The South American Stopover Adventure: The Grand Hyatt Santiago Review

5 01 2013

Grand_Hyatt_Santiago_lobby

Grand Hyatt SantiagoThis Grand Hyatt certainly lived up to it’s name. Although I had read many mixed reviews, I vouch for it as a great hotel and as an awesome value for 8,000 Hyatt points! It’s one of the more impressing buildings in the city and also returns to Travel & Leisure’s 500 Best Hotels. Impressed in every objective matter.

It must be clerified, I’m an absolute sucker for great buildings. This is why The Grand Hyatt Santiago joins the Park Hyatt skyscrapers (Shanghai and Tokyo) in my top hotels of 2012. The Park Hyatt hotels are absolutely stunning in every way and are also just cool. While the Grand Hyatt Santiago isn’t nearly as stunning, it’s still cool. All the rooms go up the tall open cylinder of the building and doors look down into the lobby. Plus, it has great views of the Andes, weather permitting. Some complained about how old the rooms were, but I didn’t notice it in the standard club rooms. Either way, the rooms were huge, had enormous windows and felt like a Jr. Suite with the drop down.

My first impression of their service was great. They checked me in and came around the counter to give me, with two hands, the room key. They did the same thing at the Ritz Carlton back in NYC, but I guess the expectations weren’t set that high. They blew them away.

Grand Hyatt Santiago Bedroom

There are a few restaurants in the hotel that are highly ranked including a sushi restaurant. At night the lounge provided sushi from the restaurant and thought it was great. Maybe it’s just great because it’s free? No, it was high quality. Although the lounge wasn’t huge it provided a good breakfast and evening meal, including drinks. However, it’s not a big lounge and for the rest of the day there is pretty much nothing in there. That being said, it’s a great lounge.

Finally, the hotel is a category two and therefore only 8,000 points! That is a very good value of 8,000 points and for 10,000 you can get a club room with access to the lounge. Of course, if you’re a Diamond you’ll get access anyways but the lounge is totally worth it for a sushi lover. This many Hyatt points can be earned quickly in good promos or by simply transferring at a 1:1 ration from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt Gold Passport.

Would I stay here again? Of course, it’s only 10,000 points! Although I’m not in love with Santiago and the hotel is completely in the business district where there’s nothing to see, I’d do it again. This reasoning partly confirms a repeat visit to the Hyatt, since if I’m there again it’s probably on a stopover and I wouldn’t mind hiding in the hotel.

It’s a nice property… A great property for 10,000 points.

Grand Hyatt Santiago Bathroom





Double Dipping the Chase Sapphire Preferred

4 01 2013

I’ve heard with mix success that you can convert your Chase Sapphire Visa into a Chase Sapphire MasterCard and then apply for the visa all over again somewhere down the road. However, I forgot that there was ever a MasterCard link for the Sapphire Preferred anyways. Go to creditcards.com and then click MasterCard on the left and you should see it – the Chase Sapphire Preferred MasterCard. Simply by signing up for both versions you can get both sign up bonuses – 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points each. I value UR Points very highly, so this is a great opportunity.

Although I will say that because of my credit card application strategy, I wouldn’t sign up for both in one day. But I would sign up for the business card version, The Ink Bold or Ink Plus (found under business cards), on the same day as a Sapphire Preferred if my credit is strong enough (which it is). So according to my strategy, I would apply for the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold on one day… and then in 3 or 6 months, apply for the Sapphire Preferred MasterCard and Ink Plus on the same day. This is a huge win considering the business card is a 50,000 Point sign up bonus. One churn could net more than 90,000 and in a few months you could net another 90,000+.

Three “Do Nots”, in case you didn’t know.

  • You do not need a business to have a business card. Trust me. Just put your name again as the business and your SSN as the business #.
  • Do not waste points by buying flights on the Ultimate Rewards flight-booker-ripoff-thingy! Transfer them to United or something! Here is my guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfers. 180,000 miles is a lot! Use it well. See my series on stopovers with United, Creating Your Dream Trip Using United Miles. But with or without stopovers 180,000 United miles could be 3 round-trips to Europe or more than enough for first class to Asia!
  • Do not be scared of the spend requirements. Read my post on getting around spend requirements. Hint: Amazon Payments is your friend.

Again, Creditcards.com has the MasterCard listed, but I’m not sure why they list it and not everyone else?





What should I do with my Southwest Points?

4 01 2013

Let me show you the saddest email I’ve gotten in 2013!

Screen shot 2013-01-03 at 11.16.07 PM

“Your Rapid Rewards® Companion Pass status expired on December 31, 2012.” Bummer, but I have to say… I can’t imagine having gotten too much better use out of it. I was averaging like 5,000 points a flight – taking a little over 15 flights during the time of having the companion pass. Still, I’m left with 34,000 points and no plans. Also, Southwest doesn’t fly into my little Charlottesville, VA airport but I could drive to DC or Baltimore. But if I’m driving to BWI it’d better be a real trip, like a week. So the question is where do I need a vacation to? I was just saying more Caribbean this year would nice – it’s been a few years. Also Southwest is taking over AirTran flights slowly, so I could just wait for Southwest to take over an AirTran flight. Any suggestions? Any destinations on the AirTran route map that you think I should wait for?

I really just wish they would tell us when they will take over which flight. It say on the Southwest map the flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico will start in April… pretty tempting and I would have just enough points for two of us.





Free-Travel Predictions and Travel Plans for 2013!

3 01 2013

As far as free travel, there’s plenty of reasons to think that the game isn’t slowing down. Credit card bonuses just keep getting bigger, although they got a little tighter than the 2010 & 2011 matching other people’s bonuses. Thus I still plan on earning the majority of my miles from credit card sign up bonuses although I have pretty much every travel credit card that exists… Again, I predict more targeted offers and higher spend requirements but certainly not smaller bonus offers – the competition is getting stiff.

See my post on my credit card application strategy and/or A Credit Card Churning 101 Course.

This year American Airlines was extremely generous in how many miles they were giving to frequent flyers, and thus I plan on flying as many miles as they give big bonuses for – 100,000+. Sure, when acquiring miles via miles-runs I have to pay for them but a few realities come into play here:

  1. I’m a complete travel addict and I easily burn through that 1,000,000 miles a year I earn from credit cards. And flying simply for the miles is actually cheaper in the long run. Plus, I’m still traveling to earn the miles… I’m just paying for my first flights like how most suckers out there travel.
  2. I have vouchers and gift cards for AA from various things.
  3. I’m far too spoiled to fly economy now. All I require is a bed and AA business class will have that. Once you start redeeming your miles for premium cabin, you don’t go back. Plus, if I’m flying hundreds of thousands of miles a year, that’s like weeks of my life in a plane.
  4. I’ll have to start getting bumped. I don’t want to pay for the rest of my flights anyways and in the past I’ve turned down $400 certificates to get bumped because I was eager to get to where I’m going. But if I’m doing pure mileage runs more often, there’s no hurry.

So that’s not a free-travel plan, but the miles I yield from my travel will get me more travel.

This year will be the popularization of buying gift cards for miles. If you haven’t heard, people are getting credit cards like the Ink Bold or the Freedom card this quarter, that give 5 points per dollar at certain places and buying Visa gift cards with them and then figuring out ways to cash them out. I’ll be making a run with my Freedom card soon and will start talking about it more as there are a lot of opportunities here.

In the hotel world, it seems that Hyatt is done with their Faster Free Nights promotions. Maybe the best promotion ever – gone- free nights in $1,000+ hotels from staying in their cheaper hotels twice – gone. It’s been since 2010 and heck there is currently no promotion and their last ones have sucked. I certainly hope that they come back and start offering value but they seem to be acting like they’ve hooked as many as they wanted too. After all they grew by like 40% in a small amount of time and maybe that was the goal.

However, Club Carlson (Radisson) seems to be trying to do the same thing- grow their customer base via large promotions. The problem clearly is that their top end hotels are not nearly as nice as Park Hyatt hotels. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Club Carlson has been good for Radisson and I hope some more mergers/buy outs lead to the same thing. Other hotels are realizing the importance of loyalty programs and have started competing. It would be nice to see brands like Fairmont (who started a Chase card) and Omni start giving points and other brands like Four Seasons to start expanding to lower level hotels and therefore competing in the points game.

Fishing with a local friend in Bali.

Destinations

Caroline and I have talked about doing a trip to the Middle East soon and a longer trip to Europe this summer. These two I’m pretty confident about. Still, I’ve never been to Africa and the Serengeti has been on my bucket list since… forever now. So I’m not saying it will get done, but it should. Depends how much I overbook myself again.

As far as redos, I could see myself hitting some Caribbean islands or even the coast of Mexico. Also, I love Asia… I mean I just love it. I love the culture, food, hotels, and everything! But also love beaches and could see a return to Bali (preferably in Cathay First Class). More beaches and relaxing this year.

Believe it or not, I’m renting a house now and am planning on spending more time in my home town of Charlottesville, VA. Full time travel and living out of hotels is nice and all but so is having friends around. It seems like a good idea now but my lease is only until July 31st. This summer will come the big question: to renew or not to renew?





Everyone in my hotel spent $800+, and they shouldn’t have paid more than $200.

1 01 2013

The Crowne Plaza and InterContinental Times Square were selling for $800 or more for new years eve, however the morning of, plenty of rooms were available for points. This was an irresistible deal considering the Crowne Plaza is only 35,000 points a night. From first glance, you could just buy 35,000 points for $400. I still wouldn’t pay $400 for a night… anywhere but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than $800. Still, Priority Club points can be had cheaper.

How could I get Priority Club points cheaper?

1) Stays. This is not a joke. I’ve racked up a ton of points spending very little money by staying at Priority Club hotels because of promotions. In my opinion, this is the best option. Here I talked about how during one promotion I got points and nights towards elite status for free! But what you really need to know is how to register for the promotions. You can register for multiple promotions at once and earn lost of points.

(See this post, Everything About Priority Club).

2) Buying points. Priority Club is consistently having new promotions for buying points. Commonly 100% bonus on buying points – making 35,000 points cost $200. Also, I bought some during the DiscoverAmerica promotion for much cheaper than even that.

3) The Trick. It use to be on the DL but it’s been pretty well known now, which is why you should be careful with the trick. Priority Club knows it happens and could shut you down, I guess. Still people do this all the time, but I don’t partly because buying points the official way went towards Platinum Status and because I can earn more via stays. The trick is this:

Screen shot 2013-01-01 at 11.44.58 AM

When you book a room with Points + Cash, when you click buy it automatically takes 10,000 off your credit card and $70 from your credit card. When you cancel the room you get 20,000 points back and no cash. Get it?

The point is, Priority Club points come easy. Yesterday I got a 1,000 points certificate via FourSquare and there’s a 80,000 point, first time use, Chase Priority Club card.. Plus, if you catch a PointBreaks, you can find hotels for only 5,000 points. Easy come with high-end InterContinental Hotel options for redemption. Whoever’s paying $800 for these hotels is getting ripped off.





My Top 10 Post of 2012

1 01 2013

A lot of what you read on this site is fluff, it’s verbal processing and an small attempt to be a real blogger. I don’t even recommend my friends and family read my site. When they ask about it, I divert; “have you heard of frequent-miler?”. Despite all that, I have 10 great contributions to the frequent flyer community. Here are my top 10 post of 2012!

  1. Using Stopovers to Save Avios. Without a doubt, my favorite post to work on has been figuring out how to route a BA Avios flight in such a way that gives a cool stopover and saves money! Here I give specific examples of routes where you’d save Avios by creating a stopover on the way to your South American destination.  I mean look at the chart. If you’re flying 7,500 miles, isn’t it cheaper to take two 3,750 mile flights (for 20,000 miles each) than it is to take one 7,500 mile flight (for 50,000 miles)?
  2. Creating Your Dream Trip Using United Miles. If it’s not obvious, I like to write about stopovers and United has some of the most generous rules towards stopovers. And what makes it more generous is that you can sometimes save miles by adding two destinations with many programs. Here I talk about How to Break Award Charts and Why. Though, the why should be obvious, more places for fewer miles – a true win, win.
  3. Choosing A Hotel Rewards Program. This is basically a comparative chart made earlier this year – comparing one hotel loyalty program against the other using things like the Travel & Leisure Top 500 Hotels list; how fast you earn and how fast you spend.
  4. Best Use Of British Airways Avios. Before the Avios stopover kick was an analysis of the new Avios program and how to go about using them well.
  5. Priority Pass tricks: Two people, no fees. If you have the Platinum Card you get a little thing called Priority Pass which gets you into like 300 airport lounges across the world. Unfortunately they want to charge for an extra person and my wife and I always travel together. Thankfully we figured out a loophole or two.
  6. A Credit Card Churning 101 Course. This is actually another compilation of  posts explaining My Application Strategy and other things.
  7. The Best Use of Club Carlson Points. Dear goodness there have been so many great promotions with Club Carlson in the last 12 months and now there is an awesome Club Carlson Visa.
  8. How to get 25 cents per mile. This is the living out of the stopover routes I believe in. Also check out the trip report on the many places visited on one ticket.
  9. Credit Card Bonuses Worth Waiting For. Before you go applying tomorrow for a new rewards card… 1) is it one of the best cards and 2) is it one of the best offers for that card?
  10. Sri Lanka Review. If nothing else the pictures are pretty wild.




My Top 6 Hotels of the Last Year!

31 12 2012

In all the travels of 2012 putting together a list of favorite hotels was done real quick. Without a doubt these are my top 6 hotels of the year – in fact the order is almost obvious to me. Of course, these hotels were all free with the exception of the JW, which I paid for with a gift card. (Minor detail; this is almost a list of hotels from Dec 2011 – Dec 2012, as I’ve stayed in some nice hotels this month but haven’t had the chance to write about them).

Each of these hotels has remained in Travel & Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels again this year. Here are my favorites of the ones we visited this year with links to the original write ups:

1) Park Hyatt Shanghai – I can’t look at skyscrapers the same way anymore! When I see them building a new building in NYC I say to myself, “I hope they put a hotel at the top!” With Rooms on floors 79 – 93 of the Shanghai World Financial Center, there’s nothing like it. Also, there are few hotels that have the luxurious feel of the Park Hyatt Shanghai – the bathroom is immaculate, huge and had a view 90 floors above the city. I have nothing but praise for this hotel. I have little interest in going back to Shanghai except to go back to this hotel.

For only 18,000 Hyatt points, this hotel is a must! My favorite to this day.

Park_Hyatt_Shanghai_bathroom

Park_Hyatt_Shanghai_bedroomPark_Hyatt_Shanghai

 

2) InterContinental Hong Kong – A hotel fit for royalty with the best view of my favorite skyline. Seriously, what a view! With an infinity hot tub looking over the water, a hotel sitting over the water facing downtown Hong Kong with giant glass windows, there’s always a good view. The rooms and service are top noch. What more can I say? I must return here. I’ll gladly burn through 50,000 Priority Club points for another night.

Intercontinental_hong_kong_entrance

InterContinental_Hong_Kong_lobby_view

3) Ritz Carlton Central Park, New York – Never will you find better service than this hotel (except at the next hotel). The service is an experience of luxury. Facing central park, with quite large rooms and an amazing bathroom makes this a unique hotel in New York City. It’s comfy yet an antique. However, I won’t be dropping 70,000 Marriott points here again… it’s just too many.

4) Park Hyatt Tokyo – This hotel is also an experience of service – service is always one step beyond. Plus, I have a thing for the skyscrapers, so I had to try this hotel. Ultra modern with a dark-wood style gives this hotel a touch of style and luxury. For 22,000 Hyatt points, it’s a must try. However, since I wasn’t on business, the district was quite far away from everything I wanted to see.

Park_Hyatt_Tokyo_View

5) JW Marriott Bangkok – This JW Marriott has the best lounge I’ve seen. It’s more like a buffet restaurant with free drinks – a chef was out making salmon and steaks and the staff waitresses were extremely attentive, with plenty of tables and a full patio – it was quite a treat. Platinum members get access to the lounge for free! And here is my post on Free Marriott Platinum Status. Of course the hotel is all around high quality and has many other wonderful features like the gym and service.

The best part is not that I had a Marriott gift card or two, it’s that I got the room for $116! I talked about how I got that rate through their Best Rate Guarantee here. 😉

6) Grand Hyatt Santiago – Speaking of great lounges, their’s had sushi from the sushi restaurant below. The hotel had incredible views of the andes, an awesome building and huge rooms. The downside is again, I’m not a business man and it’s so far away from the tourist area.

The best part about this hotel is that it’s a category 2! This means it’s only 8,000 Hyatt points or 10,000 for a Club Room.

Other notable stays: Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong; Radisson Blu Sydney; and the worst favorite hotel of mine is no doubt, The InterContinental Fiji.








%d bloggers like this: