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I didn’t have much time to spend in Stockholm so I put together a list of things that I just had to see before I boarded my return flight home. The first thing on the list was the Vasa Museum, which I wrote about recently. I had also heard many good things about the ABBA Museum, but I’m not a huge ABBA Fan (perish the thought, I know) and the museum entry was quite steep – I just couldn’t pull the trigger.
Interestingly enough, Stockholm was dramatically warmer than Chicago the week I visited. Chicago was -40C (-40F) when I left and Stockholm was 5C (41F), which was downright balmy! By my second day in Stockholm the temperature had dropped closer to freezing and a bit of snow dropped overnight. Despite the weather change it was still quite comfortable and didn’t impact my plans at all.
My visit list included a walk around Gamla Stan – or old town Stockholm – and while there I visited the Royal Palace and Museum and the Nobel Museum (which was undergoing some reconstruction work). In addition to these main attractions, I wanted to get a better feel for the City – see the architecture and learn more about the people and history of the City. This last goal required me to just wander around the City, turning down streets that looked interesting, popping into bars and restaurants that had an appeal and chatting it up with the locals.
I will usually check out TripAdvisor and see if there are any places that hadn’t made my list, but should have – or to check out the self-guided walking tours offered on the TripAdvisor App. There was an interesting one for Stockholm – a tour of the various art pieces found in the Stockholm Subway Stations. Yes, I used my three-day transit pass to schlep between stations to checkout the modern and classical installations. At a couple stations, locals asked me what I was photographing – so I told them about the self-guided tour I was on, and talked to them about the object I was there to see. It was a really unique way to explore the art of the City. At each stop, I also made sure to go above ground and at least take a walk around a block or two to see where I was and what the neighborhood was like.
The people of Stockholm were very welcoming and anytime I had a question (if I had gotten myself lost or needed a recommendation, for example). Even when I was just walking around the City, I didn’t hear Swedish being spoken – only English – which was a little disappointing. On the flight the announcements were only in English and not Swedish. I understand that everyone (or nearly) in Stockholm speaks English, but I was hoping to hear some of their native tongue.
What was the thing you just loved about Stockholm? What did I miss on my visit? Am I nuts for going to Sweden in January?
The one recommendation that EVERYONE I talked to about Stockholm gave me was to visit the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a Swedish warship built in the early 1600s. It actually sank on its maiden voyage after sailing a bit more than a kilometer. Some items of value (cannons and other weaponry) were salvaged later in the 17th century, but the ship was basically forgotten until the middle of the 20th century. It was raised in 1961 and housed in a temporary location until it moved to its permanent home in 1981. The Vasa museum is dedicated to the history of the ship, the salvage efforts and the period in which it was constructed.
I decided to visit the Vasa Museum my first day in Stockholm and I figured I’d spent about 90 minutes exploring the museum, maybe grab lunch at the museum cafe and then head on out to make headway on my to do list. That plan fell apart pretty quickly, once I arrived at the museum. I was enthralled!
I was utterly surprised at how interesting the museum actually was. The Vasa was so much more grand than I was expecting. While you can’t actually go on the ship itself, you can walk around it getting amazing views of the craftsmanship. The brackish water really preserved the ship – 400 years underwater and the boat looks amazing. The museum worked with craftsmen to repair parts of the ship that were damaged while it was submerged or during the recovery process.
I ended up spending nearly four hours exploring the Vasa Museum. I did also grab some Swedish meatballs and a beer. I’ve recommended this museum to others, with the simple comment that you’ll need more time than you initially think and everyone tells me that the did indeed spend hours longer there than they anticipated. Who knew a 400 year old boat that sank immediately upon completion would be so fascinating?
Have you been to the Vasa Museum? How much time did you spend there? The meatballs were pretty tasty too, weren’t they?
As you know, each year we take a trip for Thanksgiving – not a family trip, but just an “us” trip. We’ve gone to Ireland, Mexico City and most recently France/Switzerland. Usually we’ll wait until summer to book — or if we hear of a great fare sale. This year we are trying something a little different – we aren’t going abroad, we’ve decided to stay in the US – again, skipping the family events though.
Once of the reasons we love traveling abroad over the Thanksgiving holiday is that flights in the US are outrageously expensive, while trips to Europe (and even Mexico) are cheaper than usual and often just a few bucks more than domestic flights. For example, we toyed with the idea of going to San Diego last Thanksgiving. The airfare was going to be nearly $850 — while our flight to Paris for the same days were basically the exact same price. I love San Diego, but I love Paris much more.
Since we are traveling in the US over a hugely busy travel weekend, we decided we’d start looking now. We’ll be spending time in Colorado and needed to fly into a smaller airport away from Denver (we didn’t want to have several hours of driving after our flight to Denver). We did a quick spot check on the fares — which were running about $700 for less than ideal times and $950 for our preferred times. I can’t pay that much for a domestic flight – something in my DNA won’t allow for that.
We flipped the switch on United.com to search for award space. Our outbound flight was coming in at 12,500 miles while the return was coming in at 50,000 – a total of 62,500 in economy. I’d rather not spend that many miles for domestic flight either. We decided we’d just hold off and see if the cost comes down. Then it clicked. MS wasn’t actually logged into United.com – he was searching as a guest.
United.com even offers a warning that Premier members may receive better search results by signing in. A little “benefit” for being an Elite Flyer that I almost forgot about. We signed in and managed to find the exact flight we wanted for only 25,000 miles each – coupling that with our outbound for 12,500 our trip would cost 37,500 miles per person versus the 62,500. That savings of 25,000 miles means that I can take another cheap domestic flight in the future.
My advice – always make sure you are logged into United.com when you start your search for award seats – you’ll need to log in to use your miles, so save yourself some heartache during your search.
2014 was a good year for me, not only in travel but in general. Let’s review my travels over the past twelve months, shall we?
By the Numbers: (2014 / 2013)
Total Miles Flown: 53,322 / 73,825
Total Segments Flown: 37 / 44
Cabin Segment Breakdown (F/B/C): 0/5/32 | 7/4/33
Total Airlines Flown (new airlines bolded): 4 (United, Air Canada, Brussels, Lufthansa) / 7
Total Hotel Nights: 56 / 71
Total Hotel Stays: 32 / 31
Total Airlines Miles Redeemed: 37,500 / 105,000
Total Hotel Points Redeemed: 134,000 / 13,400
Countries Visited (new Countries bolded): 6+1 (Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Spain, France, Switzerland + Germany) / 8+1
Longest Single Segment: MUC-ORD @ 4,535 / ORD-PVG @ 7,056
Shortest Single Segment: YUL-YQB @ 145 (I redeemed miles for this flight too)
Northernmost Airport: ARN (Stockholm) / LHR (Heathrow)
Southernmost Airport: MCO (Orlando) / SGN (Ho Chi Minh City)
The most frequent non-home airport I visited was YYZ (Toronto). I didn’t do a lot of repeat business outside of ORD. Last year BNA (Nashville) and LAX were on my frequent list – I only visited each of those once this year.
I flew enough miles this year to circumnavigate the Earth only twice – or enough miles to get a quarter of the way to the moon.
How did your 2014 treat you? Did you meet all of your travel goals? What are you planning for 2015?
After arriving at the Central Station in Stockholm following a super quick trip from ARN, I quickly found my hotel. I walked in the front door at 08h00 and found one person working the check-in desk. No one else was in the lobby either. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be allowed to check-in until 3pm, which is almost always a devastating way to start a trip like this. I love a quick shower and a little nap upon arrival.
The gentleman who checked me in seemed quite excited that this was my first visit to Stockholm and that I chose to stay with them. He was also fascinated with the idea that I was coming in for a January vacation for just 2 days then returning. He recognized my Platinum Status, thanked me for my loyalty and pro-actively upgraded me to a Junior Suite with a separate living room. I decided to take the extra 500 points as my welcome amenity, in lieu of the local gift. Continental breakfast in the restaurant was also provided (or I could take it in the lounge, which was more private but had less options).
Before departing the front desk to explore my room, I asked the gentleman at the front desk for recommendations on things to do in Stockholm. Without missing a beat he said I had to have Meatballs and Herring (duh), visit the old town area (Gamla Stan) and go see the Vasa Museum (more on that later). I took him up on all his suggestions, which were great.
I made my way to my room, which was sleek, modern (although a bit old and dated — if that makes any sense). You walk into the separate living area, which had a couch, a chair and a TV — making it a quite comfortable area to relax with friends (if not traveling alone).
Continuing on, a connecting hallway had a closet on the left and the entrance to the bathroom across from it. The bedroom, with a king bed, separate seating area and desk, was at the end of this small hallway. The view from the room looked out on Gamla Stan.
The bathroom was small, but equipped with a tub and a shower and a vanity.
I walked in the room at 08h15, less than an hour from touchdown at ARN and was taking a lovely scalding hot shower. You’ve got to love a City where you can get from your seat in the economy section of the plane to a shower at your hotel in less than on hour – isn’t that the first world travel dream?
It was great to get an upgrade to a suite, but honestly, I didn’t use the living area at all. I was in the room a bit, but when not sleeping, hung out mostly in the bedroom area. If traveling with others this extra space would have been great though. Plus, I do appreciate the complimentary Platinum room upgrade without having to beg/plead/bargain or cry to get it.
I ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant (complimentary, again because of Platinum status) upon arrival on Friday then again on Saturday. Unfortunately, it opened too late on Sunday so I couldn’t go again before my flight.
I’m not a buffet guy in general, but the spread was pretty good for a European breakfast (now those Asian breakfast buffets are quite fab). The spread included everything from pancakes, to french toast, to berries and various meats (ham, turkey and what looked and mildly tasted like Jamon Iberico). There was also the standard muesli and yogurt as well. Like most hotel buffets, under normal circumstances, I would never pay for them, but if they are complimentary, I’ll give it a go. This one was well done and the breakfast room wasn’t overly crowded (again, probably because there aren’t a lot of people staying at the Sheraton in Stockholm on a weekend in January.
All in all, I’d say the Sheraton in Stockholm was definitely worth a revisit, if I’m back in the area. I chose it only because it was the only Starwood property in the City (there are only two in all of Scandinavia – Helsinki is home to the other). The service was top notch, the location couldn’t be beat and the price was right.
Speaking of price, the Sheraton Stockholm Hotel is a category 5 property which was going for approximately $145/night during my stay. I decided to cash in 12,000 Starpoints each night for this stay. This is far from a stellar redemption option, earning only $0.012 per point. What was my rationale for redeeming at such a low value? Well, I had a ton of Starpoints and Sweden in general is quite expensive, so I decided to save the nearly $300 in hotel costs and put that towards beer, meatballs and museum entrances. I’m happy with my decision — and as always, your internal points vs. cash discussion may end in a different way for you.
When visiting Stockholm where did you stay? Do you prefer to earn/redeem points at chain hotels or stay in smaller boutique hotels or B&Bs? Where would you recommend someone staying whilst in Stokholm?