What a long relaxing trip it has been in Europe after my laptop stopped recharging power on day four of a 23 day summer trip. With only my iPhone as a social media device and camera, I decided after 11 years of relatively continuous blogging effort on Loyalty Traveler to take advantage of my situation and tune out from writing about the points and miles world for a few weeks.
My hotel loyalty travel summer vacation involved 21 hotel nights using Choice Privileges, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy and Radisson Rewards points to cover 11 nights. Paid nights also earned points in Choice Privileges, IHG Rewards Club and Marriott Bonvoy. Our trip included one independent hotel in Torun, Poland cost $77 to stay in Hotel 1231, currently TripAdvisor’s traveler ranked #1 hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage Site medieval old town.
21 hotel nights kept us comfortable in Copenhagen, Denmark; Prague and Liberec, Czechia; and several cities in Poland we visited with four bus trips across the country from Krakow in the south to Warsaw in Central Poland, then Gdansk and Sopot in the north. Sopot is Poland’s premier beach resort town on the Baltic Sea.
Price of Travel Matters
Many people swear by Airbnb and others like to choose the best of independent hotels. My blog Loyalty Traveler has always been based on the concept of using loyalty programs to save money on travel and upgrade my travel. For years that meant flying around in business class and first class airplane cabins. Over time I decided that it was better use of my resources to focus money and effort in my hotel stays rather than focus on accumulating miles and frequent flyer status. These days I settle for economy class flights since that is far less costly. My travel plans concentrate on the benefits of hotel loyalty and I take the smaller advantages of Star Alliance Gold elite earned through my loyalty to Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus with ticketed economy flights in select Star Alliance airlines.
$477 SAS Scandinavian Airlines San Francisco to Copenhagen. We flew the return portion of Oslo-San Francisco round trip tickets we flew outbound in April. This ticket earned 11,574 elite and redeemable miles with Aegean Miles+Bonus.
$694 United Airlines Stockholm to San Francisco was an expensive $694 round trip ticket to fly in July and back to Europe at Christmas. Those flights earn 50% elite and redeemable miles with Aegean Miles+Bonus and will pick up 6,510 miles. I have until April 2020 to requalify for Aegean Gold elite status with 6,000 more Star Alliance Tier miles or four Aegean flight segments.
$586 round trip San Francisco – Copenhagen / Stockholm – San Francisco is the ticket price I apply to my summer 2019 trip using 50% of the ticket price for each of the two tickets I use for April, summer and December travel to Europe.
My Aegean Miles+Bonus status provided United Airlines airport lounge access in San Francisco, Copenhagen, Newark and Washington IAD. Perhaps more importantly for saving money and time was the free full-size carryon bag allowance for all our Star Alliance flights and Priority Boarding in Group 1 for both Kelley and me.
$88 Copenhagen – Prague ($33 Ryanair) / Warsaw – Stockholm ($55 Wizz)
In Europe we flew both Ryanair for travel from Copenhagen to Prague for $33 and Wizz Air from Warsaw to Stockholm for $55 each.
Basically our summer travel airfare cost $675 each for flights from San Francisco to Denmark to Central Europe to Stockholm and back to San Francisco.
Bus travel across Czech Republic and Poland cost about $100 each for six one way bus tickets with FlixBus and two Flygbussarna tickets between Stockholm airports and the city. I will provide specific ticket costs when I write up more detailed accounts of travel in different places over the next few weeks.
Transportation for the entire trip was probably around $750 to $775 each for 3 weeks.
Choice Privileges $480
7 hotel nights
$200 Copenhagen 2 nights – Comfort Inn Vesterbro 20,000 points per night (my cost $100 to buy 20,000 points with Choice Privileges purchases in Daily Getaways.)
$80 Prague 2 nights – Clarion Old Town Prague 8,000 points per night
$50 Stockholm 1 night – Clarion Hotel Sign 10,000 points per night
One of our favorite hotels of the trip was Clarion Grandhotel Zlaty Lev in Liberec, Czech Republic. In fact, the hotel was nearly the best part of our trip to Liberec, a city we discovered is more useful as a jumping off point for the outdoor spaces of the Jizera Mountains rather than a destination city. The hotel listed on Choice Privileges at 8,000 points reward night, however, there was no reward night availability throughout the summer months even when looking months before.
At $73 per night with breakfast included, this 1906 pre-war classic hotel was definitely a worthwhile value.
A dinner in the Liberec City Hall basement was a surprisingly cheap and cool space experience too.
IHG Rewards Club $486
7 hotel nights
My main goal with IHG hotels in Europe was complete 5 nights to earn the full 37,000 bonus points for IHG Rewards Club summer promotion. In all, I redeemed 35,000 points and picked up 54,000 IHG points for about $486 for 7 hotel nights In Prague, Krakow and Warsaw. Average room rate = $70 per night.
$310 Krakow – 3 nights Hotel Indigo Krakow, Poland (earned 5,000 points IHG Accelerate)
$95 Warsaw – 1 night Holiday Inn Warsaw (earned 25,000 points IHG Accelerate)
$39 Prague – 1 night Holiday Inn Prague Congress Center Points & Cash 10,000 points + 5,000 points ($39) (earned 15,000 points)
30,000 points – 2 nights Holiday Inn Prague Congress Center
$42 Copenhagen – 1 night cancelled Crowne Plaza Towers Copenhagen Points & Cash 30,000 points + earned 5,000 points ($39)
Net gain in points after $486 for 7 hotel nights is 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points.
Marriott Bonvoy $143 + 25,000 points + American Express free night
$75 Warsaw – 1 night – Westin Warsaw with breakfast
$67 Sopot, Poland – 2 nights – Marriott Sopot Resort, Poland Redeemed a Marriott Bonvoy free American Express credit card night valif for up to category 5 hotel. Marriott Sopot is a category 4 hotel and I paid $67 to buy 7,000 points and redeem 25,000 points for a second night at the Baltic Sea resort hotel. I had 18,000 points sitting in my account for I don’t know how long, mostly from Starpoints converted to Marriott points last year at 1-3 ratio. I don’t even give cash value to the 18,000 Marriott Bonvoy points I had since they were earned years ago.
Radisson Rewards 84,000 points
Like Marriott Bonvoy points, I don’t give these points value since I earned them years ago. I think I got great value out of my last 84,000 Radisson Rewards points at these two category-3 hotels for 28,000 points per night.
56,000 points Prague – 2 nights – Park Inn Prague upgrade to 5th floor room with large deck.
28,000 points Gdansk – 1 night – Radisson Hotel & Suites Gdansk new hotel opened March 2019 in central location for Old Town sightseeing and pubs.
Overall the cost to stay 21 nights in Europe was about $1,250 or $60 per night.
$2,800 for transportation and hotels for two persons and 23 days with 21 hotel nights in Europe. Daily expenses averaged about $60 or around $1,350 for the trip. Basically $4,150 for the two of us to cover our 23 day trip.
In coming days I will write more about Copenhagen, Prague, Liberec, Krakow, Torun, Warsaw, Gdansk, Sopot and Stockholm with costs and photos for good travel deals in these various cities.
One advantage of returning to a place like Prague some seven times in the past three years is each trip shows me more ways to save on eating, drinking, transportation and activities, while maintaining a comfortable standard of travel.