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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: Points

68 Hour Visit to Singapore – Introduction

I’ve always wanted to visit Singapore. Really for two main reasons 1) the mix of cultures blend together for some amazing food and 2) the infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The stars and the moon aligned and made a trip this year possible. I had already taken a good portion of my vacation time, so I needed to plan judiciously. If I’m taking a quick trip to Asia, I want to fly in a premium cabin which will likely necessitate the use of miles.

First of all, I spent a couple of days of searching for award fares with no luck.  Eventually I found Star Alliance Saver Awards that worked out quite well. Unfortunately I’d be trying out only one new airline: Singapore Airlines for a relatively short hop from Singapore to Bangkok. The other four flights would all be on airlines and products I’ve flown before. That being said, I really loved these repeat products and was looking forward to experiencing their service again.

Over the next few weeks, you can look forward to the following detailed posts about my trip.

Visit Singapore Gardens by the Bay

Singapore by night

You’ve read my thoughts on the preferred length of trips and I know so many people would think I’m nuts for flying so long for such a short period in Singapore. but remember, life is about the journey, not necessarily the destination (hell at the end of the day, we all end up in the same place, might as well enjoy the ride).

Would you go to Singapore for 2.5 days on the ground? Am I crazy? What has been your craziest trip you’ve planned?

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Singapore: By the Numbers

Regular readers know that I had a quick trip to Singapore – returning home last Monday.  This was indeed a whirlwind trip.  My better half was in Singapore for work and since I had never been and always wanted to go, I found a way to make it work.  I’ll have much more details notes coming soon, but here are the high level numbers and stats.

  • Airlines Flown: 3
  • Flights Taken: 5
  • United Miles Redeemed: 180,000
  • Miles Flown: 20,288
  • Hours in the Air: 44
  • Time in Singapore: 68 hours
  • Time in Vienna: 15 hours
  • Airport Lounges: 6
  • Hotels Nights: 4
  • Hotels Stayed: 3
  • Cities Explored: 2
  • Meals Eaten: 6
  • Restaurants Dined: 1 (everything else was Street Food / Hawker Stalls)
  • Cocktails / Wine / Champagne Consumed: Countless
My Route to the Singapore for the weekend

My route to Singapore

It was a quick trip, but with more hours on the ground than in the air, which is always a key metric for a trip like this.  That being said, spending 44 hours flying (excluding layovers) in some great business class products isn’t too bad of a way to spend a the dog days of summer.

Give me your honest opinion – would you go to Singapore for just 68 hours?  Does the fact that it cost nothing (other than points and time) change your opinion?  What’s the longest you’ve traveled for the shortest stay?

Important Changes to Marriott / Starwood Redemptions: Act Now!

Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016 but had a very slow and methodical integration of their loyalty programs. Kudos to them. Doing it right is better than doing it fast. I’d prefer to remain an SPG member, but the changes that Marriott is making are pretty reasonable. These changes are much better than we’ve seen with other travel related acquisitions.

The new program launches on August 18 and with that there are changes in Elite Status, Earning Rates and Redemption Rates. I can’t do anything about Elite Status or Earning Rates, but I can use the Redemption changes to my advantage.

For example, I have another trip to Austria coming up later this summer and I found that my favorite hotel, the Hotel Bristol, is going to cost 14,000 points more per night. Now this hotel only costs 12,000 SPG Points (which are worth 36,000 Marriott Points). After August 18th, the hotel will cost 50,000 Marriott Points to book. Booking now, I’ve saved myself 14,000 Marriott Points — there are about 1,700 Marriott (and Starwood) hotels in the world were those 14,000 points could get my one or two free nights.  I’d be a fool to ignore this savings!

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The main seating area was enormous and filled with classical music our entire stay.

This also goes the other way too. If you were planning on staying at the St. Regis San Francisco, that property will cost 30,000 points less than it does now! You can go ahead and book it now, but just know that you won’t automatically get those points refunded, you’ll have to call and ask for them to be credited back.

Marriott has a great website that helps you review their properties, how many points it takes now and how many it will take in the future. Go check out your upcoming travel plans and see if you should book now or after August 18th.
Where are you traveling and how are you favorite hotels working out with this change?

San Francisco Proper, a Member of Design Hotels

Hotels in San Francisco were not inexpensive for the weekend we were looking to stay. Even using points seemed a bit cost prohibitive. After a few weeks of checking and rechecking hotel prices, we found we could snag a room at the San Francisco Proper, a Member of Design Hotels, for only $210/night. The room we’d select into was a Bunk Room – yes, a room with bunk beds. We hadn’t slept in bunk beds since college and thought it would be a fun change of pace. Plus the price was right for us.  We knew we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room, so even a tight space would suffice.

We checked into the hotel close to midnight after taking BART in from SFO. The public transit connection was easy, as BART goes directly to the Civic Center Station which is just meters from the hotel. The hotel is located in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. If you haven’t been before, know that it isn’t the bright, shiny, area that you see in magazines. This area is gritty, dirty and full of homeless and drug users. As we walked up the stairs from the BART Station we had to step over many people laying on the stairs. We saw people buying and selling various narcotics.  Plus something I hadn’t seen this up close and personal since I studied in London many years ago. We had to step over a man who was actively shooting up, needle dangling out of his arm.

I don’t live in an ivory tower thinking this stuff doesn’t happen, but it was more blatant and obvious than I had seen in years. I’m not going to pontificate on the state of the opioid crisis in America or the horrible state of our mental healthcare system. I will say that this problem is multifaceted and more specifically for this post, be aware of your surroundings when you stay at this property. Other than the difficulty in carrying suitcases upstairs and over people we had no other issues with the people in and around the hotel.

Check-in

The night manager was working check-in when we arrived. She greeted us by name, I’m assuming because we were the last people to check in that day. She was very welcoming and gave us a quick, but thorough rundown of the hotel and reminded us of their award winning restaurant (Villon) and rooftop bar (Charmaine’s).

If we wanted to visit the bar, she suggested we seek a staff member to escort us. At first I thought this was because of the homeless on the streets, but it was actually because the line to get to the rooftop bar was quite long and with an escort we can bypass the line. We opted not to visit the rooftop bar our first night, but did swing by the next day. The bar was lovely, but just too packed and understaffed when we were there. It was an utterly beautiful day in San Francisco, so everyone wanted to be outside enjoying the sun and the warm breeze.

Charmaine’s, the rooftop at San Francisco Proper

A simple beer on a beautiful day. Plus who doesn’t love a cat coaster?

The Room

Our room was exactly as presented, a bunk room. I never really pay attention to square footage stats on hotel websites, I just figure a standard room is a standard room. This bunk room was small, 16m² (175ft²). There was a small table and chair that one could use to work or dine.

The eponymous bunk beds in our Bunk Room

The closet had the minibar, which was properly stocked and had luggage racks, an iron and ironing board. It was tough for us to use the ironing board because we had two suitcases that were taking up much of the room, but we managed.

A surprisingly well stocked mini-bar.

The liquid refreshments in the mini bar.

The room had two TVs though, placed at the foot of each of the bunk beds, and they were controlled by the same remote, efficient, but strange, nonetheless.

A remarkably elaborate system to control the room the size of a shoe box.

The bathroom housed the toilet and the shower, while the sink was in the main living space. It had a rolling barn style door, which doesn’t give you much privacy, but in a room as small as this, there isn’t much privacy period.

Bathroom

Bathroom

Single Vanity in Main Room

The water temperature and pressure were on point throughout our entire stay.

The hotel uses Aēsop bath products, which were in bulk containers. I do appreciate these as I find it so wasteful to have those mini shampoo, conditioner and body wash containers. My biggest concern with the bulk containers is a previous guest messing with the contents (pouring something into the shampoo, for example). These quality products smelled like mint and other herbs. When time comes we may swap out our current guestroom toiletries for this brand. Have you used them before?

We chose not to dine at the Proper, despite the rave reviews of the restaurant. San Francisco is such a great food town, the idea of dining in our hotel was a bit unpalatable. Have you dined at Villon? I’d love to hear your take on it.

Final Thoughts

While the Bunk Room at the San Francisco Proper doesn’t come close to rivaling the Mosaic Suite at the Prince de Galle Hotel in Paris, or quite frankly the AC Hotel Portland Downtown by Marriott, it was a fun experience to try a Bunk Bed and a beautifully designed hotel. I would consider staying here again, but I think I’ll steer clear of the small Bunk Room.

Have you stayed at the Proper before? What did you think of the neighborhood? What about your room? Did you get a bunk bed? Speaking of, when was the last time you slept in a bunk bed?

Hotel Bristol Vienna – A Luxury Collection Hotel

My flight on Austrian Airlines landed a little late, but since I couldn’t be guaranteed check-in at the hotel until 15h00, I didn’t mind.  I hopped on the City Airport Train (CAT) and made my way from the Airport through Wien Mitte to Oper/Karlsplatz U-Bahn Station.  Last time I visited, I left the underground from the wrong exit and wandered aimlessly trying to find the hotel. This time I followed the signs to the Opera House and emerged exactly where I needed to be.

I’ve stayed at the Hotel Bristol before and really enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to stay again and I found that the price was a bit more than I wanted to pay, so I used Starwood Preferred Guest Cash+Points for the two nights – which cost 110USD+6,000 points each night.  The value was there for me on this stay.  I also used two Platinum Suite Night Upgrades to move us from a standard room to an Opera Suite – the same room type I had last time.

I walk into the hotel lobby at around 10h15 and was greeted with a cheery “Good Morning.”  After my relative success on the Austrian Airlines flight, I attempted to continue my German language practice.  I was tired and it fell apart pretty quickly.  The folks working at reception did try to play along, but my mind just wasn’t in it.  We finished the check-in process in English.

I was surprised that my room was ready for me immediately. So often, when landing early in the morning in Europe your room isn’t ready for hours – which just makes that first day a struggle. I want a shower, I want to take a quick nap – I don’t want to sit in the lobby and wait and I don’t want to go exploring while feeling all dingy.  I was escorted to my room by the bellman and the receptionist.  I didn’t need two staffers helping me – I had just a briefcase and a roller bag, but the service was a nice touch.

Our Opera Suite was on the fourth floor of the hotel, looking directly out onto the beautiful Opera building.  The huge suite is perfectly appointed to entertain before the opera.  As you walk in, you encounter various hallways, leading to the bedroom or the salon.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The main seating area was enormous and filled with classical music our entire stay.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – Main Seating Area in Suite

The salon is large with multiple seating areas, including a small dining area, perfect for a morning breakfast or an afternoon tea.  The fireplaces were all faux, but still gave the warmth (both because they hid a radiator and the style) of a bygone era.

When we entered the salon, a Mozart CD was playing.  A fitting accompaniment to the room, the view and the overall vibe of the hotel.

The salon has a small, but full bathroom attached (sans bathtub, but with a full shower).  This is excellent design when hosting a pre-Opera party, no need for your guests to traipse through your bedroom.  It is truly a luxury to have a hotel room with two bathrooms – I love it.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The second smaller bathroom

Moving back through the salon to the bedroom, you immediately see how grand the sleeping quarters are. The king sized bed does not dwarf the room itself.  An additional sitting area, writing desk and huge closet system also fill this room – but with ample space to maneuver – and to try on various outfits before the opera.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Bedroom with King Bed and seating areas

Bristol Hotel Vienna – faux fireplace in the bedroom

Bristol Hotel Vienna – Bedroom Desk

The main bathroom, off the sleeping area, was quite large with double vanities, a walk-in shower, a large separate tub and the requisite toilet and bidet.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Main Bathroom with double vanity

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Main Bathroom with separate shower

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Main Bathroom, with toilet and bidet plus a huge bathtub

There was also another hallway and closet area – you can never have enough closet space when you are hosting a pre-opera party, I guess.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Hall Closet

The Hotel Bristol is truly a five-star luxury hotel and one of my favorite Starwood properties in the world.  I sure wouldn’t want my home decorated like these amazing Opera Suites, but I do love the opulence and splendor whilst on vacation.  The Hotel has quite the history too – as it was first constructed at the end of the 19th Century and hosted many of the world’s most famous people, including Teddy Roosevelt and George Gershwin – who was working on “An American in Paris” while staying here.  Most famously the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson stayed in 1936 during their affair.

It wasn’t always sunshine and luxury at the Bristol though.  In the early 20th century, Samuel Schallinger, a Jewish businessman, owned a stake in the hotel, but was forced to sell in 1938. He was then deported from Austria to Germany where he died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.  A horribly dark part of the rich history of this magnificent hotel.

Vienna is an incredibly easy city to get around – with so many things within walking distance, and a really great transit system – this hotel couldn’t be situated in a better spot.  Being just meters from the Vienna State Opera, the U-Bahn, Streetcars, the City Park and countless museums, you’d be hard pressed to find a better hotel.

Hotel Bristol – View from our Opera Suite

Hotel Bristol – View from the Opera Suite. The State Opera is a magnificent building.

When I return to Vienna – I don’t know when that will happen, but I know it will soon – I will definitely stay at the Hotel Bristol again.  The space is beautiful, the service team is truly stellar and it feels like my home in Vienna.

Where do you stay while visiting Vienna?  Which Starwood Property is your favorite in the world?