In part one, we discussed the daunting task of coming up with the perfect itinerary when you have so many wonderful choices! This post is all about where to stay. What matters to you when choosing a hotel? Do you wish to be steps from the action? Do you want to stay as a local? Will you splurge or try to find the perfect combination of value, proximity to top attractions, etc? In our case, we did a little of everything!
Where we plan to stay
Booking where to stay was a lot more interesting and we found challenges which were unique to Europe. We ended up using different strategies for different cities. For London, one of my co-workers recommended staying at Chelsea, Kensington or Knightsbridge. At least 4 of our top picks did not have rooms available for a family of 3! After lots of research, we settled for The Nadler Kensington. Most reviews were positive, praising its location and easy access to the tube. Since we knew we were flying back from Milan, we booked a suite at the Park Hyatt using 15k and cash.
For Zürich, the Park Hyatt was a no-brainer. We used 30k points for one night.
Paris presented the most challenges. Originally, I wanted to stay at the W Paris using cash and points or just points, but the available rooms would not fit a family of 3! I tried all of the top SPG hotels in the city and using points/cash and points was not an option for our dates. The Marriotts presented similar challenges. Plus, the spouse thought that spending too much in Paris would not make sense if we would only be there to sleep. The location was more important than anything else. We had never used Priceline’s name your price, but it was tempting, the only issue was that the rooms were guaranteed to fit a couple, you guessed it, not a family of 3! Then we used Hotwire. We wanted a hotel in the 1st arrondissement near the Louvre. The one we got was closer to Opera, but at the end of the day, we got a great deal and the location seems to be excellent according to reviewers. It was a bit nostalgic to use Hotwire again. In the past, it was our go-to place for hotel deals. The last time we used it was a couple of years ago to book a hotel in Downtown, Quebec City.
For Rome, we decided to try something completely new for us. A friend who is in Rome recommended using Airbnb and looking for a place near the Trevi Fountain, and we did just that. Part of the craziness of this itinerary has to do with the fact that we wanted to be in Rome on a Wednesday for a chance to see the Pope. It turns out that the Holy Father will not have audiences during July. We found out about another event with the Pope on Sunday. Sadly, we had already booked all our flights a couple of days before. The last hotel we booked was the JW Marriot Venice. We predict that after a week on the road we could definitely use some rest and who knows we might even check out the spa if prices don’t require a second mortgage or selling vital organs. We decided to do two nights at this resort which is located on a private island instead of staying one night at one of our other top choices and then have to switch hotels again. Which would have been the situation since none of the other top hotels on our list had 2 nights for 3 people available. We transferred 80k MR points to SPG at a 1000:333 ratio. Then we transferred those points from SPG to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio. The entire process took less than 5 minutes.
We could have paid for the entire trip using points and miles, and flown in business if we had done some timely planning. Right now we are thinking of going to Peru in the Winter and Hawaii later in the year. The lessons we learned will help us with our future strategies. We will also report back on our European adventures, stay tuned!