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What is your favourite credit card?
Alaska Airlines also recently released the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus Mastercard with a lower welcome bonus, but with easier approval requirements. Alaska Airlines has done a fantastic job partnering with high-value airlines and you can use your points for flights on Emirates, Japan Airlines, Cathay, Pacific, and Qantas to name a few. All of those airlines have very excellent First Class products. The card has a low annual fee, low minimum spend, and decent welcome bonus, but the best thing about it is that it is easily churnable which is its best quality in my opinion.
What has been your favourite flight you've taken using miles?
We made a very last minute decision to go to Bali to travel around with my brother for a while and this was a great opportunity to use my stash of Alaska Airlines miles. Since availability is usually the best way in advance or close to the departure date, we ended up booking our flight 2 days before departure. That might sound stressful to some, but it was extremely exciting for this trip to work out the way it did.
We booked 2 First Class tickets from Vancouver to Bali on Cathay Pacific. Now, when I fly I usually like to get there as soon as possible; however, when flying First Class I don’t mind taking my time or going the long way around. It just so happened the Vancouver to Hong Kong to Bali wasn’t an option, but Vancouver to New York to Hong Kong to Bali was. So we got 5 hours in First Class to New York and then another 16 hours in First Class to Hong Kong and then 5 hours in Business Class. It cost us 70,000 points per person and about $170 in taxes and fees. The cash value was almost $60,000.
Needless to say, stepping on that plane feeling like royalty felt pretty good. Let me tell you, sipping $500 champagne and eating caviar at 35,000 feet was a great way.
What has been your favourite hotel you've stayed at on points?
Domes of Elounda. We took our family to Europe last year and spent 2 weeks in Greece. Our last 5 days were spent at Domes of Elounda and I can’t think of a better place to spend 5 days relaxing. We were upgraded to our own villa with a hot tub on our massive balcony and had a private yard with our own pool. We later found out that it was the only villa of its type on the whole property, lucky us I guess. We used 180,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to stay there for 5 nights. Today, this will cost you 340,000 points, so we stayed there just in the nick of time before the price went up. This property was world-class and no hotel stay has come close to it.
What has been your worst hotel or flight experience using points or miles?
Transiting Istanbul. On that same Europe trip last year, we were flying from Toronto to Paris through Istanbul. We wanted to pick up our bags in Istanbul as we had an overnight layover and were staying at an airside hotel so we wouldn’t have to apply for Turkish visas and clear security again the next day. The check-in agent said this wouldn’t be possible, but a manager was able to make it happen. Little did we know, there’s a reason this is not usually possible.
It was only after landing in Istanbul, that we found out that baggage check was after immigration control. This meant that we either had to buy visas just to get our bags and then come back through security to get to the airside hotel, or risk not getting them and hoping an airport baggage agent would put them onto our next flight for us. Except, what were we to do with our bag after we got it? We couldn’t bring it through security with us as it was too big to be a carry-on and it was also too early to check the bag for our next flight.
We decided that I would buy a visa to go through and get the bag. I would then grab whatever we needed out of it and hope to find a check-in agent who would allow us to check our bag very, very early and then come back through security to the hotel. I had no problem clearing immigration but now had to hope our bag was somewhere to be found. I found our bag at the baggage assistance counter. I grabbed what we needed and then found an open Turkish Airlines check-in desk. The passenger in front of me had just torn a strip off the check-in agent, so I knew my only hope was to be extremely nice to her and be the exact opposite of what that passenger was. I smiled and said “hi” and told her not to worry about that guy, she did a great job and handled the situation the best she could. She appreciated that and then asked how she could help me. I explained our situation and asked if there was any way she could check my bag for me even though our flight wasn’t until the next morning. She said she couldn’t but she would see if her manager could do it for me. The check-in manager came over and I again explained the situation and the manager gave the agent a nod and made an exception for us. This was our only hope of making our massive mistake not cost me a night sleeping in the airport while my family slept at the airside hotel without me and thank God the manager was nice enough to do this for us. Lesson learned, if something can’t be done, it’s usually for a reason.
What is your biggest regret since starting this hobby?
I have 2. One happened just recently where I miscalculated how much I had spent on a card and I ended up missing out on 25,000 points because I didn’t meet the minimum spend requirement. The other was not starting this hobby with the American Express Business Platinum card. Instead, I started with the American Express Business Gold card which has a lower bonus when making referrals. Whoops.
What is your best piece of advice for those who are interested but haven't started in this hobby yet?
It’s not a scam or a gimmick, it’s legitimate. So many people I talk to about this hobby always ask “what’s the catch?” and I can honestly say that there isn’t one. Often times things are a little bit different when traveling on points, but nothing you read on this blog is a privilege for just us and you can do it too. If you’re willing to put in the time to learn, the benefits can be more than you ever thought possible.
What is your favourite Vancouver hotel?
The DOUGLAS. It’s attached to the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and it is fantastic. It has the best lounge in any North American hotel that I have ever stayed at, which made my stay even more enjoyable with free food and drinks all day long.
What upcoming trip are you most looking forward to?
My wife and I are going to Japan for our 5 year anniversary and we’re flying ANA First Class both ways. For our trip, we’re only staying in luxury hotels including the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, which is often regarded as one of the best Ritz-Carlton hotels in the world.
I booked this by using Virgin Atlantic miles. They only require 110,000 miles per person for a round-trip First Class ticket from the West Coast which is an absolutely ridiculously cheap deal. I got those miles by capitalizing on the Marriott Travel Packages before they were severely devalued last year, but you can still transfer Marriott points directly to Virgin Atlantic at a 60,000:25,000 points ratio.
Kyle took his first flight at the age of 7 and that feeling of taking off captured his love of flying instantly. Now that he has a wife and three sons, he wants to share that same feeling with his kids as much as possible. His award travel experience is slowly changing from luxury travel with the wife to getting his family travelling as much as possible.