FlyerTalk Forums - View Single Post - Austria, Switzerland & Warsaw - Flying in J (OS, LX & LO 787) Riding Trains & Hiking!
Old Nov 20, 2014, 2:54 pm
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FindAWay
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: ORD/MDW
Programs: AA EXP, DL-Plat, WN-CP | Hotels: Choice-Gld, IHG-Plt, Rad-Gld, HH-Dia, Hyatt-Glob, Marriott-LtPlt
Posts: 2,893
Trip Overview and Summary

Trip Overview and Summary

Map Below: Entire Trip Route


Route: ORD-VIE(destination)/(1st open jaw)ZRH-WAW(overnight)-ORD(3-month stopover)-SJU(2nd open jaw)
Miles Actually Flown: 10,398 miles (excluding ORD-SJU)
Dates Traveled: Friday, August 29, 2014 to Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Destinations Visited: Vienna, Salzburg (and Hallstatt), Zurich, Wengen (and Bernese Oberland), Lucerne, and Warsaw (the future flight to SJU is excluded from this TR)
Travelers: 2 (Mrs. FindAWay and me)

Miles, Points, & Credits Used and USD$ Paid:
  • 102,500 United MileagePlus Miles (per person) USED
  • $83.10 Cumulative Taxes & Fees Imposed by Airlines (per person) PAID
  • $50.00 Change Fee Imposed by United Airlines (per person) PAID
  • $143.26 Total Paid for two (2) Separate Austrian OBB First Class Train Tickets (per person) PAID (mostly credited back using Arrival+ Miles)
  • $257.00 Total Paid for 2nd Class 4-Day Swiss Saver Passes (per person) PAID (mostly credited back using Arrival+ Miles)
  • ~$33.00 Total Paid for a 2nd Class Swiss SBB Train Ticket (Luzern - Zürich Flughafen) (per person) PAID
  • 25,000 Choice Privileges Points (total - 1 night) USED
  • 1 Category 1-5 Marriott Rewards e-Certificate (total – 1 night) USED
  • 144,000 Club Carlson Points (total - 6 nights) USED
  • $394.18 Total Paid Hotels.com Reservation (total - 2 nights) PAID

Our Final Itineraryin chronological order (decision process is outlined below) was as follows:

DEPART CHICAGO & ARRIVE VIENNA: Fri., August 29, 2014 - Sat., August 30, 2014
4:05pm-8:40am - ORD-VIE -- Austrian Airways #OS66 Bus. [9h 35m] (part of 102.5k UA MP & $83.10/pp)

VIENNA (2 DAYS): Sat., August 30, 2014 (arrive 8:40am) until Mon., September 1, 2014 (depart 9:30am)
Hotel: Radisson Blu Style Hotel, Vienna [2 nights] (25,000 CC Points & $0.00 per nt. after credit card last night free benefit)

DEPART VIENNA & ARRIVE SALZBURG: Mon., September 1, 2014
9:30am-11:52am – Wien Westbahnhof – Salzburg Hbf – RailJet #562 First Class [2h 22m] (29.00 EUR/pp)

SALZBURG (2 DAYS): Mon., September 1, 2014 (arrive 9:30am) until Wed., September 3, 2014 (depart 7:56am)
Hotel: Radisson Blu Hotel Altstadt, Salzburg [2 nights] (22,000 CC Points & $0.00 per nt. after credit card last night free benefit)

DEPART SALZBURG & ARRIVE ZURICH: Wed., September 3, 2014
7:56am-1:20pm – Salzburg Hbf - Zürich HB – Railjet #364 First Class [5h 24m] (79.00 EUR/pp)

ZURICH (LESS THAN 1 DAY): Wed., September 3, 2014 (arrive 1:20pm) until Thur., September 4, 2014 (depart 8:02am)
Hotel: Comfort Hotel Royal Zurich [1 night] (25,000 Choice Privileges Points & $0.00 per nt.)

DEPART ZURICH & ARRIVE WENGEN: Thur., September 4, 2014
8:02am-10:51am - Zürich HB – Wengen – IC#812-IC#961-R#151-R#351 2nd Class. [3h 49m] (part of Swiss Pass $257.00/pp)

WENGEN/BERNESE OBERLAND (2.5 DAYS): Thur., Sept. 4, 2014 (arrive 10:51am) until Sat., Sept. 6, 2014 (depart 5:03pm)
Hotel: Hotel Edelweiss [2 nights] (Hotels.com 180.00 CHF per nt.)

DEPART WENGEN & ARRIVE LUCERNE: Sat., September 6, 2014
5:03pm-7:55pm – Wengen – Luzern – R#366-R#166-IR#2235 2nd Class. [2h 52m] (part of Swiss Pass $257.00/pp)

LUCERNE (2 DAYS): Sat., September 6, 2014 (arrive 7:55pm) until Mon., September 8, 2014 (depart 1:10pm)
Hotel: Radisson Blu Hotel, Lucerne [2 nights] (25,000 CC Points & $0.00 per nt. after credit card last night free benefit)

DEPART LUCERNE TO ZURICH AIRPORT & ARRIVE WARSAW: Mon., September 8, 2014
1:10pm-2:13pm – Luzern - Zürich Flughafen – IR#2340 2nd Class. [1h 03m] (28.00 CHF/pp)
5:15pm-7:10pm – ZRH-WAW – Swiss (Op. by OAW Helvetic Air) #LX1352 Bus. [1h 55m] (part of 102.5k UA MP & $83.10/pp)

WARSAW (1 DAY): Mon., September 8, 2014 (arrive 7:10pm) until Tues., September 9, 2014 (depart 4:30pm)
Hotel: Warsaw Marriott Hotel [1 night] (1 Marriott Cat. 1-5 eCert. & $0.00 per nt.)

DEPART WARSAW & ARRIVE CHICAGO: Tues., September 9, 2014
4:30pm-7:05pm - WAW-ORD – LOT Polish Airlines #LO003 Bus. [9h 35m] (part of 102.5k UA MP & $83.10/pp)

{FUTURE (but not included in this TR):DEPART CHICAGO & ARRIVE SAN JUAN:8:20am-3:05pm – ORD-SJU – United Airlines #UA1688 Bus. [4h 45m] (part of 102.5k UA MP & $83.10/pp)}

Background: In September 2013, I transferred a large balance of Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to United MileagePlus Miles because I feared a shutdown of my Chase accounts. The shutdown didn’t happen (or, at least, hasn’t yet happened) to me. Just over a month later, United announced a massive devaluation to their award chart. Perfect; just perfect. As the February 1, 2014 devaluation effective date approached, we determined where we wanted to go to lock-in our pre-devaluation award rate. Since neither of us had been to Switzerland or hiked in the Alps, we decided to plan a trip to hike in the Swiss Alps while it was still 100,000 miles per person in business class on Star Alliance partners. And, I decided to take advantage of United’s generous routing rules (that allow both a stopover and a double open-jaw) to include a leg to San Juan, Puerto Rico during Chicago’s cold winter as part of our itinerary for only 2,500 miles per person more.

Our plan was to have an open jaw arriving into Geneva, Switzerland and departing from Vienna, Austria (and we’d take trains with stops in destinations between the two cities) with an overnight connection in Warsaw on the return to both visit Warsaw and fly our return flight on LO’s 787. After a lot of research and discussion, I first settled on and booked the following redemption (as Lufthansa opened a ton of business class award space on their new YYZ-MUC route with their updated business class):

102,500 United Airlines MileagePlus Miles and $153.60 per person (for 2 people):
Fri., August 29, 2014 - Sat., August 30, 2014
11:00am-1:26pm - ORD-YYZ – United Express #3634 Bus. [1h 26m]
-- 4h 19m Layover in YYZ --
5:45pm-7:45am(+1) – YYZ MUC – Lufthansa #495 Bus. [7h 20m]
--3h 40m Layover in MUC --
11:25am-12:35pm – MUC-GVA – Lufthansa Cityline #2384 Bus. [1h 10m]
---Destination: Geneva---
---Open Jaw Return From: Vienna---
Mon., September 8, 2014
5:40pm-7:00p – VIE-WAW – Tyrolean Airlines #631 Bus. [1h 20m]
---21h 30m Overnight Layover in WAW---
Tues., September 9, 2014
4:30pm-7:05pm – WAW-ORD – LOT Polish Airlines #003 Bus. [9h 35m]
---Long Stopover in ORD---
 Future Date
7:04am-9:51am – ORD-CLT – United Express #6217 First [1h 51m]
--1h 54m Layover in CLT --
11:45am-4:13pm – CLT-SJU – US Airways #752 First [3h 28m]
---Double Open Jaw Destination: San Juan---

I wasn’t thrilled with the 3-leg journey with long layovers from Chicago to Geneva; but, it was available and I wanted to try LH’s new business class seats. Unlike my past calls to US Airways agents, the very first United Airlines agent with whom I spoke was able to quickly ticket my itinerary.

A few months later, in April, I noticed there was a schedule change on the very last leg (CLT-SJU) that caused a misconnect in Charlotte. In looking at availability on-line, the United Airlines ORD-SJU non-stop for the same day was available in business; so, I called to make the fee-free change. However, the agent was having difficulty. There was a small change in taxes that meant I had to pay slightly more ($7.00 per person)…so, my new itinerary was:

102,500 United Airlines MileagePlus Miles and $160.60 per person (for 2 people):
Fri., August 29, 2014 - Sat., August 30, 2014
11:00am-1:26pm - ORD-YYZ – United Express #3634 Bus. [1h 26m]
-- 4h 19m Layover in YYZ --
5:45pm-7:45am(+1) – YYZ MUC – Lufthansa #495 Bus.[7h 20m]
--3h 40m Layover in MUC --
11:25am-12:35pm – MUC-GVA – Lufthansa Cityline #2384 Bus. [1h 10m]
---Destination: Geneva---
---Open Jaw Return From: Vienna---
Mon., September 8, 2014
5:40pm-7:00p – VIE-WAW – Tyrolean Airlines #631 Bus. [1h 20m]
---21h 30m Overnight Layover in WAW---
Tues., September 9, 2014
4:30pm-7:05pm – WAW-ORD – LOT Polish Airlines #003 Bus. [9h 35m]
---Long Stopover in ORD---
 Future Date
8:20am-3:05pm – ORD-SJU – United Airlines #1688 First [4h 45m]
---Double Open Jaw Destination: San Juan---

Now, while not perfect, I had a good itinerary that satisfied me. I wasn’t going to miss-out on the opportunity to fly Polish LOT’s 787. However, 90-days prior to departure, I constantly checked United and ANA for availability on Austrian’s ORD-VIE or VIE-ORD non-stop (the latter applicable only if ORD-WAW on LO’s 787 was also available on Friday, August 29th). And, I found availability! We had also decided to omit Geneva from our itinerary to give us more time in other destinations). So, with a call, I changed my itinerary to the following (although I did have to pay $50.00 per person as a Silver member for the change as my destination would be different…but, I actually saved money overall as the taxes dropped by more!):

102,500 United Airlines MileagePlus Miles and $83.10 per person, exclusive of $50.00 per person change fee, (for 2 people):
Fri., August 29, 2014 - Sat., August 30, 2014
4:05pm-8:40am - ORD-VIE – Austrian (Tyrolean) Airlines #066 Bus. [9h 35m]
---Destination: Vienna---
---Open Jaw Return From: Zurich---
Mon., September 8, 2014
5:15pm-7:10p – ZRH-WAW – Swiss (OAW Helvetic) Airlines #631 Bus. [1h 55m]
---21h 20m Overnight Layover in WAW---
Tues., September 9, 2014
4:30pm-7:05pm – WAW-ORD – LOT Polish Airlines #003 Bus. [9h 35m]
---Long Stopover in ORD---
 Future Date
8:20am-3:05pm – ORD-SJU – United Airlines #1688 First [4h 45m]
---Double Open Jaw Destination: San Juan---

Our itinerary had gone from a bloated 7-flight journey with multiple undesirable layovers to a lean 4-flight journey. We were excited and worked to book hotels in each city we planned to visit and some of the trains we would take (as Austria’s OBB offered cheaper non-refundable advance purchase tickets available).

With our flights locked-in, I set about connecting the open-jaw from Vienna to Zurich by train. To do so, I chose the following trains to fill-in our travels to various destinations:

29.00 EUR per person (for 2 people) {Advance Purchase}:
Mon., September 1, 2014
9:30am-11:52am - WIEN WESTBAHNHOF - SALZBURG HBF – RailJet RJ#562 First [2h 22m]

79.00 EUR per person (for 2 people) {Advance Purchase}:
Wed., September 3, 2014
7:56am-1:20pm - SALZBURG HBF - ZUERICH – RailJet RJ#364 First [5h 24m]

2nd Class 4-Day Swiss Saver Pass ~$257.00 USD per person (for 2 people) {Advance Purchase after $50.00 discount}:
USED FOR NO ADDITIONAL COST TRAVEL ON MORE THAN A DOZEN TRAINS, CABLECARS, BOATS ETC. WITHIN SWITZERLAND, INCLUDING:
Thurs., September 4, 2014
8:02am-8:58am – ZURICH HB - BERN – InterCity IC#812 Second Class [56m]
-- 06m Connection in BERN --
9:04am-9:57am – BERN – INTERLAKEN OST – InterCity IC#961 Second Class [53m]
-- 08m Connection in INTERLAKEN OST --
10:05am-10:25am – INTERLAKEN OST – LAUTERBRUNNEN – Regio R#151 Second Class [20m]
-- 12m Connection in LAUTERBRUNNEN --
10:37am-10:51am –LAUTERBRUNNEN - WENGEN – Regio R#351 Second Class [14m]
Sat., September 6, 2014
5:03pm-5:21pm – WENGEN - LAUTERBRUNNEN – Regio R#366 Second Class [18m]
-- 12m Connection in LAUTERBRUNNEN --
5:33pm-5:54pm – LAUTERBRUNNEN - INTERLAKEN OST – Regio R#166 Second Class [21m]
-- 10m Connection in INTERLAKEN OST --
6:04pm-7:55pm – INTERLAKEN OST - LUZERN – InterRegio IR#2235 Second Class [1h 51m]

28.00 CHF per person (for 2 people) {Purchased on Platform}:
Mon., September 8, 2014
1:10pm-2:13pm - LUZERN - ZÜRICH FLUGHAFEN – InterRegio IR#2340 Second Class [1h 03m]

With all of our travel booked/planned, we had a complete itinerary of destinations (other than activities at each destination). So, I went about deciding on hotels. I focused on locations that would be convenient either or both for sightseeing and transportation (walking distance to the train station, etc.)

In Vienna, I wanted to maximize the last-night-free aspect of the US-issued US Bank Club Carlson credit card since this was only a 2 night reservation; so, I chose:

25,000 Club Carlson points & $0.00 per nt. (after the “last-night-free” bonus)
2 Nights at the Radisson Blu Style Hotel, Vienna

In Salzburg, I continued my trend of maximizing the last-night-free aspect of the US-issued US Bank Club Carlson credit card since this would also be a reservation of only 2 nights; so, I chose:

22,000 Club Carlson points & $0.00 per nt. (after the “last-night-free” bonus)
2 Nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel Altstadt, Salzburg

In Zurich, with only a single night, I looked at hotels in central locations available for reasonable redemptions. Since I had a good amount of Choice Privileges points expiring at the end of the year, I choose:

25,000 Choice Privileges Points & $0.00 per nt.
1 Night at the Comfort Hotel Royal Zurich

We decided to stay in Wengen as our central base for exploring the Berner Oberland. For our stay, lots of research and reading reviews led me to book the following paid reservation:

Hotels.com – 180.00 CHF per night
2 Nights at the Hotel Edelweiss, Wengen

In Lucerne, I again reverted to my trend of maximizing the last-night-free aspect of the US-issued US Bank Club Carlson credit card since it would also be only a 2 night reservation; so, I chose:

25,000 Club Carlson points & $0.00 per nt. (after the “last-night-free” bonus)
2 Nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Lucerne

During our overnight layover in Warsaw, I decided to book the Marriott using a Category 1-5 e-Certificate (and hope for a nice upgrade with my Platinum status):

1 Marriott Cat. 1-5 eCert. & $0.00 per nt
1 Night at the Warsaw Marriott Hotel

We continued researching each of the destinations, noting desired activities in each place. We pre-booked a full-day Sound of Music tour in Salzburg that included an afternoon in Hallstatt. Otherwise, we kept our itinerary somewhat unplanned in each destination to be able to maximize activities we enjoyed along the way.

Last edited by FindAWay; Nov 25, 2014 at 11:02 am
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