FlyerTalker/reader pkdonnel writes in with the following question:
We are planning a week or so vacation for next month and need your advice. UA 1K and HH Diamond. Want to use my HH points for a stay (at a decent hotel) and buy economy and upgrade with SWU. Question is where do we go? Good hotel (at least worth the points) on a route we can upgrade with high confidence on. We are open to anywhere, hawaii, asia, europe, carrib.
First of all, there are tons of choices you truly can’t go wrong with. Without knowing your exact interests, where you’ve been, etc., it’s tough to say, so I’ll just go with a few general suggestions you can’t go wrong with. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m a bit biased as a warm-blooded Floridian, so I’ll try to keep destinations with cold weather this time of year to a minimum.
The first thing to consider is whether this has to be a United destination, or whether it’s ok to fly to a gateway on United and then take another flight to your destination (i.e., flying into Ho Chi Minh City on United and then flying up to Hanoi, which I would definitely recommend if you’re willing, as there’s a nice Hilton there and Hanoi is amazing based on what I’ve heard). In the interest of simplicity, we’ll assume we’re talking about United destinations only, which limits the scope of destinations a bit.
The next thing to think about is whether you want to spend the whole week in one place or want to split it between two places. I’ll assume you want to spend it all in one place (if not you can pick and choose from the suggestions below), and I’ll also assume (probably foolishly) that you have a Hilton American Express card, in which case a six night GLON award for 175,000 points sounds like the best deal. Usually six nights at a top tier Hilton family property would cost 240,000 points (40,000 points per night), so a savings of 65,000 points is quite substantial. So, here are a few suggestions:
— Conrad Hong Kong. This is a hotel you can’t go wrong with. They have one of the best executive lounges of any chain hotel I’ve been to, they treat elites extremely well, and Hong Kong is such an incredible city. If you haven’t been to Hong Kong I would definitely go with this, as you can easily spend six nights in Hong Kong without getting bored, especially if you’re willing to do some excursions. While upgrades won’t be easy, I’d say you and your wife will most likely clear.
— Hilton Moscow. OK, I have to admit that I’ve never been to Moscow and I’ve never stayed at this particular property, but I’ve heard that Moscow is an amazing (and amazingly expensive) city. Getting a visa can be a bit annoying, but other than that you’re set. United is flying new configuration 767’s to Moscow, and there’s plenty of upgrade space along with great fares since the route is new.
— Hilton Buenos Aires. I’m also embarrassed to say I’ve never been to Buenos Aires before, despite the fact that I convinced my brother to go there for spring break. I’ve heard nothing but fantastic reviews of the Hilton Buenos Aires, and Buenos Aires seems to be quite the city. Upgrades should be simple to Buenos Aires this time of year, and United is flying the new configuration 767’s to EZE.
— Hilton Sydney. I’ve heard relatively good reviews of the Hilton Sydney, and can say firsthand that Sydney is one of the most amazing cities in the world. You really can’t go wrong with this option. Your upgrades should ultimately clear to Sydney, although you might have to sweat it out for a few weeks since they don’t like to release upgrade inventory in advance on this route.
— Conrad Tokyo. This is yet another city and hotel you can’t go wrong with. The Conrad Tokyo is fantastic and really does a great job with upgrades. I love the Japanese culture, and could just sit on the side of the street in Tokyo people-watching all day. What an amazing city with an even better culture. Upgrades should be quite easy to Tokyo too.
Well, those are my top five. You’ll notice that they’re all at least 5,000 miles from San Francisco, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. If you don’t mind being a bit on the chilly side, London, Paris, Prague, etc., are great options as well. It might even be practical to split your stay between two cities there, spending three nights in each. Also, upgrades might be easier to Europe.
If you’d like something a bit closer to home, fares to Hawaii are incredible right now, often under $300 from the west coast, so that might be worth considering, although that’s not exactly a great use of SWU’s. Nonetheless upgrades are easy and you could use a different upgrade instrument.
Anyone have any other suggestions that aren’t as obvious, perhaps?