My Birthday Weekend in New York – Part 1: Trip Planning & Getting to New York

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Emily:  Daraius and I went to New York City the last weekend in June to celebrate his birthday.  We stayed at the Andaz 5th Avenue, a Hyatt hotel in the heart of Manhattan.
Andaz 5th Ave 2
View from our room at the Andaz 5th Avenue
Daraius:  I had meetings with the banks in New York, so I jumped at the chance of using my Southwest Companion Pass and having a weekend getaway with Emily in New York before the meetings.  My mom was also in the area, so the timing worked out perfectly.

I booked my ticket using Southwest airline points, and used my Companion Pass to add Emily for free (ok, $5 in taxes and fees)!

I had 4 nights (Friday through Monday) in New York City and hotel prices are usually very expensive in New York.  So I booked 1 night at the Hyatt Andaz 5th Avenue for ~$300 and the 2nd night using 22,000 Hyatt points.

I booked the 3rd night at the Radisson Lexington in New York for ~$130 a night (a steal in New York) and I earned 50,000 points for that stay thanks to the Radisson Big Night Giveaway promotion (enough for another night in New York), so I effectively paid half price or $65 for the night.

And for the 4th night, I used 50,000 Club Carlson points at the Raddison Lexington, of which I earned 44,000 points from an earlier stay at the Country Inn & Suites.

I did feel bad paying $300 for the 1st night at the Andaz 5th Avenue, but here’s how I rationalized it.

  1. I would spend  at least $80 mattress hopping at a cheap Hyatt Place (checking in and out of hotels only to earn points and stay credit towards elite status) to maintain my Hyatt Diamond status.  So the incremental cost of the hotel room was $220
  2. I’d get free breakfast credit of $75 a day as a Hyatt Diamond at the Andaz 5th which is more generous with the free Diamond breakfast than other Hyatt hotels.  And I really wanted to taste those lemon poppy seed pancakes which Gary raves about!
  3. The hotel is in the heart of the city and close to everything my mom and Emily want to do in New York which would save on metro and taxi fares as well as let us maximise our time in New York
  4. I could use a Hyatt Diamond suite upgrade certificate to upgrade to a suite and hopefully the hotel would let me keep the suite and wouldn’t make me change rooms on the 2nd night when I used points
  5. I could also treat my mom to a nice hotel room the next day when she visited
  6. It was my birthday and I like surprising Emily!

So hotel and airline loyalty programs work both ways – not only do I extract value from the airlines and hotels – but sometimes the airlines and hotels get me to spend more money than I would otherwise.

So it is important to put a value on elite status and not overspend when chasing elite status.

But I suspect that I still come out ahead overall in the miles and points game.

Emily:  Our flight left Kansas City at 6:00 pm, and we had a layover in Chicago.  We used 2 Southwest drink coupons to have Bailey’s on ice to start off the weekend! Daraius:  The flight from Chicago to New York was in their new Boeing 737-800.  This version holds 175 passengers which is significantly more passengers than other Southwest Boeing 737s.

The flight attendants were really excited with the new plane and were showing off the oversized lockers and changing the overhead lighting effects.  They even mentioned that the planes would eventually fly to Hawaii and Mexico!

Andaz 5th Ave
New Southwest Boeing 737-800
Emily:  We reached New York’s LaGuardia Airport at about 12:15 am and we waited in line for 1.5 hours for a taxi.  Daraius usually has everything planned out, so I was surprised at the long wait for a taxi.  We finally reached the hotel at around 2:00 am. Daraius:  Our arrival to New York was slightly delayed, which I expected.  What I did NOT expect was the long line for taxis.  I called the car service companies who had advertisements in the terminal, but they were not accepting on-the-spot reservations from LaGuardia.

So we waited for 1.5 hours for a taxi and finally reached the Andaz 5th avenue at 2:00 am.  I suppose this was one of those moments when Emily wonders how the heck I get to write a travel blog!

I could have googled other car service companies, but I was pretty optimistic that the line for taxis would move quickly, and I didn’t want to spend extra cash.  But, alas, the line moved very slowly and I had a lot of time to reflect on how I messed up the transportation from the airport to hotel.

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