In the spirit of ‘Mommypoints’ post about booking Holiday Travel for 2012, I started to review what I have done so far and am already getting excited.
Through the effective use of my American Express Membership Rewards Points (and subsequent transfer of some of them to my Continental OnePass Account before the deadline in September 2011), miles saved from 2 Round trips to Hong Kong, United Award Accelerator Miles and a few mileage runs I have started to assemble what will be my greatest travel achievement to date.
One of my favorite (and first) mileage runs goes back a couple of years when I took advantage of a $1500 business class fare and went to Nürnberg, Germany for a 1 day visit during the Christmas Market Season.
You may think that $1500 is a lot for a mileage run and thats OK. At the time I was a member of BMI’s Diamond Club which has always been considered one of the most rewarding frequent flyer programs in the Star Alliance, especially when it comes to earning and redeeming miles. I needed to take a mileage run to extend my status and to bank miles for a future trip and time was running out on my plan year. It also served as a great acid test to determine if I can handle traveling to Europe and back inside of 48 hours. I had passed with flying colors.
The trip consisted of First Class legs from Grand Rapids to Chicago and onward to Philadelphia where I connected to a US Air A330 to Munich (in their great and new Envoy class cabin) and then finally onward to Nürnberg in a Lufthansa Business Class seat (a 20 minute flight that yielded 1200 elite eligible miles). On the return it was Nürnberg to Munich in coach, then Munich to Philadelphia on US Air with the same Business Class crew as my inbound flight. From Philadelphia I went through Baltimore and Chicago to get back home to Grand Rapids. These US based legs were in first, earning 3x the miles! All totaled the trip yielded about 31,000 elite qualify miles. Basically the trip cost about 4.8 cents per mile which is not bad for premium class travel. Usually anything less than 3 cents is attractive for economy class seats. But I digress….
Being to the Nürnberg Christmas Market was such a great experience that I’ve decided to visit Christmas Markets this year in late November/early December. This time however I am going to expand on the trip to include 2 or 3 different cities and their Christmas Markets and some creative flight routing to maximize the experience. A few things have gone right so far, and a few more pieces have to fall in place and the trip will be my idea of perfection in travel…..
So far I have been able to book the majority of my 7 day itinerary, and it is most decidedly a who’s who of Star Alliance Carriers…..
Segment 1: A typical and mundane 30 minute flight from Grand Rapids to Cleveland on United connecting to a slightly less mundane 1hr 20min flight from Cleveland to Montreal on United with further connection to a certainly NOT MUNDANE First Class flight on SWISS from Montreal to Zurich. Thanks to Continental.com who has recently begun showing First Class Swiss inventory throughout the upcoming year (primarily from Montreal). I was able to book this critical piece last week.
Now here is where one of the pieces of the puzzle is missing…..
My ultimate plan is to spend 2 days in Vienna and 1 day in Frankfurt along with a few more stops (see below). So I have to decide if I want to take a quick hop flight from Zurich to Vienna or do the cosmopolitan thing and take the train from Zurich to Vienna and enjoy the ride through the Alps (note to self, pack an extra memory card). My SWISS flight from Montreal arrives in Zurich at 6:25a and I can catch a nearly non stop train from Zurich to Vienna at 10:00a and be in Vienna in time to have Sacher Torte for dinner in the early evening. If I fly from Zurich to Vienna I can be in Vienna in time for lunch at Urbanek’s in the famous Naschmarkt. A good problem to have, but one that nevertheless needs resolution….If you have a suggestion or experience on this train route option, PLEASE let me know.
After spending 2 days in Vienna accumulating calories and gifts the next step will be to get to Frankfurt for the next phase of my trip. As in the case of getting from Zurich to Vienna, I need to decide how to get to Frankfurt from Vienna. The easy option is to book a short flight, the more creative option is to book a cabin on the “Night Train” leaving Vienna mid-evening and arriving in Frankfurt at 6:00a. I think I just convinced myself to book a late Austrian or Lufthansa flight. A 10 hour overnight train ride just doesn’t sound attractive at all.
Segment 2: Book a flight from Vienna to Frankfurt. Easy enough.
Once in Frankfurt, I plan to spend a day or so exploring Frankfurt’s Christmas Markets and taking in a behind the scenes tour of Frankfurt’s airport before embarking on my next leg of the trip. And this is where the other missing piece of the puzzle exists.
Segment 3: Frankfurt-Singapore. HOPEFULLY on board Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Singapore in what hopefully will be their NEW First Class Seat. Lufthansa plans to roll out their new First and Business Class cabins over the next 2 years or so, and I’m hoping they can arrange for the new cabin to be available for my flight. After all, a trip report hangs in the balance ;). However, Lufthansa has not yet released seats for this flight. Typically Lufthansa releases First Class Inventory much closer to a departure date and I may need to wait until 2-4 weeks out to book this seat. Should it not become available, I’ll just enjoy the ride in business class or try THAI’s First Class service for the first time. I figure I’m in a win-win position. BUT I am hoping that Lufthansa has a seat for me in First so that I can enjoy a visit to the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt and claim a Holiday Duck.
From Singapore onward, I have booked everything to get me home:
Segment 6: In what will be a late afternoon arrival from Frankfurt, I’ll have about 5 or 6 hours to explore Singapore’s Changi Airport before I connect to a late night flight to Seoul Incheon in Business Class on Singapore Air. This is a 2 cabin aircraft, so First was unavailable.
Segment 7: Arriving in Seoul at 7:00am, I’ll have about 7 hours to stick my head into Seoul just so I can say that I actually visited the city. I’ll need to be back in time to catch my 4:30pm flight on Asiana to Los Angeles. This 11 hour First Class leg promises to be fantastic.
Segment 8: Arriving in Los Angeles mid morning, I’ll have plenty of time to connect to my United Airlines flight to Chicago and subsequent connection to my home airport in Grand Rapids.
What all this means in one picture:
After all is said and done, so far I have spent 137,500 miles and $52.00 in taxes. To fill in the Frankfurt-Singapore gap in First Class will take another 80,000 miles and $103.00 in taxes. Factoring in the minor legs of Zurich-Vienna, and Vienna-Frankfurt which may add up to about $300-400 dollars, I’ll be able to travel about 22300 miles, mostly in First Class, for less out of pocket money than you would need for a typical domestic Economy round trip ticket. Now thats something that I can get excited about!
If you are sitting on a pile of miles and have never really figured out what you can do with them or know what they’re worth, send me an email with your thoughts and ideas for travel and I can try to help you figure out what you can do with them. The results can be an eye opener!