Oct182016

Loyalty Traveler 2015 travel summary 95,373 flight miles and 82 hotel nights with 6 trips to Europe

My Loyalty Traveler blog niche and the focus of a large proportion of my articles is how to travel comfortably well on an economy class budget. Credit cards are a part of my hotel strategy, but I have never had an airlines branded reward card. My focus is primarily buying low cost airline tickets to earn frequent flyer miles.

I reviewed all my 2015 travel yesterday.

Airline Travel 95,000 flight miles on 27 tickets for $5,000

In 2015, I spent $5,059 on 27 airline tickets (24 revenue tickets and 3 award tickets) and flew 16 different airlines for a little over 95,000 flight miles. That $5,059 included $389 spent on a Delta Airlines San Jose SJC to Kuala Lumpur round trip ticket for November 2015 that I did not fly. I could have flown over 112,000 flight miles in 2015 with that itinerary.

I earned American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum anyway through a challenge to fly 30,000 EQM. Nearly 50,000 miles of my 95,000 flight miles were flown over 5 weeks in September and October 2015 with three round trips on American Airlines tickets between California and Europe. I redeemed 6 of my 8 system-wide upgrade certificates earned for 2015 travel to fly Business Class to Europe in 2016. I still need to schedule one more trip to use the other two SWU before they expire.

I made six trips to Europe in 2015, only flying one award ticket one way from Monterey to London on American Airlines for 20,000 miles. I flew one SAS 10,000 points award ticket in Norway to travel from Bergen to Evenes Airport EVE round trip for my first trip north of the Arctic Circle on a three day trip to Harstad. And I flew one 15,000 miles AAdvantage award ticket from Vancouver, Canada to San Jose, California. In my Vancouver post-420 haze and April road trip around Vancouver Island, I eventually realized I overstayed in Canada and missed my scheduled flight home 3 days before.

I traveled in 2015 through international airports in:

  1. London LHR
  2. London LTN
  3. Paris CDG
  4. Paris ORY
  5. Clermont-Ferrand, France CFE
  6. Geneva, Switzerland GVA
  7. Copenhagen, Denmark CPH
  8. Prague, Czech Republic PRG
  9. Stockholm, Sweden ARN
  10. Oslo, Norway OSL
  11. Bergen, Norway BGO 
  12. Evenes, Norway EVE
  13. Vancouver, Canada YVR

Reykjavik, Iceland KEF, Dusseldorf, Germany DUS and Oslo OSL were simple transfer connections where I did not leave the airport. All the other airport locations involved hotel stays.

In the USA I traveled Alaska Airlines to Salt Lake City and Sundance Film Festival in January 2015. Two round trips between San Francisco and Salt Lake City earned a round trip ticket to Vancouver for $85 in taxes. Missing my Alaska Airlines flight home from Vancouver cost me another $125 and 15,000 miles. My next domestic air travel was Delta Airlines to Orlando, Florida in June 2015 for the U.S. Travel Association IPW conference, followed by a one week road trip from Orlando to Nashville, Tennessee and Frontier Airlines flight back to California. In December, I flew American Airlines Monterey to Washington D.C. at the invitation of Hilton Hotels for a meeting on Hilton HHonors.

Sundance-Park-City.jpg

Park City Utah during Sundance Film Festival Jan 2015

Hotel Travel 82 nights $4,000

I have a few hotel branded credit cards. I find the perks of hotel branded credit cards far more beneficial to me than airline cards, but I still earn a very small proportion of my hotel points through credit card spend, less than 10%.

I stayed 82 hotel nights in 2015 using 9 different major hotel chains and a couple of independent hotels. I spent $4,000 for 78 hotel nights and I received 4 free hotel nights for business meetings and press trips. My room rate average = $51.22 for those 78 nights. 63 of 78 nights were in Club Carlson (22 nights), Choice Hotels (21 nights) and IHG (20 nights).

Club Carlson was my most stayed chain with 22 nights at 9 different hotels. These included 6 nights at The May Fair, London and 4 nights at Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen. Other hotel stays include Park Plaza Amsterdam Vondelpark, Radisson Blu Dublin Airport, Radisson Blu Uppsala, Sweden, Radisson Vancouver Airport, British Columbia. I also stayed five nights at two Radisson hotels and one Country Inn in the USA.

Club Carlson Visa card allowed me to book 2-night hotel stays at The May Fair and Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen on five separate stays using 310,000 Club Carlson points in May 2015. That free night benefit ended May 31, 2015. Those 2 hotels are now 700,000 points for 10 nights.

Club Carlson Visa card still offers complimentary Gold elite. Club Carlson Gold elite members have an exclusive 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 rate offer for weekends at hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Radisson Blu Uppsala, Sweden is the only hotel where I took advantage of the 2-for-1 rate on a weekend stay. Currently, I have 14 hotels nights booked using the Club Carlson 4-for-2 and 2-for-1 weekend rates for travel over the next 12 months.

Choice Privileges was a close second with 11 hotel stays and 21 hotel nights. That included 1 night in California, 2 nights in Boston, 5 nights in Orlando, 3 nights in British Columbia, 1 night in London at tiny room Comfort Inn Westminster, 2 nights in Copenhagen at Ascend Collection Skt. Petri, 2 nights in Clarion Collection Hotel Temperance Malmo, Sweden and 5 nights in Norway.

IHG Rewards Club included 20 hotel nights and 11 different hotels. InterContinental London Park Lane for 3 nights and InterContinental Paris Le Grand were free nights earned from the Into the Nights promotion of 2014. I led an InterContinental life with stays at IC Boston and IC Geneva, Switzerland too. The only paid stays I had all year were two cheap airport nights at Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport, Ireland and Holiday Inn London Heathrow T5.

IHG Points and Cash stays let me blow points in London for stays at Holiday Inn Camden Lock, Holiday Inn Regent’s Park and Holiday Day Inn Bloomsbury.

IHG PointBreaks took me to Holiday Inn Brno, Czech Republic and Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand, France for 4 night extended stays in each location using only 20,000 points. And the IHG Rewards card put 2,000 of those points for each stay back into my accounts. These cities in central France and eastern Czech Republic are both out of the way destinations I found enjoyable for experiencing different regional cities with few tourists compared to Paris and Prague.

Most of my other hotel stays were points stays.

Best Western Rewards on the remote western Vancouver Island coast of British Columbia in Tofino and Sooke.

Hyatt Gold Passport points stays at Andaz Amsterdam and Hyatt Escala Lodge, Park City, Utah (now Hyatt Centric Park City) in a suite during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and the surprise location of the year was my 420 $99 BRG rate at Hyatt Regency Vancouver for Canada’s greenest holiday.

Marriott Anaheim and Marriott Boston Copley Place were huge summer rate bargains from auction bids I won.

My only Starwood Hotel stay was a January 2015 Cash & Points night at Sheraton Salt Lake City.

One of my best Wyndham Rewards redemptions was Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill in July 2015 on a GoFree night for 15,000 points.

I could concentrate all my loyalty with one or two hotel chains, but I like the flexibility of using all the hotel loyalty programs to land the best deals I can for each place I travel.

View from suite at Best Western Tin Wis Resort, Tofino, British Columbia.

View from suite at Best Western Tin Wis Resort, Tofino, British Columbia.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. Ric, thanks for the summary, great to compare notes. I appreciate the effort you put into this!
    I love the Carlson 2-for-1 feature and IHG PointsBreak. I also think there is more value in the budget programs Choice/BW/Wyndham than people give them credit for.
    I assume the $4,000 spent on hotels is for the cash component only, correct. How do you value all the points you used? I’d value the 310,000 Club Carlson points at least at $1,200…

  2. @Rupert – About $1,600 of that $4,000 spent accounts for purchases in IHG, Hyatt and Choice points. I regularly use IHG Points & Cash rates for my reward nights. I purchased about $1,100 in Choice points in 2015. Next month I will spend about $300 in Choice Privileges points for 7 nights in New Zealand.

    I did not value the Club Carlson 310,000 points for 2015 since most of those points were earned from promotions on hotel stays paid for during previous years. Altogether I probably spent about $1,200 over three years to earn 600,000+ points with multiple Club Carlson promotions like the 50,000 points for one stay at Radisson and 44,000 points for one stay at Country Inn or Park Inn. Those were brand promotions where wife and I earned 100,000 points for less than $200.

    I earned over 100,000 Club Carlson points on my paid stays in 2015. I know I earned around 40,000 points for a 3-night stay in Salt Lake City in January and another 40,000 points for a 3-night stay in Amsterdam in February during a Club Carlson 30,000 bonus points for 3-night stay promotion.

    Several of my hotel stays were reduced best rate guarantee rates and some free nights with Choice Hotels on free BRG nights in 2015.

    Six of the InterContinental nights were from the 2014 Into the Nights promotion. Shhh. Don’t tell. IHG Into the Nights credited me with four free nights (should have been two free nights) and wife got 2 nights. Redeemed for three nights in London, one night in Paris and two nights in Boston for nearly $3,000 in hotel room rates. I think we spent around $450 to earn those free nights in 2014.

  3. @Ric Thanks for the detailed response, it helps a lot. I try to keep track of how much I spend for “free” nights by buying points, earning them through stays or credit card spend, pay annual fees (like the IHG Rewards card) to get free nights, etc…
    I usually evaluate the nights at some average point value – if I get them for less and use them at higher value, the better!
    You have found some amazing value in Choice – it hasn’t worked so well for my travel. I did find Wyndham Rewards to be one of the best value reward programs in the US – if you don’t mind staying at their hotels that is – when considering the cost to acquire points and the value you get from GoFast/Free awards!
    I’ve also gotten great value from Club Carlson – also that is much reduced to the 2-for-1 rates in Europe now.
    Keep up the great posts – you are one of the few bloggers who puts some numbers behind the reviews of hotels and rewards to put them into perspective. A Hilton hotel for 95,000 points or SPG for 25,000 better be amazing!

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