Rajiv Renganathan – Opportunist Traveler since 2004

Travel deals hunter, Rewards (airmiles, hotelpoints) enthusiast, Love to help others travel well & wide.
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Days in Norway: Yes, it exists!

Many years back I happened to visit the office of a travel agency. One of the posters caught my attention. It was a long shot composed of lush green mountains with a water-filled deep & narrow valley. A ship in the long spanse of still waters that looked tiny from the distance. The picture stayed with me forever. It was such a mystic, as if it could never exist in real.

Along the way, I somehow figured that was Norway. Yet I never explored online or looked up travel opportunities even after I had got travel savvy: hunting travel deals & doing vacations on a steal. Such was the feeling.

Earlier this year I happened to visit Sweden on a solo business travel. Just a month later, we were a feet above the ground when we figured an opportunity. Out came a 10 day itinerary covering a part of Scandinavia – Stockholm, of course Norway & Copenhagen. I had written about the itinerary & how we made it a few months back.

After a few days in Stockholm, we entered Norway by SJ, the Swedish national train operator. Without seat numbers, insufficient air ventilation & a coughing & sneezing co-passenger, it wasn’t the best few hours inside the black and rugged coach but lovely countryside outside.

Bottom line? Norway exists! More to follow…

Meanwhile, enjoy this funny take on Norway by stand-up comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding

Uber gets to learn from the market

Question: When did booking a taxi become an exciting affair?uber1
Answer: When Uber was launched

I and my family & friends are enjoying the plethora of discounts & free rides that Uber has been offering. The technology is disruptive i.e it can break existing economics of the transportation business. Much as been said and written about Uber so I am not repeating them.

What triggered this post, in the news that a women was alleged sexually assaulted by a Uber cab driver in Delhi last night. It is suspected the driver was not the same person registered with Uber. This incident, irrespective of the outcome, is going to bring up questions & debates on the Uber model. Arguments will fly in both ways. Uber will probably have to:

- Tighten the relationship with drivers
- Authenticate that the driver is “actually” the same person registered with them. Probably, a finger print reader attached to the app used by driver.
- Let users decide the minimum expected rating of drivers who are assigned
- Start phone-based customer service

In my experience, most of the drivers have been disciplined. In a couple of instances when I was not very happy & shared a feedback with Uber, I got back a canned response that did not instill confidence.

These are the learnings in the journey of an emerging business.

(If you want to try Uber, you can use this link that will get both us some free credits)

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.

 

 

My Flightdiary.net profile