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Earn over 65,000 IHG points with IHG’s new promotion

The International Hotel Groups (IHG) Share Forever Promo is now open for registration. As with last year’s promotion, the bonuses are personalized for each member, so you won’t know your exact bonus offers until you register for the promotion.

Remember, the Chase IHG Visa card is also currently offering one of it’s best sign bonuses ever, of 7,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, and enjoy a free anniversary night every year.  This is a great offer!  Signup for the Chase IHG Visa card here

ihg70kOffer

 

My specific bonuses for the Share Forever Promo are:

65,400 Bonus Points
Stay 24 nights between May 1, 2016 and September 5, 2016 to earn 65,400 bonus points–plus a free night to share.

5,000 BONUS POINTS
When you stay your first night by May 31, 2016
1,000 bonus points if your first night is June 1–September 5

+1,400 BONUS POINTS
When you stay a total of 2 nights

+3,000 BONUS POINTS
When you stay a total of 4 nights

+20,000 BONUS POINTS
When you stay a total of 9 nights

+40,000 BONUS POINTS
When you stay a total of 24 nights

1,000 POINTS TO SHARE
When you stay 1 night by September 5, 2016

1 FREE NIGHT TO SHARE
When you stay 15 nights by September 5, 2016

Don’t forget to register for this promotion!

Introduction: South Africa and Dubai

One of our favorite cities in the world, is Cape Town, South Africa, and although getting to South Africa using points and miles can be very difficult, it’s not impossible!  In this series we will cover our visit to Cape Town and Dubai, and how we set about booking this award.

If you would like to visit South Africa, and need help maximizing the use of your miles and points, please consider using our Award Booking Service!

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Here’s the Itinerary:

02/07 SA208 Washington to Johannesburg departing 5:40PM arriving 5:25PM (16h45m)
02/09 FA103 Johannesburg to Madikwe departing 10:10AM arriving 11:00AM (1h)
02/13 FA102 Madikwe to Johannesburg departing 11:15AM arriving 12:15PM
02/13 BA6425 Johannesburg to Cape Town departing 3:00PM arriving 5:10PM (2h10m)
02/19 SA378 Cape Town to Johannesburg departing 5:45AM arriving 7:40AM (1h55m)
02/19 EK768 Johannesburg to Dubai departing 9:15AM arriving 7:20PM (8h5m)
02/22 EK205 Dubai to Milan departing 9:10AM arriving 1:10PM (7h)
02/22 EK205 Milan to New York departing 3:40PM arriving 7:00PM (9h20m)

Planning – How to get to South Africa and Back with Points & Miles

There are relatively few direct flights from the US to South Africa. Delta has a direct out of Atlanta, but with the terrible value of Delta’s award program (also known as sky peso’s), coupled with terrible availability in premium cabins, we quickly eliminated Delta as a viable option. The only other direct option is South African Airlines, which thankfully is a Star Alliance member.  If you don’t mind routing through Europe (and adding substantial additional flight time), then there are additional flight options.  Additionally, you can avoid routing through Europe by flying Ethiopian Airlines, but there is a stop in Addis Ababa.   Like South African Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines is also a Star Alliance member.

South African and United are both Star Alliance members, and United has pretty decent mileage award rates to South Africa on Star Alliance partners. United charges just 80,000 miles for business class to South African on their Star Alliance partner South African Airlines.  Since we want a direct flight, the choice was clear- we would use United miles to book South African business class on the outbound. Sign up for the Chase United Explorer credit card, and you are well on your way to earning enough miles for a business class flight to South Africa!

For the return, we wanted to try out Emirates first class. Using Alaska miles, it is just 100,000 miles for First class from Africa to North America, and when using Alaska miles there is the added bonus of a free stopover.  This is a tremendous value.  You can fly first class from South Africa to Dubai, stop in Dubai for as long as you want, and then fly first class from Dubai to New York all for only 100,000 Alaska miles!  As an added bonus, Emirates flies it’s flagship A380 from Dubai to New York, so you get to experience their amazing onboard shower too!  Starwood Preferred is a transfer partner of Alaska Mileage Plan, and points transfer at a rate of 1.25 to 1, so an excellent way to earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles is by signing up for the SPG American Express Personal credit card and SPG American Express Business credit card.

 

 

Review: Radisson Blu Cape Town

Cape Town is one of our favorite cities in the world. The food is fantastic, the people are super friendly and there are tons of activities to do. We were staying at the Radisson Blu for 6 nights, which we booked using Club Carlson point. Business class rooms were 75,000 points per night, so we were able to book 6 nights for 225,00 points which we acquired from the Club Carlson Credit Card signup bonuses.  We booked last year when the Club Carlson Visa card still offered a free 2nd night for every one night booked. So for the cost of 3 nights, we were able to stay for 6! That was the main perk of that credit card, but unfortunately it is no longer available, so I don’t think I would recommend that credit card any more. You do still get 40,000 Club Carlson points every year as an anniversary bonus, but the card does have an annual fee.

The business class rooms are quite spacious, and are more like a suite, with a separate bedroom and living room.

Business Class Room with Harbor View

Business Class Room with Harbor View

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The view from the business class rooms overlook the Harbor.

View from Room

View from Room

Weclome letter for Gold Members

Weclome letter for Gold Members

Welcome gift for Gold Members

Welcome gift for Gold Members

 

In addition to the incredible view, one of the greatest things about the business class rooms is that the include a full daily breakfast for two, which you can have either as room service, or right on the harbor in the outside restaurant.  The spread is pretty extensive, and you can also order eggs made to order.

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Breakfast Spread

Breakfast Spread

Breakfast served in the room.

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Bottom Line

The Radisson Blu Cape Town is a fantastic hotel.  The location is incredible, as are the views of both table mountain and the harbor.

Review: South African Airlines Business Class – Washington to Johannesburg

Washington (IAD) – Johannesburg (JNB)
02/07 Depart: 5:40PM
Arrives: 5:25PM (+1 day)
Duration: 16h45m
Seats 6H, 6K (Business Class)

We arrived at Dulles about 3 hours early for our international departure.   We avoid checking bags whenever possible (especially if going through Johannesburg, which is notorious for things being stolen out of checked baggage), so we quickly made our way to the TSA Pre-Check line. About 10 minutes later we were through security and on our way to the lounge.  South African Airways does not have a lounge at Dulles, but business travelers can use the Swiss Air lounge, so we made our way to the Swiss lounge to settle in for the next couple of hours.

Swiss Air Business Class Lounge

Swiss Air Business Class Lounge

Swiss Air Business Class Lounge

Swiss Air Business Class Lounge

At about an hour before the flight, we left the lounge and headed to the gate. Boarding began soon after, and we we boarded through the business class entrance and were on the plane in no time.

We previously posted an extensive review of South African Business class, so this review will be brief.

Business Class Seats

Business Class Seats

The business class cabin was only about half full, and was extremely spacious.  This is where we would spend the next 17 hours!  We were served dinner, and then tried to get some sleep.  The seats are a full 180 degrees sleeper seats, but they are angled flat bed, so you tend to slide down them a little as you sleep.  All in all, it was a very comfortable flight for such a long haul!

Bottom Line

If you are looking for non stop business class from North America to South Africa, we strongly recommend South African. And at just 80,000 United Mileplus miles per person, it is a great use of miles!

Global Entry and TSA Precheck explained.

Many people get confused with the differences between CBP’s Global Entry and TSA’s Precheck.

Global Entry is a fantastic and a must have for frequent international flyers, it offers a much quicker entry back into the United States when arriving from an international flight. Instead of having to wait in the often long lines at Customs, you simply go to an automated kiosk, scan you passport and fingerprint, answer a few questions and you are on your way.

If you are a frequent domestic only flyer, then TSA Precheck could work for you. (Global Entry also gets you TSA Precheck.)

Global Entry:

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.

At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.

Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.

While Global Entry’s goal is to speed travelers through the process, members may still be selected for further examination when entering the United States. Any violation of the program’s terms and conditions will result in the appropriate enforcement action and termination of the traveler’s membership privileges.

To apply for Global Entry see the CBP website at: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry

TSA Precheck

There are 3 steps to signing up for TSA Precheck:

Complete the online application or you can complete the entire process in person at an application center.Schedule an appointment online or by calling (855) 347-8371 weekdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments take priority.Visit an application center to:

  1. Provide required documentation and fingerprints. Bring your current U.S. passport or a driver’s license and birth certificate. See other acceptable documents.
  2. Pay a non-refundable $85 fee valid for five years with a credit card, money order, company check or certified/cashier’s check.
  3. You can check your status online at any time.