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My July in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Czechia and Slovakia

a group of people standing in front of Rijksmuseum

This July I will be bouncing around northern, western and central Europe with flights to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Prague and London before flying back to California.

Some of my hotel plans were in place more than six months ago, then changed last month. Kelley wanted time in Amsterdam.


We were in Amsterdam in February 2017, but Storm Doris hit and the weather sucked all week, until our last day. I hardly snapped any photos during the last trip. Summertime is fun in Amsterdam.

That itinerary change to Amsterdam knocked out my last two Club Carlson 4-for-2 reservations in Riga, Latvia and Berlin, Germany. Club Carlson ended Europe 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 Gold elite rates late January 2017. No getting 75 EUR per night July deals like those again in Berlin.

I know Kelley will love Riga, if she ever gets there. Riga shows off cats.

Riga cat  Riga Cat building

Berlin gave me hesitance as a destination for Kelley in summer. The city can feel a bit gritty, especially on a hot day on city streets walking through blocks of buildings, away from one the city’s many green spaces.

I opted for more time in Prague and Czechia, knocking Berlin off this trip.

Radisson Blu Berlin is a great location for the city near Alexanderplatz and many major museums. The largest cylindrical aquarium in the world located in the hotel lobby is a unique focal point for the hotel.

Radisson Blu Berlin Hotel Review

Rad Blu Berlin aquadom

Amsterdam has a great deal at Ramada Apollo Amsterdam for Wyndham Rewards points. Most chain hotels in Amsterdam run $200+ on weekends. Ramada Apollo is 3,000 points + 65.10EUR per night after tax. Wyndham Rewards points drops the cost of the hotel room from $210 to $74 per night. That kind of savings is worth the 20 minute tram ride into the city center each day.

Fantastic Wyndham Rewards Points and Cash Value at Ramada Amsterdam

Ramada Apollo Amsterdam and Ramada Vilnius are the two best hotels I have found for Wyndham Rewards points redemption value in the past year.

Club Carlson canceled reservations and Club Carlson new reservations

Club Carlson’s Free Fridays promotion launched last week motivated me to rearrange some hotel stays this month. I had planned to stay at the new category 4 Hyatt Regency Amsterdam. I changed that hotel stay to a Club Carlson property to earn one stay toward a Free Friday.

Club Carlson free Friday Night every two stays or 10K points July 1–Sep 30

In the final decision, I changed two hotel nights in Amsterdam and Prague to Club Carlson to earn one free Friday night. I plan to be back in Europe in October and I am fairly certain I will be able to redeem one free night in either Dublin or London.

Hotel rates in Dublin blow me away. The Radisson Blu Dublin is frequently over $300 per night. In London, I would probably stay at The May Fair again. The location is convenient to Green Park Underground and Sainsbury’s market across the street from the hotel means easily accessible cheap eats and drink. Yeah, that’s me walking through the Mayfair lobby among the suits and nylons, clinking six 660ml bottles of Stella Artois to the lobby elevators.

Six nights at The May Fair London for 210,000 Club Carlson points


How much is too much tourism?

There have been several European cities complaining in 2017 about too many tourists. These cities feel ‘overtouristed’ to locals and many travelers.

Amsterdam, Barcelona, Prague and Venice are cities where so many tourists converge in the concentrated tourist areas that local government councils are seeking ways to limit tourism. The main effort seems to be convincing tourists to visit outlying areas. – Amsterdam, Airbnb and the Very Real Problem of Overtourism

Kelley and I have tried several times getting out of Amsterdam and exploring other parts of the Netherlands. Honestly, while we have enjoyed seeing other parts of the country, Amsterdam is where it is at for us. The city has an energy and vibe that we have not experienced in other cities around the country.

Prague was crowded in January when I was there for three days. Not sure what to expect this month in the city?

We will be in Czechia more than a week checking out a few cities and traveling from one end of the country to the other on our way from Pilsen, Czechia to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Trip reports and probably photos of tourists blocking the sights will be forthcoming.

Maximizing Europe flights for more city travel

Over the past few days amid the quiet days of Fourth of July long weekend, I have been playing around with the potential of long layover transit stops on international airline tickets.

Too bad my flights are all ticketed for this summer trip around Europe. Kelley did not want to bounce around too much and I made the travel relatively easy for planes, trains and buses. In October 2017, I want to get wild and pack in some extra stops as I fly to a few cities around Europe.

I have played around with trip planning to Ireland/France or Portugal/France. One of the interesting aspects of ticketing intra-Europe flights is the potential to pick up an intermediate airport long transit layover of near 24 hours in a city like Amsterdam, Athens, London, Milan, Paris, Prague or Warsaw.

Cheap tickets at $425 to Scandinavian airports from San Jose and San Francisco have me thinking it is a good time to buy my next trip ticket.

But then, on second thought, I want to wait and see which IHG hotels make the next PointBreaks list for 5,000 points reward nights. The new list should post in three weeks, probably the last week of July for hotels available for August-October IHG PointBreaks reward night bookings.

Free Club Carlson Fridays, IHG PointBreaks and long layover cities

My travel objective is plan to fly on dates in October where I can be in a city like Dublin, London or Paris on Friday night on a near 24-hour transit layover to maximize Club Carlson Free Friday reward nights. I will earn two Free Friday nights with four Club Carlson stays on this July trip to Europe.

I also want to plan destinations within Europe to travel to cities with the best IHG PointBreaks reward value. This means finding cheap airline tickets to cities with IHG PointBreaks hotels, where there is easy public transportation access. I don’t rent cars in Europe.

A routing where I can visit two or three PointBreaks cities for 2 to 4 night stays on a two-week trip seems reasonable to achieve.

For flights between IHG hotel cities, the plan is find cheap one way tickets that maximize long layovers at intermediate airports on one stop hops between cities in Europe.

There are plenty of potential long layover cities across Europe. My recent searches this past week and more in the weeks to come are showing many of the potential routes with good layover opportunities on low fare $100 one way tickets.

Like Madrid to Stockholm on Air France with 23 hours in Paris for $77 on Friday, October 13. 

MAD-ARN $77 AF Oct13

Yeah, I’ll be the guy clinking the big bottles of Stella Artois across the Radisson Blu Paris lobby late on a Friday night.

July 2017

San Francisco SFO – Copenhagen, Denmark – Stockholm, Sweden – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Prague, Czechia – Bratislava, Slovakia – London, England – San Francisco SFO (22 days-20 hotel nights-6 flights-6 bus trips.

My July in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Czechia and Slovakia July 5, 2017

SAS flying over San Francisco

Copenhagen, Denmark: Skt. Petri Copenhagen Choice Hotels Ascend Collection

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Loyalty Traveler Lost and Found in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Ramada Apollo Amsterdam Centre hotel review

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam design for social living

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam beer, bud and burger joints

Amsterdam and Prague Hotels: 2 stays earned 1 Free Friday Park Plaza Vondelpark Amsterdam and Park Inn Prague

Prague, Czechia: Pickpocket stole my wallet on Prague Airport Bus

Prague, Czechia: Park Inn Prague hotel review

Prague, Czechia: Best Western Hotel Kinsky Garden Prague truly boutique

Prague, Czechia: Hotel review Clarion Prague City reward stay

Prague, Czechia: Vyšehrad, Prague far from the madding crowd

Pilsen, Czechia: Marriott Courtyard Pilsen CZ category 1 reward stay

Pilsen, Czechia: Pilsen Czechia photoessay

Brno, Czechia: Holiday Inn Brno, CZ PointBreaks stay

Brno, Czechia: Brno by beer

Brno, Czechia: Brno Bones in Europe’s Second Largest Ossuary

Czechia: Impressions after 9 days in Czech Republic

Bratislava, Slovakia: Review Radisson Blu Bratislava Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia: Walk to Bratislava Castle Slovakia photo essay

Bratislava, Slovakia: Bratislava Slovakia photo essay part 2

Bratislava, Slovakia: Category 1 Park Inn Danube Bratislava Slovakia opens Oct 1, 2017

Bratislava, Slovakia: Trip Report Regiojet Bus Bratislava to Brno Airport

London, UK: Buyer Beware National Express bus London Stansted to London Heathrow

London, UK: Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow hotel review

Hotel Loyalty: Loyalty? Yes! Loyal? Not so much for my hotel travel

Hotel Loyalty: My two Club Carlson Free Friday Nights posted today

Airline Loyalty: Aegean Silver elite and 17,000 miles to Star Alliance Gold


  • bluecat July 5, 2017

    “I also want to plan destinations within Europe to travel to cities with the best IHG PointBreaks reward value. This means finding cheap airline tickets to cities with IHG PointBreaks hotels, where there is easy public transportation access. ”

    Those lines drive me nuts…putting the cart before the horse, IMO.

    Glad to hear you are venturing “south”, possibly to Portugal, and also to Monaco. Too far you don’t like to rent cars…you will miss out on so much of the countryside. (What’s the reason behind that?)

  • Charlotte (TYR) July 5, 2017

    And that was me as well, except it was Cider at the Andaz Liverpool in London. Those two free nights with the Hyatt card signup were a wonderful deal. There has to be a few of us who use the longest trip duration feature to do just exactly what you described. I had a HKG-BKK-SYD-CHC award flight with a usable 22 hour layover in Bangkock and in Sydney before making it to New Zealand. Freely admit I had not thought of trying it on the discount airlines in Europe, but I will have to keep that in mind now. Thanks!

  • Ric Garrido July 6, 2017

    @bluecat – Airline tickets are the defining factor for any trip. Once tickets are purchased the itinerary is established.

    I have tentatively planned a trip to Ireland, hotel stays booked. I also have a tentative plan for Lisbon with hotel I can book.

    Basically I have a window of about five weeks from late Sep-October I can travel for two weeks.

    IHG PointBreaks list comes out a couple days before hotels can be booked. During those days I will sit down and determine if any of the 5,000 points hotels are places I want to visit.

    Then I will look at airline routes around Europe and see if I can piece together an itinerary to take advantage of PointBreaks.

    Monaco is the only firm part of the trip I am planning due to the hotel stay free nights expiring if I don’t use them by November.

    If I don’t find a good PointBreaks deal, then Monaco and probably Portugal are my plan.

    I see some good airfare deals with Norwegian for Croatia too from London. And Nice from Croatia on a $100 Vueling ticket with 22 hours in Rome.

    Portugal is where I wanted to travel last month, however, hotels were priced much higher in rates and reward nights for June. Choice Privileges has several Portugal hotels at 8,000 points per night in October. I transferred Diners Club points to Choice Privileges points last week to load up my account balance.

    The reason I am waiting for PointBreaks is I can stay five nights in a city for 25,000 points. I have plenty of IHG points. Those save $60 to $100 per night for hotels I would otherwise pay.

    Combine free IHG reward nights with Club Carlson Free Friday and those might pay for 8 to 10 nights of my trip, along with two free nights in Monaco. Three or four other nights would likely be Choice Privileges or Best Western. Thessaloniki, Greece as a city stop would put me in Hyatt and Belgrade, Serbia as a city stop will put me in a Starwood Hotel category 2.

    Two weeks in Europe might cost about $500 to $600 in airfare, including the California to Europe flights with potentially no expense for hotels. Perhaps as little as $300 to $400 for daily travel expenses.

    $1,000 all in for two weeks in Europe is the kind of trip that allows me to make multiple trips to Europe during the year. Potentially I can travel in England, Croatia, Italy, France/Monaco, Portugal.

    Or maybe the trip will be other places I have not even imagined yet.

    Balancing the earn/burn of hotel points is key to my frequent travel. Our July trip has 14 hotel reward nights and 6 paid nights. Those 6 paid nights earn 2 free Club Carlson Friday nights.

    The preliminary trip planning out potential routes across Europe has revealed opportunities for buying airline tickets with long overnight layovers. Those layovers may fit with my plan to redeem Friday nights at expensive Club Carlson hotels.

    Once the IHG PointBreaks list is posted, I will quickly piece together an itinerary around good PointBreaks hotels if I see a good opportunity.

    In the end, I may just end up spending 10 days in Ireland and 3 days in Nice/Monaco.

    No need to make a real decision until I buy airline tickets. I can wait three weeks for that decision to see if IHG PointBreaks offer me some place enticing to effect my travel plans.

    I call that making sure I have my travel cart (hotels) loaded the way I want before I pick the horses (airline tickets) to carry me around Europe for two weeks.

  • Jindrich Kratky July 6, 2017

    Thanks a LOT for calling our country by its official short name: Czechia 🙂 Please, see or
    Have a great time not only in Prague, but also in all various places around Czechia.

  • Ric Garrido July 6, 2017

    @Charlotte – In 2013 I traveled California to Berlin with a day in Zurich outbound and a day in Oslo, Helsinki, London and Chicago on the return with AAdvantage award tickets.

    That was my only time in Finland. Those quick 24 hours in Finland impressed upon me the high value of education in Finnish society.

    One winter day in Oslo and one winter day in Helsinki left quite an impression on me. No regrets taking the long way home from Berlin.

    Chicago was an IHG PointBreaks airport hotel reward night that trip.

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