Anchorage is out of favor today and the Alps are in my sights. If planning travel is a natural high, then I am on a deep bender as I plan out September 2015 travel in an AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge.
My favored routing is now all Scandinavian flights on American Airlines and British Airways. Los Angeles LAX and Orange County SNA have lowest round trip fares at $692 flying American and British Airways airlines to Copenhagen, Denmark for September travel. There is also a $775 fare from LAX to Madrid. As of today, starting from southern California is the cheapest way to Europe or $828 for Dublin from San Francisco. My favored way to go to get the lowest ticket price to Europe flying American Airlines and British Airways with $692 tickets to Copenhagen. From Copenhagen there are low cost flights to many other cities.
But my deep pockets of Club Carlson and Choice Privileges points were mostly burned up in the past year of travel. Looking at some 10 to 15 nights in Europe can add up to a hefty accommodation cost, particularly with prevailing cash rates for hotels in Denmark and Norway. I tried the Choice Privileges trick for buy points at $7.50 per 1,000, but that function is currently unavailable as the hotel chain switches over functionality to their new website. My iPhone app shows Choice Points Plus Cash rewards, but the reservation errors out at the final step. I sure hope Choice Privileges gets that function up and running in August.
IHG PointBreaks released Friday for travel from July 27 through October 31, 2015 put an entirely different idea in my head for how to fly 30,000 EQM and visit new places on the cheap.
The past few days I have spent hours narrowing the possibilities as I select flight dates for three round trips between Europe and California, find reasonable flight schedules for potential itineraries, and correlating flights and cities with low cost hotel stays. I don’t want to book a low-cost $40 Swiss Airlines flight from Copenhagen and arrive in Geneva, Switzerland to find the hotel night on points I planned to book is not available and $150 to $200 per night is the new prevailing rate.
While the flights to Copenhagen and from Bergen and Norway are the cheapest ticket prices I have found over the past three days, hotels and the general cost of things in Norway and Denmark are high-priced. Plus, I have toured Copenhagen, Bergen and Oslo in the past year. I want to use these American Airlines AAdvantage Oneworld flights to see other countries in Europe. There are many low cost flights from Copenhagen and Oslo and Bergen to other cities in Europe.
When I wrote about prices in Norway last year, some comments said I should visit Switzerland if I want to see astronomical prices. My travel planning in the last 24 hours has focused on visiting France, Italy, Switzerland in a week-long excursion into the Alps. Low cost hotels with hotel points is one of the primary factors for considering the alps on a trip where my arrival airport in Europe is Copenhagen, Denmark.
As I plan my trips to Europe for September, I want to emphasize the role of low cost carriers in Europe for inexpensive air travel around the continent. I can fly American Airlines and British Airways from California to Copenhagen for under $700 round trip with posted airfares today. I can fly from Copenhagen to Geneva, Switzerland or Milan, Italy for $40 or less.
IHG PointBreaks 5,000 points night
Milan to Geneva via the Alps itinerary ideas
The reason an Alps trip became part of my trip planning was seeing the Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand on PointBreaks for 5,000 points per night. I’d never heard of Clermont-Ferrand and a wikipedia read gives a sense of ancient history for this town 200 miles west of Geneva, Switzerland. A train ride is $66 one way from Geneva to Clermont-Ferrand. Clermont-Ferrand is not in the Alps, however, this hotel is what got me looking at hotels and travel around Geneva, Switzerland and low cost flights to Geneva and Milan caught my attention as a way to travel one way and fly in one airport and out another to Copenhagen.
There are few hotels in major chains around the Clermont-Ferrand area of France. Accor Hotels are all around. As I searched places in France, Italy and Switzerland for hotels, three US hotel chains came up frequently: Best Western, Choice Hotels and Wyndham Hotels.
Google Maps: Geneva, Switzerland to Clermont-Ferrand, France 300km.
I call this the year of the budget hotel. I may be the only flag leader for this budget travel move. My reasoning is I am finding by far the best value in points this summer is with Wyndham and Choice. I also have 40,000 Best Western points and $100 travel card and 100,000 IHG Rewards points, which makes PointBreaks hotels a major consideration for travel destinations in Europe.
Milan to Geneva, Switzerland
Sample hotel itinerary I checked out for travel from Milan to Geneva to give an example of hotel rates.
Ryan Air Copenhagen CPH to Milan Bergamo BGY ($42 USD),
Swiss Air Geneva – Copenhagen ($40 USD)
RyanAir flies London Stansted to Milano-Bergamo Airport BGY. Also called Il Caravaggio International Airport, BGY is Italy’s fourth busiest airport with nearly 9 million passengers last year. Copenhagen also has a nonstop route to BGY.
RyanAir Copenhagen CPH – Milan Bergamo BGY
$64.07 round trip Saturday, September 5 – Saturday, September 12
Milan Bergamo BGY is about 45 km (28 miles) northeast from Milan city center
Best Western Hotels in and around Bergamo, Italy
One of the factoids I think people need to know about Best Western is about half of their 4,000 hotels are outside the USA. Italy is well-represented with 30 hotels in the Milan-Bergamo area.
Two Best Western hotels are located in Bergamo for proximity to the airport.
Bergamo, Italy –
BEST WESTERN PREMIER Cappello D’Oro = 103.50 EUR or 32,000 points reward night.
BEST WESTERN Hotel Piemontese = 104 EUR or 20,000 points.
Best Western Villa Appiani = 134 EUR or 32,000 points. (I like the photos of this property) about 20 miles from Bergamo on the way to Milan.
Como, Italy has Best Western Hotel Continental in the city within easy walking distance of Lake Como. Hotel photos look like pretty basic accommodations. Still, 24,000 points buys a Queen Bed room with full breakfast on a published rate of 228 EUR.
George Clooney’s summer vacation in Lake Como is probably raising average hotel rates. Lake Como is often cited as one of the most beautiful places in Europe.
Mid-week September rates are as low as $84 USD per night. Clooney must be out of town.
Google Maps route from Milan Begamo BGY Airport to Como, Italy and Locarno, Switzerland. Geneva is a six hour train ride from Locarno.
Best Western Hotel Bellevue au Lac Lugano. Lugano is an Italian speaking majority population in Switzerland. The region os one of the top mountain biking capitals of Europe with miles and miles of trails.
This popular tourism venue comes with high room rates and reward rates at 218 CHF ($227 USD) per night or 36,000 points per reward night.
Wyndham Rewards for Switzerland Hotels
Ramada Arcadia Locarno = 200 CHF ($208 USD) or 15,000 points.
Ramada La Palma au Lac Locarno = 148.75 CHF ($155 USD) or 15,000 points or 3,000 points + 71 CHF ($74 USD).
Three nights in Switzerland for $222 is a nice savings of $243 and less than half-price with 9,000 Wyndham Rewards points.
This MSN.com Money article lists Geneva, Switzerland as the most expensive hotel city in the world with average hotel cost $308 USD per night.
Here is how to be better than average in Geneva, Switzerland.
148.75 CHF ($155 USD) or 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points.
There are several Ibis hotels and other three-star lodgings in the $100 to 160 range. Novotel (Accor) comes in around $180 per night. Ramada Encore Geneva is listed as Top 1% Budget Hotel on Kayak.com for Geneva. The Ramada rate drops to $125 USD on weekend dates.
Geneva is on the border with France and cheaper hotels are across the border. The value of Choice Privileges points.
Choice Hotels does not have any properties in Switzerland, but there are many Choice Hotels in France.
Annemasse, France is one hour and about $10 from Geneva Airport by public transportation.
COMFORT SUITES PORTE DE GENEVE = 68 EUR for efficiency suite.
COMFORT HOTEL ANNEMASSE GENEVE = 69 EUR.
These rooms are available for 16,000 points per night, but at those low rates, a paid night is the better deal.
Geneva on Google Maps showing locations of Ramada Encore and Comfort Suites, Annemasse, France.
Low Budget in the Alps
The Alps and lake resort towns can be an expensive vacation. This post is meant to show that budget hotel chains like Best Western, Choice Hotels and Wyndham Worldwide offer many hotels in the Alps at room rates and points rates far lower than the few properties offered by major hotel chains.
Clermont-Ferrand is a five hour train ride via Lyon and about $60. The bus is half the cost and takes close to seven hours.
I don’t know if this Alps itinerary will make my final cut in trips to Europe based on flights between Denmark and Norway to Los Angeles and San Francisco. To be sure, Best Western, Choice, IHG and Wyndham add plenty more budget lodging options than I expected to find for a trip through the Alps.
Loyalty Traveler – My fantastic American AAdvantage elite fast-track offer (June 22)
Loyalty Traveler – Cost of flying 30,000 AAdvantage flight miles (June 22)
Loyalty Traveler – Thoughts on my AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge (July 23)
Loyalty Traveler – Nested tickets for more AAdvantage EQM California to Scandinavia (July 23)
Loyalty Traveler – Full list IHG PointBreaks July 27 – Oct 31, 2015 has me honing in on Hamburg HIX (July 24)
Loyalty Traveler – High Value Wyndham Rewards in Anchorage, Alaska compared to other chains (July 24)