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

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

Million Mile SecretsMy Birthday Weekend in New York – Part 1: Trip Planning & Getting to New YorkMillion Mile Secrets Team

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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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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Melissa Jones

I am just starting and I want to travel with my four kids. How would this work for me?

I agree with Benny. I used UBER last time. I had credit from a friends’ referral and it saved me $20. You could use my code 69BZM and we will both get $20 off our next ride.

Daraius, for future reference, if the taxi line is long at LGA, walk over to the next terminal where there may be taxis waiting or a shorter line. I’ve used this trick successfully. Hard to believe that there would be taxis at one terminal and not another, but welcome to NYC.

I love La guardia airport. Its so quick and cheap for me to get into the city. I usually take the M60 bus and get off either in Astoria (Ditmas BLVD) which is like 5 minutes from the airport. Just ring the bell when you see the NEPTUNE DINER! From there I get the N tain into the city.

Or you can get the Q48 to either Flushing/mainstreet or mets-Wilets point where you can catch the 7 train to grand central or times square, depending where you are going.

The subway is 24 hours and the bus at least until 1am so try it next time so easy and no waiting.

I can’t wait for part 3 of what you did in the City.

I’m planning a trip up there next month for two boys (15 and 8).

We’re still planning out what to do and where to go.

So far I have not got past the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Bldg, Times Square, and where the towers once stood to visit. I know there is lots to do but I have two boys who don’t care for theaters, art, plays, or any of those other typical NY tourist things.

Million Mile Secrets

@Jones – Don’t hold your breath. I was with my mom and Emily, so most of my time was spent in stores looking for places to sit and surf my smartphone while they shopped. 🙂

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