Much has been written about the return of Radisson’s Big Night Giveaway, Stay One Night Get One Night promotion and its sister promotions at Country Inns & Suites and Park Inn properties that go live late tonight.  Find below a concise summary with the details of each offer, tips on the easiest and most affordable ways to qualify, and examples of the truly amazing value proposition that this promotion offers.  I’ve also provided details of how I qualified and earned my 50,000 points during the same promotion last fall.

  • Radisson’s hotel rewards program is Club Carlson and members earn gold points for their stays at Radisson, Radisson Blu, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, and Park Plaza hotels. 
  • There will be three promotions, two of which go live at 12:01 am central time on May 15, 2012 and one going live at 12:01 am central time on May 22nd. 
    • Radisson’s Big Night Giveaway – The first 100,000 members who register at 12:01 AM CDT on May 15th will earn 50,000 bonus points after staying at least one night at any worldwide Radisson or Radisson Blu hotel from May 15 – July 15, 2012. * After the first 100,000 spots are taken members will be provided the opportunity to earn 15,000 points instead.
    • Country Inns & Suites Stay 1 Get 1 So Go! promotion – The first 35,000 members who register at 12:01 AM CDT on May 15th will earn 44,000 bonus points after staying at least one night at any worldwide Country Inns & Suites property from May 15 – July 15, 2012. * After the first 35,000 spots are taken members will be provided the opportunity to earn 15,000 points instead.
    • Park Inn 1 + 1, Stay One Get 1 promotion – The first 20,000 members who register at 12:01 AM CET on May 22nd will earn 44,000 bonus points after staying at least one night at any worldwide Park Inn property from May 22 – July 22, 2012. * After the first 20,000 spots are taken members will be provided the opportunity to earn 15,000 points instead.  
    • Park Plaza Ultimate Night Giveaway (ADDED June 28th) – The first 20,000 members to register  will earn 50,000 Gold Points after completing a one night stay at any Park Plaza hotel now through August 28th. After the first 20,000 spots are taken members will be provided the opportunity to earn 15,000 points instead.
  • Members can register for all four promotions for a total of 188,000 Club Carlson points. That’s almost four nights at Radisson’s top tier properties and up to 20 free nights at their lower tier hotels.  More on redemption options later.
  • Unlike the fall 2011 promotion, this is a GLOBAL promotion and open to members worldwide! 

FAQs (Check out this post for some post-registration surprises. )

  • I’m not a member of Club Carlson, how do I join and are there any current bonuses?  Join using the following link and you’ll earn 4,500 points just for signing up for the program. *A few have reported the link no longer working and expiring, although the T&Cs note that it’s valid through May 31st.  I’ve sent an email to customer care and am waiting to hear back.  Will update everyone when I do*   Update May 12th – Received a response that they are investigating the discrepancy between the dates in the terms and the expiration notice being provided.  In the meantime you can use the link provided above but change the promotion code at the bottom of the screen to NSB2K12, which awards 2,000 bonus points after your first stay.  HT to Scottrick.  UPDATE 5/14 – I’ve heard back from the Radisson Gold Points desk and was informed that they will honor the e-rewards 4500 sign-up bonus as long as there is evidence of signing up with the offer (ie a screen-shot showing the offer @ http://www.clubcarlson.com/privatePage.do?privateCode=EREWARDS including the terms and conditions on the left side displaying the valid through May 31st date. I can provide a copy of this response to any of the readers who want to go for the 4500 sign up bonus. However, if you want to forgo the hassle of emailing customer care and guarantee you receive some sign-up bonus points, I’d recommend using the NSB2K12 link above for 2,000 bonus miles. This is probably a safer bet considering the terms and conditions on the e-rewards offer clearly state “the name on the e-Rewards program account and Club Carlson account must be the same”.
  • Why do I want free Radisson nights, their hotels in the US are not up to par with Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, etc?  I had the same negative perception until I started traveling internationally for work a few years ago.  Radisson hotels in Europe, Africa, and Asia are known as Radisson Blu (formerly Radisson SAS) and are some of the nicest and most modern properties that I’ve stayed at.  They also offer free internet and breakfast.  Additionally, Radisson has two very nice resort properties in the Caribbean, one in Aruba and one in the Bahamas.  Radisson Blu also has a great property in St. Martin. Finally, Radisson is working to transform several of their domestic properties into Radisson Blu hotels and opening new Radisson Blu properties in the US.  The Radisson Blu Aqua hotel opened in Chicago last fall.
  • Do I need to stay up all night to register?  During the same promotion last year, registration spots were available for weeks after the official registration period opened. However, it was a US only promotion and there wasn’t as much buzz and awareness as there is this time.  I’d recommend staying up and registering at 12:01am CDT.
  • I don’t plan on traveling during the promotion period, how can I participate?  During the promotion last fall I made a $99 reservation at a Radisson hotel just down the street from my apartment.  I walked into the hotel, checked in, and walked back out. In the past I had never had to do any “mattress runs” in order to re-qualify for elite status, so this was my first time making a hotel booking with no intention of actually sleeping in the room.  It was weird and I felt even more guilty when as a Club Carlson Gold member I was upgraded to a suite.  I proceeded upstairs, grabbed some fruit and water from the welcome platter that was left,  ruffled the towels a bit, and then headed back home.  The 30 minute and $99 +tax trip netted me 54,970 Club Carlson points.  UPDATE 5/14 – There has been speculation that guests may have to physically check out in order to qualify for the bonus.  In the day of automated check-outs and front desk bill drops I can’t see this materializing and it would be hard to enforce but we will have the full T&Cs tonight when the first two offers go live and I will update the blog accordingly with any updates.  Update 5/30 – Several readers have had success checking in and not physically checking out.  I have had the same.
  • Earn 10% back on all of your bookings bringing the cost down even further using topcashback.com. TopCashBack.com allows you to shop with several merchants and earn cash back.  You are still booking your reservation via the radisson site (topcashback sends you directly to it) so you earn both the online booking bonus and you are eligible for the big night giveaway points.  Essentially, all you need to do is register at topcashback.com, search for radisson in the top right hand corner of the site, you’ll be directed to radisson.com, and then go ahead and book your reservation as you normally would.  Feel free to use my referral link for TopCashBack or sign up and start your own referral link conga line in the comment section.

  • Why would you spend $99 + tax to earn 54,970 points?  Here is where this promotion gets exciting.  I spent $99 in the NYC area, but I had lots of friends who were able to take advantage of this promotion throughout the country at rates as low as $52 a night! $52 for 50,000 points is well worth it. With Country Inns & Suites and Park Inns now part of the promotion this year, there will be several choices at lower price points. I’ve found several of these properties in the $50-$75 range.  I still don’t get it, why spend money to get the 50,000 points?  Here are some visual examples:

London during the Olympics – $646 a night or 50,000 points…well worth $99

Paris during busy July – $579.40 a night or 50,000 points…well worth $99

Aruba Resort, Casino, & Spa – $679-$742 a night during Christmas Week or 50,000 points…well worth $99


Radisson Blu in Stockholm during July – $369.88 a night or 44,000 points…well worth $99

Radisson New York $599 pre-paid for Summer 2012 or 50,000 points…well worth $99

Radisson Blu Cape Town, South Africa – $359.97 during December 2012 or 50,000 points…well worth $99

  •  I don’t plan on traveling outside the US or to expensive cities like New York, is the promotion still worth it for me?  Yes, let’s say you are planning a family vacation to Orlando.  If you stay at the Radisson Hotel Orlando, the rate is $74.25 a night, or 9,000 points per night.  Let’s say you only participate in the Radisson Promotion and earn 50,000 points, that’s almost 5 nights at the hotel for free valued at $371.25.  The value is even higher when I looked at the hotel during during school holidays when the rate goes over $100 and the gold points required remain at 9,000.

  • I already have some Radisson/Country Inns & Suites/Park Inn stays booked, will they count towards the promotion? Yes, as per Radisson’s Facebook page, stays previously booked will count as long as they are during the promotion period and you register for the applicable promotions as per the terms above.  Check out this post for some post-registration surprises, including Radisson reversing their original decision. 
  • Are there cities where I can triple dip and easily participate in all three promotions?  Yes, though in the US they are few and far between as Park Inn has very few US locations.  The ability to triple dip in Europe is much easier, with several cities having all three properties in a somewhat close proximity.  In the US, Dallas is one of the easiest and cheapest options.  During a random day in June you can stay at the Radisson for $83.20, Country Inn & Suites for $75.65, and Park Inn for $66.75.  The triple dip is also easy to accomplish in Fresno, CA.  Western PA and Eastern OH residents can make the triple dip with a little bit of a drive, staying at the Park Inn in Sharon, PA, the Country Inn & Suites in Youngstown West, and the Radisson in Akron.  All three properties are under $100 as well.

  • Anything else to be aware of?  Keep an eye on the T.G.I. Friday’s “Give Me More Stripes” program page.  They are a Carlson brand and sometimes run promotions where you can earn 1,000 Club Carlson points for signing up for the program.  Wait to sign up until after a promotion is announced as it is for new members only.  They ran this promotion twice last year.

  • Do corporate rates apply? The official, T&Cs won’t be released until the program goes live, however during the prior promotion, corporate rates that normally earned points also qualified you for the promotion. I’ll update this bullet once the full T&Cs are released.
  • Can I use the points for airline miles? Yes, but the value proposition is pretty poor.  I would not spend $99 for 8000 miles.

  • What are my next steps?  Well, the promotion is only valuable if you have a plan for where you want to use these points. Do you want to use the points to stay at a hotel that would otherwise be too expensive or to book multiple nights in one of the lower category properties?  I plan to use my points in Europe this summer.  Keep in mind that points do not have an expiration date as long as your account remains active by earning or redeeming within a 24 month period. Take a look at Radisson’s locations worldwide, decide where you want to go and when, determine the rates if you paid, and then see how much it will cost you to fulfill the promotion.  If you have upcoming trips, switching to a nearby Radisson property may make sense.  If you don’t, evaluate the properties in your area to see how much you would need to spend in order to qualify.  For example, there are few nights in New York City that are under $200 a night.  However, there are properties that are about an hours drive into NJ that will qualify and are under $100 on select dates.  Additionally, think of places you may be passing by.  For those on the East Coast, there is a Radisson next to Six Flags Great Adventure that is $99.20 a night during a large bulk of the promotion period. Remember too that each family member can sign up for an account and register for the promotion. UPDATE 5/14 – Earn 10% back on all of your bookings bringing the cost down even further using topcashback.com. TopCashBack.com allows you to shop with several merchants and earn cash back.  You are still booking your reservation via the radisson site (topcashback sends you directly to it) so you earn both the online booking bonus and you are eligible for the big night giveaway points.  Essentially, all you need to do is register at topcashback.com, search for radisson in the top right hand corner of the site, you’ll be directed to radisson.com, and then go ahead and book your reservation as you normally would.  Feel free to use my referral link for TopCashBack or sign up and start your own referral link conga line in the comment section.

Check out this post for some post-registration surprises.

Posted by adam | 16 Comments

Last Saturday the LA times was the first to report on the “frequent fliers who flew too much” and American’s termination of their unlimited first-class lifetime AAirpasses. ABC World News has the first on-camera interview with Steven Rothstein, one of the program participants who racked up 40 million miles but has since had his pass revoked. Check out the article and attached video for an extremely fascinating story, especially for us mileage and aviation geeks. Imagine paying $350,000 for unlimited first-class travel for life with a companion! Steven flew to New York 1,000 times, LA/London/San Francisco 500 times, Paris 80 times, Sydney 80 times, and Hong Kong 50 times. Mark Cuban, also a pass owner, tells of the policy that guaranteed first class seats and how it sometimes resulted in throwing other confirmed passengers out of first class. Check it all out with the links below.

VIDEO

LA Times Article

Posted by adam | One Comment

Welcome to the special reader submitted edition of Overheard on the Plane. Thanks to everyone for sending in their stories!

If you haven’t yet, check out Edition 1, Edition 2, Unedited – Cinco de Mayo Edition 3, and of course keep sending in your stories for future posts to adam@pointmetotheplane.com. Remember to include the carrier and route as well as any other pertinent details or sources.

Submitted by DeltaMMFlier12 – Delta Flight from Rome Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci Airport (FCO) to Atlanta (ATL)
Female Passenger 1 – Did your kids have a good time? Ours loved the food and we kept them occupied with the city and forum walking tour, the Coliseum, and shopping.
Female Passenger 2 -  Yes, they really enjoyed it.  There was so much to do and six days just wasn’t enough time.  I would have liked to take them to meet the Pope but the official tours were so expensive.
Female Passenger 1 – You mean the Vatican tour?
Female Passenger 2 – I don’t know is that separate from the meeting?
Female Passenger 1 – (rolls her eyes, turns around and starts talking to her kids).

Submitted by txfrsh84 – Check In for United Flight from Houston (IAH) to Acapulco (ACA)
Female Passenger 1 -  I can’t believe we are going to be on Spring Break in Acapulco in less than 4 hours!
Sibling / Friend – I’m so jealous, you are going to have a crazy good time.  Don’t over do it with the alcohol.
Dad – I better not find you on the internet a month from now.

One Liners submitted by I2NYCFlYerCourtesy of OHNY
JFK  - (Flight attendant upon boarding) – The captain has advised us that our flying time will be quick, at an altitude of high and a speed of fast.

LaGuardia (LGA) (Pilot on final approach into New York) – If you look out the right side of the plane, you can see the beautiful, famous downtown skyline of Manhattan (PAUSE), and if you look out the left side… (PAUSE, SIGH), New Jersey.

Newark (EWR) (Flight Attendant) – If there is a sudden change in cabin pressure, a mask compartment above your seat will open automatically. If this happens, quickly reach for the nearest mask and pull it down firmly. Continue to breathe normally. If you are traveling with a small child, or someone who acts like a small child, please secure your mask and then assist them.

Submitted by LexMktng1 – American Flight from Kahului, Hawaii (OGG) to Los Angeles International, CA (LAX)
Female Passenger 1: You were in Hawaii all summer long?  That’s awesome!
Female Passenger 2: It was awesome, until I realized it was time to come back.
Female Passenger 1: At least you got to spend the summer outside the country.

One Liners submitted by RayTysonAlso courtesy of OHNY
JetBlue – Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to JFK – (Pilot welcome message) – We’re on our way to New York where the weather is cold and icy, just like my prom date back in high school.

Enjoy the weekend all!  Also, don’t forget to read up on the Radisson promotions so that you are prepared for the go-live on Monday nt / early Tues morning. 138,000 Radisson Gold Points – How to get them, what’s their value, and what are they good for?

Posted by adam | 3 Comments

Just received this from Delta, targeted but give it a try. Here’s the link

Happy Friday!

Also, don’t forget to read up on the Radisson promotions this weekend so that you are prepared for Monday nt / early Tues morning.

Posted by adam | 2 Comments

SEE THE UPDATED VERSION OF THIS POST HERE WITH ALL NEW DETAILS

Much has been written about the return of Radisson’s Big Night Giveaway, Stay One Night Get One Night promotion and its sister promotions at Country Inns & Suites and Park Inn properties.  Find below a concise summary with the details of each offer, tips on the easiest and most affordable ways to qualify, and examples of the truly amazing value proposition that this promotion offers.  I’ve also provided details of how I qualified and earned my 50,000 points during the same promotion last fall.

  • Radisson’s hotel rewards program is Club Carlson and members earn gold points for their stays at Radisson, Radisson Blu, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, and Park Plaza hotels. 
  • There will be three promotions, two of which go live at 12:01 am central time on May 15, 2012 and one going live at 12:01 am central time on May 22nd. 
    • Radisson’s Big Night Giveaway – The first 100,000 members who register at 12:01 AM CDT on May 15th will earn 50,000 bonus points after staying at least one night at any worldwide Radisson or Radisson Blu hotel from May 15 – July 15, 2012. * After the first 100,000 spots are taken members will be provided the opportunity to earn 15,000 points instead.
    • Country Inns & Suites Stay 1 Get 1 So Go! promotion – The first 35,000 members who register at 12:01 AM CDT on May 15th will earn 44,000 bonus points after staying at least one night at any worldwide Country Inns & Suites property from May 15 – July 15, 2012. * After the first 35,000 spots are taken members will be provided the opportunity to earn 15,000 points instead.
    • Park Inn 1 + 1, Stay One Get 1 promotion – The first 20,000 members who register at 12:01 AM CET on May 22nd will earn 44,000 bonus points after staying at least one night at any worldwide Park Inn property from May 22 – July 22, 2012. * After the first 20,000 spots are taken members will be provided the opportunity to earn 15,000 points instead.  LINK NOT YET LIVE. Hat Tip to Loyalty Traveler for the details of the Park Inn 1+1!
  • Members can register for all three promotions for a total of 138,000 Club Carlson points. That’s almost three nights at Radisson’s top tier properties and up to 15 free nights at their lower tier hotels.  More on redemption options later.
  • Unlike the fall 2011 promotion, this is a GLOBAL promotion and open to members worldwide! 

FAQs

  • I’m not a member of Club Carlson, how do I join and are there any current bonuses?  Join using the following link and you’ll earn 4,500 points just for signing up for the program. *A few have reported the link no longer working and expiring, although the T&Cs note that it’s valid through May 31st.  I’ve sent an email to customer care and am waiting to hear back.  Will update everyone when I do*   Update May 12th – Received a response that they are investigating the discrepancy between the dates in the terms and the expiration notice being provided.  In the meantime you can use the link provided above but change the promotion code at the bottom of the screen to NSB2K12, which awards 2,000 bonus points after your first stay.  HT to Scottrick.
  • Why do I want free Radisson nights, their hotels in the US are not up to par with Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, etc?  I had the same negative perception until I started traveling internationally for work a few years ago.  Radisson hotels in Europe, Africa, and Asia are known as Radisson Blu (formerly Radisson SAS) and are some of the nicest and most modern properties that I’ve stayed at.  They also offer free internet and breakfast.  Additionally, Radisson has two very nice resort properties in the Caribbean, one in Aruba and one in the Bahamas.  Radisson Blu also has a great property in St. Martin. Finally, Radisson is working to transform several of their domestic properties into Radisson Blu hotels and opening new Radisson Blu properties in the US.  The Radisson Blu Aqua hotel opened in Chicago last fall. 
  • Do I need to stay up all night to register?  During the same promotion last year, registration spots were available for weeks after the official registration period opened. However, it was a US only promotion and there wasn’t as much buzz and awareness as there is this time.  I’d recommend staying up and registering at 12:01am CDT.
  • I don’t plan on traveling during the promotion period, how can I participateDuring the promotion last fall I made a $99 reservation at a Radisson hotel just down the street from my apartment.  I walked into the hotel, checked in, and walked back out. In the past I had never had to do any “mattress runs” in order to re-qualify for elite status, so this was my first time making a hotel booking with no intention of actually sleeping in the room.  It was weird and I felt even more guilty when as a Club Carlson Gold member I was upgraded to a suite.  I proceeded upstairs, grabbed some fruit and water from the welcome platter that was left,  ruffled the towels a bit, and then headed back home.  The 30 minute and $99 +tax trip netted me 54,970 Club Carlson points.

            

  • Why would you spend $99 + tax to earn 54,970 points?  Here is where this promotion gets exciting.  I spent $99 in the NYC area, but I had lots of friends who were able to take advantage of this promotion throughout the country at rates as low as $52 a night! $52 for 50,000 points is well worth it. With Country Inns & Suites and Park Inns now part of the promotion this year, there will be several choices at lower price points. I’ve found several of these properties in the $50-$75 range.  I still don’t get it, why spend money to get the 50,000 points?  Here are some visual examples:

London during the Olympics – $646 a night or 50,000 points…well worth $99

Paris during busy July – $579.40 a night or 50,000 points…well worth $99

Aruba Resort, Casino, & Spa – $679-$742 a night during Christmas Week or 50,000 points…well worth $99


Radisson Blu in Stockholm during July – $369.88 a night or 44,000 points…well worth $99

Radisson New York $599 pre-paid for Summer 2012 or 50,000 points…well worth $99

Radisson Blu Cape Town, South Africa – $359.97 during December 2012 or 50,000 points…well worth $99

  •  I don’t plan on traveling outside the US or to expensive cities like New York, is the promotion still worth it for me?  Yes, let’s say you are planning a family vacation to Orlando.  If you stay at the Radisson Hotel Orlando, the rate is $74.25 a night, or 9,000 points per night.  Let’s say you only participate in the Radisson Promotion and earn 50,000 points, that’s almost 5 nights at the hotel for free valued at $371.25.  The value is even higher when I looked at the hotel during during school holidays when the rate goes over $100 and the gold points required remain at 9,000.

  • I already have some Radisson/Country Inns & Suites/Park Inn stays booked, will they count towards the promotion? Yes, as per Radisson’s Facebook page, stays previously booked will count as long as they are during the promotion period and you register for the applicable promotions as per the terms above.  Check out this post for some post-registration surprises, including Radisson reversing this decisionUPDATED AGAIN 5/19 – As per Loyalty Traveler, existing reservations will once again count!
  • Are there cities where I can triple dip and easily participate in all three promotions?  Yes, though in the US they are few and far between as Park Inn has very few US locations.  The ability to triple dip in Europe is much easier, with several cities having all three properties in a somewhat close proximity.  In the US, Dallas is one of the easiest and cheapest options.  During a random day in June you can stay at the Radisson for $83.20, Country Inn & Suites for $75.65, and Park Inn for $66.75.  The triple dip is also easy to accomplish in Fresno, CA.  Western PA and Eastern OH residents can make the triple dip with a little bit of a drive, staying at the Park Inn in Sharon, PA, the Country Inn & Suites in Youngstown West, and the Radisson in Akron.  All three properties are under $100 as well. 

  • Anything else to be aware of?  Keep an eye on the T.G.I. Friday’s “Give Me More Stripes” program page.  They are a Carlson brand and sometimes run promotions where you can earn 1,000 Club Carlson points for signing up for the program.  Wait to sign up until after a promotion is announced as it is for new members only.  They ran this promotion twice last year.


  • Do corporate rates apply? The official, T&Cs won’t be released until the program goes live, however during the prior promotion, corporate rates that normally earned points also qualified you for the promotion. I’ll update this bullet once the full T&Cs are released.
  • Can I use the points for airline miles? Yes, but the value proposition is pretty poor.  I would not spend $99 for 8000 miles.


  • What are my next steps?  Well, the promotion is only valuable if you have a plan for where you want to use these points. Do you want to use the points to stay at a hotel that would otherwise be too expensive or to book multiple nights in one of the lower category properties?  I plan to use my points in Europe this summer.  Keep in mind that points do not have an expiration date as long as your account remains active by earning or redeeming within a 24 month period. Take a look at Radisson’s locations worldwide, decide where you want to go and when, determine the rates if you paid, and then see how much it will cost you to fulfill the promotion.  If you have upcoming trips, switching to a nearby Radisson property may make sense.  If you don’t, evaluate the properties in your area to see how much you would need to spend in order to qualify.  For example, there are few nights in New York City that are under $200 a night.  However, there are properties that are about an hours drive into NJ that will qualify and are under $100 on select dates.  Additionally, think of places you may be passing by.  For those on the East Coast, there is a Radisson next to Six Flags Great Adventure that is $99.20 a night during a large bulk of the promotion period. Remember too that each family member can sign up for an account and register for the promotion.

 

Posted by adam | 9 Comments

This is part two of a five part trip report from my travels to the UAE and Egypt. This report includes my review of the Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, the business class flight from Dubai – Cairo, the Emirates Business Class lounge in Dubai, and the best of our activities in Dubai.

Arrival

Picking up where we left off, upon landing it was off to passport control and customs where Emirates had a special clearance section for both First and Business class passengers.  I was the first to arrive and cleared passport control in under five minutes.  I did have some trepidation as I had an Israeli entrance stamp in my passport from a year earlier.  Most of the reports I had read seemed to indicate that this was fine with a US passport, though a few did reference some difficulties when trying to enter the UAE .  I decided to chance it even though it was going to be hard to miss the stamp which was on one of only three blank pages left in my passport.  As it turns out, my particular border guard could care less, in my passport there is peace in the Middle East, my UAE and Israeli entrance and exit stamps share the same page!

Our courtesy Emirates chauffeur was waiting for us upon exiting the Dubai terminal in a BMW 528i with two cold waters and a set of cool towels. It was March and it was nice to feel the heat after arriving from New York.  We were heading for Dubai Marina where our friend was living after being transferred from the US only a few months earlier.  As in New York, the ride included all tolls and gratuities and our driver went above and beyond to ensure our comfort and safety.  Our friend lived in a new development within Dubai Marina and there weren’t many clear indications that we were at the right building, no street numbers or zip codes.  Our driver insisted on waiting for us until I waved back at him to indicate that it was the right building. Not even five minutes later I received a call from Emirates to ensure that I had arrived safely.  The level of service was really impressive and I couldn’t believe that I had only redeemed 150,000 miles for the entire trip (especially with the business class passenger in front of me spending just under $11k for his round-trip business flight).

Emirates Chauffeur Slip - Dubai

Dubai Marina

Exploring
I had no idea that Dubai was going to have such a tropical vacation feel to it.  Prior to the trip I knew of Dubai’s location along the Persian Gulf coast, however I don’t think I realized just how many of the hotels and restaurants would be along the water.  Sitting at dinner that first night in Dubai Marina, I almost felt as if I was back on one of our yearly family vacations in the Caribbean.  Once dinner was done it was time to decide where to head out for the night.  We decided on Boudoir which was located at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.  It is illegal in Dubai to serve or sell alcohol to Muslims and all others require a license to officially purchase alcohol. As such, alcohol is typically sold at restaurants, bars and nightclubs attached to hotels where you’ll find the tourists.

Boudoir

Boudoir felt like a typical New York club, though with great beach views outside and a large number of Australian based Emirates flight attendants inside.  They were a fun crowd and were definitely making the most of their layovers.  A vodka soda at the club was priced at $12, though gigantic Belvedere bottles seemed to be the way to go.  We saw one table receive five of them at $1000 a piece.  The DJs were internationally known and music was a mix of Top 40, R&B, and house music.

Belvedere anyone?

The next day we started with lunch at Anar, a Persian restaurant located at Souk Madinat Jumeirah.  The food was excellent, though the prices made it feel a bit touristy.  I still say it’s completely worth it with a view like this…

Lunch - View from Anar

Lunch @ Anar

Next it was off to see Burj Dubai Tower, the tallest building in the World @ 1,670 feet tall – 2 1/2 Empire State Buildings.

Dubai Tower

We then made our way to the gold and spice souks that weren’t all that impressive.  They don’t come close to comparing to any of the souks I’ve been to in Morocco or Turkey and they are a decent taxi ride away from the majority of the other attractions.  I thought they would be the “authentic” part of the Dubai trip but unfortunately they were more touristy than the malls!  Remember to check the taxi rates before heading out, our driver was using a “special” meter that I picked up on right away.

Speaking of Malls…

Dubai Mall - One of the "Largest Malls" and one of the "Largest Aquarium Tanks"

Please Wear Respectful Clothing...next to a Forever 21, Mall of the Emirates

Ski Dubai - Mall of the Emirates

Snowball Fight - Ski Dubai - Mall of the Emirates

No Kissing or Overt Displays of Affection - Mall of the Emirates Courtesy Policy

Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa

The next day was all about relaxing and we decided we were in need of some beach time.  There are some public beaches in Dubai, but as a Platinum SPG member I figured why not check out the Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa on Jumeirah Beach.  The front desk staff were extremely gracious but still requested the standard $30 per person rate for use of the facilities for the day, inclusive of the beach, pool, and any non motorized water-sports.  I went and spoke to the concierge who “in gratitude of my loyalty” allowed the three of us the same access for $30 total, including unlimited water bottles all day long.  Not a bad deal.  The property has expansive outdoor space with three pools, tennis courts, and most importantly a huge beach with enough loungers for guests (and visitors).  The staff were extremely accommodating and came around constantly with water bottles, drinks, and cold snacks. The water temperature, both in the sea and in the pools was perfect and we were offered complimentary kayaks, banana boats, and snorkel gear.

While the grounds are amazing, we did talk to a few guests who had mixed thoughts on their rooms as well as the indoor common areas.  The overall feeling seemed to be that the rooms were comfortable but still needed to be updated and modernized.  However, they were all extremely pleased with the expansive and well kept grounds, beach-front access, and service levels.  One important thing to note, the hotel does NOT award SPG points for stays, though they do provide a welcome gift and “preferred room allotment”. 

Other Sightseeing Highlights

Cocktails at sunset overlooking the sea and the seven star Burj Al Arab Hotel

Burj Al Arab - Cocktails & Sunset

Medzo Mediterranean open air restaurant – Wafi Mall, reasonable and some of the best food we had in Dubai.

Medzo Mediterranean

Barasti Beach Bar – Located at the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort on the Arabian Sea, is a much more laid back scene than Boudoir.  Some people were dressed up while others were still in bathing suits, it truly felt like a beach bar on the night we were there.  The music was a mix of top 40 and reggae. Again, it seemed like a majority of the people we met were Emirates flight attendants on layovers.   They definitely know how to party in between their trips.

Our final activity in Dubai consisted of dune bashing on the Arabian sand dunes with some camel riding, belly dancing, and henna thrown in.  We booked our trip with our pseduo hotel, the Le Meridien, who offered a lower price than the tour company’s website.  What is dune bashing? As per Wikipedia, “Dune bashing, also known as desert safari, is a form of off-roading, using an off-road vehicle to explore sand dunes.  Similar to auto-racing, experience and skill is required to maneuver the car and prevent accidents. Hence, in most cases, a professional driver accompanies the group.”  Essentially, you are in a 4×4 vehicle riding up and then sliding down the dunes. Check out a video here.


Emirates Business Dubai – Cairo

Well, our time in Dubai was over but I was excited to get back to the airport to check out the Emirates Business Class Lounge.  Check-in was easy as there were at least 15 business class check-in desks.  We were checked in and through security in under 10 minutes.  Unfortunately for us there was a fire alarm pulled and I was only briefly able to check out the business lounge and snap a few pictures.  The hot dishes looked extremely similar to those we had at JFK, but the lounge was probably 5x the size.  It was gigantic with plenty of seating for dining or relaxing.


 

The flight from Dubai to Cairo was about 3 hours and 45 minutes and included dinner service on board the Boeing 777-200.  To be honest, it’s sort of hard to not be disappointed after flying on the A380 from JFK to Dubai.  The 3 class 777-200 included only recliner seats in business and a relatively small tv.  However, the service was still top notch, the food excellent (I had the mezze and mixed grill), and we were still provided with a full amenity kit.

The flight arrived 20 minutes early and the chaos in Egypt was about to begin.  Until the next post

Posted by adam | 8 Comments

Let’s take a walk down frequent flyer memory lane and head back to a time when the Citi AAdvantage cards were churnable, one could earn 25,000 AAdvantage miles for switching home phone service to MCI (several times), and AOL AAdvantage’s Opinion Place had just gone live. It was early 2000 and I was still a freshman in college with the mileage obsession just kicking in.  I did my best to keep up, following along on WebFlyer & FrequentFlier, while using my parent’s phone lines and credit histories to earn the miles.  AOL, the “internet” at the time to most, teamed up with AAdvantage to form AOLAAdvantage Rewards and Opinion Place.

After taking a survey of 15 minutes or less, Opinion Place awarded members 150 AAdvantage miles or AOL service credits, CDs, books, etc.  In 2002, the AOLAAdvantage moniker was dropped, and Opinion Place began awarding members up to 300 AAdvantage miles for surveys.

From 2000-2004, I remember consistently taking the surveys every 14 days in order to earn the 150-300 miles.  Starting in 2006, the offers began dropping to 50 miles per survey and I no longer bothered with the site.  I didn’t need the surveys to keep my account active as I was now flying on AA and had my own Citi AA card.

Flash forward to present day with a reader question sent to me at adam@pointmetotheplane.com,  “My wife and I can no longer qualify for the Citi AAdvantage cards after having the personal and business cards several times in the last decade, what’s an easy way to keep our accounts active.”  Opinion Place immediately came back to mind and I surfed over to their site to see if it was still in existence and if they offered AAdvantage miles.  Well, 12 years later the site is still alive though under new management.  You can even still earn AAdvantage miles as well as Amazon gift cards and PayPal credits.

I decided to take the site for a test drive to see just how many AAdvantage miles were being offered and what the time requirements would be using two separate browser windows.  I received one offer for 75 miles after 15 minutes and another offer for the same 75 miles after 10 minutes, not bad at all.

I opted for the 10 minute survey and actually received a survey topic I was interested in, hotels and loyalty programs!

At the completion of the survey I received a confirmation that my miles would post in 3-4 weeks and that I could return to take another survey within 7 days.

Some things to remember:

  1. If you’ve never visited Opinion Place before, you’ll have to sign up as a new user.  Sign-up is free and takes only a few minutes.
  2. The more people who are “available” for surveys, the more likely you are to be selected.  The site will ask if you have children living at home, what their ages are, and if they are available to help you answer questions.  By providing this information you increase the chances of matching one of the survey demographics (the more the better).  You can decide later how available you want to make your kids.
  3. On open ended questions, the more information you provide the longer the survey.  For example, name your favorite hotel brands.  If you enter five hotels you’ll be asked questions comparing all five to each other which will take significantly more time than comparing three hotel brands.
  4. Miles take 3-4 weeks to post so if you have AAdvantage miles expiring, I’d recommend completing the survey at least one month prior.  Additionally, remember you may not be selected for a survey at all.
  5. 75 miles may seem miniscule when compared to today’s 100k blockbuster credit card deals, but it’s an easy way to keep your account active and every little bit counts.  If you qualify every week that would be 300 miles a month or 3600 a year.

Another Option – e-Rewards

e-rewards , started only a few years after Opinion Place and has been offering miles, hotel points, and gift cards in exchange for taking surveys for quite some time now.  The site works differently as it is by invite only and requires you to fill out a consumer profile which then prompts the system to send you emails when your profile matches an available survey.   Additionally, you are awarded a set dollar amount for each survey and TRAVEL related redemptions are only offered once you hit the $25, $50, or $100 level.  The surveys range from $1 – $20, though they tend to average in the $2-$5 range.  Today, I’ve received two survey invitations, both above $5.  The higher the dollar amount, the longer it will take you to complete the survey.

A few years ago AAdvantage was removed as a redemption partner but has just returned as of this May!  Additionally, AA & e-miles are now offering 250 miles for signing up for the program and taking your first survey within 3 months of enrollment.  You can find this offer on AA’s website here, click their link to e-rewards to start the registration process.

Though once standard, the travel redemption partners now seem to differ based on which program you originally received the invitation from.  I originally signed up with AA, and at the $25 level my current redemption options are:

You can essentially double the awards at the $50 level and triple them at the $100 level:

Some things to remember:

  1. You need an invite to join e-rewards, though the link above from AA will suffice .  This will allow you to earn AAdvantage miles, though your other redemption partners may vary. I originally joined under AA and have an extensive list of partners that I can redeem with (see list below).
  2. On average surveys may take more time than Opinion Place, though longer surveys provide greater rewards.
  3. Currency does expire so make sure you review the expiration terms.
  4. You can use e-rewards to strategically transfer points during promotions (US Airways Grand Slam) or to keep accounts from expiring.

Memory Lane – WebFlyer circa May 2000 with a mention of ClickRewards!

Posted by adam | 4 Comments

Back in January, the New York Times released their annual “45 Places to Go” list for 2012“. The article suggests several destinations that I have on my list as well as a few surprises, like Oakland, CA and Chattanooga, TN.   Of the suggestions this year,  I’d love to get to Tanzania to see the Great Migration as well as to Chilean Patagonia.  I also had no idea that the “original” Panama Canal will soon be completely updated and that “…for those who want to see the waterway as it was originally designed, now is the time.” Anyway, some good Sunday thought for where your miles and points can take you this year.   What’s your ultimate destination for 2012?

1. Panama
2. Helsinki, Finland
3. Myanmar
4. London
5. Oakland, Calif.
6. Tokyo
7. Tanzania
8. Chilean Patagonia
9. Lhasa, Tibet
10. Havana, Cuba
11. Moscow
12. Glasgow
13. Puebla, Mexico
14. San Diego
15. Halong Bay, Vietnam
16. Florence, Italy
17. St. Vincent
18. Moganshan, China
19. Birmingham, England
20. Space
21. Kerala, India
22. Paraty, Brazil
23. Koh Rong, Cambodia
24. Vienna
25. Chattanooga, Tenn.
26. Dakhla, Morocco
27. Maldives
28. Malacca, Malaysia
29. The Algarve
30. Tahoe, Calif.
31. Wales
32. Antarctica
33. Uganda
34. Ukraine
35. Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic
36. Dubrovnik, Croatia
37. Chiloe Island, Chile
38. Jordan
39. Crans-Montana, Switzerland
40. Montpellier, France
41. Nosara, Costa Rica
42. South Korea
43. Lodz, Poland
44. Dalarna, Sweden
45. Portovenere, Italy

PS – It’s still the weekend.  Check out our weekly Say What? Overheard on the Plane series, for the craziest conversations overheard while flying.

Posted by adam | 7 Comments

Happy Saturday and Happy Cinco de Mayo!  In celebration of the holiday, we offer up a few of the more risque overheard conversations.  It’s all part of the flying experience.  Enjoy!

If you haven’t yet, check out Say What? Overheard on the Plane Edition 1 and Say What? Overheard on the Plane Edition 2.  Keep sending in your stories to adam@pointmetotheplane.com.

Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (Bangkok Airways)
Male Passenger 1 – How much time do you think we spent sober on our Thailand trip so far?
Male Passenger 2 -  Three hours?
Male Passenger 1 – How many hours total do you think we were in Bangkok for?
Male Passenger 2 – I’m still hungover, stop ****** talking to me.

Flight from Berlin to New York JFK (Delta)
Male Passenger 1 – So you think the client bought all those sh**ty ideas?
Male Passenger 2 – Of course, we pull cr*p out of our a***s and they love it, genius
Male Passenger 1 – I really love this job!

Alitalia International Check-In -Rome Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci Airport
Female Passenger 1 – Wow, you really travel light.
Male Passenger 1 –  That’s what happens when you fly with these a**holes and they loose your luggage.

Delta Lindbergh Terminal – Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
AMEX Representative– Sign-up for the Delta SkyMiles card and earn enough miles for a free trip anywhere in the domestic US.
Female Passenger 1 – Sir, you’re peddling lies
AMEX Representative – Excuse me?
Female Passenger 1- We call them SkyPesos now and you can’t go anywhere with them (tears the application).  They are worth cr*p.  (screams at others) – Don’t sign up for this card!

Flight from JFK – San Juan,  Puerto Rico (Delta)
Flight Attendant – Mexican fiesta omelet?
Male Passenger – Not if you paid me
Flight Attendant – Yea, I don’t blame you, what a way to start the day.

Flight from Zurich to JFK (Swiss)
Male Passenger 1 – I hate when I’m assigned to work for Susan, she is a complete b****.  She needs to take a vacation and reset.
Female Passenger 1 – Screw the vacation, she needs to take this weekend, find a man, and …

Imagine having passengers like these sitting next to you on some of the world’s longest flights that I posted about yesterday!

Delta appears to be celebrating with margaritas on their flights today…

 

Posted by adam | One Comment

Yesterday I posted my first trip report, a review of business class aboard the Emirates A380 from JFK to Dubai, and it sparked numerous reader emails inquiring as to my  favorite flight of all time. As I thought about it, unsurprisingly the flights I have enjoyed the most have also been some of the longest, both in distance and time. These flights tend to utilize some of the newest aircraft, sport the most generous seats and amenities, and carry extreme perks not only on-board but both before and after the flights. I consulted trusty Wikipedia to find the full listing of the longest flights which includes 23 routes. Of the 23, I’ve flown 9 current routes and 1 of the discontinued routes. The exciting news is that this leaves me with over half the list to still experience! Which flight below would you be most interested in hearing about in a future trip report and which do you most want to take? Send me an email at adam@pointmetotheplane.com. I was thinking SQ 21/22 from Newark to Singapore, currently the longest in distance and time as well as a business only flight. Who has me beaten, how many of these flights have you taken and which has been your favorite?  It truly is amazing where this miles and points game can take you!

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Posted by adam | 21 Comments

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