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Paris Trip Report, Part 4: Getting Home


I will wrap up the formal part of this trip report with a quick overview of our travels home.

We took the RER from the nearby Noisy-le-Grand stop to CDG airport. This was a bit of a haul (it took just over an hour for that train ride), but It was about €100 cheaper than an airport van would’ve been (the savings would have been more substantial for fewer people—we had to buy 5 train tickets).

When we arrived at CDG, there was not any real time to spend at the Admiral’s Club, so we just headed for the gate to await boarding.

We boarded AA 41 and a Boeing 767-300 bound for ORD. This was a 9.5 hour flight that went much better than you would imagine in main cabin. None of the 5 of us had any real strain, and the flight didn’t seem any longer than a couple of hours. We had reasonable neighbors and a skilled flight crew that helped that along, for sure. We touched down at ORD just before 3PM central, breezed through customs, rechecked our bags and headed to the Admiral’s Club to catch up on world happenings and get a bite to eat.

I’ve reviewed the ORD Admiral’s Club before, so I won’t get into it again here, but I do want to reiterate how great the Eames Chairs are! At about 7PM, we boarded AA 1972 and an MD-83 en route to RDU and home. That flight was… well, I’m not sure. I slept the 1.5 hours away, so I’m sure it was great. We touched down at RDU, picked the car up from Park-and-Ride 4 and headed home to see our 3-year-old and give the grandparents a much-deserved tag out!

I will conclude this series with the next post. That post will be primarily geared toward what YOU should do when you take a family vacation to Paris… and tips to get the most out of it!

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Rewards Network Dining Options


While getting everything ready for the US Airways Grand Slam later this year (yes, I know, I start preparations early!), I noticed that I was about 1,750 HHonors points short of what was required for a hotel transfer hit last year. I’ve been checking in via TopGuest to a nearby Hampton Inn in an attempt to close that gap, but I got an email today from HHonors reminding me that they participate in the Rewards Network dining plan. Since I’ve not signed up for HHonors dining before, I am eligible for a 1,000 point bonus for completing a single dine of $25 in the next 30-days. Easy peasy. Hopefully, that will push me over the top for my Grand Slam hit!

After signing up, I started looking at the other Rewards Network dining option. They include:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Best Buy RewardZone
  • Delta Skymiles
  • eScrip
  • Good Dining
  • HHonors
  • American Express iDine
  • United Mileage Plus
  • Priority Club Rewards
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • uPromise
  • US Airways Dividend Miles

I already belonged to AA, DL, MP and US (and now I belong to HH), but there were some other interesting partners on that list. In particular, Best Buy and AmEx. The AmEx partnership is a little different. Instead of earning rewards points, it earns statement credits. There are 3 tiers of earning: 5%, 10% and 15% back. You get 5% back right out of the gate. After spending $250, you start getting 10% back and after spending $750, you start getting 15% back. This is a pretty rocking deal—probably better than the 5 AA miles I get for each dollar I spend dining now (though I’d have to build up to that tier). The Best Buy partnership is interesting because of their New Member bonus. If you complete a $25 dine within 30 days of joining, you get 500 RZ points (enough for a $10 gift certificate). That’s 40% of the money you spent dining back in the form of a BB gift certificate. Not too shabby!

Hopefully you’ll find some interesting partnerships for your dining dollars, too!

Now, back to figuring out how to get La Quinta points…

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Paris Trip Report, Part 2: Miami to Paris


We left the Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport later in the afternoon and headed to MIA for our 7:40pm flight to MAD in time to catch a quick bite at the Admiral’s Club. The MIA Admiral’s Club is pretty nice with a kids’ play area, an interesting design with several rounded corridors and lots of artwork on display.

After relaxing for a little while, we boarded an Airbus A340-300 for IB 6118, which departed around 8pm bound for MAD and got some sleep during the 8.5-hour flight. Upon arrival at MAD, we picked up our bags and headed through passport control where the kids got their first stamps. It was a pretty big moment for them and, honestly, for me, too! Our layover was only about two hours, so we made our way to our gate to see how much time we would have before boarding. When we got to the gate, it was ominously empty and we were greeted by an agent who said “Paris? Allons-y!” So, needless to say, there wasn’t much exploring time. However, I did snap a couple of shots of the airport.

We trotted down the jet way and boarded an Airbus A321 for IB 3406 and a 1.5-hour flight bound for ORY. For this segment, four of us were in main cabin and my wife was in business class. Needless to say, she had a better food experience! Main cabin had snacks for sale and a soft-drink service whereas she had 3 courses of actual food and wine. Of course, her ticket was 60,000 miles and the rest of the tickets were only 40,000 each, so for 20,000 miles it had better have been some pretty good food since that was the only business segment she got! Incidentally, booking her in business class was the only way to get availability—this flight only had 4 award seats in coach despite calling at least weekly for a few months to check (I also checked the other segments to see if we could get her into business more often, but there was also no availability there… ever).

So, after a crazy RDU-DCA-MIA (overnight)-MAD-ORY routing, we were finally in Paris! We hopped into an Iberia shuttle and headed to our home for the next 9 days—the Holiday Inn Paris Marne La Vallee. I will pick up the next installment with an overview of the hotel and some insights into getting around town. The fourth entry will cover our trip home and the series will conclude with some tips about vacationing in Paris with your family—what to see, what to avoid, and how to save some Euros!

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Paris Trip Report, Part 1: Miami


As I’ve mentioned before, in order to get 5 award seats for my family’s vacation to Paris, I had to get a little… creative with the routing. The biggest piece of that creative routing involved an overnight stay in Miami, so that seems like a good first entry to the trip report series.

My wife, my two older daughters, my mother and I set out for RDU on the early afternoon of 5 April for our 2:50pm flight on AA 4400. We had main cabin seats on an Embraer ERJ 135 for this 44-minute flight from RDU to DCA. Once at DCA, we headed to the Admiral’s Club to get a bite to eat while we waited on our 8:35pm flight to MIA. This was my kids’ first trip to an airport lounge (they have flown a lot but almost always RDU->MCO which is a nonstop flight). Given their reactions to the lounge, I was pretty excited about getting them to Paris!

The Admiral’s Club lounge at DCA is a pretty standard lounge. Free Wi-Fi, complementary snacks, sodas, beer and wine. I did notice that this club also had complementary house liquors and you could get mixed drinks with them (my mother had a margarita).

 

We boarded AA 1261 heading for Miami which left just a little behind schedule, but the flight was pleasant enough. Upon arrival in Miami, we headed for our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport. When we checked in, I was pleased to note that they had upgraded my room and were providing free Wi-Fi and 1 free breakfast per room as a benefit of my Priority Club Platinum status. I was staying on points, and Priority Club doesn’t normally provided elite benefits on award nights, so this was a great bonus for me. Here are some photos from the hotel. In one of them, you can definitely see why it’s an “airport hotel.” I should note that even though we were clearly in the flight path, I didn’t get any air traffic noise from inside my room. They must have some crazy insulation!

I was hoping that, since our next flight to MAD wasn’t until later the next evening, we would have a chance to head over to South Beach for a little while. Alas, by the time we got rolling, the shuttles wouldn’t have worked out and I didn’t want to rent a car for just a couple of hours. So, instead, we played in the great pool at the hotel and enjoyed some warm weather before heading to Paris.

The Crowne Plaza was a great place to stay, and I think that if I end up overnighting in MIA during another trip that I will definitely choose to stay here. The price was reasonable (and not just because I was on a PointBreak that made the rooms 5,000 points per night!). The rooms were nice, the staff was pleasant and the breakfast was tasty.

After we wiled away the day, we headed over to MIA to board our flight to MAD—which is where I’ll pick up on the next installment.

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20% Miles Bonus on Citi AA Visa … And Why I’m Not Taking AAdvantage


Note: I don’t receive any referral credits or bonuses from the links in this post.

I received an email yesterday just after lunch from Citi informing me of a promotion wherein you get an extra 0.2 miles per dollar spent on their Visa card (registration required). This seems to be a targeted promotion (there was an invitation code in the email). The main paragraph from the email says:

Click the “Enroll Now”** button to accept this offer and earn an additional 0.2 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on eligible purchases until 4/30/12. That’s 20% more AAdvantage® miles on what you buy.** Get packing!

Now, I (of course) immediately signed up for this promotion because there’s no penalty for doing so and maybe I’ll be tempted with that card at some point (e.g. it’s the card associated with my SkyMiles Dining account in case I use that). However, I’m not diverting any spend there for two reasons:

  1. I just got my Chase Sapphire Preferred in the mail yesterday and need to meet the  minimum spend (which I’m likely to do today anyhow).
  2. There are still better options for earning AAdvantage miles.

Regarding reason #2 above, if what you’re after is earning AAdvantage miles, and you have the Starwood American Express card, then that’s the card you should be targeting with your spend. It earns an extra 5,000 AAdvantage miles for every 20,000 Starpoints that you transfer. Doing the math .. .let’s see … carry the 1 … multiply by pi … and that works out to 1.25 miles per dollar spent. The last I checked 1.25 > 1.20, so it’s still a better deal to use that Starwood AmEx.

Now, if you don’t have a Starwood AmEx and you are focusing on AAdvantage miles, then by all means, divert your spending to the Citi AA Visa card. However, by now most of you probably have that card and if you don’t, then you should get it. In fact, you should ask me to refer you so that I get some points out of it, too 🙂

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30 AAdvantage Miles per Dollar at FTD


FTD is offering 30 AAdvantage miles per dollar via this link. Just in time for some holiday flower purchases 🙂

Enjoy!

HT: Mileage Saver

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AMR (Parent of American Airlines) Files for Chapter 11 Reorganization


Today AMR, the parent organization of American Airlines among other companies, filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. Here is a link to the memo that was posted on the American Airlines website.

As a holder of 15 ticketed segments on American Airlines in the next 5 months, I will admit that this gave me a bit of pause. The general wisdom is that I should not be concerned. American Airlines is a large airline and it is unlikely that they will go anywhere. The biggest impact will probably be that they will be a bit smaller–flying a few less routes or a few less times. Most of my segments connect large airports (JFK/MAD, DCA/MIA, CDG/BOS, etc.), so I’m not worried about those. It’s more of the DFW/PSP segments that I’m a little worried about (on the PSP side). Fortunately, those are in February and that’s not very far away.

As a quick background, I lost a ticketed round-trip when Indepence Air as a result of their unsuccessful Chapter 11 reorganization (which, incidentally, was 3 months from filing to ceasing all operations). Now, FLYi was a low-cost carrier and I received a full refund, but it still has me a little gun-shy. If AA were do cancel one of my flights and offer a refund, I would be vastly disappointed–especially if it was award travel that I worked hard to get booked. Then there are the miles to worry about. Again, I feel reassured by the bevy of Internet sources that say my miles are fine, but I’m a bit of a worrier… don’t mind me :). Here is a note about that very topic posted today on the AAdvantage facebook page:

“As you may know, on Tuesday, November 29, American Airlines filed for reorganization under Chapter 11. We took this action as part of our efforts to secure our long-term success in delivering the highest standards in air travel. We are committed to meeting your travel needs with outstanding customer service and safety, and it will be business as usual at American throughout our reorganization process. We want to assure you that your AAdvantage(R) miles are secure. The AAdvantage miles that you’ve earned are yours and will stay yours, subject to usual policies, until you choose to redeem them for a great award with us. Likewise, your elite qualifying miles and your elite status, including lifetime status granted under the Million Miler(SM) program is secure and remains intact. You will continue to earn miles through all our existing AAdvantage participating companies and you will be able to redeem those miles for the same great awards – flights, upgrades, car rentals and hotels just to name a few. And, throughout the coming year, we will be adding even more opportunities to earn miles, as well as new ways to redeem those miles. Thank you for the support of American and AAdvantage throughout this process. For information about American’s reorganization process, please visit http://bit.ly/AACh11FAQ

So, AAdvantage is assuring me that all will be well. Honestly, I’m sure that it will. Again, I’m just a worrier.

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