Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cashing 'Em In

Another Summer of Travel Beckons
Barcelona, Venice, Vienna, Berlin and Madrid

Using Up My Incredible Shrinking Points
With all the news about a merger between US Airways and American I decided to go look at American's reward structure as it will undoubetly get adopted by US Airways. YUK!

Then comes quiet little announcements by both Marriott and Hilton that they'd soon recompose their point redemptions.

All of this prompted Roadboy to get off his butt and get summer travel all booked. 

Good thing too. Hilton's new structure is now in place and in the days leading up to it, it was almost impossible to find anything on the HHonors website clearly describing what was about to happen. Calls to the "800" were required. When connected customer service reps routinely had to "talk to a supervisor" before answering simple questions. Roadboy knows that whenever the travel industry announces "changes" in their loyalty programs their most loyal clients are about to get screwed. 

Actually I marvel at the travel industry business model. A model I assume was carefully created by Max Bialysotck of Broadway's "The Producer's." I mean who else perfected selling products they don't actually have?

Hotels and airlines offer a myriad of ways to accumulate loyalty points, then find ingenious ways to prevent anyone from actually redeeming them. Anyone who as tried knows that without (very) flexible travel dates you'll have to double or triple points to obtain any desired reward.

I've heard statistics suggesting only 10% of the points earned by consumers are actually ever used.

So after carefully evaluating the tea leaves at the bottom of my commuter cup (and some relentless searching) I determined that (like last year) it would be best to book my business class seats (at a good rate - 50K each way!) through Spain during August.

This year we will fly into Barcelona. I never tire of Barcelona and my son wants to see the home of FC Barcelona. Ms. M wants to explore Barcelona's revamped Design Center (which was closed last summer) which should now be open.

From Barcelona we'll fly to Venice for two nights. I love Venice and want Mr. B and Ms. M to see the amazing map rooms in the Doge's palace. And yes, my personal plans include acquisition of more eyeglass frames at Ottica Carraro. 

From Venice we'll travel overnight via sleeper rail arriving into Vienna at 8:00 am. I figure a few palaces and some schnitzel will be good for the soul. Also Vienna is probably a damned fine place to buy a birthday cake for Mr. B. As for me, I was 18 the last time I visited Vienna (please don't do the math) so it will be all new.

From Vienna we fly to Berlin. This will be my first visit to Berlin and I am eager to experience it. Friends always tell me how much they enjoy Berlin. My list includes visits to the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the Alt (Alternative) Berlin free Street Art walking tour, the Brandenburg Gate and just time to absorb Berlin's explosion in contemporary architecture.

We wrap up with a flight back to Madrid (perhaps a tour of another soccer stadium?) Me, I plan to eat some of Spain's spectacular tapas, delicious ham, and drink some Sangria. I also want to see if I can secure a definitive answer to my open question - who is the dead guy in the Palacio Real Chapel?

For those noting that we are beginning and ending our trip through Spain?

Here's a Roadboy Tip:
Travel via Spain is both a joy and a bargain. The people of Spain are wonderful. Sadly, Spain is currently experiencing fiscal hell and can use our tourist bucks. Spain has two gorgeous and modern airports: Madrid's Barajas (the fourth busiest airport in Europe) and Barcelona's glistening El Prat.

Now consider this, a "free" flight to London Heathrow results in $289 in added per passenger fees. Whereas a "free" ticket into Barcelona accrues added per passenger fees of only $54!

In fact, here are some current sample airport fees to consider. Amazingly (at least to me), the big winner in bargain fees is Venice's Marco Polo airport!

London: $289 (a jolly good rip-off?)
Paris: $139    
Frankfurt: $139
Athens: $80
Zurich: $69
Amsterdam: $64  
Rome: $64
Brussels: $62
Madrid: $60
Barcelona: $54
Dublin $53
Venice: $51 

Our planes, house sitter and hotels are all booked (at those great old redemption rates.) We just need to reserve the puppy resort.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013


Anonymous said...

Will look forward to all the travel adventures... Maybe you need a second job in the travel industry to get some travel perks!!!

Roadboy said...

;-)! I can barely keep up with my regular job! Would love to escort small groups of first time "novice" or timid travelers to immerse them in other cultures!