Jan212019

Travails of travel planning for London, Oslo, Paris and Rome

“How about a week in Paris?” I posed this question to Kelley.

“Pear-iss!” she replied in a way that signaled to me with no uncertainty she was not thrilled about the idea.

Kelley’s memory from her one trip to Paris in 2002 are interminably long walks in the cold December rain on canyon-like streets surrounded by 8-story buildings. And our dismal day at Disneyland Paris when we managed to only get on a single ride due to insanely long lines. It was one of our least enjoyable European excursions, except for one fine dining meal at Disneyland and a Seine river cruise at night during one of the brief periods when rain ceased for 30 minutes.

I visited Paris again in 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed a free night at InterContinental Le Grand Paris. Hanging out on the steps of Montmartre gazing out over the city of light on a warm September full moon night as a busker played ‘All Along the Watchtower’ supplanted those miserably rainy Paris memories from the previous trip.

Sacre-Coeur, Montmartre, Paris

Paris Sep 2015

  1. Feeling Paris under full moonlight
  2. Liberté and free nights in Paris
  3. InterContinental Le Grand Hotel, a storied institution of Paris
  4. Price of food and beer in France
  5. Cheap RoissyBus Transportation Paris CDG to Paris Opera
  6. Paris Orly by Air France bus
  7. Feeling connected to Paris, City of Light (post-Paris terrorist attacks)

Paris view from Montmartre steps

Oakland-Paris round trip on Norwegian Airlines for our dates of travel was $345 when I first got the idea. InterContinental Le Grand had free room night availability for my proposed week in Paris and Choice Privileges would put us in Comfort Hotel Sixteen Paris Montrouge for 10,000 points per night for most of the trip.

I let Kelley sleep the night on the idea of a week in Paris to see if dreams of visiting the Louvre and drinking French abbey triple ales seemed more enticing the following morning.

And I booked hotel reward nights in Paris anyway, just in case.

The following morning when I checked google.com/flights, I saw the Norwegian airline tickets had risen in price from $345 to $535 round trip.

Back to planning a different trip.

 

How about Rome?

The difficulty of planning a trip with Kelley is her travel dates are set in stone. Paris was one city we could fly to inexpensively on the first day of her vacation and return on the day she wanted to return to California.

The return flight for Norwegian Paris CDG to Oakland OAK nearly doubled in price. The OAK-CDG outbound flight had only increased from $159 to $200 one way.

Last June, Kelley and I had a wonderful few days in Rome. She had mentioned how she would like to return to Rome when the weather was cooler. Early spring seems like a good season for a trip to Rome.

Norwegian Airlines starts Oakland-Rome FCO flights April 1. Flying Rome FCO to Oakland priced at $205 one way. We could fly Oakland-Paris CDG for $200 one way and return Rome FCO to Oakland for $205 one way for a $405 open-jaw round trip ticket. Paris CDG to Rome FCO one way priced as low as $45.

A few nights in Paris to see the Louvre and a few nights in Rome seemed like a good division of time between the cities to me.

Colosseum Rome in morning.

I booked Comfort Hotel Bolivar Rome for 10,000 Choice Privileges points per night. A great redemption value on the 219 eur/$249usd nightly rate.

IHG mastercard free night could put us in Hotel Indigo Rome – St. George for a night.

Another day of waiting for Kelley’s response indicated she still was not thrilled with the Paris-Rome trip itinerary either.

June 2018

  1. Rome Termini Station cheap trains to Fiumicino FCO or Ciampino CIA Airports
  2. Best Western Artdeco Hotel Rome central city location
  3. Rome is a walkable city for sights
  4. Walking Rome – Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain
  5. Walking Rome – Villa Borghese Gardens
  6. Best Western Rome Airport FCO and a walk in Fiumicino, Italy

London and Oslo?

Oakland to London Gatwick at $145 one way had my attention, even if it meant knocking one day off the trip itinerary, but there was no deal for a return flight from London. A $24 Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Oslo, Norway would position us for a $217 Norwegian flight back to Oakland.

Tower of London

$386 round trip for flights with a free night at InterContinental London Park Lane and most of the week in London at Quality Hotel Hampstead for 10,000 points per night with two nights at The Thief Oslo is an offer that I figured she would not refuse.

The Thief, Oslo’s flagship luxury hotel of the Nordic Choice Hotels chain, is a steal at 20,000 Choice Privileges points per night and typically a difficult hotel to book with Choice Privileges points. The hotel is currently ranked #3 of 106 hotels in Oslo on TripAdvisor.

Dining and shopping area near The Thief, Oslo.

“Will you feed me in Oslo?”, she quipped.

Good point. Although, not like it’s still 2013 prices in Oslo, Norway.

2013 Oslo articles

2014 Oslo trip articles

  1. Oslo, Norway walking on a summer day (Sep 6)
  2. Hotel Review Clarion Royal Christiania Oslo, Norway (Sep 6)
  3. Hotel Review Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion Oslo, Norway (Sep 7)
  4. Think before you eat whale meat (Sep 8)
  5. Six days in Norway and $6 spent on food (Sep 9)
  6. How I stole 2 nights at The Thief Oslo with points (Sep 23)
  7. Hotel Review The Thief Oslo Room 603 (Sep 23)
  8. The Thief Oslo by design (Sep 24)
  9. Clarion Collection Folketeateret Oslo is recommended Nordic Choice Hotel (Sep 27)

Perhaps one of the Clarion Collection hotels, where breakfast, mid-day pancakes and fruit, and an evening buffet are included in the price of a reward night would be a better option for Kelley in Oslo.

“Prague is where I really want to go!”

The land of Czech lager $2 pints, $10 restaurant meals, castles, museums, parks and the Vltava River and public transportation for $1.30 per ticket. Prague never disappoints.

Her wish is my command.

Prague astronomical clock at Charles Square

Halfway through the booking process with outbound tickets to Prague purchased, I went to buy return tickets to Oakland on Norwegian to find both Rome and Oslo increased in ticket price during the previous 30 minutes. The return flights from Prague increased from $259 to $350 one way.

An increase in airfare is the worst aspect of booking a multiple airlines, multiple destinations itinerary. A 35% increase in airfare was not necessarily a dealbreaker in paying an additional $182 for the two of us to get back to California from Prague. Not coming home to California was not an option.

My issue with Norwegian’s ticket price increase to $350 one way for Prague to Oakland is we could fly Swiss Airlines on the same date Oslo to San Francisco round trip for $350 with a return flight to Oslo in June or July 2019.

In the end, I settled on SAS Scandinavian Airlines at $475 round trip for Oslo-SFO with a summer return date to Norway.

I booked a 4-segment Aegean/Olympic $136 round trip ticket from Warsaw to Crete for a solo winter trip to Greece on my final push to upgrade from Aegean Miles+Bonus Silver elite to Gold.

We will both earn 12,174 Aegean Airlines redeemable miles for the SAS flights.

Aegean award tickets for United one-way flights in the USA cost 12,500 miles + €4.92.

The SAS Oslo-SFO $475 ticket earns 12,000 Aegean Tier Miles I need for Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite in 2019 with its Star Alliance Gold membership benefits.

Trip Report Aegean Airlines Gold elite status progress (March 1, 2017).

Aegean Silver elite and 17,000 miles to Star Alliance Gold (Aug 5, 2017).

Missed 2018 Aegean Gold elite by 4,848 Tier Miles. Try Again 2019. (July 11, 2018).

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.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. @Ric,
    You are so lucky that Kelley will fly economy on those long flights from California. We live just north of NYC and I am not sure I could ever get my husband to fly an overnight in coach again. He’s not the best traveler and it’s hard to sometimes get him to agree on a trip, but the worst part is flying overnight. He’s fine in coach on any day flight, even 8 hours or so. We don’t travel more than 2x a year, and not all of it is international, so thus far I’ve had enough miles to use for biz on overnight flights. So, you’re still ahead of the game in my book, even if Kelley is sometimes reluctant as far as destination choices go.

  2. for cheap flights, check the homecityflights.com, it’s a gateway for cheap flights, all the flights from your home city ordered by continent/country/city/price

  3. @Marilyn B. – Kelley had quite a few business and first class flights between 1999 and 2007. Then I had a climate change epiphany in June 2007 while flying Air France Business Class over the Andes between Argentina and Chile that changed our flight travel ever since. As I studied the inflight magazine article on the impact of air travel for climate change effects, the charts convinced me the differential impact of flying business/first class on fuel consumption for the larger space is wasteful over consumption.

    We have only flown international business class one time since then through AA elite member upgrades.

    I understand the allure of flying business/first and I know the comfort. With as much as we travel the concession of flying economy is one travel compromise I can manage without giving up frequent travel to Europe.

  4. @zy9ls9 – interesting site and I like the way it displays flights to different continents and then different countries within the continent.

    I’ll give it a spin when I need to search another trip.

    As for now, I booked 20 flight segments for 7 countries in the past two days for my next six months of travel, so I don’t have any pressing need to search more itineraries anytime soon.

  5. @Ric, thanks for that info on flight choices.

    This is slightly off-topic, but I am curious why almost all your recent travels are to Europe. I know you have been to New Zealand, Australia and Asia before, but since you live on the West Coast, I’m interested in why you don’t travel to Asia more often?
    I love Europe and that’s where all our travels have been up until now, and I’ve gleaned a lot from your blog (used your coastal walk outside Dublin – it was great – thanks). But my curiosity is peaked by your choice of travel destinations now.

  6. @Marilyn B. – Australia would have been my preference for summer 2019 with all the low fares available recently for under $600. Kelley already made plans to hook up with friends in Prague.

    No particular reason why I don’t go to Asia, except time and money.

    I canceled my trip to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabulu, Malaysia a couple years ago due to Kelley being stressed out about the amount of time I was away from home.

    My nephew graduated from college last month and is looking to return to Japan where he spent a semester abroad. I might visit Japan if he moves back there.

    I am interested in traveling to China.

    Right now places in Asia are not as enticing to me as visiting more places in Europe. Central Europe is still the focus of my attention. I have a list of a dozen places in Poland I want to visit and several more cities in Czech Republic and Romania I want to see.

  7. @Ric. Thanks for the reply.
    I can relate to those parts of Europe. Some of my favorite trips were Prague-Vienna-Budapest way back in March 1996, Berlin in Nov. 2003, Warsaw and Krakow in June 2005 and Slovenia and Croatia in May 2006 – back before they all became tourist hot spots. I really enjoy your trip reports on central and eastern Europe as I want to get to Romania and Slovakia, and back to see more of Poland – keep them coming!! Your blog is one of my favorites.

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