2015 travelling year in review

Discussion in 'The Social Club — general chats, meet ups & more' started by Gagravarr, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. Gagravarr

    Gagravarr Active Member

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    As I sit in a hotel room, listening to some's christmas party music from downstairs, I thought it might be good if we shared some of our 2015 travelling experiences, for a bit of fun, and to get to know each other better. To give a bit of structure, take some / all of / none of the questions below, and reply with your answers to them!
    • Best hotel upgrade
    • Best hotel
    • Worst hotel / hotel room
    • Best hotel promotion / deal / redemption
    • Favourite hotel loyalty program / status
    • Best flight
    • Worst flight
    • Craziest routing
    • Best lounge
    • Preferred airline loyalty program / status
    • Best place you visited
    • Place you visited for the first time, and wished you'd been to before
    • Favourite travel photo (yours or someone else's!)
    Maybe also explain why, especially if it's a fun story :)
     
  2. tommyl

    tommyl Co-founder Staff Member

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    Best hotel upgrade

    Definitely the upgrade to a suite at the Conrad Istanbul - love this hotel.

    Best hotel

    The Premier Inn Gatwick Airport. Absolutely perfect for what was required.

    Worst hotel / hotel room

    Any central London Hilton, although I'm going to go for the Hilton Euston - just stay at a Premier Inn. Cheaper, and better.

    Best hotel promotion / deal / redemption

    Hardly an original one, but as ever the Amex two-for-one on my Biz Class return to Hong Kong proved its worth.

    Edit: just seen this is hotel related. For hotels it would probably have to be use of the Hilton 10k points Category 1 redemption, or any juicy "points and cash" option, which I use regularly.

    You may by now have noticed my slight bias towards Hilton stays. It is a condition I am working on, but am perhaps helpless to ever free myself of.

    Favourite hotel loyalty program / status

    Hilton HHonors

    Best flight

    HKG-LHR - benefiting from the Biz Class two-for-one, and Kate Moss was on board.

    Worst flight

    The Turkish Airlines flight that took four attempts to land at Malta, in not particularly bad weather.

    Craziest routing

    Sadly the kids have precluded me from doing anything interesting on this front this year.

    Best lounge

    Etihad, Sydney airport

    Preferred airline loyalty program / status

    Going to be controversial and opt for Miles&More, this year, as I've reaped the benefits of the Mileage Bargains.

    Best place you visited

    Taking the boys to Istanbul was great fun. Less Grand Bazaars and more aquariums/Legoland, but they loved it.

    Place you visited for the first time, and wished you'd been to before

    See kids excuse, above :)

    Favourite travel photo (yours or someone else's!)

    Liked this one of Valletta, taken by my other half...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2015
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  3. JoeD

    JoeD Active Member

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    Nice idea Gagravarr:

    • Best hotel upgrade
    Probably Intercontinental Dublin - 2 rooms, both upgraded to great suites, despite being booked using points and not having ANY status with IHG at the time. Still not entirely sure what happened here, but definitely appreciated!
    • Best hotel
    Tricky. I think I'm actually going to say either the Ovolo Aberdeen Harbour or Southside (both Hong Kong). Great little chain with loads of free extras, very reasonable rates, and both locations were really good in a slightly off the beaten track (but still easy to get into town) sort of way. I've probably stayed at 'better' hotels this year, but these were unexpected gems and therefore left a bigger impression.
    • Worst hotel / hotel room
    Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi. The hard product is actually pretty great (lovely big rooms, nice public spaces etc), but the service was completely inept, they tried to charge me 5x the rate I had booked, and the duty manager had the worst/laziest attitude I've ever encountered at a nice hotel. Not a great experience, exacerbated by arriving late at night because of a delayed flight and an early start the next day.
    • Best hotel promotion / deal / redemption
    Quite a few! In value terms, 3-4 free nights at the Intercontinental Park Lane (with breakfast!) at various points this year through IHG's best rate guarantee promise takes some beating.
    • Favourite hotel loyalty program / status
    For status benefits (and ease of getting meaningful status - Gold from 4 stays earlier in the year, straight match to Diamond since), Hilton.

    For generous promotions and award chart, IHG.
    • Best flight
    Cathay Pacific First Class from Hong Kong (using AA Miles) - spectacular.
    • Worst flight
    Any flight I try to get with BA from Leeds to London because I almost always seem to get a text at 6am-ish telling me it's been cancelled! When it doesn't get cancelled or massively delayed though, I've no complaints at all!
    • Craziest routing
    Leeds (Cancelled) - taxi to Manchester - Heathrow - Berlin - Abu Dhabi - Bangkok (over the course of 2-3 days). Every single flight was cancelled or substantially delayed... Suffice to say, my brilliant/foolish idea to check out a couple of cities with brief stops and sample different business class products on the way to Bangkok, didn't go entirely to plan.
    • Best lounge
    Cathay's The Pier at Hong Kong - I'm not really sure how it could be much better. It's fantastic. Although... thinking about it, my first glass of champagne there was a bit flat and had to be replaced if I remember correctly, so there's always room for improvement I guess?!
    • Preferred airline loyalty program / status
    None. For shorthaul I usually fly with low cost carriers from airports that are nearby (North of England), and for longhaul I try to use miles as much as possible to book Business or First. I think I 'earned' about 10 tier points with BA this year and that's pretty much it.
    • Best place you visited
    Being back in Singapore was a bit special (personally), but probably Hong Kong or London (despite being a Yorkshireman, I've always loved London!).
    • Place you visited for the first time, and wished you'd been to before
    Last year, it would definitely have been Boston or Edinburgh (I still can't believe I hadn't been to Edinburgh before!). This year, I think it's got to be Kuala Lumpur.
    • Favourite travel photo (yours or someone else's!)
    Can't post it for some reason - but sunset at Krabi. Edit: IMG_20150819_190556723.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2015
  4. Gagravarr

    Gagravarr Active Member

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    Let's do mine now!

    Best hotel upgrade
    For a "proper" upgrade, it'll have to be the Le Meridien St Julians in Malta, who upgraded us to a lovely 2 room suite with large balcony overlooking the water

    The "apartment suite" almost the size of my flat at the Doubletree Bangalore / Bengaluru, India was pretty good too!

    Otherwise, the Sheraton Dubai Deira, where I booked a vaguely large sounding suite (needed to have some meetings), and arrived to discover I'd actually booked their presidential suite! I had paid for it, but not very much (it being August in Dubai), but dear god did I feel lost inside it...

    Best hotel
    ITC Gardenia Bangalore / Bengaluru, India. Friendly staff, great food, nice upgrades, excellent rooms, and all drinks free at the bar 6-8pm :)

    Worst hotel / hotel room
    Radisson Blu EU, Brussels. Just dreadful, in so so many ways

    The only thing I can give them is that, after complaining, they did own up to all the faults (long list), and chuck me a substantial number of points to say sorry...

    Best hotel promotion / deal / redemption
    IHG Points Break stay at the Crowne Plaza Heythrop Park. 5k points, a tenner for a return bus ticket for the two of us, nice upgrade, and a great long one night weekend break not far from home for almost free!

    Coming in close second - playing the Shangri-La Golden Circle game from a couple of years back, earning 1200 points, then redeeming for most of a very nice lunch (USD 100 credit) at the Shard in London

    Favourite hotel loyalty program / status
    Hilton HHonors Diamond, for some nice upgrades and good treatment around the world, without any real downsides.

    Best flight
    Qatar from Doha to Melbourne. It's a long flight, but the bed was comfy, the staff friendly, the food and drink was always there when I wanted it, and made for the least-worst way to get to Australia I've found yet!

    Worst flight
    None really spring to mind. Did have multiple horrendous train journeys with Worst Great Western (now renamed as Great Western Railways) and Worst Capital Connect (now Great Northern despite not going very far north).

    Craziest routing
    LHR-BCN-LHR-BLR-LHR-MAD-LHR, all in J for about 1400 quid! Plus came with a short break to Spain too :)

    LHR-HEL-LHR on a Saturday night, to hit BA GGL, actually allowed quite a lot of time sightseeing in Helsinki, but got "busted" by the night-stopping crew on boarding the next morning when they recognised me from the flight out!

    Best lounge
    American Express Centurion lounge in DFW

    It's not the BA CCR in T5, but it doesn't try to be. Decent food, friendly staff, quite a lot of space, and still easier to get a free massage than in any BA lounge...

    Preferred airline loyalty program / status
    BAEC - It's a long slog, but if you hit GGL they (mostly) take care of you

    Best place you visited
    Bilbao - lots of great art, friendly people, nice climate, excellent Pintxos (Basque Tapas) everywhere

    Place you visited for the first time, and wished you'd been to before
    Istanbul

    Favourite travel photo (yours or someone else's!)
    Hard to say, but it's almost certainly from tomerz9, the instagraming pilot!
     
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  5. tommyl

    tommyl Co-founder Staff Member

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    Allow me, Joe:

    [​IMG]

    Or perhaps more accurately:

    [​IMG]

    Or possibly even more accurately:

    [​IMG]

    (By the way, I will be the first to accept that posting photos onto this messageboard is a somewhat convoluted process, as you need to post them via URL. Best way to do it is, I find, to use postimage.org - you don't need to log in, and can upload in seconds).
     
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  6. GnarlyOldGoatDude

    GnarlyOldGoatDude Active Member

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    Best hotel upgrade

    Hilton Malta - Corner Suite. So large that I phoned around to get relatives to come and stay with us.

    Best hotel

    I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago.

    Worst hotel / hotel room

    Sorry to disagree with Tommyl, but we were sorely disappointed by the Conrad Istanbul. Pokey rooms (no upgrade for this Diamond), bad views. Relatively good price and lots of bonus points though.

    Best hotel promotion / deal / redemption

    The concurrent, stackable Conrad/Waldorf + Hilton deals that lead to a 80,000 point haul.
    For flights, it was a 5,100 Avios spend for a flight that cost >£850. LHR-DME one way.

    Favourite hotel loyalty program / status

    Hilton HHonors

    Best flight

    Turkish Airlines Malta to Istanbul. Good to see how short haul can be done.

    Worst flight

    Each time I say, "never again", however, I did end up on a Ryanair flight from Luton to Malta.

    Craziest routing

    Possibly the walk to the BA lounge in Amsterdam.

    If you mean flights, I haven't been too adventurous. MLA-BCN (Vueling) BCN-LGW (BA) is about the most ambitious this year. However, since there was a French air traffic control strike on, the routing itself was crazy.

    Oh, there was my unexpected MLA-STN-LGW on Easyjet. We couldn't get a slot due to bad weather so diverted to Essex.

    Best lounge

    Sky Team Heathrow T4. (I don't get out much)

    Preferred airline loyalty program / status

    For ease of earning (and spending) and some really good bargains, Avios.

    Best place you visited

    Another vote for Istanbul. Such an eye-opener.

    Place you visited for the first time, and wished you'd been to before

    Istanbul.

    Favourite travel photo (yours or someone else's!)

    I know that it's my avatar, but I love the light in this photo. I took it from the window of our room in the Intercontinental Tverskaya (Moscow) on 25th Dec 2014, so it is within the last year. It shows the first snow....very late that year, but it later came down with a vengeance.

    IMG_0993.JPG
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  7. tommyl

    tommyl Co-founder Staff Member

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    GOGD - don't you find Ryanair just like Air Malta, only cheaper?

    (There's no devil laugh emoticon, but if there was, I'd use it now)
     
  8. GnarlyOldGoatDude

    GnarlyOldGoatDude Active Member

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    I tend to be a Gatwick flyer, so I'm spoilt for choice with BA, Air Malta and EasyJet. However, I am one of those suckers who books tickets 2 or 3 weeks out, meaning that the prices are sometimes eye-watering. There was just the one time where they were so high (£400 return), whereas Ryanair was £30 that I thought I'd risk it. Bad move.

    At least it got me back into Luton from where I used to fly to Germany when I was aged 9-18 (army brat). That place has changed a little.
     
  9. MilesFromBlighty

    MilesFromBlighty Co-founder

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    I'll bite too:
    • Best hotel upgrade
    The four room 'room' that I was given at the Hyatt in Bangkok. A living Room, bathroom, bedroom and a massage room. What more can you ask.
    • Best hotel
    This is really hard - I've not been 'wowed' by anywhere this year. Lots of good solid properties - Hyatt Regency Waikiki for example.

    [​IMG]

    • Worst hotel / hotel room
    I loathed the Hilton in York where the upgrade was to a room with the view of a wall. Not impressed.
    [​IMG]

    • Best hotel promotion / deal / redemption
    Hyatt's Cash+Points - if you can find them - are a good deal in lots of places. $125 + 10,000 points for a room that can run $300 is a bargain especially as they count for status.
    • Favourite hotel loyalty program / status
    I have to say my BA Concorde Room card which won't apply pretty soon! There is a peace in the CCR that I really appreciate.
    I used to love Hyatt Diamond Gold Passport but those days are gone. This would have been Hyatt if it were not for them giving away Status matches likes sweeties and then changing the rules on suite upgrades when they realise they have given away too many!
    • Best flight
    A couple of great BA flights - short haul to Paris where the crew went out to provide a superb service. I have started to love the BA A380 for its quietness. The BA747 is still great of course:

    [​IMG]

    • Worst flight
    BA flights where noisy passengers stopped me getting any sleep. Selfish.
    • Craziest routing
    Not crazy just tiring - DUB-LHR-JFK-PHX-HNL and return. Too much!
    • Best lounge
    Too hard to answer really - Concorde Room JFK, Amex at LAS or Flagship at JFK. But the Concorde Room at LHR is still great:

    [​IMG]

    My recent visit to the First Class Qantas lounge at LAX was superb though:

    [​IMG]

    • Preferred airline loyalty program / status
    BA but that's because I'm Gold for Life now I suppose.
    • Best place you visited
    I have started liking going to New York again and I think that's a good plan for next year.

    [​IMG]

    • Place you visited for the first time, and wished you'd been to before
    No where this year as it's all been repeat visits!
    • Favourite travel photo (yours or someone else's!)
    I like these!
    Boston:
    [​IMG]

    Landing in London:
    [​IMG]
     

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