Summer 2018 – going for Gold and Diamond

Having recently been going through my photos, I realised that there are a number of trips I have not written up. I thought that I would start with this trip from the summer of 2018 because it not only earned me the most tier points from any single trip I have done, which eventually to reaching 2500TPs for the year and a Gold Upgrade for 2 voucher, but was also when I achieved the Hilton Diamond through their status match.

Keep checking back on this page as this will become the index of sorts for the trip, as well as the reviews going into the Reviews page as usual.

This was a time when the Bucharest to Phoenix (OTP-PHX) fare was in its infancy, and many of my flying chums joined the Flyertalk do over the Bank Holiday weekend in August. This mad lot flew from Bucharest to Phoenix, many via London, Helsinki, London again, New York, and LA. Some were able to take advantage of American Airlines frequent schedule changes to allow them to overcome the maximum permitted mileage of the fare and add in the Helsinki shuffle or route via LA if they were already going to Helsinki on the ticket. You couldn’t go to Helsinki and LA on the original fare. Now, I like crazy flying but this was too much for me so I decided to do my own thing earlier on in the summer!

One of my flying chums, @madfish from Flyertalk, realised that you could book this fare in First class for only a couple of hundred pounds more, meaning that you could have First class on the transatlantic sector, as well as on American’s flagship trans-Continental flight between New York and LA. Needless to say this was what I did.

With the main flights sorted, I booked my positioning to Bucharest. This is an 80TP route in Club Europe but it was quite expensive so I booked in economy. I was later offered POUGs on both legs, which I ended up taking as I realised that I will be getting close to the GUF Award at 2500 points. Phoenix is a lovely place, but I didn’t want to spend all my time there so I used an American Airlines voucher which I had received for faulty in-flight entertainment the year before to book flights from Phoenix to Vegas. All in all this would earn me 1320 tier points and close to 50,000 Avios.

I would be away for a total of 10 nights, one of which was in the air, and therefore need to book some hotels. At the time, Hilton was running a status match challenge when they gave you Diamond for 90 days and for a year after qualifying if you did 8 stays in that time.  Luckily stays of one night were fine, so I simply built my trip around Hiltons which was not difficult.

Hilton have been very generous with status matching in the past; I was previously Diamond when they matched without a challenge to my IHG Platinum [highest tier at the time], which ended in March 2018 and I was able to eek out one last stay as Diamond at the Waldorf Astoria Cavalieri in Rome. Now you can still do a Status Match Challenge but you only get Gold status for the 90 days (still handy for free breakfasts) and need to do 18 nights for Diamond until March 2022. 

It was therefore in my interest to stay in as many Hilton properties as I could on the ship for one night each which suited me as I could do a little road trip. I ended up booking the following hotels (reviews will be linked when posted)

To keep myself amused on the trip I decided I would hire a car and do a little bit of driving. As always, the only choice for me when in the States is Mustang. The Avis desk at Las Vegas has always been great but on this occasion did not have any hardtops available so I had to slum it in a standard convertible.

My route on the trip took me south from Vegas to Lake Havasu which is a fascinating place, and home to London Bridge which was bought by a property developer who lived in the area as a tourist attraction. The following day I drove to Palm Springs via the Joshua Tree National Park. In Palm Springs I visited the Air Museum, and the Aerial Tramway before driving back to Vegas.

It was a really great trip – I love driving in the desert, and I enjoy the fascinating geography of the region. I also had a great time at the Tropicana in Vegas; so much so that I went back again the following year – hopefully it won’t take me as long to write that one up!

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