Any suggestions on using points to get miles and hotel nights simultaneously?
My wife and I plan on taking a trip to Rome for our 20th Anniversary next year. We'd like to use Marriott Rewards Points (MRPs) to get United Airline Miles and at the same time, book a Marriott Hotel for the time we spend in Rome. We know this is possible, but we're looking for any tips, pitfalls, or anything else to help us make this work. It will likely be complex due to the availability of hotels on points, and the availability and class of airline miles reward travel, each of which may not sync up perfectly. United doesn't let you book more than 337 days out, but I expect I'll need to jump on it immediately to ensure we are able to get business class (since it's a special occasion). This will likely make availability even more challenging. We have enough MRPs to get a package we've heard about - 120K United Miles, and 5 nights in the Category 8 Hotel Gran Flora. Our desire is to spend 3 days or so in Rome either before or after our cruise which we booked using Marriott Vacation Club Destinations points. Therefore, we can be a little flexible in when we arrive and depart Rome, but we have a hard date for the 7 day cruise- 9/25/13 - 10/2/13). I have enough airline miles already for one ticket, and will use these MRPs to get the other.
I've done a lot of research on the airline's site, but would like to know about others' experiences in booking this type of trip.
As you probably know, the key to getting popular locations using reward points is to book as far in advance as possible. We booked Rome Flora for next July as soon as it was available and one week later it was no longer available for points. One other thing to keep in mind is that if you use the travel package which includes miles and lodging, the lodging certificate is for a seven night stay. I do not believe you can split it up, but perhaps someone else can confirm. Best of luck and enjoy.
I got the following advise from at Marriott Time Share salesman on how to do reserve travel packages:
1 - Reserve Airline
2 - Order vacation package from Marriott
3 - Confirm airline reservation
I did 1 travel package and it worked well. My big disappointment with he travel package was all the fees the airline tacked onto the "free" airline ticket. Check into this before you commit.
It looks like you have a good handle on the airfare and hotel booking. Once United's calendar opens, you can log into their site and select "pay with rewards." The airline's site will show you the number of miles needed for flights on the day(s) you want to fly. You can practice this procedure using closer dates on to the same week day. I use hipmunk.com to find all the airlines flying a specific route. You might find other airlines flying the schedule you need.
Have you arranged travel from Rome to Civitavecchia? There is a train that is good value. Rome: To and from Civitavecchia - TripAdvisor
We recently visited Rome and cruised. It was a great trip and brought back memories of our 1968 trip.
Thanks for the train tip. I've been practicing, but the availability isn't the best right now, however I have seen some flights that would work around a notional cruise date. I expect it will open up as tourist season is fully over. Do you think I should reserve the hotel, then try to change it to a rewards booking?
This was posted on another thread regarding Travel Packages. As discussed above, I'm using a Travel Package for a trip to Rome in Sep '13- trading points for airline miles and 5 nights in a Category 8 hotel. Fortunately I've been successful in matching up the hotel and airline availability using miles/rewards. Booking the hotel using rewards points was easy- call Marriott, check availability mentioning the travel package certificate, and reserve. I've finally gotten inside the window for reserving the flights, which is 337 days for United according to the UAL.com site. I wanted to book the flights as early as possible since I want to fly in business class, so I've been watching the availability like a hawk. There is a tremendous randomness to airline reward flight availability. Some days have nothing, some have only "saver" flights (higher miles needed), and others are wide open with super-saver availability. From month to month, there's no pattern to the availability that I can see.
Some tips I've discovered:
1. Searching for both round trip and one way flights. The availability seemed to be different between the two. Since I want to use the miles for both legs, it doesn't matter if I booked one way or round trip.
2. I also found that the flights shown on the website varied throughout the day- not drastically, but somewhat. I would check usually at 10PM PDT and the next day's availability would show up. I'd see some flights, then the next morning, they'd be different. The United flights would show up at night, then the next day, the Star Alliance flights would appear.
3. United vs. Star Alliance availability. On my chosen return date, at the max lead time for availability (337 days) 2 USAir flights appeared. I selected one, but was unable to complete the booking. The other had the same issue. The next day- the same problem. I called the UAL reservation number and the agent stated she couldn't see the flight in her system. As it turns out, USAir and United have different release lead times. Not sure what USAir is, but it's closer to 330 or so. UAL will show it, but since USAir has not yet released it, you can't select it.
4. Look for alternate cities/routings. When certain days weren't available during my research, I changed the routing to fly out of an east coast city (I'm in San Diego). When the full trip wasn't available on a particular day, I could find a trip from Newark, Philly, Dulles. If needed, I could purchase a flight to those cities, then pick up the award flight from there. Or consider flying into a different city within that country (Milan for United) and booking your own relatively inexpensive flight down to Rome. This was a option for me, but not needed.
5. Call to book the trip- they can recommend varied options that you may not think of. I don't know if everyone can do this, but as a 1K member (I fly a lot for business), I have a dedicated line for booking. The agent found a return flight from Rome, to Munich, to LA which I wound up booking. She recommended just purchasing a commuter flight down to SD, or even a one-way rental. The website is great, but it doesn't match the expertise of an agent. However, agent experience varies because UAL is now using Continental's computer system and not everyone is as skilled as you may need.
6. Use Seatguru.com to see the seating plans if it's not on the airline site. Some flights were super-savers, but when I checked that particular seating plan, I noticed the airplane might be older, without certain seat types. I mentioned business class- well there's a big difference between different jets. 767-400ERs have only traditional business seating- big comfortable seats that only recline. Newer planes or remodeled ones have "lie-flat" seats. Much preferable on the transatlantic flights. Lufthansa flights within Europe have the same seats in Business as in Coach, but the middle seat is a tray. Most Star Alliance flights won't have the option to view seats, making SeatGuru a big help.
7. Check with Marriott about hotel reward availability if you are able to vary your travel dates. When the chosen day of arrival wasn't available, I found out from Marriott that the hotel could shift my certificate a day right or left if needed, therefore matching up with the flight availability.
Well, I hope this helps someone. It's more airline related than Marriott related though.
dnbenson or anyone else-
Any tips on getting from the Rome Airport (FCO) to Civitavecchia? I haven't done much research on that yet. As for the Award Flight, it's looking like flight availability might be better if we book a flight to arrive just before our cruise, then visit Rome afterwards. The 3 or 4 days before our cruise don't have much open. I don't know the availability for after the flight just yet, but since August is bad, September is a little better, I'm expecting October will be more open as the tourist season is over. I've discovered that the booking limit of 337 days is needs to be for our return flight. Although I suppose I could book 337 days ahead of our travel to Rome, then 10 days later book the return trip. Is that possible? There definitely seems to be a severe randomness as to the rewards miles needed, the different days for which a saver or super-saver are available, and so forth. Why is that? Thanks for any help anyone can offer.
I cannot be specific on Rome to Civitavecchia, but I can offer my experience from the airport in Venice to the cruiseport. We got off the plane, picked up our bags, then walked outside to the taxi area. lol. Like any airport, they had reputable companies with good vehicles and respectable drivers. And the cost was reasonable as well.
I would also check out TripAdvisor. There is bound to be some good information on there, as well as CruiseCritic. Good luck on putting this together, and enjoy your trip!
My first suggestion would be, if you haven't yet, to check with cruiseline. We purchased ground transportation from Rome Courtyard to port and then upon return, port to airport from the cruiseline. We had friends who went another time and used dnbenson's train above and went from Rome to port. So if cruiseline didn't offer, and you had to get to Rome from airport to use the train to the port, I guess you would use the train into the city (also on dnbenson's link) and then the train from there, but certainly imo the to/from with the cruiseline was lowest headache factor for us.
I have arrived in Civitavecchia by cruise ship and gone to Rome, so I supect all you need to do is reverse.
Since I did not have much time, only 1 day in Rome, and didn't want to miss the ship, and had my sister and kids in tow, I hired a car company that our company uses, and they were waiting there at the dock to pick me up, took us all over rome, had our tickets for the vatican, St. Peters and the Coleseum all ready for us, gudes lined up, etc. It was great.
I had considered using the train, and a couple of women I met on the ship that were CO flight attendants on the EWR-ROM flite do this all the time.
The airport is half way inbetween Rome and the port.
They just took the train, and offered to let us come along. Talk to them afterwards, and by the time they got to Rome, and walked, all they had time to see was the Vatican.
If you are cruising though, there is a shuttle transfer from the town of Cvitavecchia to the port, and then another shuttle to the dock.
I was afraid of all those connections, and the week before us, someone missed the ship because, the train broke down, and there was a long delay.
The cruise ship charges $150/pp for bus transfer. If you take a bus transfer with narration while driving its $175/pp. If you take the narrated bus transfer, and guided sight seeing they charge $300/pp. For 4 of us, one day of sight seeing would have cost as much as the entire cruise. The company that I used, charged me for the car/driver for the day, and I could put as many people in the vehicle as I wanted. Prior to arriving in Rome, 2 people on the ship wanted to join us, so I just emailed from the ship to bring a larger car, divided the cost across all the people, and everyone paid their portion.
Several other people in our office have used the car service and they do a great job.
Two years ago our tour guide stranded a group of us in Rome. We panicked and took taxis to catch the cruise ship. Later, I found several options that would have save us lots of money. You can find more information at: Rome: To and from Civitavecchia - TripAdvisor
Travel Package Information!
I am just adding this because you reference this thread in your awesome Blog about your trip.
My blog entry on using Travel Packages:
It has already been said, but book as early as possible (at the 50-week mark). I decided to cancel my Kentucky Derby trip this year (I will go next year instead), but there was not much available at the 50-week mark. Still, it was the difference between using 15,000 points/night vs. $400-$500/night.