New International Trip

This past weekend I was at FTU Seattle.  It was a great weekend and I learned great new information.  I also was reminded of some old information I still need to jump on.  One thing I didn’t heard, but was posted about online on Wednesday by all the big bloggers, was US Airways is not collecting fuel surcharges for flights on British Airways like they should be for award redemptions.

This is a really big deal!!  Fuel surcharges are easily $1000 on flights, from what I hear.  Not all airlines collect fuel surcharges, but BA started a few years ago and they are mighty spendy.  There is a LOT of speculation this loophole will quickly be closed.  No one really knows for sure, given US Airways is still in the process of combining with AA.

When I first heard the tip, I thought, shoot, that would be awesome, but oh well.  After a day of thinking about it, I asked Nick if he cared if I took a solo trip and he took care of the kids for a week.  He said go for it, so I started putting together an itinerary.

US Airways has a really fantastic award redemption from the US to North Asia (Hong Kong, China, Japan, etc) in which you can route via Europe all for 120,000 miles in first class.  That is a spectacular value!!  US Airways is due for a devaluation as this is a much lower redemption rate than you will find on other airlines.

I only wanted to be gone for a week.  I really wanted to be on BA and Cathay Pacific first class.  After that, I didn’t care.  I knew I could fly to Europe, have a stopover, to a destinaton in Asia, then to the US.  This is 3 long haul flights in premium cabins.  Without knowing how long the loophole would stay open since it was posted openly, I acted quickly.  Long story short, I booked SEA-LHR (stopover)-FRA-HKG-LAX-PHX-SEA.  From SEA-FRA is with BA, then two flights on Cathay, and US Airways to SEA.  I don’t live in SEA, so I will use some Avios to book a round trip positioning flight for 9,000 points.  My total fees and taxes where $457.  These would have been lower if  my stopover wasn’t in London as they collect a departure tax that is expensive.  I haven’t done much in London before and thought I would make it my stopover since I was going to be solo on this trip.  I do wish I would have gotten in and out of BOI, but when I was doing my research, I didn’t realize I couldn’t book flights on Alaska with my USDM.  Oops.  I had it all built and didn’t want to start over as I didn’t know how long the loophole would be open (it is still, 24 hours later).  Getting to SEA from BOI is easy though, so I am not worried.  And who knows, Nick might make it a business trip out of picking me up on the way home and go on a motorcycle run.

How did I build it?  I used the BA website to search for award flights.  First, you need to log into your account.  If you don’t have an account,  set one up.  You are not required to have points in it.

After you log in, hover over the Executive Club tab, then under Using your Avios, click on Spending Avios.

first

It will then take you to this page:

second

Once here, click on Book Flights with Avios.  Then you get this screen:

third

This is where the fun starts.  They key here is to search one segment at a time.  Make sure you don’t have stops in it, although the search will pull up non-direct flights as well.  Put in your where you are starting, where you are ending, the day you want to depart, click on one-way only, which class you want (in my case, first), and hit Get Flights.

fourth

For what I entered, I got the above results.  In this case, there is no first class flights available for avios points on the direct flight, but there is business class available on a non-direct flight.  You have two options now – you can click through the days at the top (the day in blue is the day you are looking at) or you can click on change (not shown in this picture, but just above the week toolbar) and change as many parameters as you want.  I did until I found an example with seats available, shown here:

fifth

Once you find one segment, start again with the second segment.  To build my itinerary, I think I spent about an hour.  However, I also spent an hour looking up wiki pages for airports and figuring out what routing I wanted.  Once I had the routing built, I called US Airways.  I didn’t bother looking up the domestic connections as I was booking so far out, I was very confident I could get seats (and I was right, in this case).

This is where things are a bit tricky.  You can’t call them up and say you did all this research, found the flights you want, now look them up and book them, please.  What does work, is to say “I was working with another agent and we got disconnected.  I wrote down what the flights were, so can I give them to you and we try again?”  It will take some convincing that you didn’t have a confirmation number, but really do have some flights, but stick with it, stay very happy, and act innocent.  I was on the phone for about 45 minutes, which is actually pretty quick.

I am very excited about this trip!  I am going to be gone for a week, will miss the babies like crazy, but will get to have a bit of fun on some really awesome first class products!

 

Posted in trip strategy, US Airways | 1 Comment

Baby Brain Cost Me Miles

Mr. L is almost 9 weeks old.  Last night, I got to sleep for 4 straight hours for the first time since he was born.  I am still tired in general, but it is the baby brain that is still getting me.  Baby brain is real.  Imagine looking at a shoe, knowing it goes on your foot, you should know what it is called, and just can’t remember.  That is baby brain.  And it almost bit me in the butt.

About a month ago, I booked a trip for June to go to Kansas to baptize the little man.  I hurried and got the trip booked using Southwest miles and my companion pass before before they had a devaluation.  I thought I was good to go.  The confirmation emails were even at the top of my inbox for the past couple weeks.

And then I realized, I booked our flights BACKWARDS!!  Yes, instead of BOI-MCI visit MCI-BOI, I booked MCI-BOI visit BOI-MCI!!  I couldn’t believe it!  Thank goodness I caught it now and not at the airport. That would have been horrible for so many reasons.  So, how did I fix a mistake like that?

Technically, I could have done it online, but with a companion pass, toddler in arms, and using points, I thought a phone call would be better.  I was hoping to just change the itinerary, not cancel and rebook, and the agent tried and tried, but that is what he had to do.  Because the itinerary was cancelled and rebooked and the price was slightly higher, it cost quite a few more points.  Now, instead of costing 60 points/$, it was 70 points/$.  Nothing I can do about it as this was completely my fault.  Fortunately, Southwest doesn’t charge change fees as that can be expensive.  I did get charged about 4,000 more points to rebook the flight under the new redemption rates and a slight increase in ticket cost.

Hopefully, I never do something like this again. I feel like this was a cheap lesson to learn and I will make sure I pay more attention in the future.  And if I need to book plane tickets or make other travel arrangements while super tired or distracted, I will probably wait a day or at least get some caffeine in me first!

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FTU’s and Seminars

It has been a busy past week or so for event announcements!  Last week, it was announced on Milepoint and then several blogs a new event, the FTU Advanced: Chicago (July).  However, it sold out it in less than 12 hours.  The organizers then put together a second FTU Advanced: Chicago (Sept). and it sold out about as fast.  In between these two announcements was the opening of the Chicago Seminars.  It was a busy week!

In ten days is the FTU Seattle event.  I have been to the Chicago Seminars a couple of times in the past, but never an FTU event.  I am very excited for a couple of reasons: the knowledge and friendships you gain at these events is priceless and I used to live in the Seattle area and will get to see some old friends.

I am sad to say I am not going to the FTU Advanced events.  I had decided long before they announced to only attend one event this year.  Having 2 little ones I miss fiercely made me not want to be gone much this year.  I wanted to highlight the events though because I truly believe they are awesome and anyone interested in this hobby should attend.  But, you must be willing to pull the trigger when they are announced as they sell out FAST!  The Chicago Seminars are still open.  I would really like to attend and am even giving second thoughts to going. :)   We will see.  I won’t decide though until after Seattle in a week or so.  But if you want to go, make your reservation now!  You won’t regret it!

 

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The Rest of My Year in Travel

With the addition of Mr. L to our family, this was going to be a slow travel year.  I am returning to work soon and luckily, my job is pretty understanding about new mom’s not wanting to be on the road.  So, all the work travel I did last year won’t be happening this year.  I am very happy about it for lots of reasons, one being I nurse my son and having to pump while you travel is really not fun.  I should write a post about that sometime for all the nursing momma’s out there.

We have no international trips planned but we do have a decent amount of domestic travel schedule.  We have trips to Kansas and South Dakota planned for now to see family, we are going to FTU Seattle later this month, and I have a few other trips in the works that are not firmed up.  So, nothing too exciting for the year.

Since this year is light on the travel front, it is giving me a chance to figure out a couple of other things.  There is a trip Nick and I have wanted to take for a long time to an event in Germany in the fall.  Originally, we were going to go in 2016, but I am thinking 2015 is the year to go.  It would be great to go on a trip without the wee ones and in a year and a half, we will be probably ready for a vacation alone.  Since we would go without them, I would want to make it an aspirational trip.

Nick and I have really loved flying first class.  Our trips on Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa were fantastic. I wish all of our flights overseas could be in such luxury.  For the next international trip, I want to try to match that standard.  Since I have time to get miles in place, I have the opportunity to build an amazing trip.  I have been doing research for the past couple of weeks and think I have it all figured out: I want one segment to be on Emirates using Alaska Air miles and one segment to be on Lufthansa.  From what I can tell, it makes the most sense to fly Emirates to Europe and Lufthansa home.  Why?  I decided since I am going to be leaving the kids, I don’t want any unknowns going into the trip and who knows what United (and other airlines) will have for rule for booking LH.  So, I am going to use LH’s frequent flyer program, Miles and More, to book the flights.  With that being said, the taxes and fees to the United States tend to be a couple hundred dollars less ($200 in comparison to $400) than flights to Europe.

That presents the next challenge.  I need 200,000 Alaska Airlines miles to book the Emirates part of the trip and 170,000 Miles and More miles.  The Alaska miles are almost there – only about 20,000 more to go.  But the LH Miles and More I will be starting from scratch to get there.  Luckily, time is on my side and now I just need to figure out how to rack up a whole bunch of miles between now and this fall.  I will probably use a combination of credit card signups, manufactured spend, and hopefully some transfers that I don’t know about yet.  When I get it all done and in place, I will post about how I got it done.

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Starbucks Free Stars

I know, this isn’t really travel related, but it is good, free stuff for some of us!  I tend to only drink Starbucks as a treat when I am on the road, especially when it is work related travel and I am reimbursed for it.  I finally joined the their elite status program last year about this time.  Just last week, I got an email saying I needed 9 more stars by the end of April to get gold status or have to start all over again.  I didn’t really care and wasn’t going to make a push for it and then I saw this post by Gary.

The codes that are working are:

MCATALINM
MCATALINH
MCATALINL
MCATALINK

When I first tried any of them, I got an error message.  That was two days ago.  I tried yesterday and the one ending in L worked.  Today, I got M and K to work.  It seems that different times of the day get better results.  That worked for me and apparently some others, if you read through the comments.  Keep trying if they are not working for you at first.  I have no idea how long it will last, but I am going to try to get at least 5 more stars from the codes.  I am not sure Gold status with Starbucks will do much for me, but I certainly wasn’t going to turn it down for free!

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Southwest Airlines: Book your Awards Now

I’m back! :)   It has been a bit longer of a break than originally planned, but life with two kids under 2 is a bit, well, busy!

Southwest Airlines was one of the many airlines/hotels announcing a devaluation last year.  The deadline is coming up soon – March 31st.  As of right now, Wanna Get Away fares cost 60 points/dollar to redeem and will be increasing to 70 points/dollar after the deadline.  What does that mean in dollars and points?  If you have 25,000 points in your account, you could book a flight costing $416.  After the deadline, the price you could book decreases to $357.  Boo!

Where devaluations are concerned, this one wasn’t too bad, especially compared to airlines like United.  If you know of trips you have coming up this year, book them now before the change comes into affect.  Southwest’s schedule is currently available for bookings through October 31.

It does remind me I need to hurry up and book a trip the four of us are taking  in the next couple of months.  It will be Mr. L’s first time on a plane and Miss A’s last time as a lap child!

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International Travel with a Toddler – Lessons Learned

My slow posting of the past week has been due to us having the baby!  We welcomed Mr L into the world last week, so I have been a bit, uh, distracted. :)   Plan on this being the case for the next few weeks while I get into a groove again.

I have often shared my thoughts of traveling with a little one, such as in this post.  After having undertaken a trip to Europe with a toddler, I know now what I would do different.

A lot of people, mainly those without children, think kids have no place in international first class.  I disagree. I think if you are an active parent who knows your child, first class is perfectly acceptable.  The thought behind no kids in the front of the plane is people want to have an enjoyable first class experience and that includes, no screaming children.  I agree with this, but I don’t agree that means children should be banned.  I have traveled enough with my child to know what she is like.  She rarely screams when flying and if she does scream, it is usually during take off and she is mad because I am restraining her.  Once we are in the air, if she lights up, I just take her to the bathroom until she calms down.  I have done two round trip international first class flights and have only had to go into the bathroom once.  However, if I had a child who freaked out whenever we flew, I would take that into strong consideration before booking a trip for “pleasure” with long flight segments.

So, with all that being said, I think as a parent you need to have real expectations as to what it means to fly first class with a child, especially if you want to keep the child calm.  It is a LOT of work.  Even with two parents and one child, it is not as easy to enjoy the luxuries of international first class.  Unless your child falls asleep and stays asleep, you won’t be able to eat your multi course dinner together and slowly.  How Nick and I have handled this is one of us eats and the other one entertains the little one.  Luckily, Miss A has been pretty easy to entertain on flights, for the most part.  We can read books to her, simply look around, or break out a movie if needed.  For me, the reason I choose to fly first class over business class with a little one is because the sleeping is better.  I have flown international business class and the sleeping is so so.  Much better than economy, no doubt, but not great.  The seats in international first class are much bigger, wider, and roomier, so sleeping double (mom and toddler) is actually possible.  I think it would be hard to get a toddler to sleep beside you on the business class seats.  Granted, I haven’t tried it, so maybe I am wrong.  It is a personal decision as to where to sit on the plane, but for us, flying in international first class with a baby/toddler, even knowing we can’t enjoy it as much as when it was just us, is still worth it.

On this trip, I made a big mistake in that I had us go to too many hotels/destinations.  We did 3 cities in 6 days and it was way too much for Miss A to handle.  She slowly started to lose patience and by the time we hit the third destination, she was beyond done and not tolerant.   In that time frame, we should have done 2 cities, at the most.  Lesson learned – don’t hotel or city hop with really little ones.  They thrive on consistency and it was way too much.

Flexibility has always been the name of the game when it comes to traveling and it becomes even more important when children are involved.  You can plan things out – the day, the trip, an outing – and if your child is having a tough day, be prepared to change your plans quickly.  This has happened twice with us on international trips.  In Bali, we had our last morning earmarked for para sailing and playing at the beach.  This all flew out the window when Miss A woke up with a serious fever.  In Europe, by the time we hit Munich, sight seeing and market shopping was done as it was cold, she was tired, and ready to be home.  Get on board with having to make changes to your plans and be okay with it.

One trip tip I have long implemented that continues to serve us well is to pack snacks from home.  The reasoning is two fold: first, you don’t always have food readily available, so the snacks will starve off hunger until you can get to a place to eat.  Try reasoning with a hungry toddler – terrorists are easier to negotiate with.  The second reason is if you pack snacks they are used to, it is a little something familiar when everything is different.  I would recommend packing a lot more then you think you might need.  We ran out in Europe as I underestimated the love of fruit snacks when traveling!

The last major takeaway from my recent trip abroad is to really evaluate what you think is the ideal length for your child to be gone.  I knew a 9 day trip was pushing the limits of what Miss A could handle and I was right.  It bit me in the butt by the time the trip was wrapping up and we ended up spending our last full day essentially hanging out in a hotel room.  I had known 7 days was more ideal for her, yet I pushed it out a bit to pack in a few things since “we were going to be gone anyways”.  Let me tell you, it isn’t worth it.  We should have just ended the trip at 7 days and gone home.  The whole trip would have been more relaxing and less stressful.  So when planning your trip, consider your wee ones needs and what they can truly handle.

Those have been my major takeaways from the last trip of ours.  Things like packing could be a whole other post in itself. :)

 

 

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Sweden, Pottery Shopping and Christmas Markets:Flying Home

We were suppose to fly out at 7 am, so I arranged for us to take the 5 am shuttle to the airport.  I wanted time to make it to the lounge to eat breakfast and take a shower.  The night before, I checked and all looked good.  We were to fly MUC-FRA-DFW-DEN-BOI.  DFW had been having snow storms, but the flight was still scheduled on time, the weather looked clear, so I went to bed confident all was fine.

Boy howdy, was I wrong.  We got to the airport and had problems checking in.  I thought it was because we had changed our itinerary.  Finally, an agent figured out our flight from FRA-DFW had been cancelled and we were rerouted on a UA flight through ORD.  I asked if we could stay on LH and she said to go talk to ticketing.  I went to ticketing, explained we preferred to stay on LH F and to see if there was something that could be done.  It took an hour of working and talking.  The biggest issue was they really wanted us to have one connection, once we got to the US.  They didn’t realize, no matter what I would say, how few options there are to fly into BOI.  They found seats on MUC-LAX, but wouldn’t let us have the flight as we would of had to then go LAX-SFO-BOI.

It wasn’t a perfect situation, but when she said she had MUC-DUS-ORD-BOI available, I said I would take it.  We were going to miss out on the FCT in FRA, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers and I had to keep the bigger picture in mind.  I was nervous about going through ORD because if DFW was having weather issues, one would think ORD would be too (and I was right).  We were not flying to DUS at 9 am, so we had 1.5 hours to kill before boarding.  Off to the lounge!

Miss A was so tired after getting up early.  We got a sleep room immediately.  Nick stayed with her while I went to eat and shower.  Miss A fell right to sleep, so that was good.  When he and I switched out, she woke up though.  I fed her an omelet and tried to get her to go back down, but no such luck.  We did each get a Munich First Class Lounge Christmas themed duck finally, after missing out when we arrived 9 days prior.

Our flight to DUS was fine.  Nothing exciting to report there.  In DUS, there is not First Class Lounge, like in MUC and FRA.  I knew this, but it was still hard to not be disappointed.  There is a lounge, it just isn’t even close to the same quality as the others.  We had just over an hour in the lounge before heading to the gate.

I didn’t bother to check ahead of time, but wasn’t surprised when we boarded the flight it was the old LH F seats.  We had these when we flew to Sweden in 2011.  They are pretty decent.  There are 8 seats in the cabin in a 1-2-1 configuration.  Nick, Miss A, and I took the forward right seat and the front middle.  I was happy to see only 2 other passengers on the flight – a lady and gentleman (not traveling together).  They both greeted Miss A, so I knew they weren’t cranky to see a little passenger up front.  Funny enough, at one point the gentleman stopped and talked to me because he thought I didn’t have my daughter dressed warm enough.  I have learned the first class cabins tend to be warm, so I dress her down so she isn’t too hot.

The cabin - old style first class on LH.

The cabin – old style first class on LH.

We had a flight time of 9 hours and I really wanted Miss A to sleep for most of it.  She was awake when we first boarded, but fell asleep not long after take off for about 3 hours.  That allowed us to get almost done eating.  She then woke up and we fed her and entertained her for a bit before trying to get her to go to sleep again.  She was so tired and was fighting us.  Finally, Nick was able to work his magic and get her to go to sleep, so all 3 of us slept for another 3 hours or so.  Having her sleep for 2/3rds of a long flight is doing really great!  We were close to landing at this point, so we just played until we got into Chicago.

IMG_6007

How can you not have a great flight when this is your accommodations?!

The food – I was really curious to try the December special – roasted duck – as it is an LH specialty.  It was okay.  The meat was a bit fatty, which really isn’t surprising and the red cabbage tasted like sauerkraut, of which I am not a big fan.  The potato dumplings were great though.  Nick had the turbot and thought it was pretty good.  He really only cares about the caviar, which they were happy to give him huge servings.  This flight did not have Krug on it, which made us sad.  The Louise was pretty good, but it isn’t Krug! We have become spoiled!  To see the menu, this LH Menu Thread  has listed what our offerings were.

Champers and macadamia nuts

Champers and macadamia nuts

amuse bouche - much better than it looks

amuse bouche – much better than it looks

Nick's favorite - caviar!

Nick’s favorite – caviar!

My favorite - bread.

My favorite – bread.

pearl barley soup

pearl barley soup

salad

salad

  LH specialty - roast goose

LH specialty – roast goose
Turbot

Turbot

Dessert

Dessert

flight was great.  I was happy we were still on LH F, even though we had the “old first class” and missed out on the FRA FCT.  We were able to get some more Rimowa amenity kits and Van Laack pajamas.  The crew were great – they brought toys for Miss A and were very accommodating.  I really appreciate how consistent LH treats their passengers.

I was curious to try out Global Entry for the first time.  We were tight on time and it seemed several flights landed at the same time with passengers going to immigration.  The lines were HUGE! Global Entry did not have lines though.  Nick took Miss A and did their two photos and I went to a kiosk for mine.  Miss A was told to see an agent, which we figured (and were right) it was because of her finger print experience.  The agent at the booth said they never should have done her prints because of her age and that the SLC office didn’t follow the procedure.  That made me giggle.  We have only used Global Entry once and I can say it is definitely worth the price.

We had just about a 90 minute layover and by the time we got off the plane, through Global Entry, bags dropped to be re-checked and through security, time was tight! We hurried to our gate to find out the flight had been delayed.  It was snowing in ORD and there were a lot of flights being cancelled or delayed.  At this point, all three of us were exhausted and just wanted to be home.  We had one little 3.5 hour flight left from ORD-BOI and it wasn’t looking good to make it home.

Long story short, we did, but not for lack of drama.  The flight end up being delayed for 3 hours – two hours in the terminal, one on the tarmac.  In the terminal, they would change the time every 20 minutes or so, which was the worst.  If they just would have pushed the time back, say an hour, we could have gone to the lounge and waited.  Doing it this way, we were kind of forced to stay close.  Although a 3 hour delay when you are beat is hard, I was so thankful we made it out.  The flight at our gate before us sat at the tarmac for 2 hours and the runway for 1 before timing out, pulling back in and cancelling.  Miss A fell asleep as soon as we got on the plane and slept the whole way home.  She wasn’t sleeping well, but it was good enough and she wasn’t crying.  What could have been a horrible travel day all turned out to be alright in the end.

Posted in family travels, Lufthansa, trip report, United | Leave a comment

Sweden, Pottery Shopping and Christmas Markets: Munich

I had planned on this being the final installment, but after I had been working on this segment for an hour, I decided to break it up into two.  The last installment will be posted quicker than my usual place though since I am half way through it.

I was sad to check out of the Hilton Dresden.  They had treated us really well.  It was nice to know we only had about 36 hours more before we were heading home.  It was becoming apparent we should have ended the trip on day 7, but we still had 2 more nights ahead of us to make the best of the time we had.

To get from downtown Dresden to the airport was really easy.  For 2.20 euros each, we got a pass that would last us for 2 hours (I believe) which would cover us taking the S-bahn to the main train station, then the U-bahn to the airport.  The S stop was a few blocks away, across the street from the Zwinger and only about a 5 minute walk even with luggage in tow.  It took about 15 minutes to get to the train station in which we waited about 20 minutes for the train.  We then had a 25 minute or so ride to the airport.  All easy peasy.  It was day light, everything on time, well marked and very simple to do.  I would recommend this route for anyone.

Check in for our 1 hour flight from DRS – MUC was no big deal.  We were in first class and used the appropriate check in.  The security line was no big deal – just a few minutes to get through.  There is a lounge for LH in DRS, which we headed over to.  It was quite small and I ended up taking Miss A out to a little kid play area as to not bug other people.  The lounge filled up quickly while we were in there and there wasn’t enough room for her to play and not be annoying to others.  There was plenty of food offerings and a decent selection for drinks, including a gluwein station, since it was December.

The flight was a bit interesting.  I should have taken pictures for this post.  We were in a regional plane, much like the ones used by UA on BOI-ORD that I hate so much, but this one was actually very nice on the interior.  In first class, you had two seats to yourself as it was a 2×2 configuration.  Nick and I were across the aisle from each other.  I still find it amazing how in an hour flight in Europe in first class you get meal served on a tray with real utensils, yet in the USA, a 3.5 hour flight on UA gets a snack box….the USA based carriers really are lacking.  I just couldn’t get passed how nice the regional jet was in comparison to what I would fly on in the USA.  Other than that, nothing remarkable.

Originally, I had planned in Munich to stay in downtown Munich at the Holiday Inn City Center.  When I changed our flights to reroute on LH on the way home and leave a day earlier, I switched to the Holiday Inn Express Munich Airport.  We landed around 7 pm and were leaving at 7 am a day and a half later.  It made the most sense to stay close to the airport.

This is where I am sooooo happy I had not cancelled my IHG Rewards Club Select Visa from Chase.  It is the card that gives me IHG (formerly Priority Club) points.  It has a $49 fee and I get a free one night stay with it upon renewal.  Because I had the card, I had Platinum status.  At this particular hotel, Platinum status meant you didn’t have to pay for the airport shuttle, which is 5 Euros per person.  The hotel isn’t close enough to walk to, so it is either pay the shuttle or take a cab.  When it was all said and done, because I had the card, we saved 40 Euros in shuttle fees.  Platinum status didn’t get us a nicer room or free breakfast (breakfast was already free), but we did get a complimentary drink and snack from the bar.

The hotel itself is fine for what we were using it for.  The rooms are small, which I would expect for Europe.  The bed left much to be desired.  I had read online reviews about the beds being hard as a rock and they were right.  It was really hard and very small.  Breakfast was good.  Personally, I have always liked the offerings by Holiday Inn Express, especially in Europe.  It is buffet style with offerings such as a coffee machine, juices, meat, cheeses, yogurt, lots of bread, fruit, etc.

We were only going to have one day in Munich, so I had hoped to be able to see a lot.  Nick had never been before and I hadn’t been in about 10 years.  I love Munich, it is a great city with a lot to offer.  Unfortunately, it had started to get really cold in Europe now.  It was in the low 30′s for the highs.  Miss A was completely all funned out with travel and not really in the mood to do anything.  We took the train from the airport to downtown (4o minutes each way) and lasted just over an hour before we decided it just wasn’t worth it.  She was really fussy, it was cold, and we were tired.  So, we headed back to hang out at the hotel.  I would like to say we made it out for a walk or something at that point, but not so much.  We even ate dinner (pizza) at the hotel.  We were tired and ready to be home.  I was looking forward to our flight on LH F the next morning.

One more installment left!

 

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Sweden, Pottery Shopping and Christmas Markets:Dresden and Christmas Markets

Thanks for staying with me on this trip report!  I have one more installment after this one.  The baby is due any day now, so resting, nesting, and prepping have been high on the daily agenda.  I appreciate the patience and sticking with me!

We had two options for trains leaving Boleslawiec for Dresden – 2 pm or 9 pm.  Our plan was to take the 2 pm train, which we caught with ease.  It is almost an exact two hour ride between the two towns, if getting off at the main train station in Dresden.  We had a two night stay booked at the Hilton Dresden, which is right in downtown and near the main train station.

If it would have been nice, I would have been more than willing to walk from the main train station to the Hilton, but it was chilly, we had the kiddo, so I decided to take a taxi.  We could have also done the S-bahn, but I figured to pay a bit extra and just do a taxi.  It ended up being pretty cheap – the taxi was 6 euros whereas the S-bahn would have been 4 euros.  The taxi took under 15 minutes, the S-bahn, it would have depended on if we caught it right or not.  We were quite pleased with our taxi ride.

The Hilton Dresden is in an incredible location – it is a half a block from the Dresden Frauenkirche, a couple blocks from the Zwinger, and walking distance from most any tourist activity you would want to go to.  I used points for this stay at the rate of 50,000 points per night.  I have gold status with Hilton and was really hoping to be upgraded to a room with executive lounge access.  I had read a lot of reviews online saying the Hilton Dresden treated gold status members well and they definitely treated us well.  We were upgraded to a room on the 4th floor, which is the “executive floor”.  The lounge itself is on the 2nd floor, so we were told to take the private elevator to the 2nd floor for lounge access.  The 5th floor is where the suites are.  I am not sure our room was any bigger than a normal room, but we now had access to free food and drinks!

The room – it was fine for our two night stay.  It had two twin beds, pushed together for us.  They provided a crib for Miss A.  We had a view of the building beside us and the Christmas Market in the street between.  If the blinds were open, the neighbors beside us had a clear view of all in our room.  A view of the river would have been better for privacy.  We found the room quite adequate – nothing special, but nothing wrong, either.  We had a gift of chocolates (yum!), fruit, and water left for us.  The water was replenished, but not the other goodies.

Our hotel while in Dresden.

Our hotel while in Dresden.

Our room - the switched out the extra bed for a crib.

Our room – the switched out the extra bed for a crib.

Bathroom - Peter Thomas Roth amenities

Bathroom – Peter Thomas Roth amenities

Welcome amenity.

Welcome amenity.

The lounge was great.  They had tea from 3-5 pm and food/drinks from 6-8 pm.  The rest of the time, soft drinks, tea, coffee, and bottled water were available.  The afternoon tea was the same drink offering always available, with the addition of pastries.  The evening spread is where the lounge truly shined.  It was fantastic and substantial.  They had two hot dishes out and a large selection of other finger foods.  In addition to the rest of the drinks, there were usually 6 choices of wine and a cooler of beer, probably 6-10 choices.  We were extremely happy.  We also ate breakfast in the lounge instead of going downstairs to the restaurant.  Breakfast was a huge selection and we always left quite full.  The biggest reason we did breakfast in the lounge is it was much more private and quite than the restaurant – typically there were one, maybe two other couples while we were there.

Christmas tower inside the Executive Lounge.

Christmas tower inside the Executive Lounge.

Breakfast offerings at the Executive Lounge.

Breakfast offerings at the Executive Lounge.

More breakfast options.

More breakfast options.

Now for the whole reason we went to Dresden – the Christmas Markets!  I was so excited.  I have to admit, at this point in the trip I was starting to lose steam.  Being 7 months pregnant and entertaining a toddler was taking its toll.  The weather had been really fantastic through this point too.  I am pretty sure it was warmer in Sweden when we were there than it was in Idaho during the same time period.  Dresden was the same way – during the day, it was chilly, but quite tolerable.  I found out while there, Dresden has 11 Christmas Markets.  The most known is the Striezelmarkt, located at Altmarkt in Altstadt.  It is said to be the oldest Christmas Market in all of Germany dating back 600 years.  The Striezelmarkt was about a 5 minute walk from the Dresden Hilton.  Right outside the hotel door, around the Frauenkirche was another market that I can’t remember the name.  Then, 2 blocks the opposite direction of the Frauenkirche, is the Christmas Market with a renaissance period theme.  We hit up these three only.

The beautiful Frauenkirche.

The beautiful Frauenkirche.

So, was it worth it?  To satisfy my curiosity, definitely.  To be festive, oh yes.  For many other reasons, that is debatable.  I didn’t buy much other than Christmas ornaments and most of what you saw at one booth could be found at every other booth in the market.  The food was delicious though.  I easily could have spent the days eating through all the different food stands.  It would have been more fun to see everything without a toddler in tow.  Miss A would get tired or bored and we would need to go back to the hotel or somewhere warm.  She was too small to go on the carousel (and we were chilly), so some of those things weren’t great for entertaining her.  One aspect I found surprising was the size of the markets – in pictures, they seem so big.  In real life, not so much.  The main market, the Striezelmarkt was much smaller than I expected.  You could go slowly, stopping at every booth, and easily be done in an afternoon.  The other two – an hour tops for each.  I am not saying they are not enjoyable, just not as big as I was expecting.

Market just outside the hotel door.

Market just outside the hotel door.

The main Christmas Market.

The main Christmas Market.

More market.

More market.

And more Market.

And more Market.

One thing I did regret was not getting night pictures, which would have been stunning.  The first night we were in Dresden, we were tired and stayed in.  The second night, we went out to take pictures and see all the Christmas lights at night and it was raining!  Dang rain!  We stepped out long enough to take a couple at the closest market, then went back in.  It wasn’t worth freezing our tails off.

One of only two night market pictures I took.  This is the market we could see out of our window.

One of only two night market pictures I took. This is the market we could see out of our window.

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