Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Forum Replies Created

  • in reply to: Rotterdam accommodation with a 6-year-old
    NigelHamilton

    I can’t recommend it,as haven’t been there, but recently looked for our family at the new Motto by Hilton which has a number of rooms that would sleep 3 and connecting rooms also if you’d prefer that. Hfp also recently reviewed it. Not much use for a Hilton Gold by the looks of things, but unusual budget accomodation in a central location.

    in reply to: Virgin Trains Ticketing – easy points
    NigelHamilton

    It is very rare for it to be different, but I’ve found that RailEasy (which charges a small booking fee so not normally useful) is occasionally cheaper on advance tickets than every other site. Especially if the tickets have very recently gone up in price.

    in reply to: Chat thread – Thursday 2nd February
    NigelHamilton

    Had a notification from Virgin Red which is potentially significant for some people. I don’t know if it’s a new thing or old, but you can book any train ticket in the UK through the Virgin Ticketing app, and get 3 points to the pound. Essentially points for nothing for the regular commuter. I should be able to rack up an extra 15,000 points a year through this and that’s only commuting twice a week. Bring on SkyTeam!

    The app is quite reasonable too. I use it if there are no other cashback offers available, as 5-12% back on LNER (can use on any operator, and usually season tickets) seem to crop up on credit cards from time to time. The only major downside is Virgin’s app doesn’t currently allow you to buy season tickets.

    Another money saving (not points earning) tip which might work for some is that you can buy a 7-day season ticket which you can then use say Wed-Tue, then work the next week from home. From my station (a long way out) it saves £4k a year over buying two open return tickets a week.

    in reply to: Chat thread – Friday 20th January
    NigelHamilton

    Thanks AJA and ATP. She might have to become the lead booker on our flights then so we can get seat selection in advance 🙂

    in reply to: Chat thread – Friday 20th January
    NigelHamilton

    Can a 17 year old receive BA Status? Reading today’s article, because we’ve booked her a cash ticket to go Premium Economy to Mauritius (we’re going with avios), she’ll have 200 tier points to add to the 140 she has currently. Shame I can’t transfer it, as I have the grand total of zero points in my current year!

    NigelHamilton

    With 10 days, I would highly recommend building at least some of the Garden Route into your stay. At the very least take a day or overnight trip out to Stellenbosch etc. Cape Town is an excellent city, and probably one of the few cities where there is 10 days worth of stuff to do. JDB has hit most of the highlights, Robben Island and Table Mountain being “must do’s”. I would add some of the beach/bay areas to the South of the City, especially Boulder’s Beach where there is a Penguin colony and perhaps Hout’s bay. I also enjoyed (if you’re into the history of apartheid etc.) the District Six museum and an organised tour of the townships (you MUST go on an organised tour, don’t just drive in!) As long as you avoid the waterfront, you will find excellent food at exceptional prices by Europe standards. Finally, if you’re adventurous, you can also do “extreme” activities at a fraction of the cost that you would in Europe too (book locally), tandem parachuting (or is it paragliding) from Lions Head to Clifton/Camps Bay being a highlight, plus Kloofing (canyoning) Enjoy!

    NigelHamilton

    What are cash fares like for the dates you are travelling? We are a family of five and often find it’s worth paying for one cash ticket (as we tend to be short of a companion voucher) – particularly if you are buying avios as an alternative. You will earn some avios back too for next time as well as tier points!

    in reply to: Craving warmth – Lisbon in Feb/March or elsewhere?
    NigelHamilton

    I’ve been to Lisbon in January when it was 24 degrees. If you’re after a City break, would suggest that the area called Principe Real (near the botanic gardens) is quiet, has access to good restaurants, and is around a 10-15 minute walk from the buzzier/more touristy areas. Anything South and East of there on a map will be livelier and busy at night if that’s your thing! You can also catch a tram out to Belem and the famous tram 28 is also accessible from the central square. Finally I’d highly recommend a walking tour of the city – I went with Lisbon Free Tours.

    in reply to: Chat thread – Monday 9th January
    NigelHamilton

    Sorry for repeating the question from yesterday but:
    – is it possible to add a kid to an existing Eurostar [economy] booking?

    I gave up after holding for 30 min on the phone with them..

    My info may be out of date, but you did use to be able to add a child to an existing booking, but only by calling. However, the child would have to go at whatever the fare was now (i.e. just because you paid £29 each way in the flash sale, you can’t have that rate, and have to pay the current price that tickets on that train go for). Presumably if the child was under 4 and didn’t need their own seat, they would be free.

    in reply to: Where to go for some winter sun?
    NigelHamilton

    I went to Lisbon in January 2019 and it was 24 degrees! Then Seville in early March and it was really warm (high 20’s/low 30’s I think). Both were exceptional cities with reasonable prices, though I would say more of a long weekend than a week. Why don’t you combine two cities on the Southern Iberian peninsula? Not too far to fly either.

    in reply to: Your favourite InterContinental hotel?
    NigelHamilton

    Has anyone been to the IC Ljubljana? Have an overnighter booked though Amex FHR in early April.

    in reply to: South of France road trip advice
    NigelHamilton

    I could quite happily write an essay on this topic, but will try and keep it to a sensible length! France is my favourite country bar none and we’ve done lots of road trips, albeit mostly in a motorhome. Your two ‘absolute musts’ are Carcassonne and the Lac de Saint Croix/Gorge de Verdon(French version of the Grand Canyon) in Provence. Outside of those two, you will find multiple small cities, picturesque towns and glorious countryside,so it’s hard to go too wrong!
    Couple of practicalities. In August it will be hot, at least 30 degrees and maybe more. If, like me, you don’t like the searing heat there are three options – drive in the heat of the day and spend morning/evening sightseeing, go to the coast, or drive to altitude (possible in several places, but not the most direct routes). Second is that you can take the toll motorways which are very good for covering long distances and usually traffic free, but you will see a lot more on the ‘N’ roads that usually run alongside them. Driving in France is a pleasure, you’ll encounter little traffic outside of cities and the most touristy areas.

    If you went from Bordeaux I would either go East to the Dordogne(Perigord), or South to Pau. Either way, second stop would be Carcassonne. Then you probably want to hit the coast across the bottom, and the Camargue (salt marshes) are worth seeing. Aim for Aix-en-Provence and then the Gorge de Verdon before dropping down to Nice. In terms of hotels, as others have said there are not many chain hotels outside the major cities. You will find more joy with some wonderful B&B’s, several English speaking ones in Perigord as its a popular expat area. Some restaurants also offer rooms. If you like cycling /canoeing etc. there are several places that offer bike hire or are based on the water and can organise trips. The food is also very different region by region so find a local restaurant and enjoy the flavours! The French tend to eat late so you will find early evening tables easy to come by, but the atmosphere is better later on.
    Final tip would be not to drive every day, find a couple of good places to stop for at least two nights, ideally within a town or walking distance of an attraction so you can leave the car behind.

    in reply to: Avios reward – Amex Plus 241 query
    NigelHamilton

    Thanks.

    I won’t have enough Avios to cover all 4 Inbound flights without the voucher, so I guess the only option would be to call up and add the inbound to the existing outbound flights?

    Is it still suggested to call the japan BA rewards centre at around midnight to maximise chances? There are West Coast CW rewards available for this August even now, but I’d rather get them on first release so we can start planning everything else with certainty 🙂

    What I have done in the past, is monitor avios availability for a few days BEFORE the date you want to return. It’s a reasonable indication as to how popular your destination is and how quickly the avios seats are going. For example, CW from Vancouver seemed to go almost immediately but Montreal had plenty of seats even days after they went on sale. For my most recent trip, I was confident enough there would still be sufficient seats (and was flexible with dates in case unlucky) so I just called at a sensible, UK friendly time.

    in reply to: Companion Voucher and Avios
    NigelHamilton

    Thank you for the replies so far!

    Firstly, love the name!

    Secondly, agree with the above from memesweeper and aq.1988.

    Only point to add is you might get better value from using the avios to discount a cash ticket, don’t rule it out. I suspect not but sometimes it’s surprising…

    Thank you!

    Are you referring to part payment using Avios? I got the following options, is the first one the best value?

    £60 off with 6000 Avios

    £120 off with 18300 Avios

    £210 off with 38700 Avios

    The first option is comfortably the best value, it values each avios at 1p which is a perfectly reasonable use of avios. Depending on the cash price of the flights, you are likely best off paying cash for the HKG flights, using the £60 avios discount, and then making the voucher value by 20th Jan. Assuming the maths works, you would then redeem the voucher on a CPT return, only issue might be finding availability but that is always easier in economy especially if you have flexible dates.

    A final option is using the voucher for a reward booking for 2 people, and paying cash for the other two. You then get BA to link the bookings by calling. We do this for our family of 5 as we only ever have a maximum of two vouchers and it tends to be best to pay cash for at least one ticket (which then also earns avios and tier points). Good luck!

    in reply to: Companion Voucher and Avios
    NigelHamilton

    Thank you for the replies so far!

    Firstly, love the name!

    Secondly, agree with the above from memesweeper and aq.1988.

    Only point to add is you might get better value from using the avios to discount a cash ticket, don’t rule it out. I suspect not but sometimes it’s surprising…

    Thank you!

    Are you referring to part payment using Avios? I got the following options, is the first one the best value?

    £60 off with 6000 Avios

    £120 off with 18300 Avios

    £210 off with 38700 Avios

    The first option is comfortably the best value, it values each avios at 1p which is fine, and probably better value than you’ll get from an economy redemption.
    IF the cash fares are reasonable, you’re probably best off booking the flights for cash with £60 off for avios, making the £2,200 spend and then redeeming the voucher on your CPT flights (as I understand the cash price is higher). But lots of factors to consider (availability of reward tickets, cash price vs avios price etc). Good luck!

    in reply to: Amex Platinum – Eurostar fast track check-in?
    NigelHamilton

    Can you take guests in? Scenario is 2 econ or prem efon tickets booked with my platinum. Partner has supplementary platinum, but neither ticket purchase will go through her card.

    A ticket booked in your partner’s name, will allow her to enter the lounge, if she turns up with her supplementary platinum. You need two cards to get two people in (i.e. no card allows a guest). No need for the tickets to be booked by her.

    in reply to: Hilton Gold – breakfast benefit for family of four?
    NigelHamilton

    We’ve stayed at several doubletrees in the UK as a family of 5 (including teenagers) and have always had free breakfast. We often got free drinks vouchers for everyone on arrival too. However in the Hilton Quebec (our first experience outside the UK as a gold) we were only given continental breakfast for two and had to pay for the kids (at adults rates for the over 12’s).

    in reply to: BAEC shopping portal – tracked at lower value
    NigelHamilton

    I know it’s not covered much on this site, but I’ve found the BA shopping portal to be an invaluable way of earning extra avios (sometimes well into the ‘000s) on things I was buying anyway. I do find it’s extremely hit and miss as to whether you earn the advertised rate and whether the VAT inclusive or exclusive price is used for the points. I’ve had things go in my favour too, such as being credited 5,000 avios twice by one retailer for the same purchase. Beware also that some retailers either refuse to credit the avios or claw it back in the future for spurious/incorrect reasons (M&S and JD Sports are the two key offenders on my purchases). Others are excellent, Nike, John Lewis, Clarins. There’s some surprising retailers on there – I’ve noticed I’ve been failing to earn avios on Sainsburys deliveries for example, as didnt know they were a partner.

    NigelHamilton

    In the UK (probably been to about 15 different Hiltons), it’s always been free cooked breakfast, even when we’ve travelled as a family of 5. We’ve usually, but not always, received a voucher for one or two free drinks per person at check in (once we got 10 drinks!), which was good business for the hotel as it meant we ate in the restaurant each time.

    However, at a recent three nighter at the Hilton Quebec, we were specifically told (on going for breakfast each day) we could only receive two free continental breakfasts and each of the free breakfasts would require an upgrade fee of (I think) CAD 15 if we wanted the hot food. We were fine with the continental which actually looked better than the cooked breakfast! The teenagers had to pay CAD 34 and got full breakfast – no offer of a continental option. On the third morning I took them to McDonalds! This is my first experience outside of the UK, however, and the Quebec Hilton seemed very “on it” in ensuring that Gold’s only got exactly what was on offer (we were offered paid room upgrades etc). A very nice hotel though in a great city!

    in reply to: Hyatt Amex offer
    NigelHamilton

    Question for those in the know on this offer. I need a night in Cambridge which I could book at the Hyatt Centric, even though its slightly out of town. That won’t get me to £250,but the better half is having afternoon tea at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel later this month (but isn’t staying there). The two together would come to £250,but will restaurant only spend count for the offer?

    NigelHamilton

    I stayed at the Hilton Quebec last weekend,where the friendly check in agent offered us (and following some negotiation, we eventually accepted) an upgrade from a standard room to a suite for 100 CAD a night. This was apparently a special deal for Gold members (Hilton were selling the suite for around 200 CAD more than the combined cost of the room and upgrade). We also got charged for breakfast for the children which I know isn’t supposed to be included unde Gold member benefits, but we have always been given in Hilton’s UK hotels. In the UK, we have sometimes got free room upgrades, by one or two room categories, but never paid for one except via the app in advance. What do others think? Is this a North America thing, or a taste of the new normal?

    in reply to: Toronto
    NigelHamilton

    Updating (still in Canada, but done Toronto and Montreal). Both cities were fantastic, Toronto was the more obvious choice with the children and while your toddler would LOVE the Montreal biodome, it wouldn’t be worth making a special trip there given the distance between the two cities. Niagara was about an hours drive, we went on an organised tour – falls and lunch super, rest of the tour a little long for the kids, and ours are teenagers. Niagara the Town isn’t a great looking place so would definitely do that as a day trip rather than stay there.
    Other tips – location was hugely important. We were right in the centre virtually next to the CN Tower and hence easily walked back after each thing we did (CN Tower restaurant, Blue Jay’s baseball game, Niagara tour drop off). It would have been much more tricky had we even been a train ride away from the centre. We didn’t go to Ripley’s aquarium but that was also right next to the CN Tower and likely to be toddler friendly. There are lots of great places to eat – Kost (Amex platinum dining credit) was a super spot for brunch and the CN tower meal was superb, fairly expensive (set meal CAD 90) but worth every cent for the view – they also do a kids menu (CAD 40). We went at sunset. The baseball took 4.5hrs so likely too long but was a lot of fun, despite the result. The “Path” underground city was also an interesting concept – you can basically walk under the city for miles, connecting shopping malls, food courts and businesses. We also found the city super safe and immaculately clean. All covid restrictions had been lifted by the time we went. All in all, you’ll have a super time!

    in reply to: Eurotunnel: Any discount schemes available
    NigelHamilton

    There certainly used to be a frequent traveller scheme which cut down the price for our motorhome to £46 each way. You needed to do 5 returns per year, but you could share that between two families so effectively we had to do three trips a year to make it work. Don’t know if it is still operating I’m afraid.

    in reply to: Amex – £50 off £200 – until Dec 2022
    NigelHamilton

    US Hiltons charge advance rates centrally as soon as you click book. The hotel name would not appear on your statement.

    In the rest of the world it depends on whether a particular hotel has implemented the functionality.

    Are you saying that if I use my AMEX for a non-UK/Europe hotel, that it might trigger the cashback? I’m staying at the Hilton Quebec in a month’s time and £50 would beat the 3% FX charge for using an AMEX. Feels like a gamble……

    NigelHamilton

    Not quite the same thing as we’d already earned the bonus but we put a large spend (£8k) on the “wrong” BAPP card, then had it refunded a few days later. It triggered the 2 4 1 voucher and that was available for use even after the refund. Unsurprisingly, despite the AMEX app saying we had to spend another £8k to trigger the 241 voucher, when we did so many months later we didn’t get a second one!

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