nights
Athens, Greece 1 night
Milan-Monaco 3 nights
Athens 1 night
Stockholm 1 night
This itinerary has potential, but I would prefer more days in Italy and France and no real need to be in Warsaw to meet my primary travel objectives.
Back to the planning board.