About Ford

Ford is a 20-something Angeleno, originally from Manhattan, and raised in Newport, Rhode Island. After completing his studies at Brown University and Phillips Exeter Academy and returning to NYC for a year, he settled in Los Angeles. He’s an avid traveler, bootcamp fanatic, and devotee of life’s ever-changing journey. You can follow Ford on Instagram @fordbeckett.

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Starwood Luxury Privileges: Latest Updates As Of Feb 2017

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Back when I became a full time travel advisor, I wrote about one of Starwood’s best kept secrets — the Luxury Privileges program. For a quick recap, you can read in detail about the program and how it works here.

Since first writing about the program in June 2016, new hotels have opened and the perks and free night promotions for the program have changed, so I want to post an updated list of the participating hotels and their amenities available through the program as of February 17, 2017. You can also always find an updated list published by Starwood here.

It’s important to note that the Luxury Privileges rate is its own independent rate and while generally the same or close to the flexible rate, it is not always the same. The Luxury Privileges rate must also be booked by an affiliated travel advisor and cannot be booked directly by guests.

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Using The Luxury Circle Program To Maximize Value At Shangri-La Hotels

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I’ve written in the past about preferred hotel programs, like Starwood’s Luxury Privileges and Four Seasons Preferred Partners. In 2016 Shangri-La launched their own preferred partner program, called The Luxury Circle. In many cases this offers better benefits for Shangri-La stays than what’s offered through other programs. Furthermore, you can receive Shangri-La Jade status after just one stay booked through The Luxury Circle!

The Luxury Circle offers the following amenities at all Shangri-La and Kerry properties:

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My First Impression Of Aman Resorts

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Over the past year and change, Ben has instilled in me a new level of appreciation for value and how to maximize it. Ben knows a good value, and it’s the reason he is able to travel so often and so well.

He has to some degree deterred my love of the Caribbean and a few particular resorts on the Mediterranean, citing high prices, mediocre service, and, most importantly, bad value. However, Ben isn’t cheap, and he is willing to shell out for peak experiences, especially ones that he deems worth it.

When we first met, we of course talked about where I had traveled, and he asked if I had ever been to an Aman. “An Aman?” I asked. I had heard of Aman but didn’t know much more than the name… In my defense, Amans are truly bespoke luxury and off the beaten path.

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How To Be Treated Like You’re A Loyal Hotel Guest (Even When You’re Not)

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As many readers of OMAAT know firsthand, being loyal pays off – whether it comes to airlines or hotels, loyalty is rewarded with preferred status, miles, and points that can be redeemed for free nights and international first class tickets that would otherwise break the bank.

While you can’t amass miles and points at most boutique or independent properties, you can still be treated like you have top-tier status, even if you’ve never stayed at the property before!

Cue Virtuoso – an invitation-only travel alliance of nearly 1,000 luxury hotels and resorts in 80 countries that offers the amenities many top-tier guests of hospitality brands like Starwood, Hyatt, and Hilton know and love – daily breakfast, complimentary room upgrades, and free internet to the clients of affiliated Travel Advisors – in addition to resort credits. These perks are available by booking the best available/flexible rate through an affiliated Travel Advisor, and the cancellation policy is the same as the hotel’s standard flexible cancellation policy.

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How To Maximize Value At Four Seasons Hotels

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Four Seasons is considered by some to be the Holy Grail of hotels and resorts. Others (probably rolling their eyes right now) may say they are overpriced and overrated, although I think it’s fair to say that Four Seasons properties, as a group, are tasteful and luxurious — some more so than others, of course.

For those of you considering staying at a Four Seasons property, I figured I’d make a post about how best to maximize the value you can get out of a Four Seasons stay.

As a general rule, Four Seasons, like many luxury hotel brands, seldom discounts their room rates. Instead, they regularly offer incentives like a 3rd or 4th night free, a confirmed room upgrade at time of booking, or a large hotel credit to be used during the stay. These incentives, when taken advantage of, offer value similar to a discounted room rate.

While the promotions vary depending on the property and season, the good news is that Four Seasons publishes all available promotions on one page, giving you a good place from which to start planning your next Four Seasons vacation.

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Ford’s Thoughts On Visiting The Arctic

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It all began when SAS opened up business class award space between Los Angeles and Stockholm on their new daily flight… Ben seized the opportunity to try it and asked if I’d care to join. We could finally (it’s been a dream of mine for years) go to Russia for St. Petersburg’s White Nights. Would I like to go to Longyearbyen, too?

Wait, what’s that?

It’s a “city” on Spitsbergen, Svalbard in Norway, he explained, and the northernmost airport in the world with regular commercial flights. I immediately assumed, correctly, that this was a bucket list goal of his. He indulges my whims on a daily basis, so I of course obliged.

As our departure date grew closer so did my dread. 😉 I am not the biggest fan of Nordic cuisine and had been forewarned by Ben that the Radisson Blu, the premier property in Longyearbyen, was barebones. So we are going to the Arctic to stay in a hotel on a rural island, population 2000, for three days? Ok… twenty-four hours of sunlight is something I was both excited and apprehensive about, and I was confident a single day would be plenty of time.

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Using Luxury Privileges To Maximize Starwood Hotel Stays

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As some of you already know, I’ve recently transitioned full-time into the travel world as a Travel Advisor. I’ve received an incredibly positive and kind response from many readers, for which I am very grateful!

I’ve also had the pleasure of booking stays for many of you, with a number of stays at Starwood properties through their Luxury Privileges program, which is something I’d like to highlight on OMAAT, given that some Starwood loyalists aren’t familiar with the program or don’t even know about it. That ends now!

Luxury Privileges is Starwood’s own preferred partner program, similar to Virtuoso and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, both of which offer great perks like resort credits, room upgrades, and complimentary daily breakfast. The difference is Luxury Privileges is Starwood’s proprietary, in-house program designed to reward and increase loyalty among travelers.

Below I have a list of frequently asked questions I’ve been asked by email over the past few weeks, in hopes of clarifying and explaining the program so you can best take advantage of it.

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Plot Twist: From Travel Companion To Travel Advisor

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As many of you know, I’ve been traveling quite a bit with Ben this past year, which has been unforgettable and dreamy, but I’ve slowed down in recent months and started work in the travel industry, a space I was familiar with before meeting Ben and now have a vast exposure and understanding of since meeting him.

I previously managed an Italian eyewear startup based in Brooklyn and worked as a tech headhunter, but in both cases I didn’t feel passionate about what I did on a daily basis. Travel, on the other hand, is something I am passionate about.

I’ve always been a Type-A planner and enjoyed making travel arrangements for family, friends, and myself, so it seemed natural to become a Travel Advisor, which is really a modern term for Travel Agent. I prefer “Advisor” because I can add more value than a traditional travel agent and don’t currently wear a phone headset… who knows though, I may cave!

While I’m looking forward to taking advantage of some of the great travel industry rates that are available to me, my primary goal is to help you guys take advantage of great deals and perks that are just a few clicks away!

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American Airlines’ New Business Class Blunder

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Ben has already written about the new business class seats on American Airlines 777-200 and 787 aircraft, which leave a little to be desired.

There are a number of things that are great about them – I like that the reverse-facing seats have more privacy and create a cocoon with the console that separates the passenger from the aisle. Those that prefer a wider seat tend to like the forward-facing seats, which have armrests that when retracted give way to a few extra inches. I also like that there are a number of crevices and compartments that can be used for storing gadgets and personal belongings during the flight. Furthermore, who doesn’t love a new, fresh seat?

Unfortunately, the seat misses the mark… it shakes! Ben and I first discovered this when we flew the 777-200 on American from JFK to MIA. We were lucky enough to be in these seats rather than standard domestic 737 first class, so no complaints there.

However, we were pretty tired as we were on a Panama mileage run, and we immediately reclined the seats after takeoff so we could get some sleep. The seats are connected in pairs – for example 2A and 3A are connected, 1L and 2L are connected, etc. Ben and I sat in 8A and 9A…

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Thoughts On Colombia: A Protracted Mileage Run

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One of my more humorous friends, upon learning I was in Colombia, offered to pay my ransom should anything go wrong. I was surprised to hear that sort of reaction from someone I consider quite worldly and cosmopolitan. In fact, I’m certain he follows the news more closely than I. “Maybe this really IS crazy?” I thought.

In December, Ben proposed we take our first proper “mileage run” together on American: LAX-JFK-MIA-BOG and back. When I heard it was to Colombia, I suggested we fly on this itinerary but instead take a week to explore the country a bit, changing the trip from “mileage run” to “creative routing,” as Tiffany calls it.

Ben was surprised, since I hadn’t shown much interest in the past in traveling to South America, and hesitant, as Colombia has an unfortunate reputation for danger, drugs, and kidnappings. While this tarnished image has been dispelled over the past decade as Colombia has made significant gains in dismantling the violent cartels that ravaged the country in the 90s, many Americans that don’t keep up to date with South American politics and news and are unaware that much has changed.

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Is Traveling To The Maldives Worth It?

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With Christmas, New Years, and the most popular week to vacation about 11 months out, I know many readers are in the midst of choosing their destinations and booking their award tickets before they’re gone. I likewise know that many hope and dream to go somewhere as remote and exquisite as the Maldives but are hesitant for one reason or another. Here are my thoughts on and words of encouragement to go to the Maldives and the Park Hyatt, where we stayed for five nights this past December and January using points (25,000 Hyatt points per night).

A review of the resort, reviews of the park villas, pool villas, and water villas, and a methodical breakdown of the points and cash needed to take the trip have all been written about on the blog over the past year.

That leaves the question – is it really that special? What makes it different from other island vacations? Don’t Americans have Hawaii for that? Or perhaps the Turks and Caicos?

Island beach vacations are my favorite, and I’ve taken quite a few over the years in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, and most recently the Maldives. I can say without a doubt my trip to the Maldives was the most spectacular and incredible of all. Other favorites include Anguilla, the Big Island of Hawaii, Mykonos and Spetses in Greece, and Bali, Indonesia, to give you a sense of my diverse and varied tastes and experiences as I compare the Maldives to them.

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Ford’s Thoughts On Booking Flights Last Minute

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As many readers know, the best time to book flights with miles is ~11 months out or in the final few days before departure, as airlines frequently make awards seats available at the time the flights are first scheduled and again, based on availability, in the final days and hours leading to departure.

I am, for better and for worse, Type-A. I am the person who books dinner reservations 30 days in advance and who knows where he’ll be at 4PM in 7 days. I barely need a schedule because I’ve usually visualized and rehearsed where I’ll go and what I’ll do beforehand.

While I do not resist spontaneity and have found that last minute trips, dinners, drinks, and parties are often those memories I cherish the most and remember vividly, I like to have a plan in place regardless… So I am probably not as spontaneous as I think I am or would like to be, but I’m on the path, especially now that I travel with Ben.

Lucky would like to forget the number of times I have asked (nagged?) him about flight details and confirmations. “Is it ticketed?” I often inquire, trying to flesh out our itinerary and determine how certain our travel plans are.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2015

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Check out my Holiday 2015 Gift Guide for Lucky-approved presents ranging from $20 stocking stuffers to $20,000 aircraft furniture. How good have the people on your list been this season? Perfect for blog readers, miles and points enthusiasts, aviation fans, and travelers alike. Happy shopping!

What’s on your AvGeek holiday wish list this year?

Link to download the OMAAT Holiday 2015 Gift Guide.

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What Did Ford Think Of British Airways Club World?

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Ben and I flew to London for Thanksgiving (perhaps the least patriotic of locales to celebrate) to see a number of my close friends. Most of them hold Thanksgiving dinners despite being foreign. It’s refreshing to know gratitude and thankfulness are international traits. So I will say that Ben and I are both grateful for the privilege to fly and travel, at all, let alone primarily in premium cabins, before I descend into a little rant. On that note…

After flying British Airways’ Club World, their Business Class product, I literally couldn’t help but write a post. Seriously, I cannot internalize these feelings any longer or I might get high blood pressure.

When we stepped aboard British Airways’ BA268 from Los Angeles to London, my first question was, “if this is business, what is economy?” Upon our return on BA283, my question became even more relevant, when the configuration in the cabin went from a disappointing 2-3-2 to a shameful 2-4-2. Seriously, can you get any worse than that for business class? People ostensibly paid thousands of dollars for a seat in what I would call a flatbed premium economy, at best. To be honest, British Airways should be embarrassed to hold themselves in such high esteem with such an egregious product. Didn’t anyone tell them that hubris is a Cardinal Sin?

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