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Over the years the posting of Diamond Amenity and other bonus points have been erratic to say the least. Normally, I just wait until I have 5 to 10 stays to correct and then do them all over a phone call. Apparently Hyatt is now offering a 50% bonus if one needs to call and have the amenity points posting corrected. This is retroactive for stays from mid-October.

Sometimes it makes sense to choose airline miles instead of Hyatt points for stays. This especially when they have airline related bonuses going on and the stay is a one nighter. Diamond amenity never posts automatically when the airline miles are chosen. These needs to be posted manually by Hyatt GoldPassport customer “service”. Occasionally you might get a representative who is not aware of the fact that stays that are posted as miles are also eligible for Diamond amenity points. If that happens, the best way to correct the situation is to ask to speak with a supervisor. [click to continue…]

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Last week I wrote about the latest offer from American Airlines for Double Elite and Redeemable miles for flights between selected cities. As United Airlines has their hub at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, it was likely from the beginning that they would match the AA’s promotion to stay competitive.

United Airlines Double Elite Qualifying Air PromotionsThe other day when I was checking flight promotions on United.com it showed a new promotion offering double elite qualifying miles (DEQM) and double redeemable miles (DRDM) for flights between Chicaco’s O’Hare and San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Santa Ana. Unlike AA’s offer that didn’t have any fare class restrictions, United’s offer is valid only on fares booked to W or higher. Also, the United’s offer is valid only for travel until January 31st, 2012 when AA’s offer is valid until March 31st, 2012. [click to continue…]

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For the past week I have been traveling around China. Accessing the popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is not possible, without using extra services, as all of these are blocked by the Chinese authorities. The Chinese blocking is also known as the Great (fire)Wall of China.  Last month I was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi where authorities also blocked some content that they deemed inappropriate, although the blocking was not as wide as it is in China.

Also, there are services like Hulu, Amazon Prime instant videos, or Netflix that use geographical blocking of their service. These three can only be accessed from the United States. BBC in the UK also has interesting programming that is only available for users in the United Kingdom. [click to continue…]

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Sometimes when you are withdrawing money from a foreign ATM, you are presented an option for the bank operating the ATM to do the currency conversion for you instead of Visa/MasterCard. Also, when paying for hotels or other expenses in a foreign country, you are often given similar option to pay in the currency of you home country.

You should ALWAYS decline these offers and here’s the reason why. The rates that are offered are NEVER markets rates. The bank operating the ATM or the bank who is handling the credit card machine is offering you a rate that is anywhere from 3% to 7% off from the actual market rate. This conversion is done for your “convenience”, when in fact it does nothing else than increase their fee income. It is better to let the network to do the conversion using the actual market rates. [click to continue…]

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Starwood launches their Starpicks rates for various properties for the next couple of weeks mostly every Tuesday, although there have been gaps at times. These rates are typically available for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights for city properties. For resorts these rates can be available for all days. You need to book the rate by Friday.

Starwood Starpicks

Thing to keep in mind is that these rates are prepaid and non-cancellable. If your plans change, it is unlikely that you will get a refund. Also these Starpicks rates are not always the lowest. It pays to check the normal rates using various discounts codes that one is eligible for i.e. AAA. [click to continue…]

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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced this past spring their latest reward night promotion in addition to point breaks. Every first full week of month they would announce rewards night special at 50% discount for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday stays for the same week.

InterContinental Hotels Group Last Minute Reward Nights Promotion

This promotion is a great way to save points if you can take advantage of it.  The booking window is really short Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for arrivals the same weekend. Of course you really cannot plan anything around these specials. If you happen to be traveling in a city where they have them or living in one and thinking of having a staycation, it is a great way to save big on Priority Club points. [click to continue…]

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One would think that a direct flight is a non-stop one, right? Not so in the airline business as my example from yesterday illustrates. When booking an airfare one should always check whether the flight is non-stop vs direct and understand the differences between the two. Airlines like direct flights because they get better visibility on the distributions systems that the travel agents use. Also some of the airport related and segment fees are lower when one flight number is used for multiple flights.

Air China Flight Price PEK CTU LXACouple of months ago I was searching for options getting to Lhasa from Beijing. I thought that I would need some elite qualifying miles (EQM’s) on Continental’s/United’s program to make me a million miler, and thus granting me lifetime Star Alliance Gold status. Air China is Star Alliance carrier so in order to get some EQM’s decided to choose their flight. [click to continue…]

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Ever since I saw the movie Seven Years In Tibet, back in the late 90’s, I knew that one day I would make my way there. When Starwood was running their summer promo and one of the redemption options was the newly built St Regis Lhasa hotel, I decided that now it was the time for me to make it happen.

Tibetan Travel PermitTraveling into Tibet is bit problematic. Not only you need a Chinese visa, for those of us who need one, but a Tibetan travel permit also that can only be issued in Tibet. When I was looking at flight options to Lhasa (LXA) the only direct international flight to Lhasa, on a Star Alliance, carrier was Air China’s Kathmandu (KTM) – Lhasa (LXA) route. I tried to have it ticketed as an award ticket but had no luck. The award space was available but for some reason BMI couldn’t issue it. Also, if flying from Nepal to Lhasa, one needs to have both the Chinese visa and the Tibetan travel permit issued in Kathmandu. So the better and probably the only viable choice was to enter China and then fly into Lhasa. [click to continue…]

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American Airlines AAdvantage Double Elite Qualifying Miles EmailAmerican Airlines just announced that they are offering double elite qualifying and redeemable miles between Chicago (ORD) or Dallas (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO). This promotion is valid for AAdvantage members whose address on file with AA is in California, Illinois, or Texas. The promotion period is surprisingly long from yesterday until the end of March 2012.

Apparently AA is trying hard to fight against Virgin America that has started to operate somewhat schedule on these routes, although the main competitor remains to be United. [click to continue…]

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InterContinental Hotels Group’s flagship brand, as the name suggests, is InterContinental Hotels and Resorts. The entire groups loyalty program is called Priority Club. You earn Priority Club points or airline miles for your InterContinental stays. Possible Priority Club status Gold or Platinum, however, doesn’t apply to Intercontinental as they have their own Ambassador program.

InterContinental Ambassador DisplayWhenever you stay at an InterContinental hotel they have these “Become an Ambassador Today” displays normally close to the work desk. The main selling points are:

Guaranteed room upgrade

4pm late check out

Free weekend night

Fresh fruit and mineral water

Single Rate for Double Occupancy

5,000 PRIORITY CLUB® BONUS POINTS

InterContinental Ambassador program is probably the only major that requires you to pay $200 fee for joining. Is it worth it? Let’s have a look at the benefits. [click to continue…]

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When staying at four/five star hotels they normally have a contracted doctor that can come to see a hotel guest. This is a good option if the guests feels really bad and is willing to pay for the privilege. Over the years I have used this kind of service few of times.

During my current trip I have needed to get prescriptions or to see a doctor three times. These have all been non-urgent and I have gotten to see in two of the three visits how the local access the healthcare system. Not bad at all. [click to continue…]

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InterContinental Hotels Group Best Price Guarantee?Couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new “most powerful” best price guarantee in the hotel industry. IHG promises the first night to be completely free if you find a lower price after booking on another website. It is not difficult to come to a conclusion that there must have been few people around searching for lower prices on competing websites and claiming their free nights.

The guarantee still sounds quite promising:

We’re so sure the best prices for our hotels are found on our website that we’re standing by them—with the most powerful guarantee ever by a global travel company. Find a lower price elsewhere and your first night is free. That’s our Best Price Guarantee and just one of many benefits you get with the Book With Us Advantage. [click to continue…]

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Starwood Preferred Guest Introducing Ratings ReviewsStarwood has just launched their own Ratings & Reviews where guests can review their past stay. Hotels have long been fed up with TripAdvisor reviews, because there hasn’t been a way to determine if the review was actually left by a guest, some competitor, or perhaps disgruntled former employee.

Starwood Preferred Guest Introducing Ratings Reviews Sheraton Grande SukhumvitWith the Starwood you actually need to log in using an account that was used to book the stay. Alternatively you need to have the confirmation number and the last name. For some reason when I was trying to make a review just using a confirmation number and my last name, the system was unable to find the stay only returning an error message that the review must be left within certain timeframe after the stay. [click to continue…]

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When you have look at the terms and conditions of any of the recent Hilton promotions, there is a long list of excluded rate codes. Most of these rate codes are associated with online travel booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz. There are other excluded rates as well, and I have found out that the PR13CB (Corporate Benefits Employee Offer) is really beneficial at times.

Who is eligible for this “Corporate Benefits Employee Offer” or “Corporate Benefit Partner Rate” as it is described in the rate details? That is really a good question. I have used it several times at various hotels. To my understanding this rate is intended for personal, non-business travel for Hilton’s corporate partners who have negotiated rates with them. [click to continue…]