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Mixing Luxury and Budget Travel on the Same Trip

While my favorite way to maximize travel is through points and miles, my husband and I have come up with a few other tricks over the years to find.Our go-to technique for a vacation with the right mix of off-the-beaten path adventure mixed with pure luxury and true downtime is our high/low technique.Much like pairing an Ikea mirror with an Eames chair in your living room, mixing high-end travel with lower-cost experiences in the same trip can work well. It also has helped us tame our childrens unrealistic expectations around travel.
On a boat we rented for $15 in rural Vietnam High/Low in Practice.Our budget for accommodations during a recent weeklong vacation in Vietnam was an average of $350 per night. This was on the higher end, but it turned out to channel us toward hotels that we found didnt cater to families.Instead we chose to look for somewhere in the $75–$100 per night range for four nights followed by somewhere in the $500–750 range for the next three nights. We also tried to find a third or fourth night for free through select hotels in Amex’s Fine Hotels Resorts (FHR) program.FHR is available to holders of certain Amex cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. We loved exploring Hoi Ans food markets.

Tips for the Lower End:The key to the low end of the stay is to realize that while it may cost less, it isnt actually less enjoyable because it is culturally rich. During the low, we do lots of sightseeing and driving, eat at local restaurants or cook and keep costs relatively low by engaging in the local economy rather than staying insulated within a resort economy.Our family is able to see areas we wouldn’t normally get to enjoy if we were only sheltered at luxury hotels and resorts. It is also a great time to do purposeful travel.
Plus we often travel with our two young kids and want an Airbnb or family-run hotel for reasons beyond budget.Make sure youre using the best credit cards to book an Airbnb.We sometimes are able to book our low accommodations through Hotels.com/Venture and use my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for 10x the points on the room stay, then use it toward our 10th night free with Hotels.com, which is effectively a 20% return.You can also choose a lower-category points hotel for your stay.
A large welcome bonus, such as the one offered by the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card that earns you 100,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, could get you several nights at a Category 1–4 Marriott redemption.Tips for the Higher EndWhen we head over to the high end, we enter pure resort mode — we don’t have to worry about driving or where to go for lunch because everything is right there.
We often do not leave the grounds because we’ve already explored and just want to stay put. We like to book the luxury piece at the end of the stay and utilize early check-in and late check-out to really stretch the stay (FHR benefits and elite status are great for this).This can be a fantastic time to use a high-end redemption to bring down costs and use the savings for extras such as cooking classes or a spa experience.During a 10-day trip to Bali, for example, we spent five nights in a low-cost villa and then did a five-night redemption at The Ritz-Carlton, Bali (Category 6, from 50,000 Marriott points), taking full advantage of its incredible kids club and inexpensive babysitting.
Here are many different ways to stay with your family in Bali using points.Our one-bedroom villa at Four Season Resort The Nam Hai.Riding on the sleeper train between our high- and low-cost stays in Vietnam.Lower End: Rural VietnamIn Vietnam, our lower end stay was in the Bong Lai Valley at Phong Nha Farmstay for $85 per night, including breakfast.It was essentially a backpackers spot, but had a large family room next to the owner’s apartment. My older son became fast friends with the owner’s son, Howie, and talked about him for months afterward.Enjoying the cooler weather at Phong Nha Farmstay.In Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, we rented a private 14-seat boat for just for the four of us where I could easily breastfeed the baby; the privacy gave us the flexibility to turn back if our 2-year-old was scared of the caves.The three-hour cave gondola ride was $15, plus a $6.50 entrance fee for the national park.Rather than a scary experience, the ride turned out to be peaceful and done at the perfect pace for our family.Another day, we took advantage of the advertised free bikes at the farmstay.
The only family bike had a flat seat on the back. We used my sarong to tie my older son on the back, and my husband wore the baby on his front over the bumpy, muddy roads to the only local attraction called The Duck Stop.Using a hand-drawn map, we found the family-run spot, which offered a package of food and a visit to see their raft of ducks ($4, kids free). Suddenly, we were in borrowed sandals and feed was being thrown on our feet.The ducks chased us while trying to bite our feet with their bills as the owner screamed, “It’s like a massage!” We then greeted the resident water buffalo before heading back on our bikes. These are the types of peculiar travel experiences that I had while backpacking in my 20s and love having again with my family (my husband less so).

High: Four Seasons The Nam HaiAs much as I love reliving my backpacking days, entering the Four Seasons Nam Hai was extraordinary. We booked with a fourth night free, which brought the cost down from $750 per night to $660 per night for a one-bedroom, ocean-view villa with an included exquisite breakfast.Yes, that is pricey, but that is why we balance it out with more affordable accommodations. We also considered the Intercontinental Nha Trang, Vietnam using IHG Rewards Club points from the generous IHG®  Rewards Club Premier Card (bonus currently up to 120k points) and the fourth consecutive award night free for cardholders.
The magical thing about a luxury resort is that they pretty much know where you are at all times and can reach you. With the kids safely in childcare, we attended a Vietnamese cooking class arranged by the hotel that included a visit to the local market.
When we returned from the market with our fresh ingredients, the cooking assistant notified the babysitter to bring my youngest son to me at the cooking school via a golf cart because he needed to breastfeed.When the baby finished his lunch, his babysitter whisked him away again, which made me feel like a mother in “Downton Abbey.” We could not have dropped the fresh shrimp into hot sizzling oil with our tiny children in tow. The Cooking Academy was $115 each and included our fantastic five-course lunch of grilled calamari skewers, grouper in banana leaf and wok-fried prawns in tamarind sauce.To round off the experience, on our last night we went into the ever so photogenic Hoi An to see the lanterns lining the streets. We wandered the streets until our children melted down, and then hopped in a taxi back to the hotel and into bed.
When packing the next morning, we realized that my DSLR camera was gone and must have been left in the taxi. Normally, that might been adios to the camera, but the hotel quickly pulled the license plates off the security camera of us arriving the night before, located the driver and had my camera back in my hands by our 11am departure.That could have been a sour note to end the vacation. Instead we were happy to be staying somewhere where we were just taken care of — our problem suddenly became their problem.We enjoyed the bountiful breakfast buffet rather than scrambling to track down the camera and avoided the sadness of losing all the photos from our trip in Asia with the kids, including those in this story. It was also a reminder to make sure I know what insurance protections my credit cards have.

Bottom Line:The adage goes that a vacation with kids is just a trip and never a vacation. After enjoying sightseeing and adventure time, end your family trip at a luxury resort with safe, reliable on-site childcare so you have time to truly unwind and maybe even have a date before returning home.Using this high/low method, you can average out the costs either with points or cash while enjoying both secluded luxury and local culture.Have you ever tried a high/low vacation? How does your family balance different interests during travel?Know before you go.News and deals straight to your inbox every day.The Business Platinum® Card from American ExpressAside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

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Travel tech this week: Start-ups funding and new partnerships

This week, we saw travel start-ups getting funding to further their growth. Some companies also facilitated new partnerships to expand their services.
Lithuanian start-up Trafi offers a transport app that handles billing for all services centrally and requires only a single login.This will remove the need to use multiple providers for various transport services.“This goes in precisely the right direction,” said Andreas Knie, a mobility expert at the Social Science Center Berlin.
“Transport services need to be connected, just like cellphone networks, so you can easily roam from one to another.”The app will also help to prevent people from riding their own cars that will clog the already-congested roads for the sake of convenience.
Berlin’s ageing transport system – a maze of underground lines, trams, buses and commuter rail covering an area the size of Dallas – is straining as its population heads toward 4 million.Expedia’s Certified Technology Partner ProgramExpedia Partner Solutions (EPS) has launched its Certified Technology Partner Program, an elite program for EPS’ top technology partners from around the world.
The program will provide increased resource investment from EPS to further expand its technology partners’ business and become one of EPS’ most trusted tech platforms globally.Over the next year, EPS will select up to 30 top global technology partners to join its Certified Technology Partner Program.Prospective tech partners must meet three key criteria: map at least 90% of EPS supply; integrate EPS’ API, EPS Rapid; and meet EPS’ launch requirements.In addition to Expedia Group’s hotel supply of more than 500,000 varied accommodations, certified technology partners will receive dedicated weekly tech support and EPS’ partner services team will review the tech partner’s integration every year to make sure they continue to be optimised.
Pickyourtrail bags USD 3 million Online travel agency Pickyourtrail has raised nearly USD 3 million in Series A funding. Angel investors led the round, including Kumar Vembu, the founder of billing software start-up GoFrugal.
Pickyourtrail graduated from the Amadeus Next incubator.The Chennai, India-based Pickyourtrail focuses on selling outbound international travel, where customers can piece together air, hotel and tour packages.
Southeast Asian consumers mostly use traditional travel agencies to plot the details of their vacations. This start-up hopes to woo them online with an algorithm that matches trip recommendations with personal preferences.
Since its founding five years ago with USD 1,700 in seed capital, Pickyourtrail has been gaining steam. It ended 2018 having helped plan 8,000 trips.
The company, which now has about 90 workers, claims to have been profitable every month in the last 60 months barring one, said co-founder Hari Ganapathy.Amex GBT confirms South African partnerAmerican Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has confirmed Tourvest Travel Services as its partner in South Africa after Rennies Travel announced it would join forces with BCD Travel.The TMC says it implemented a ‘best-of-both’ strategy following last year’s acquisition of HRG, selecting the best partners in each country from the existing Amex GBT and HRG networks. Tourvest has been an Amex GBT partner for more than 20 years and was chosen for its “highly skilled people and its commitment to integrating the advanced GBT technology platforms”.
Rennies Travel had been HRG’s partner in South Africa, but BCD Travel announced last month that it would turn to the corporate specialist for its clients in the region. HRG clients currently serviced by Rennies Travel will be supported in moving their programmes over to Tourvest, according to Amex GBT, and Rennies is no longer part of the network.
3DEN receives USD 2 millionStart-up 3 DEN, which aims to offer co-working, lounge, and nap areas in cities, has raised USD 2 million in seed funding. It intends to offer services a traveller might expect in an airport lounge, only without the airport.Investors include b8ta and Graphene Ventures. 3 DEN, founded in New York City, will open its first spaces on 15 March at the Hudson Yards complex of residential, office, and retail venues.While you can reserve amenities at the space, consumers don’t book time there. It will be purely a walk-in destination.

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