Chris does a fabulous job blogging about our adventures, so I don’t want to retread the same ground he’s covering. But I do have a few thoughts of my own on our most recent trip.
In November 2016, I took a mileage run to
Beijing Hong Kong (long story short: United wouldn’t let me on my flight to Beijing because they thought I needed a visa when I didn’t so I switched my ticket to Hong Kong and they later reimbursed me for the extra costs because they were wrong and I was right). While on that trip, I missed Chris and wanted to plan an adventure with him. At the same time, I learned about a fare sale to Europe on KLM/Air France with flights around $400. (In 2016, that sounded insanely low. Little did I know what would happen to airfares in 2017!) Perfect! I thought a little jaunt to Paris sometime in 2017 would be ideal. So I text Chris from my hotel in Hong Kong about this deal and he says “eh.”
In his defense, we were just 4-5 months removed from our glorious trip to France. So he wanted to explore a new corner of the world instead. Okay, I start searching for other destinations that are part of this great fare sale and I see that Prague is around $450. Chris is easily sold on that idea — Prague had been on our bucket list for years.
Destination selected, we then texted (again, Chris in the States and I’m in a Holiday Inn in Hong Kong) about when. Our winter 2016-2017 vacation was already booked (Aruba), our spring 2017 vacation was already booked (Korea and Tokyo), so our options were summer or fall. We prefer to travel during shoulder seasons because the crowds are thinner, service is often better, and summer at home in Chicago is glorious. So we decided to go for a week in the fall.
I booked the tickets while on a Hong Kong bus to the airport and got confirmation of our booking by the time I left Hong Kong.
Fast forward to summer 2017: our trip to Prague is fast approaching and we haven’t booked anything other than our plane tickets. We hadn’t decided on an itinerary, whether we were going to stay in Prague for the entire week, where to eat, what to do, where to stay…
So, first things first: we needed to decide on an itinerary. We figured we would explore Prague for a few days, then head out to Český Krumlov for an overnight trip, then return to Prague for a night of luxury and pampering.
With a rough itinerary in place, I started to look at accommodations. We were going to spend the first four nights in Prague, so I thought that an AirBnB would be a good idea: we could explore markets, eat locally and inexpensively, and get a sense of “real life” in Prague.
But then I discovered great hotel deals in Prague on points. With a single credit card application, I could earn enough points to cover our first four nights in Prague at the Clarion Hotel Prague City for free. Plus, the credit card itself has no annual fee and offers instant Gold elite status at Choice Hotels. Not too shabby. I also booked us at a lovely boutique hotel in Český Krumlov (no chains, so no playing with points!) for one night. Finally, we decided to splurge on our last night in Prague: we would hit the best restaurant in town, stay in a luxury hotel, and really kick things up a notch. We considered a few different luxury hotels, but I wanted as many SPG hotels stays as possible to get to Platinum status this year, so we decided on the Augustine.
In choosing our hotels, I was curious to learn whether we would be perfectly satisfied at our 2-3 star hotel (the Clarion) or if we would decide that splurging to 4-5 stars was worth the extra cost.
Well, as Chris noted, we got sick early in the trip. So we scrapped our plans to go to Český Krumlov and spent two nights at the Augustine instead.
(An unintended benefit of going to Prague in the autumn instead of the summer was that room availability at the Augustine was not an issue: I got a points-and-cash night at the last minute. In my experience, points-and-cash reservations can be difficult to get during prime seasons, so I was delighted to be able to do so here.)
We were sickest during our stay at the Clarion and it was perfectly fine: we were too sick to want anything other than a comfortable bed and easy access to a good breakfast. For that, the Clarion delivered. But once we were feeling a bit better (but not 100%), recovering in a luxurious oasis made being sick more bearable. Service was lovely, our room was spacious, the food was tasty, and we found it was easier to relax there.
I really was hoping that we would find the Augustine lovely, but an experience we wouldn’t need to replicate because we would find “normal” hotels to be perfectly adequate. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to be finding more and more reasons to upgrade our hotels as much as possible going forward…