I decided to do a separate blog post about the miles/points details of my last vacation instead of adding this section to my travel trip report. I will link back to this from the actual trip report whenever I get around to it!
I get hooked on some sights that impress the hell out of me. As soon as I first saw Preikestolen (or Pulpit Rock) I knew one day I will climb it. So I did, here is my trip report from my trip to Norway in April 2013.
I have heard of the Canadian Rockies and how beautiful they are for many years. And ever since I saw this picture below it has been implanted in my brain to visit it!
And you can say I have been plotting this trip in my mind for a very long time!
4 One Way United award tickets: Detroit-Chicago-Calgary 12,500 miles each plus $5 fee = 50,000 miles and $20 fees.
4 One Way United award tickets: Calgary-Toronto-Detroit (on Air Canada) 12,500 miles each plus $65 taxes/fees = 50,000 and $260 fees/taxes.
I did not bother looking at Delta. Times were just not that convenient with American Airlines. Thank you United, may all the other airline websites be as easy to use as yours when we want to use our cherished miles!
The 100,000 United miles were acquired by transferring 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my United Mileage Plus account. We both have a Chase Ink Plus card and it is our go to card as Chase Ultimate Reward points are, in my own opinion, the most valuable mileage/points currency out there. Go to card means we use the crap out of it every chance we can! You can get the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus cards and get 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points as signing bonus! They are business cards. This is the non affiliate landing page to learn more about them or simply google it. Use credit cards responsibly please and ALWAYS pay them off. If not, you are the sucker allowing my family to travel for free. If you are new in this game please do NOT be a sucker and start slow, this hobby can get very addictive! If you click on some other blogger’s affiliate credit card links be aware that they are getting paid very well per each successful approval. Choose bloggers who add value to your life and adhere to good blogging practices (TBB approved list coming in the near future).
11 OUT OF 11 HOTELS NIGHTS FOR FREE:
Night 1: July 24: Hilton Garden Inn Calgary Airport – $0 Stayed with complimentary night certificate I won in late 2012 in an online Hilton promotion! It was expiring July 30, phew! Earned 4,131 HH points as Gold HH elite.
Night 2-3: July 25-26: Fairmont Banff Springs Mrs. TBB’s two Fairmont Visa complimentary nights.
Night 4: July 27: Holiday Inn Canmore 25,000 IHG Rewards points [Rebate 2,500 points —–> Final cost: 22,500 points]
Night 5-7: July 28-30: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise My 2 Visa and 1 Platinum complimentary nights
Nights 8-9: July 31 – Aug 1: Holiday Inn Hinton 10,000 Pointbreaks rate (5k each night) [Rebate 1,000 points—–>Final cost: 9,000 points]
Nights 10-11: Aug 2-3: Country Inn & Suites Calgary Airport 44,000 Club Carlson Gold points (2nd night free!)
This is how we acquired the hotel certs/points:
Fairmont: See next section below for detailed discussion
Holiday Inn: Mrs. TBB got 80,000 IHG Rewards points after getting the Chase IHG Rewards Visa credit card. Yes, you can stay for 16 nights if you book only 5k/nt Pointbreaks hotels! It has no annual fee the first year and you get automatic Platinum elite status as long as you hold the card. And 10% points rebate on every redemption. If you keep the card, the annual fee is only $49 per year you get one free night in ANY IHG hotel! Check the link in Post #1 in this FlyerTalk discussion. Of course it is a non affiliate link. If you see any other link for this card out there with less points it is likely an affiliate link and the blogger pushing it is not interested in you and your family traveling for free…he/she is interested in lining up their own pockets. So
avoid run away from those blogs!
Country Inn & Suites: This is part of the Club Carlson family of hotels. We both got a US Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card (non-affiliate link) and each received 85,000 Club Carlson Gold Points in our accounts. Gold elite status as long as you keep the card. And, the jewel of all hotel benefits, you get a FREE award night when you make any award reservation! So our two nights at the Calgary Airport Country Inn & Suites cost us only 44,000 points which was the rate for ONE night, the second one was FREE! Honestly, I have no idea how this benefits is still intact and has not been devalued away yet! US Bank is really weird to deal with. If your app gets denied, you must be persistent and keep calling back asking “please have my application undergo a manual review, “I have no doubt it will be approved if it is seen by a real person! excellent credit record, always pay bills on time, want to make it my go to card, blah blah blah”. If denied, call the next day. I was successful on the fourth try!
PLANNING FOR FAIRMONT LODGING
Fairmont hotels have two fantastic hotels in this region: Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Lake Louise
With the introduction of the Fairmont credit card by Chase Bank my mind started spinning how to make the best out of it and finally get to visit this place and stay in style. We are okay not seeing it in style but we highly prefer it when cash is not coming out of our pockets! Guess what? The credit card is STILL out there (non affiliate link) and for no annual fee in the next year you get 2 TWO complimentary nights after spending just $1,000 on the card, Premier elite status , breakfast for two for each night, LOUNGE club membership (two first visits are free annually), etc. The card has no foreign transactions fees, a complimentary night is also earned each year at anniversary of the card with $12,000 of spend during the previous card year (NOT calendar year) at the time of payment of the annual $95 fee (it is still free for the first year and yes the two free nights are yours!). The points earning rate on the card is really not that good but you can still cash out for Fairmont gift cards. No reason to put too much spend on the card other than perhaps just hitting the $12k mark to generate the free (well, not free) Visa night (which really costs you just the annual fee of $95 which is a great rate for any room at a Fairmont hotel!)
Needless to say me and Mrs. TBB got the cards so we had four nights between us. In addition, I am a Lifetime Platinum Fairmont Presidents Club member and one of the benefits I receive each year is one complimentary night. How did I become a Lifetime Platinum Presidents Club member? It was a great story indeed, USA Today even wrote a story about this legendary Living Social deal. And thank you to Fairmont for honoring it, I became a fan!
I was aiming to get two more nights (for a total of 7 instead of 5 in the two Fairmont properties) based on the $12k spend per card but my timing was off. We both got the cards in July 2012 and was hoping the complimentary nights will be credited to our accounts by late August. Well, some scheduling conflicts arose with Mrs. TBB’s job so we moved up our vacation start to end of July. We did not get the two nights credited in time. Actually, we believe we got a great feel for these two properties in five nights. And we still have the two free night certs and we aim to spend them next year in the Fairmont Maui Kea Lani.
UPGRADES & DINING CERTS BANG!
We cashed in our Fairmont points and among my Platinum certs, her Premier certs and Visa certs we ended up with about $500 in dining certs among us! Oh, I forgot to add. As Platinum, I am entitled to a free session at the Spa. Mrs. TBB sure enjoyed it! We managed to eat very well and still have $200 at least in gift cards to use next year in Maui! And I intend to get more Fairmont gift cards as we will be keeping these cards as we aim to hit a Fairmont hotel three nights every year!
We used suite upgrades of course. I arranged them with the Platinum Presidents Club line which tends to be a bit stingy. Dan of DansDeals strongly suggested to book directly with the hotel. Anyways, I am not that pushy to prearrange the Presidential suites every time I travel, we are fine with most Fairmont suites. Well, the Banff Springs suite was just awful; its location was at a corner with traffic right next to our windows, yikes. I immediately called and asked for a different suite. Second suite was much better. Could we have done better? Perhaps. Were we satisfied? Yes! Moral of the story: If you do not like the room, call the front desk pronto!
I was more concerned with the Lake Louise suite upgrade. I absolutely wanted to get a Lakeview room which I managed to pull off. There is no better view in my opinion, Lake Louise is magical!!! I will have more on the actual trip report.
I neglected planning for the car as well as I did with the airfare and hotels, boo me! This is where a Barclays Arrival card would come in very handy. But I was too busy handling the other cards I have, tracking signing bonuses and min spend juggling, let alone keep producing a quality blog here! So, (this is going to hurt my reputation!) I ended up paying about $784 USD for a pretty nice Jeep Compass SUV for the duration of the trip. At least I got some Hertz points out of it. Friends were there a week earlier and paid similar rates. Hey, experts make mistakes, we are all human 🙂 By the time I got serious in shopping for it , price kept going higher so I just booked it and tracked it…yep, prices never came down!
VARIOUS PICS FROM THE TRIP
Just some teaser pics. Complete pics will be published in the actual trip report (not sure when it will be published!)
Matt from Saverocity says
Nice, good length, and balance between the how and the trip pics. Going to have to make a trip up there soon, looks fabulous.
This was a tiny tiny portion talking about the miles/points aspects of the trip. The regular excruciatingly long trip report will appear here one day, maybe in 2014.
I should have thrown a few pics of the wildlife in here too, oh well.
Yeah, beautiful place, especially Lake Louise!
Yeah, it was better than I imagined. My favorite was Lake Louise and the hiking all above and around it. And the wildlife. And eating up at the two Fairmonts and walking away with not paying anything out of pocket 🙂
Paddy in the Big Apple says
Nice weather you had and love the photos – the missus & I did a similar trip back in 2004 but in March & it was cold as hell & overcast
Yeah, we got lucky with the weather. But we had to endure the crowds which was not too bad. I initially had looked into going there in April but the weather made me change my mind as I was told the hiking would likely not be doable. I also understand that it is magical up there in the winter for skiing. I prefer hiking to skiing.
So go back in the summer next time!
ah conveyor belt sushi. Person 1, few plates. Person 2, few plates. Teenage looking son, 10 plates lol.
Yep, at the end, this is what it looked like! The bill hurt but we sure enjoyed the whole experience, very authentic tiny place off the main strip in Banff!
Frugal Travel Lawyer says
Thank you! I updated with a few more pics (by request) and also expanded “a bit” on the miles/points earning aspect of how we got them and how others can get them to do this too.
That was one awesome looking lake! Thanks for giving me another trip to add to my bucket list 🙂 Would 4 nights be enough or six? Thanks.
I can stay there for a month and keep hiking around all the trails…there are THAT many! I think four would be great and enough and then you can move north to Jasper National Park; we saw more wildlife there. I think two full weeks in the area should be enough to get a good feel for it. Lakeview room/suite at Lake Louise is a must, you won’t believe how soul soothing it is to wake up early in the morning, pour a cup of coffee and just look at the lake.
I don’t like going back to places but this is a place I aim to return with my grandkids one day, god willing 🙂
Any tips on how to get a lakeview room utilizing the Fairmont card certificates?
I got the card and just got the certs applied to my Fairmont account. I’m thinking late August or maybe September 2014.
Call the hotel directly.
You need to improvise quite a bit. You DO have a Suite upgrade cert. You may want to use one cert and book one night somewhere else even later than your LL stay (so your account has only one Visa cert appear!). When you call the hotel say that you want to pay for the first night and use your Suite upgrade cert and use your Visa night for the 2nd night. And make absolutely sure that you want Lakeside view (throw in honeymoon or anniversary if you are comfortable with that). And say that you would rather not move rooms the second night. They will likely make it happen. Then you can cancel that other “dummy” night reservation. A week before LL call and say your other stay fell through and would like to use the Visa free cert for the first night. They should do it. It may be easier in September than August as far as availability is concerned. My approach worked fine but my Platinum status sure played a role.
Just do not call the main toll free FPC line, they are trained not to do much for the Visa cert nights!
We got lucky, hope you get lucky too
Great report! Adding another to my long list of must-sees! My mother-in-law did this trip years ago and it had always appealed to me. Nice seeing the details of how you did it in such great style:) Love the family pics too.
I added more miles/points details and more pics. Thank you.
Thanks for the heads up. Terrific set of photos!
Beautiful trip, beautiful family! (The boy’s gonna be way taller ‘n you when he’s done, though, eh? Good fer him!)
Thank you! Yeah, he already passed me in height. That was hard to digest 🙂
Greetings from Puerto Ayora, Galapagos George. Love your trip report. Calgary looks very pretty during summer, similar to Vancouver/Whistler during summer. How come you did 8 one ways on United instead of 4 round trips?
Buenos Dias senor!
Doing it one ways could be a little more flexible if the opportunity arose to get bumped (better/faster to get the rebooking done!). And it makes no difference in points. But, the real reason, was that the return booking was done considerably later as there were some timing issues with Mrs’s work schedule and had to zero in on exact dates/times. Availability was never really an issue with UA miles. Leaving Calgary to Toronto at 6 am sure sucked but you need to learn and book on when you have 4 award seats to take care of!
Take the lessons of this post and apply them to the need/problems covered in the previous post:
Contact Fairmont and offer to be their local liaison in building a hotel between Larissa, Agiokampos, and the Aegean, perhaps at the foot of one of the mountains, their first in Greece. Hire unemployed Greek youths. As compensation, have them build a special corner suite for your lifetime use.
Actually, me and my brother (lives in Sao Paulo) have talked about it. But there is a reason foreign investors have shied away from Greece in general. The business environment is very anti business…I can write a book about it. Many foreigners have come to invest and most have lost their behinds. And there is lack of Fairmont standards infrastructure. My late father bought some land there in early 70s, I basically grew up there. And always heard him say “One day this will be more popular than Santorini, people would come here first”. Well, maybe one day but not sure if it will happen in my kids’ lifetimes….for sure, it is not happening in ours lol.
But I do like how you think 😉
Not to go too off-topic, but how does your brother compare doing business in Brazil to doing business in Greece?
I do note that Greece scores lowest on “Starting a Business,” “Registering Property,” and “Protecting Investors.”
Was/is the property your father bought on the shore or inland?
Direct from my bro:
“same thieves governing n leading the labor unions but [in Brazil] no golden dawn n lot more land,sea,natural resources,cows n peace, n no heating bills”
golden dawn is the fascist neo nazi extremist party in Greece, mega goons!
I think he nailed it, same bureaucracy heavy stifling business BUT Brazil is so rich in natural resources.
Father’s land is not on the shore damnit. Ok, just to show you what you can be faced in Greece. The land was former forest, everything is around there. So you have houses built all around you. The ones with permits the owners bribed the local forest ministry guys. My father refused he got sued for buidling on the forest (!!!!). He took them to the Supreme Court and lost to make a point. So, me and bro are stuck. The local head of the forestry ministry retired VERY rich. And that’s the way it goes…
Great post. We were in the Banff area a few years ago but it was pre my points hobby and as part of a conference at the Banff Conference Center. Not the Fairmont but quite fine and we did get to Lake Louise. It was late May and still some days were still pretty cool, although some were lovely. Sure offers amazing views. I’d go back too.
I still can’t get over that morning we woke up at 5 am to make it to the canoe dock at 5.30 am with my kids. One canoe for $54. Three of us. Included breakfast they brought in to the dock (coffee/hot chocolate too…it was cold!). And then canoeing in the lake as the sun slowly came on and then down the mountains…Wow, get the chills thinking about it!
Oh, and that was an awesome deal too! Paid for with Gift Cards from cashing in card points 🙂
Nice report, shame we missed each other.
Shouldn’t have laughed off the daily getaways so quickly. I used the $30/day Avis certs (which were inclusive of tax) for a luxury car in Banff. And the certs were in stock for hours.
With the $$$ you would’ve saved you could have sprung for the Sony Nex that Lenticular shoots with. Used it for the first time in my Banff Trip notes and loved how the pictures just came to life: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/33245
Yeah, too bad we missed each other. I got over it already 🙂
I was so focused on the airfare/hotels that I totally neglected the car. I got over it too
I should get me a new camera but…just got me a Lenovo laptop from Office Depot.
If you have time, please answer Jack above. You are the master 😉
Thanks, hope baby is sleeping fine.
“Banff and Jasper Trip Report Part 812: How do the deer lug around those antlers?”
an MMS production
I wish I had some Vanilla Reload cards to give to my daughter to pose with the…antlers 🙂
This is why you should moderate comments. He adds nothing to the discussion but negativity towards another.
Ingy visibly upset that he rarely ever cracks the “top comments of the week” posts by TBB, so he’s trying to have censored those that do
The jealousy is palpable
First, TBB does not censor!
Second, such comments are entertaining. MMS thinks so too!
Third, I also believe they are educating too as we need to get the message across that these particular trip reports are excruciatingly long and nudge the bloggers to change for the better.
I find it liberating when people laugh at themselves, try it someday my friend.
All the best in Chicago, I will miss you all 🙂
Tara @ Miles To The Wild says
I wish birds would come and sit on my car for a photo instead of zooming at 100 miles an hour over my head and disappearing into the bush!
Nice pics, glad you and your family had a great time!
The bird could have easily did his bodily function anywhere else BUT my car 🙂 And as soon as he/she was done it took off as fast as he came in!
Dude, WAY to close to the animals. Bears obviously attack. S is way too close to the elk. They can be worse than bears. It is a really good idea until something happens and then you go, “What was I thinking?”
Rangers in Glacier recommended 100 feet minimum. JudyJFLA got knocked over by a bear when she was 12. Bear was playing, but no one knew that at the time.
And, medicine is an inexact science…
I know, I know, way too close. I did it first and then my daughter asked for it. I never clicked the button so fast and we were out of there. Were observing this animal for a while…just did not move much AT ALL! We wont’ do it again…a once in a lifetime opportunity I guess. Looking back it was stupid to risk physical safety for a photo op!
Absolutely beautiful places. I haven’t been to Calgary yet, but the one picture really makes me think I should.
The river shown is the one that totally flooded the place. They were still doing clean up work while there. Calgary in itself was okay. Good base to attack the National parks. I hear they have a world famous rodeo “Stampede” in the summer, we had just missed it.
Andy Shuman @ Lazy Travelers says
Are these swimmable lakes? Absolutely gorgeous!
The water is VERY cold! Not too swimmable. But the rivers around offer all kinds of water sports, rafting kayaking etc. Many businesses make a living out of this in the whole area. If you are looking for a beach type leisurely tanning sort of vacation…this is NOT the place. It appeals more to active travelers with hiking tops!
Nick @ PFDigest says
Cool report! I’ve been pining for the Chateau Frontenac in QC for a while. Gotta get my kids potty-trained though.
You got mail!
Chateau Frontenac: My first stay as a Lifetime Fairmont Platinum…it was special 🙂