Senior Travel Using AA miles

Jun 25th, 2019, 04:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 57
Senior Travel Using AA miles

Hello~We're looking for a vacation type thing that may not exist. We're seniors-my husband is going to be 81 in September, and I'm 66. Thankfully, we're in fairly good health. I'm looking for a great "Big Hoorah" for us in the next year or so. We have AA miles and want to fly 1st class both ways out of Phila, PA. A cruise sounds perfect, but my husband gets seasick and I have a problem with heights. We looked into an Alaskan cruise with the train trip added on. It's not out of the question for next summer. The ideal would be a long flight to enjoy the 1st class. We have about 135,000 and 160,000 miles we can use. I want my husband to be able to relax, no driving, no food shopping and cooking, adventures-but not like we'd ruin the trip by not going. All inclusives may work, but most seem like you need to stay on resort property-we can go to any USA resort and it would be just the same. We're only looking to use up the miles, not spend a fortune being pampered. Warm locations are fine, pools are fine, good food preferred, not a lot of children, room service preferred. The city and country tours won't work. We are night people. Don't want to set and alarm for 7am to be on a bus at 8. We want to go at our own pace-early to mid afternoon. Our sleep time is 3a-11a ish. Seems overwhelming to me to find what we want. Perhaps some of you have a great suggestion. Please let me know. We;d
appreciate it.
KarenAG is offline  
Jun 25th, 2019, 04:13 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 5,797
An Alaska cruise from Vancouver through the inside passage would probably be fine as most of it is in the protected waterway. You could add a land portion by train if that worked for you.
emalloy is offline  
Jun 25th, 2019, 05:55 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,899
AA has direct flights from PHL to cities all over Europe. Is that something you've considered? I just got back from Italy - one leg was PHL to Venice on AA (not first class, but you certainly could). You can take trains and buses to get everywhere and go at your own pace.
Andrew is online now  
Jun 26th, 2019, 06:23 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 5,573
Do you have a particular budget for the land portion of your trip? How much you actually have to spend will have a huge impact on where you go and what type of accommodations you'll be able to get when you reach your intended destination. then you'll have to add in costs for activities and, of course food, including extra for the room service you require.

Since you are most active between 11AM and 3AM you'll probably find that a cruise will offer just about everything on your wish list but you'll have to deal with your husband's prone to seasickness. Finding an organized "land tour" that works with the hours you like to keep is going to be a bit of a challenge, if not impossible, unless you do a very specialized land tour with your own private guides and drivers.

As stated as cruise will come closest to fulfilling your wish list but you will have some limitation with onshore excursions since many of those offered by the ship and/or independent operators tend to start our before 11AM mainly do to the time it take to travel to/from the ship to a particular point of interest then see it and finally get back in time for sailing. In some ports of call, there will be some shorter excursions which leave late in the morning or just after lunch but there won't be a lot to choose from so you'll probably have to hire your own private guides in many of the ports - just be sure you back on board at the appropriate time.

Does your husband really get "seasick" on big ships or is it just that he gets a little queasy when riding on a small boat or ferry? If that's the case, he may not get seasick on large ships which, except in inclement weather are pretty stable and most people don't even notice the ship is moving. Perhaps you can check with your doctor for advice on how your husband can handle motion sickness - there are remedies available that can ease symptoms.

Now, with "135,000 and 160,000 miles" you'll probably have just enough combined points to get two Business Class or First Class seats on AA or one of their One World Partner airlines. Keep in mind that on some international routes there may not be any First Class seating - on those flights Business Class will be your best option as in most cases you'll be in individual seating pods with lie-flat seats, an entertainment system and special meals.

I wouldn't be too concerned with choosing your destination based on the length of the trip so you can "enjoy the 1st class". Being cooped up in an airplane for hours isn't really something most people "enjoy" regardless of their class of seating. Being in First or Business Class only makes the flight more tolerable.
RoamsAround is offline  
Jun 26th, 2019, 10:02 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,368
Some quick questions. First, is the 135K to 160K the total? Or is that each, i.e. 270K to 300K altogether? Because if it's the former, you won't have enough for two business class round trips overseas.

Second, how long would you have overall? A week? A month? This goes not only to budget questions but also to how far you'd like to travel. With a short time period, things like jetlag come into play.

Third, how are you with driving? Some kind of fly-drive plan might work if you're okay with the driving.

Fourth, what's on your bucket list?

Top of the head, a round trip Alaska cruise out of Vancouver (smoother water, more scenic than the round trips out of Seattle) might be good. Your wake/sleep hours won't be that complicating, provided you're okay with missing out on some (overpriced) excursions during port calls. The big ships offer 24 hour room service to your cabin; get a balcony cabin and you can watch the scenery from your room. You could use some of your miles to fly in flat-bed business or first class on Cathay Pacific's 777s (one of the world's best airlines) from JFK to Vancouver (the connecting flight from Philly would be included) and get off at YVR before the plane continues on to Hong Kong.

You could do the cruise, then, if you're not interested in driving or flying back, take the train from Vancouver south to Seattle. Spend a couple of days in our fair city, then ride the train back east. The Empire Builder leaves every day and goes through superb country including Glacier National Park to Chicago; you could then ride the Pennsylvanian or the Capitol Limited home to Philly.

Or of course you could do this in reverse. It's just one of lots of ideas that come to mind.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jun 26th, 2019, 11:50 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 57
Thank you all for taking the time to answer me. There are a lot of great suggestions. Our miles are 130k for my husband and 160k for me, give or take. I haven't driven for years, and won't want to start again in a strange place and I'd rather my hubby not drive. We've done the Mississippi river cruise and, sadly, it was on REL and sooo boring. We took a 4 day cruise from NYC to Nova Scotia, and he did well until the last night with swells from 8-13 ft. He just went to sleep. I got to watch blurry TV and order room svc. Lol. Now I'm leaning again for the AK cruise and train. We've never been out there and I'm fascinated with moose. The inside passage should be good also. The 1 quote we got would make it about 6K because it's leaving this August. Not bad for the week. I'm still open to new suggestions. I know our sleep schedule is odd.
KarenAG is offline  
Jun 27th, 2019, 06:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,368
Let me talk about the Alaska cruise and train option.

First, the one-way cruises you'd take do cross some big water on the first or last night (depending on whether you're sailing southbound or northbound.) Between the last (or first, again, depending) port in Southeast Alaska, typically Skagway, and Seward or Whittier in southcentral Alaska (both connected to Anchorage by road and rail) the ships cross the Gulf of Alaska. This is open ocean and CAN have pretty high seas. Now the boats cross at night, but with your sleeping pattern, you could very easily find yourselves rocking and rolling. The big ships do have stabilizers, but as you probably saw in your north Atlantic cruise, they're not always very effective. Of course one night of Dramamine-fueled sleep isn't the end of the world, but it's something to consider. There are a couple of other points along the Inside Passage where the ship is exposed to open ocean, namely parts of Queen Charlotte Sound and at Dixon Entrance. These passages generally last for a couple of hours at most, but they can lead to some pitch and roll on the ships.

Regarding the land portion and trains, the Alaska Railroad serves both Seward and Whittier (the cruise ship termini) and goes to Anchorage, then north to Denali National Park and on to Fairbanks. The train rides from Seward and Whittier to Anchorage are very scenic; the ride from Anchorage to Denali and on to Fairbanks considerably less so; you're mostly surrounded by forest, with a few scenic spots. Assuming Denali National Park is your target, be advised that all access to the park interior is by shuttle or chartered buses; no private vehicles are allowed on the main length of the park road. The bus rides are very long, and you need to pack food and drink; the round trip from the park headquarters area to the main visitor center in the park interior (Eielson) is eight hours; hikes or time at the center is on top of that. The time needed to get to the Wonder Lake terminus of the shuttle system and back is almost 12 hours; to those times you'd need to add the time needed to get to the bus boarding area from your accommodations, and back after, so under almost any scenario it's a VERY long day, most of it spent on a bus (mainly old school buses re-tasked for the park shuttle.) You'll undoubtedly see wildlife - either close-up or at a distance, but seeing the mountain is a 50-50 shot; it's so big that it makes its own weather, and is often socked in.

I'm not saying all this to discourage you, but only to make sure you know what's involved. Land travel in Alaska is not cheap, either. If you wanted to do this option, I'd probably look at a cruise tour, many of which will be just fine for your purposes. This entails a cruise and a few land nights, usually involving travel to Denali and possibly on to Fairbanks. These can be decent value.

I was thinking about other ideas for places/activities that would meet your criteria. Of course we don't know where you've been (and still don't know how many days you'd have available) but a couple of thoughts came to mind, which of course you can wave off easily.

1. Edinburgh during the festivals. Crowded and expensive. Also fantastic. Every imaginable venue hosts theater or musical performances ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. The "official" festival (the highbrow one) features major theater and musical events - symphonies, major ballet or theater performances, etc., and the "fringe" festival (which is now, and has been for decades, far larger than the "official" one) includes hundreds, maybe thousands, of performances - comedy, drama, dance, music... You could also attend the Military Tattoo, held on the Edinburgh Castle esplanade. Lodging is pricey but the performances are not terribly so, and if you want to get out of town, there are several companies, most notably Rabbie's Tours - - that offer small group tours all over Scotland and the north of England, ranging from day trips to overnights. Or you could ride the train, for example to Oban on the west coast of Scotland, where you can tour the Isle of Mull, or to the picturesque village of Plockton (where the BBC series Hamish Macbeth was filmed) for a taste of the Highlands. The festival would work well with your wake/sleep habits - after the evening shows, head to a nearby pub, then back to the hotel and hit the sheets. American flies nonstop from Philly to Edinburgh.

2. Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies. You could visit Vancouver, a beautiful city in awesome surroundings, then instead of an Alaska cruise, take the train east to the Rockies. There are numerous tours of Banff and Jasper National Parks - wildlife, incredible scenery - that meet the trains coming from Vancouver. If your timing could include September, you'd miss the peak summer crowds, still have good weather, and maybe even some early fall color at higher elevations. You could return to Vancouver to head home, or continue to Calgary and fly from there.

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival, Vancouver

Rocky Mountaineer train

Just some thoughts.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jun 27th, 2019, 01:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,931
If you are considering an Alaskan cruise for next year, you don't need to book now at full fare. I use Vacations To Go, for research (and booking). You can see that for the current year the August sailings southbound out of Anchorage (Seward) are discounted 60 percent more or less. It's also worth asking the cruise line if they can match the fare.

Your miles can also be used for the Anchorage and YVR hotels, which are expensive during cruise season. BTW I have overheard passengers complaining about the pace of the land portion. You could just take the train to Seward and skip Denali.

Suggest you post on the Cruise forum.

Last edited by mlgb; Jun 27th, 2019 at 01:11 PM.
mlgb is offline  
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