The only thing I love more than collecting miles and points is a white Christmas. We have been travelling for Christmas every year since 2012. However, it is also a time when flight fares and hotel rates skyrocket! Usually, a luxury trip is out of bounds for me. But the following post shows how I managed to do the impossible (cue: my superhero description 😊) i.e. have a luxury trip to Switzerland at fraction of the price.
This was our brief Swiss Itinerary
Day 1: DXB-ZRH in Business Class (red-eye flight)
Day 2-4: Zurich
Day 5-8: GSTAAD
Day 9-10: Zermatt
Day 11: ZRH-DXB in Economy
Switzerland is expensive, Dubai is expensive and add the school vacations and holiday period, it becomes exorbitant. It took every bit of points earned (and quite a bit of luck) in 2018 to have this luxury trip.
Here are the key pointers. Please let me know in the comments section if you would like a detailed review for anything.
Dubai to Switzerland and return (DXB-ZRH-DXB)
We flew Swiss air (sorry Emirates 😊) on both legs. DXB-ZRH (LX 243) is a red-eye flight while the return leg ZRH-DXB (LX 242) is a day flight. I do not mind economy travel in the return leg (Swiss air has decent seat width and recline) but I would strongly have preferred to travel Business on the onward (DXB-ZRH) leg.
Unfortunately, I could book a return flight only on the same class and man it was expensive at $4,000 per person!
The economy flight was substantially less of course
Booking one-way flight on business and return on economy was coming out to be the same as both-way business fares.
Now, two great things happened. First, I was introduced to Lifemiles last year through several bloggers at BoardingArea. Over 2018, I started accumulating miles on Lifemiles, crediting them for some hotel bookings and all Star Alliance flights we took. It wasn’t much, but hey, I knew it would be useful one day!
Lifemiles portal is easily the best I have seen to book Star Alliance flights using miles. You don’t have to call anyone and ask them to try different configurations of date/time etc.
And in December, I bought 51,000 Lifemiles which included a bonus of 120% i.e. 61,200. This, combined with the miles I already had in my Lifemiles account, was enough for 2 tickets in the configuration I was looking for (DXB-ZRH in business and ZRH-DXB in economy). The total cost for two people was $1,867 – a saving of more than 70% compared to business class fares and similar to the economy fares (I love Lifemiles!).
Stay in GSTAAD
Gstaad is one of the most expensive destinations in Switzerland. It is widely described as a retreat for royalty and celebrities (I am neither!). Wifey always wanted to stay there (she is after all, sixteenth cousin to Princess Kate). When I looked at the prices, this is what I could see (warning: following pictures are graphic and violent to your wallet)
Finally, I understood what they mean by “celebrities and royalty”. Wifey wouldn’t relent, so I started looking at HUUS Gstaad. I read this review by Lucky (https://onemileatatime.com/huus-hotel-gstaad-review/) and realized that HUUS is part of the SPG / Marriott portfolio.
Earlier in the year, I had taken the American Express Platinum Credit Card (MENA version), which came with a sign-on bonus of 100,000 MR points (including a couple of referrals I had done). MR points in MENA are half the value of MR points in US. I had transferred these to my SPG account (before Marriott integration) at a ratio of 4:1. This got converted to Marriott Rewards points in the ratio of 1:3, effectively giving me 75,000 Marriott points. I booked two nights in the hotel with 70,000 points (and one night with money) when the per night price was $650+taxes. Effectively, this gave me a conversion rate of 2 cents per Marriott Rewards points or 6 cents per SPG point, which is one of the highest conversion I have ever done.
And the icing on the cake was, HUUS Gstaad was simply fabulous! I would stay again in a heartbeat!
Credit cards are a sort of anathema in this part of the world. Particularly, because a lot of people have heard horror stories about credit card holders being jailed / deported. Remember, this only happens due to spending beyond limits or borrowing against cards and not paying it back.
I agree that the laws are strict here, but that doesn’t rule out a great opportunity. Do not overspend, just direct your spends carefully and be on the lookout. Some of these rewards and benefits are easy to score. And this blog is a great way to find some of those 😊, so keep visiting!