Rajiv Renganathan – Opportunist Traveler since 2004

Travel deals hunter, Rewards (airmiles, hotelpoints) enthusiast, Love to help others travel well & wide.
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My tryst with Accor hotels

My tryst with Accor hotels began in the early 2009 in Paris with stays in Novotel & then switched to the preferred Suite Novotel. accorWhile Novotel is good for short stays of less than a week, Suite Novotel is cosy for long stays. Also, a couple of times in Ibis when I wanted to stay inside the awesomeness of Paris with the wife. Ibis Styles Jarva in Stockholm was colorful while Novotel Barcelona City was classy. Ibis Bencoolen Singapore was awesome value for money. More recently, the stay in the long aspired Accor’s luxury chain, Sofitel by the Manila bay in Philippines was a memorable experience.

Along the way, I moved up the status levels in Accor’s loyalty program called Le Club & accumulated a lot of points.

The stay in the contemporary Mercure Stoller in Zurich during our short vacation to Switzerland was a cool redemption. Lovely stay & champagne breakfast while making the vacation sweeter on the pockets.

It is a well-known fact among seasoned travelers that just staying & paying hotels like a goodie boy isn’t enough! Following and signing up for promotions makes the big difference between a decent balance & an awesome stash.

- I managed the highest platinum status from a promo and not from the “loyalty”!
- One promo “earn 3x the points” in June 2012 added 20% to the overall collection
- Accor has no hotels in Norway & Denmark while the thought was to burn the Accor points in the Scandinavia trip. The negative surprise didn’t mean staying in hostels! A status match from Accor Platinum to Club Carlson Gold Elite did wonders

Origin: Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Tiruchirappallisingapore

Destination: Singapore

Travel: “Fly to Singapore for Free” by Tiger Airways

Stay: Not big deals on the table. For now, Avoiding early-mover’s curse in hotel bookings & wait to catch the last-minute deals. Subscribe for updates on hotel opportunities as they emerge

Window of opportunity:
Bangalore, Hyderabad Kochi: Available now
Chennai, Tiruchirappalli: Hopefully soon

How To:
Book air tickets online on TigerAirways

Notes:

- On booking a return ticket, the onward journey is free but airport taxes to be paid
- Travel from 16-Sep-2014 to 5-Dec-2014 and 26-Jan-2015 to 25-Mar-2015
- As per the official announcement the offer is only for HDFC credit, debit & prepaid card & prices starting Rs 7,499. I don’t find those fares yet & the available prices do not seem restricted to HDFC cards!

- Lots of variations from the official announcements! If you are queries, drop in a line on Facebook or Twitter & we can not only figure it out but make the most of it ;)

Additional Reading:

10 Best Free Things To Do in Singapore by Shivya Nath

tigercok tigerhyd tigerblr

What is this: Based on ongoing or upcoming travel deals, I design & share a “travel opportunity”, an exciting travel experience that doesn’t pinch the wallet. The intent is to seed a travel idea in your minds & give you a little headstart. You will have to make your own bookings. If this indeed helps, I will be happy to hear to a word of thanks on Facebook or Twitter. Questions are welcome too.

What is this not:This is NOT a package tour. This is NOT a sponsored post. I am NOT a travel agent or tour operator.

Myth #1: Flying is the only way to earn miles

While this is how it all started, flying is just one of the many ways to earn miles. Credit card spends are the most lucrative ways to earn miles today. Picture this: Among the 72,000 Emirates miles that went into redeeming the Copenhagen-Bangalore award ticket, only half of them came from flying. The other half from the SCB Emirates credit card spends.

Airlines have a whole host of partners. Spends with these partners are another avenue to earn miles. New avenues have emerged such as miles for hotel bookings that I wrote a few months back.

Myth #2: It is not worth to pay fees for a credit card

For some reason, we have come to believe that it is criminal to pay for a credit card. A credit card is a product and just as any other product, paying for it means better benefits. Simple number crunching indicates the benefits far outstrip the cost. Picture this: The Citibank Premier Miles credit card costs Rs 3000 and comes with 10,000 welcome miles that translates to a minimum value of Rs 5000. Additionally, the card comes with lucrative benefits. Until 31st August, an ongoing promo for new applications offers an additional 10,000 miles that instantly enhances the value. For details, read through Ajay Awtaney’s detailed review of the card and subsequent posts.

Myth #3: I need to fly the same airline all the time

A big NO. Airlines compete but they are partners too. That means, you can fly Airline A and ask them to credit the miles to a partner Airline B. This way you can accumulate miles in a few baskets instead of spreading too thin.

To end, here is a little fun graffiti I made of a notification that came across:

icicibank

Yes! I find Bangalore to Manila return fare for Rs 1145. It is a “mistake fare” showing up on online travel agent via.com that I discovered through skyscanner. If somebody manages to book this, no guarantee if it will be honoured.

via-mistakefare

Origin: Bangalore

Destination: Goa

Travel: AirAsia & Go Air @ ~Rs 4,000, JetAirways @ ~Rs 4,600

Stay: Soak in the luxury of Park Hyatt in South Goa @ ~Rs 4000 (Also, Grand Hyatt in North Goa)

Miscellaneous: ~Rs 5,000-Rs 8,000

Window of opportunity: 2014, 1st Aug to 15th Aug

How To:

1. Book air tickets online on AirAsia or JetAirways

2. Search for dates at hyatt.com and look for “Monsoon Flash Sale” rate is the listing

Notes:
- Flat 50% off on all 19 Hyatt properities in India (from 1st Aug to 15th Aug)
- Ongoing sale by AirAsia, JetAirways

Useful Related Reading:
Vacation surprise for the family to The Leela in Kovalam, Kerala
- Getting to & back the Bangalore airport

What is this: Based on ongoing or upcoming travel deals, I design & share a “travel opportunity”, an exciting travel experience that doesn’t pinch the wallet. The intent is to seed a travel idea in your minds & give you a little headstart. You will have to make your own bookings. If this indeed helps, I will be happy to hear to a word of thanks on Facebook or Twitter. Questions are welcome too.

What is this not:This is NOT a package. This is NOT a sponsored post. I am NOT a travel agent or tour operator.

 

neemranaFancy staying in a century-old palace or fort hotel such as the Dadhikar Fort or Neemrana Fort-Palace?

Did I hear you say “Ofcourse yes but it would cost a bomb”

Surprise, surprise, it is not!

When AirAsia India introduced the launch sale in the Bangalore-Jaipur route, I researched for some interesting stay options around Jaipur. (You can check out the travel opportunity here, note that it is still valid and expires tonight)

I began with Neemrana hotels, well known for restoring ruins into heritage hotels and went on to other heritage properties. Accommodations begin from just Rs 3,000-6,000. Not a big price to experience the grandeur and history.

- 10th century Dadhikar Fort, starts Rs 4,000
- 14th century Hill Fort Kesroli, starts Rs 3,000
- 15th century Neemrana Fort-Palace, starts Rs 4,000
- 19th century Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel, starts Rs 6,000

The emerging urban middle class desperate to escape the crowded cities is resulting in over-priced resorts such as Orange Country, Tamara starting Rs 18,000-Rs 21,000! Until this demand spreads to this heritage properities, make the most of it.

What are your thoughts? Share them on Facebook or Twitter or Bloglovin

neemrana
Origin: Bangalore

Destination: Jaipur

Travel: AirAsia India Bangalore-Jaipur @ ~Rs 4,000

Stay: In a palace/fort hotel in Alwar @ ~Rs 4,000

Miscellaneous: ~Rs 4,000-Rs 7,000

Window of opportunity: 2014, 25th Jul, 00:30 to 27th Jul, 00:00 (3 days)

How To:

1. Book air tickets online on AirAsia

2. Pick a palace/fort hotel & book
- 10th century Dadhikar Fort, starts Rs 4,000
- 14th century Hill Fort Kesroli, starts Rs 3,000
- 15th century Neemrana Fort-Palace, starts Rs 4,000

Notes:
- TripAdvisor rated 1,2,3 in order
- All 3 hotels are in Alwar, about 170kms from Jaipur.
- AirAsia sale is for travel from 5th Sep to 25th Oct, 2014

Useful Related Reading:
Avoiding early-mover’s curse in hotel bookings – How to catch the last-minute deals
Travel Surprise: Staying in centuries-old palace or fort hotels is not all that expensive

What is this: Based on ongoing or upcoming travel deals, I design & share a “travel opportunity”, an exciting travel experience that doesn’t pinch the wallet. The intent is to seed a travel idea in your minds & give you a little headstart. You will have to make your own bookings. If this indeed helps, I will be happy to hear to a word of thanks on Facebook or Twitter. Questions are welcome too.What is this not:This is NOT a package. This is NOT a sponsored post. I am NOT a travel agent or tour operator.

 

scandinaviamap Little did we dream of a Scandinavia trip this summer. One fine day, a tiny window of opportunity showed up. 3 weeks notice is all we had – tickets, plan, bookings & biggest bottleneck for any India traveler, VISA!

As crazy as it may seem, we decided to take it as far as it goes. To our surprise, visa happened in a jiffy – Thanks to the Swedish embassy for processing the visa in < 4 days! Redemption of miles for award tickets worked out on AirFrance & Emirates.

We quickly put together an itinerary:

Day Night Sweet deals!
Day 0 In the clouds Not in first class! AirFrance FlyingBlue miles
Day 1,2,3 Stockholm Radisson Blu Royal Park
Day 4,5 (Train to) Oslo Radisson Blu Plaza 2 for 1 nights & upgrade
Day 6 (Train, Hike to) Flam Room in a local resident’s house
Day 7 (Ferry,Bus,Train to) Bergen House of a local resident 50% off on Airbnb for AMEX cards
Day 8 Cruiseferry from Oslo to Copenhagen 2-bed cabin without windows! Low-cost Norwegian AS- Bergen to Oslo
Day 9,10 Copenhagen Radisson Blu Scandinavia 2 for 1 nights & upgrade
Day 0 In the clouds Again, not in first class :-) Emirates Skywards miles

Look forward to posts on the experiences, photos & the fun in the coming days.

We could have done much more but we had to be selective. The next time we will look at braving the winters or may be the non-summer months for the Aurora borealis/Northern lights, Sweden & Denmark countryside, a day or 2 in the Stockholm archipelago, catch up with Swedish friends & undoubtedly more of the Fjords in Norway.

I will be happy to help your plans. You can get in touch on Facebook or Twitter to begin

A trial attempt to visually representation the itinerary using TripLine. Wish the lines could indicate the mode of transport.

 

 

In the last few years much of my travel has been to France. The preferred airline quiet naturally started with AirFrance with its direct Paris flights. Along the way fares increased and Emirates emerged as the next option.

I also got the SCB Emirates Platinum credit card that earns Emirates miles on credit card spends at a rate of 4 miles for Rs 150. Not the most lucrative earn rate but it made sense to me for various seasons.

I had an eye on the soon-to-be expiring Emirates Skywards miles. Emirates has a strict mile expiry policy – No amount of frequent activity will extend miles expiry beyond 3 years.

I looked up for award tickets in both the airlines 3 weeks before travel. This defied 2 basic rules of award tickets – Be Flexible & Book Early. Availability wasn’t an issue but the miles were insufficient for return tickets. On second thought, I caught to the idea of booking one-way reward tickets and this did the trick. hurray! :)

This is the deal:

Bangalore-Stockholm AirFrance FlyingBlue 60,000 miles + ~Rs 9000 (Premium Economy)
Copenhagen-Bangalore Emirates Skywards 72,000 miles + ~Rs 2000 (Economy)

It is typical of many to estimate the rupee value per mile redemption. I prefer to not measure on those terms when the entire vacation would not have been possible without these miles. The value is much more than the monetary calculation.

In conclusion:
- Never miss out on collecting miles. They never seem big enough at first & nobody knows the future!
- Keep a watch on miles expiry policies and dates. AwardWallet can help.
- Credit card spends are a great way to augment miles earned from flying.

Questions? Post them on Facebook or Twitter

I wanted to surprise my better half with an awesome travel experience. It had to be short, luxurious & relaxing. In summers, coastal India is considered off-season. Hence an ideal time to experience those aspirational resorts at reasonable rates. These go at some insane prices at other times of the year. The Leela, Kovalam turned out to be the chosen one on this occasion.

Air tickets booked on Indigo and a short conversation with the resort to request a private pickup from Trivandrum airport rather than a shared one as listed in the offer. The effectiveness of a phone conversation worked again & they instantly obliged.

Just when everything was set and about 12 hours before the flight from Bangalore, parenthood got better of us and we decided take our daughter! To save us from the guilt of buying the highest priced last minute air ticket, we used the accumulated miles in the Citibank Premier Miles credit card. At the standard rate of Rs 0.50 per mile, it was a nominal value but who cares for such a priceless excitement :)

The next morning, it was MegaCabs to reach the airport followed by an on time 9E377. The Leela representative stationed at the airport led us to a waiting sedan that zipped us to the beautiful resort in 30 minutes.

The all-inclusive package had an add-on rate for children. I had obviously not selected that when I booked. Here comes a cracker: Not only did the nice guy who managed our check-in decided not to charge the add-on but also upgraded to a sea view room! I later learnt all the garden view rooms were under renovation. This is second time lucky for such an upgrade after the last in Berjaya, Langkawi.

The resort is set on the top of hill that leaps into the Arabian ocean. The views from the balcony were superb. Beach is easily accessible with excellent bath facilities. The oriental restaurant by the beach was a memorable experience. All the staff are extremely courteous. Happy hours at the bar until 7pm. Just wish it were until an hour later. Well-serviced adult and kids pool. Play room for kids with plenty of stuff to keep them engaged. Buffet at the regular restaurant was just ok and mundane. The Kerala cuisine, fruits and deserts were nice. Rooms were serviced twice in a day and unlimited bottles of water on request.

The weather turned out to be perfectly fine- pleasant, just-enough sun and short night showers.

In conclusion:
- There is nothing called peak or off-peak season. Look at weather forecast/past averages and decide based on what suits you and the companions
- Off-season could turn out to be the opportunity season
- Miles on credit card spends are more valuable than random points in return for shopping vouchers & other random gifts

Questions? Post them here.

 

The Leela, Kovalam The Leela, Kovalam The Leela, Kovalam The Leela, Kovalam

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