With Insiders dropping like flies, alien Guests taking over the forum, and the current War of the Worlds technology battle, even though I can't start my Spring '15 Belgium trip planning until June, I thought I'd better ask now while answering participants are still around.
If you used a Travel Package (again, big thanks to tker) to convert Marriott points to a 7 day stay and United miles, (thanks to IAHFLYR for the recommendation) how long before your United miles were posted to your account? Marriott reps say 3-4 business days, United reps are all over the board, and their web site says allow several weeks.
I will of course secure the hotel with points before pulling the trigger on the Travel Package and because of the one year life of the Travel Package certificate (a 15 month certificate would be a major enhancement to this vehicle, you could have each account credited and reserve on the first day of availabilityof each award) not initiate the Package until the first week of flight availability. Marriott can book 350 days out/United only 330. A delay in the posting of miles (unlike Marriott, UA doesn't allow reserving w/o the miles in your account) significantly reduces the odds of booking awards flights matching the hotel availability (which I would adjust if possible).
Heads up to the Belgium and European travel experts (psudad,profchiara newhiltonmembr pluto77 jerrycoin fschumpert gm1 et al.) next question coming around the Ides of March - train travel from Brussels and/or Ghent to Bruges, Paris, and possibly Cologne and/or Amsterdam. Once again I'll be copying a technique learned from jerrycoin, the direct contact with the Concierge Managers (for which I'll utilize The specified item was not found.'s research skills).
Thank you for your assistance Insiders. Keep on keepin' on because Search is not always our friend!
The train travel is the way to go!
Once you pick your hotels, we'll see what we all can do to provide information. Order at least one "Desirable" place in the city of choice and do it ASAP. Remember, you can cancel or change dates, if you run into problems with United!
Another thing, how many are going on your trip? That could make a big difference on rooms and overall costs, but you know this from experience!
It sounds like a wonderful trip!
Quick feedback response
misterchk - what makes it a value is the conversion from Marriott points to United miles. The normal conversion is IMO too costly 112k points for 50k UA miles. With the travel package, 330k Marriott points gets you 7 nights at a Cat.7 hotel (which would run 210k points) thereby making the difference of 120k Marriott points currently earning 132k UA miles (so w/package you get 132k UA miles for 120k points vs. the usual way of 50k miles for 112k points).
IAHFLYR - I hear you. Not only will I lose 30k (hopefully just a one Cat. increase) in my 7 night stay at the lovely Ghent Marriott, but UA will hammer me (one of the reasons I don't have enough miles now).
jerrycoin - Just me and the Mrs. and oh yeah, I'll be getting back. I'm excited about the train, but wondering if everything goes out of Brussels (meaning, do I have to go east from Ghent to Brussels to go west to Bruges?) and do I have to go to Brussels to go to Paris/Amsterdam/Cologne? - if so, I'll consider traveling from the nights I'm at the Brussels Marriott. I'm at Ghent 7 nights (thru the package) and will stay at Brussels at least 1 night, two if necessary to land an awards flight. I'm just doing day trips (including Paris) to the other cities - using the hop on/hop off bus you, pluto77 and profchiara have written about and hanging out at the spots psudad and newhiltonmembr highlighted In Bruges (hey, that should be the name of a movie ).
INSIDERS - Has anyone had United miles posted to their account (from any type of trade of Marriott points)? If so, when did you see the miles arrive in your account? Thanks
I got our saver award flights without even booking them on UA and since they had not put the IAH-MUC non-stop on the books yet I booked IAH-FRA-MXP on LH coming home from BLQ-MUC-YYZ-IAH. An extra couple of hours coming home but well worth the savings when compared to the standard award in Business Class.
Toss in some pico de gallo for the grilled chicken fajitas later tonight and all is good to go with your Lazy Boy Amber!!
If you don't want a full 7 nights in one place, it is my understanding that Marriott also offers a 5 night travel package that you can request by phone. This may be limited to plats? I did inquire about it once a couple of years ago and was told that it was available, but I have only used the 7 day travel packages so far. If you end up at the Seattle Waterfront, be sure to have their clam chowder. We did the chowder Seattle cook-off last year and it was the best on the waterfront.
Thanks, that's good stuff. I'll give it a call, but for some reason I thought that was for time share folks or some other group that I wasn't (plus, not sure if United plays the 5 night game). Love me some Seattle Waterfront clam chowder and your recommendations are solid with me, you gave me a great one for Phoenix (I think it was Hillstone).
United is just a ticket from point A to point B. No nights involved. Also, when it comes to travel packages you need to keep in mind that while Marriott sells them as a "package" they are two separate items: a hotel stay and a quantity of points into your airline account. If you want to use the hotel/airline one a single trip you can. If you want to use the hotel in one place (like Seattle) and fly someplace else at a later date with the airline points, that also works. I am guessing that if you wanted you could use the airline points to buy merchandise from the United catalog, not that I would recommend that. Let us know what you find out about the 5 night stay.
Ok, I created this tangle by playing loosely with the words (I meant nights as far as the travel package - a 7 nights package, as set by the hotel and its category, with airline added, and in this case United is still adding a sweetener and far more attractive than the usual trade ratio). Chowder drew my good pal iah into it and off we went.
Good point about the separation of the Travel Packages - lodging and flights need not be together, although in my case they are and in order to secure the flights I want, I need to book almost as soon as they become released, which puts it up close to the one year expiration of the Travel Package (and yes, I'm aware many packages have been extended, but that's a chance I'd prefer to avoid).
Walksoftly below confirmed that the five day packages are, as I suspected, for timeshare owners only.
Now if anyone knows the way from the Brussels airport to the Brussels Marriott, other than the $70 cab, I'm all ears. The specified item was not found. just letting you know I'm thinking of you - ha (didn't want you to get lost in the ten posts since I wrote )
I just called the phone number on the Travel Package page. When I asked about 5 night travel packages the agent said that it is intended for Marriott owners (i.e. time shares) "but since you know about it, I can offer it to you". At that time he had not scrolled down and seen that I am a Marriott owner. So, if you want a 5 day package, I would say it is worth a phone call. Maybe even a repeat call if the first agent does not offer it.
Thanks, that's good reconnaissance work. I'll keep that as a backup, although (I don't have the chart in front of me) it probably doesn't convert into enough United Miles for my concurrent flight. A lot of juggling going on for me, and playing with the process of finding the right rep, which I do all the time, so no problem there, is a backburner for now, but it's good to know it's out there (like many Marriott policies, again highlighting the value of Insiders, sharing the wiggle room).
Thanks for the follow up. I tried checking the Concierge Corner, but the only one I found on Ghent was a post by NathalieF which was good, but didn't have contact info. If it's against policy to publicly name names, then please just send me a direct message for the Concierge contacts for Brussels and Ghent Marriotts - thanks.
I realize I could contact the property direct by phone but I'm not certain my jitterbug goes that far (or if I would be smart enough to maneuver thru the various country codes) and I didn't want the request to die on the vine like http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/message/76202#76202
I appreciate the legwork (I'll eat a waffle in your honor).
Don't know if this will speak to any of your concerns, but when I ordered my Marriott travel package last April, my miles with US Airways posted within 48 hours (and ya, the airlines folks weren't too knowledgeable either). I know, I know, it's a different airline, but I can't imagine they would be too different from one another. Another thing, I booked my hotel on points (from the travel package) a full year out (booked last April for this April), and now I am having to cancel that reservation. I was concerned that I only had 12 months to use the points from the travel package, and so called Marriott expressing my concerns about canceling a booking made with travel package points a full year in advance, and they told me, don't worry, if you have to cancel, we can extend the deadline by another year for you to use those travel package points. So it seems like Marriott is happy and willing to work with us when logistical tangles crop up.
I'll get back to you later on the train stuff. Trains and busses are my favorite kinds of puzzles.
That's good stuff thanks. Similarly I'm going to reserve my target dates with points with the Ghent Marriott 350 days in advance, then about a week before United posts their flights, I'll trigger the Travel Package hoping that as the Marriott Rep says, "it normally takes only 3 or 4 business days to posts, airlines use the weeks language to protect themselves" (which certainly seems plausible, of course I'll be the one guy where they needed the CYA protection).
That's good to know about the potential of an extension. Heck, if worse comes to worse and the trip goes to hell in a handbasket, I'll just book a lovely week stay at everyones favorite the Seattle Waterfront, get the special corner room number from my Tabasco loving grillmaster pal IAH and park my fanny on the balcony with a six pack of Lazy Boy Amber and watch the boats and planes glide by.
Thanks for the offer of help with the trains. I'll surely need it should I be successful in stitching the deal together.
While writing joshm, I saw your offer above;
"I'll get back to you later on the train stuff. Trains and busses are my favorite kinds of puzzles".
Well, I've got just the puzzle for you. If you know the answer to any of the below ground transportation questions in Brussels, it would be greatly appreciated if you showed me the light. I'm sure there's metros/subways involved, but if I can find the tried and true answer from the experts, it would save me a major headache (several sites I stumbled onto were in French and gave me a headache). Thank you
1) Best way to get from Brussels airport to Marriott (taxi is about $70)
2) How do you get from the Brussels Marriott to the Brussels Midi Train Station?
3) Does anyone know how to get from Brussels midi train station to the Brussels Courtyard? The CY, besides being closer (3 miles) to the airport than the Marriott, with a shuttle (non-free), is only a Cat. 4 and has excellent reviews. The Brussels midi station is further west of the Marriott which is, as mentioned a $70 cab fare to airport, so I'm thinking subway. Has anyone dealt with the Jules Bordet train station? It's walking distance to the CY.
Train travel to Brugge from Ghent, or even Brussels, could not be easier. The trains were incredibly smooth and quiet. You will see alot of farms, open land and small villages along the way. Ghent to Brugge is a 23 minute train. From the Marriott Ghent, walk across St. Michael's Bridge, by the corner by the McDonald's, on Veldstraat, and catch the #1 trolley to St. Peter's Station. So, you can catch a train around 9:30 and be in Brugge by 10:00am - so as not to miss that great breakfast. Round trip 13 euro for an adult. You can then catch a 9:00pm or 9:30pm return, so you have 12 full hours in Brugge - plenty of time to see most of the sites, have a few beers at Brugge Bear (Brugs Beertje), Staminee de Garre, lunch at Cambrinus, Dinner at Gruuthus Hof, Canal Tour, lots of churches and shopping. When you arrive at Brugge Centraal Station, you can just walk right out the front, cross the Buiten Begijnenvest, and a lovely stroll up Oostmeers into the center of town. We're walkers. We took one cab the whole week and that was from the Marriott in Brussels to the airport on the day of departure. On your way up into Brugge, stop at St. Salvatore's Church. It is on Steenstraat, which is a great shopping street. Turn right and head down to the center and Grote Markt, where the tower is. More to follow, when you post your official question. :-)
Perfect - that takes care of Bruges, thanks. Same here, we're walkers, it's all about concierge breakfast, chocolate, waffles, beer, local restaurants and sightseeing on foot.
Ok with the 'feel' from responses above, that miles are posted relatively soon after the execution of the Travel Package, I'm feeling good about my chances of matching award flights with award stays. That's when the travel questions will flow as I'll pair two Brussels nights (either together or bookended - based on flight availability) with the seven Ghent nights - a day trip to Bruges, a day trip to Paris and the Insider winner between Amsterdam and Cologne.
Thanks to all Insiders for the thoughtful, helpful insights.
The power of the forum lives. Keep on keepin' on.
You might want to stay in Brussels for two contiguous nights, perhaps leaving Ghent early one morning, so you have all day there, then do your Paris trip on your full day. The only reason I suggest that is because you will have to go through Brussels anyway, by Train, to get to Paris, so it would make for a shorter trave day and probably avoid a transfer.
It appears to be about a 1hr 22min direct train from Bruxelles Midi station to Paris Nord and 70 Euro round trip on a flexible 2nd class fare. Leave at 8:13am, arrive Paris at 9:35am. Have a tour and a great lunch, then leave around 6:00pm, to make your 9:00pm dinner reservation in Brussels.
I selected The specified item was not found.'s reply as Correct Answer because;
A) all of your replies were terrific, useful, and The Correct Answer and it's like picking your favorite child. Thanks to everyone for helping out. Insiders truly is a great tool toward enhancing our travels and we should all (including Marriott) continue our efforts to build participants rather than just building a mailing list.
B) It shines the spotlight on Mr. Josh . I'll be looking for the answer to the concierge names like a one-eyed cat, peeping thru the seafood store (Shake, Rattle and Roll sampled by Tupac/2Pac, also before your time - holy cow, am I old!)
I only use Delta for air travel and primarily book hotels with Marriott and affiliates, when available; however, I have occasionally used Crown Plaza (Antwerp) and Holiday Inn near Brussels Airport and in Eindhoven (Holland).
I've traveled throughout much of central Holland and Belgium - but also the UK - and have maps of all, so if I can help in anyway, please let me know. I generally drive in Europe instead of taking the train; however, I did take train from Amsterdam to Paris a few years ago, and often take train in Italy.
The specified item was not found.
I'm starting to map out my Benelux 'ground strategy'
Could you dig up for me the contact personnel e-mail addresses (probably the concierge would be the most helpful person) for The Brussels Marriott, The Ghent Marriott, The Amsterdam Renaissance and any helpful soul at the Brussels CY?
I checked the concierge corner in our Insiders Community http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/blogs/exclusive-news/2013/02/20/amsterdam-2013 and discovered Chantal S. in Amsterdam, but I need their full name to correspond.
Feel free to DM me if giving out full names on the forum creates a headache. I'll root for your Blazers against iah's Rockets, if you're able to find the addresses, thank you for your help.
Knowing how sensitive you are, I tried to low key it to avoid hurting your feelings . But heck, I'm easy, you figure out a way for me to get from the Brussels airport to the Brussels Marriott and I'll gladly pull for Dwight, Jeremy and the gang.
I can't find a subway stop at the airport, so then it appears you take a train to a train station (perhaps Gare Centrale) and then (hopefully) find a subway/Metro stop somewhere there that takes me to what appears to be the closest stop near the Marriott - the DeBrouckere stop - man, I need profchiara's Flemish or pluto77's French skills (this points out the beauty of a trip to Oklahoma City!).
Those are just excuses, just like what the Rockets have after tossing that game out of the win column last night. Make the walk, use carry-on bags and you're only as old as you think you are!
This Rockets/Blazer series will be the most entertaining to watch, the poor refs will have their hands full for sure in each game as these two teams genuinely do not like one another. The last meeting during the season we went to and it was a physical game just like last night.