Monday, June 10, 2013

Booking On Short Notice With Miles To Europe

I was approved to attend the EBACE13 conference in Geneva as media five weeks before the event. My challenge was to book a trip to three countries using only points and miles. When I first searched for hotels, there was nothing available in Geneva for less than $1,300 a night.  My goal on this trip was to not spend a fortune or stay at a hostel. 
Departures Board in Frankfurt
My first step was to hop on and find flights with miles.  Only coach was available and I would have to depart Friday (Saturday and Sunday were preferred).  I was also able to get a free stopover in Stockholm.  This was an easy process compared with finding hotels in Geneva.

There are four Priority Club properties around Geneva, a Holiday Inn in France for 15,000 points, and an Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn Express in Geneva, all 35,000 points.  My goal was five nights in the Intercontinental, and when I first looked nights 1, 2, and 5 were available, while night 3 was only at the Holiday Inn and there was no availability for night 4 anywhere.  I booked what was available and then set a link to my night 4 search in my web browser favorites bar so I could quickly and frequently check for an opening.  I had a feeling there would be a cancellation; I just needed to be the first to find it.  To be safe I made a refundable reservation at an Accor hotel in France. 
United Airlines 757's in Houston
For the next three weeks, I checked dozens of times a day for availability.  One morning though a room opened up on points (or $1,500 in cash) and I booked it.  Later that week, another room opened for the second date I needed.  I really didn’t want to change hotels in Geneva, so I was contemplating cancelling the trip if something didn’t free up.  I’m glad space became available because I had a great time.
Lufthansa 747-400 in Denver
I was also interested in better flights to Geneva.  I originally booked DEN-MSP-IAD-GVA and would spend all day Friday travelling.  I noticed that Lufthansa opened up availability on their DEN-FRA 747 about 15 days in advance, so I waited patiently and like clockwork, coach seats were available 15 days in advance.  I called United to rebook and just had to pay the difference in taxes (1K’s have change fees and close in booking fees waived on mileage tickets).  After 10 minutes, I was set with a single stop in Frankfurt.  Also, Lufthansa opens up the seat map exactly 48 hours before departure, so log on and grab an exit row or window seat if you are stuck in a middle seat.

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