bart.la

I travel too much!

Bart Lapers Samsonite Brussels Airlines The Loft
I travel too much… at least to keep this blog up-to-date! ;-) In first 5 months of this year, I visited 20 destinations in 12 countries. Some stats:

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Arctic Adventure: Svalbard

svalbard ice cave trip spitsbergen
Mid-February, Visit Svalbard invited me to discover the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. Svalbard is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. Longyearbyen, the largest settlement (2100 inhabitants) on the island of Spitsbergen is located 1338 km (831 mi) from the North Pole and 2313 km (1437 mi) from Oslo. Since Svalbard is located north of the Arctic Circle it experiences polar night in winter. In Longyearbyen, polar night lasts from October 26 to February 15. During my visit, February 18-22, it wasn’t possible yet to see the sun as it was blocked by the mountainous terrain. It takes until March 8th before the sun reappears in the sky, an event which is celebrated by the locals during Sun Fest Week in Longyearbyen.
dog sledding svalbard longyearbyen spitsbergen
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Tips & Tricks to Book Cheap Flights

google-flights-tips-and-tricks-cheap-tickets
1. Use powerful flight search engines

Use aggregators to check airfares on many OTA sites (Online Travel Agencies) simultaneously. My favorites:

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Welkom Telefacts kijkers!

This post is published in Dutch as I was featured on Belgian television program Telefacts
Qatar-Airways-A380-bar-First-Class-Business-Class-Bart-Lapers
Reizen in luxe met een beperkt budget is een fantastische hobby. Het stelt je in staat de wereld te verkennen op een zeer comfortabele manier. Toch is het niet voor iedereen weggelegd. Het maximale uit je reisbudget halen vraagt veel tijd, inspanning en flexibiliteit. In deze post verwijs ik alvast naar een reeks tips & tricks om je van start te laten gaan. Sommige zijn eenvoudig toe te passen, anderen zullen meer inspanning vereisen om ze onder de knie te krijgen. Vragen? Laat gerust een comment achter, ik help je graag verder. Welkom in de wondere wereld van reizen in luxe met een beperkt budget! :-)

Gratis op hotel, zo doe je het!

Hotel-Indigo-Paris-Opera
Volg mijn tips in het artikel verblijf gratis in luxe hotels! Te veel moeite? Lees dan toch zeker mijn 5 tips om goedkoper hotels te boeken.

First Class vliegen aan fractie v/d prijs?

Bart-Lapers-Lufthansa-First-Class-Terminal
Wil je ook graag First Class vliegen zonder duizenden euros te betalen? Dan zal je aan de slag moeten met airline miles. Neen, je hoeft niet veel te vliegen om de nodige mijlen te verzamelen!

Als eerste stap kan je best gratis frequent flyer accounts aanmaken bij volgende luchtvaartmaatschappijen: Brussels Airlines Miles & MoreAmerican Airlines AAdvantageAvianca LifeMilesUnited Mileageplus, Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanIberia Plus en British Airways Executive Club. Om deel te kunnen nemen aan promoties bij het aankopen van mijlen zal je frequent flyer account reeds aantal weken moeten bestaan. Vandaar dat ik je adviseer nu al deze accounts aan te maken. Tip: Je kan je verschillende frequent flyer accounts makkelijk beheren met behulp van Awardwallet.com

Wist je dat je ook airline miles kan verzamlen met bijna al je aankopen en betalingen? Met de kredietkaart van Brussels Airlines verzamel je mijlen in de supermarkt, bij het tanken, je online aankopen enz. Bij het aanvragen van deze kaart krijg je alvast 12000 mijlen om mee van start te gaan!

Qatar Airways First Class voor ~€900

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-cabin-seat-2E
American Airlines AAdvantage verkoopt regelmatig mijlen met een extra bonus. Op die manier kan je de nodige mijlen (40,000) aankopen om van Europa naar het Midden-Oosten te vliegen in First Class voor slechts ~800EUR. Reken daar nog een kleine 100EUR bij aan taxen en fees en voor minder dan 900EUR vlieg je Qatar Airways First Class. Maar voor diezelfde 40,000 mijlen kan je bijvoorbeeld ook in een Etihad First Class Apartment vliegen! Let wel, vanaf 22 maart 2016 zal American Airlines AAdvantage 60,000 mijlen aanrekenen voor diezelfde First Class trip. Boeken voor 22 maart is dus de boodschap, vliegen kan tot maart volgend jaar!

Mis geen enkele deal!

Follow Bart Lapers on Twitter
Elke week zijn er een heel aantal deals te scoren voor zowel vliegtickets als hotels. Ik post regelmatig goede deals op mijn social media accounts. Volg mij op Twitter & Facebook en blijf op de hoogte van de laatste promoties. Daarnaast kan je ook mijn reizen volgen via Instagram.
instagram-bart-lapers-bartla

SWISS First Class A330-300: Zurich to Dubai

SWISS First Class review A330-300
Early October, I flew Swiss International Air Lines First Class on the A330-300 from Zurich to Dubai. I used 62500 Miles & More miles and paid €208 in taxes & fees for my one-way flight. The price of a revenue ticket for my flight would have been €4705! SWISS First Class is rather hard to book with miles as you need to be a Miles & More Senator or HON Circle member to have access to the award seat inventory. Both elite status levels require a lot of paid Business or First Class flying to obtain them. I’m still a Senator from back in the days when you earned 3126 status miles with a €99 Brussels Airlines flight…those were the days! ;-)
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Qatar Airways First Class Lounge Al Safwa Doha pictures!

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha opening pictures
Today, the much anticipated Qatar Airways First Class Lounge Al Safwa opened at Doha Hamad International Airport. A friend of mine was traveling Qatar Airways First Class and had the opportunity to enjoy this amazing lounge on its opening day. Below are some pictures he made with his smartphone which give you a general idea of the lounge. For more details, check this Flyertalk thread.
Qatar Airways First Class Lounge Al Safwa Doha Entrance
Pic: Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Entrance
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Stay at luxury hotels for FREE!

free-hotel-stay-InterContinental-Amstel-Amsterdam-Best-Price-Guarantee-IHG
Over the past few years, I’ve stayed numerous times at luxury hotels for free. Highlights include a night in the €2500 Dom Perignon Suite at InterContinental Amstel and suites at InterContinental Paris Le Grand, InterContinental Paris Avenue Marceau, InterContinental Dusseldorf, InterContinental Dublin and InterContinental Bucharest. All thanks to the Best Price Guarantee. Major hotel chains offer a price guarantee which states they will compensate you if you manage to find a cheaper rate for your hotel booking on a third party hotel booking website. (e.g. expedia.com) Most hotel chains will lower their prices to the rate you’ve found and will give you some loyalty points or an extra discount for your stay. The InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) which includes brands like InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo has an even better guarantee. If you find a lower price on a third party website you get the first night free and the other nights at the lower price. Yes, if you’re only staying one night, the stay is free! Ideal for weekend trips.
Dom-Perignon-Suite-InterContinental-Amstel-Amsterdam-Best-Price-Guarantee

How does it work?

The IHG Best Price Guarantee terms & conditions are quite complex, but if you stick to the rules below your chances to get a claim approved increase significantly.
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My favorite hotels in Bali

AYANA Resort and Spa Bali

Infinity Pool at Rock Bar Ayana Resort Bali
Back in November, I flew Air Berlin and Etihad Airways Business Class to Jakarta. I reported extensively about my flight experiences with both airlines, but didn’t write yet about the hotels I enjoyed in Bali. First up is Ayana Resort and Spa, a huge property with 368 rooms located on the towering cliffs above Jimbaran Bay which opened in 1996 as The Ritz-Carlton Bali but rebranded as independent resort in 2009. It shares 90 hectares of gardens with sister property Rimba which opened in September 2013. Combined, Ayana and Rimba feature 11 pools (!) and 15 F&B outlets. Rest assured, you won’t get bored at this place. I recommended Rimba as honeymoon resort to friends of mine. After a week long stay, they decided to extend their vacation!
Rock Bar at Ayana Resort in Bali
Pic: Rock Bar at Ayana Resort in Bali (Nov 2014)
Ayana also features the famous Rock Bar which is located on natural rocks 14 meters above the ocean. The bar looks fantastic, but suffers a bit from its popularity. One year after it opened in 2009, the 106sqm bar it was already extended with an additional 600sqm of surrounding terraces and paved areas. Every afternoon long queues build up as everyone wants to witness sunset at the unique bar. Fortunately, in-house guests can skip the line but don’t expect a quiet setting.
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How to pay when traveling abroad

travel money pay abroad credit cards

Rule #1: Pay with your credit card

Paying with the right credit card has many advantages including:

  • Cheaper than exchanging cash*
  • Cheaper than Maestro debit cards (non-euro countries)
  • No need to carry around large amounts of cash
  • Possible to dispute transactions with your bank
  • Earning miles or points (certain cards)
  • Insurance coverage (certain cards)

*Some countries have a black market currency exchange which offers much better rates than the official ones (e.g. Argentina), bringing cash might be a better deal. Also check if credit cards are widely accepted at your travel destination, cash might be the only option to pay.
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5 Tips to Book Cheap Hotels

how-to-book-cheap-hotels-tips-tricks

Make sure to book the cheapest hotel rates using these 5 tips!

1. Use Price Comparison Sites

book hotels cheaper via hotelscombined
Don’t assume your favorite online travel agent (OTA) always offers the cheapest rates. Compare hotel rates using price comparison sites like HotelsCombined.com and Trivago.com to book the cheapest rooms.
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Hot Air Balloons World Record!

Hot Air Balloons World Record 2015 France LMAB15

On Sunday, I witnessed an amazing new World Record: 433 hot air balloons took off simultaneously at Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons (LMAB), the biggest international hot air balloons gathering in the world! The festival takes place every two years at former United States Air Force base Chambley-Bussières, 35km east of the French city Metz. Read More

153 EUR in free travel credits!

Hotels

HotelTonight promo code
HOTELTONIGHT
Credits: $25 (€22)
Promo Code: BLAPERS ($25)
What: My favorite last-minute hotel booking app. Book up to 7 days in advance.
Link: hoteltonight.com
Terms & Conditions: Both promo codes are for first time users.
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Qatar Airways Business Class: Brussels to Bangkok (via Doha) B787 Dreamliner and A380

Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class Seat 2K Brussels Doha
Pic: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class Seat
Business Class fares have dropped significantly in the past couple of years. It’s not uncommon to see Business Class fares from Europe to Asia for ~€1200 or less these days. One of the airlines routinely offering extreme low Business Class fares is Qatar Airways, Skytrax 2015 Airline of the Year. In May, I flew Qatar from Brussels to Bangkok via Doha on the B787 Dreamliner (QR196 BRU-DOH) and A380 (QR836 DOH-BKK). The Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner is serving Brussels Airport since December 2013.
Qatar Airways B787 Business Class Pol Roger 2006 Rose Champagne
Pic: Qatar Business Class – Pol Roger 2006 Rosé Champagne
Qatar Airways, renowned for its excellent inflight beverages, was serving Billecart-Salmon Brut and 2006 Pol Roger Rosé Champagne on my Business Class flight from Brussels to Doha. They also had the exceptional 1974 Kopke Colheita Port on the menu!
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