Redeeming Delta SkyMiles To Europe For New Years!

I’m not much of an advance planner though am almost always on the road, so this presents a bit of an issue around New Years. Everyone seems to want to go somewhere around New Years, so I usually end up spending New Years at home sitting on my couch eating Cheez-Its and watching the ball drop on TV. After all, most places that people would want to go over New Years are usually sold out months in advance.

So over the past couple of days I started planning some New Years travel. Actually, more accurately, my friends decided on the destinations and I just booked the flights after they decided. So where am I headed? Edinburgh, Scotland, and Prague, Czech Republic. They’re both cities I’ve long wanted to visit, but not especially practical to route through on an award ticket. So rather than making that an excuse I was excited for a bit of an award challenge.

We’ll be doing five nights at the Sheraton Edinburgh, which looks like a lovely, newly renovated Sheraton. The paid rate was 301 GBP (~$500) per night.

Sheraton-Edinburg-Rate-2

The Sheraton is a category five property, making it 12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night. When you redeem for five nights with Starwood you get the fifth night free, and on top of that I had a certificate for 35% off a redemption, which was my Platinum renewal gift.

So in the end my five night redemption cost me 33,800 Starpoints, which I’d say is a pretty damn good value for ~$2,500 “worth” of hotel stays, at retail.

Sheraton-Edinburg-Rate-1

The period around New Years in Edinburgh looks like it’s straight out of a Monty Python movie, so I’m quite looking forward to that!

Then in Prague we’ll be staying at the Radisson Blu Prague, which is a great use of Club Carlson points. Since I have the Club Carlson Visa Signature Card the second night of the award redemption is free.

For flights I was determined to redeem some Delta SkyMiles. After all, I’d like to make a point of reviewing as many SkyMiles/SkyTeam partner airlines as possible in the near future. For the outbound I decided to fly Virgin Atlantic. For about six months now it has been possible to redeem Delta SkyMiles for travel on Virgin Atlantic, though generally availability hasn’t been great. However, for the next several weeks availability is spectacular, so that seems like a great use of miles, given that Delta doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for Virgin Atlantic redemptions.

Virgin-Atlantic-Award-Space-1

I’ll be flying one of Virgin Atlantic’s new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, which feature their updated Upper Class product. I’ve reviewed Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from San Francisco to London and from London to New York, so I’m excited to try the new product.

Also, while I reviewed the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in New York a couple of years back, they now have a new lounge which I’m excited to check out.

Then for the return I’m excited to fly Alitalia. From the looks of it they have a really nice fully flat hard product, and hey, I don’t think I’ve ever come across Italian food I disliked, so…

Unfortunately ticketing this award took over a dozen calls to SkyMiles, and required me to redeposit my award three times. I mean, I redeem miles for a living, so when it takes me a dozen calls to book something it means there’s something wrong with the system. Or maybe there’s something right with the system, since I’m sure Delta loves how difficult it is to redeem their miles. Back in September Delta stopped allowing holds on SkyMiles award tickets, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if their website functioned and/or they had competent phone agents. Anyway, more on the booking challenges shortly.

Regardless, excited to have found a good pre-devaluation use of SkyMiles, and to try Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class and Alitalia’s Magnifica Class!

Anyone else headed somewhere fun for New Years?

Comments

  1. Gil says

    Ben, as much as I love the new JFK Clubhouse (be sure to book a facial, massage or haircut), I hate the VS Upper Class product on the A330. Rather than 3 across as they have on the A340, it’s 4 across. The aisles are very narrow and it just seems crowded and a bit claustrophobia. My favorite VS a/c is the 744, anywhere in rows 15 – 18 situated in the nose. Although at this point the last thing you probably want to do is call DL back to switch your flights. Looking forward to reading your report.

  2. Peter says

    Two great cities to visit! Have fun. Looking forward to hearing about the trip.

    Merry Christmas to Ben and fellow followers! ;-)

  3. CP@YOW says

    I’m actually doing something very similar, burning 100K Skymiles on VS Upper Class to LHR, and using my SPG 35%-off cert at the Park Lane London. I had about 150K Skymiles sitting untouched for over 5 years and figured I should finally do something about it, particularly in view of the impending devaluations. Of that balance, 62,500 came from a 20,000 SPG transfer; remember that awesome deal?
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2008/11/19/150-delta-mileage-bonus-through-the-end-of-the-year/

  4. Alan says

    Hope you have a fab time at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, Lucky! I’m away for the event itself (in London this time), but do drop us a note if you’re going to be free at all.

  5. Euro says

    I thought both Virgin Atlantic and Alitalia awards could be booked on Delta.com? Unless you’re flying to Prague on CSA Czech short-haul so that’s the reason why you had to call?

    If you’re looking to review more Skyteam airlines, do you still have plans to fly to Sydney via Aerolineas?

    Happy holidays, I’m spending time with a big group of friends. Look fwd to your trip reports.

  6. stef says

    I absolutely fell in love with Prague when I was there a couple of months ago. We went to a beer hall in Old Town called Lokal. It was fantastic. Have a great time, and I hope for at least a little snow in Prague for you to make it pretty!

  7. stacey says

    Don’t mind the cold cold weather Lucky?

    I’ve been procrastinating planning a trip to Europe for new years cuz of how cold the temps look – cold for a FL girl of course :)

    Look forward to the trip reports!

    Stacey

  8. Ron B says

    We will be in Edinburgh from 1-1 till 1-10 at the Hilton. Can we hook up? We are from Los Angeles and meet at FF U.

  9. Jaydee says

    Flying Etihad F and spending ny’s in Sydney.

    Currently at the st regis in abu dhabi, and wow, is it plush!

  10. Scott says

    I redeemed 110k United miles for a holiday in Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Ghana. Should be an interesting way to start the year.

  11. Josh G says

    Lucky, five days in EDI seems like a lot to me. Don’t get me wrong there are nice sites to see (castle, royal mile. Scott monument) but to me it’s a place to spend 2-3 days tops unless I am missing out on something. The onespa at the Sheraton is awesome, pretty sure Plats and Exec lounge guests get expanded access to the spa facilities even if you aren’t receiving a treatment.

  12. says

    @ Euro — There was also a segment on Czech, which caused the problem. Call center agents can’t seem to see most Virgin space, while it’s bookable online.

  13. says

    @ stacey — Hah, usually do what I can to visit warm weather destinations, but figured this will be a new experience. We’ll see how it goes!

  14. says

    @ Josh G — Agree it seems like a long time, but usually I’m so rushed when traveling that I figure spending more time in one place might not be a horrible thing so I can take things slower. Was going to do four nights (given that the first day is basically wasted due to travel and we leave early the last day), but at that point seemed worth doing a fifth night since it’s free.

  15. Harry says

    How are you getting just $2.50 in taxes/fees?

    I’m looking at an ORD-LHR in May, and the surcharges are $310!

    2.50 would be a steal of a deal to LHR these days!

  16. Harry says

    Upon further inspection, I tried to book a one-way ORD-LHR, and the fees were just $2.50. The return is where the big bucks are added. What were the fees on your Alitalia return?

  17. UAPhil says

    Lucky, check out the Mucha museum in Prague. Even if you’re normally not an art museum aficionado, I suspect you’ll enjoy this one!!

  18. asar says

    How to plan to connect to JFK from Seattle? Mileage tickets are not available and paid tickets are almost as costly as Europe trips

  19. Alan says

    You could also look at a wee daytrip whilst you’re here – Glasgow and St Andrews are both only an hour away by train (West and North respectively!) and would provide a nice contrast.

  20. greatmoosy says

    i get bored and annoyed by the crowds at new years eve hotspots so i booked myself hkg-nrt via bkk on TG 1st to enjoy a massage at the lounge before doing a brief toast while in the air as the clock strikes midnight. happy travels!

  21. Sharon says

    I will be in HK on New Year’s Eve with the whole family! Apparently the city had decided a few months back that they would do firework on NYE. TsimShaTsui area will be filled with billions of people, and we will be watching firework from our club room at the Hyatt TsimShaTsui. We are flying to Shanghai on Jan 1, staying at the Waldorf Astoria On the Bund, booked before the Hilton devaluation back in March. I am already very impressed by the service of both hotels (thru emails), I cannot wait to check them out in person!

  22. says

    @greatmoosey: Why not Cathay’s red eye CX 524 in Business where the new product just snags a bit off your relaxation width and you still get great lounge access?

  23. Harry says

    Thanks for the info. Maybe I’ll find an open jaw, and return from somewhere else (maybe even connecting through LHR instead) will be the ticket to lower fees. Thanks for the info, lucky!

  24. Boraxo says

    Well done – you did better than I could using miles (no shocker) but as you know it is nigh impossible to get 4 saver award seats on any airline flight to Cancun during the Christmas/NYE time frame (though we did it last year). Nor can we wait until last minute on the off chance somebody will open 4 award seats as the cash price tends to escalate as you near ETD.

    While I think UK300 is absurd for any room in Edinburgh, I think you are doing well if you can get a room for 7000points/nt in any major city. It’s a fun place and the Scots will treat you well on NYE.

    I will certainly toast you from the beach (currently 80 in Cancun) and advise you to deviate from your usual bubbly to enjoy some single malt scotch at the source.

  25. greatmoosy says

    @hkairlinenews: couple of reasons – this was booked as a mileage redemption and i don’t like the reverse herringbone seat

  26. Bob says

    Hey Lucky-
    Keeping with the theme of ST TRs, why don;t you try something like LAX- AMS KLM, prague-seoul CSA, seoul-LAX KE?

  27. Nancy M says

    hey lucky – earning/burning points is 1 thing, but EDI is the kind of place to stay in a nice atmospheric B&B, not a Sheraton!!

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