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What is your favourite credit card?
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is my favourite card to reach my travel goals. Marriott Bonvoy is a straight-forward hotel points program which has so much flexibility.
With the sign up bonus via the link above you can get up to 12 nights, depending on the hotel category, though it is more likely you will get about 3-5 nights from the bonus due to the different categories for hotels around the world.
If you prefer to stay elsewhere, you can also convert your Bonvoy points to airline miles with over 40 different airline partners to choose from. It is a perfect way to top up an account or to hit a mileage sweet spot.
Every year on the date of your anniversary holding the card you get a free annual night for many hotels around the world. This anniversary gift is much better than a bouquet of flowers or some chocolate and more than covers the annual fee of the card. This is the card that just keeps on giving!
What has been your favourite flight you've taken using miles?
Etihad Airways First Class, one of the best flights that lasted a “short” 16 hour and 25-minute from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi. Even though you are almost spending a whole day on the plane, it felt like the flight was too short! The private suite had a comfy bed which was serviced by an on-board chef filling me up with delicious treat after delicious treat.
This was later topped by flying the Etihad Apartments from Abu Dhabi to London. Though it is a shorter flight, The Apartments are so over the top with a bed separate from the main seat, a vanity, a lounge area and even an on-board shower. I couldn’t stop thinking how ridiculous it was that I was on a plane with all these amazing amenities to enjoy.
To get this experience, I used my Asiana miles that I had been collecting over the years flying on Star Alliance partners. Asiana miles can be transferred-in from the Marriott Bonvoy sign up bonus only requiring a mere 40,000 miles from the Middle East to Paris or London.
What has been your favourite hotel you've stayed at on points?
Points are such a great currency as they let you save money, but also splurge in a way that I normally would not.
One of the most memorable redemptions I made was for the JW Marriott Ashberon in Baku, Azerbaijan. The hotel was so opulent and fancy but it appeared to have few point redemptions as most of the other guests use oil wealth to purchase their rooms. Azerbaijan is also not a hot tourist destination (yet). This weird supply and demand situation led to Marriott pricing this hotel as a Category 2 for a cool 10000 points. One Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card sign up bonus could get you 5 nights at this amazing hotel.
Marriott has since raised it to a Category 3 hotel, which is still a great deal in my books for such a high tier brand.
What has been your worst hotel or flight experience using points or miles?
Many of my redemptions have gone over smoothly. There might have been an equipment swap or a schedule change but those can be handled pretty easily. My biggest pet peeve however is when there are irregular operations due to weather or maintenance and the airlines are reluctant about modifying your ticket if it’s booked on a partner program, or if the airline and loyalty program are run separately.
I was on an Aeroplan mini-round the world trip in the winter time and there was a huge snowstorm in Toronto and the North-east. I had a connection to Boston and then onwards to Lisbon, but my Boston flight kept getting pushed back and then eventually cancelled stranding me in Toronto.
I knew I was going to miss the connecting flight and had tried to pro-actively modify the ticket but they said no changes as it appeared I would still make the connection. When it was clear I wasn’t going to, the Maple Leaf Lounge attendant said she would take care of it and then went home for the day. The next agent said they couldn’t touch the ticket because it was issued by Aeroplan. I ended up having to go outside to the main ticketing desk to get some assistance who told me to call the call-centre to get it modified. It was a snowstorm situation so the call centre was slammed and I ended up queuing on the phone and in person in tandem. It eventually got sorted out and I was re-routed without losing too much time on my trip but the reluctance and excuses I heard were so unhelpful and frustrating.
What is your biggest regret since starting this hobby?
The number of Asia Miles redemptions I made on simple routings and old aircraft just makes me shake my head at my past self. Maximizing routings, flying different partners and looking for those “sweet spots” is part of the fun.
Sometimes the value of a program is not apparent so being a part of a traveler community like this blog is a great way to share and discuss ideas to help each other experience new things.
What is your best piece of advice for those who are interested but haven't started in this hobby yet?
Keep an open mind! The world is big and the options to go around are even bigger. Finding ways to save money, time and hassle will let you travel more of the world and more often. If you can dream it, you can find a way to do it.
What is your favourite Vancouver hotel?
I don’t stay in too many hotels in town, but did have the chance to stay at The Westin Wall Centre Vancouver Airport in preparation for a wedding. It is a nice and well run hotel with a very hearty breakfast. The location is perfect for exploring as it is close to a Canada Line station, a few of the strip malls, and the airport.
What upcoming trip are you most looking forward to?
Any trip I have that includes time in Japan is one that I am looking forward to. I have an Aeroplan redemption coming up to sample some Eastern European cities; hop around Africa and then visit Japan. Utilizing the stopover and routing rules I will have a chance to compare the culture, sights and food of many different peoples.
At 150,000 Aeroplan miles, this trip will also include some long haul flights on Singapore Airlines, one of my favourite carriers in the world.
Horace used to hate travelling but was bitten by the travel bug after a life-changing trip to Europe. Supported by a community of awesome travel-minded folks who helped him navigate the world of points and miles, he now holds airline elite status and is always looking for new items for his bucket list. He has the attitude of always wanting to try something new and at a count of over 165 countries, he is well on his way to his goal of visiting every country in the world.