Redeeming Club Carlson Points In Iceland

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After an amazing week in Portugal, I’m off to my next destination, which is actually a “bucket list” destination — I’m going to Iceland!!!

oprah

Usually I don’t go to places for very long, but in this case I plan on doing at least a week in Iceland. That’s because realistically I won’t be able to do any full day tours into the countryside until at least next weekend, so I figured it would be fun to “hang out” there for a while.

In summer, hotel rooms in Iceland are not only expensive, but in many cases hard to book, given how few hotel rooms there are for such a popular seasonal destination.

I’ve been hoarding Club Carlson points for a little over a year now, and have a really sizable points balance. I’ve written in the past about the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, which is one of the most lucrative hotel credit cards:

  • The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after the first purchase, and an additional 35,000 points after spending $2,500 on the card within 90 days
  • You get 40,000 points on your account anniversary each year, which more than justifies the $75 annual fee
  • You get Club Carlson Gold status for as long you have the card, which most notably offers free internet and room upgrades, along with some other perks
  • You earn five points per dollar spent on everyday purchases
  • The second night of every award redemption is free, basically meaning you get “buy one get one free” award redemptions, assuming you stay in two night increments

Up until now I haven’t had a situation where it has been especially practical to redeem Club Carlson points, though Iceland is finally the perfect opportunity.

I’ll be checking out both Radisson Blu properties, and wanted to point out what a good use of points these hotels can be. As I mentioned above, when you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, the second night of every award redemption is free. So I’ll be staying at both of the Radisson Blu properties for two nights each.

I’ll be staying at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, where I’m paying a total of 38,000 Gold Points for two nights. The lowest nightly rate would be 195EUR, so I’m getting 390EUR worth of hotel for 38,000 Gold Points.

Club-Carlson-1

Then I’ll also be checking out the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel, which I hear has a better location. There I’m paying 44,000 Gold Points for two nights. The lowest nightly rate would be 262EUR, so I’m getting 524EUR worth of hotel for 44,000 points.

Club-Carlson-3

So in total I’m paying 82,000 Gold points for hotels that would retail for 914EUR (~$1,225).

How much did I acquire these points for? Well, lets not even consider the 85,000 sign-up bonus I received on the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, or the 40,000 point anniversary bonus that the card offers, which more than justifies the annual fee.

Recently Club Carlson had a flash sale, whereby they sold points for 0.4 cents each. So at that rate the cost to acquire 82,000 points was $328. Divide that by four nights, and I’m paying $82 per night in Iceland for my hotel, when the average nightly rate would otherwise be over $300 per night.

I sure do love this hobby! I realize neither of these are “aspirational” properties, but in this case it’s all about the destination, and it’s not like there are any true luxury hotels in Iceland either.

I’ll also be checking out the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. Maybe I’m crazy, but in the case of the Hilton I actually paid cash for my stay. There was a rate of $175 per night, which seemed like a better value than 40,000 points. That would have only been ~0.4 cents per point, which is about what I value Hilton points at. I figured I could do better than that at some other property.

On the plus side, I’m Hilton Diamond thanks to the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, so I’ll get free internet and lounge access, and hopefully a room upgrade as well.

Hilton-Iceland

Bottom line

I’m excited to finally be able to redeem the Club Carlson points I’ve been racking up over the past year for an efficient redemption. And I’m very excited to finally visit my ultimate “bucket list” destination.

Tour tips?

You guys are always so helpful when it comes to providing destination tips. Back in June I wrote about my plan to possibly take a trip to Iceland this summer, and you guys provided some amazing tips, especially about things to do in the immediate vicinity of Reykjavik.

I of course would love any more tips, especially if anyone can recommend a day tour or tour guide to a destination within Iceland that would be most interesting? Since I’m traveling alone I’d rather not rent a car and drive into the countryside since I’m horribly directionally challenged and will no doubt will find myself face to face with the Loch Ness monster with a flat tire and dead cell phone (or something like that). But if anyone can recommend a private or group day tour to somewhere in Iceland, I’d be incredibly appreciative!

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Comments

  1. Stayed at the Park Inn- Reykjavik using Club Carlson points for 13000 for two nights since I have the credit card. Not too far from city center. Absolutely amazing value since the max number of guests is 3 and it included a full breakfast buffet! Iceland in the summer is still cold and windy, but pristine.

  2. I also stayed at the Park Inn this summer (3, 2-night points stays!, with other jaunts around the island in between). It is partly under construction right now-but like Kris said free breakfast buffet! And right next door to Hilton Nordica.

    As for activities I would really splurge and do the “Inside the Volcano” tour: http://www.insidethevolcano.com/ It was totally worth it.

    For other ideas check out the Iceland tab on my blog, and feel free to email me. I was there 3 weeks total and it was my 3rd visit. I love that place 🙂

  3. You really should get out of Reykjavik and drive. The countryside is easy to navigate, especially with any kind of local cell service and Google Maps – I did it in 2012. I would highly recommend finding your way to Vestmannaeyjar/Heimaey and checking out the town on the island. Very cool spot – puffins, volcanoes, and amazing scenery. Hotel Þorshamar isn’t a luxury desintation (but as you said, there really aren’t many fo those) but the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful

  4. At the Radisson Blu 1919, request a room that does NOT face the street — as quiet of room as possible. There are several clubs within 1-2 blocks of the hotel, so it is quite busy / crowded until well into the night and you can hear the thump of the music all night long. Also, the country’s most famous hot dog stand, Bæjarins Bestu, is directly across the street from the hotel and drunk people line up throughout the night. While we were upgraded to a nicer room, it had a view of the street and luckily we were so unbelievably exhausted from outdoor treks that we were able to sleep with all the music anyways.

  5. Reykjavik is really small, so location of hotel doesn’t really matter all that much. Check out the blog “I heart Reykjavik”. The girl who runs the blog has her own Reykjavik walking tour and generally has some very good tips on visiting Iceland.

    From my own experience, both major tourist things (the golden circle and blue lagoon) are overrated. Next time, I would try to visit snaefellsness and the south shore. Also, make sure to pack many layers and a wind proof jacket

  6. Run the marathon :). It is actually in just a couple of weeks and I thought that it was awesome as was Iceland. I spent just a couple of days there and also stayed in the Park Inn (great value and decent breakfast). Rental cars can be expensive, but it is worth it to be able to tour on your own. I did my own drive around and was able to hit all the big tourist spots and really enjoyed the sites. Iceland is one of those places that I have on my return list and will bring the family next time. The only downside is the terrible flight times for arrival from Europe…

  7. Reykjavik is a pretty compact city and I was able to see most of the highlights in a day or so. If you’re wedded to staying in the city you won’t be able to travel very far into the countryside (which I would highly recommend if you have another opportunity to do so), but you could do several day trips. I rented a car and drove in Iceland – there’s basically one road so impossible to really get lost.

    Here are some ideas:
    1. Blue Lagoon is a good stop after landing at the airport. Touristy and expensive, but worth it.
    2. I would recommend a day tour to Solheimjokull glacier near Vik about 2 hours outside of Reykjavik. Tours should also stop at Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss and Vik black sand beach along the way.
    3. Golden Circle tour – This is a must do (Geysir, Thingvellir and Gulfoss). I found the attractions further east more impressive, but these are all good sights with lots of tours from Reykjavik.
    4. Skaftafell and Jokusarlon are pretty long day trips from Reykjavik. Some tours do trips there with overnights.
    5. We did Icelandic horseriding at Solhestar near Selfoss, which actually turned out to be a lot of fun.

    Have fun!

  8. One more thought. Go to Youtube and search for “Iceland Trip HD” or some variant. People have some amazing videos of their trips to Iceland posted that can give you a sense of the sights and also get you pumped up for the trip.

  9. Don’t worry – the Loch Ness monster is in SCOTLAND, and that’s REALLY far away 😛 Not to mention, you’d probably notice when you drove your rental car into the North Atlantic….

    Congratulations on your trip – a summer trip to Iceland is on my travel bucket list as well, and I will likely do the same thing you are (2 nights at each of the CC properties there)

  10. You can also consider taking a 1hr flight to Akureyri (AEY) – nice little town with good food. It is also a good base to go whale watching, e.g. in Husavik. They have a 99% of seeing whales and we see saw almost a dozen on a 2hr trip.

  11. Reykjavik is a very nice town; was just there about a month ago. We enjoyed a day there, and likely could have enjoyed two, but the majority of our stay was in Akureyri, in the North of Iceland. Would strongly recommend heading out that way and paying a visit to nearby Godafoss and Myvatn hot springs. The Myvatn springs are adjacent to lake Myvatn, a huge lake with tons of migratory birds, and bounded on the opposite side by a multicolored volcanic ridgeline that would look right at home in a scifi movie. Godafoss is on the way there, and is an absolutely stunning set of waterfalls that you can get very close to (both up above and down at the river level).

    From Akureyri, Norlandair offers flights on a Twin Otter to Grimsey, a small island straddling the arctic circle that is the northernmost settlement in Iceland. There’s not a ton to do there, other than check out the tens of thousands of Puffins that call Grimsey home, and have a drink in Iceland’s northernmost pub. Most people just book a day-return there, with about 2 hours on the ground (which is just about perfect).

    If you go to Akureyri, be sure to eat at RUB23, an excellent sushi/icelandic fusion restaurant. The Minke Whale Tataki there is excellent.

  12. My sister & I spent a week in Iceland in June. It was one of my bucket list trips, too & didn’t disappoint. We rented a car & I’m so glad we did – it was super easy to navigate around. We didn’t even have gps or a phone that worked there. I just printed out a bunch of maps from google maps before we went of all the routes we wanted to take & we had no problems.

    My top things we saw/did from our trip:
    1 – old swimming pool in the middle of nowhere, Seljavallalaug – very few tourists, no signs to get there, the views as you swim in this old pool of the countryside & waterfalls are gorgeous
    2 – Jökulsárlón – but not where the tourist buses go – there’s a parking pulloff maybe a mile before where all the buses go – you walk over a little hill & are hit with this awe inspiring view of all the icebergs
    3 – Laugarvatn Fontana geothermal baths – we spent a few hours here & it was sooo relaxing
    4 – Fjaðrárgljúfur – just google the images & you’ll see why
    5 – hiking a glacier – we did this at Skaftafell & it was a lot of fun, even if it was kind of hard on me since I had a horrible chest cold at the time

  13. Many thanks for the Club Carlson reviews. Keep ’em coming!

    The easy time to choose Club Carlson is in Iceland and Scandavia – they are likely among the best in town.

    How about a review on the Mayfair in London? That’s where we have tougher choices to make!

  14. Hi Lucky, besides doing the usual Golden Circle/South Coast Superjeep tours and Blue Lagoon, I recommend doing a Classic Reykjavik bike tours that is a 2-3 hours bike tour around the town area. We used icelandbike.com when we were there on New year day. Summer time would be great to ride around Iceland and the guide will give you some intimate knowledge of Reykjavik. And don’t forget, get a ‘Clinton’ at the world’s best hot dog stand, Bæjarins Bestu near radisson Blu 1919. Prepare your credit card as Iceland loves the plastic, you can pay with that practically everywhere. Have fun in Iceland!

  15. I loved Iceland. Blue Lagoon, the Geysers, Gullfoss, were all great. Renting a car was an experience. There was a map on the steering wheel with the areas forbidden to drive the rental car in. And, when I got the car they took 15 minutes to walk around it and put little dot stickers on every pin-sized mark. So over the top concerned with the car condition on mostly unevenly paved, gravelly, roads. Have a great time.

  16. I go to Iceland twice a year for some reason, I would go to Westfjord if you wanna leave Reykjavik for a while .. I think Westfjord is the most beautiful region in Iceland.. and less touristy.. And the flight flying into Isafjordur (the capital VILLAGE in a beautiful fjord, I dont consider it is a city) is a lifetime experience, flight is around 85 euro per way and it is like flying tour in the fjord… very scenery … and driving around Westfjord is superb..

  17. If you stayed in Waikiki for a week you could officially say you’ve been to Hawaii, but not really. Similarly, to really experience Iceland, you need to get beyond day trips and book a night or two in the small towns where no hotel chains exist. The people are friendly and very welcoming and by walking around in these more rural areas, you’ll have a more sincere, less polished experience.

  18. Looking forward to your report. I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland too, but between the expensive flights (I don’t live in the States, so can’t take advantage of the Icelandair stopover promotions) and expensive hotels (don’t have Club Carlson either, or an easy way to earn those), have been putting it off as a destination too expensive. Really excited to see you’re gonna stay at the Hilton too – only chance I’ve got at getting ‘free’ nights! Ha.

  19. Oh yeah, to those of you that loved the 9,000 point nights at Park Inn, they are leaving Club Carlson this week. There goes the cheapest hotel option in Iceland. I was booked there for November, but they are moving me to the Radisson Blu Saga for no extra points. So that’s good for this trip, but a bummer for future trips.

  20. I hope you can rent a car and get out of town. Reykjavik is great, but the countryside is stunning.

    I’d recommend a trip up to the Westfjords if you have the time. And if you head up there and happen to be heading through Hólmavík, I can’t recommend highly enough the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.

    http://www.galdrasyning.is

    Not only is the museum fascinating (and the cafe nice and homey), but it’s worth it just to talk to the proprietor, Siggy, who might just be the Most Interesting Man In Iceland. Trust me.

  21. No Nessie but Trolls, Ogres etc. Any monsters in the Viking Sagas are believed to inhabit the country. Don’t try or go near anywhere that sells their seafood specialty it’s mouldy shark you should smell it long before seeing it. Take warm WINDPROOF clothing. Oh the eye candy per head is worth it alone!

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