This post is brought to you by American Express
There are a few very special things in my life: Mr. O, my family and friends, and in the last two years, the readers of my blog who found me God knows how – maybe it was a friend who recommended you, maybe it was a very lucky google search, or maybe you found me (and keep me company) via social media.
I am not being cheesy – I first started this blog for my friends and over the last two years, a community has been built. And I am extremely grateful for that. People always ask me how I can travel so much and the way that I do – and I have always been very honest. Both my husband and myself have successful professional careers, which afford us the lifestyle that we are fortunate to have. The blog hasn’t changed anything – I don’t travel more than I did before (in all honesty, do ask my friends) and I never accept any invitation to do anything I wouldn’t be able to afford. It wouldn’t be right, or real. I may get invites (and I do turn 80% of them down because a) I do not have time and my objective is not to be on the road all the time (if I am to be some source of inspiration, I need to have a life as normal as possible and that means having a paid job and enjoying my life at home and b) I will not go anywhere I wouldn’t pay to go. It is as simple as that.
But everyone’s resources are limited – well ours are for sure, and for the last 10 years we have done everything we can do obviously go to the places we wanted, stay where we wanted to stay and fly the way we wanted to fly. It took us some time to realise what was the best way of doing it and we have stuck with it ever since.
I have one credit card, one airline loyalty card and one hotel loyalty card. It is as simple as that – we pool all our spending on it, and for the last ten years, it has taken us to some amazing places. And we will keep on going…
When American Express and Starwood approached me to take part in an experience focused on redeeming Starpoints (and were incredibly gracious and professional in the way they led all conversations) I said yes for one simple reason: I have a real emotional connection with both brands and I would be delighted to be their ambassador. So what is this Rome trip all about? It is very simple. Starwood has given me 100,000 Starpoints to redeem in whichever way I wanted over a weekend. I could go anywhere in the world with them (and pay for my flights separately), or I could even be cleverer… and buy my air tickets with the Starpoints without any blackout dates. I am not kidding.
So I asked you on Facebook and Twitter – where would you like me to go? For time issues we decided on Europe (and were obviously restrained by practicalities like easy direct flights from London Heathrow – just to make it easier for me, and obviously locations where Starwood had a fab hotel, which wasn’t so hard). We worked on a shortlist and there was an obvious country: you really want me to go to, Italy. The big contenders were Rome, Florence and Venice – all fab Starwood locations, but when we factored in the flights, well… Roma was the one.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to go back to Rome – I haven’t been properly for over 6 years (I did have some business trips in the meantime, but did not stay the weekend). So on November 21st, I will take a BA flight (of course) to Rome, and will be joined by my lovely sister Renata, who will get there on a TAP Portugal flight from Lisbon. Our flight schedules match to perfection, so we will be ready for a weekend of fun.
With 100,000 Starpoints, I booked my flight with BA with 30,000 Starpoints (and the way it works, BA gets a normal booking via the SPG flight booking system, so it will be not an award ticket but a normal commercial ticket, earning me both tier points and air miles) and I booked my sister’s flight with another 30,000 Starpoints from Lisbon. All taxes and extras are included when redeeming for flights or hotels, so no surprises.
With the remaining 40,000 Starpoints, well, we needed to book the hotel. And now one is actually spoiled for choice in Rome (wasn’t the case 10 years ago) and we will be resting our heads at the St. Regis, which looks lovely. I did stay at the Westin Excelsior on my last trip (which was stunning) so I am looking forward to trying something new. 40,000 Starpoints are enough for two nights which is just what we need.
I have a packed schedule – all self-inflicted, worry not, and I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to this. But with this opportunity, I will hopefully be able to show you how American Express and Starwood can really take you places.
This trip has already taken place and you can read all about it here.
Disclaimer: this post is sponsored by American Express and Starwood.